Breyer might protest that he's supporting a broad First Amendment right. But he's one of those liberal oddballs who think the F-bomb is an "important government objective," but freedom of speech on TV political commercials is not. He favored suppression of free speech when the McCain-Feingold speech restrictions were on the docket.
Justice Stevens sounded just like the network lobbyists when he lamely claimed that saying F-bombs as an exclamation is not a reference to sex. "As any golfer who has watched his partner shank a short approach knows, it would be absurd to argue the suggestion that the resultant four-letter word uttered on the golf course describes sex or excrement and is therefore indecent." But if it isn't an indecent word, why did Justice Stewart feel compelled to label it merely a "four-letter word"?
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's dissent was just aggressively un-factual: "the unscripted fleeting expletives at issue here are neither deliberate nor relentlessly repetitive." Two of the expletives at issue were uttered by Nicole Richie on a Fox-aired Billboard Awards show as a promotion of Richie's and Paris Hilton's new farm-based Fox "reality" show. As award presenters, Hilton warned Richie, "This is a live show. Watch the bad language." Nicole added, "Why do they even call it ‘The Simple Life'? Have you ever tried to get cow s--t out of a Prada purse? It's not so f---ing simple."
The exchange reeked of scripting. In fact, Richie later confessed there was a script, and she tweaked it to make herself sound less ditzy. (Mission not accomplished.) For Justice Ginsburg to claim this wasn't "deliberate" is simply untrue. As to the "repetitive" argument, we are to believe that "cow s--t" and "f---ing" is acceptable if uttered once?
It also would have been nice for newscasters to pass along Justice Scalia's cogent brief against the shameless networks: "To predict that complete immunity for fleeting expletives, ardently desired by broadcasters, will lead to a substantial increase in fleeting expletives seems to us an exercise in logic rather than clairvoyance." He said they seek "a standardless regime of unbridled discretion."
That is what the networks want. If ever they achieve their goals, they'll celebrate to the high heavens and call it news. But when they lose, as they did last week, mum's the word.
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