Tuesday, January 28, 2014

SuperBowl celebration and the halftime show

3. Women: The Most Feared of All Natural Disasters

Mathematical proof that Women are evil.
—LaMa; Leiden, Holland, June 14, 2005

As a result of a conversation with a colleague while walking across campus one day a few years ago, I ordered a copy of Thomas Friedman’s now-famous book The Earth is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century (2005). For those of you who have still not read this particular best seller, I strongly recommend it as a big time eye-opener. Because I am a teacher and periodically get inquiries from students about important books, I have this reading list that is limited by the fact that it must fit on a single page, 0.75” margins all around, 11-point type. The books on this list are ones that have influenced me deeply and profoundly, and in order to make it on the list, a book has to have the power to do just that. I don’t claim to have the archetypical American mindset, but I do claim to have tried to step outside my own worldview in order to evaluate these books. Right now, the page is more or less complete, so that if something gets put on, something else must be taken off. The Earth is Flat made it on; David Campbell’s The Crystal Desert: Summers in Antarctica (1992) came off to make room for Friedman. What was the major impetus for this move? Janet Jackson’s right breast. Trust me; the subject does have a legitimate connection to Friedman’s ideas about global economics and their impact on the potential demise of our Great American Experiment.
Maybe we should begin this discussion of woman as evil, particularly as exemplified by Janet Jackson, with a short review of the breast as a natural biological phenomenon. There are only three main points to this short digression: first, all 5,488 known species of mammals have them (breasts or equivalent), and any new species of mammals discovered in places like the Amazon forests also will have them. Many if not most of these species have more than two nipples. Second, a significant number of us have sucked on them certainly as infants if not later as adult lovers, so they’re not particularly strange objects. And third, they’re not very dangerous; to my knowledge, nobody has ever been killed or injured by a breast, although I suppose a fiction writer could envision a person getting suffocated between a couple of large ones. Finally, however, as an additional minor point, even when they’re covered, their existence is quite obvious and anyone with an imagination can, and probably often does, readily remove the cloth, at least in his or her mind.
Breasts also have been depicted in works of art for several thousand years, but art tends to be a liberal interest, and what we’re really interested in here is evil, terror, and sex, which are decidedly conservative interests, especially when somehow related or combined. Eventually I might have to address the issue of seduction, too, as a measure of one aspect of evil as personified by women throughout history, namely, their ability to distract great men from the noble businesses of politics and war. Incidentally, for you female readers, personally I don’t believe women are very evil, and in fact tend to enjoy their company, especially when they exhibit certain characteristics that are commonly perceived as dangerous (e.g. being able to carry on an intelligent conversation) but in fact have little or nothing to do with evil. More on this particular topic later. Nor do I believe that politics and war are particularly noble businesses.
So what about Janet Jackson’s breast and in particular, what does her breast in particular have to do with terror and the impending demise of the American Experiment? The answer is very simple: extreme religion breeds an extreme view of sex, thus an extreme view of half the human species. And because every human over the age of twelve either knows or learns very quickly that females control the frequency and nature of consensual sex, women become most societies’ symbol of sex, and therefore extremely religious societies’ symbol of evil, or at least of thwarted desire or betrayal, perhaps in various combinations, both of which are major problems for males who need to focus their energies on politics and war.
Furthermore, in virtually all reasonably modern, free, and liberal societies, advertising is heavily sexual, with focus on women in situations or clothing that make them at least interesting, if not outright provocative (subscribe to The New Yorker or flip through your cable channels for a demo). Thus a society’s reaction to female skin is, in my opinion, a sort of barometer for that society’s evolution toward theocracy. Also, the most oppressive governments on Earth today are those in which women must cover themselves completely and live their lives according to rather draconian (at least by Western standards) rules. Your daily newspaper is an excellent source of the names of such places, as well as the theocratic movements within nations that maybe currently don’t view women as such a threat but may be moving in that direction fairly quickly.
