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Censorship Your Rights Online

PBS Feels FCC Chill On Censorship 1037

Posted by simoniker
from the watch-out-for-that-shark dept.
Shadow Wrought writes "The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting on PBS censoring one of its upcoming drama shows, Cop Shop, due to the chilling effect of the most recent FCC rulings on indecency. Star Richard Dreyfuss offered these choice words as part of a prepared statement, 'It is inescapably censorship under guidelines imposed after the fact by those who are in temporary political power, and so it should be treated as what it is -- a real-world moral and ethical battle with grimly wrongheaded, un-American types who play pick and choose when they define our freedoms of speech and religion as it fits their particular political needs.'"
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PBS Feels FCC Chill On Censorship

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  • Here we go .... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by YankeeInExile (577704) * on Monday July 12, 2004 @01:49PM (#9677514) Homepage Journal

    The slippery slope my homeland is heading down ...

    1. Boobs are bad, because we must protect children from sexual images. (Despite no scientific proof that such images are actually harmful.)
    2. Swearwords are bad, because we must protect children from scatological talk, lest they grow up to be Howard Stern.
    3. Pointing out flaws in national security is bad, because we must protect children from terrorist attack.
    4. Speaking ill of the Current Power Structure is ba, because we must protect children from policies we do not agree with.
    sigh... it was a nice democratic republic we had once.
  • by strictnein (318940) * <strictfoo-slashdot&yahoo,com> on Monday July 12, 2004 @01:51PM (#9677544) Homepage Journal
    Talk about a made up controversy. PBS is slowly dieing and now they're trying to get attention.

    With the excising of three not-so-little terms -- "s -- ," "f -- " and "blow job,"
    Ok, now I'm confused. They're censoring "Fuck", "Shit" and "Blow job". Are they saying that they had to remove these words because of he evil Bush government? Those words haven't been "allowed" for many years now. Really, this whole thing is absolute crap. "Chilling censorship" my ass.

    It's also really "surprising" that PBS doesn't like conservatives (who cut their funding again?). And that there's an article in the SF Chronicle about it (strange...). And, this might surprise you, a hollywood actor is also upset about this. This is really a new low for slashdot that'd they post such a ridiculously idiotic article.
  • Re:Here we go .... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Blindman (36862) on Monday July 12, 2004 @01:54PM (#9677590) Journal
    This is just like on the Simpsons where Mrs. Lovejoy always says, "Won't anybody please think about the children?" (or its functional equivalent). It was funnier when it wasn't the basis for actual as opposed to animated public policy.
  • Re:Here we go .... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tcopeland (32225) * <tom&thomasleecopeland,com> on Monday July 12, 2004 @01:54PM (#9677593) Homepage
    > Speaking ill of the Current Power Structure
    > is ba, because we must protect
    > children from policies we do not agree with.

    Apparently it's not too bad, since you just did it. For real censorship, see China or, perhaps, Syria.
  • News For Nerds??? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 12, 2004 @01:55PM (#9677602)
    What the hell does PBS and their boring shows have to do with 'News For Nerds' here? It seems slashdot has been turing into angry, leftist politics for nerds nowadays.

    Anyways, there nothing wrong about the chill here. The PBS runs on a public airwaves for free, the deal being that it broadcasts according to the government's standards. If you or PBS don't like it, take it to cable, because that when you are on public access, you have rules to follow.

    This isn't about your rights here, it's slashdot and PBS trying to turn this into a bigger issue than it really is. Everybody has to play by the FCC's rules.

  • Since when is (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 3rdParty (719962) on Monday July 12, 2004 @01:56PM (#9677625)
    saying fuck and shit a moral imperitive? Didn't these people know the show was being made for TELEVISION, not movie theaters? Whining that you cannot swear on television in 2004 is kind of behind the game, isn't it? Since when has it been acceptable to say those words on broadcast television?

    I have no love for the current administration, but I also am aware that Mr Dreyfuss could probably pay these fines and call it the cost of doing business if he so chose. Since we have the freedom to bitch about our gov't in the US, he has every right to complain, but I don't think he is "in the right."
  • "un-American" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GillBates0 (664202) on Monday July 12, 2004 @01:57PM (#9677627) Homepage Journal
    Is it just me, or are the terms "all-American" and "un-American" beginning to sound hypocritical and hollow, mostly due to overuse by the beloved administration and media schills?

    That seems to be the trend nowadays - label anybody or anything who/which is anti-war, anti-administration or anti-corporation as "unAmerican" and get done with it. It's right up there with the "Axis of Evil" and "Freedom".

  • by krem81 (578167) <krem81@@@yahoo...com> on Monday July 12, 2004 @01:57PM (#9677630)
    A show that's broadcast over the air is being censored by its corporate distributor (in this case PBS) in order to avoid the imminent fines by the FCC (either that or to maintain its wholesome image), and somehow it's the fault of the big bad Bush administration? This has "publicity stunt" written all over it.
  • by Rei (128717) on Monday July 12, 2004 @01:57PM (#9677642) Homepage
    The problem is enforcement. These things used to not be enforced significantly. The degree of enforcement has been enough to literally drive Howard Stern off the airwaves due to costs... it's no trivial thing. Now producers are afraid to even come close to offending the FCC.
  • by riptide_dot (759229) on Monday July 12, 2004 @01:57PM (#9677644)
    I can't help but think of two very good quotes I've used in the past when arguing against censorship:

    Censorship, like charity, should begin at home: but unlike charity, it should end there. - Claire Booth Luce

    To limit the press is to insult a nation; to prohibit reading of certain books is to declare the inhabitants to be either fools or slaves. - Claude Adrien Helvetius

  • by lothar97 (768215) * <owen AT smigelski DOT org> on Monday July 12, 2004 @01:58PM (#9677647) Homepage Journal
    It always steams me that they'll edit out breasts and other "sex" things in movies, but movies like "Predator" and "Resevoir Dogs" will be shown on TV, with lots of people getting shot up and spewing blood all over. Is that really a better image we'd like kids to see? I myself would just prefer not to edit anything out.
  • Re:Here we go .... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Art Tatum (6890) on Monday July 12, 2004 @01:58PM (#9677652)
    It always amazes me when someone gets up on a soapbox and screams some silly thing, then claims that there's no such thing as free speech. Like Michael Moore.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:00PM (#9677679)
    Talk about a made up controversy. PBS is slowly dieing and now they're trying to get attention.

    Why not - look what it did for Michael Moore.

    G,D&R!
  • Fictive Learning (Score:4, Insightful)

    by buckhead_buddy (186384) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:00PM (#9677686)
    So Dick Cheyney's half-thought, irrational, emotional outburts are fine for public coverage yet the use of the same expletives for a well-considered, precisely-scripted, time-consumingly produced fictional presentation are NOT acceptable is absurd.

    Fiction is the ideal place to expose new ideas that aren't taught in school (profanity, sex, violence). Simply declaring that all bad words are "bleeped" and all nudity is blocked is doing a severe disservice to the (yes, real) humans watching television.
  • Comedic (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mratitude (782540) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:01PM (#9677688) Journal
    It isn't an accident that Richard Dreyfuss sounds so knowledgable on efforts to censor so-called free speech; Hollywood has had years of practise in generating social/political spin all the while most Hollywood types have the blood-spitting fits when confronted with views on which they disagree.

    Otherwise, this reads like a publicity stunt. No one watches PBS all that much.
  • by 26199 (577806) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:03PM (#9677709) Homepage

    You seem to be conveniently sidestepping the real issue by pointing out that the FCC is in charge. Well, yes... but that doesn't make them automatically right.

  • Free speech? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by YankeeInExile (577704) * on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:03PM (#9677719) Homepage Journal

    It always amazes me when someone gets up on a soapbox and screams some silly thing, then claims that there's no such thing as free speech. Like Michael Moore.
    I never claimed there is no such thing as free speech. I claim that if things continue the way they are, speech will be seriously curtailed, perhaps to extinction. You will be far more amazed when it happens that you did nothing while you could.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:04PM (#9677740)
    PBS has been feeding at the Government trough for years. They have been grabbing at taxpayer dollars like there is no tomorrow.

    The ethical course would be for PBS to eschew all government funding. Let PBS use their own dime, present programming the way they wish, and let the chips fall where they may.

    Beggars can't be choosers. If I give my kids some spending money, I want some influence on how they spend it. If my son comes home with a copy of Hustler, he is going to be defunded.

  • by furball (2853) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:05PM (#9677742) Journal
    The problem is that if they don't plan then we'll just have a comission looking into why they don't plan it. These are emergency plans.

    As the article states, elections have been postponed in the past due to terrorist attacks. It's just never done at the federal level because there are no agencies that can do such a thing.

    We're talking about laws that'd have to be passed and such.
  • Re:Since when is (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kannibal_klown (531544) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:05PM (#9677746)
    Actually, I believe "shit" is now allowed on broadcase (FOX, NBC, etc), so long as it's on after a certain time.

