I listened to Terry Gross’ “Fresh Air” for Thursday September 7. She had two guests, the first was the multiple award winning executive producers of the highly acclaimed PBS documentary series “Frontline” and the second was the new head of the FCC. They discussed the new decency drive from within the FCC and the huge jump in fines for an investigation the FCC performs that determines that a complaint made by any random person watching television or listening to the radio shows that a program contained “indecent” material.
Frontline held back broadcast of an “on the ground” documentary that included real life combat scenes from Iraq until the FCC ruled on the decency of the language in the uneditted version of “Saving Private Ryan” shown on a commercial network. When the FCC said that Tom Hanks, in the heat of a ficticious battle, could say, “Fuck” so PBS went ahead and broadcast their documentary containing real life soldiers, in a real fire fight, with real bullets and real people dying using the same words.
Many years ago, when I still drank regularly, I shared a set of season tickets to the Boston Red Sox with a handful of friends. Dave, one of my best friends who died in 2004 at age 43 to a sudden heart attack, and I sat in our seats on the first base line for a late season 1989 game against the Cleveland Indians. Dave and I got fairly primed before the game started at a local watering hole and continued our beer swilling after arriving at Fenway Park. A business owned six consecutive seats behind us and, on that night, whoever working there who had the tickets sold them to a terrific bunch of very gay women from Cleveland out to root hard for their Indians and drink hard with their new friends, Dave and me.
A new guy to our section sat in the row in front of us with his son. Most others in our section, including a couple of celebrity authors, all knew each other pretty well. We all drank and used “adult” language through out our description of the goings on in the game before us as well as discussions of politics or anything else we jabbered about. All of us tended toward suspicion when regarding new people in our section.
Dave and I got into a conversation with the gang of Cleveland lesbians about which Red Sox had the nicest butt. I went hard and heavy for Ellis Burks, a sentiment shared by Steven King, a couple rows ahead of us. Dave went for Dwight Evans and various people in the section chose different butts to admire.
Neither Dave nor I went for men in a romantic sense but admiring a butt formed on a man isn’t a whole lot different than doing the same with a woman. We had no interest in touching the butts but any man who fears saying something nice about another man’s appearance is definitely some kind of closet case who worries far too much about what others think than about his own identity. Women do it all of the time without being gay and gay men and women admire the physique of people of both genders without any sexual attraction. So, guys, it is fine to admire Evander Holyfield’s cut form and doesn’t mean you are queer if you do.
Back to my story, our new lesbian friends from Cleveland, Dave and I and the long timers in our section continued to eat, drink, act merrily and use profanity in a manner that wove a tapestry of collective indecency that still hangs over Boston harbor as a monument to Dave’s life, the camaraderie shared by the people who sat together for so many games in our section and to Jean Shepard from whom I stole this simile.
After a while, the August heat, the Cleveland Indians 15 run lead and the constant jabbering of Dave and I, our lesbian friends and the regulars in our section created an irritation in the new guy in front of us who, as his teenaged son turned red, jumped up and started yelling at Dave and I and those around us for using such disgusting language. We collectively and politely used Dick Chaney’s favorite phrase and told him to “go fuck himself,” and carried on as he stormed out of the ballpark.
The following night, Dave and I and most of the regulars returned to our seats. So did the prudish dad and the embarrassed son. Dave and I could still feel the hangovers from the night before so pretty much laid off the beer and stuck to Coca Cola and those Fenway Franks, guaranteed to contain absolutely nothing that exists in nature. Our new lesbian friends were gone, replaced by a half dozen guys from the shipping department from the Charlestown Company who owned the tickets.
In order to make up for the previous night’s offenses, Dave and I decided to replace all of our profanity with an appropriate synonym. “Greenwell really tattooed that one,” I exclaimed when the Red Sox left fielder hit a triple in the bottom of the first. “Yes, he really knocked the tar out of it,” responded Dave.
“There was a real heater,” I said after Roger Clemmens blew one past David Justice’s swinging bat. “I believe I could feel the wind from up here,” added Dave. We continued using every antiquated baseball term we could remember and a few we made up that evening. Batters would “knock the stitching” off a ball and fielders would weild some really hot leather. Those around us who knew Dave and me and had witnessed the scene the night before enjoyed the joke and joined in. JD Salinger, quite the baseball fan who sat two rows behind us, tossed in a few jokes about the vision impairments of the umpire and others discussed how the effect the lard in Rich Gedman’s seat kept him from moving with much speed.
