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Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016

Is f-word no long a real social taboo?

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Warning: The following column may contain language that is offensive to some. But if you think it's offensive now, you wait!

Ok, let me get this out of my system. I have been sitting on this column for a week and contemplating whether it deserves a place in a family newspaper. And the more I think and the more I discuss this with others, the more I see this issue as yet another block being removed from the foundation of a decent society. And as a result, it deserves mention.

The subject is the f-word. That single word is one of the few remaining taboos in our society that is off-limits except in specific context and around specific people. I'm far from being a prude and the word is most certainly a part of my vocabulary. I won't lie about that. But my personal mistakes are not the subject of this column. And here's why.

Earlier this year, a popular rock musician uttered the f-word in an acceptance speech at an awards ceremony. Specifically, the musician said: "This is really, really f---ing brilliant" in reference to the ceremony. His remark was carried live on NBC, the network that aired the ceremony.

Well, the Parents Television Council and others filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission over the offensive word seeking sanctions against the network for airing the word. But this week, the FCC said the word "failed to meet the test for indecency" and that, in my opinion, will open the door to the usage of the f-word on primetime network television in the near future. I'd bet money on it.

Here's the reasoning used by the FCC to approve the use of the f-word. Indecent speech is "language that, in context, depicts or describes sexual or excretory activities or organs in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards." The FCC said the musician used the word "f---ing" as an adjective or expletive to emphasize an exclamation and that therefore "it was not within the scope of the commission's prohibition of indecent program content."

So let's get back to the issue of being a prude. I dare say that less than a handful of readers of this column have never uttered the f-word. I would venture to say there are possibly none among us who would not stand guilty. But that's far removed from the point. If allowed to stand, the FCC has opened the door to the usage of this word "as an adjective or exclamation" in every public broadcast available.

Now my kids are grown and I'm positive they all know the word and have used in on more occasions than a father should know. But there are parents who will soon be watching some sitcom on network television who will have to explain this word as a result of a television broadcast. And that day may come sooner than you think.

The world will not end because some network program contains the f-word. But that word will soon then be repeated in the second grade classroom because it was said on the comedy show the night before. And then society will have to grapple with yet another step down the ladder of decency. And I assume someone who is watching over us from above won't be real happy with the state of mankind.

I fear that this column will be viewed as overly simplistic. I know kids far too young know and use this word daily. I'm a lot of things but naive is not one of them. Yet in my world, there is a slight difference when we sanction the use of the f-word on national television and I'm not talking about the pay channels where anything goes. We can control that viewing from our children. Primetime viewing on the national networks is a different matter.

Words alone don't bring about the ruin of a society. But passive acceptance of standards that are generally unacceptable might just nudge us toward a lower society. The decay will not come from using the f-word on television. The decay will come because we do not raise our voices in protest over those issues we know in our hearts and our souls and deep in our guts are just plain wrong.

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