My analysis of this general phenomenon—females perceived as dangerous to the established order and common good unless relegated to well-defined roles, with special reference to Janet Jackson—is based on the principle that punishment for violation of social standards should reflect the actual damage done to a society. Capital punishment for a first degree murder conviction, especially when the crime was particularly heinous, seems to be a perfect illustration of this principle at work, mainly because a-life-for-a-life is a rather obvious, easily understood, quid pro quo. Being shot to death for wearing tennis shorts, however, as happened in Baghdad on Thursday, May 25, 2006, to an Iraqi coach and two players, doesn’t seem to fit the quid pro quo punishment for a crime. In fact, most civilized societies would struggle rather mightily with the idea that tennis players wearing shorts were, on that basis alone, guilty even of a small misdemeanor, regardless of how ugly or hairy their legs might have been.
Fines and jail terms for corporate malfeasance are a little more difficult to evaluate, as social contracts, than the extremes just described. The crime and its punishment are not such an obvious fair trade because the damage to society as a result of such behavior on the part of business executives, while potentially extensive, is not always easy to assess. The Enron case seems to be somewhat of an exception because employees’ retirement savings loss can be counted, but the hidden cost—a nation’s mistrust of its corporation executives—is difficult to measure. The Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s fraud, bribery, corruption, and money laundering case resulted in jail time, but it’s not likely the American public will ever recover from the harm done to our national culture because this damage also is almost impossible to quantify.
But everyone knows—we just know—that we pay a massive price both globally and at home for our attitudes toward the abuse of power. We just don’t have good ways to describe that price. The Abramoff case, therefore, is one in which the punishment will never match the offense, mainly because we can’t assess the damage to us individually in terms of lost money or bodily injury. The nation, remember, cannot be sued for unspecified damages, loss of trust, or generally stupid actions. We need an individual victim, or a class of victims. So, let us return to the subject of Janet Jackson’s breast.
I challenge anyone in the world to find any serious harm, especially to national security, national interests, or to our moral foundations, that really happened to anyone anywhere as a result of Janet Jackson’s 2004 Super Bowl XXXVIII wardrobe malfunction. Actually, there was a rather amazing amount of loss, namely, to Janet Jackson herself (the fine), and of time spent on this issue by network executives when they could have been using their talents in a more productive (for the nation) way, a loss made all the more amazing because it was only a breast and you can get the picture off the web any time. In fact, the picture you can get off the web is of higher quality, and more lasting, than the one you got off the halftime show in 2004. You can also run the digital video clip over and over again if you so desire, something that was impossible during the halftime show.
Nevertheless, Jackson, her dance partner Justin Timberlake who actually pulled off part of her costume, CBS, MTV, the NFL, and show sponsor AOL all apologized profusely and the NFL returned $10 million that AOL had paid for advertising sponsorship. MTV also lost the right to ever again produce a halftime show for a Super Bowl. Within a few days after the incident, a Tennessee woman named Terri Carlin filed a class action suit against Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake, seeking “maximum” punitive and compensatory damages for all Americans for having seen the breast. Think about it. Imagine Mike Wallace interviewing Terri Carlin on 60 Minutes, looking at her with a rather bemused expression, and saying “R-e-e-a-ally!?”
Eventually the lawsuit was dropped and “Janet Jackson” became one of the most highly selected search terms used by web surfers over the next few months. In retrospect, the Jackson breast did, however, distract viewers from Kid Rock’s American flag poncho which ended up on the ground, surely a major affront to US veterans. No veterans group filed a class action suit against Kid Rock. All in all, the Super Bowl XXXVIII show was a real mess. However, the Lycos 50 web site stated “Once again we are reminded of the power of a woman” and reports not only that “Janet Jackson” was the most common search term for 2004, but that she also beat out “Paris Hilton” and “Britney Spears” by a long shot. As an aside, after reading a piece by Osama bin Laden’s former consort (Harpers’ Magazine, September, 2006), I found myself wondering whether Mss. Jackson, Hilton, and Spears might be our most potent weapons in the war on terrorism, if we could just figure out how to use them effectively. I’m also guessing that instead of relying on people like Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney (Secretary of Defense and Vice President at the time) for advice on such weapons, a focus group made up of unemployed twenty-something males might provide the best strategy to maximize the effectiveness of this particular technology (beautiful women doing whatever the hell they want to do).
