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Is Kevin Martin Indecent?

Yesterday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit's struck down the Federal Communications Commission policy governing "fleeting expletives" as "arbitrary and capricious." FCC Chairman Kevin Martin responded with an expletive-laden statement. Given the Second Circuit's ruling, could a network air Martin's remarks without fear of federal sanction? Discuss.

UPDATE: Daniel Drezner has a few more questions, including "What the f$%& is Kevin Martin thinking?"

anonVCfan:
I found Leval's dissent fairly convincing. And much better reasoned than Martin's expletive-laden statement.
6.5.2007 11:28am
Sk (mail):
I find Martin's statement utterly convincing.

Sk
6.5.2007 11:43am
Bruce2 (mail):
I think that's his point. If "f-" wasn't sexual in the context it was aired, then it certainly isn't in Martin's statement discussing the case, so networks know they could air it. Of course, none of the MSM outlets of any type (TV, radio, newspaper) will broadcast the statement as-is, which will then give the FCC the (very reasonable) argument [if this case gets to the Supreme Court] that these words are still considered indecent and therefore the ruling should be reversed.
6.5.2007 11:44am
Peter Young:
A shit storm about fuck-all.
6.5.2007 11:55am
Peter Young:
Translation into Old English: Much ado about nothing.
6.5.2007 12:02pm
Positroll (mail):
FUCK!

This Article is as simple and provocative as its title suggests: it explores the legal implications of the word fuck. The intersection of the word fuck and the law is examined in four major areas: First Amendment, broadcast regulation, sexual harassment, and education. The legal implications from the use of fuck vary greatly with the context. To fully understand the legal power of fuck, the nonlegal sources of its power are tapped. Drawing upon the research of etymologists, linguists, lexicographers, psychoanalysts, and other social scientists, the visceral reaction to fuck can be explained by cultural taboo. Fuck is a taboo word. The taboo is so strong that it compels many to engage in self-censorship. This process of silence then enables small segments of the population to manipulate our rights under the guise of reflecting a greater community. Taboo is then institutionalized through law, yet at the same time is in tension with other identifiable legal rights. Understanding this relationship between law and taboo ultimately yields fuck jurisprudence.

I love the last sentence ...
6.5.2007 12:13pm
anonVCfan:
Postiroll, please refrain in the future from mentioning the worst law review article ever written.
6.5.2007 12:21pm
CJColucci:
Keith Martin can go fuck himself.
6.5.2007 12:37pm
Oren (mail):

. . . the worst law review article ever written.


Wouldn't it be the worst fucking law review article ever written? At any rate, this sort of hyperbole probably serves no one.
6.5.2007 12:37pm
CJColucci:
Actually, KEVIN Martin can go fuck himself. My apologies to Keith.
6.5.2007 12:38pm
Henri Le Compte (mail):
Somehow, for the first 50 years of television, stars and celebrities of all types were able to refrain from using such ridiculously vulgar language. I'm not a prude, but I can't see why it is so unreasonable to ask people to control themselves just a wee bit when on the tele. Can you imagine Cary Grant or, heck, even Bette Davis!, behaving so childishly?

Sadly, it is obvious that our media culture is tumbling into a morass of (more ass? bah dum bum!) juvenile crudity. I don't think the FCC is wrong for trying to maintain a shred of decorum on prime time television. What's the difference between being a barbarian and just acting like one? I don't know, but I think that in the not-too-distant future, we're all going to find out.
6.5.2007 12:39pm
uh clem (mail):
...could a network air Martin's remarks without fear of federal sanction? Discuss.

I would think that there's a strong First ammendment case to be made that quoting government officials ver batum in the context of bona fide news coverage cannot be illegal. Isn't that the primary purpose of having a free press in a democracy? To hold officials accountable?
6.5.2007 12:41pm
whackjobbbb:
Hey, I found that law article quite informative, as Fairman dissects the issue nicely. But let's give the paper's other contributors some credit too. Here's the author's Acknowledgements at the bottom of one of the introductory pages:


∗ Associate Professor of Law, The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. I thank three research assistants who made this article possible: Wail Alkatany (‘03), Brian
Roberts (‘06), and Joseph Bahgat (‘07). Wail started the project as a post-graduate assistant and demonstrated to me that there was something to say on this subject. Brian
performed spectacular research and synthesized volumes of both legal and nonlegal sources. Joe was the last to work on it and was there to help get it out the door. I could
not have completed FUCK without them.



