The Super Bowl was sealed up tight as a drum. Chain-link fences ringed the stadium. A detail of 5,000 police was on hand. The area was declared a no-fly zone. Meanwhile, on the airwaves, CBS had decided to refuse an ad purchase by, for a spot criticizing the Bush deficit.

In our locked-down, buttoned-up age, everything had been done to keep things under control and let the padded gladiatorial tradition unfold seamlessly.

No one expected the attack from within, when a pretty white boy who sounds black and pretty black girl who looks white gave CBS and one zillion viewers what they hadn’t counted on, a glimpse of unscripted, uncensorable, naked humanity, in the person of Janet Jackson’s right breast.

This is America, 2004. Millions are spent to shield us from an unseen enemy who may or may not be circling waiting to strike. Millions more go into media monopolies that narrow public discourse and opposition voices. And still our stark humanity finds ways to reveal itself.

Was there anything political in this planned accidental flashing? No. No Dixie Chick shame or Sinead O’Connor rage here. Just the same gaudy rebellious spirit that had Madonna corrupting little kids on live TV last year (hey, no one’s putting her on trial…).

But I love it that at the center of an orgy of sanctioned violence, in an event scheduled to the second and guarded by helicopters, this crazy land of ours can still offer up a glimpse of rebellion in a sudden swath of skin.

The streaker who took the field a few minutes later only confirmed the impossibility of a sanitized, locked-down democracy. Humanity will out, like Howard Dean’s un-presidential, too-rowdy scream that night in Iowa. There’s no such thing as a Pink Alert.

After days of arguments over the MoveOn ad, it’s ironic to see all these headlines saying “CBS Apologizes.”