Making Sure an F-Bomb is an F-Bomb
Over at Reason, Peter Suderman flags some commentary from FCC Commissioner Michael Copps in which he states that he believes it’s time for a “national discussion” about “public interest and decency standards” (i.e. censorship) on the Internet. Apparently, the Commish is slightly more interested in extending FCC jurisdiction to the Internet’s content than the Chairman of the FCC is. Suderman:
There may be exceptions, but it’s usually pretty safe to assume that anytime a politician or bureaucrat dodges a question while calling for “a national discussion about” the proposal at hand, what he or she really means is, “I want to indicate that I support this idea without actually going on record as supporting it.” In this case, Copps’ proposed national conversation could complicate things for Julius Genachowski, the FCC’s Chairman, who has spent a fair amount of time this year denying that his agency has any intention of regulating the Internet. He gets away with this by making a distinction between the Net’s infrastructure layer, which his agency most certainly intends to regulate, and the content layer, which he’s insisted the FCC won’t touch. But if Copps becomes any more open about imposing indecency regulations on the web, it will be tougher for Genachowski to make his case.
As Jim Harper notes over at Cato, censorship is the FCC’s business. As much as it seems that the Right and Left disagree with each other on literally everything, this seems like an issue that we can all get behind. The FCC should not be allowed to regulate the Internet. End of discussion.
While we’re here, however, I think it’s worth mentioning that a lot of the things that are censored by the FCC wouldn’t need to be censored in the first place if it weren’t for the FCC. Who remembers when words like “scalawag” and “ragamuffin” were curse words? Well, nobody, because those were considered swear words in an era where the FCC didn’t tell everybody what they could and couldn’t say on television and radio. Maybe there was censorship with regard to the press, but it was self-censorship, as it is today. Anybody who’s ever taken a course in the history of a language knows that linguistics evolve relatively quickly. It’s no stretch to say that the FCC is in fact preserving the obscenities of a past era. If it weren’t for censoring the f-bomb, the f-bomb wouldn’t be quite so offensive. Maybe B.S. would be appropriate to say in its non-acronymic form. If anything, the Internet is serving to ease up the tension that dropping these curse words causes due to its generally more relaxed standards. The FCC, or at least its Commissioner, wants to change that. Or at least it wants the power to.