Always nice to see credit given where credit's due!
6.5.2007 12:54pm
Guest44 (mail) (www):
The court's opinion addresses the "news exception" (my term). In fact, it uses the FCC's "news exception" against the FCC: the court argued that if the use of the F-Word is always sexual and always shocking, then it is also sexual and shocking even if it's just part of a news report. Having a "news exception" shows the FCC's policy is illogical and arbitrary and capricious.
6.5.2007 1:01pm
cameron King (mail):
The FCC's obsessive concern about children hearing on television words that they hear everyday in the schoolyard seems rather pointless.
6.5.2007 1:01pm
Houston Lawyer:
I remeber well that Johnny Carson correctly quoted Jimmy Carter when Carter was asked what he would do if Ted Kennedy ran for president. Carter said "I'll kick his ass." Carson loved saying that on the air.
6.5.2007 1:02pm
Randy R. (mail):
Henri: "Sadly, it is obvious that our media culture is tumbling into a morass of (more ass? bah dum bum!) juvenile crudity. "

yeah. And I also long for the days when men wore tuxes to the dance clubs, and women had long formal dresses. (sigh) But I won't be holding my breath for a return to that glamours past anytime soon.

Except for this Saturday! I'm going to a black tie Cole Porter party! We will be singing Porter's hits around the piano, drinking cocktails, and showing off our diamond tiaras (well, rhinestone, actually, and even then that's only for the drag queens.)
6.5.2007 1:10pm
Fub:
Kevin Martin wrote, on FCC letterhead for the children of America to see and hear:
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.
Nothing like admitting in writing that freedom of speech is only for important people like FCC chairmen, definitely not for the rest of us, or worse, for "Hollywood".
6.5.2007 1:14pm
Peter Young:
For a few years I didn't watch much television. Then a few years ago I started watching again and noticed people were freely saying, at least on prime time, things like "pissed off" and "ass." Sometimes I use these words myself in private, but I found their public use on the airways a bit shocking. What event, ruling or whatever did I miss that apparently made this acceptable?

Although I don't think using such words should carry legal consequences, there is no doubt that the tone if not the quality of public discourse has suffered. Not only are previously unacceptable words now acceptable, but the use of beeps blocking out words that are still unacceptable has increased.

Most of us who grew up a few decades ago had built-in antennae that somehow steered us away from using unacceptable words except in private gatherings of our peers. Today's younger people seem not to have developed this inner alarm system, perhaps because there's no need to.

I hear young people yelling "Fuck you" in front of women and children at public gathering places. That would have been unthinkable 20 or more years ago, if not because of a sense of decency or respect then because of fear of consequences--from parents, teachers or even bystanders.

I suppose many of these young people have parents who freely use these words in the family setting. And now, of course, they hear some of these words on the TV set.

It doesn't represent the end of civilization. But it does indicate a coarsening of our public culture.
6.5.2007 1:32pm
Erasmus (mail):
Is that a real press release? The author sounds like a child throwing a tantrum.
6.5.2007 1:40pm
uh clem (mail):
What event, ruling or whatever did I miss that apparently made this acceptable?

Um..the sixties, seventies, eighties and nineties?

Yeah, there was a time when you couldn't show Elvis below the neck because of the "lewd" nature of his dancing. In the previous century piano legs were covered because they were too lacivious to be shown in mixed company, and of course were referred to as "limbs" not the crude term "legs" which shouldn't be uttered in front of the delicate ladies.

Face it, culture changes. These words have been accepted in movie theatres since the early 60's, why not TV?

For the record, most TV sucks, whether the verbiage is vulgar or not. (I am allowed to say "sucks" aren't I? I don't mean it in a sexual or excretory sense.)
6.5.2007 1:59pm
Fub:
Erasmus wrote at 6.5.2007 12:40pm:
Is that a real press release? The author sounds like a child throwing a tantrum.
It's real, unless l33t h4x0rs Pwn hraunfoss.fcc.gov
6.5.2007 2:03pm
David Drake:

I agree with Martin's fundamental point, which is that Congress should require ala carte cable access. That way we could protect ourselves (to some extent) from the coarsening of public culture to which Peter Young refers.

