As usual, and just as Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake declared, M.I.A.'s camp claimed the gesture was "not premeditated" and did not occur in rehearsals. (In the Madonna video, she points her fingers like a gun.) They asserted, "She got caught up in the moment." It absolutely, positively wasn't a publicity stunt to make an obscure backup the biggest name in the headlines during the most watched Super Bowl in history. Sure.
Although the NFL foots the bill to produce the halftime show, the league does not pay performers, since the massive exposure is enough reward. But artists do sign decency clauses, according to an NFL publicist, who added that the league is "exploring all of our options." That's publicist lingo for "hoping it just goes away."
As usual, they had help from the so-what crowd. The media reprised Twitter defenders with messages like "I don't know any intelligent person who actually cares."
But the prize for audacity goes to a goofball named Scott Creney at the appropriately named website Collapse Board: "Well first of all, if America gets to drop (bleep) loads of bombs all over innocent brown-skinned people whenever we feel like it, exploit third-world economies for our own profit and luxury, and inflict the Red Hot Chili Peppers on the world, then I think the U.S. deserves a middle-finger raised in its direction once in a while. And I say this as an American."
He recommended everyone read The New Yorker, which is somehow branded as a class act. Their music critic Sasha Frere-Jones proclaimed that M.I.A. should not have apologized. "The outrage is tiresome and deeply hypocritical...Fine, it may not be legal to flip the bird on television, but that's simply a remnant of the fifties we haven't shaken." He said he raised both his middle fingers instead at the Parents Television Council for being offended. "I say we get out of The Pretending To Be Moral game altogether," he concluded.
He tried to be offended instead that the Super Bowl show featured "ad after ad that likened women -- negatively -- to sofas, cars and candy." He raised his middle fingers to "anyone who thinks profanity is somehow more harmful to our children than images of violence and misogyny."
As usual, if NBC had made a serious attempt to employ its otherwise meaningless 7-second delay technology, none of this would have happened.