Wednesday, January 28, 2004
The Eight Dirty Words: New Math a la FCC 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
"[a] word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanged, it is the skin of a living thought and may vary greatly in color and content according to the circumstances and time in which it is used." -- Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes
The FCC is planning to hike fines levied against radio and television programs who break the regulatory agency's code of indecency...from CNN/FindLaw:
"a new bill introduced in Congress lists eight words and phrases that, if ever spoken on television -- whether during live events or already-recorded shows -- would always be punished. Context and meaning would be no defense: The words would be sanctioned in every grammatical form including -- the bill stipulates -- "hyphenated compounds," as well as "verb, adjective, gerund, participle, and infinitive forms."

All of these events will inspire deja vu in those who follow the indecency/obscenity law -- for both the facts, and the backlash, are eerily similar to those in FCC v. Pacifica, a landmark Supreme Court case decided twenty-five years ago.

That case, in combination with the more recent controversy, shows why it's time to get rid of broadcast indecency law forever. This area of law has always been a standing First Amendment violation, and its absurdity has only become more and more clear."
That's funny...I thought the political climate was feeling a little juvenile lately. Is there any good reason why history repeats itself so amnesically, and we have to re-visit 'morality' issues we dealt with as a nation back when I was 11?

By the way, what is this eighth word - didn't George Carlin only serve up seven? Do we have a new unacceptable expletive that was acceptable 25 years ago? Actually, it's not an extra word. In the text of the amended FCC regulation,
"To amend section 1464 of title 18, United States Code, to provide for the punishment of certain profane broadcasts, and for other purposes. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That section 1464 of title 18, United States Code, is amended--

(1) by inserting '(a)' before 'Whoever'; and

(2) by adding at the end the following:

(b) As used in this section, the term 'profane', used with respect to language, includes the words 'sh*t', 'p*ss', 'f*ck', 'c*nt', 'asshole', and the phrases 'c*ck sucker', 'mother f*cker', and 'ass hole', compound use (including hyphenated compounds) of such words and phrases with each other or with other words or phrases, and other grammatical forms of such words and phrases (including verb, adjective, gerund, participle, and infinitive forms)."
Stupid question, but why are 'asshole' and 'ass hole' considered different terms under this law? Does this mean we can now blithely begin to use the term asshat in the broadcast media because the FCC has neglected to codify it as an indecency? Can we say shite, instead of sh*t? For a certain term referring to a part of the female anatomy, can we substitute- with a slight change in intellectual nuance, suggesting obtuseness over malice - twat?

Gerund this, FCC.