I never have understood why the Federal Communications Commission has the power to tell broadcast TV stations that they cannot allow ''swear words'' in their programs.
The fear is that, otherwise, TV will become a ''race to the bottom,'' filled with obscenities and profanities, and Americans who dislike such language won't have anything fit to watch on TV.
Speaking for myself, there isn't much on TV that's fit to watch these days. It doesn't take a word beginning with ''F'' to clarify the intentions of women who parade around in navel-baring V-tops. They wish to be perceived as sexually desirable, and apparently they have so little else to rely on that they need to be nearly naked in order to do so. I don't watch much TV, because in my opinion the ''entertainment'' shows have already reached near-bottom in witless bombast, everything from boogers to passing gas. I did laugh at boogers and gas-passing, back in grade school. But that was then.
I do not see a Constitutional right to watch swear-free TV. I do see a Constitutional right to freedom of speech.
So why not let the broadcast TV networks be obscene? They're already mostly stupid, at about an intellectual par with the viewers who are most addicted to their shows.
You don't read obscenities and profanities in this newspaper, even though because of the First Amendment, there are no laws against us printing those words.
The Good Life
We operate on the assumption that we are invited guests in people's homes, and that therefore our discourse ought to be civil.
Why is it that most newspapers do not publish some words and pictures, even though we can publish them?
You have let us know, often, that you don't like that kind of language coming into your homes, and that if we make a habit of using it or allowing it to be used, we won't be coming into your homes very often.
Why are cable TV stations and, if the Supreme Court agrees in a case now before it, broadcast TV stations, so much smuttier?
And, regrettably, me.
I do not recall ever having let a TV channel station know that I objected to language in its program.
These days, it is ridiculously easy to do so. A search using Google, Yahoo or Bing quickly provides contact information, including email addresses or websites with ''contact us'' boxes. Postal addresses are similarly available.
Yet we don't protest. So cable/satellite channels keep shoveling the smut at us. If the Supreme Court concurs, as it should under the First Amendment, broadcast channels will do so, too - because we look to government to prevent it, instead of hollering at the stations and sponsors.
Having been raised in an era and setting where obscenities and profanities were common, I am not unduly offended by words that begin with ''F'' or ''S.'' For that matter, I'm not offended by nudity, or full sexual intercourse, either. I am often disgusted, usually unamused, but it takes a lot to offend me these days.
I am, however, spectacularly unentertained by some TV shows that seem to feel that ''wit'' begins with ''F,'' or that ''comedy'' bounces in nippled pairs. That, too, went out by about seventh grade.
Yet I do not recall having told TV stations or, more to the point, advertisers, that I am not going to continue to watch the drivel that they package around their commercials, so I won't be buying their products or services, because I assume that their products or services live down to the same standards of quality, or lack thereof, of the programs they choose to deliver their advertising messages.
We don't need the Federal Communications Commission or the Supreme Court to clean up TV programming. We have the power to do that for ourselves.
Yet we are too lazy to lift a few fingers, so we piously demand that our congressmen and senators, our courts, our government clean up TV programming. We won't even turn the channel, or click the remote control to ''off.'' We tolerate the smut because it is packaged around some laugh tracks, even though the funny bits would be just as funny without the crudity.
Is it any wonder that we are $15 trillion in debt, that the candidates for president this year come in two categories (empty suits and demagogues), that the country is ready to fall apart or break up?
The Americans who founded this country were willing to die for it. Those who kept it together during the Civil War, and through two World Wars, did die for it.
But we won't send an email message saying ''Stop the smut.''
''The government should do it,'' we say.
Letting government do it costs money, money the government doesn't have, because it spent our Social Security trust funds, in a rush to buy votes by promising to do our work for us. The FCC uses that government money, running up the debt.
Letting the FCC continue to play ''Word Gestapo'' for broadcast TV channels is just the latest example of how flaccid we have become.
Denny Bonavita is the editor and publisher of McLean Publishing Co. in west-central Pennsylvania, including the Courier-Express in DuBois.