I’m a big fan of both the Rolling Stones and the First Amendment, particularly the part about an open press. I was cranky when ABC and the NFL bleeped Mick Jagger, but I was downright appalled when I saw the Associated Press article about it.
For those of you who missed it, the Best Band on the Planet sang three songs at halftime of the Super Bowl: “Start Me Up,” “Rough Justice,” and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” The NFL cut lines in the first two (the show was on a five-second tape delay. Strangely enough, Sir Paul McCartney was live last year. Double standard?). The offending lines were “You make a dead man come” from “Start Me Up” and the word “cock” from one of the opening lines in “Rough Justice,” which goes “Once upon a time I was your little rooster. Am I just one of your cocks?” OK, I get it. Junior saw Janet Jackson’s booby a couple years ago, and now we don’t want to see anything even remotely sexual on television, even if Junior would never get the joke to begin with. The NFL’s decision, while “absolutely ridiculous and completely unnecessary” (to quote the Stones’ spokesman), was at least understandable. What I really take issue with is the coverage of the censorship.
On Monday morning, I wandered over to CNN.com to read about what happened. Here’s what the AP article said:
“In ‘Start Me Up,’ ABC’s editors silenced one word, a reference to a woman’s sexual sway over a dead man.. The lyrics for ‘Rough Justice’ included a synonym for rooster that the network also deemed worth cutting out.”
Was this written by a giggling 12-year-old? The Associated Press can’t type the word “cock” without blushing? And it’s not like they were coyly making a reference to what the naughty word meant. The lyric actually talks about a rooster! I’m not dumb enough to think Mick Jagger is concerned about farm life, but I do appreciate the occasional double entendre.
Look, Jon Stewart often makes jokes about Dick Cheney. I regularly have classes that discuss Cohen v. California (where Cohen was arrested for wearing a jacket on which he had scrawled “Fuck the Draft”) and George Carlin’s “Seven Dirty Words.” My professors have no qualms with using those words. Actually, those last two came before the Supreme Court. I can read about them in textbooks. I’m not offended.
The Associated Press is not Christian Housewife Weekly. Give me facts, not hints. I promise: I can take it.
Patrick Gibbons is a junior majoring in political science. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.