    They made a big deal about it last year (or was it 2 years ago). It sort of coincided with "South Park's" "Night of a Miliion Shits" episode, where they would say it a couple of times per scene (and there was a little counter at the bottom of the screen).

    I can sort of agree with bleeping it out. Little kids (like 3rd graders) wouldn't really know the significance of it, and would just start using it endlessly. They'd be calling their teachers "FuckHeads" or tell their mom to pass the "Fucking Mashed Potatoes."

    But it's not the downfall of society that they're making it out to look like. Parents can install V-Chips, educate their children, or (god forbid) DISCIPLINE them if they use the words.
  • Re:Here we go .... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CommieLib (468883) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:07PM (#9677770) Homepage
    I dub thee...STRAWMAN SLAYER!!!

    When, by the way, did we have an America where boobs and swear words were on TV? I don't remember it.

    Chapter 243 of my new book, Things We All Fricking Know But Like To Pretend We Don't For Some Reason covers the obvious reality that maybe children should get some scope on the universe before they engage in activities that make them parents. Of course, this inhibits pleasure, so a Slashdotter cannot conceive of it.
  • by krem81 (578167) <krem81@@@yahoo...com> on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:07PM (#9677777)
    Only, in this case, the quotes are inapplicable. You see, the reason the shows are being censored is not the content, but the means of broadcast. The airwaves belong to the public, and as such are subject to public decency standards. They could've chosen to broadcast the show on cable, but they aimed for a larger target audience (which, ironically, is doubtful, since this is PBS we're talking about); therefore the producers have to suffer the consequences of broadcasting over the air.
  • Re:Free speech? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Art Tatum (6890) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:08PM (#9677790)
    Puh-leeze. Get over your delusions of "standing up to the evil oppressors." This isn't Nazi Germany and you're not Niemoller.
  • by DesScorp (410532) <DesScorp&Gmail,com> on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:08PM (#9677791) Homepage Journal
    Cheney's outburst was neither half-thought or irrational; Patrick Leahy has deserved that "fuck you" for a long time now. He's a dick, and I'm glad the veep did it.

    Emotional, yeah, sure.

    But it was NOT broadcast on television. As much as I admire Richard Dryfuss, he's full of shit. This isn't censorship. Thankfully, most people seem to be recognizing that, and are calling him on it.
  • by moviepig.com (745183) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:10PM (#9677814) Homepage

    Seems likely that most here would declare themselves to be anti-censorship ..... until their own particular threshold is crossed. And if one indeed has such a threshold (and most do, somewhere), then moral indignation at someone else's more restrictive threshold seems hard to come by.

  • Re:Here we go .... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Art Tatum (6890) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:10PM (#9677817)
    You know what I find amusing about this thing? My reply about people who screamed about free speech while exercising it was...modded down as flamebait! Kinda gives you a sense of pride...
  • Re:Free speech? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by smclean (521851) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:11PM (#9677831) Homepage
    What recent censorship acts in general lead you to believe that these things are following a political trend? Howard Stern / Clear Channel being fined? Janet Jackson's boobs? I feel that both of these actions were justified.

    I think that many people feel that they haven't "done anything" about this yet because there's no particularly alarming censorship taking place. When they start censoring political messages (like yours) then I'll start "doing something" about it.

    Seriously though, Clear Channel was stupid to drop Howard Stern. That smells like a reaction to coersion by the feds to 'do something or else'. That kinda legal extortion is certainly to be frowned upon.. but that isn't a free speech matter. Is Howard still on the air somewhere? Did that selfish bastard allow people to stream him online yet? That was a problem with his Clear Channel contract--No streaming.

  • by anim8 (109631) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:11PM (#9677837)
    Clearly, you have not watched PBS for a very long time -- if ever.

    PBS programming has never been censored until now. Profanity and nudity were not uncommon in primetime. Frontline, POV and even NOVA would not censor the audio of interviewees. Now and then a BBC drama would have a nipple-peek. No longer.

    How long before political dissent is pursued with the same zeal? If Bush-Cheney prevail in November I would guess the answer is sometime in 2005.

    But what do you care? As long as you have your cable TV you're fat, dumb and happy, right?
  • by Deacon Jones (572246) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:11PM (#9677843)
    Slightly off-topic, as I am saddened more by PBS seeking to go with modern trends than PBS not being able to use the F-word.

    Like many here, I spent my time with Sesame Street and Electric Company, and then of course Monty Python, Nova, Sagan's Cosmos, Dr. Who, and many more.

    These days Nova is like "Science For Dummies", and PBS has its own versions of Reality Shows. Thank god for Red Green reruns combined with British Comedy reruns. The occaisional Nature show is still allright, but its getting more and more where I can't tell where the music video stops and the science is supposed to begin. Even that miniseries on String Theory started out good and then petered out.

    Now we top it off with the need for "gritty" cop shows that use realistically foul language.

    To me the decline of PBS is a much more sad affair then whether or not the FCC will let them curse.

  • Who pays for this? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sonsonete (473442) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:11PM (#9677844) Homepage

    Let me get this straight:

    A government-funded station is currenctly experienceing a chilling effect because government regulations that have been in place for years prevent said government-funded station from broadcasting certain words over airwaves allocated to it by the government.

    Egads!

  • by Call Me Black Cloud (616282) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:12PM (#9677855)

    No one is being oppressed, suppressed, whatever. The standards that dictate the bleeps have been in place for years. Dreyfuss knew this going into the project. What changed is the cost of breaking the standards, so he's complaining it's now too expensive for PBS to allow him to violate the standards. Perhaps he should have chosen a more appropriate venue for his work.

    Also, the article linked to was a columnist's take on it. I don't know if I'd consider it "reporting" as columnists tend to skew things according to their opinions.
  • by dancingmad (128588) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:12PM (#9677856)
    I'm surprised at the caliber of comment on this article. Who watches PBS anymore? Why watch that old channel? I'm in college, I watch Dave Chappelle and Cartoon Network. But I also watch PBS: they show delightful British comedies (unfortunately our affliate has pulled Red Dwarf, Fawlty Towers, and Flying Circus now). Lehr's show is one of the best news programs on television.

    Not to mention that you slashdot people should enjoy PBS's science programs (as a child I lived and breathed their animal documentaries, and I still find the birds series a joy to watch) and perhaps their history (their documentaries on the Prophet Muhammed and Islam the last few years were great).

    If PBS is mad at conservatives, it should be. America had a chance to have something as brilliant and deep as the BBC. That NPR and PBS aren't is the fault of the conservatives who seem hell bent on funding idiots like Rupert Murdoch and their "news."
  • Re:Since when is (Score:3, Insightful)

    by LightningBolt! (664763) <lightningboltlig ... RASPom minus ber> on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:13PM (#9677866) Homepage
    > It sort of coincided with "South Park's" "Night of a Miliion Shits" episode, where they would say it a couple of times per scene (and there was a little counter at the bottom of the screen).

    Comedy Central is not a broadcast network.
  • by at_kernel_99 (659988) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:13PM (#9677868) Homepage

    In the article, they mention other shows, aired in the past on PBS, that did not feel the need to bleep colorful language. The implication is that the new & improved FCC policies can only be fought by large, well-financed corporations. PBS, a non-profit funded partially by the federal government, but primarily by private donors & corporate sponsors, does not have the spare cash to spend on FCC fines.

    Of course, the easy criticism is that the SF Gate leans a little left (true), PBS leans left (not true) and hollywood leans left (largely true, but not a hard & fast truism, by a long shot); therefore they must be in cahoots to tarnish the Bush administration & conservative-run congress. An interesting rebuttal is to point out that a certain branch of the far right - the libertarians - would also say that censorship is not the job of government. Let people vote with their remotes. It is not the job of the FCC, or any branch of the government, to shelter children from bad kinds of TV. The vice-president drops the F-bomb on the Senate Floor & feels better afterward, but PBS is not allowed to broadcast a television show using the same word without risking a hefty fine? Something just isn't right there.

  • Pay attention... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Chibi Merrow (226057) <mrmerrow@@@monkeyinfinity...net> on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:13PM (#9677870) Homepage Journal
    See, here's the problem, Clear Channel can't censor anyone because they're NOT THE GOVERNMENT. Clear Channel can decide whoever the hell they want to do business with and under whatever terms they wish. The only thing this group has any valid argument on is breach of contract, not censorship, and even that's sketchy.

    If Clear Channel doesn't want to display an advertisement because they believe it will negatively affect their business, that's their decision. If they have a choice between listening to a few misinformed, whiney protestors cry about "censorship" or possibly losing REAL advertisers and/or viewers, I think they're going to worry about the one that hits them in the pocketbook.
  • by RobinH (124750) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:13PM (#9677873) Homepage
    I suspect that the star and producer have no higher goal than propping up their show's ratings.

    I agree with you that they're taking advantage of the free publicity, but if you attack their argument on that basis, what you have in an "ad hominem" falacy, which means YOUR argument holds no water.

