Today's post is from Frederick S. Lane, author of The Court and the Cross: The Religious Right's Crusade to Reshape the Supreme Court. Lane is an expert witness, lecturer, and author who has appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, the BBC, and MSNBC. His next book will be People in Glass Houses: American Law, Technology, and the Right to Privacy (Beacon 2009). For additional information, please visit www.FrederickLane.com.
Four and a half years ago, during the halftime show for the 2004 Super Bowl, Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson set off a heated national debate about televised decency when Timberlake pulled off part of Jackson's bustier and revealed her right breast.
The global exposure of Jackson's breast was remarkably brief -- roughly half a second -- but more than long enough to send the nation's moral watchdogs into orbit. The following morning, Federal Communications Chairman Michael Powell (the son of former Secretary of State Colin Powell) made the rounds of the morning television talk shows and promised a swift and thorough governmental investigation. The Timberlake/Jackson "flash dance" proved to be a political boon for many in Washington: the controversy enabled Chairman Powell to divert attention from his failed and much-criticized efforts to promote media consolidation, and the FCC's new-found willingness to punish indecency was a boost for President Bush's re-election campaign. Much more detail on the political fall-out of the half-time show is available in the opening chapter of my 2006 book, The Decency Wars: The Campaign to Cleanse American Culture (Prometheus Books 2006).