Television is a sewer spilling into your and my living rooms. Currently, the only way to keep the sewage out is to turn the television off and keep it off.
6.5.2007 2:13pm
David Drake:
uh clem--

Because we can judge the content of movies and decide not to go (or not to take our children) if it a movie is objectionable to us.

Television flows right into our living rooms and there is no way of knowing or screening in advance what might appear or be said.

I watch very little television and each time I watch it (flipping around the "dial" with my remote), I am more surprised and shocked by the content.
6.5.2007 2:18pm
Gary McGath (www):
When real-life people come out with statements like Martin's, what's left for The Onion to do?
6.5.2007 2:18pm
Weird (mail):
There's a great post about it over on PrawfsBlawg too by Paul Horwitz.
6.5.2007 2:22pm
Derek:
The FCC is a bunch of pathetic losers. To give an idea of the type of people Bush has appointed, let me refer to the story of John Ashcroft's, who was so offended by a semi-nude statue of Justice that he had her HIDDEN with am $8000 cloth.

If I had to guess, I'd say these people were fondled by their fathers and priests.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/1788845.stm
6.5.2007 2:28pm
Peter Young:
What event, ruling or whatever did I miss that apparently made this acceptable?

Um..the sixties, seventies, eighties and nineties?


Having lived through all those decades as an adult, I'm not unaware of the cultural changes they brought. My hair is no longer shoulder length, and I've noticed "groovy" is no longer popular in public discourse.

But I thought perhaps there was a ruling of some sort that abandoned or modified the George Carlin seven dirty words standard--which was approved by the Supreme Court after the Sixties had run their course and after the Seventies were almost over. There is such a ruling now, of course, the one that is the subject of this post.

The reason I thought there might have been such a ruling earlier on is that the television networks have rarely had the courage to buck the FCC unilaterally. In particular, I wouldn't have thought the networks had the stomach to ignore an FCC standard which had received the Supreme Court's approval.
6.5.2007 2:28pm
Witness (mail):
"Television flows right into our living rooms and there is no way of knowing or screening in advance what might appear or be said."

I know. Wouldn't it be great if they rated TV shows for content in advance? And wouldn't it also be great if there was a technology that could block shows with particular ratings that we didn't want shown on our TV sets? Oh wait...
6.5.2007 2:28pm
Derek:
Oh, and for the record, I'd much rather have the FCC address the extreme violence on TV than the random F-word.
6.5.2007 2:29pm
uh clem (mail):
Television flows right into our living rooms and there is no way of knowing or screening in advance what might appear or be said.

Really? You have no way of knowing?

I watch very little TV but when I do I expect it to be sheer unadulterated crap. I'm not offended by salty language, but I am offended by the mindless nonesense and gratituous violence that passes for entertainment. Seriously, hearing the word "fuck" pales in comparrison to an hour long docudrama about Anna Nicole Smith, or even a two minute routine from Carrot Top. And don't get me started on the ads...

Fortunately, I have an off button, so I don't need to depend on the government to prevent my delicate sensibilities from being assaulted. You might want to get one of those.
6.5.2007 2:30pm
uh clem (mail):
I agree with Martin's fundamental point, which is that Congress should require ala carte cable access.

I agree with that point too. But reading his press release, I'd disagree with the characterization of it as "fundamental".

It struck me as more of an afterthought to a temper tantrum.
6.5.2007 2:34pm
Aultimer:
The indictment of the the loophole-filled rating system in the statement is the best thing to come out of the FCC since telecom dereg. I'm sick of explaining all the rape, murder and other assorted mayhem shown and discussed on the "CSI:whatever" commercials during more tame programming to my 5 year old. I just want to watch some f*&king sports in peace.
6.5.2007 2:37pm
scote (mail):

When real-life people come out with statements like Martin's, what's left for The Onion to do?

I had a hard time believing this childish tripe to be genuine. I had to double check the linked address twice to be sure it really wasn't a hoax.

