Thursday, June 7, 2007

The real price of indecency

Kevin Martin is god-darn angry. The FCC chairman has lashed out over a ruling this week by a New York Appeals Court that overturned his agency's citing of several major networks for on-air expletives uttered by Nicole Richie, Cher, a contestant on "Survivor," and others. Interestingly, his own statement is laced with expletives.

The court rebuked the FCC Commission for being "divorced from reality." It's not hard to see why: the commission ruled the mere utterance of certain words like "shit" or "fuck" implied that certain obscene excretory or sexual acts were carried out. Of course -- in reality -- these words are often used as simple exclamations.

Back to Martin. Here's an excerpt from his statement on the ruling:

"The court even says the Commission is “divorced from reality.” It is the New York court, not the Commission, that is divorced from reality in concluding that the word “fuck” does not invoke a sexual connotation."

"If ever there was an appropriate time for Commission action, this was it. If we can’t restrict the use of the words “fuck” and “shit” during prime time, Hollywood will be able to say anything they want, whenever they want."

Now consider what Cher actually said at the 2002 Billboard Awards:

“I’ve had unbelievable support in my life, and I’ve worked really hard. I’ve had great people to work with. Oh, yeah, you know what? I’ve also had critics for the last 40 years saying that I was on my way out every year. Right. So fuck ‘em. I still have a job and they don’t.”

Of course, the fines are part of the Bush administration's larger war on indecency that infamously climaxed with the brouhaha around Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction at the Super Bowl.

The real price of indecency is revealed when we look at the environment it has created. Take one example: Remember the flap over "Postcards from Buster?" PBS pulled an episode of the kid shows that showed the rabbit Buster visiting a lesbian couple in Vermont just before the new Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings sent a letter to PBS threatening to decrease funding if it didn't pull the show.

Is the real danger what kids are hearing on TV or what they're not seeing?

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