THE SUPREME COURT, FCC AND FREE SPEECH
BY PIRATE JOE 28 APRIL 2009©


    The Supreme Court today ruled against the major networks (and all broadcasters) in a case that involved, basically, the occasional and or inadvertent use of naughty words. The case arose from an episode of a now defunct T.V. police drama show where a naughty word was used in dialogue that was just a little too realistic. This case found itself framed by George Carlin on one side and Janet Jackson’s mammary glands on the other. The Court said that the FCC was within its jurisdiction in fining the networks, even in one-time occurrences. Conservative groups hailed the decision. Quel surprise.
    At first impression, this might seem a good thing. After all, if the Court had given the green light, we could well imagine the ratings-crazed greedy media conglomerates and today’s pig-controlled “music” industry gearing up to turn our airwaves into a twenty-four hour toilet of foul-mouthed rap inspired tripe. Ugh!
    But hold on, pardner: There’s something else to be considered here. If this rule is allowed to stand, we have begun to  establish an etched-in-stone mechanism for government to extend the process of deciding what we can and cannot say. To its credit, the Court noted that it was rendering a decision based solely on the Commission’s regulatory authority, and that this decision should not be construed as a passing grade on any First Amendment issues; these will need to be decided separately. In other words, you should not have asked us if the Commission has the authority to regulate, it does. You should have asked us if that regulation comports with the First Amendment.    
    The real danger of this ruling lies in its insidious nature. If the government can “protect” us from the “dangers” of naughty words and exposed female breasts, what can/will they “protect” us from next? The politically-correct-oids will, no doubt, wish to add a few words and phrases of their own. The “religious right” is also quite likely to want to make a few contributions to the “censored” list. Government itself could easily succumb to the urge to start shutting dissenters up the easy way. Furthermore, if the government has the power to decide what we cannot say, is it not just a short hop for it to decide what we must say?
    Notice that none of this applies to newspapers. Since they were around when the Constitution was written, (indeed,  the term “press” is derived from the presses on which they are printed), they are unequivocally considered as protected by the First Amendment. Broadcasting arrived well over a century after the First Amendment was written, and although it is clearly an example of doing the same thing newspapers do (only with different technology) its unhappy timing has long been used by the government as an excuse to place it beyond the protection of the First Amendment, and thus controllable by the government.
    A read of the First Amendment should prove to you that had broadcasting been around when it was drafted, broadcasting would have explicitly been included in its protections.
    The First Amendment is rather plain and unambiguous on the issue of free speech: “Congress shall make no law....abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances”. This is stating in no uncertain terms that not only shall your freedom of speech not be abridged, but that of the press’, also. It doesn’t stop there: assembly is protected too. The framers of the Constitution knew that the mere guarantee of free speech would be worthless without the right to disseminate it. It is interesting to note that the press and assembly were the only mass dissemination “technologies”of their day. This clearly demonstrates that the founding fathers meant to protect free speech by whatever means it was disseminated.
    The not too often quoted Ninth Amendment seems to apply here, also: “The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people”. In other words, your rights include, but are not limited to, the ones enumerated in the Constitution.
    There is more than just a slight touch of the absurd here. On the radio, I can’t say “fuck” but I can say “sexual intercourse”. I can’t say “tits” but I can say “mammary glands” or “breasts”. I cannot say “shit” but I can say “excrement”or even "take a dump". By the way, what about “merde”?
    No, in the final analysis, I would rather put up with the foul trash the corporations would be sure to serve up then to see the right to speak my mind eroded. It’s a small, (albeit nauseating) price to pay.

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