The whole notion of "polite company" seems completely archaic (and even anti-competitive) in the arena of today's manufacturers of "entertainment." Scalia declared TV shows were producing a "coarsening of manners," but obviously, Hollywood's hired legal guns see the simple idea of manners as a red herring. They believe the real principle to be revered in law and in custom is the constitutional right to curse on the public airwaves, even if the public, overwhelmingly, objects to it.
A new study by the Parents Television Council of the trend in profanity from the 1998 season to the 2007 season really illustrates the degree to which Hollywood has deluged the popular culture with cursing. The F-word aired only one time on prime time broadcast TV in all of 1998 -- yet it appeared 1,147 times on prime time broadcast TV in 2007, on 184 different episodes. The S-word, which appeared only two times in 1998, aired 364 times in 2007 on 133 different programs.
Once "tolerance" is assumed, inundation follows.
The profanity virus is also moving earlier and earlier into prime time. In 1998, no shows on broadcast television aired the S-word at 8 or 9 p.m. By 2007, the S-word appeared in 73 shows at 8 p.m., and 52 shows at 9 o'clock. In 2007, 52 percent of the programs that contained the F-word and 55 percent of the programs that contained the S-word aired during the family hour of 8 p.m. Eastern, 7 p.m. Central. In 2007, the F-word aired in 96 shows during the 8 p.m. hour.
Hollywood's lawyers are also arguing against the FCC's legalistic definition of profanity (and common sense) when they suggest that when people use the F-word, it doesn't always have a sexual connotation. When Chief Justice John Roberts argued that the sexual charge of the F-word is what gives the word its shock value, Phillips bizarrely claimed: "I suppose you can say it, but I don't understand on what basis. There is no empirical support for that." This caused Scalia to tickle the audience again, saying people "don't use 'gollywoggles' instead of the F-word."
This whole argument may have been ended up being politically unnecessary, but it was nonetheless culturally instructive. It demonstrated that Hollywood's legal hired guns could perform even more shamelessly than Hollywood itself.