The FCC's argument that f*ck is always sexual was pitifully disingenuous. F*ck is generally used as a meaningless intensifier rather than as a literal term, hence the difference between "F*cking Incredible!" and "Incredible F*cking." That the FCC tried to argue that the former use does not exist was ridiculous.
6.5.2007 2:42pm
Malvolio:
Congress should require ala carte cable access.
Hey, my television supports a la carte cable access!

Yes, my high-tech TV has a little electronic gizmo that keeps any channel I don't want from showing up! Unless (for example) I press "9", Channel 9 is totally prevented from appearing on the screen. What will they think of next?

(Actually, my satellite tuner supports different channel lists for different viewers. My nine-year-old created her own list, which runs heavily to Disney, Nickelodeon, and channels focusing on the antics of furry animals. We subscribe to, indeed pay extra for, several channels that feature the usual FCC-scaring body parts and words for body parts. Mysteriously, those channels bore her and weren't included on her list.

(I guess the FCC never watches The Simpsons: "What is your fascination with my Forbidden Closet of Mystery?")
6.5.2007 2:47pm
Teague:
I giggled at someone thinking that "pissed off" was even mildly shocking. Do you also think that "suck" is horribly vulgar? And what about "screw", as in "screw off"? Just as bad as "fuck", I assume. It does express the same thought.

If you are so easily shocked, may I suggest a solution? Even with those horrible television shows being beamed into your house, straight through your walls, you can remain ignorant of them by not purchasing a television set. Of course, the words will still be said, but you can go on in blissful ignorance without having to hear them yourself.

Should you be so unfortunate as to require a television for the purpose of watching one of the few remaining wholesome offerings still out there, exercise utmost caution when changing channels. Stick to known safe channels and only change using the numbers, never risk just holding the channel up or channel down buttons!
6.5.2007 2:49pm
Tom Cross (www):
It seems like Mr. Martin (as well as a number of the commenters in this thread) may not understand the decision. His use of the word fuck (and other expletives) is repeated, gratuitous, and clearly intended to shock the reader in order to hammer in his point. This gets much closer to the standard set by Pacifica than the isolated, off the cuff curses considered by this case, and so I think this decision would support holding this press release as indecent. (Of course, you'd likely be able to report its content as "news," and its not clear this decision has any impact on that whatsoever.)
6.5.2007 2:56pm
uh clem (mail):
I thought perhaps there was a ruling of some sort that abandoned or modified the George Carlin seven dirty words standard--which was approved by the Supreme Court.


The ruling in FCC vs Pacifica (more famously known as the seven-dirty-words case) was essentially that the FCC could regulate "indecent" language, but could not prohibit it outright. In the wake of that decision, the FCC issued easily understandable guidance that said "None of these words before 10pm", and this level of regulation withstood scrutiny by the court. The broadcasting industry was fairly happy with this because it was a "bright line" in the sense that everybody knew what was in bounds and what was out of bounds.

Note that the court did not say the FCC must regulate indecent language, or provide the bright line that the FCC adopted. The court merely stated that it is permissible to regulate as long as it did not go so far as to prohibit indecent language outright.

That was in 1978. Midway through the Reagan administration the FCC issued an edict that they were going to enforce indecent language prohibitions to the limit that was allowed under Pacifica, without giving any concrete rules about where the line may actually be. This made it hard to figure out what was FCC actionable and what was not - a royal PITA for broadcasters. "After 10" was no longer a defense. "Not one of the words" wasn't either. Nobody had any idea what the rules actually were.

And that's more or less where we are today. Vague, "know it when we see it" regulatory language and inconsistent enforcement. That's the kind of situation that the court should address as overbroad and overly vague. Glad to see that they did.

Meanwhile, socail standards have become more lax, and the public has shown a real appetite for this kind of language (The Sopranos, anyone?). Since the definition of "indecent" is based on whether the material is "patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards", fewer things are considered indecent. Social norms change. Deal.
6.5.2007 2:57pm
phalkon (mail):
I agree with Martin's fundamental point, which is that Congress should require ala carte cable access.

A la carte cable may be coming eventually, but in this context I suspect the comment is a jab at/threat towards the networks, who are opposed to a la carte cable.
6.5.2007 3:00pm
uh clem (mail):
Hey, my television supports a la carte cable access!

