Tuesday, September 18, 2007

America, F*ck Yeah!

..::As published in the University Daily Kansan 6.27.07::..

In the ongoing profanity battle... between the FCC and Corporate-TV-USA, FOX recently scored ground: Fleeting expletives are F***ing-OK. With the ruling came a sigh of relief from the once vulgar Cher, Nicole Richie, and yes, Dick Cheney. But the decision is already in the process of an appeal.

I grew up with essentially profanity-free programming, jaded only by the words behind the bleeps of the Jerry Springer Show, but I wasn’t a better person because of my ignorance. I still embarrassed my parents, got spanked, and hated my sisters.

A commentator once noted that, “[a person]…with four lifetimes and a burning desire to find out whether he may scream ‘Fuck!’ in a crowded theater will come away in confusion if he looks for his answers in the opinions of the Supreme Court.”

Although the freedom of expression is explicitly protected in the Constitution – the government has consistently approved its limitations. The lynch pin in this idle prattle is deciding when profanity becomes obscene.

Linguists have consistently supported the categorical conception of “fuck,” dividing its connotations into two camps: “Fuck” as a verb literally meaning to conjugate and “fuck” as a substitutive word in phrases designed to have “offensive force.” Because of its connotative versatility, its meaning can vary depending on the person, situation or physical context of its utterance. The fact that “fuck” can be substituted for God or hell, shows that the evolution of this word has lost all intrinsic denotative and connotative value.

In the 1950s, the FCC declared that in order for profanities to be considered obscene, they must allude to “excretory organs and prurient interests.” This standard held precedent for many years, even as far as 2004 when Bono stood before the Golden Globes and received the statuette for best original song by exclaiming “...this is really, really fucking brilliant!...”

After this incident, the FCC rewrote regulations on “fuck,” that, in their new definition intrinsically connotes sexual imagery effectively using soap to wash out the mouth of television.
However, in an earlier case, Miller v. California, courts ruled that profanities must meet 3 standards to be considered obscene: 1) A reasonable person using community standards would consider the utterance to have prurient interests. 2) It must depict or describe sexual conduct. 3) And it, as a whole, must lack serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value. What Bono meant when he said, holding up that award, “...this is really, really fucking brilliant!...” would change dramatically if it HAD met these standards, and frankly I’d be concerned for the statuette if it did.

In Cohen v. California, a man bearing a “Fuck the Draft” jacket was arrested for walking through a court-house. The Supreme Court overturned his conviction and said if people didn’t agree with the message, they could avert their eyes. They also said that profanities, many times, have emotive value -- important in generating audience response.

I say, shielding viewers from such programming is unnecessary. Simply because a show is profane doesn’t mean it has persuasive powers on the feeble minded. I got a good kick out of Maury Povich, but I never wanted to fight a dwarf or marry a goat. And at the end of the day, Cain killed Abel LONG before there was television.

Concerned parents are trying to protect their children as long as possible from those who take up precious air to execrate all over the free-world. While this is an understandable request, I think the reins of THIS horse should be put in the palms of the parents to decide what their children can and cannot watch. It is NOT the responsibility of Congress to make sure that all humans are afforded “Life, Liberty, and the Freedom from Swear Words.”

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