No deaths were reported from the “Janet Jackson” web search activity (nor has web-surfing for “Paris Hilton” and “Britney Spears” produced any reported deaths, serious injuries, or property damage), but a lot of money continued to change hands as a result of the seething government “outrage” over Ms. Jackson’s accident, with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) levying fines all over the place. Howard Stern was dropped from several radio stations by Clear Channel Communications; Clear Channel also was fined for Bubba the Love Sponge; and, Viacom was fined $550,000 (20 stations at $27,500 each), which evidently was not enough because the US House of Representatives quickly passed legislation authorizing fines up to $3,000,000 a day, although for what, I’m not sure, unless it would be continued broadcasting of Bubba the Love Sponge, certainly a massive threat to the Great American Experiment in freedom and democracy, right up there with gay marriage and religious art made with elephant dung.
In retrospect, Janet’s indiscretion produced a lot of work for attorneys, so maybe it was actually a boost to the overall economy, but especially to boat and luxury car dealerships. Now we have wholesome halftime entertainment at Super Bowls, e.g., the Rolling Stones (2006), with no women on stage, at least none in danger of losing their shirts, and there aren’t any rather sensually inferential TV commercials for Cialis and Viagra, either. Not to take anything away from the Stones, one of the most successful entertainment ventures of all time, but by 2006 they were all getting a little long in the tooth. Watching them on international television reminds one that this particular group is much better experienced lying on your own couch with an iPod and your eyes closed than watched as Super Bowl halftime entertainment. On the couch you can listen to the words, study the inflections, absorb the instrumentation, all helped along with recording studio technology.
As a result of watching the Stones at Super Bowl XL I actually decided maybe I should go buy an album for historical reasons. Then I could listen to the full set of lyrics, including those deleted by the ABC censors as a result of perceived sexual innuendo. Such deletion altered my mental picture of “ABC censors.” I had envisioned a censor being about my age, maybe somewhat hard of hearing, dressed in a suit even as he sat in a small room with an old television set, and with an ear untrained to pick up sexual content in something rapidly screamed over and through blasting drums and guitars. Evidently I was wrong. When it comes to sexual content, perceived or otherwise, these people are sharp. The fact that they might also be young enough to actually hear and understand rock lyrics is a touch frightening. The possibility that the Stones might have had to submit lyrics in hard copy prior to the game is a little more plausible, although either case is a study in ridiculousness.
The important thing to remember in this discussion of woman as evil is that the Super Bowl is the quintessential American identity event. Regardless of whatever halftime shows and smarty commercials we see on Super Bowl Sunday, the sexiest things about any modern professional American football game are the cheerleaders, and quite frankly, they can be rather interesting. But remember, these beautiful, suggestively gyrating, scantily clad, un-named and usually working-class women—legitimate turn-ons (unlike the unavailable Janet Jackson)—are doing something women are supposed to do, namely, “support” our warriors on the field (symbolic, metaphorical, and often heroic, indeed near mythical).
Cheerleaders thus are playing a significant part in our late 20th Century national morality play, repeated so often as to become ritual that sustains a defining myth, namely, that our men battle adversity and women are dragged along, often serving as spoils, and always accepting of, if not actively seeking, that role, even reminding everyone that this set of activities, struggles, and consequences is the “way things are supposed to be.” It may be an almost Hilary Clinton level liberal dream, but periodically I have this rebellious vision of some Dallas Cheerleader finding a public address system microphone and instead of giving us her jiggly-boobs-twitch-butt-hair-tossing-smiley-face act, standing straight up, staring directly into the press box and telling the crowd “that was the dumbest fucking play I’ve ever seen called on third and short inside the red zone. Just what in the hell was he thinking? Huh?” Now there’s a real dangerous lady. Terri Carlin take note.
