Fucking FCC

The FCC seems to think that “fucking” is OK as an adjective (e.g., “fucking brilliant”), but not as a verb. Thus Bono’s adjectival use during the televised Golden Globe awards was abso-fucking-lutely acceptable, as far as the FCC was conserned:

As a threshold matter, the material aired during the “Golden Globe Awards” program does not describe or depict sexual and excretory activities and organs. The word “fucking” may be crude and offensive, but, in the context presented here, did not describe sexual or excretory organs or activities. Rather, the performer used the word “fucking” as an adjective or expletive to emphasize an exclamation. Indeed, in similar circumstances, we have found that offensive language used as an insult rather than as a description of sexual or excretory activity or organs is not within the scope of the Commission’s prohibition of indecent program content.

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4 Comments

  1. Posted 10/17/2003 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

    South Park did it first. Wonder what else satire can predict accurately? (in fact, noting the Onion link above, it seems to me the line between satire and reality may have indeed dissolved overnight when I wasn’t looking. Uh oh.

    Interestingly, I was going to put the FCC pdf on my blog, too, but I decided that I wasn’t comfortable writing obscenity by MY definition. Regardless of what the FCC says, I still prefer to save such words until I really need them, in hopes that their effect will be truly significant if I am so severely sparing. I suspect that’s not an uncommon solution for educators at the high school (or lower) level — it’s so much harder to self-watchdog, after a few years those teachers who did swear tend to de-habituate themselves of foul language.

    That said, I did show the pdf file to a few students.

  2. Posted 10/18/2003 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Yes, but this was broadcast TV, which has always been far more regulated. Even if SP is on basic cable, the FCC has been fairly hands-off in terms of content unless it was actually thrown out on a broadcast system.

    I seriously wondered about whether I should even use the word on my blog, since I am sure it remains offensive to some of my readers (even if not the FCC). In class, I tend not to unless I am using it rhetorically. I have a feeling that being a teacher makes you think more about rhetorical strategies. When you are in front of a classroom full of people, you are never “just” talking.

  3. Posted 10/21/2003 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    No, what I meant was that South Park introduced the idea that the adjectival form of four-letter words would be acceptable for network television.

    There’s a now-classic SP episode which anticipates the FCC decision, in other words — the plot of the show is that a network-based NYPD Blue-like show decides to use “shit” as an adjective for exactly the same reasons, and with exactly the same reasoning, as the FCC decision referenced here; the SP episode focuses on the social ramifications (hint: world-ending disaster) of such a change.

    And what if only teachers who use words like “rhetorical strategies” actually think about rhetorical strategies when teaching? It would be hard for us to know the difference — you and I teach, after all, what we teach, and it includes this.

  4. Posted 10/21/2003 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    Obviously, I have fallen behind on my SP. I’ll have to work on that. Of course, that would entail turning on the TV, which I haven’t done for a while now. Screw you guys, I’m going home.

    I have the distinct feeling that many teachers who use terms like “rhetorical strategies” may be among the least likely to actually think about such things :). It has always struck me as strange that the best teachers come out of geology or physics, and that there are so many bad communicators in schools of communication and bad teachers in schools of education…

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