Slim Shady takes a hit from the FCC

By Eric Boehlert

Published June 14, 2001 7:30PM (EDT)

Read the story.

I don't think it's a coincidence that the "Real Slim Shady" complaint was filed in Colorado Springs, Colo., home to such conservative and religious organizations as Focus on the Family. It smells like someone was itching to create a test case. At any rate, the "community standards" test of indecency regulations is tautological; if a song is as requested as "Slim Shady," the community standards must be pretty elastic.

Since he's new, I'm willing to give Powell the benefit of the doubt. He can't be blamed for an investigation that began or guidelines that were developed before he took office. His "reluctance to play nanny" comment bodes well, as does his willingness to meet with rappers and recording executives at this week's hip-hop summit. I certainly don't envy him his impossible job of trying to please both cultural and free-market conservatives, whose aims are diametrically opposed.

-- Gary Susman

It's ironic that on the day Salon starts an eight-part (!) series on Japanese "hostesses," Eric Boehlert writes an article in which he supports the FCC's ability to censor sexually suggestive songs.

We all know that if any government agency came within 10 miles of fining a print or Internet publication for the use of "fuck" -- much less for suggesting "fuck" -- Boehlert and everyone else at Salon would rightfully be up in arms.

And Boehlert's snide remarks about record companies bear a striking resemblance to what opponents of free speech said about Larry Flynt and Robert Mapplethorpe.

It's fortunate that on Salon, unlike on a radio station, an indecency complaint from a single reader doesn't result in a fine. It's fortunate that Salon doesn't have to screen out children or make itself available only at times outside the "safe harbor." Too bad your media writer can't make the connection.

-- Walter Davis

In regards to the broadcasters who are shocked, shocked, that the Bush administration would censor what they can broadcast, let me quote Inspector Harry Callahan and say that "I'm all broken up about [their] rights."

These folks got exactly what they worked so hard to produce: a Bush administration. And the Bush administration delivered to them exactly what they sought, which was the right to monopolize the public media, both airwaves and print. But I guess they forgot to read the rest of his platform -- such as the parts where the Republicans get to determine what we can see, hear, say and do.

So, surprise! That same intrusiveness that would regulate (i.e., prevent) a woman's access to birth control or abortion, or that would peer into gay folks bedrooms, also applies to what these broadcasters can do. They signed that contract with the devil, they got what the devil promised them, but now they're discovering the catches in the contract. Maybe they can get Gary Bauer and his Family Research Council or Richard Mellon Scaife and his Arkansas Project or Phyllis Schlafly and her Eagle Forum to help defend their rights to publish filth. Or maybe not.

-- Atlant G. Schmidt

When I read Eric Boehlert's lament, "The sad fact is that broadcasters seem to be in a race toward the indecency gutter," I had to do a double take. I've more or less given up on broadcast radio and TV in this country precisely because the dialogue is so stilted and awkward as a result of the silly restrictions imposed by fear of license revocation. I find it far easier and less jarring to listen to Internet radio and catch my couch-potato quota from HBO. I do not know anyone who talks like the characters on NBC, nor, I suspect, would I want to.

In developed countries around the world, radio commentators and musicians draw from the vocabulary and topics that are on the lips of their listeners, to no evident ill effect. But in the United States, we have for some reason granted arbitrary morpheme permutations such as "fuck" and "shit" the power to corrupt, to pervert, to undermine our society. Are our minds really so weak? Is our society really so fragile? If I said "asshole" enough times, would the Capitol crumble and the freeways buckle, while preschoolers take to the streets in a wave of murderous rampage?

If so, it seems to me that a better response than prudish Victorian censorship might well be lifted from the practice of medicine: When we want to protect ourselves against infection, we inject into our bloodstream the very virus that we fear. Likewise, if our nation is really in such peril of corruption by these foul sounds, we should embark on a program of planned, measured exposure. Any radio station found failing to maintain a running average of four "fucks"and seven "shits" per hour will lose their broadcast frequency, for the sake of the country.

--Miguel Cruz

By Salon Staff

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