Sex & Society » Politics, History, Sexuality: "Sex v. FCC: Epilogue and Backstory"

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Sex v. FCC: Epilogue and Backstory

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The wacky, super-true tale of the FCC—how it came to power, and why it fears boobs.

  On Fleeting Expletives

Euphemisms are unpleasant truths wearing diplomatic cologne.
~Quentin Crisp

The FCC had a previous policy of not citing profanities that were short, or in their opinions, accidental. They referred to these as Fleeting Expletives. Example: A flustered announcer said "Sorry, I fucked that up." They recently changed their policy claiming that current bleeping and broadcast delay technology was sufficient that no profanity however small should escape the censor's bleep.

This arbitrary reversal of their own policy was challenged and ultimately codified by the Supreme Court. Justice Scalia's pro-censorship decision repeated the old sawhorse that profanities/expletives need be outlawed for the protection of children, but his inability to say the offending words (relying instead on euphemisms) revealed his personal bias. One would assume that children sophisticated enough to research and read Supreme Court decisions on profanities are sophisticated enough to not require protection from said profane words. The dissenting opinion, written by Justice , including this compelling logic for why the FCC should not be allowed to reverse its policies:

The capriciousness of FCC indecency fines have radio and television stations self-censoring to a paranoid degree. The impact on Free Speech cannot be exaggerated: controversial personalities and programming are unlikely to be broadcast.

The argument that technology is advanced enough for broadcasters to catch every possible offending word can also be used to argue its advanced enough for consumers to protect themselves --which they do. Furthermore, no harm has ever been proven to be associated with exposure to profanities. No one has died of being offended yet. More's the pity.