One of our favorite comedians, George Carlin, died last week. Here's the story behind his 7 Dirty Words.
Yes, he was a comedian, with 22 albums and 14 HBO specials to his credit. In fact, he was the first host of Saturday Night Live/SNL.
But his legacy is bigger than comedy and it's this...
In 1973, one of Carlin's routines ("Seven Dirty Words") was broadcast on a non-commercial FM radio station--WBAI, known for its lefty politics and progressive artsy ideas. After a listener complained to the FCC about the "dirty words" (one listener!), the FCC reprimanded the station owner. Station owner, the Pacifica Foundation, appealed, and won in federal court. But, in 1978, the FCC appealed to the Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the government in the now-famous FCC v. Pacifica Foundation.
Carlin's words were declared "indecent" and dangerous by the U.S. government. That decision still sickens those of us with open minds.
The ramifications were astounding. Suddenly our government had the right to decide which words couldn't be said on radio or TV at certain times of the day--and to decide which words (and at which times). With this decision, the freedom of speech guaranteed by our Bill of Rights no longer applied all day or to all words.
It's been 30 years and nothing has changed, which is even more appalling.
George Carlin's career was spent showing us life's absurdities. The most absurb was that the most powerful government in the world was so obsessed about the power of a few non-violent words that it was willing to damage the Constitution to protect "us".
The words that required stifling by the Supreme Court were (and still are):
- tits (you can say "boob" but not tit; you can show a tit blown off on TV, but you can't say the word)
Carlin (and we) believe that censorship was and is still wrong, dangerous, ridiculous, small, stupid, and selfish.
"You can say you pricked your finger, just don't say you fingered your prick," he said.
George, we'll miss you!