Let freedom offend 65

When former NFL player Pat Tillman was killed in Afghanistan, Americans were more moved by it than by any other soldier’s death in that war. There was intense interest, particularly in Phoenix, where he had played. But local TV stations dropped coverage of his memorial service as it was going on. Why? Because some of the speakers used bad words. His brother Richard, for example, said, “He’s not with God. He’s f—ing dead.”

Steve Chapman writes about this at Townhall, questioning continued federal censorship of the airwaves media:

It was an honest statement at a public event. But airing it could have cost a TV station a large fine from the Federal Communications Commission — or even its license to broadcast.

The FCC has a policy against vulgar language, even in brief, unscripted outbursts. So broadcasters who know what’s good for them do their best to avoid it, no matter how newsworthy, appropriate or even revealing it may be. …

Americans generally take a wary view of government interference and control in their lives. But for decades, federal regulators, acting at the behest of Congress and the president, have presumed to tell TV and radio stations what they can and cannot broadcast, which also means telling audiences what they may and may not hear.

Never mind that the First Amendment says Congress “shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.” Elsewhere, that means what it says. The government may not ban profanity in movies, CDs, e-mails, magazines, newspapers, websites, leaflets, T-shirts or bumper stickers. Only broadcasters are subject to these paternalistic dictates.

The reason offered by the Supreme Court in days of yore is that broadcasting is “uniquely pervasive” in American life. But today, it’s barely more pervasive than other media, like cable TV and the Internet, that are immune from censorship.

For us the meaning of Richard Tillman’s words are more important than his manner of expression. The good soldier Pat Tillman is not “with God” – he’s dead.

But we too are against the censorship of speech. Let it offend, deceive, outrage, as well as inform, delight, inspire …

Posted under Commentary, Ethics, Religion general, United States by Jillian Becker on Thursday, July 15, 2010

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