A tragic day for America

The House has now passed the indecent indecency bill.

We are the only nation with a First Amendment. In a time when speech is being attacked in China — with help from American corporations — and across the Middle East and in Russia and in too many places to name, we should be standing by this principle above all others. If we can’t show the way in anything else, we should show the way in protecting free speech.

Instead, Washington played a cynical political game with a cult of allegedly religious nuts who share kinship with the mobs that burned down embassies and businesses because they were offended by the Danish Mohammed cartoons. Those nuts took their toll in blood. Our nuts take their toll in money. That’s American.

We are suffering under they tyranny of the offended and we must fight back. As Christopher Hitchens said at the Hay Festival in the UK last week, it is our right not only to practice religion but to criticize it. It is our right to offend.

: By the way, as I understand it, this legislation carries a maximum fine of $3 million per incident. The FCC already multiplied fees for its latest record fine to go over that amount. So the financial impact of this may be nothing. Which makes it an even more cynical act. It’s a PR move. And my colleagues in media keep falling for it. There is no public outcry, damnit. The public is watching the shows that offend the allegedly religious nuts. The allegedly religious nuts offend me.

  • This offends my sensibilities and I believe it should be fined in an amount equal to but not greater than $3 million.

  • AK

    Jeff, I applaud your attention to this important subject. The right-wing groups who pushed for this legislation simply don’t speak for most Americans.

    However, I correct you on one point: the U.S. is certainly not the only nation to explicitly protect free expression in its Constitution or legal system. The tenets of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights exist in similar provisions in liberal democracies – both fledgling and established – worldwide.

  • Jeff:

    I don’t want to make this seem like a big deal, because it is. But I think the problem of overregulation of the “public airwaves” is self-correcting. Audiences will flock to other media: satellite radio, the Internet and other venues where channels are theoretically unlimited in number. The FCC will exceed its mandate when it tries to regulate these media, considering the only justification for their control in the past has been the notion of ensuring the public good, given limited bandwidth (a limited number of channels that can exist in each terrestrial market). Since that concept is now completely outdated, IMHO the rug has been pulled out from under the FCC’s feet with regard to new media.

    In short, terrestrial radio will become incredibly lame because no one will want to take risks anymore. Meanwhile, I’ll be happily listening to “filthy talk” on XM Comedy and laughing at the fundies’ attempts to make the world conform to their standard.


  • Does the passage of the bill over the objections of the broadcast media mean that they have lost their clout?

    It used to be that the media and congress were in a mutual shakedown scheme. Congress would give them what they wanted in terms of deregulation and tax breaks and the media would give the politicians air time to pontificate. Those who opposed the corporate desires just became non-persons on TV.

    Something has changed in the media dynamics, but I’m not sure what it is.

  • Tom-

    Terrestrial radio is already incredibly lame! ;)

    But the real question is can standard radio ever recover from the stiffling effects of the FCC and the migration to satellite and other forms of content distribution? My thought is probably not, unless they can figure out some sort of incredible, localized programming that would be impractacle to distribute on a national system like Sat radio. (I’m thinking something that only delivered local news and maybe a majority of its music programming being derived from regional artists.)

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  • I agree terrestial radio is lame.

    Satellite radio is supposed to keep out of the local content business, but we see that being tested already with the court cases surrounding the traffic channels XM has in many major markets. I’m hoping that satellite radio goes IP, though, so that there will really be an unlimited number of channels, and folks like you and me can have our own shows on satellite.

    So no, I don’t think terrestrial radio will recover. Especially with the fundie stranglehold on it. No offense to the religious folks out there, but when I think fun, I think “Van Halen concert,” or “XM Comedy” not “church picnic.”

  • Roy

    By November, most of the fascist wet-dreamers in Congress will be gone, God willing. A censor’s useless, unless he or she censors something. Hell, I find the events of Septmeber 11 and Hurricane Katrina more offensive than a inadvertant display of a mammary gland on a sport event where children should have asleep for the upcoming school day. Thanks a lot, Herr Bush Jr.

  • Wise One

    Your whine and cheese is showing. Our public life is a blot of commercial filth. Perversion masks as some type of right. I say blankety blank.

    Filthy speech should be banned from the public forum.

    Filthy people should be punished in the public forum.

  • spencer reiss

    And now the same bunch of geniuses are about to be asked to legislate the future of the broadband Internet. Net neutralites: be careful what you ask for.

  • Echoing Robert Fineman’s sentiments, where were the networks in all of this? If they aren’t fighting harder to defend themselves and unmask these astroturf outrage campaigns for what they are, then they deserve every regulatory whuppin’ they get.

    Ironic all this outrage started with a nude boob during the Super Bowl that admittedly was hard to see. That was nothing compared to the post-bowl edition of Grey’s Anatomy this past January with that steamy shower scene. Or that episode of Desperate Housewives featuring S&M?

    But hey, why let proportion ruin a perfectly good temper tantrum?

    So now, with the spectre of bigger fines hovering over them, are the networks going to be spooked into cleaning up television for Red State America?

    Oh well. I always said I needed to read more books, anyway — if they don’t ban those next.

  • J

    I agree wholeheartedly with you on this bill and the general need to fight back against the “tyranny of the offended”. Speaking of offended, this paragraph:

    “Instead, Washington played a cynical political game with a cult of allegedly religious nuts who share kinship with the mobs that burned down embassies and businesses because they were offended by the Danish Mohammed cartoons. Those nuts took their toll in blood. Our nuts take their toll in money”

    is beneath contempt. Successfully lobbying political leaders to get legislation enacted is not comparable to and does not “share kinship with” terrorism, regardless of how violently you may disagree with it. And I doubt, upon reflection, that you really think it does.

  • aafiv

    There won’t be a public outcry because the pro-administration corporate interests that run the media in this country won’t cover it. It’s not news like immigration, gay marriage amendments, and the 9/11-wives-who-are-happy-their-husbands-died are.

  • chico haas

    Is anyone having trouble finding “indecent” stuff? I’m not. So what if the public airwaves have some kind of minimal code? As if one less venue for shits and tits makes a dent in what’s available. There are no other implications, either. Not for books, magazines, web porn, cable, satellite – nothing. I mean, really, what huffing.

  • KC

    “allegedly religious nuts”

    There is nothing alleged about their nuttery. I fear that if the planets align just right, we could be stuck with Sam Brownback as our next president, and that will be the End of Days.

  • Be happy, at least the Net Neutrality stench didn’t pass, so the FCC won’t be as busy as the Googoo-turf Alliance wanted to to be.

  • Hypocrities

    Filthy speech should be banned from the public forum.

    I find Wise One’s statement offensive. Wise One needs to be punished for offending my sensibilities.

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