Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Explative, Deleted...

While I wish I could say the title of this post is entirely original, I may only be able to take credit for the juxtaposition of the punctuation, especially after the recent editorial in the New York Times. Regardless, the point of this post is to analyze the recent decision from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals that invalidated the application of Federal Communications Commission Rules about fleeting expletives. You can find the decision here (in .pdf).

The fundamental tenants of free speech wrapped in the veil of indecency as applied to public broadcasting stems from the United States Supreme Court decision in FCC v. Pacifica Foundation. In that case, the Court's plurality ultimately determined that the Federal Communications Commission has the ability to regulate content disseminated over the airways during times when youth may be disposed to exposure to objectionable content. At issue in that case was a recording of George Carlin's "Dirty Words" monologue, the first comedy act played on cable T.V. In the spirit of Carlin's act, he talked about those 7 dirty words you can't say on regular television. In a triumphant act of irony, the hosts of a radio show broadcast the monologue during an afternoon commute. The Court, of course, found this to be objectionable, and imposed the responsibility of protecting children from indecency, citing the substantial government interest in the use of the public airways when children could be listening.

Pacifica pushed the bounds of what speech restrictions fell within the ambit of governmental regulation, citing the all important governmental interest of protecting children. The recent decision by the Second Circuit, though, goes a step in the direction of reigning in the abuses of restrictive FCC policy as applied after the Super Bowl of 2004. This decision does exactly what it is supposed to do, reign in the abuses of the FCC with the support of "moralist" neoconservatives.

Basically, there needs to be a difference between fleeting expletives, unscripted curses that truly express the feelings of the declarant. This kind of restriction would impose fines against a news agency that caught a soldier in Iraq swearing in response to a car bomb going off by his hum-vee. Realistically, this kind of restriction sugar coats the reality of the human condition and amounts to little more than censorship.

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