Meanwhile, the truckers from Chucktown behind us lost track of the game, had no idea why we spoke 1910 baseball language and would emit sentences like, “I couldn’t believe that fucking fat fuck when he fucked up again, the fuckhead!” A sentence worthy of Samuel L. Jackson and a real life proof of George Carlin’s assertion that “fuck” can be used properly as nearly every form of speech.
Occasionally, Dave and I would turn around and scold the Townies for their language and they would laugh, call us “fucking assholes” or threaten violence. So, we continued our anachronistic description of the play on the field and enjoyed the company of the other regulars as they joined in our fun. Finally, after a particularly amusing description of an over the head catch made by Elis Burks in the center field triangle, the individual, who the night before yelled at us for our profanity, got up and yelled at us for mocking him with our clean but creative language but neglected to mention the juxtaposition with the foul mouthed townies lest he find himself involved in some real ultra violence.
Dave worked in a collectibles store called Bay State Coin on Bromfield Street in downtown Boston. Back then, Bromfield Street was populated with used camera stores, pawn shops, buy and sell jewelry and gold places and lots of guys carrying guns who did a respectable business fencing stuff along with running their shops legally. Andy, owner of Bay State coin, remained one of the straightest guys on the street and avoided buying anything he knew had probably been stolen. One evening, after I had gotten off work but Dave had not, I hung out in the store waiting for him to head up to the ballgame. The father and son, who had sat in front of us and complained about our language, profane or otherwise, came into the store to look at some collectable cards. We said hello and they explained that they got seats in the no alcohol section at Fenway and enjoyed this season much more than the one they spent in front of us. I could only ask, “How do things look from left field?”
One man’s profanity is another’s poetry and does profanity have anything at all to do with decency? I can think of a number of statements I have found “indecent” on broadcast television recently and others that, due to their historical nature, get repeated often. To wit:
“I think Brownie’s doing a heck of a job,” said vacationing President George W. Bush as Americans drowned in their safe American homes.
The Secretary of Homeland Security saying, “We haven’t heard what has been happening in the Superdome…” Obviously, the huge budget that his huge department spends cannot include a television as Solidad looked so sexy in those hip waders on CNN and Fox had their cameras on the spot as well. George W. Bush and Bill Clinton both used this excuse for not killing Ben Laden at a few events covered by CNN, BBC, Fox/NewsCorp and other news outlets. I guess someone at NSA should put Wolf Blitzer on the payroll as he and the CNN gang seem to scoop our intelligence agencies pretty often.
What about the historical phrase, “Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!” Shouted by then Alabama Governor George Wallace. Today, this indecent phrase gets replayed on historical documentaries but, back then, when it played on live television, it was an official and very serious statement made by a sitting governor. Meanwhile, if anyone opposing his position said, “Fuck racism!” They would have not gotten beyond the censor. Which statement is more indecent?
Yesterday evening on NPR, I heard the phrase, “The Pentagon has now confirmed that more Americans have died in Iraq and Afghanistan than in the terror attacks on 9 11.” This “indecency nearly made me throw up. Of course, if the commentator said, “War is fucked up,” the FCC would have shown up with their censors and fines.
Howard Stern, whose comedy offends many of my sensibilities gets slammed by the FCC and gets rewarded with a $500 million satellite contract. While I find much of Howard’s humor offensive, I find him far less indecent than a president who insists that seeing more Americans die as the result of his orders than at the hands of really nasty terrorists is a preferred manner of action and that “we should stay the course.”
I find it indecent when, for the sake of “balance,” a network brings on a member of the KKK, American Nazi Party, National Front or other hate organization just to “balance” the advocate for racial, gender, religious and maybe even disability equity. If we live and believe in the Constitution of the United States, there is no voice for hate that needs to be included for the sake of showing a “fair and balanced” bit of reporting. The fundamental laws of our land protect the rights of the hate groups to say whatever they like but such free speech does not mean they have the right to free access to the media to spout their entirely discredited beliefs.
Also, who decided that science and experts in such fields are now open to “balance” from people who choose not to “believe” the results of work in these endeavors? People on the left, right and center seem to have joined together in a movement against credulity, skepticism and empiricism. My mother’s maiden name is Seiverson (the ethnically Norwegian name my grandparents chose to use when the changed from the ethnically Pollish name Sitarski). My father’s dad was a union guy, a regular working man who installed and repaired telephones for Ma Bell. Because my parents started dating during the fifties and because my mother’s parents went to college, my paternal grandfather would refer to them as the “Stevensons” due to his admiration for Adlai. What happened to the days when everyone in a town would celebrate the one student, William Faulkner for instance, who would leave town to go to Harvard? When did the working people of America stop respecting those with an education, stop trying to work three jobs to send their kids to a top university and stop believing in the truths that brought us to the moon, generated the “miracle” drugs and vaccines and brought us into the information age?
