I'm trying wrap my head around this one and maybe our readers can help me sort this out.
Last night, I was kicking back looking at the Yahoo wire and noticed two things.
For the top entertainment story, there was the new flap about comments that radio shock jock Don Imus made yesterday. In case, you haven't heard, the AP reported that:
During an on-air conversation Monday about the arrests of suspended Dallas Cowboys cornerback Adam Jones, Imus asked, "What color is he?"
Told by sports announcer Warner Wolf that Jones, who used to be nicknamed Pacman, is "African-American," Imus responded: "There you go. Now we know."
Later Monday, Imus responded to criticism of his comments, saying he had been misunderstood.
"I meant that he was being picked on because he's black," Imus said in a statement released by his spokesman.
However, listed right under this story was one of the tributes to the late George Carlin, which focused on:
Carlin breached the accepted boundaries of comedy and language, particularly with his routine on the "Seven Words" -- all of which are taboo on broadcast TV to this day.
When he uttered all seven at a show in Milwaukee in 1972, he was arrested on charges of disturbing the peace, freed on $150 bail and exonerated when a Wisconsin judge dismissed the case, saying it was indecent but citing free speech and the lack of any disturbance.
When the words were later played on a New York radio station, they resulted in a 1978 Supreme Court ruling upholding the government's authority to sanction stations for broadcasting offensive language during hours when children might be listening.
Well, maybe not on broadcast TV, but at one time or another, I have heard all of these seven words on cable, which has pretty much taken the place of what was once considered "broadcast." And I'm not talking about HBO, but Comedy Central (after hours) and others popular channels. Although a lot of shows "bleep out" the words, everyone knows what is said. There is little doubt about the content.
This is what struck me. These days, you can say these offensive words on TV.
But offensive ideas? That's another story entirely.
If someone says one of the seven dirty words on TV these days, there will be a few items about the event and usually an apology about how the offensive word "just slipped out". But cross the line in another respect, and your career is probably over or you "just want to spend more time with my family."
Carlin built a successful career saying offensive words. He is praised upon his death for "pushing the boundries." However, Imus nearly destroyed his career with offensive ideas and may have done so yet again.
My question to our readers: Today, just what is acceptable? What is worse? Bad words or bad ideas?