George Carlin and Radio Censorship
Americans hate the word censorship. It puts fire into the eyes of any self proclaimed, speaker of the people. but is censorship that bad, or that wrong? Censorship is an enormous part of the stability of society. One of the many types of censorship takes place on the airwaves. Comedians, George Carlin, Howard Stern, and Mncow Muller had an enormous effect on the ideals of censorship in this era, trying to prove that the FCC had no right to censor radio airwaves. They questioned why words we all hear at home cannot be spoken on the radio if listeners are given a proper warning. However, there is no need for young children to be exposed to such lude material and the American people must be more reasonable about morals and stop worrying about our “First Amendment” rights.
In 1978 a radio station owned by Pacifica Foundation Broadcasting out of New York City was doing a program on contemporary attitudes toward the use of language. This broadcast took place on a mid-afternoon weekday. Immediately before the broadcast the station announced a disclaimer telling listeners that the program would include "sensitive language which might be regarded as offensive to some."(Gunther, 1991) Pacifica believed that this was enough warning to give people who would be offended, but placing a warning in front of something is like placing chocolate cake in front of a fat guy. Humans thirst for the unknown, and at this time, sexual perversion was a big unknown.
As a part of the program the station decided to air a 12 minute monologue called "Filthy Words" by comedian George Carlin. The introduction of Carlin's "routine" consisted of, according to Carlin, "words you couldn't say on the public air waves."(Carlin, 1977) The introduction to Carlin's monologue listed those words and repeated them in a variety of colloquialisms or (dialect): I was thinking about the curse words and the swear words, the cuss words and the words that you can't say, that you're not supposed to say all the time. I was thinking one night about the words you couldn't say on the public, ah, airwaves, um, the ones you definitely wouldn't say, ever. Bastard you can say, and hell and damn so I have to figure out which ones you couldn't and ever and it came down to seven but the list is open to amendment, and in fact, has been changed, uh, by now. The original seven words were sh*t, p*ss, f*ck, c*nt, c*cks*cker, m*therf*cker, and t*ts. Those are the ones that will curve your spine, grow hair on your hands and maybe, even bring us, God help us, peace without honor, and a bourbon. (Carlin, 1977)
A man driving with his young son heard this broadcast and reported it to the Federal Communications Commission [FCC]. This broadcast of Carlin's "Filthy Words" monologue caused one of the greatest and most controversial cases in the history of broadcasting. The case of the FCC v. Pacifica Foundation. The outcome of this case has had a...