    One person might be motivated to make an argument for any given reason (it does take time and effort to think things through), but you still have to evaluate the argument based on the content, not on perceived motives. Who cares what their goal was? Is the argument consistent or not? That's all that matters.
  • Re:Here we go .... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by color of static (16129) <smastersNO@SPAMieee.org> on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:14PM (#9677880) Homepage Journal
    And those same people often think violence is just fine for their children to watch. Having two kids myself I just can't fathom that mentality.
  • by Beardo the Bearded (321478) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:14PM (#9677883)
    Not on PBS, they're not prohibited.

    That's the great thing about PBS. They don't censor themselves; they don't have to watch their fucking mouth. The reason you haven't seen swearing and nudity on private channels is because folks sue when they find nudity or profanity. No lawyer, no matter how slimy he is, is going to take the case of suing PBS. It's like suing Habitat for Humanity or the Salvation Army.

    On TV, we can show somebody having their fucking brains blown out and show the grey goop dripping off the wall. That's fine for kids to see. Yet somehow, it's not okay to say "blow job" and a naked person. I don't know about you, but I'd rather my daughter be more comfortable with nudity and be willing to talk about sex than have her be comfortable with ultra-violence. If you honestly think that violence is better than nudity, you have a serious flaw in your brain.

    As for the leftwards slant, I've got good karma and I'll not burn it on the likes of you.
  • by fermion (181285) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:15PM (#9677895) Homepage Journal
    For those of you who are young, or perhaps never watched PBS, you have no understanding of the cultural freedoms we used to enjoy. PBS was allowed this freedom because the hicks, red necks, and vengeful religious fanatics did not watch it. Even more amazing, in the best US traditions of freedom of speech and religion, these people tended to leave PBS alone.

    Then, one day, the fanatics and freaks got control of congress. They complained about money being spent on the PBS and said it was used to promote non-US values. They insisted that the US was a Christian country, which is news to the Jews and Muslims and Buddhist and Atheists and Taoists and you get the idea, and proceeded to gut the funding for PBS and used the money to increase funding to their personal religious projects.

    Now, for many, the fact that PBS no longer has cultural freedom is a small thing. One might think it means that a word can't be said, or a breast can't be shown, or certain political conversations cannot occur. Many would cheer the day when we no longer had to hear about Mrs. Slocombe's pussy. But, as someone that was, as we say, raised on TV, and particularly on PBS, I can tell you the change is chilling. PBS is one place for a kid stuck in the inner city to attain a wider culture, a sense that the world is more than the streets. I consider this good, but clearly many think inner city kids are just another brick on the wall, and need no more culture than what is needed to die in a the street or a war, or, perhaps, to slave away on an assembly line.

    Everyone was good until the pompous assholes starting imposing their beliefs on everyone.

  • Re:"un-American" (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Pendersempai (625351) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:15PM (#9677907)
    You're absolutely right. Every photo shoot sports a waving flag as a background. Rhetorically, "patriotic" has come to mean "in support of Bush's political agenda." It's gotten to the point that I naturally trust a news source more when he's labelled a dissident. I'm leery of people who display an American flag, and group monotonation of the Pledge make me very uncomfortable. I wish we could take back our country's symbolism from the fascists (or neocons or whatever you want to call them) who have appropriated it.
  • Re:Howard Stern (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jadenyk (764614) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:17PM (#9677925)
    The problem here is that you're letting the government decide how to stop your kids from becoming Howard Stern. Why don't you censor what your kids watch on TV and listen to on the radio?

    I have 2 kids. I watch what they watch to make sure it's appropriate, regardless of what the FCC or Walt Disney say. If *I* think a show is too violent, they will not watch it - bottom line. When my kids hear a "bad" word, I explain to them why they shouldn't use that word. I don't rely on our wonderful (note sarcasm) government to raise my children.

    As the article says, "let the people vote with their remotes." Leave the shows uncensored - if people don't like it, they won't watch it which will force the networks to tame down their content.

  • by div_2n (525075) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:18PM (#9677942)
    Of course, I could be wrong...

    Obviously. The very fact that they felt they had to bleep out anything indicates the problem. The Constitution doesn't say, "Freedom of speech unless it is a bad word."

    I can't speak for others, but I want to be the one to decide what is and isn't right for me instead of some jerk off (oops, is that censored?) that doesn't share the same beliefs as me.
  • by Warlok (89470) <jfincher42@hotmail.com> on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:21PM (#9677997) Journal
    The PBS runs on a public airwaves for free, the deal being that it broadcasts according to the government's standards.


    Wrong - it's viewer supported television. Local PBS station viewers send in money to keep the stations running, In exchange for not running commercials for corporate sponsors every 8 minutes (they do run commercials for their sponsors before and after the shows, but not during). The government doesn't tell them what to show - the local stations just purchase the programs they can afford to buy. This differs from for-profit broadcasters, who have deeper pockets and produce their own shows, using advertisers (and more recently, DVD sales) to foot the bill. PBS is a non-profit corporation, not a government entity (when was the last time the DOJ held a fund-raising marathon?).


    There's another point no one seems to be touching on here, not that Dreyfuss and Gang can't use real language on a TV show about real people, but that the FCC hasn't adequately defined what they can and cannot do on the public airwaves. They've said they'll enforce a standard rigidly, but then completely failed to define that standard objectively in a way broadcasters can understand. That opens the door to knee-jerk reactionary and politically based interpretations of what can and cannot be broadcast, which is what we see happening today.


    However, I don't think the FCC can practically define that standard (I don't know if they can legally do it or not either). As mentioned in another post, there is no federal standard for decency. Different localities define what is decent and what is not, and in cases of obscenity, aren't defined rigidly at all, but use the "reasonable person" approach to interpretation. The FCC guidelines, to be effective, would have to cater to the most conservative estimates of what a "reasonable person" would think, then codify that. The Supreme Court couldn't codify it in the 70's - why do we think the FCC can or should?

  • by JebusIsLord (566856) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:21PM (#9677999) Homepage
    again though - blood is bad, but violence is okay? I'd say removing the blood is like removing the consequences... watching someone die from a bullet should be rightfully horrifying (blood and all), not gratuitous and fantasy-like. That's MORE dangerous.
  • Re:Free speech? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Rei (128717) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:23PM (#9678022) Homepage
    Wait a minute... are you trying to say that determining what people can say on the airwaves isn't a free speech issue?
  • by happyclam (564118) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:24PM (#9678040)
    A show that's broadcast over the air is being censored by its corporate distributor (in this case PBS) in order to avoid the imminent fines by the FCC (either that or to maintain its wholesome image), and somehow it's the fault of the big bad Bush administration? This has "publicity stunt" written all over it.

    This is a serious issue: The FCC is essentially defining moral standards for the country. While the FCC reports to Congress, the commissioners are appointed by the President, and the chair is also selected by the President. Thus, the FCC is largely an implementor of the President's policies while being subject to Congressional oversight.

    Either way, the five members of the FCC should not define moral codes for the entire country, deciding which words and ideas are fit for consumers and which are not.

    Yes, ideas: The words "blow" and "job" are not inherently offensive in the way that "f---" and "sh--" are. Why bleep them when combined, then? Because the idea is inherently offensive and immoral, according to the commission.

    This is a scary thought, that five people appointed by the President can essentially kill free speech through certain mass media for the five years they are in office.

    The next step of course is for the FCC to declare certain unpatriotic words as inappropriate and offensive, or non-Christian ideas as offensive. Honest broadcasters like PBS would be unable to air things that were out of favor with the current administration (yes, the Big Bad Bush administration) because they would not be able to pay the fines.

    Publicity stunt, or another battle in the war on free speech terrorists (oh, did I say that out loud)?

  • by scharkalvin (72228) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:24PM (#9678041) Homepage
    I guess if you believe that sex is something that should be done outside of marriage, then you probably don't have a problem with pornography.
    What does sex outside of marrage have to do with pornography? Sex in public, whether between married people, or absolute strangers would still be porno.

    The ONLY venu in which PBS could show a sexual context, would be in a true educational film dealing with a medical subject. This COULD be done in good taste (though there would always be someone objecting to even that).
  • by MooseByte (751829) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:26PM (#9678070)

    "What the hell does PBS and their boring shows have to do with 'News For Nerds' here? [ ... ]This isn't about your rights here, it's slashdot and PBS trying to turn this into a bigger issue than it really is. Everybody has to play by the FCC's rules."

    That seems an incredibly myopic viewpoint. Rights to privacy, free speech and freedom of information are core values here. The FCC has a broad reach, all the more reason to follow everything they do.

    Or would you rather have the DMCA + FCC clamp down on the flow of all kinds of information? There is already quite a fight going on here in the States to preserve even basic requests under the Freedom of Information Act.

    Want jail time for that Xbox mod you installed, or for discussing a certain encryption algorithm online? Think it can't happen? Then by all means roll over and focus on "news for nerds" like the PS3 rollout. But if you ignore the "stuff that matters", you may not be around to see that PS3.

    What stuns me is the number so-called "conservatives" who are watching an unprecedented assault on basic citizen rights here in America. What a bunch of pathetic posers. Wouldn't know the concepts of small government and personal liberties if it bit them on the leg. This administration has set the conservative movement back many decades, and the GOP will pay for it for decades to follow.

