Go to (Expletive Deleted), Censorship!
We have all seen censorship at work. There is something lovable about hearing someone on a talk show tell another person to go bleep himself or seeing the black squares that cover the naughty bits of a naked person. However, in the near future, there is a chance that expletives will no longer be bleeped.
People have debated about indecency on television for decades, but the argument is finally going to court for the first time since 1978. In 2003, Bono and Cher used what are called “fleeting expletives” during their acceptance speeches on live television. Due to their actions, the Federal Communications Commission has spent extra effort cracking down on these “fleeting expletives.” Fox and other networks sued to block the policy in 2007 in a New York appeals court. The Federal Communications Commission is now asking the Supreme Court to dismiss the case so they can enforce their ban. If the Supreme Court votes to hear the case, hearings could start in the fall, which essentially means they will have the power to rewrite the official definition of the word “indecent.”
When I first heard this news, I was incredibly excited. Finally, there was a chance to update a 30-year-old policy written by our grandparents. Presently, any word that focuses on “sexual or excretory organs” is defined as indecent. For some reason, this means we also have to censor the “God” in “God damn.” The definition of indecency was written two generations ago and has long needed an upgrade. I understand that there will always be censorship (thanks to over-worried parents), but censorship should not be more conservative than it has to be.
I then realized that the power of change was once again placed in the hands of the Supreme Court, my least favorite branch of the U.S. government. In the past, the Supreme Court has approved the genocide of Native Americans, slavery and segregation. Granted, the Supreme Court can instate fantastic changes, but they usually come 20 or 30 years too late. This is because Supreme Court justices start their terms as old people and are given life-long tenure. This means that our laws essentially come down to how our grandfather’s generation interprets them. For example, until 2005, our Supreme Court was run by a man born in 1925. This meant that the court was controlled by someone who could have lived half his life in the segregated South. Thank God the founding fathers thought that one through.
The Supreme Court’s track record is not stellar, but the current slide of society may force them to acknowledge a contextual change of the word “indecent.” It does not take a genius to realize that broadcasts have pushed the limits of what we accept on television and radio over the last 30 years. In 2001, not only did the animated show “South Park” say “shit” on the air, but it repeated the word over 200 times. Shock jocks like Howard Stern, XM radio and HBO have changed what people will allow in their homes.
These conflicting forces