He Said What!

Warning: This Blog Post is Rated TV-MA I first thought this Wall Street Journal Law Blog post was a joke. But, no, the link is real. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin’s statement in reaction to a Second Circuit Court of Appeals decision that profanity, when aired inadvertently, is not indecent, is laced with expletives. By the Chairman’s own standards, it could not be read on the six o’clock news. The Court also ruled that the Commission was “arbitrary” and “inconsistent” in handing out fines for indecent language, which was a legal way of telling Martin and the FCC that no, they cannot be the nation’s final arbiter of broadcasting taste, choosing to overlook profanity when uttered by actors in Saving Private Ryan, but throwing a flag when the same words are used during a music awards telecast. You can read the whole thing here (and here in case Martin has second thoughts and revises his statement). Unfortunately, the statement comes off as an over-the-top rant from a guy who clearly sees censorship as an FCC duty, and himself the last line of defense. The giveaway is the last line, “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.” In other words, lock up your daughters! The MTV Music Awards are coming on! What leaves me shaking my head, however, is the way Martin undermines his own cause, not simply by embracing the vocabulary of his targets, but, on a more significant level, validating the free speech argument that profanity has a place in discourse. Face it, through purposeful repetition–in an official government document no less–of “shit” and “fuck” (the latter four times in ten sentences), Martin is employing a time-honored agitprop technique: using the shock value of profanity to make a political point. Somewhere, Lenny Bruce is smiling.