  • by I8TheWorm (645702) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:26PM (#9678071) Journal
    Could this censorship of PBS have anything to do with the new Bush donor appointees to its board? Or tie in with the addition of rightwing moutpieces to the PBS lineup?

    or possibly anything to do with the fact that PBS is both publicly and privately (by the likes of Coca-Cola)funded? As PBS falls into the realm of public television, the FCC has to consider that ALL of the public can view their programs. As far as I know, fuck and shit have never been allowed on public television. If you want to hear those words en masse, pay for HBO and watch the Sopranos.

    Otherwise, deal with the idea that some people actually are offended by that kind of language, and since every tax-paying American can claim to be partially responsible for funding these programs, some discression should be considered.

    Given, also, that Dreyfuss and Black read from prepared statements, I would suggest that they planned for such an event, and had hoped to use it to gain publicity for a program that, being aired on PBS, was guaranteed a low Nielson rating. Remember, in Hollywood, there's no such thing as bad publicity. Just ask Michael Moore.
  • Re:You mean.. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by JustNiz (692889) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:26PM (#9678074)
    Absolutely.

    At least here in Atlanta GA, PBS is the only 'Basic Pacakge' TV channel that has programming for people that can walk and chew gum at the same time.

    All the other channels are endless variants of the same 3 formulas for entertaining low-IQ southerners: 'reality TV' shows, TV shopping, or ranting fundamentalist christian TV-evangelists.
  • by Exmet Paff Daxx (535601) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:26PM (#9678075) Homepage Journal
    That this entire story feels off-topic to me. I'm not trying to "troll" here, so hear me out.

    Slashdot is a technology site for nerds (upper left, "News for Nerds"). We've got this subsection "Your Rights Online". Ok. This story is not about technology, nerds, my rights online... it's about what Hollywood can do on television.

    You know what I have to say to Hollywood about censorship? Regime change begins at home. These are the same people who rallied in support of the movie industry to help pass the DMCA to limit the speech of computer programmers. Now they're upset that Christians have rallied in support of Bush to limit the speech of Hollywood. As ye sow, so shall ye reap.

    I read that Richard Drewfus quote and I can't help but think "political grandstanding", from the lips of a man whose screen guild dues ingarguably went to promoting a law which makes my encryption research banned speech.

    It's not right when anyone does it. Bah, humbug.
  • by Dareth (47614) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:27PM (#9678076)
    "declare the inhabitants to be either fools or slaves."

    That wouldn't be an exclusive OR would it?

  • Re:Free speech? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by smclean (521851) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:31PM (#9678124) Homepage
    Well, broadcast media has always been regulated.

    Do you think that there should be publicly broadcast pornography? Or publicly broadcast videos showing how to make bombs?

    There is a market for these things, and in your definition of 'free speech' (completely unregulated), we should see this kind of thing everywhere.

    In my opinion, the concept of public broadcasting requires certain regulations. If you don't believe so, then I guess we should be debating that issue, not cutting each other off over definitions of the words "free speech".

  • by Cruciform (42896) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:32PM (#9678160) Homepage
    And why shouldn't they be able to?

    If you don't want your kids to hear "bad words" on TV, then don't drop them in front of it and treat it like a babysitter.

    Bad words, violence, educational programming, soap operas. Whatever it is, they should be able to broadcast it, and you should be able to choose if you want to watch it, or if your kids should be able to watch it.

    The advertisers will decide which shows get funding anyway.

    I would rather watch a well written show with realistic dialog than something as sanitized and inane as Full House. But someone else might want to watch Full House too. Let the viewers decide what they want to see.
  • by Jayfar (630313) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:33PM (#9678174)
    ...laws prohibiting the use of those words in publicly broadcasted TV have been on the books for god knows how long. Incorrect. The law and FCC regulations have always been vague regarding what consitutes obscenity (not to be confused with mere indecency, which is permissable). Several court cases and FCC administrative proceedings over the years have done little to clarify.
  • by jamesoutlaw (87295) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:34PM (#9678190) Homepage
    Kindly define "pornography" and "decency".

    Many conservatives apply the word "pornography" to anything they "think" is offensive. One man's "pornography" is another man's art. Robert Mapplethorpe's photography is a good example of this. Some conservative religious fanatics in this area actually tried to get the producers of "The Vagina Monologues" to change the name of the play... because they thought the word "vagina" was indecent.

    Conservative religious fanatics defaced many ancient Greek & Roman sculptures because they were offended by seeing a penis or a bare breast. Many conservatives consider Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue to be "pornographic".

    Many conservatives also puff out their chests and talk about the right to free speech ... until someone says something they do not "agree" with ... then they try to place limits on so-called "free speech".
  • by wayward_son (146338) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:37PM (#9678234)
    In 1994, Janet Reno went after violence in Cop Shows.

    Michael Moriarity told her what he thought about that in so many words, and was promptly fired from Law & Order.

    Democrats won't protect your freedoms. If you think the Bush Adminstration is bad, do you really think Gore/Lieberman (two major advocates of censorship) would have been any better?

  • Remember... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:39PM (#9678275)
    About 30 years ago PBS, in its Masterpiece Theatre series, showed an excellent adaptation of Graves' I Claudius. First episode: bare breasted women dancing in Caesar's garden. I don't remember any harsh complaints then. Remember that wierd Irish tragi-comic series, The Sinners - dirty jokes and swearing were the run of things.

    Why, now, should we accept this artificial puritanism when its ok to swear on the senate floor and at the presidential cabinet meeting and it's JUSTIFIED...yet any thing which attempts to portray (even NYPD Blue got away with a lot) real life and situations is suddenly not acceptable. This is hypocracy at its finest.

    Even Hitler was 'moral' and 'Christian'. Read some of his quotes...
  • Re:Since when is (Score:5, Insightful)

    by happyclam (564118) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:39PM (#9678289)
    Since when has it been acceptable to say those words on broadcast television?

    Gotta agree with you there, but there is another phrase that was bleeped: blow job.

    Neither "blow" (which admittedly has four letters) nor "job" is inherently offensive in the same manner that the other two words are. Why, then, the bleep? Because the FCC determined that the IDEA of "blow job" is offensive. This is what is so "chilling" about this action.

    When a movie hits TV, usually "offensive" words are dubbed--"a--hole" becomes "jerk," etc. But what do you do with a phrase like "blow job"? You can't really find a euphamism for it because it's not the words that are offensive but rather the subject matter, the idea, the action it represents. You could dub it over and change it so the cops aren't talking about blow jobs but about something else... but that's censorship at its essence. Stop people from talking about something and force them to talk about something else.

    There's GOT to be a better way to "protect children". Maybe... don't let them watch the show? Or maybe this isn't really about protecting the children but rather about saving Americans' souls, or protecting the sensitive ears of fundamentalist Christians who never watch PBS anyway because it's a hotbed of liberalism?

  • Are you serious? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Beardo the Bearded (321478) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:41PM (#9678316)
    Sex IS glamourous and enjoyable. It's the way we can actually create life. We can show our love for our partners. We can use it for removing stress or for getting what we want. It's a great tool. Check that - it's a great SET of tools.

    Not talking about sex (which is forbidden in paces like Afghanistan and Iraq) leads to things like teen pregnancies and high STD transmission rates. My view is that not talking about sex is more offensive than talking about it.

    Where did you learn about sex? Ever? Did you watch a film in grade six, or did you learn second-hand from your older brother?

    "Lewd" talk has a place in public discourse. We have to tell our kids about pregnancy and disease or they're going to fuck up their lives (pun intended) I have a daughter. My job is to make sure that she uses protection every time she does anything sexual. (I have a lot of time to prepare!) To do less is to abandon her. It is our duty to make sure our kids know about AIDS, syphillis, ghonnorea, hepatitis, herpes, babies, and everything else that goes with sex. If not, then they will find out from a doctor when they get treated - if they are lucky enough to get a treatable disease.

    As for your religious leanings, I think you have to review the history of your country. I'm not from the US, and even I know that you're wrong. The US was formed to get away from the tryanny of England. The US citizens were considered second-class to the British. That and the taxation-without-representation. Nothing else. The rest are amendments, which should be looked at with the same light as the 18th amendment. (Wherein a black man is worth 1/14 of the worth of a white man.) You do not get your rights from God. You get these rights from the legislature - other humans. That's right; everything you have in your country is from the work of other humans. If you don't get out there and kick the shit out of people who try to take away what other humans have worked towards, you get Afghanistan or Iraq or Saudi Arabia or Nigeria.

    You have the right to do whatever you want as long as you harm none. You have the right to free speech, including things like "I'm going to fuck you up the ass." You have a duty to protect my right to say that - as much as it offends you.

    As for Bush, he's a war-monger. If he was serious about human rights violations, he'd invade China or Saudi Arabia. However, he's going after people with a connection to Oil that he doesn't have economic ties to. Nothing has changed in Afghanistan or Iraq, except now there are more people willing to take up the sword to kill Americans. If he wanted to prevent war and was serious, he would have landed thousands of troops in Iran after the earthquake to rebuild schools, mosques, and hospitals.