So what does the Janet Jackson affair and the censoring of Rolling Stones lyrics have to do with terrorism and the demise of the Great American Experiment? If I were a terrorist, I would be working overtime to demonize women who have stepped outside their gender stereotypes, especially women without many clothes on, and I would couple this effort to “the family,” as in “women belong with their children helping to strengthen the family and family values.” “Family values,” shortened in much of our public discourse to simply “values,” is code for a strongly traditional, if not outright suppressed, role for women, combined with a decidedly anti-scientific fear of discoveries made in the last few decades about human nature in general and specific behaviors in particular.
Thus the so-called nuclear family becomes the scheme of things, morphing into the way things are if at all possible, and ultimately evolving, as it has in many other deeply religious societies, into a repressive culture that only looks semi-normal if you were born into it and know no other way to live. I have no quarrel with the nuclear family per se; I am exceedingly fortunate to have grown up in one and managed to help sustain one for fifty years. I am exceedingly uncomfortable, however, with the nuclear family as political framework and justification for national policy. Homosexuality is probably the best illustration of this phenomenon.
The alignment of “Christians” against homosexuality and in favor of marriage-defining legislation at all levels that would deny homosexual Americans fundamental rights enjoyed by proclaimed heterosexuals (no matter how promiscuously or abusively heterosexual) illustrates clearly the power of religious belief to override science and medicine. All scientific and medical evidence points to homosexuality as a combined genetic and developmental phenomenon that is quite undetectable until puberty and is totally uncorrelated with any particular behavior such as criminality. We have absolutely no evidence whatsoever that homosexuality is positively correlated with illegal drug use or sale, violence, theft, murder, failure to obey posted speed limits, running red lights, or corporate malfeasance. This last—corporate malfeasance—has done more to damage the United States of America in the past fifty years than the private intimate behavior of any two adults in the world, regardless of who they are or what they are doing in private.
Epidemiologically, homosexuality is distributed pretty much evenly—although at relatively low levels—across socio-economic, gender, and ethnic lines, and has been, insofar as we know, thus distributed throughout recorded history. Furthermore, recent studies on brain chemistry and reactions to human pheromones, published in the world’s leading—and heavily reviewed—scientific journals show clearly that sexual orientation is a biological phenomenon. Such evidence, combined with that derived from social research, also reveals that whatever is in your mind when you hear or read the word sex, regardless of who is participating, is but a tiny fraction of the overall human sexual experience. For example, see any of the readily available information on, and famous works by, Alfred Kinsey (Sexual Behavior in the Human Male [1948]; Sexual Behavior in the Human Female [with Wardell Pomeroy, Clyde Martin, and Paul Gebhard, 1953]), Alex Comfort (The Joy of Sex [1972]), or William Masters and Virginia Johnson (Human Sexual Response [1966]). Or, simply start with Google or the References and Sources at the end of this book.
None of our knowledge about human sex is particularly what you’d call breaking news. A good measure of your own background and perspectives on human intimacy can easily be gained by consulting the 1972 runaway best seller, Alex Comfort’s The Joy of Sex, a highly heterosexual manual that has now gone through numerous editions and versions, including a CD and video game. Ask yourself: How much of this book could I have written from personal experience? Your answer is a clear guide to how much you know about human biology, and also probably a warning that anything written in the early 7th Century BCE (nearly 3000 years ago) by the Prophet Isaiah, or any prophet for that matter, is just as suspect if it involves sex as it would be if it involved cardiac surgery or genetically modified strawberries. If I were a terrorist, I’d be putting Isaiah, and other equally non-enlightened Biblical passages, in front of the public as often as possible, demonizing and dehumanizing those who don’t fit, exactly, our perception of nuclear family parent sex—a sure prelude to violence against a class of citizens—with all my heart.
