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ACLU Sues To Protect Your Right To Swear 698

The ACLU is suing the police in Pennsylvania for issuing tickets to people who swear. They argue that it is every American's constitutional right to drop an F-bomb. From the article: "'Unfortunately, many police departments in the commonwealth do not seem to be getting the message that swearing is not a crime,' said Marieke Tuthill of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. 'The courts have repeatedly found that profanity, unlike obscenity, is protected speech.'" This is a big f*cking deal.


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ACLU Sues To Protect Your Right To Swear

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  • Already settled? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wiredlogic ( 135348 ) on Monday May 17, 2010 @12:35PM (#32239102)

    I was under the understanding that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had already shot down the "disorderly conduct" law that was used to disenfranchise people's rights. It would be nice if the ACLU could come to New York and do the same for our law.

  • Fuck (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pete-classic ( 75983 ) <> on Monday May 17, 2010 @12:36PM (#32239118) Homepage Journal

    Do I understand correctly that I'm within my rights to suggest a cop "Fuck off.", but I can't advise him, "Go fuck yourself."?


  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 17, 2010 @12:38PM (#32239160)

    Can somebody explain to me what exactly is bad about swearing?

  • Re:Let it rip... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 17, 2010 @12:39PM (#32239196)

    This will, I think, shape up to be a filthy comment section...

    Fuck you, you stupid cocksucker. You're a stupid fucking cunt.


  • by wiredog ( 43288 ) on Monday May 17, 2010 @12:46PM (#32239360) Journal

    of the inarticulate motherfucker.

  • America (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 17, 2010 @12:48PM (#32239406)

    You have to love a country where girls will let you fuck them up the ass to preserve their "virginity" for marriage, but it's illegal to curse in public or on TV.

  • by Knara ( 9377 ) on Monday May 17, 2010 @12:56PM (#32239574)

    Can somebody explain to me what exactly is bad about swearing?

    While words have power, there's some non-small number of folks who believe that words have intrinsic power. As in, for some reason, a particular combination of sounds has some inherent ability to produce effects.

    I attribute this to magical thinking, frankly. Believing that profanity is inherently bad is akin to believing that if I say the right faux-latin words and wave a stick at you, I can produce some effect. (Hell, the alternative word "cursing" plays right into that hypothesis)

  • Re:Fucking nothing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mr. Pibb ( 26775 ) on Monday May 17, 2010 @12:56PM (#32239592)

    I think the question is not that certain words are evil, but that profanity can be valuable. This value is lost from overuse.

    One of my HS English teachers (roughly) described it this way:

    If you call everyone a motherfucker, then everyone is a motherfucker and it doesn't have value.
    But if you rarely or never use the word and walk into the principal's office and say "LISTEN HERE, MOTHERFUCKER!" then you're making a point."

  • by flaming error ( 1041742 ) on Monday May 17, 2010 @01:00PM (#32239676) Journal

    Can somebody even define what separates swear words from acceptable words? In learning a couple foreign languages, I had to be often corrected when a word I picked up turned out to be on a community's do-not-utter list.

  • Re:Let it rip... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 17, 2010 @01:00PM (#32239688)
    Yeah, well, what about his dick?
  • Re:Let it rip... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 17, 2010 @01:03PM (#32239730)

    If his dick was an ear he would listen to it?

  • Re:Let it rip... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jiro ( 131519 ) on Monday May 17, 2010 @01:12PM (#32239894)

    Besides that, I never understood the argument about "limited vocabulary" anyway. For instance, I'm sure the word "computer" appears a lot. Now, there are lots of synonyms for "computer" than can be used, and there are lots of flowery phrases that are possible. But we don't complain that someone has a "limited vocabulary" because he says "computer" instead of replacing the word with some kind of phrase that's more creative. Why should this be a legitimate complaint about swear words? Sure, they're not creative. Neither is calling your computer a computer or using the word "the" (one of the most unoriginal words in common use). Unless you're judging a creative writing competition, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

  • by mog007 ( 677810 ) <> on Monday May 17, 2010 @01:17PM (#32240016)

    As Lenny Bruce once said:

    "Take away the right to say 'fuck', and you take away the right to say 'fuck the police'."

  • Re:America (Score:2, Interesting)

    by The End Of Days ( 1243248 ) on Monday May 17, 2010 @01:20PM (#32240090)

    They fine the spectrum license holder for violating the terms of the license agreement. It's not the mechanism you think it is by a longshot.