    Remember, the "W" in George W Bush stands for "Wha' Happen?!?"
  • Re:Free speech? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rei (128717) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:44PM (#9678361) Homepage
    Honestly, yes. I believe that people should be allowed to broadcast what they want. If you don't want to watch it, you don't have to. If you don't want your kids watching something, block the channel - we have the technology. It's that simple. Censorship is simply attempts for other people to dictate what *you* can watch.

    So, yes, I guess we have a fundamental disagreement on this one.
  • Re:"un-American" (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Art Tatum (6890) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:44PM (#9678362)
    And all the yelling and screaming is about oppression and censorship. As in, the government oppressing you. This is not happening. And when people spout bullshit, I'll call them on it.
  • Re:"un-American" (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jimmyfergus (726978) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:45PM (#9678387)
    Hmmm, as a non-American, I assumed most people considered the term "un-American" hypocritical and hollow, and troubling in an Orwellian sense, since the days of the House Committee on Un-American Activities of the 50s. Is this only a common view outside of the USA?
  • by FreeUser (11483) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:47PM (#9678403)
    See, here's the problem, Clear Channel can't censor anyone because they're NOT THE GOVERNMENT.

    Bullshit.

    You are defining censorship as a subset of itself: government censorship. There are numerous kinds of censorship, including a few that are appropriate (parental censorship being one) and many, many which are not, including political censorship (by anyone in a public role), corporate censorship of the public airways, and government censorship.

    Clear channel's actions certainly fall in the category of political censorship, which to virtuall all Americans of the non-neoconservative and a fair number of even that ever-more radical group, is considered unamerican. It also falls into the category of corporate censorship, which may be appropriate within the walls of a corporate office, but certainly is not appropriate when applied to the public airwaves.

    In this case we are dealing with politically motivated censorship of the public airwaves by a corporation in an effort to silence political dissent. This is an aggregious violation of American values and political tradition (kind of like the last stolen election, and like the quite possibly soon-to-be "postponed" ... probably into perpetuity ... next election), and offensive to anyone, of any political stripe, who holds any value for our constitutional rights above any one party's ideology of the moment. Indeed, it is no more appropriate to censor public political speech for "economic" reasons than it is to censor expression on PBS, or any other party, for right-wing religiously defined "moral" reasons.

    The fact that it is a private company violating and actively suppressing our freedom of speech (whether as a proxy for those currently in the government, or as a misguided private policy dictated by simple greed, or a toxic political agenda), rather than the government directly, is immaterial to the fact that our rights as a people have been suppressed, and political dialog silenced as a result.

    This is unamerican in the truest sense of the word, and should absolutely not be tolerated, much less touted as appropriate because one assumes the motiviation to be nothing more than banal greed.
  • Re:Here we go .... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Not_Wiggins (686627) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:53PM (#9678491) Journal
    Swearwords are bad, because we must protect children from scatological talk, lest they grow up to be Howard Stern.

    Well, language is important enough to give careful consideration. Language is the basis of our views on the world... it gives a direct connection between a concept and a physical item.

    Most importantly, the value of the thing is usually directly associated with the value connected to a word.

    Do you get a different sense of respect/importance from these two sentences:

    I'm going to go pick up my girlfriend.
    I'm going to go pick up my bitch.

    Hate to say it, but the latter is becoming synonymous with the former in many urban areas.

    I think it is important that we carefully use words around children so they can learn their appropriate imporance in the world.

    On a related note, this was a major point of Orwell's "1984." If you can control the language of a people, you can also control the thoughts. Mostly by making "governmentally unpopular" ideas impossible to express because the language for them would no longer exist.

    The real worry is that the powers that be are trying to implement that idea using the first point I've made as the "excuse."
  • Re:Here we go .... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Geno Z Heinlein (659438) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:54PM (#9678516)
    Apparently it's not too bad, since you just did it. For real censorship, see China or, perhaps, Syria.

    There are two problems with this.

    First, countries don't go downhill overnight. If Bush and Company had a press conference where they all twirled their thick black mustaches and laughed, "MUAHahahahaha!", everyone would know they were the bad guys.

    Instead, they tell us that we need to be defend against terrorism, or that they're protecting children, or so on. They start by attacking unsympathetic people, advocates of the most radical changes, the most overtly threatening speakers. For instance, those people who worked with Iraq or Afghanistan being held at Guantanamo without access to counsel, or political radicals, or pornographers. They have the right to counsel under US law and US legal tradition. But they're working with the enemy, or anarchists, or sleaze-peddlers, so we can look the other way just a little bit on this whole due process concept, right?

    Over time censorship goes up and free speech goes down. A little at a time, a little here, a little there... they sneak it in, so it only offends the strongest free speech advocates, also known as "next on our list". Eventually you can't criticize at all without risking jail time or worse.

    And if you think that the current administration thinks of censorship as a necessary evil, something we have to endure for the crisis, remember this: when Bill Maher called US pilots "cowards", White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said, "... they're reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do. This is not a time for remarks like that; there never is." (Emphasis added.)

    Second... China or Syria? "Oh, hey, sure we're less free, but look at China and Syria! They're way worse than us!" is not the smartest way to approach this issue. The United States is dedicated to being the most open and most free society ever created. We're supposed to work for something more than "better than these other guys". We're supposed to strive to embody in concrete reality our highest abstract aspirations.

    The idea that we can get away with a barely passing grade on free expression is profoundly unpatriotic. It is an abandonment of the rights that were held sacred by the founders of this country.
  • Re:Good point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tsg (262138) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:55PM (#9678536)
    So they can't say s__t and f__k on public television or show titties.

    This harms no one.

    I can't give out bank account or credit card numbers on the internet or distribute viruses and I don't pretend that's abridging my freedom of speech.

    Unlike this.

    People who are offended by certain words are offended by them because they were taught to be and for no other reason. It is an irrational, entirely emotional response. They are offended by the words themselves and not the ideas they convey.

    Proof:
    1) There are other words which mean the same exact thing which are not considered offensive (fuck == sex, coitus, intercourse; shit == feces, crap, dung).

    2) They are still offended by the words even when they are not used to convey the supposedly offensive ideas ("That's fucking brilliant!" == "That's absolutely brilliant", "Oh shit, I fucked up." == "Rats, I made a mistake.").

    These people are holding others responsible for their inability to deal with the reactions they have to these words (strictly, the specific sequence of letters). To take your example, writing "f__k" is okay but typing out the word "fuck" is not even though the first is readily recognizable as the second.

    It's blind superstition and people refuse to recognize it as such. It's time to grow up.
  • by cwiegand (200162) on Monday July 12, 2004 @03:01PM (#9678640) Homepage
    Yes, because Bush hasn't reigned in the FCC, which has stated there will be stiff fines (no thanks to Janet Jackson!). But Bush, being the President of the United States, is responsible for reigning his government in, and he's not doing it. So he shares in the blame.
  • Re:Free speech? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by some damn guy (564195) on Monday July 12, 2004 @03:06PM (#9678692)
    Lets not be silly here. The FCC crackdown was just a politcal showpiece. The standards for what is allowed over the airwaves have steadily grown more liberal ever since they were enacted- despite numerous crackdowns such as this along the way.

    Even if the broadcast media went back to a 1950 'standard of decency' there are plenty of other mediums that are virtually uncensored (pay cable) and even totally uncensored (the internet). I think free speech is safer than it ever was. Think about it: instantaneous, worldwide communication is now available to just about anyone. Plus, it's very hard to stop- plenty of countries are trying, with very mixed success.

    People int his country have often tried to restrict free speech in the past. It is safe to say that this is harder now than at any time in human history. Sometimes people think they are being censored just because no one listens to them. Free speech also means that if you think someone is a total crackpot, you don't have to put them on your TV show. You can still say anything you want to, but it doesn't mean anyone has an obligation to listen.
  • Bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DesScorp (410532) <DesScorp&Gmail,com> on Monday July 12, 2004 @03:12PM (#9678769) Homepage Journal
    "# Boobs are bad, because we must protect children from sexual images. (Despite no scientific proof that such images are actually harmful.)
    # Swearwords are bad, because we must protect children from scatological talk, lest they grow up to be Howard Stern."

    When have we NOT held that public nudity and swearing in public are a bad thing? Especially on the broadcast airwaves? When have we EVER allowed it?

    "# Pointing out flaws in national security is bad, because we must protect children from terrorist attack.
    # Speaking ill of the Current Power Structure is ba, because we must protect children from policies we do not agree with."

    One, what the fuck does either of these issues have to do with this show? And two, when has the press ever been NOT free to question the adequecy of national security, except during wartime? We're in a war right now (whether some people want to admit it or not), and none one has ever been censored for questioning national security. No press freedoms have been curtailed at ALL, unlike WW II, where official censors got to look at everything the press did before it was published.

    And not allowed to speak ill of the power structure? What??? Michael Moore's movie is proof that's bullshit. And the news networks don't seem to have any problem criticizing officials, elected and otherwise.

