Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Politics: Naughty Legislation

Rep. Doug Ose of California has introduced legislation to clarify the federal ban on broadcasting obscenity. Currently it’s a crime punishable by two years in prison to “utter[] any obscene, indecent, or profane language by means of radio communication”. The statute doesn’t specify what constitutes such language, however. Ose’s legislation boldly remedies that situation by defining “profane”:
As used in this section, the term `profane', used with respect to language, includes the words `shit', `piss', `fuck', `cunt', `asshole', and the phrases `cock sucker', `mother fucker', and `ass hole', compound use (including hyphenated compounds) of such words and phrases with each other or with other words or phrases, and other grammatical forms of such words and phrases (including verb, adjective, gerund, participle, and infinitive forms).
I’m all for legislative clarity, but this seems a tad, er, obscene. Keep in mind there are few, if any, criminal prosecutions for obscenity. Ose’s bill is more likely a reaction to the FCC’s recent whining about U2 singer Bono letting out a bad word during last year’s Golden Globe Awards telecast. Some folks decried the fact Bono and NBC weren’t tarred and feathered for that offense.

Ose also must realize this bill would never survive First Amendment scrutiny (unless, of course, Ose’s ban is intended to prevent the “appearance” of corrupting political campaigns). Which means this entire proposal is an exercise in grandstanding before the faux family-values crowd. Now there’s something that ought to be banned.

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