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May 08, 2017

FCC Chair Ajit Pai To Investigate Stephen Colbert For Obscenity ... Seriously

NEW YORK—Those who tuned into The Late Show With Stephen Colbert last Monday night got quite an earful—or as much of an earful as CBS's network censors would let go out over the air. Colbert was riffing off of insults that Pr*sident Trump had delivered to Face The Nation host John Dickerson during an interview, where Trump claimed that Dickerson was a practitioner of "fake news," and that he has referred to Dickerson's Sunday morning show as "Deface the Nation." Colbert, a friend of Dickerson's, took the comments rather personally. "Mr. Trump, your presidency? I love your presidency; I call it 'Disgrace the Nation,'" Colbert said. "You’re not the POTUS, you’re the BLOTUS. You’re the glutton with a button. You’re a regular 'Gorge' Washington. You’re the presi-dunce. But you’re turning into a real prictator. Sir, you attract more skinheads than free Rogaine. You have more people marching against you than cancer. You talk like a sign language gorilla who got hit in the head. In fact, the only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin’s cock holster." (The full monologue can be seen here.) Of course, thanks to CBS's ever-vigilant censors, the word "cock" never made it onto the airwaves—but that didn't stop an unknown number of people from complaining to the Federal Communications Commission about that and other language in the monologue, and although it took in a couple of days, FCC Chair Ajit Pai told radio host Rich Zeoli, "I have had a chance to see the clip now and so, as we get complaints, and we’ve gotten a number of them, we are going to take the facts that we find and we are going to apply the law as it’s been set out by the supreme court and other courts and we’ll take the appropriate action... We’ll follow the standard operating procedures, as we always do, and make sure we evaluate what the facts are and apply the law fairly and fully ... Traditionally, the agency has to decide, if it does find a violation, what the appropriate remedy should be. A fine, of some sort, is typically what we do." One might note that Pai, as head of the FCC, would already know what that law is—and know as well that it doesn't support any charges against Colbert or fines against CBS. According to the FCC's own website, the criteria for official action regarding broadcast material is as follows: "Obscene content does not have protection by the First Amendment.  For content to be ruled obscene, it must meet a three-pronged test established by the Supreme Court: It must appeal to an average person's prurient interest; depict or describe sexual conduct in a 'patently offensive' way; and, taken as a whole, lack serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value. "Indecent content portrays sexual or excretory organs or activities in a way that does not meet the three-prong test for obscenity. "Profane content includes 'grossly offensive' language that is considered a public nuisance ... "Broadcasting obscene content is prohibited by law at all times of the day. Indecent and profane content are prohibited on broadcast TV and radio between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., when there is a reasonable risk that children may be in the audience." Hence, Colbert's show, which begins airing at 11:30 p.m. Eastern and Pacific, clearly does not fall under the FCC's incredibly vague prohibitions for either indecency or profanity—and Pai should know that. So why has Pai been spouting off to the press that he'll "decide whether to take further action upon further review"? The answer is simple: Pai's remarks aren't actually directed at Colbert; they're directed at CBS, and they're meant to put the "fear of God" into the network by telling it that the Trump government, through the FCC, is watching them like a hawk, and will be ready to pounce on anything it thinks it can make a case for that goes out over CBS's airwaves. Anybody remember Janet Jackson's tit? Remember Without A Trace? One might think of this dust-up as part of the opening salvo in the Trump administration's war on free speech—and his favorite media are only too happy to back him up. "Does anyone wonder why Trump refused to attend the White House correspondents dinner?" asked religio-conservative Media Research Center heads L. Brent Bozell and Tim Graham. "This is the level of 'humor' he was expected to endure at the hands of industry leaders who despise him." "There was nothing funny about it; there was nothing clever. It was just one shallow insult after another," wrote David Limbaugh, Rush's bro, on Townhall.com, the bloated Heritage Foundation house organ. "I fail to understand the appeal of these obnoxious, mean-spirited leftist comics whose fawning, sheeplike audiences are about as discriminating as a glutton at a buffet table. They wouldn't clap more if responding to applause cards—but, in fairness, that's probably because they wouldn't be able to read them." Most right-wing pundits have yet to weigh in, though, on the case of Desiree Fairooz, a member of the CODEPINK coalition who attended the confirmation hearing of Attorney General-to-be Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III—and who burst out laughing when she heard Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) describe his state's pro-segregationist former Attorney General thusly: "Jeff’s political opponents have attacked his character with baseless and tired allegations. But, in reality, Jeff’s extensive record of treating all Americans equally under the law is clear and well-documented." "At that point, I could not hold in my chortle," Fairooz told Jezebel.com in an interview. "I just thought it was crazy. I don’t regret having laughed. At the moment, I didn’t think anything was going to happen. Then a few seconds passed and then a young officer comes over to me and she says, 'Come with me, ma’am,' and I said, 'Why? I’m going to be quiet,' and she called over other officers and she tried to physically lift me and I was refusing to go. At that point, that’s when they created disturbance by bringing over other police officers. I was charged with parading, but they paraded me. It was maddening." But on May 3, Fairooz was convicted in District of Columbia Superior Court of engaging in "disorderly or disruptive conduct" with the intent to disrupt congressional proceedings, as well as "parading, demonstrating or picketing." She faces a maximum of six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. Some jurors told Huffington Post that they hadn't in fact convicted Fairooz for laughing, but for "her behavior when asked to leave"—but since when is brief laughter during a public hearing cause for removal? So don't fool yourself: She was convicted for laughing. Score another "free speech" win for the Trump administration. And we couldn't end this article without noting another speech suppression victim: popular, long-time British comedian Stephen Fry, who's currently being investigated by the Irish police for "blasphemy," something that hasn't been a crime in most of the United States for more than a century. Seems that in an interview on the TV program The Meaning of Life, hosted by Gay Byrne, Fry, when asked what he would say if he were confronted by God, replied, "How dare you? How dare you create a world to which there is such misery that is not our fault? It’s not right, it’s utterly, utterly evil. Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid god who creates a world that is so full of injustice and pain? We have to spend our life on our knees thanking him? What kind of god would do that? The god who created this universe, if it was created by god, is quite clearly a maniac, an utter maniac, totally selfish." Fry faces a fine of up to 25,000 euros ($37,500) if convicted.  

 
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