    "sigh... it was a nice democratic republic we had once."

    You can pine for a never-existant utopia all you want, but for the most part, we have as much freedom as we've ever had. With the exceptions of some things like the DMCA, tell me what freedom's we've lost that used to be written in law? Even the Patriot Act doesn't affect the vast majority of people in this country.

    PBS took prudent steps to obey the law and accepted public standards (which are far more lax now than they've ever been). There's no chilling effect here, just the whine of some people that want to scream oppression and censorship to get publicity.
  • by mveloso (325617) on Monday July 12, 2004 @03:17PM (#9678830)
    PBS is about as non-commercial as Fox. The big difference is they call them "sponsors" and put them at the beginning or end of the program. Oh yeah, they also get tax dollars.

    Let's face it, PBS could survive on basic (or pay) cable if it wanted to. But there's no reason for it to, with its mouth firmly planted on the government's teat. Plus they'd have to give up the tweed, which would be devastating.
  • by anim8 (109631) on Monday July 12, 2004 @03:18PM (#9678856)
    The FCC has always been easier on news and informational-type programming than in drama, but in any case "fuck" has never been permitted, your memory notwithstanding.

    My memory is fine. PBS has broadcast the word. Funny how you didn't comment on the nudity though.

    This is not new, nor is it news - PBS and Dreyfuss are simply, cynically spinning this ...

    But it is news. Our government is continuously taking away Freedom from citizens and giving more Freedom to corporations, especially the one's with the largest campaign contributions.

    What I don't understand -- and what nobody is talking about -- is why is there such an uproar over a few consonants and vowels strung together? Why is 'copulate' or 'intercourse' or 'doing-the-nasty' acceptable and 'fuck' isn't? Why can you say 'poop' or 'feces' or 'crap' but saying 'shit' makes you a bad person? What is so wrong with people that they get in a tizzy over simple words?

    The era of Queen Victoria has a firm grip on American society and nobody seems to notice it.

  • Not Censorship (Score:3, Insightful)

    by KnarfO (320113) on Monday July 12, 2004 @03:19PM (#9678865) Homepage
    It's not censorship if you have another, legal means of expressing your opinion/work of art/etc...

    Dreyfuss is pissed that his labor of love won't be shown to the masses in it's 'pristine' form; so what does he do? He cries 'censorship!'

    "Help! Help! I'm being oppressed! The big evil government won't let me say 'fuck, shit, or blow-job' on the same channel that kids watch Sesseme Street on!!"

    Dude, that's why we have HBO, Showtime, and dozens of other channels on cable/sat tv. Go show your freak show there.

    Nothing to see here.... move along....
  • Re:Here we go .... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 12, 2004 @03:30PM (#9679033)

    Apparently it's not too bad, since you just did it. For real censorship, see China or, perhaps, Syria.

    This all-too-common response is congenitally stupid.

    Yes, censorship is worse in China and Syria. That doesn't mean that censorship doesn't happen in the U.S., that it isn't a bad thing, and that we shouldn't do what we can to stop it. Or are your highest aspirations for the U.S., when it comes to free speech and censorship, really only to be better than China and Syria?

    Every time I read a reply like this, saying "you think X is bad here? Just look at country Y! It's really bad there!" I imagine someone shrugging off spousal abuse by saying "in Afghanistan, they cut off women's heads!!!" Yes, that's true; now can we get back to the subject, and discuss how we make things better here?

  • Re:Free speech? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Gannoc (210256) on Monday July 12, 2004 @03:31PM (#9679044)
    It always amazes me when someone gets up on a soapbox and screams some silly thing, then claims that there's no such thing as free speech. Like Michael Moore.

    Ok, lets assume that they will never stop people from getting up a soapbox on the corner.

    However, when you can control the mass media to convince the public that X is crazy, stupid, obscene, "wrong", unsafe, bad for children, etc, that puts an end to free speech.
  • by LMCBoy (185365) on Monday July 12, 2004 @03:33PM (#9679081) Homepage Journal
    This is a specious argument, because it isn't "the government" that owns the airwaves, it's "the American people". The government licenses our airwaves to television stations like PBS on our behalf. There are regulations to be followed in order to obtain and keep these licenses, and these regulations exist for the public benefit.

    This is all well-known and undisputed. The problem described in the article is that the current FCC administration is applying their vague standards of "decency" inconsistently and in apparently politically-motivated ways. This does not serve the public good. It therefore should be stopped.
  • Give me a break (Score:2, Insightful)

    by taradfong (311185) * on Monday July 12, 2004 @03:33PM (#9679083) Homepage Journal
    This is just another example of where people need to stop and think about their worship of Hollywood. Dryfuss and his ilk are *insisting* that the American people need to have the most vulgar of words pumped into their homes whether the officials they elected want it or not. Are we really to believe that the artistic glory of this program will be somehow tarnished by the omission of this trash? And yet we're also supposed to listen to their political opinions as defenders of the common man and representatives of goodness. Pathetic hypocrites.
  • by DesScorp (410532) <DesScorp&Gmail,com> on Monday July 12, 2004 @03:48PM (#9679290) Homepage Journal
    "If PBS is mad at conservatives, it should be"

    No they shouldn't. The reason conservatives are mad at PBS is because they've always treated the conservative part of the country and the values they hold with contempt. And lets face it; look who holds all three branches of goverment. Look at the Red areas vs. the Blue areas. Can you seriously tell me that conservatives are a minority of the population? I would argue that there are more people right of center in America than left. So why does it make sense to ignore and/or marginalize that population? That's what PBS has been doing with a liberal tinged, elitist view. And those conservative politicians, representing ALL THOSE CONSERVATIVE VOTERS, were supposed to do nothing about it? That PBS was suprised at all that this happened shows just how out of touch they are. That they've largely cried "oppresion" and "censorship" further shows they still don't get it.

    PBS has never had the support of Red america because of these attitudes. A PUBLIC network should be respresentative of the public as a whole. PBS is not.

    "America had a chance to have something as brilliant and deep as the BBC"

    God forbid.
    The Beeb is neither brilliant nor deep. They have a long history coddling tyrants (it was hard to find any criticism of Stalin on the BBC. They never fired much criticism at Saddam either), and have always been openly supportive of the Labor Party, but never waste an opportunity to stick it to the Tories. Again, with a publicly funded network, this is a recipe for hostility from a very large chunk of your hoped-for audience.

    During the Iraq war, Royal Navy ships more or less banned the BBC from their decks, because British sailors were tired of the unrelenting left-slanted news.

    "That NPR and PBS aren't is the fault of the conservatives who seem hell bent on funding idiots like Rupert Murdoch and their "news.""

    Again, you don't seem to understand. The reason why Fox News has become such a success (and Rush Limbaugh as well) is that Red states felt they didn't have an alternative to left-slanted news (and even Peter Jennings now admits most journalists are liberals). So when Fox came along, it took off like gangbusters. No conspiracy here, just pent up demand exploding on newly available supply.

    Look, PBS does have some quality, non-partisan shows. The science stuff is a good example. And those shows will now suffer from lack of audience because of competition from cable. But PBS has no one to blame but themselves for driving potential viewers to their cable competitors. Had they tried to be, ahem, fair and balanced, they might have a bigger audience and more public support. Instead, they've made dedicated enemies that want to wipe them out.

  • Re:Here we go .... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Xofer D (29055) on Monday July 12, 2004 @03:56PM (#9679403) Homepage Journal

    You're absolutely right that sexuality is a delicate thing and has long-term, real-world consequences if gone about in a unwise fashion. I commend you for taking a stand for what is clearly a considered moral decision on your part with respect to how you would like to raise your children.

    However, I do not believe that this is the motivation of the FCC, or indeed of most people who would like to censor words or images. It has not been raised as an issue of sex education, or childrearing; it has been raised as an issue of simple prudery, of blanket and unthinking aversion that cannot be based on a considered moral stance for the simple reason that it is inflexible. The word "shit" has never hurt anyone. I will not speculate as to what bias you may hold, or the background that leads to it; I will however entreat you to consider that we none of us have grown up without social pressure, and it is important to be aware of the effect that that pressure has on our thinking. I mean no offense, it is entirely possible that this medium interferes with your message.

    Your point, while well taken, is nearly moot; censorship is never entirely successful. The only result of censorship is to engender a stigma in (sometimes large) portions of the society in question with regard to the concepts being censored. When the now-marginalised people who care about those concepts need information, it is now difficult to both access the information and remain a fully-participating member of the society. We've seen this time and time again, in different settings:

    • Sex, at least since the beginning of the Christian Era, but possibly since men realized they had anything to do with procreation
    • Drugs, since the War on same, and to a lesser degree before that
    • In the former USSR and affiliate states during the Soviet Era, the lifestyle of the unopressed
    • In many middle eastern countries, Liberties provided in the West to women - such as education and self-reliance
    • copywritten materials of all kinds

    I hope you will note that information about all of these concepts has been available throughout the period of censorship. People do continue having sex, making and using drugs (often of dangerously poor quality), etc.

