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Soap In Our Mouths
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Has The Volume Of “Dirty Words” Overwhelmed The FCC?


By James Donahue


Remember when the Federal Communications Commission fined CBS for the Janet Jackson exposure during a half-time performance at the 2003 Super Bowl?


After that came U2 singer Bono’s use of the "f-word" during remarks made at the Golden Globe Awards show, and there was the Howard Stern fiasco, which many believe was indirectly caused by station managers worried about what appeared to be new government controls over radio and television broadcasting.


Those incidents appear to have been the last highly publicized efforts by the FCC to curb dirty words on public airways. The infamous “seven dirty words” that the late comedian George Carlin once said could never be said on radio or television, appear to all be creeping into everyday language by the growing number of commentators babbling away on so-called news channels and talk radio.


They also have been showing up in testimony in the U.S. House and Senate during heated debate, which seems to be occurring almost daily now as Republicans and Democrats duke it out over such controversial issues as health care, finance reform and immigration.


Michigan Senator Carl Levin, for example, used the S…. word when quoting an e-mail sent among members of Goldman Sacks to describe the sale of a junk bond they obviously knew was a bad investment. It was said during a heated interrogation of Goldman Sacks executives and made news stations everywhere. Some stations bleeped out the word. Others, including MSNBC, did not.


We have noticed that formerly inappropriate words have been slipping into the language of nightly news anchors, reporters, and citizens being interviewed at the scenes of news events. Indeed, Carlin’s list of dirty words and many others not included in his list have become so commonplace in contemporary language nobody seems to notice when they come up.


Stern, who makes his living on sex and dirty words, solved his problem by moving his show to satellite radio where people now have the right to pay to hear him talk dirty.


Stern has a big following, as does the popular adult cartoon show South Park that airs weekly on the satellite Comedy Channel. Ironically, South Park was recently censored over a skit that involved having the Prophet Mohammad appear in a bear costume. The Comedy network feared trouble by radical Islamic groups. The censorship had nothing to do with dirty words or the fact that one of the cartoon characters depicts a talking bit of human feces.


Also slipping past the censors was this week’s cartoon episode of Family Guy on the Fox network. It depicted Stewie, the talking baby, soiling his diaper and Brian, the talking dog, eating Stewie’s fecal waste, then wiping his buttocks clean with his tongue. How low will they go?  


Statistics show that satellite sponsored sex stations also capture a large portion of the nightly television viewing market, which has driven many big corporations to secretly invest heavily in them.


Then there is the Internet, where pornography is found at the click of a key, or mouse. Sometimes it comes to you without invitation, much to the concern of parents still attempting to guard the minds of their children who are drawn to the web like flies to dead meat.


It is clear that television viewers in America have a preference for sex, dirty radio and television talk, and shocking violence when it can be found. While this does not speak well for the culture as a whole, it is a simple truth.


Yet at the same time, the older, conservative, religious-oriented Americans that still have a slight edge of control at the ballot box, succeeded in 2004 to re-elect George W. Bush, an ultra conservative, born-again fundamental president for a second term and pack both the House and Senate with enough Republicans to give this administration more power than any president since Lyndon Johnson.


Thus we briefly had a Christian influenced agenda unraveling from Washington unlike anytime in American history. The result was a financial disaster that still threatens to bring America to its knees, even though voters did an abrupt change of course in 2008. But that is a different matter.


Throughout all of this, including the Bush nomination of ultra conservative judges to the U.S. Supreme Court, the censored material removed from our films and television screens has been on a slow but steady decline. Contemporary films now show full front nudity of both male and female actors, homosexual activity and people being gored by axes and bullets. Movie producers seem to be only limited by their own imaginations.


The big concern today ranges from racial, religious and political insults to questioning if we can believe statements by radical radio and television commentators. There appear to be no laws, or any way to draft laws that control this behavior without trampling on the First Amendment.


While visual and dirty word content seems to have no limits, there has been a secret move afoot to clamp controls on what we publish and do on the Internet. A recent federal court ruling involving Comcast’s effort to control the volume of material a site can send on the web appears to have stripped the FCC of its effort to assure free expression of the arts and information on the Internet.


The relaxation of censorship rules may be a good thing for the arts, although we must admit that the result has exposed a crass segment of our society that is not always comfortable to see and hear. The liars out there, however, are something to be seriously concerned about.