Sort of. You're still paying for all those channels that you never watch.

The system we have now is like wanting to subscribe to Newsweek, The Atlantic and The Smithsonian, but having to buy subscriptions to Penthouse, Guns &Ammo, Cosmopolitan, The National Review, The Nation, The Watchtower, People, Taximidermy Today, Chess Life, Tattoo!, Woman's Day, Boy's Life, and Rope Collecting Digest too. Sure, you can throw away the ones you don't read, but why are you being forced to pay for them?
6.5.2007 3:06pm
Ron Hardin (mail) (www):
I threw out my TV in 1971. I was offended by constantly being addressed as a woman.

Whether that's what makes the language today ``shocking,'' I can't say. Women being addressed, interacting with the language used.

I imagine the language would not be out of place in ``The Handyman Show'' (convert those old Sherman Tank thrust bearings into clothesline pulleys!), were there such a thing. Some blood must be drawn in any decent home project, and language must accompany it.
6.5.2007 3:13pm
Kovarsky (mail):
does anybody else think it's funny that we're debating the message that using "fuck" in a joke about the simple life sends to our children, rather than the message sent by airing the show itself, which is that all country bumpkin-folk merit cultural condescension equivalent to the level of moral condescension we reserve for paris and nicole.

the level of intellectual capital we expend debating manners in this country is apalling. the outrage industry is politically co-valent, and it's disgusting. anybody with an iota of common sense knows that for however vulgar the language on broadcast television, there's something 100 times that prurient just a child's mouse-click away on the internet.

i realize that the above is not at all in response to jonathan's query, which involves the conditions under which a network could re-broadcast expletive-laden prose without sexual connotations. although someone who thinks "fuck 'em" invokes something sexual has never been in a locker room, i still think there's probably a meaningful distinction between what cher/paris said and reporting on what they said. i happen to think the first (cher's) usage completely unoffensive, but you're talking about a different level of idiocy entirely if you can't even use profanity to report on the use of profanity.

god bless sarah silverman.
6.5.2007 3:15pm
markm (mail):
Kovarski, that was about what I was going to say. I too find that the most shocking thing about the network airing Paris Hilton and Denise Richey using the F-word to say how difficult it is to clean bovine excrement from their designer accessories, was that the network created a series around Paris Hilton and Denise Richey.
6.5.2007 4:09pm
Peter Young:
I giggled at someone thinking that "pissed off" was even mildly shocking. Do you also think that "suck" is horribly vulgar? And what about "screw", as in "screw off"? Just as bad as "fuck", I assume. It does express the same thought.

This must be a reference to my message, which said I was a bit shocked--but it was not by the words, but rather by the fact that it was now acceptable to use those words in prime time on the public airways. There's a difference. The words don't shock me in the least. That U.S. television, given its history of self-censorship, now freely aired these words was what truly surprised me.

I am also the person who wrote in two brief earlier messages appearing at the top of this thread:

"A shit storm about fuck-all."

and

"Translation into Old English: Much ado about nothing."

The reason I wrote that is apparent in the very message you refer to, where I wrote, "Although I don't think using such words should carry legal consequences, there is no doubt that the tone if not the quality of public discourse has suffered." In case that needs explaining, it means I'm against censorship of such words, but I don't like listening to vulgarities uttered for their own sake.

I giggle at those who are unable to grasp that my failure to appreciate the likes of Paris Hilton or her friends screeching "fuck" and "shit" over the public airwaves is not the equivalent of seeking to impose ridiculous moral views on others via censorship.

My objections are not moral or legal; they have to do solely with taste, and I don't seek to impose my views on good and bad taste on anyone--with a single exception.

If my son had ever said "Fuck you" in a public place, I would have sought to impose my views on him. Fortunately, he had good manners as well as good taste, and the occasion never arose.

I feel free to use "fuck" and "shit" freely in this public forum only because those words are the subject of the post.
6.5.2007 4:23pm
Peter Young:
public airways--should be public airwaves
6.5.2007 4:38pm
scote (mail):

public airways--should be public airwaves

That statement means nothing without an explanation of what you think "public airwaves" should mean. It is a contentious issue so there is no reason to assume that your meaning is manifestly obvious.
6.5.2007 4:44pm
trotsky (mail):
I think it's fairly clear:

If Brit Hume read the FCC chairman's statement on Fox News, it would be news programming.

