Where is George Carlin when you need him?
You might recall that Carlin, now deceased, was the comedian who made a big splash, especially on the college lecture circuit, back in the '70s. His most famous bit was about the "seven words you can't say on television."
I won't repeat them here because I'm pretty sure you still can't say them in a family newspaper, but shortly before his death a few years ago I heard Carlin quip, "I used to talk about the seven words you couldn't say on television. Now there is only one. Well, two if you're a white guy."
Carlin was right. Times change -- and our tolerance for filth on television certainly has. Rob and Laura Petrie used to have to sleep in twin beds and now they show stuff in Victoria's Secret commercials that college students in the '70s had to go to the Tenth Street Art Theater in Atlanta to see.
But never fear. The government is hard at work in their never-ending efforts to protect us from ourselves and last week the Supreme Court of the United States heard a case concerning foul language and nudity on broadcast television and the world and Janet Jackson eagerly await their decision.
The question is whether the FCC should continue to monitor and, dare I say, censor broadcast television -- the stations that can be picked up out of thin air and are, thus, available to every household with a television set, in this age of cable and satellite TV. There used to be a concept that we have to pay for cable so we can buy whatever we want. Obviously the government has no right to regulate what we see by virtue of our own dime -- the First Amendment and free speech and all of that, don't you know.
On the other hand, according to government logic -- yes, I know that is an oxymoron -- the airwaves belong to everyone, so anything that can come into our homes via those needs to be suitable for anyone to watch.
Now the Supreme Court is trying to determine whether technology has made the whole rigmarole a moot point. Speaking of which -- did you hear what Clarence Thomas said about the case?
Other justices, however, had plenty to say. One of the concerns the Supremes -- my apologies to Diana Ross -- seemed to have about the issue was that networks could broadcast profanity and even nudity in certain contexts -- like a war movie or a documentary on tribal cultures in Outer Bumgolia -- but not on other contexts -- like cops fighting it out on the streets with drug pushing punks or young twenty-somethings trying to score with the hot chick across the hall.
I made up the part about the documentaries, because I still remember librarian J. Frank Walker keeping the National Geographic magazines under his desk in the school library. You had to have a note from a social studies teacher to look at one. Same concept.
But I digress. One example of the above issue centered around the fact that the FCC gave a pass to ABC for the language in "Saving Private Ryan," but busted certain other shows when Hollywood stars dropped F-bombs and other inappropriate verbiage on live awards shows.
Justice Elena Kagan is said to have stated that "Nobody can use dirty words or nudity except Steven Spielberg," which may be the funniest thing Elena Kagan has said since testifying that she was qualified to be an impartial jurist.
John Roberts wondered aloud why we can't have at least a few stations that parents know are "safe" for children to watch. But are any stations truly "safe" if you define safe as being free from profanity and inappropriate content? I mean, "Friends" used to air on a broadcast network at an hour that was even before my bedtime and I go to bed with the chickens. There wasn't anything that Chandler Bing wouldn't say. His eventual wife, Monica, was just as trash-mouthed as he was. And I already told you about the Victoria's Secret ads.
Allow me to tell you what I think. Instead of relying on the F-C-C to regulate what children may or may not see on television I think that should be left up to the P-A-R-E-N-T. I pick up about 150 channels on my television. Are we really going to continue to regulate three or four of them and not the other 146 or 147?
My father used to say that you can't legislate morality and I guaran-doggone-tee you that if people quit watching smutty programs, smutty programs will go away.
Meanwhile, can anyone tell me if the National Geographic Channel is available in high definition? I think I have all the Victoria's Secret ads memorized.
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.