Recently, I have written a lot about foul language on television. Not today. Today, something different. But not very. Today, foul language on radio.
Earlier this week I drove my daughter to school and, as usual, she was switching back and forth between her two favorite New York-area radio stations. On each of them was a “morning zoo” program (search), which to me has always suggested that the deejays have the IQs of captive animals and deserve to be behind bars. In the space of three or four minutes, the following occurred:
A deejay made a comment to the effect that a bride would not want to walk down the aisle with a big red stain at her crotch.
I changed the station.
The deejay on this show suggested to his female co-host that she shave her pubic hair in the shape of a Christmas tree.
I turned off the radio.
My daughter is 15. She told me she did not pay attention to comments like this: in one ear, she claimed, out the other. Then she patted me on the knee and turned the radio back on. At this point a song was playing, and never had I been so happy to hear a melodically-repetitive, lyrically inane hip-hop number.
Of course, my daughter is wrong. She does pay attention to what she hears on the radio. It might disgust her, but disgust is a powerful emotion, and if she hears enough that disgusts her over a long period of time, she will no longer be disgusted; she will be inured. She will have lost the capacity for outrage because it has been worn away, like a strip of beachfront subjected to the endless pounding of the surf.
The endless pounding of vulgarity (search). It is what sets our culture apart these days from what might truly be called “culture.” It is particularly offensive coming from disc jockeys, because children my daughter’s age want very much to listen to the music they play; they are moved by it, pleased and energized. The deejays are Pied Pipers of a sort, but the children who follow them are being led to coarseness at best, to anti-social behavior at worst.
Ultimately, it is my wife and I who are responsible for raising our children. We know that. Society does not have to help us. We accept that.
But neither should society consciously attempt to sabotage us. My wife and I are only two people. The morons who have access to our children at one point of the day or another are legion. A family that cares about decency and courtesy and ethical behavior is an out-manned army. The family’s foes are too stupid to know how vile they are, and too selfish to care. Their ignorance and tastelessness and vapidity are weapons of mass destruction.
Such people do, however, enjoy wrapping themselves in a garment called freedom of speech, and it is here that we finally have some common ground. All Americans cherish the freedom to say what they will--fathers of teenage daughters and disc jockeys alike. But the Founding Fathers intended the First Amendment (search) to protect political discourse, not comments about stained genital areas. They intended it to protect religious discourse, not comments about shaved genital areas.
As a result, polls show that many Americans now favor restrictions of some sort on free speech. It might happen. Perhaps it should. Perhaps restrictions are a price we deserve to pay. Perhaps the Founders would even approve. They gave us the First Amendment that we might rise to intellectual heights. Today, we invoke it that we may slop through gutters.
of Fox News Watch, which airs Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT and Sundays at 1:30 a.m. ET/10:30 p.m. PT, 6:30 a.m. ET/3:30 a.m. PT, and 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT. He is the author of several books, including The Spirits of America: A Social History of Alcohol (Temple University Press, 2003).