Friday, January 30, 2004

so there's a lot of buzz right now about fcc indecency fines. apparently bono used the f-word during a live broadcast of the golden globes & people flipped out that nbc wasn't punished because of bono's actions (although if bono had, say, taken a handgun & started shooting people, legally the gun manufacturer wouldn't be liable... so i'm not sure why nbc is liable for what bono says during a live awards show, but anyway)... congress is even proposing to ban curse words from broadcast altogether.

(not surprisingly, the fcc hearings on localism aren't getting nearly that much attention... clear channel gets coverage for naughty content, but not for being an oppressive monolithic entity.)

specifically, one proposed bill would outright ban the use of the following words:


it seems to me that, in light of all this controversy, right now would be the best time ever for some daring broadcaster to actually use all these supposedly indecent words on the air. not in just some salacious swearfest, but a serious, in-depth linguistic analysis of these words & their place in our culture. in a sense, that would be the ultimate "fuck you" to the prudes that be: a no-holds-barred real discussion that shows the function of these words, & how an unconstitutional prior restraint against them would not be in the public interest.

so far a few brave print/online periodicals have actually printed these words when discussing this story (like rolling stone), or at least the main word at the crux of the controversy, fuck (for example, forbes, the daily vanguard, & even reuters). but i haven't heard of any broadcasters who have the balls to really let loose & explore the issue (i would say you can't seriously discuss this kind of language if you're afraid to actually use the words in question).

now, some who discuss this story rightly bring up fcc v pacifica, the famous supreme court/george carlin "filthy words" case. this was the case where the supremes decided that the govt had the right to try to regulate what it called "indecent" programming & set up the "safe harbor" system. but so far, i haven't seen anyone mention why the pacifica station (was it wfmu?) broadcast the "filthy words" monolog in the first place: because they were doing a serious discussion of contemporary attitudes toward language. in the pacifica decision, the supremes said that they had the right to regulate so that kids couldn't hear that kind of content on the air (which i passionately disagree with, but let's ignore that)... but at the same time, the content wasn't "obscene" & banning that stuff outright would stifle free speech, quite different from protecting the public interest.

that was the whole point of the safe harbor to begin with! some overly uptight assholes might not like those words, but they are constituionally protected speech, therefore banning them would be a prior restraint, & prior restraint is unconstitutional.

there is no way such a ban could pass constitutional muster. so why are these congressman wasting everyone's time even discussing it? don't they have better things to worry about than f-bombs? like maybe real bombs?

so yeah. this is my challenge to some ballsy broadcaster out there. i want to hear a serious intellectual discussion of the linguistic function of these words, & contemporary attitudes toward them, on the air. in fact, if someone has a recording of the original broadcast that brought about the fcc v pacifica case, re-airing that show would be awesome.

please? pretty please with pussy on top? (wait, pussy isn't one of the potentially-banned words... i should say cunt instead...)

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