The Golden Globes yesterday displayed Hollywood’s increasingly coarse contribution to culture again this year as Ricky Gervais dropped an F-bomb during the show’s broadcast. Evidently drinking, he told the AP how delighted he was to have: “a job where you can get drunk and say what you want and they still pay you.”
In our youth, during the now ancient 1960s, public profanity was rarely evident. Our parents could take us to out to dinner or we could watch TV without being abused by other people’s indecent language. Today, strolling through a park or an evening out is routinely interrupted by people describing in coarse language human defecation or sexual activities. Often the offending language is shouted out or used repeatedly in sentence after sentence as obviously vocabulary-challenged speakers struggle to express themselves. These profane words are used as nouns, verbs, adjectives and even adverbs.
The Federal Communications Commission is the federal agency that has rules protecting us from an even greater flood of this obscene language than currently fills our ears. But Rupert Murdoch of Fox has joined with other broadcasters to seek to have a judge in the federal courts end these profanity-inhibiting regulations. We pray Murdoch is not successful.
Currently the FCC prohibits what they call “obscene material.” The Supreme Court has ruled that, to be obscene, material must meet a three-pronged test:
- An average person, applying contemporary community standards, must find that the material, as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest;
- The material must depict or describe, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by applicable law; and
- The material, taken as a whole, must lack serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.
According to the FCC website, they have defined broadcast indecency as “language or material that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory organs or activities.”
While the federal courts have held that indecent material is protected by the First Amendment and cannot be banned entirely, indecent material is restricted in order to avoid its broadcast during times of the day when there is a reasonable risk that children may be in the audience.
We believe that all Americans have a right to use whatever obscene language they wish to use, but we have an equally compelling right not to be bathed in rude and ignorant language. So measures to protect children and members of the citizenry are completely appropriate.
Happily, a number of state legislators are currently considering banning similar language in the college, secondary and elementary classrooms. Ask your local legislator to consider joining this cause. It is wrong for classroom teachers to use excretory and sexual language in the instruction of children, but with research, you will find it commonplace in most local schools.
Finally, we encourage private institutions, businesses and community organizations to ban obscene language from their establishments. We have a no-profanity clause written into the employee manual at our office, and you should seek the same from your employer.
Working together, we can collectively raise the level of our discourse and discussion. And just maybe it will filter up into the halls of the U.S. Congress.