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Shock Value By: Lowell Ponte
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, February 04, 2004


"STEALING THE SHOW” IS A TACTIC now used not just in show business, but also in sports, culture, commerce and politics.  The weapon most often used to do this is shock. The aftermath is often disorientation, distortion and a degraded society.

On Sunday, for example, singer Michael Jackson’s sister Janet stole the biggest show in sports, with the biggest riveted male audience – the Superbowl – with a halftime show that featured white singer Justin Timberlake simulating rape by tearing off her clothing to reveal a bare breast. For any who missed it, Matt Drudge enterprisingly provided a closeup photograph of the bare breast partly covered by either a pastie or a nipple-piercing device – it was hard to be sure which.

By Monday this incident, and not the closing-seconds victory by New England over Carolina, was the topic of news and talk shows. Two teams of great athletes had been completely upstaged by a brief televised glimpse of what almost every human on earth already has two of.

The Federal Communications Commission promised a probe of the event. (But this same FCC refused to act after NBC broadcast U2 singer Bono using the “F” word – because he had spoken it as an expletive, not in a sexual way.)

The National Football League Commissioner promised it would never happen again. (But he had apparently signed off on CBS using its raunchy, provocative sister Viacom network MTV to produce this halftime show.  And MTV’s website prior to the game had warned that there would be “shocking moments” during Janet Jackson’s performance, a promise to its jaded, hard-to-shock audience.)

Justin Timberlake, N’Sync-er and former Britney Spears boy toy, moments before tearing off a breakaway part of Jackson’s black leather bustier, had sung the heavily-rehearsed lyric “I’ll get you naked by the end of this song.” But after the incident, he proclaimed the breast-baring an unexpected accident caused by “wardrobe malfunction.”

(These stars would not want to be confused with the streaker who dashed nearly-naked onto the field on Sunday and got arrested for trying to show the world his shortcomings. He did it for free, and they do not.)

Aging diva Janet Jackson, 37, is old enough to be the mother of 20-year-old males in Sunday’s Superbowl audience. She has a new album to sell this spring and has bared her breasts in the past when her flagging career needed a pick-me-up jolt of publicity.

“Perhaps the one moment of honesty in [Sunday’s] coldly choreographed tableau,” wrote catty New York Times correspondent Alessandra Stanley, “was when the cup came off and out tumbled what looked like a normal middle-aged woman’s breast instead of an idealized Playboy bunny implant.”

“It was not my intention that it go as far as it did,” Jackson said as she, like everyone else involved, formally apologized for the incident. Timberlake was purportedly supposed to leave a thin veil of red lace over her almost-exposed breast.

“The moment did not conform to CBS broadcast standards,” the network declared of Jackson’s bare breast, “and we would like to apologize to anyone who was offended.”

The network, two-thirds of whose name is BS, then left for the bank to deposit its revenues of $2.3 million per 30-second spot for the tasteless and raunchy commercials of this highly-rated game.

(Among the most prominent ads approved by the NFL and CBS were those for Levitra and Cialis, two prescription drugs that treat “erectile dysfunction.” The Cialis ads warned men that this love potion might cause four hours of tumescence.  Jay Leno on the Tonight Show speculated that this could explain the NFL’s genuine outrage at Janet Jackson, who reminded some men that passion need not require an expensive pill sold by an NFL sponsor.)

The aim of the broadcast advertising game nowadays is to catch the attention of adolescents who are not yet set for life in their brand loyalties. And what is better than the shock of raw sex to grab the eyeballs of such lowest-common-denominator young viewers? 

This is why what used to be called the “Tiffany” network, CBS, with television’s oldest average viewership, is becoming the “Titillation and Fannies” network and turning its eye into a peephole to seduce younger audiences.

Before heading off to the bank with its Superbowl swag, CBS reminded us to tune in this coming Sunday for the Grammys, where grossness is again expected to bring huge grosses.

This use of shock tactics to seize media attention can now be seen in many other once-dignified places. The British Broadcasting Company, for example, falsely accused British Prime Minister Tony Blair of “sexing up” intelligence reports about Iraqi weapons.

Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean was probably trying to use an image of excited enthusiasm to appear on media as if he had won instead of lost in Iowa when he emitted that teeth-flashing animal scream that has become his trademark. Fellow Democratic presidential contenders General Wesley Clark and Senator John “F-word” Kerry (D.-Mass.) attempted to grab the attention of younger voters by uttering obscenities in front of news cameras.

A backwoods judge named Roy Moore vaulted himself all the way to Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court by picking a fight with the American Civil Liberties Union by refusing to take down the 10 Commandments he had posted in his courtroom. He then used the same shock tactic by installing a 5,300 pound granite 10 Commandments monument in the Supreme Court building – and was removed as Chief Justice after defying a Federal court order to remove his monument from what was ruled its violation of separation of church and state.

Many pundits – this columnist included – assumed that Chief Justice Moore staged this publicity stunt to become famous, boost his speaking fee, and then get himself elected either Governor of Alabama or one of its two U.S. Senators. Apparently we underestimated his ambition.