On the other hand, I would promote as “family” the whole cheerleader business, which incidentally is a multi-billion dollar industry, producing at least $10 million a year in uniform sales alone and supporting ancillary operations from credit cards to cell phones, camps, security companies, and international contests. I might even consider a bumper sticker that claims “My daughter is an honors student and a cheerleader!” If that advertisement survives enough rain storms, and the family van is not traded in on a big SUV, then there is a reasonable chance that in a few years that same mom will need a sign that says “My daughter is a divorced single parent with an entry-level job!” Don’t wait for this particular sticker to sell many copies. Nevertheless, it is entirely possible that your divorced single parent former honor student daughter could in fact tell whether the Dallas Cowboys’ coach or quarterback called something really stupid on third down inside the red zone. Football is not so complicated that even a cheerleader, especially one who’s also an honors student, might learn something about it just from being so close to the players and the action.
Back to terrorism. While actively engaged as a cheerleaders’ cheerleader I also would be working overtime to deplore sex and violence in the media, however, with the focus entirely on sex. In contrast to sex, which carries a strong but sometimes subtle subtext of fun, attraction, and possibly even love, violence always carries a strong implication of the battle between good and evil; for example check out your next cop show on TV. I’m probably being unfair to my species to come down too hard on the battle between good and evil as a narrative line in fiction; indeed, a strong case could be made that such conflict is the narrative line in fiction, if not in non-fiction, and especially in the morality-tale, life-lesson-teaching, mythology common to virtually all cultures. But we’ve come a very long way from story-lessons told by Cro-Magnons in flickering firelight. Our current capacity for narration—think Internet, blogs, DreamWorks SKG, digital video, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360—is virtually unlimited, to the point that our stories are, to a large extent, our reality. When soap opera becomes a major vehicle for social change (The New Yorker, June 5, 2006), then we’ve arrived. The issues, therefore, are not the conflict between good vs. evil, but what is okay vs. not okay as a means of telling your story about the conflict and what is our definition of evil.
At the moment, in the American entertainment industry, crime, per se, no matter how grisly, no matter what the motivation, is allowed as subject matter. To whatever extent cable television is entertainment regardless of channel that claim could also be extended to the news side; watch Nancy Grace for an illustration.  But the FCC’s reaction to Janet Jackson’s nipple looks to me like an open invitation to turn our nation into a Bible-thumping mob that willingly endorses censorship in the name of “family values,” feeds off its fear of female anatomy, and thus increasingly distances half its human resources from positions of power and respect.
In such a theocracy, anybody, anybody, who even suggests that women should be in high elective offices, making decisions that deeply affect us all as well as, perhaps, our descendents, would be labeled a “liberal,” such label being delivered with a particularly spiteful sneer and followed by some family values rhetoric. In other words, in a nation desperate for new and creative solutions to monumental problems, any terrorist worthy of the label should be working to disenfranchise half the human resources—the female members of our species—that could easily be applied to such problems. And to what should be the obvious delight of any potential terrorist we already have a built-in system for picturing women as either evil or victims. That system is called the “entertainment industry” and its main vehicle for delivering its message is cable television.
For example, over the past five years, one could find almost 24/7 cable television coverage of the spiraling decline of American morals and values: attractive female school teachers who have babies by 14-year old students, the abduction and presumed sexual assault of young women, and the murder of mothers and mothers-to-be by their sexually frustrated and/or affair-involved husbands. Furthermore, virtually all soap operas, much of the dramatic fare on cable TV, and a large fraction of the “Living” section of any newspaper, especially in the nation’s red state mid-section, involve narrative lines in which women are either evil, or in trouble, or are touting recipes and responding to family crisis situations in columns such as Ann Landers’ (now compiled by her nieces) or Amy Dickinson’s.
