Vulgarity on the Rise

A recent controversy arose, with a good friend of mine doing battle with a barbaric element so prevalent in modern day speech–the expletive.  How necessary is it to bombard a reader or listener with a barrage of the seven dirty words you can’t say on TV or Radio that George Carlin made so humorous?  We used to save the uncontrollable outburst of words for something special — a particularly bad moment of desperation — so bad that no descriptive set of words could describe its depravity.  Now, it seems as if bleeping is fashionable — and verborrhea is the language of choice.

My friend who hosts a radio show decided, and with good reason,  not to air an interview with a writer, another friend, who read a peppered passage aloud on the air. The passage included sexual references, and it  included three of the seven words you can’t say on the radio or on TV, with an assortment of  graphic violent images.  Now the writer who was interviewed says that the public wouldn’t be bothered by them. He wants it aired in the name of free speech. The argument concerns whether a broadcaster and show host controls the creative content of his/her own show and has the right to not air material.  The answer is yes.   My friend decided not to air the show and I support her decision to maintain the quality and flavor of the show she designs.

It’s her show, her idea, her script, and her decision.

Why not bleep out the offensive expletives and content as is done in TV reality shows, such as the bounty hunter shows, or the Repo show, in which every other word is bleeped out? We still know what the word is that is bleeped out, so in effect, the attention is called to that word in its deletion.

An interview is not the property of the person interviewed, but it belongs to the broadcaster who designed and recorded the show and provided the venue. Much like a photo is taken of someone and kept, shown to others…the photo is not the property of the subject of the photo, but of the creator of the photo.

Should someone being interviewed for a show assume that at say, 9:00 AM on a Sunday morning, or at any time during family hours, children will be listening as they ready themselves for church, or family activities? Yes. Families having a leisurely, relaxing morning at the breakfast table, turning on an enriching, artistic show about writers and their craft are listening, and are not prepared for expletives.  Most people do not want to hear crass language while they are preparing for a daily homily or listening to a show about authors, or while they are having a family breakfast on the weekend.  

Offensive language mars the artistic sensibilities of listeners not prepared for it. Especially on a Sunday morning. And tell me when the big seven unbleeped expletives are heard on AM radio? I think most broadcasters are classy about keeping the air waves listenable  and spare the listener  crassitude.

My friend, the host, has an  analogy for this situation and it is a good one: You’ve invited guests over to your home, and they behave badly, swearing and cursing up a storm, which insults and offends your sensibilities. Can you kick them out? Hell, yeah. Pardon my French. A radio show or any interview with invited guests is similar. The content belongs to the artistic, designer/host,  to edit or to not use, if he or she chooses, whether it be due to poor quality of the recording, or due to  inappropriate or uninteresting content.

Long story short: when you are invited for a radio or TV interview and you have selections to read from your book,  keep the broadcaster and audience in mind, and show him or her, as well as the host and audience, some common courtesy.  Think of it this way: You are an invited guest. Demonstrate good manners.  Select passages that the general public will be interested in, as well as children, the elderly,  the infirm, readers from all walks of life. Honor those who would love to just quietly eat their morning roll and have their coffee without the vulgarities of the world intruding into the comfortable air space of their home.  

Do interviewees want people to turn the station and not listen to the rest of the interview? It comes back to this: Know your audience. If it’s a late night show catering to college kids, then there may be some laxity there, and a shift in expectations, depending on the nature of the show. But generally speaking, for a public arena, such as a reading, interview, media presentation, or show, keep that general audience in mind.

Remember those nostalgic, free-wheeling ’60s? Some of the free speech advocates of the ’60’s, those who thought they could say and do what they pleased,  myself included, just grew older and matured.

But a few, hung onto the need for shockarrhea.  Ho hum. As if we’ve never heard the words before.  In appropriate context, and at the appropriate venue, when people know what to expect, no problem. But don’t shove them down our throats. Keep the potential bleeps to your bleepin’ self.

Now that all of that ranting is over….have a wonderful, non-bleeping day!