Integrity Matters
February 11, 2004

Super show wasn't super

Question: (E-089)

Dear Jim:

I was more than just disappointed in the Super Bowl halftime show last weekend. I was repulsed. Not only the Janet Jackson "accident" but also the entire show was a crude display of classless and badly misdirected talent. Do you have any idea why CBS would give such a display even a second thought?


The Janet Jackson decision to cross lines of propriety speaks volumes about integrity, or the lack of it. Certainly, poor judgment was evident in lots of circles related to the airing of an "event" that has been bankrolled by advertising directed to mass markets for all age groups. CBS apparently denies that its executives knew anything about what was to happen. But according to news reports, CBS chose to broadcast Sunday night's Grammy Awards show on a slight delay in order to monitor words and actions that might be inappropriate. We know that when institutions and individuals do not regulate themselves, governments and other agencies and powers can and will.

Even though Jackson has said changes in her Super Bowl act on Feb. 1 were her responsibility, plenty of questions remain. Was this a one-time event or does it signal an erosion of what is acceptable in prime time? Did Jackson make a mistake, or was it simply about the money that can be leveraged by those who have mastered the use and abuse of the media?

If and when the dust settles, one fact will become clear: Irresponsible actions by a small group, even an individual or a small team, can make things tough on the overwhelming majority of folks who say what they are going to do and then go ahead and do what they promised.
For Jackson's own personal satisfaction and gratification, at least so it appears, she violated her promise to behave and entertain a world audience in a certain way.

Her actions likely will cause financial pain for others (entertainers, agents, television organizations, etc.) when they are required to construct even more stringent contractual relationships with one another, to prevent future "shocks and embarrassments" for sponsors, venue owners, program directors and collaborators.

Her carelessness -- as it creates more work for attorneys and managers and increases the costs of doing business -- will then be passed along to fans. Also, this irresponsible behavior encourages powerful elements of society to reinstate constraints that inhibit legitimate creativity.

The silver lining may be that Jackson's actions will cause many to think more about the proper role for public figures and celebrities.

They are supposed to model admirable behaviors, including appreciation, humility and self-discipline. When celebrities ignore their moral contract with their fans, they have lost sight of the real truth, namely, that Integrity Matters.

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