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
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