So this weekend the FCC loosened its rules about profanity when Boston Red Sox star David “Big Papi” Ortiz gave an impassioned speech honoring the strength of the city that had just gone through so much. Mic in hand he dropped the dreaded f-bomb. The f— word. Oh, the hell with it, he said “fuck.”
People have been falling all over themselves congratulating the FCC for being so open-minded. I suppose I should be happy that people are using their heads, even just a little, especially in the light of Laura Curry’s arrest the same day as the Boston bombings. So much of the dialogue though, has still paid respect to the idea that certain words are so hurtful, just by din of their existence, that they must be regulated. We are apparently infants that need our parents at the FCC to protect us, lest our fragile sensibilities be offended. Even Rachel Maddow’s blog (I don’t know if it was written by the good Doctor or one of her staff,) fell into that old line of thinking saying that “under the circumstances, that’s probably the right call.” As if any other time that word could do so much damage to the fabric of our society that we need them to guard against its use.
Well I love that word, it is one of my favorite words. It is one of my favorite activities too, if memory serves (it has been some little time since I have partaken in it.) I also rather enjoy the succinct nature of some of the other “profane” words we need to be shielded from. “Shit” is a great word. Sure defecation, or feces, or whatever term is appropriate to the specific iteration may be technically appropriate, but it stinks, it’s nasty, nobody much likes the thought of a pile of it, and sometimes you need to compare the situation to it, and a nice one syllable description helps. Our relationship with “shit” is especially funny when you consider few people (they are out there though) have a problem with the word “crap,” another one syllable word for the exact same thing.
No, our obsession with profanity is a mark of our obsession with fencing ourselves off, by race and class, and used of proof, arbitrary though the nature of that proof may be, that the lower classes are indeed “lower.” Why else would we be so upset about these words, and yet the FCC has no problem with a certain “n” word? Oh sure, the networks make sure that the fictional characters using that word are portrayed as flawed, even villainous (though not always), but use the word they do. What they will never be so flawed to do is to shout “fuck” when they stub their toe. Likewise various other racial epithets, or words like “fag”,”homo”,”tranny”, and “shim” are all perfectly appropriate for public consumption.
We are so obsessed with an utterly random selection of words that we find vulgar that we ignore real vulgarity in our midst. We ignore the vulgarity of men living like kings on the backs of the working class denouncing the poor and organized labor as moochers. We ignore the vulgarity of a military-industrial complex eating up nearly a quarter of our entire budget on projects that do not work while our politicians bend over backwards to take food out of the mouths of the hungry. We ignore the vulgarity of charlatans preaching from mega churches fleecing their flock, people just looking for a little meaning and security in an uncertain world, whipping said flock into a fury over the lives of strangers, lives that affect them not one bit.
Maybe I was wrong, maybe it’s not about class and race division. Maybe the obsession with “vulgarity” is a smoke screen. It is one more distraction to keep us unaware of the real vulgarity in our midst. Whatever the case, we have the power, in our numbers, and in our increased ability to make our voices heard, if we are smart, to blow that smoke away and start holding those that treat us like a dog playing fetch accountable.
- FCC unconcerned with Ortiz (maddowblog.msnbc.com)
- FCC May Loosen Broadcast Rules For Nudity And Language (personalliberty.com)
- Ann Brenoff: When Did The F-Word Go Mainstream? (huffingtonpost.com)
- FCC Tacitly Acknowledges That ‘Fucking’ Can Be a Great Fucking Word (reason.com)