As somewhat flimsy evidence to support my picture of our national mindset regarding females, and admittedly editorializing in the grand tradition of early Third Millennium television talking heads, I offer two questions and plausible answers. The first question is: What has Hillary Clinton actually done to justify the kind of hatred and disdain she receives from the conservatives; i.e., what clear and present danger does she represent? I suggest that the answer is: nothing. The second question is: Would Anne Coulter get any attention for her writing and televised commentary if she were really overweight, not particularly attractive, and with splotchy skin? I suggest that the answer is: no.
So the ultimate goal of a good terrorist, of course, is stoning and burning at the stake for any woman accused of anything that might violate “family values” as defined by Focus on the Family. The catch-phrases are already a part of our lexicon: welfare cheat, Hollywood liberal, lesbian, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, etc. What remains to be accomplished is a complete disenfranchisement of women, especially the smart ones that might have a new and especially effective approach to the solution of global problems. If you read Forbes Magazine for a couple of months, however, you discover immediately that there are plenty of women who are doing just fine, thank you, in the business world, using brains and their abilities to manage human resources and vast sums of money. One potential saving grace for the United States is that the current sources of terrorists, namely, those small cultures-within-cultures have so little understanding of females that they’re incapable of using women as weapons except as suicide bombers. If the Bible has anything at all to say, it’s that women in general, and some in particular, are far more dangerous when they’re allowed to exploit their wiles than when they are blown to smithereens.
As an illustration of this point, consider the words of Fauzan al-Anshari, spokesman for the Indonesia Mujahedeen Council: “People might say that breasts are not pornography because they are used to seeing breasts. . . People might lose their sensitivity. We need the bill [draconian definitions of pornography] so that it will be more specific and thus it will be more repressive.” Al-Anshari said the bill would “protect children from the possibility of encountering women wearing erotic attire.” (Lincoln, Nebraska, Journal-Star, June 5, 2006)  Police called model Andhara Early in for questioning after she posed for Playboy, although she didn’t pose nude. The bill introduced into the Indonesian parliament would make it a punishable offense for wearing a miniskirt. Kissing in public could mean up to five years in prison and dancing erotically could mean seven years. Gadis Arivia, a professor of Western philosophy at the University of Indonesia, says “It will criminalize a lot of women in Indonesia.”
So my final advice to terrorists on the matter of women as natural disaster is to put away your guns, ammo, and bomb-building materials and start promoting “family values” as rapidly and extensively as you can, especially in Texas, where a large number of off-the-scale evangelicals tolerate unwed teenage pregnancy just to avoid treating their young women as responsible adults and providing them with birth control information and supplies. Thus we have a model for how to use female biology as a weapon against the United States: put all your money and efforts into anti-abortion and anti-birth control political activity, and combine that with very strong, conservative, “family values” rhetoric, abstinence-only human biology lessons is middle- and high schools, political reprisals against any male elected official who tolerates a Planned Parenthood facility in his district, and focus most of your efforts on the lower economic classes, especially on single female parents who should be constantly characterized as welfare cheats.
The gap between haves and have-nots in the United States is rapidly widening, and history, including the recent so-called “Arab Spring” history, clearly shows that anything you can do to increase the speed and extent of such disparity is definitely to your advantage. And anyone with even a smitten of historical knowledge knows well that oppression of the relatively disadvantaged, a major plank in the American ultra-conservative parties’ platforms, as well as a major component of conservative political rhetoric, is the quickest and easiest way to foment rebellion, including a violent one. So go home and play soccer with your kids or friends and give your money to the Tea Party, Focus on the Family, Glenn Beck, and Fox News. Have fun with your children while they are still kids, and let the right-wing elements of American politics destroy the nation for you. They’re doing a better job of it anyway.
Copyright 2014 John Janovy, Jr. Contact jjparasite@gmail.com for permission to use this material. 
For additional insight into our nation's intellectual state, see: INTELLIGENT DESIGNER: EVOLUTION FOR POLITICIANS, available on kindle, nook, smashwords, and as a nice paperback from createspace.com.

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