The Super Bowl halftime show wouldn't be the Super Bowl halftime show without some controversy. In 2004, Justin Timberlake infamously ripped open part of singer Janet Jackson's costume. This year, controversy arose in the form of a backup singer, using her middle finger to draw attention to herself.
British pop star Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam, better known as M.I.A., raised her middle finger to the cameras during the Super Bowl halftime show, and appeared to sing something to the effect of "I don't give a (expletive)."
This isn't the first time M.I.A. has used her singing to stir up controversy. CMI noted in 2010 that M.I.A. composed and sang a song with favorable references to suicide bombers and the Taliban. M.I.A. is an outspoken supporter of a violent Sri Lankan separatist organization known as the Tamil Tigers, which has been designated a terrorist organization by the EU. Her views are so radical that even the New York Times Magazine called her music "Agitprop Pop" in 2010.
So flipping off 100 million viewers - an offense against propriety - is nothing compared to condoning crimes against humanity. NBC and the NFL quickly apologized for M.I.A.'s actions, the network saying its "system was late to obscure the inappropriate gesture." But if you invite outspoken radicals to perform, you're willing to court controversy - and you shouldn't be surprised when it arises.