When I write my columns for SFGN, sometimes I must remember all my readers were not 18 years old in 1968, that some of you may not remember Vietnam, Watergate or Woodstock. Some of you may not even know George Carlin.
Today, Donald Trump’s latest antics, a move out of Rick Scott’s playbook, bring back the life and legacy, the lunacy and the laughter of George Carlin. More than just being a comedian, George Carlin was a piercing social theorist, a biting monologist, and an ever so sophisticated individual.
He came to American notoriety in 1972, when he went on stage doing a monologue titled ‘Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television.’ These words were ‘fuck, shit, piss, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits.’ Even today, I am uncomfortable using them in print or my writings. I think there is a better way to say things.
At the time, the words were considered highly inappropriate and unsuitable for broadcast on the public airwaves in the U.S., whether radio or television.
As such, they were avoided in scripted material, and bleep censored in the rare cases in which they were used.
Broadcast standards differ in different parts of the world, then and now, although most of the words on Carlin’s original list remain taboo on American television.
The list was not an official enumeration of forbidden words, but rather was compiled by Carlin for use in his routines. Nonetheless, a New York City radio broadcast on WBAI featuring these words led to a U. S. Supreme Court ruling that helped establish the extent to which the federal government could regulate speech on broadcast television and radio in the United States. The Federal Communications Commission reprimanded the station.
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the FCC action in 1978, by a vote of 5 to 4, ruling that the routine was “indecent but not obscene”. The Court accepted as compelling the government’s interests in:
- Shielding children from potentially offensive material, and
- Ensuring that unwanted speech does not enter one’s home.
The Court stated that the FCC had the authority to prohibit such broadcasts during hours when children were likely to be among the audience, and gave the FCC broad leeway to determine what constituted indecency in different contexts. This eventually led to the Communications Decency Act, but if you have heard him at his public rallies, it is one of many laws that our current president apparently has no use for.
However, while our president has no problem being vulgar, acting despicably, or cursing frequently, he does have a problem with some words when they involve protecting the rights of minorities, speaking out about diversity or enhance the stature of African’-Americans. Some would even call Trump racist, but hey the White House has a new unofficial explanation. He is just ‘racial.’
Frankly, I think he is Neanderthal and the latest playbook he is using is proof for the pudding. Last week, his administration directed policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that the use of seven specific words and phrases would be prohibited.
On the list are the words “vulnerable,” “diversity,” “entitlement,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based,” and “science-based.” The decision has not only been deemed as reckless and dangerous, but an offense to the scientific community.
Florida’s governor Rick Scott used the same tool to ban the words ‘climate-change.’ As CNN has noted, this would not be the Trump administration’s first attack on scientists or their abilities to communicate to the public. Since his days on the campaign trail, Donald Trump has denied, belittled or argued against the impacts of climate change.
Ever since he assumed the office of the presidency, he has not only surrounded himself and his cabinet with climate change skeptics, but has acted to suppress scientific action and thought. He is a moron, essentially, and he proves it daily.
I mean I went back to George Carlin but this is even reminiscent of the masterful book and play ‘Inherit the Wind.’ We already knew about Mike Pence. We may have people in this administration denying the theory of evolution. I don’t have to tell you about the ‘Scopes’ trial do I? Damn, just go google it, okay?
This goes far beyond an attack on lexicon or word-choice. A ban on words not only creates barriers for scientists who need to communicate, but also breaks public trust in the areas they are meant to investigate and research. William Jennings Bryan. Donald Trump. Brothers of the same mother.
The defense attorney in the ‘Scopes’ case was Clarence Darrow, one of America’s finest. They have made one man plays of his stature and nobility, one of the finest lawyers our country has ever seen, a man whose career every attorney looks up to.
In his closing, and this was back in 1925, he said “We have the purpose of preventing bigots and ignoramuses from controlling the education of the United States.”
As for me, I admired George Carlin, and even got to interview him once. A genius with words, clarity with insight, a marvelous modern man. Go watch that video on YouTube. You will love it, even today. I promise. He would not be as polite with Trump as Clarence Darrow was with William Jennings Bryan.
Today, George Carlin would tell Donald Trump to “Go fuck yourself, motherfucker.” How can you oppose climate change and diversity, inclusion and transgender people? I think I join with Carlin in using those indecent words in my column. Trump made me do it. I know it’s sad. But, anything goes for the white wing.