  • Re:Let it rip... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 17, 2010 @01:45PM (#32240634)

    The girl or a girl? The ball or a ball? The hill or a hill?

  • Re:Let it rip... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by corbettw ( 214229 ) <{corbettw} {at} {}> on Monday May 17, 2010 @01:54PM (#32240820) Journal

    Who the fuck are you? The fucking Fuck Police?

  • It is really simple: (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Hurricane78 ( 562437 ) <deleted AT slashdot DOT org> on Monday May 17, 2010 @02:00PM (#32240908)

    Punishing someone who didn’t hurt anyone, is hurting someone, and hence a crime.
    Swearing can not be considered hurting anyone.
    Simple as that.

    Now physically it is completely possible for swearing to cause physical damage to someone. If his brain is set-up is a way that that input pattern triggers neurons that create the damage. (Either in the brain trough severe mis-association [or what the average Joe would call self-damaging irrational behavior], or in the rest of the body trough e.g. epilepsy, paralysis, etc.) But of course that can only happen if something previously set the brain up that way. (Usually a long process over multiple generations with at least one war and one abuse being involved. ;)

    Some people who are unable to live in normal society anymore, or have some weird associations in their brain. But you can’t be expected to be cautious of everything that could damage them. Or you could never go outside anymore, since all people are different.
    Imagine you walk down the street, and someone who got raped by someone in jeans sees you wearing them. This causes him to burst into tears, and he sues you for it. That’s the WTF that is the logical extension of making it illegal to swear.

    I think the root of the problem is that the average Joe still thinks that there is such a thing as “the guilty one”. In science the concept of guilt is already thrown overboard. Because for everything that happened, you can say that it was caused by someone else, and that someone else is therefore the actual guilty one. And so on, until the beginning of the universe.

    Things are just what they are. There is no good and evil. Asian philosophers knew this for a loong time.
    So logically there is only one “punishment” that is morally acceptable: Separation. In case of a community with common rules vs. one person with other rules: banishment. Or in case of two sets of people with vastly different views in one country: Splitting up the country.
    This is a good thing, as it allows everyone to happily live by his own rules. Because nobody should impose his rules on someone else.
    This is even true for murderers & co: Put them on an island, and let them see how they survive with nobody wanting contact with them. If the manage to survive, and manage to do enough good to be accepted peers again, then they are officially forgiven. And after some generations, there will again be a normal society of good people on that island.
    If not, and they die, or fail otherwise, then this is also a good thing.
    I consider such a system 100% fair and the best thing for everyone.

  • by Delusion_ ( 56114 ) on Monday May 17, 2010 @03:08PM (#32242262) Homepage

    Michigan did a sneaky trick in this regard. They imposed a "Driver Responsibility Fee" and attached it to a fairly broad selection of traffic violations, from things as severe as driving while severely intoxicated, to stuff as innocuous as not having proof of insurance - misplacing papers, effectively.

    I got hit with it a few years ago for no POI, $200 a year for two years. The court can't waive it because it's "not a court fine" - it comes directly from the State Treasury Dept.

    Shady as hell. In related news, Michigan's legislature passed a "texting while driving" ban which sounds good to the uninitiated on the surface, but will no doubt become a "holding a cell phone while in the driver's seat" ban, be it taking a call or looking at a map on a smart phone.

    The Democrats in the state legislature even tried to use the projected proceeds of this law to eliminate some of the Driver Responsibility Fees for lesser violations, but they were shot down by the Republicans.

    I found this puzzling to see Republicans defending a tax, but to be honest, our state legislatures' Republicans would legislate the sky green if they thought it would help them against the Democrats. Partisanship wins, the people lose.

    These sorts of laws are easy to pass because nobody thinks it will affect them; it's a tax on "other" people. Until you get caught unprepared at a random traffic stop. Or, in this case, tell a cop you have "no fucking idea" what he's talking about.

    Invariably, these penalties affect the working poor the most.

  • Re:Hmmmm (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ffreeloader ( 1105115 ) on Monday May 17, 2010 @05:53PM (#32245360) Journal

    Ummmm.... Mindless zombies always damage society. It doesn't matter whether or not they are religious or not. Your argument seems based on the idea that mindless zombies exist only because of religion. This is patently false.

    I see the same argument you make all the time, but I see very little logic in it. Mostly it is just an ad hominen fallacy. The problem isn't religion, it's how unscrupulous people pervert/twist it for their own purposes.