When did great conservatives like William F. Buckley, George Will, Bill Safire and others get replaced by Bill O’Reilly, Tucker Carlson and others who seem to believe that the louder one shouts, the wiser one becomes. What became of conservatives who cite sources and debate issues with their colleagues without resorting to a single ad hominem?
The liberals and those on the left don’t do much better. When did people like Ken Galbraith (who, sadly, died earlier this year) get replaced by the likes of Al Frankin. Why have Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn been replaced by rap stars and gossip types? How has Michael Moore, a fellow I sort of respect but wish he would avoid stooping to using fictional scenes without stating so in his documentaries, replaced the hard hitting documentarians that have brought us things like Frontline and all of the great work done by Cronkite, Murrow and other great journalists?
Why do we, as a nation, love to hate experts but grow to approve more authority and accept spoon fed media every day? For those of you who haven’t read George Orwell’s “1984” recently or John Dean’s excellent, “Conservatives with a Conscience” should do so as soon as possible. Dean, who we remember as the guy who came clean on Watergate, shows us, using very scholarly techniques how America no longer heads toward fascism but that we’ve already arrived there. To with: let’s look at Orwell’s “Ministry of Truth” in which the employees change news and history to fit the leader’s motivations. Now, let’s take a look at recent American history and a few more “indecent” quotes that often get repeated in documentaries and histories of the recent past:
“Osama Ben Laden is a fighter for the right of free religious expression of all of the people in the world,” President Ronald Reagan on why he sent arms to help the then “freedom fighter.”
“I have made an executive order permitting extraordinary rendition of terror suspects,” then President Clinton in the speech in which he declared that Osama Ben Laden should be taken dead or alive, thus providing the security infrastructure with a legal means to torture human beings without the oversight of US law.
“The Taliban are important partners in the war on drugs,” Donald Rumsfeld said in April 2001 when he shipped them $40 million worth of weapons still being used today to kill Americans in Afghanistan.
“We have removed Saddam Hussein and Iraq from the list of nations that sponsor terrorism,” President Ronald Reagan in a speech in 1983 when he told us that we would be helping Iraq fight for freedom everywhere by helping them defeat Iran.
So, Ben Laden, once a good guy, now an “evil doer.” What did Ben Laden change? His target. Saddam, a great ally, now another evil doer on trial in a place off limits to the international community, ostensibly to prevent a global media from hearing him discuss his days as a friend of the US. Manuel Noriega, once on the payroll, then on the hit list. Libya and Qadafy, formerly big time hit list, now our new found ally in the fight for freedom in his region.
It’s getting difficult to keep track of the thugs without a scorecard. At least we can count on a continuing hatred of Fidel Castro that is if he lives.
A lot of years ago, Gore Vidal wrote a sequel to “Myra Breckinridge” in which Myron, for whom the book is titled, starts emerging from beneath his female persona revolting against his sex change in the first book. This book came out shortly after the strangely ambiguous Supreme Court ruling stating that “indecency should be judged by the local community.” A decision which resulted in one justice being quoted as saying, “Pornography? No, I can’t define it but I know it when I see it.” And, in the famous Florida versus 2 Live Crew obscenity case, an eighty year old lady from Miami who sat on the jury saying, “They said it was up to the standards of the community and I hear far worse on the city bus every day.”
To avoid being banned in, perhaps, Peoria and Boston but sold in New York and Cambridge, Vidal changed all of the potentially profane words to the names of the Supreme Court Justices and other defenders of censorship. I had started thinking of doing the same but many of Vidal’s choice names are of people dead and/or forgotten. Thus, I think the Blind Confidential readership, in order that we not cross the line into indecency, choose the names of high profile individuals who find profanity more indecent than killing tens of thousands of innocent civilians in Katrina, Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Indonesia, Serbia, Bosnia and any other place where such activities go on, with or without the consent of the US Government.
Personally, I think that Colin Powell’s son “Chubby” Powell could serve as a nice replacement for testicle. “Wendy drew my Chubby Powells slowly into her hot and juicy,” has a certain pornographic ring to it.
“Then, as she caressed my Rumsfeld, I could hardly keep myself from screaming…”
““She retreated, grabbed my face and pulled it onto her left Kathryn Harris as my hand started to stroke her Barbara Bush and finger her Condi…”
Now, that’s some real porn on the cob Please send in your favorite public figure for addition to the lexicon of indecent individuals.