    Therefore, while I agree with you that it is important to become wise with regard to life before creating any life one's self, I disagree that it is possible, let alone preferable to do so by attempting to delay sexual activity. Instead, since we cannot stop the flow of information it is by far preferable to ensure that correct information is the first to reach our children - not just information about how to avoid predatory adults, or how to use contraception, although both are important - but also about the nature of a loving, nurturing environment that I believe we all believe a child should be raised in. Do not first teach them to fear, and to hide. I believe that most evil in the world is accomplished out of fear, and the poor treatment of mates made in the back seats of cars is but a small but salient example.

    After all, if we simply wanted to promote reproductive responsibility, it would be trivial to promote homosexuality as an introductory practice. The Greeks did...

  • by the Luddite (778967) on Monday July 12, 2004 @04:07PM (#9679541)
    First, it is unreasonable to expect parents to be supervising their child 100%

    Then they should not have had children. The choice to have a child is completely between the parents and if they are not will to devote the time needed to raise said children in the manner they choose then they have chosen poorly.

    offensive language can pop up without any warning

    All shows aired to television are rated, even on PBS. Besides, if the parent took the time to watch the program first to be sure it was appropriate it would not be a problem. Do you never take your child to the mall? A place where no one ever uses foul language to be sure. Anywhere there are other people you could hear foul language.

    How is a kid supposed to learn about things the parents might not like?

    Public school.

    The world is not a 'safe' place. It never was and it never will be. People will always have dissenting opinions about everything there is to have an opinion on and then some. Laws that limit what people may be exposed to only create a world full of thoughtless, mind-numbed fools. If you want to have children and raise them in a specific manner, take the time to do it. Don't foist the responsibility on the rest of us just because it is too inconvenient for you to do it yourself.
  • Re:Bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by killjoe (766577) on Monday July 12, 2004 @04:10PM (#9679588)
    "And two, when has the press ever been NOT free to question the adequecy of national security, except during wartime?"

    Why is there an exception to wartime? Since the govt can declare war anytime it wants for whatever reason it wants can't it simply declare a perpetual war in order to stifle press? Has it done that already?
  • McCarthyism (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 12, 2004 @04:40PM (#9679967)
    This may seem offtopic, but I can remember learning about the McCarthy era in school, and wondering how my parents' generation could have let something like that happen in America. And now my generation is going through the exact same thing, except replacing our irrational fear of "Communism" with an irrational fear of "Terrorism". It's sad to think that in a country like America, with all of our talk of Freedom, that the citizens would let stuff like this happen. It's even sadder that we've been down this road before and we never learned from our mistakes. When I have kids of my own, and they learn about Bush and Ashcroft and the crazy things we did in the name of a War on Terror, I'm going to be so embarassed.

    In another totally offtopic rant, I feel the exact same way about the way we currently treat homosexuals in this country. I mean, it's hard to imagine how ignorant people must have been during the Civil Rights Movement to actually think that blacks didn't deserve the same treatment as whites, and yet our current administration is actively trying to introduce a Constitutional Amendment to deny gays the right to get married. Once again, I'll be very ashamed of my generation when my kids learn about this stuff in school.

    -Mike
  • Re:Free speech? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by void* (20133) on Monday July 12, 2004 @04:46PM (#9680035)
    I think you should step up and actually make the decision as to what your children are allowed to watch yourself, rather than expecting your government to make it for you (and everyone else).

    We've had the 'filter technology' for years, it's called the 'on/off switch'.
  • by Whatthehellever (93572) on Monday July 12, 2004 @05:08PM (#9680331) Homepage
    Some may consider this a rant, but I hope someone finds it enlightening.

    As a filmmaker (Director, producer, writer, editor), my productions are not G-rated, but they're not pr0n either. I create full-length low-budget (but good!) vampire movies. PG-13 to R-rated films only.

    The content of the film is there for a reason. If I wanted to take an f-word out of it, I would have done it in the editing process. I find it offensive that the FCC, a branch of the United State Government has the right to require the cut of my film against my wishes just so someone of an extreme religious belief would not be offended. Trust me, I'm TRYING to offend them.

    As we all know, the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights says that Congress shall make no laws pertaining to the excercise of free speech. Oh, but Congress can make the FCC that will do that for them so Congress looks innocent.

    Why isn't the world's directors, studios, actors, producers and so on begging and funding the ACLU to take this on? If I drive over the border to Canada right now and be interviewed on radio, I can say "Fuck" all night long on it. They don't care. They believe that of you don't like the speech, don't listen to it. Good rule.

    America, land of the semi-free, is the most free country on the face of the earth. Then why are we not allowed to speak to the public any way we want? Why MUST the government censor us?

    Ask the Vatican...

    (I make no apologies to those I may have offended. My speech is free. If you don't agree with it, don't read it. If I didn't mean it, i wouldn't have written it in the first place.)
  • Re:Here we go .... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by davebarz (546161) <david@barzelayIII.net minus threevowels> on Monday July 12, 2004 @05:20PM (#9680472) Homepage
    we have a culture which pressures the sixteen year old boy to have sex in the backseat rather than hang on a few years until he has some vague chances of dealing with it in a capable way.

    ...or rather than have sex in his bedroom, in his parents house, with condoms that they offered to provide him if he wanted them, and with the education provided by parents that are willing to discuss things rationally.

    You see, there is nothing wrong with many sixteen year-olds having sex, as long as they have safe sex and understand the consequences. The problem is that our culture attaches a stigma and negative consequences to honesty about sexuality. This forces the sixteen year-olds (even more so with girls) into ignorant secrecy and likely unsafe sex.
  • Re:Bullshit (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 12, 2004 @05:49PM (#9680788)
    Freedoms don't have to be written into law.

    Restrictions must be written into law.

    Some of the Founding Fathers had reservations about the Bill of Rights. They thought, perhaps correctly, that some idiot would think that the Bill of Rights was the full enumeration of rights and freedoms, rather than simply a set of rights and freedoms so cherished that they must be written down. We have many other rights and freedoms, and each time a law is enacted, we lose a bit more of those rights and freedoms.

    The problem with having a full time lawmaking body is that they think they need to make continually make new laws.
  • Re:Bullshit (Score:3, Insightful)

    by killjoe (766577) on Monday July 12, 2004 @05:49PM (#9680790)
    "Because it would be stupid to have Dan Rather (or Ed Herlihy) broadcast war plans should he come across them."

    It's not the fault of the press if the army can't keep a secret. If the war plan is secret then the army should not tell the press about it. If the secret leaks then all is fair.

    The press in America is too weak and afraid of the govt to actually report such a thing anyway so I don't think you have to worry too much.
  • Re:Good point (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Karhgath (312043) on Monday July 12, 2004 @06:06PM (#9680943)
    So, "Mommy what does f__k mean?" or worse is not considered harm coming from a 4 year old who happened to see the wrong TV show?

    I always liked that 'argument'. Let's get outside the debate right now, my opinion on it isn't important. What is important is your reaction to the above.

    Do you fear it? Are you insecure because your 4 years old said that? Do you know how to react? How will you react? Will you explanation change depending on your child's age? What's the difference, for you, between 4 or 8 or 14 years old?

    You should be prepared. You do not have to shelter your child from the world, just help them protect themselves and know better. You educate your children, you do not dictate their lives. I think it's the mistake most parents do. If you avoid he question with your 4 yrs old, he will hear it soemwhere anyway and might start saying it because he has no idea what is the impact of the word, since you never told him.

    Ok, back to topic now.
  • by Cruciform (42896) on Monday July 12, 2004 @07:03PM (#9681394) Homepage
    Okay, so you don't like bad words.

    Well, I don't like religion.

    So they need to remove all religion based programming from the air because it may pollute my kid and my nieces and nephews with this "jesus" garbage.

    But wait, it's a free country where a religious group can broadcast their message. And if I don't like it, I can change the channel, block the channel etc.

    Did you know your TV has features to block shows that contain nudity, violence, or offensive language?

    How about locking out the TV completely unless you're around.

    As said before, the TV is not a baby sitter. We are under no obligation to sit back and have our thoughts and actions censored by you because you don't like it.
  • Re:Free speech? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) on Monday July 12, 2004 @07:22PM (#9681544) Journal
    > Lets not be silly here. The FCC crackdown was just a politcal showpiece.

    Exactly. If some of you harbor the fantasy that Democrats are going to ride to the rescue, or would if in the majority of Congress, guess again. Some of the leaders against gays in the military sported a big D on their chest, my self-deluding friends. Like all else, they cave and kowtow to that which gets them elected (or an opponent.)