    I was raised in an extremely disfunctional home. My old man would read a religious author and go off on a tangent. He threw me out of house and whipped pretty severely at age 7 for me for saying that if using dice to play a game is gambling so is using a spinner. He fixated on one idea to the exclusion of same author saying that parents should never attempt to break their children's wills or stifle thought and choice in their children. The author said it was a sin to do that. Now why did he choose the one idea that he perverted into abusing me and completely ignored the ideas that would have kept him from abusing me? Because of religion? That's an insanely stupid suggestion. He did so because of his own warped character. He found what he wanted and stopped there. That's not the fault of any religion. In my opinion it was mental illness. If he hadn't found some type of justification for his actions in one place, he would have found it in another. He chose to be cruel despite everything in his religion that forbade cruelty.

    Now, back to society at large.... Take, for instance, the 10 Commandments. All societies would be much more stable if those 10 principles were followed. Crime would cease to exist. Most of societies ills would disappear. Yet, those 10 principles are attacked as being outdated foolishness. Why? Human nature is no different today than it was when those principles were given, and during the times those principles were followed by the Hebrews/Isrealites their society was prosperous, free, and had very little crime.

    Other Hebrew religious laws made sure the poor were fed, that servants were given their freedom and debtors were released from their debt every year of Jubilee, that non-Hebrews/Isrealites were treated fairly and humanely, that the Gentiles had the same rights as the Isrealites had. Forgiveness of debt happened once every 49 years. So, say your family hit hard times and had to sell its land. Your family got its land back at the year of Jubilee. So, was that just? Yup. Was it merciful? Yup. Did it keep the wealthy from robbing the poor, and their descendants, of their inheritance? Yup. It was a just system. It was a religious system.

  • Re:Hmmmm (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ffreeloader ( 1105115 ) on Monday May 17, 2010 @06:18PM (#32245700) Journal

    I see you haven't read the news over the last few years. Students can't pray in school. A nativity scene can't be displayed in a park during Christmas. The lawsuit over, and the theft of, the cross honoring WWI GI's who died in combat.

    Those come off the top of my head, but I can find many, many more. These types of instances happen on a regular basis.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 17, 2010 @08:26PM (#32247248)

    How quick would the ACLU be to defend the phrase "That's so gay" and other similar phrases? What if people started using "nigger" in a completely unrelated sense, for shock value? "What the nigger just happened?" Carlin said something about context, right? So that would be cool I assume.

    Mod this troll if you like, but I hope you'll think about this first. Where is the line?

  • Re:Let it rip... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @12:45AM (#32249070) Journal

    Let me help, when you use a swear word as an adjective, you miss the opportunity to use an adjective that would help the listener.

    Maybe, maybe not. There is a Soviet urban legend about this...

    Russian profanities [] are considerably more expressive than English ones, mainly due to the ability of the language to combine word roots in more creative ways, and rich inflections. Consequently, it is common for people, especially males, and stereotypically lower classes, to substitute virtually all grammatical categories with swearwords, while still retaining the structure of the sentence to the point that its original meaning is understandable.

    Now, the legend... the way it goes, the above was very much true in a certain Soviet factory, where workers identified both parts and processes using a rich swearword lexicon. So "this little fuckthing" (which would be a single word in Russian) meant a very specific part, and "fuck it over through the cunt" (again, a single word) meant applying a very specific technological process to that part; and so on.

    Which all went well, in fact, until there was a scheduled inspection of the factory by local Party leadership, and the supervisors forbade workers from swearing. That day, the factory stalled, because the workers on the ground could not coherently explain the manufacturing process, much less coordinate it, without resorting to their original lexicon. They simply haven't used the "proper" names of the parts in years or decades - depending on how long people have been working there!

    There's also another army-related joke on the subject. As it goes, Soviet officers were taught that, in theory, Soviet army had a disadvantage in battle because Russian words are, on average, twice as long as English words, and therefore orders take twice as much time to give and to understand. However, in practice, this was found to not be a problem, since in combat conditions, Soviet officers would switch almost entirely to swearwords for all their orders, which are significantly shorter, mostly matching English for all practical purposes.

    Take it for what you will, though, according to my (ex-Soviet army major, combat service in Afghanistan) father, the army joke is spot on.

Nothing succeeds like the appearance of success. -- Christopher Lascl