If Paris Hilton read the FCC chairman's statement on Fox broadcast, it would be indecent.

Of course, Paris Hilton being on TV at all is indecent, as has been mentioned above.
6.5.2007 5:17pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
I think it's fairly clear:

If Brit Hume read the FCC chairman's statement on Fox News, it would be news programming.

If Paris Hilton read the FCC chairman's statement on Fox broadcast, it would be indecent.
I don't know if you're trying to make a distinction between news and entertainment, but there's another distinction there: cable vs. broadcast. Heretofore the FCC has not tried to regulate cable content, because the arguments about 'scarcity' and 'public airwaves' and such don't apply, but there's a sentiment among some of the would-be censors out there that they ought to try (and see what the courts say), on the grounds that there's no real difference from the point of view of an end-user between broadcast and cable.
6.5.2007 5:31pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):
Mr. Martin's FCC illustrates the problem when you put the "mommy police state" types in charge of government agencies: incoherent changes in policy result.

To answer Jonathan's post, under the 2nd Circuit's ruling, a news broadcaster who reads Mr. Martin's press release might be subject to citation, because Martin's use of prohibited words are not fleeting, or essentially unpredictable, but would be more akin to Pacifica's broadcast of George Carlin's very funny monologue.
6.5.2007 5:41pm
tarheel:
The key to this whole episode (as has been only briefly mentioned above) is the distinction between a taped show and live television. All the utterances at issue were in live TV, not in a taped show. The point the court made in oral arguments was that it is asinine for the FCC to argue that it can punish a network for airing a curse word in a live show but not for airing that same incident in a news show about the live incident.

The previous FCC policy was that fleeting utterances such as occur on live TV are not actionable. This seems a reasonable policy, but fell victim to Janet Jackson and the moral police.
6.5.2007 8:09pm
Fub:
anonVCfan wrote at 6.5.2007 10:28am:
I found Leval's dissent fairly convincing. And much better reasoned than Martin's expletive-laden statement.
I agree that Leval's dissent is at least marginally better reasoned than Martin's rant. But by Leval's reasoning, the FAA could proclaim that for aircraft navigation up is down and East is West, as long as they give a "sensible although not compelling" reason.

According to Leval at p44:
In explanation of this relatively modest change of standard, the Commission gave a sensible, although not necessarily compelling, reason. In relation to the word “fuck,” the Commission’s central explanation for the change was essentially its perception that the “F-Word” is not only of extreme and graphic vulgarity, but also conveys an inescapably sexual connotation. The Commission thus concluded that the use of the F-Word – even in a single fleeting instance without repetition – is likely to constitute an offense to the decency standards of § 1464.
The FCC's "perception" is that the "F-word" always "conveys an inescapably sexual connotation". That is no more true than the word "bank" always refers to a place where they keep the money, no matter what the FCC's "perception" is.

Putting the lipstick of "sensible" upon the pig of irrationality will never make it the bird of paradise.
6.5.2007 8:31pm
Mister Snitch! (mail) (www):
6.5.2007 9:13pm
John Neff (mail):
An interesting aspect of this situation is the notion that the mode of transmission (broadcast/cable) of the offensive language matters.

At one time manure was shipped by boats because that was the most inexpensive mode of transport. They discovered the hard way that if the shipped the container of manure below decks and it got wet methane gas was produced and if it was ignited by a lantern the ship would blow up. One this problem was understood the manure containers were labeled Ship High In Transit.

If a container ship were to enter a harbor with a large number of containers marked SHIT would that be an offensive use of language?
6.5.2007 9:58pm
Eli Rabett (www):
You ask whether Kevin Martin is incandescent. No he is fluorescent.

Never mind.
6.5.2007 10:35pm
RMCACE (mail):
Answering the narrow legal question, yes a network can run Martin's statement without being sanctioned.

The FCC issued the press release with the intent that it be disseminated to the press. Therefore, the FCC, the only governing body that could impose such sanctions, would be estopped from arguing that the press release is too indecent to be on the network news. In other words, the FCC's argument would be f**cked.
6.5.2007 11:18pm
dejapooh (mail):
I think the real question that remains unanswered is how DO you get cow shit out of a Prada Purse?
6.5.2007 11:36pm
Anon Y. Mous:

Hey, my television supports a la carte cable access!