Moore has not ruled out running for Alabama Governor in two years, and he is appealing for reinstatement as head of the Alabama Supreme Court. But in 2004, Moore now says that he might run for President. The chariot he could ride is Howard Phillips’ Constitution Party, a third party that in 2000 was on the ballot in 41 of the 50 states. It currently has access to the ballot in such powerhouse states as Pennsylvania and California.

Moore’s likelihood of being elected President as this party’s candidate is effectively zero. But, as John Fund of the Wall Street Journal wrote on Monday, Moore could get significantly more than the usual third-party vote. He would offer religious conservatives a candidate who addressed politics in their Biblical language.

And Moore would gets tons of what amounts to free advertising from the Viacommies of CBS and other liberal media, who would advance Moore as a club to bash and a wedge to split voters away from incumbent Republican President George W. Bush.

“Reporters who want to see President Bush face a tight race this year will be particularly interested in spilling a lot of ink on Mr. Moore,” writes Fund. Those reporters who treat politics as a sport will do this to get the higher ratings of a tight horserace going down to the finish line.

Leftists in the media will exploit Roy Moore’s ego to turn him into another Ross Perot, who directed almost all his 1992 campaign attacks against George H.W. Bush and thereby gave Bill Clinton, with only 43 percent of the vote, victory over the incumbent President.

Or the Leftist media could cynically promote Moore as a right-wing version of Ralph Nader, whose 90,000+ votes in Florida in 2000 cost Al Gore that state and the presidency.  In a razor-close race, if given lots of exposure through Leftist newscasts, talk shows and print coverage Moore might peel off enough votes in one or two key states to defeat President George W. Bush.

Voters may have to decide whether Roy Moore is the candidate of God or of Satan. His candidacy would advance the agenda and election of demoncrats. The guidance of Jesus is to judge a tree by the – in Moore’s case, poisoned – fruit it produces.

Is Roy Moore secretly related to ultra-Leftist demagogue Michael Moore?  Their paths appear to go in opposite directions but would take our nation to the same Leftist-dominated destination.

The short-term risk of using this cynical tactic is small for Leftists.  Moore is unlikely to win either the hearts or minds of more than a handful of Democratic voters. He is, instead, likely to make the Right appear icky and unappetizing to those of little faith.

But as an unguided ego missile, Moore could divide and conquer significant segments of the religious right. He could also weaken Republican control of Congress by pressuring incumbent GOP lawmakers to retreat from the central ground they have taken away from Democrats.

Such a Roy Moore candidacy could elect godless Democrats to both the congress and the White House this November, a consequence more obscene and harmful to America than any sex stunt ever imagined by Janet Jackson or Justin Timberlake.

Shock is not always bad. Sometimes it is needed as a way to awaken people in time of danger, or as an urgent treatment to re-start hearts that have lost their beat. We would be healthier today if CBS and other Leftist media had not systematically shut down the re-airing of the shocking horror and carnage America suffered from terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. 

The Leftist media imposed this censorship because they deemed such video footage upsetting and, worse, angering. It is dry tinder that could ignite hostility and war and, worse, unite the American people emotionally behind our Republican Commander-in-Chief George W. Bush.

No wonder the media wanted to stifle and turn off such images. But this cynical act of censorship by our Leftist-dominated mass media borders on totalitarianism. They will broadcast Janet Jackson’s breast and of dancers simulating sex acts, but they will not re-air footage of Americans jumping to their deaths from the burning World Trade Center towers on 9-11 or being ground into gory hamburger inside as those towers pancaked down into rubble.

Because such video became verboten in the establishment media, Democratic candidate John F. Kerry during the South Carolina debate days ago could declare that President Bush has “exaggerated” the threat terrorism poses to us. When Kerry uttered this nonsense (knowing as he does what a handful of terrorists now could do to our society and economy if armed with nerve gas or germs or a tactical nuclear weapon), Kerry’s sheep-like Democratic followers nodded in brain-dead agreement.

The media has largely succeeded into putting America to sleep with hypnosis and by blacking out information that would shock the nation out of lethargy. The Left is yet again trying to steal our political show by misdirecting our attention and by controlling what Americans are permitted to see.

If you crave a life-saving, America-saving shock, the good news is that Israel has made this available. On Israel’s Foreign Affairs Ministry web site you can see and show others what even a relatively small terrorist suicide bombing can do. To see this gory, shocking, graphic five minute and 38 second video, which shows the blown-off legs and hunks of splattered flesh with which Israelis are all too familiar, click here. For a selection of other shocking, consciousness-raising videos from the same source, click here.

This is shock that has value….and could help reignite the passion, patriotism and values we need to survive and triumph in the war against terrorism.

Mr. Ponte co-hosts a national radio talk show Monday through Friday 6-8 PM Eastern Time (3-5 PM Pacific Time) on the Genesis Communications Network. Internet Audio worldwide is at GCNlive .com. The show's live call-in number is 1-800-259-9231. A professional speaker, he is a former Roving Editor for Reader's Digest.


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