On the EDge: FCC threatens 1st Amendment

Composite stock images, St. George News

OPINION — Ugly is in the eye of the beholder.

In the real world, I would rather hang around somebody who drops the F-bomb than somebody who uses the N-word.

Nudity in the arts is much more palatable than graphic, hardcore violence because, well, we all have bodies, but we aren’t all violent. Besides, there is no beauty in blood and guts.

There is tremendous value in even the most harsh, offensive political statements because they help us make judgments on position, credibility and character. They can help us get into somebody’s head and heart.

But, that’s me and the 1st Amendment ensures that I have the right to read, view, listen to or partake in any of those forms of expression and to determine my own limits, based on my particular levels of sensitivity, taste and mind and not yours or the government’s.

During a recent monologue, Stephen Colbert made an off-color joke about the relationship between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin that has dunked the outspoken talk show host into a vat of boiling controversy provoking some to call for his firing.

The language Colbert used to describe a specific sexual act has been described variously as crude, offensive, funny and appropriate as a political metaphor.

The “offensive” word in the monologue was edited by censors and Colbert’s mouth was digitally altered so you couldn’t determine exactly what was said.

I’m not much of a Colbert fan. I find that a little Colbert goes a long way, Still, to be honest, as somebody who delves into the rough and tumble political goings-on, I have read, heard and seen worse in the media – the legit and the bastardized groups out there now – about not only Trump, but the Obama family, the Clinton family and many other elected and appointed figures.

While these comments do their job and get an immediate rise out of me, I also can step back a moment, consider the source, and move on. They had about as much impact as those innocuous Facebook memes last week promoting Naked Gardening Day, an event organizers say was intended to help our culture “move toward a healthy sense of both body acceptance and our relation to the natural environment.”

It makes sense, I guess, but I think the organizers would get much more participation in their event if they held it during the summer months. Naked gardening for my friends in northern Idaho at this time of year does not sound like fun.

But, whether we decide to pull weeds in the buff or make crude comments about our political leaders is our business, not that of the federal government, which is stepping into the Colbert situation.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said his office has received complaints about Colbert’s monologue and will investigate.

“I have had a chance to see the clip now and so, as we get complaints — and we’ve gotten a number of them — we are going to take the facts that we find and we are going to apply the law as it’s been set out by the Supreme Court and other courts and we’ll take the appropriate action,” Pai said during a recent interview with a Philadelphia radio station.”

The thing is, Colbert’s show airs during the so-called “golden hours,” from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m., when broadcast standards are much looser because the kiddies are all, presumably, in bed.

For his part, Colbert is owning his moment.

He has refused to apologize for the intent of his remarks, telling his audience: “At the end of that monologue, I had a few choice insults for the president. I don’t regret that. While I would do it again, I would change a few words that were cruder than they needed to be.”

How far the FCC goes in this investigation remains to be seen.

For those of us with a little history in our bones, this is lightweight stuff when compared with the pressures placed upon Tom and Dick Smothers, whose struggles with the establishment and network censors were landmark.

The brothers landed in the middle of the social upheaval of the ‘60s with arguably, the most controversial show in the history of television.

Their show, “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” made “Saturday Night Live,” even during it heyday, pale in comparison.

The brothers faced two presidential administrations that put immense pressure on CBS to gag them. Unfortunately for the government and the network, the show was posting phenomenal numbers with 30 million weekly viewers. Nobody gets rating like that today, even though there are a lot more people watching television now than all those years ago.

And, they were more relentless in their message than Colbert.

There was Pete Seeger, who had been blacklisted from television, singing “Waist Deep In The Big Muddy,” a Vietnam War protest song that took on President Lyndon Johnson directly in the sixth verse.

There was Harry Belafonte singing a medley of calypso songs in front of a backdrop of the mayhem that was the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.

There was folksinger Joan Baez giving a moving tribute to her husband David Harris when he was sent to prison for resisting the draft.

Only the hippest, coolest, left-leaning counterculture figures appeared on the show from The Who to The Grateful Dead, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane and other musical acts. Political comics flocked to the show with their razor-sharp observations.

Even The Beatles had their back, sending videos of “Hey Jude” and “Revolution” to the brothers for broadcast backed by personal on-air visits by George Harrison and Ringo Starr to share their support.

The Beatles are gone and except for Bill Maher, there are few humorists with sharp-edged tongues to support Colbert.

The only thing in his favor is the little bit of governance called the 1st Amendment, which will not be worth the paper it is printed on if the FCC comes back with a fine on Colbert.

Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist for St. George News. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

No bad days!

Email: edkociela.mx@gmail.com

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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  • desertgirl May 9, 2017 at 8:58 am

    Yeah, like the censorship taking place on federally funded campuses and other places. Please write a balanced cohesive article regarding leftist totalitarian/fascist attack on freedom of speech. Progressives want it their way not the rights afforded American citizens via the 1st amendment.

    • Brian May 9, 2017 at 9:44 am

      Amen to that. When do we get an article on the irony of the left using “Stop the fascists!” signs to beat people up to stop them from giving a speech?

  • DB May 9, 2017 at 3:27 pm

    No problem for me, as I’ve all but stopped watching any of the late night talk shows. The writers now only go for the easy stuff, aka Trump. Even the millennials will tire of it in time. The writers threatened to strike last week. No one would have noticed.

  • 42214 May 9, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    Ed the hypocrit strikes again. He loves to hear comedians make vulgar and disgusting jokes about the President and his family but more than likely approves of Berkley style censorship of conservative speakers.

    • Chris May 9, 2017 at 6:58 pm

      nice spelling there, hypocrite.

      • 42214 May 9, 2017 at 7:44 pm

        That’s the best you got? Left off an E. How weak is that Cris. I left off the H so you have something to whine about.

  • speak.the.truth May 9, 2017 at 7:49 pm

    Ed. Thanks for a well written and informative article. Under the Trump administration, we are in danger of losing many of our personal freedoms guaranteed by the constitution. Trump supporters don’t seem to mind. Our FCC chairman Pai has been busy changing regulations to help big businesses make more money at the expense of consumers. In the case of Colbert, I doubt he will act because political donations to Republicans come from the networks and that is what drives this administration.

  • r2d2 May 9, 2017 at 9:38 pm

    I guess we should be able to say anything we want. Maybe hate speech for whites, blacks, Jews, Mexicans. Maybe jokes picking on the infirm, or mentally challenged should be OK.

  • commonsense May 10, 2017 at 12:28 pm

    The really sad thing about Colbert is the shear hypocrisy and lack of respect for the office and another human.
    During the campaign Dems ripped on Trump for coarse language. Political correctness has been a hallmark of liberals. Any reference to homosexuality was unacceptable.
    The convenient standards of liberals really exposes their lack of moral compass.

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