By Ben Kleppinger
Here in the U.S. we have many freedoms other countries do not give to their citizens. We can dress how we want to, think how we want to and say what we want to.No, wait a moment; the jury is not back on that last one just yet.
Last week the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case FCC v. Fox Television Stations later this year. In two separate incidents in 2002 and 2003, Cher and U2’s Bono uttered the infamous F-word on live television.
The FCC initially decided to let the edgy utterances slide, but later, FCC commissioners went back on that decision and called the brief, candid moments “patently offensive.”
The Bush administration has now pushed the case all the way to the Supreme Court, appealing lower court rulings against the FCC.
The precedent the FCC currently operates under was set by the 1978 FCC v. Pacifica Foundation ruling, which gave the FCC the right to fine broadcasters for indecent programming. The FCC bans anything offensive from being broadcast between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. because children could be watching.
Before individual rights were all the rage, anything that even appeared to disagree with the prevailing powers could be censored.
Back when religion was even more a part of this state than it is now, offensive material could be banned because it didn’t represent good morals. In fact, there are still a surprising number of laws that censor content on this basis.
It has been the goal of conservatives for longer than I have been alive to turn the world into one big happy facade of Christian purity. If Bush’s friends on the high court ban even brief accidental mild profanity from television, they will successfully bury reality under another layer of pretend innocence.
It has always perplexed me how people think they can somehow purge unappealing ideas and words from society by censoring the media. All they are really doing is hiding from those words and ideas so they don’t have to face them.
The ideas and words are still going to be there, whether you choose to accept them as part of reality or hide from them and pretend they don’t exist.
Freedom of speech exists for a reason-because odds are if you say something real, straightforward and honest, someone is not going to like it.
Freedom of speech is an amazing right U.S. citizens are supposed to be able to enjoy. But more often than not it feels like the U.S. government treats that right like a burden it must endure until it can find a loophole and eliminate it.
And the argument that we must protect our children’s ears is-I believe this to be the appropriate term for the context-total BS. Not because children shouldn’t be allowed to enjoy a rich and innocent childhood, but because the argument is being made by self-centered adults who are only interested in their own personal preferences and could not care less about children.
Keeping one bad word off television is not going to keep kids from hearing thousands of them in real life. Children hear bad words all the time everywhere they go-from adults at home and in grocery stores, and from their friends at school and church. Hearing profanity does not corrupt children, and not hearing it does not turn them into great human beings.
I remember watching Good Will Hunting when I was 12 and hearing a curse word every three seconds; I have yet to do drugs or hold up a gas station. The effect of hearing a few hundred mentions of feces and suggestions of Oedipal behavior does not even compare to the effect of good parents and solid friends.
What it comes down to is this: the right to free speech is a powerful right, a right that scares those in power because it continuously keeps their power in check. So they will make any excuse at all – even if it means exploiting children – to weaken that right.
If the FCC is allowed to censor even the lightest use of profanity on television, which medium will be the next target? Radio? Magazines? Newspapers?
I don’t want to see, hear and read only what is appropriate; I want to see, hear and read what is real, whether it offends or not.
I want to hear the opinions of people I disagree with, people I don’t understand and people I abhor. I believe hearing those opinions is vital to determining and validating my own opinions.
But the ostriches at the FCC would rather censor the most minute controversial word than let U.S. citizens get the slightest taste of reality.
Maybe Americans want to keep their heads buried so they don’t have to face a world that isn’t perfect. If that is the case, then in the words of Cher that started this chapter of attempted censorship, “Right. So f*ck ’em.