That’s bullshit, dickhead
Jeffrey Rosen has no shortage of examples for why the current FCC regulations governing the use of “fleeting expletives” are completely, well, bullshit.
This has led to a series of arbitrary judgments: ABC wasn’t fined for broadcasting Saving Private Ryan, because the FCC decided that expletives were central to the message of the film, but an educational station was fined for broadcasting the PBS documentary “The Blues” because the expletives uttered by music producers weren’t deemed necessary. (In reviewing episodes of “NYPD Blue,” the Solomonic commission found that “bullshit” was patently offensive, but “dickhead” was not.)
Picture a group of bureaucrats sitting around a table debating whether or not “dickhead” was “patently offensive.” What arguments were made? How did one articulate a “pro-dickhead” stance without seeming like, um, a dickhead? Perhaps charts were drawn, data analyzed, and lurid experiments — involving hurling epithets at passersby and gauging their reactions — were conducted?
Fuck it, and just let fleeting expletives be fleeting. Or if we’re going to keep focusing on them, at least start calling them “fleeting expletives that would be fleeting if we didn’t agonize over whether their fleetingness trumps their patent offensiveness.”
(image from flickr user exfordy under a Creative Commons license)