By Ciro Scotti Opiate-of-the-Masses Dept.: During the Feb. 1 Super Bowl, the American public was shielded from seeing an ad by the liberal group Moveon.org, (you can see it at www.bushin30seconds.org) that might actually have provoked some thought. CBS, zealously guarding the public's right not to know, nixed the commercial because it was political in nature.
CBS knows nature. The so-called Tiffany Network did treat millions of beer-soaked and buffalo-winged football fans (me included) to a halftime show that included the baring of Janet Jackson's right breast by fellow singer Justin Timberlake.
Timberlake has now apologized (calling the incident a "wardrobe malfunction"), CBS has apologized, MTV (which produced the show and, like CBS, is owned by Viacom (VIA)) has apologized, the NFL has expressed outrage, some lawmakers on Capitol Hill are now raising a stink, and the Federal Communications Commission says it's investigating.
EXPECTING COMPANY? The suggestions by Timberlake and MTV that the half-a-topless climax to a suggestive song and dance was an accident is further evidence that CBS thinks we're all a bunch of boobs. Not only were Janet and Justin grinding away at each other throughout the number, but the bodice of Jackson's S&M-y outfit clearly was built to be ripped away. Besides, Ms. Jackson's breast was demurely decorated with a silverish medallion -- not exactly standard underwear. But exactly the sort of jeweled touch someone expecting company might attach.
Certainly, the NFL should shoulder some of the responsibility for not exerting enough control over its own halftime show (though it did deliver a spectacular, cliff-hanger of a game). But the majority of the blame lies with CBS, which readily provided the coarse -- but protected us from the discourse. Scotti, senior editor for government and sports business, offers his views in A Not-So-Neutral Corner, only for BusinessWeek Online