Americans are up in arms over net neutrality, but their protest pales when compared with last decade’s outcry over a Super Bowl nipple.
After Janet Jackson’s nipple was revealed for a split second during the game’s 2004 halftime show, 1.4 million Americans complained to the Federal Communications Commission, according to numbers provided by the agency. That’s twice as many as the 677,000 Americans who have thus far filed comments with the agency about its proposed new Internet rules.
There’s still time, however: Tuesday is the deadline for comments on the agency’s controversial net-neutrality proceeding. The agency has proposed rules that would allow Internet service providers to charge ebsites for “fast lanes. So far, about half as many people have commented on the rules as the number of those who wrote the FCC after “nipplegate.”
Interest in the rules surged when comedian John Oliver, host of HBO’s satirical news hour Last Week Tonight, pushed the FCC into the spotlight last month with a segment on net neutrality. During the episode, Oliver urged Americans to file comments with the FCC and compared FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to a “dingo.”
Oliver’s call to action was so effective that the FCC’s filing system reportedly crashed the following day under under the flood of comments and forced Wheeler to “state for the record that I am not a dingo.”
Then-Chairman Michael Powell seemed slightly more prepared for the torrent of fury that poured into the agency’s inbox after Jackson bared all. According to ESPN, as soon as he saw the halftime show, he told his friend, “‘My day is going to suck tomorrow.’ And it did.”
Jackson’s nipple prompted an FCC investigation and resulted in a record number of comments to the FCC, whose day-to-day business generally flies under the radar. The agency slapped Viacom with a $550,000 indecency fine, the largest imposed on any broadcaster at that time.
“Like millions of Americans, my family and I gathered around the television for a celebration,” Powell said in a public statement after the Super Bowl catastrophe. “Instead, that celebration was tainted by a classless, crass, and deplorable stunt.”