Sort of. You're still paying for all those channels that you never watch.

The system we have now is like wanting to subscribe to Newsweek, The Atlantic and The Smithsonian, but having to buy subscriptions to Penthouse, Guns &Ammo, Cosmopolitan, The National Review, The Nation, The Watchtower, People, Taximidermy Today, Chess Life, Tattoo!, Woman's Day, Boy's Life, and Rope Collecting Digest too. Sure, you can throw away the ones you don't read, but why are you being forced to pay for them?
If a distributor of all those magazines decided it was was a better business model to only sell them as a package and refused to sell them ala carte, should Congress then get involved and pass a law forcing the distributor to change its business practices?
6.6.2007 2:07am
scote (mail):

If a distributor of all those magazines decided it was was a better business model to only sell them as a package and refused to sell them ala carte, should Congress then get involved and pass a law forcing the distributor to change its business practices?

No. But then newsstands and magazine distributors are not regulated public utilities so the comparison isn't really analogous. I'm not saying that ala carte should or shouldn't be required--though I'd sign up--but that your rationale for dismissing the possibility isn't a compelling one.
6.6.2007 2:29am
trotsky (mail):
Anon Y. Mous,

If the distributor has a government-enforced monopoly franchise, maybe it should.
6.6.2007 2:29am
Kev (mail) (www):
At one time manure was shipped by boats because that was the most inexpensive mode of transport. They discovered the hard way that if the shipped the container of manure below decks and it got wet methane gas was produced and if it was ignited by a lantern the ship would blow up. One this problem was understood the manure containers were labeled Ship High In Transit.
John--that's a nice urban legend you've got there...
6.6.2007 3:22am
Brian K (mail):

Television flows right into our living rooms and there is no way of knowing or screening in advance what might appear or be said.


Have you never heard of the internet!? I'm assuming you have SINCE YOU USED IT TO GET TO THIS SITE! They have this newfangled invention called "google"...its only been around a few years so you may not have heard about it, but I highly recommend you try it.
6.6.2007 6:29am
submandave (mail) (www):
Words have meaning, something my daughters already appreciate at their young age. In reading comments like "Do you also think that 'suck' is horribly vulgar? And what about 'screw', as in 'screw off'?" I am reminded of my fried's young son who asked "suck what?" This is akin to my opposition to teaching first graders tolerance and acceptance of gays. I have nothing against gays, but the concept of tolerance implies a difference, and understanding the difference between heterosexuals and homosexuals requires a level of sexual knowledge that I don't think is appropriate for a six year-old.

In any event, the FCC is mandated to ensure certain standards of decency on the broadcast airwaves. I believe prevailing public standards still find the words "shit" and "fuck" to be indecent and inappropriate for public usage. I believe, in this case, the FCC was acting properly according to its mandate. When discussing "fleeting expletives" it seems intuitively obvious to the most casual observer that there is a difference between "fleeting expletives" that may happen incinental to the course of a live broadcast of an emotional event such as 9/11 and those that result from a person making semi-prepared remarks at a planned event. While they may not exactly be expected during the former they are certainly understandable. In the latter case, though, I would imagine they would be quite pointed not expected.
6.6.2007 11:08am
Anon Y. Mous:
If a distributor of all those magazines decided it was was a better business model to only sell them as a package and refused to sell them ala carte, should Congress then get involved and pass a law forcing the distributor to change its business practices?
No. But then newsstands and magazine distributors are not regulated public utilities so the comparison isn't really analogous. I'm not saying that ala carte should or shouldn't be required--though I'd sign up--but that your rationale for dismissing the possibility isn't a compelling one.
I didn't come up with the analogy; I was countering the one that uh clem offered.
6.6.2007 11:26am
Mark F. (mail):
Please explain to me why "fuck" is considered to be offensive but "sexual intercourse" is not. They mean the same thing, correct?

If "society" considers the word "cuddly" to be offensive, I suppose the government should censor it, right?

I think the First Amendment has been fucked, if you ask me.
6.7.2007 5:55pm