Category Archives: profanity

Still More Profanity! *%!& Yes!

Friend O’The Blog Brian D. — who’s not only a pal, but one of those rare lawyers with a sense of humor — shot me a message regarding yesterday’s post about the Supreme Court’s “fleeting” profanity discussion that helps put some of the remarks in better context. Over to you, BD….

Reading today’s blog, curiosity got the best of me and I set out to find the transcript. As great as the Post article was, the reporter actually bungled it. In that exchange, Garre was actually conceding (for the moment) that if something is “funny” it may not be “shocking, titillating, or pandering” and therefore the FCC would consider that in not fining someone — which was the proper set up for Scalia’s joke.

Here’s the exchange:

JUSTICE STEVENS: Maybe I shouldn’t ask this, but is there ever appropriate for the Commission to take into consideration at all the question whether the particular remark was really hilarious, very, very funny? Some of these things —

(Laughter.)

JUSTICE STEVENS: — you can’t help but laugh at. Is that — is that a proper consideration, do you think?

GENERAL GARRE: Yes, insofar as the Commission takes into account whether it’s shocking, titillating, pandering –-

JUSTICE SCALIA: Oh, it’s funny. I mean, bawdy jokes are okay if they are really good.

(Laughter.)

I’m with you — can’t wait to read the decision on this one.

Back to me again. I’m glad to see the Justices have a sense of humor about it, even as they continue their delicacy with language (it’s like the Monty Python sketch, where a group of politicians trying to come up with a new sin tax keep talking about taxing “thingy”). But I think it also brings up a good point that I hope they’ll keep in mind during their decision: context counts. I’m glad Stevens is questioning whether that deserves “proper consideration.”

We’ll see what happens. Keep watching.

Supremely F*%#ing Funny

I loved this story in today’s Washington Post, about the Supreme Court’s discussion of whether the government can fine television networks for a one-time, “fleeting” expletive on television. The case came about in response to Cher inadvertently(?) dropping the Queen Mother of Swears on a live awards show in 2002.

I got a kick out of government’s attorney arguing that overturning this policy could lead to “a world where the networks are free to use expletives . . . 24 hours a day,” including “Big Bird dropping the F-bomb on Sesame Street” — a hilarious bit of hyperbole — but more than anything, there’s something really funny about the Supreme Court justices trying gamely not to use the dirty words in question in the courtroom, falling back instead on more delicate terms like “F-bomb”, “freaking” and “the eff word.”

And then there was this:

…88-year-old Justice John Paul Stevens asked whether the FCC would sanction a broadcaster if the indecent remark “was really hilarious, very, very funny.” Solicitor General Gregory G. Garre said the commission would, along with “whether it’s shocking, titillating, pandering.”

“Bawdy jokes are okay, if they’re really good,” Justice Antonin Scalia cracked, to more laughter.

I don’t know how this is going to turn out, but this is one Supreme Court opinion I’m going to read. But only to see if they left in all the dirty words.