There was a lot of hot air blowing yesterday about President Bush being caught saying “s#*t” by a microphone he didn’t know was on at the G-8 Summit this weekend. Unfortunately, not enough was said about the hypocrisy behind that word.
Not long ago, Bush signed legislation that increases the indecency fines on broadcast outlets to $325,000, and added fines for individual broadcasters — like me — who might allow that word, or similar ones, onto the American airwaves. It’s all part of the tight-right-wing blowback that followed Nipplegate.
I’m not referring to programming that is purposely outrageous. I’m talking about the accidental moment that allows a verboten word to slip through, from a caller, a spectator, or a government official.
Ironically, if that microphone that caught Bush’s remark had been live on the air, that would have constituted a violation under the new FCC rules. Personally, I’d love to see them start a case against any broadcaster who did present the President’s comments verbatim.
The FCC has recently asked TV networks to hand over tapes of any sports event in which a fan, player, or coach may have uttered something they’d consider unfit for human ears. The presumption is that the commission may go back and issue fines for those incidents. If that’s the case, you can say goodbye to live telecasts of sports — everything would have to be put on delay.
The same would then have to be true for any news event, whether it’s coverage of the war, a man-on-the-street live shot, or a Presidential press conference. You’d just never know when the President might utter the S word. Or when the Vice President might say the F word on the floor of Congress. Or when either of them might call a NY Times writer an A-hole.
The hypocrisy here is that the exposure of those words on the airwaves is a rather rare occurrence, certainly more rare than their use in every day life by adult men and women, both in and out of power. Yet in those rare circumstances, the same government run by those men and women can use its power to fine broadcasters hundreds of thousands of dollars. That’s enough to bankrupt a radio personality, for a single mistake.
At what point in our development as a society will we accept the fact that those words aren’t as horrible as the right-wing extremist special interest groups believe they are? In fact, they’re such a common part of our lexicon that even world leaders use them in casual conversation.
I know, I know, it’s all about protecting the kids, even though it isn’t. If it were, the FCC never would have fined PBS stations for the real-life language in a documentary last year about blues music — a show that had virtually no one under the age of 12 watching it.
This isn’t about protecting kids, or even adults, from “indecency.” It’s about protecting political turf.
To paraphrase President Bush, it’s time to stop this s#*t.