Will anything change?

Posted: Feb 06, 2004 12:00 AM

The apologies are flowing like water now. Janet Jackson (identical twin sister of Michael?) has declared that she "is really sorry if I offended anyone. That was truly not my intention." I believe her. I think she is so sunk in the putrid culture we call pop that she cannot adequately judge how her behavior will be perceived by those in the ordinary world. She intended to boost her career. Hey, if a lesbian kiss worked for Brittany and Madonna, why not a little striptease?

And Justin Timberlake, too, is suffering whiplash from the unexpected outrage the halftime show stunt provoked. Announcing that even his family was offended, Timberlake is playing victim, explaining that he had no idea Jackson wasn't wearing a little red bra under her bustier. Really? Then why, when he was asked just after show how he felt about it, did he laugh and reply: "That was fun. Quick, slick, to the point." Besides, it isn't as if tearing off a woman's blouse, er, bustier, under any conditions is exactly tasteful.

Where, though, are the apologies from CBS, MTV and the NFL? These business giants are lying low, which is metaphorically apt if nothing else. Jackson and Timberlake are taking the heat, but the entire Super Bowl show -- with the exception of action on the field -- reeked. The rap stars grabbed at the undulating women and their own crotches. All were dressed in costumes befitting an S& M club. The commercials featured a dog biting a man's crotch, a flatulent horse, a monkey putting the moves on a woman and numerous ads for "male performance enhancers." These people have far more need of intelligence enhancers.

All of this is brought to you by Hollywood and Madison Avenue, who have disfigured this nation and degraded our souls. Where are all the environmentalists who decry the pollution of the air and water? Doesn't the health of the cultural environment concern them at all? What of the anti-business Democrats? Doesn't this kind of corporate race to the bottom offend them -- or are they too eager for Hollywood's money?

There are millions who would reverse this slide into decadence if they could. Some, like Michael Powell, chairman of the FCC, and members of Congress actually have some ex officio authority. Perhaps now that Sen. Joseph Lieberman is no longer running for president, he can resume his entirely worthy effort to shame Hollywood. (Tipper Gore, who once attempted to do the same to the music industry, was forced into silence by her husband's need for entertainment cash in 2000.)

What of the rest of us who must navigate through movies, music and television as if through a minefield? Is there anything we can do?

One answer is simply to complain. Truly. You have no idea how spooked these people get when even small numbers of people send letters and faxes expressing outrage. You can imagine the effect if millions were to do so. All of these trash peddlers are in business to make money after all. One place to centralize efforts is the Parents Television Council ( www.parentstv.org ). Click on their website to join thousands of others who have lambasted CBS, MTV and parent company Viacom.

Forget those who say that the answer is to turn off the TV. Come on. The Super Bowl has become an American institution. Shall we abandon it to the vulgarians? You might as well say, when vermin appear in the cupboard, we should stay out of the kitchen.

My friend Elayne Bennett, ever the crusader, has launched a program in the DC schools called "Make Music Not Madness." She's the founder and president of Best Friends, a non-profit abstinence advocacy group that mentors inner-city girls and boys ages 11 to 18 ( www.bestfriendsfoundation.org ). Among the huge cultural roadblocks to helping kids avoid sex, violence, drugs and alcohol is the music they listen to, which grotesquely glamorizes all of the above.

Bennett has introduced the Best Friends kids to jazz and classic rock and roll. But until a critical mass of Americans decides to reject the x-rated stuff, it will rule. It's a variant of Gresham's law -- the bad drives out the good.