In his latest culture column, Brent Bozell welcomes the Supreme Court's decision to take up the case of whether "fleeting" profanities on television can lead to fines for the networks that air them without using the five-second delay button. Brent contends that Hollywood doesn't merely want to escape fines for unexpected outbursts of profanity. It wants the inalienable right to air them without any public or governmental action:
The point is: Hollywood wants to air them. To them, it’s all a waste of money to spare the benighted rabble in the little villages who haven’t learned to stop worrying and love the F-bomb.
Out in America, voters still have the common sense to believe that profanities aren’t the kind of speech that you wave the flag over, as if “fleeting” profanity was a cause as American as apple pie. Most Americans think that the quality of entertainment is in steep decline.
An AP/Ipsos poll last summer asked if TV shows in general were getting better or worse, and only 22 percent said “better,” while 62 percent picked “worse.” Politicians in Washington ought to find defending children from televised profanity to be the safest issue imaginable.
It’s common sense to suggest that all outbursts of profanity could be construed as “fleeting” in nature. It doesn’t matter whether the cursing was unscripted (rock star Bono’s Golden Globe victory speech) or scripted (Nicole Richie swearing at the Billboard Music Awards show on Fox right after her Fox “Simple Life” co-star Paris Hilton said “Watch the bad language.”) In both cases, dropping an F- or S-bomb is “fleeting.”
But what if that curse word is dropped twice? Isn’t that two fleeting obscenities? If it’s dropped 28 times, that makes it 28 separate, “fleeting” curses as well. How technically, is a curse word not defined as fleeting?
Let us very clear here. The networks are not seeking legal protection from a single profanity. They are seeking the courts to recognize the inalienable right to swear like a sailor on TV at any time.
Even the titans of classic family entertainment, like Disney, have signed on to the anything-goes argument for airing profanity. At a recent shareholders meeting, Disney President and CEO Robert Iger declared Disney joined the pro-vulgarity coalition "because we believe it is our right to produce and distribute different kinds of products without interference from the federal government."
But wait: the same Robert Iger just last summer announced that Disney would bow to members of Congress and drop all smoking scenes from its family films and discourage such scenes in its Touchstone and Miramax pictures. Why would those requests for less smoking be a reasonable and admirable cause worth endorsing, but pleas for less swearing are an unbearable oppression?
Hollywood wouldn’t need “interference” from Washington if they would simply do what they all know is the right thing. They know it’s wrong to encourage and glamorize smoking for young and impressionable children. Isn’t the logic of preventing the air pollution of unnecessary profanity just as much an open-and-shut case?