Television producer Norman Lear has recently been penning op-ed pieces on liberal sites about the recent Supreme Court decision regarding the so-called “fleeting expletive.” This is the short story: during some awards shows, some winners used the f-word that was not blocked out, the FCC stepped in and changed their rules and fined the broadcasters. That great bastion of right wing ideology, according to liberals- Fox Broadcasting- sued and prevailed in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, but the FCC appealed to the Supreme Court and they ultimately prevailed. It is this most recent decision that has attracted the attention of Norman Lear and drawn his indignation.
Since Lear has not produced anything of interest or importance since All in the Family and its many spin-offs, it is fitting that he has to inject himself into this matter for publicity if nothing else. As the self-appointed leading spokesman for First Amendment rights, he claims some high moral ground as liberals are wont to do. In this case, his vitriolic sarcasm is directed at Antonin Scalia’s majority decision. Specifically, he takes umbrage with a particular line in a 13-page decision. More on that line in a minute.
First and foremost, this case was not decided on First Amendment grounds. In fact, great pains are taken by Scalia to mention this fact and he actually leaves that option open for future review. As he correctly states, the Supreme Court is the final arbiter of these disputes. Since the Circuit Court of Appeals did not decide on the First Amendment arguments, this issue was actually a non-issue before the Supreme Court. In actuality, any chilling effect on First Amendment rights the left may feel is patently false with regards to this decision. Instead, the case was decided upon whether the FCC fulfilled thier duties under the Administrative Procedure Act regarding the promulgation of rule changes. And that is exactly what this decision was based upon- what were the FCC’s obligations under this law when they made their rule changes. Ginsberg, in her dissent, also mentioned this fact lost on Norman Lear. As long as the rule change is neither “arbitrary or capricious,” which the majority concluded it was not, it passes muster under the law. This was essentially a technical, legal, procedural decision, hardly one that should concern anyone about government censorship of the airwaves.
As for the “small town” comments which really got under Lear’s skin, Scalia made a one line sarcastic comment in response to a point made by Stephen Breyer in his dissent. He mentioned that large broadcasters of live shows have the technological advantage of tape delays that allow broadcasters to bleep out potentially offensive language. He further argues that small town broadcasters may lack this technology and run a heightened risk of FCC fines should someone actually utter an fleeting expletive under these circumstances. Lear argues that following Scalia’s reasoning, broadcasting a film like Saving Private Ryan could get a broadcaster fined. Unlike films and taped shows, awards shows and the like are unscripted. As such, they could be edited or bleeped out or even warnings given about potentially offensive language and situations. With live broadcasts, Scalia argues, it is reasonable for parents to expect the broadcast to be free of potentially offensive language, especially between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. What Scalia said was: “We doubt, to begin with, that small town broadcasters run a heightened risk of liability for indecent utterances. In programming they originate, their down-home local guests probably employ less vulgarity than big city folks; and small town stations cannot afford and cannot attract foul mouthed glitteratae from Hollywood.” That is it- the single offensive line in this decision. Where Lear and his cohorts on the left defensively see Scalia attacking Hollywood, any reasoned person applying simple commonsense can see that Scalia is merely noting the differences in program content. Furthermore, he notes that “small town folk” are not immune from using the f-word, but that the odds are low in local programming and, regardless, the FCC regulation takes this into account. Scalia is not extolling the virtues of Mayberry living while dissing the big cities as Lear suggests.
Lear’s reaction is typical of knee jerk liberals. Not only is he defensive, but it clearly indicates he either did not read the entire decision, or failed to understand the context in which Scalia was speaking. Most likely, he selectively read the decision and latched onto a single line. Like most liberals, Lear sees a bogeyman behind everything. To him, it is obvious that if Scalia wrote this decision, there has to be an ulterior motive. To the liberals, it is yet another example of a right wing conspiracy to stifle free speech as their man on the Supreme Court advances their right wing, Christian agenda. It is nothing more than psychological projection of their agenda to control speech that is at play here. While they argue for allowing the occasional use of the F-word on television, they demand that broadcasters bleep out another f-word. While standing on a high moral ground pedestal of free speech, they aim to stifle speech through liberal attempts to criminalize the use of the n-word. Lear’s diatribe illustrates typical liberal reasoning: taking something out of context to use to his advantage, applying logic devoid of commonsense, then hypocritically applying the alleged high moral ground to advance their agenda.
So what does this have to do with nipples? Absolutely nothing, but it caught your attention, didn’t it?