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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
The ides of March              Monday, March 15 2004

Jon Kennedy, webmaster

Notable quotables

Kudos go to the Federal Communications Commission for beginning the reversal of a trend that several months ago seemed unstoppable. In October, the FCC ruled that Irish rocker Bono's use of the "f-word" as an expression of pleasure in accepting an award on a national live telecast the previous year had not been a violation of long-standing broadcast "standards" that the FCC had been tasked with enforcing. The decision that had supported Bono's breach of decorum and the rules said, in so many words, that as long as such words and words for excretory functions are not used in their original meanings, they were not in violation of the standards. Of course this was absurd. Even if there might be "standards" at the time the decision was rendered, all that would be required would be to use the words a few hundred thousand times in the "accepted" sense over the air to obliterate any stricter standard, any public opposition to their use everywhere and anytime after a few months.

My other web site, the Christian News and Media Portal, reported the FCC finding and called it tantamount to opening the floodgates to obscene speech on the American airwaves. I was not, of course, alone in making that observation. Hundreds of thousands of letters poured into the FCC generally protesting the removal of another standard for decency in our society. But that response was nothing compared with what was yet to come. While the FCC was still mulling what to do with all the mail asking them to change their downward course, Justin Timberlake unwittingly ripped the bodice off a scandal of the first order. Every talk show from the late-night pundits to the newschannel chat show opinion mongers were obsessed with the event for days after the exposure of Janet Jackson's right breast on the Super Bowl broadcast. The public reactions in letters, emails, and phone calls went ballistic.

William F. Buckley's take on the uproar over Jackson's exposed breast was typically clever and concise: "The sense of it is, Okay, do this kind of thing and more—much more— on the Playboy Channel and in Las Vegas, but draw the line somewhere this side of the Super Bowl." If the FCC was inclined to take half measures to quell the public outcry over its Bono decision, by the time it had heard all the noise over the Jackson affair it was ready to make some heads roll. Some already have, including, at least on six of his scores of radio stations, that of shock jock Howard Stern.

Last week I came across a quote about the whole reapplication of decency standards to public broadcast airwaves by George Carlin. He is probably the most famous outspoken opponent of the idea of broadcast censorship, probably known more than anything else for his comedy routine "Seven Filthy Words," that has been making the rounds since the 1970s when it originated in response to an earlier FCC restating of broadcast standards.

Said Carlin in response to the new fines proposed for TV and radio stations found to be in violation: "The whole problem with this idea of obscenity and indecency, and all of these things—bad language and whatever—it's all caused by one basic thing, and that is: religious superstition. ...There's an idea that the human body is somehow evil and bad and there are parts of it that are especially evil and bad, and we should be ashamed. Fear, guilt and shame are built into the attitude toward sex and the body. ... It's reflected in these prohibitions and these taboos that we have."

Carlin couldn't be more wrong in his central thesis. The base meaning of "profanity," which is the word the New Testament uses (1 Timothy 6:20) in condemning dirty talk, is not that it is referring to bad things, but rather to holy things. The "f-word' is the ultimate profanity just because it profanes—makes dirty, obscene, common and ugly—something that is in Christianity and other major religions one of the highest holy sacraments: holy matrimony and love making between legitimate mates. Such debasing of these holy things in filthy speech and thus defiling the marriage bed is nothing less than committing adultery by the tongue.

Bono, incidentally, who is one of the best young Catholics in the higher echelon of celebrity in our time, certainly should know all this. But he's Irish, and therein, I fear, hangs another tale for another day.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy 

Steven Wrightisms

30. The problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard.

—Sent by Trudy Myers 

Lenten thought for today

The judgment

Although I am imperfect in many things, I nevertheless wish that my brethren and kinsmen should know what sort of person I am, so that they may understand my heart's desire. I know well the testimony of my Lord, who in the Psalm declares: "Thou wilt destroy them that speak a lie." And again, He says: "The mouth that betrays, kills the soul." And the same Lord says in the Gospel: "Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall render an account for it on the day of judgment." And so I should dread exceedingly, with fear and trembling, this sentence on that day when no one will be able to escape or hide, but we all, without exception, shall have to give an account even of our smallest sins before the judgment of the Lord Christ.

— St. Patrick, c. 385-461, Confession
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