    May not like it, but it's the reality, and it does suck.
  • by Tablizer (95088) on Monday July 12, 2004 @08:20PM (#9681963) Journal
    As far as I know, there has been no real attempt to challenge the FCC's fine authority in the courts. Howard Stern has been complaining about the arbitrariness of the fines for almost a decade as he allegedly sees other shows rip off his style and bits without getting the same indecency complaints for them. He said that nobody has bothered challenging the FCC's authority in the past because the fines were relatively token amounts. But now that this is changing, I think we will finally see some good court challenges.
  • Moll Flanders (Score:3, Insightful)

    by capologist (310783) on Monday July 12, 2004 @09:48PM (#9682516)
    In 1996, PBS aired a production of Moll Flanders. It featured numerous topless scenes. Not just fleeting glances, either, but reasonably lengthy scenes with the star's very visible breasts filling a good portion of the screen. There may have been a few scattered complaints, but nothing notable.

    Now they can't even say a four-letter word?

    Times have changed.
  • Re:Bullshit (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DavidTC (10147) <slas45dxsvadiv.v ... m ['rbo' in gap]> on Monday July 12, 2004 @10:05PM (#9682612) Homepage
    Um, dumbass, Congress explictedly gave Bush the power to invade Afghanistan.

    There were millions of issues under international law with attacking Iraq, and a few with attacking Afghanistan. (Luckily, no else in the world liked Afghanistan, so no one made an issue of it. No one likes people who harbor terrorists.)

    And we should have declared war on Iraq. Why we didn't? Because declaring war gives the President all sorts of extra powers.

    But there were absolutely no issues with the President sending the military into Afghanistan, considering Congress fucking gave him a mandate to use the military to do that. Yes, the ability for a president to haphazardly invade other countries without a declaration of war from Congress is stupid and evil, but Congress, despite not formally declaring war, gave its okay.

    So, basically, you're claiming that in order for Congress to tell the president to use the military in any way, it has to formally declare war on someone? That's possibly the stupidest arguement I've ever heard. By that argument, not only are all UN peacekeeping missions illegal, a military salute at a funeral is illegal, and the posse comitatus act not only wasn't needed, but it, itself, was possibly illegal, because Congress cannot boss the military around without a formal declaration of war.

    It's all well and good to argue that the president shouldn't invade other countries without congressional approval, but saying it has to be a magical formal declaration of war is not supported by any reasoning.

  • Re:Here we go .... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Alaska Jack (679307) on Monday July 12, 2004 @11:40PM (#9683087) Journal
    Oh fer the love of Pete.

    Look, I can't believe I'm wasting time with this, but I'm a masochist, so here goes.

    The RSF report is LUDICROUS. Why was the U.S. "modded down?" Because, it says, the "US army's responsibility in the death of several reporters during the war in Iraq constitute unacceptable behaviour"

    Those reporters were covering a WAR in a WAR ZONE. It's tragic that they were killed, but that WAR -- it is the physical manifestation of chaos theory. Those casualties, while tragic, simply have no relationship to "press freedom," unless you can show a meaningful correlation between press casualties and how critical or supportive the reporters in question were of the U.S. NO ONE, not even RSF, has shown anything like this.

    Since I'm preaching to the deaf here, I'll close with a few quick points. First, how many conquering countries in world history helped the conquered people set up independent media outlets? Sure, they do have restrictions. They cannot advocate violence, or agitate for the return of the old regime, and... and... that's it! It may not seem like much to you, but it is an ASTONISHING development by historical standards. Somehow, RSF seems to have missed this.

    Finally, this whole stupid thread is a crock. In the U.S., you can legally say or write whatever you want. What few restrictions there are -- things like community standards for obscenity, not broadcasting the departure schedule for troopships, advocating immediate and specific violence, etc -- are subject to EXTREMELY NARROW restrictions with the burden of proof on the government. None of that is changing, all your Ashcroft hallucinations notwithstanding.

  • Re:Here we go .... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by swillden (191260) * <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Tuesday July 13, 2004 @12:42AM (#9683326) Homepage Journal

    You see, there is nothing wrong with many sixteen year-olds having sex, as long as they have safe sex and understand the consequences

    How many 16 year-olds do you know who are really capable of understanding the consequences (which go far, far beyond pregnancy)? For that matter, IMO, there are many, many adults in our society today that don't think much beyond their own short-term pleasure. A very small percentage of 16 year-old girls may be mature enough to understand the significance of sex, and next to no 16 year-old boys could do it. I know I sure as hell couldn't.

    You're probably going to take this next bit as an ad hominem attack, but really it's not, any more than if I were to ask why I should accept a first year physics student's answer to a problem in celestial mechanics over that of a PhD candidate in physics.

    Judging by your e-mail address and the slant.net link, I assume you're a college student, which means you're probably young, single, and don't have children. Given that, I ask you: What qualifies you to make judgements about the consequences of sex in the real world, given your extreme lack of life experience? You haven't had any long-term relationships with women (other than relatives, etc.), you haven't had the experience of raising children and seeing what does and does not seem to affect them, and you haven't had the crushing *responsibility* of turning them into worthwhile adults.

    I'm not trying to tell you that your opinions or thoughts are worthless, but I do want to point out that you *are* significantly less-informed on the subjects than the majority of the people you're criticizing. That's normal behavior for a 17 year-old (who, of course, knows everything about everything), but you're probably in your early 20s and have actually begun to get a glimpse of the scope and complexity of the real world, albeit in its simplified academic version. Surely you've learned to recognize how much there is that you do not know (that being the primary function of an undergraduate education, IMNSHO).

    In any case, if you're interested in convincing *me* (not that there's any reason you should be) you're going to have to come up with something better than bald assertions ("there is nothing wrong with..."). You see, I'm a father who will be facing these issues in a very few years, and I'm not in a position to glibly brush the concerns under the rug, because I have to make real decisions that will really affect the lives of my four very real children (did I mention this is real?).

    In any case, you certainly shouldn't be surprised to hear that I'm inclined to give more weight to the opinion of someone who has been in a committed relationship for at least 20 years and has actually raised teenagers than to yours. Frankly, I'm more likely to listen to your father than to you.

    Please excuse me if my suppositions about your situation in life are off base. If you have, in fact, been in a relationship for 20+ years and do have adult children who are a credit to you and to society, then by all means share the knowledge and wisdom you've gleaned from your experience.

    Otherwise, consider that it's just possible that all of those people who have been adults for longer than you've been alive just might know a thing or two that (a) can't be found in books or by simple logical inference and (b) you don't. That doesn't mean you should blindly follow authority, by all means question. But *question*, don't assert.

  • Re:Here we go .... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by davebarz (546161) <david@barzelayIII.net minus threevowels> on Tuesday July 13, 2004 @01:23AM (#9683463) Homepage

    You're correct in your assumptions about my life, but you seem to assume that the type of parenting I propose is not advocated by any actual parents. The fact is, this is more or less what my parents did.

    They did not hide the concept of sex from me, although they always promoted the idea that it was not an act to be taken lightly, not solely an act of pleasure, and that it had possible grave and far-reaching consequences.

    I think it is the case that many 16 year-olds cannot comprehend the consequences, but I think most can. I think I could. And I think I made the right decisions about it.

    Because my parents were honest and open with me about it, when I started considering having sex, I went to them and talked to them about it (which was still tough and awkward, but at least possible). I made what I consider (and what they consider) responsible decisions. There are many other parents who are the same way.

    I'm not saying that this approach works for all teens--and this approach certainly does not jive with most religious views--but where parents have open communication channels, and a relationship of trust exists, I think this is, more often than not, the best way to ensure the child's safety.

    I know so many people whose parents sheltered them and so they just lied to them and said they were going to the movies but went out somewhere and had unprotected sex in the backseat of a car (and I know several who got pregnant or who got their girlfriends pregnant). Likewise, I know many who were sheltered in high school and then as soon as they got to college, they started having all the sex they could, with anyone they could.

    This obviously won't happen to everyone, but the point is, sex is going to happen, no matter what the parents do. Think back to when you were sixteen. You and your friends (despite your current status as readers of Slashdot) probably had sex. And your parents probably were not very encouraging of it. But you still had it.

    I know it is very hard for a parent to willfully let their daughter (or even son) give up their virginity, but you have to face that it is going to happen whenever they want it to happen, whatever you do. Assuming religion isn't getting in the way, then it seems like the better choice to acknowledge that it will happen when they feel they are ready, and seek to be honest and open, and maybe even tell them that you don't think they're ready, but be supportive of their decisions in such a way as to encourage the maximum amount of safety when they act on those decisions.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 13, 2004 @11:33AM (#9687494)
    A reply to your post, with reference to your signature:
    "If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter."
    -- George Washington

    If the want to censor it let them, indeed; are you a sheep? And who says it's majority over minority? Smacks, to me, of "America: the land of the free - except where prohibited by overly conservative Christian views* that in no way, shape, or form reflect the beliefs of the population as a whole."

    *For instance: remember, sex is bad; but if you do have sex - in wedlock, of course! - you must not enjoy it. Oh, and don't wear a condom because they're bad. Then people wonder why diseases like AIDS have reached pandemic proportions in ultra-conservative Christian countries such as most of Africa, while the neo-conservative administration running America stipulates that 30% of their AIDS funding must go to faith-based organisations that all condemn condom use. Patently ridiculous.

    I'll finish on another quote, this time by a different George:
    "Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it."
    -- George Bernard Shaw

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