Profanity

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The quality or state of being profane. God created our mouth to be “a well of life” (Prov. 10:11). Our language should be uncorrupt and “edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” (Eph. 4:29). The social engineers have integrated profanity into literature, movies, television, and music with the intent to to corrupt and destroy the Christian culture. In a fairly recent study (2004), only 1 in 10 of the top selling movies were rated R (Passion of the Christ), yet almost 2 out of every 3 movies produced are rated R. Hollywood is leading the cultural decay, not a direct reflection of it as they claim. Filthiness in any form is degrading and soul-destroying and should be avoided.

Language has its own ethics, and one who communicates truth, as most of those who would be reading this would be, is like a bright light in the darkness. We must nurture language like that. Chose words very carefully as certain language is an assault on the senses and spirit. It desensitizes our spirit and lessens our ability to hear the subtle promptings of and communications from God. These assaults on the senses and the messages they carry do not elevate—they pull people down.

Self-control is an effective quality that lifts anyone above the crowd; a memory of a self-controlled person will always be pleasant. We should never lower our dignity by lowering our language. We don’t ever repeat a profane comment made by someone else. The height of a man’s success is gauged by his self-mastery; the depth of his failure by his self-abandonment. There is no other limitation in either direction. And this law is the expression of eternal justice.

An Associated Press (2006) poll suggests that Americans are using and hearing profanity more often than ever before. According to the poll, nearly three fourths of poll respondents reported that they hear profanity more often than in years past and some two thirds perceive that swearing has become more prevalent in society. Scholar Timothy Jay claims that adolescents’ use of swearing increased over the prior decade, with the average youth using approximately ninety swear words per day (Glover, 2008). As Hilliard and Keith (2007, p. 117) suggest, ‘We live in what is generally regarded as a crass culture,’ and thus, must ‘expect that the media in that culture’ be equally coarse.

“We’ve always heard that Hollywood is about making money, but I think it’s really about an immoral or amoral agenda to promote lifestyles, relativism, compromise and shades of gray with no black and white,” said Michael Catt, senior pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., which produced and released the successful Christian-based films Facing the Giants, Fireproof and Courageous.

There is a force in that community,” he added, “that says more important than making $100 million is to plant seeds in the minds of young people that will take them away from Judeo-Christian ethics.” Instead of wholesome family values, today’s secular offerings smack of smut, including network television series openly promoting homosexuality, polygamy, and transexuality.

“Popular music, once a no-go zone for the slightest whiff of profanity—particularly on the radio—has become so open to colorful language that four-letter words now grace band names.”

Socrates said to a young man who was introduced to him, “Talk in order that I may see you.” (Communication of Ideas, p. 72.) We reveal ourselves with our speech. Shakespeare urged in King Lear,Mend your speech a little, lest it may mar your fortunes.” (act 1, sc. 1, line 96.) If we err, then remember the words of Confucius: “A man who has committed a mistake and doesn’t correct it is committing another mistake.”

Paul’s instruction concerning speech is so relevant to our own context it could have been written last week. “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” (Eph. 4:29). Later he adds, “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving (Eph. 5:4).

The Greek word sapros (v.29) could be translated rotten, corrupt, or putrid. It is the same word that Jesus employs in Luke 6:43 when referring to “bad fruit.” The point is this: The words of Christ’s followers should never be marked by rottenness and obscenity. Indeed, the crude four-letter-words that have become all too common in our culture should never be found on the lips of God’s children. “Filthiness” and “crude joking” have no place in our lives. Rather, as “beloved children” we are called to be “imitators of God,” emulating our Heavenly Father’s holiness in every part of our lives, not least in conversation (Eph. 5:1; I Pet. 1:14-16)

But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.” (Col. 3:8.) It also includes blasphemy, lying, deception, manipulation, boasting, exaggeration, slander, gossip, insults, mockery, complaining and other sinful kinds of speech. The third and ninth commandments speak directly to these and other sins of the tongue (Exodus 20:7, 16; c.f. WLC Q. 113, 145).

Therefore,” John Calvin states, “let us learn to abhor and shun evil language as we shun the plague, when a man’s tongue runs over with the language of the gutter” (Calvin, Sermons on Ephesians (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth, 1998; first published 1562), 462.1

Have we ever asked ourselves what is the harm or end result of swearing? Jeremiah expresses one thought about it in this way: “For because of swearing the land mourneth; the pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up.” (Jer. 23:10.)

Modern attitudes toward bad language, according to McEnery, predate the Victorian age. During the last decade of the seventeenth century (NOTE: coinciding with the rise of the Illuminati with on of its major goals to destroy Christianity), England experienced declining religiosity and increased consumption of alcohol—each of which contributed directly to the use of bad language. Meanwhile, an increasing numbers of words and phrases attained taboo status, which religious organizations deemed not only as socially unacceptable, but also immoral. Together, these conditions led to a moral panic. Subsequent efforts to reform society coincided with the rise of the middle class. In an effort to differentiate itself from lower classes, the English middle class ‘began to seek a role of moral leadership’ and, since bad language was deemed immoral, it was ‘not a signifier of middle-class status’ (p. 84). Attitudes toward bad language hardened during the Victorian age, when it was simply ‘not for public consumption’ (p. 117)

Social critics in the 1940s railed at the unchecked profanity of the returning GIs. In the ’20s they were lambasting the vogue for four-letter words among the society slummers called mucker posers, the well-bred young people who felt the need “to emulate the manners and language of the longshoreman,” as one critic put it. And so on down to the Victorians, whose sermons and statutes were full of references to public profanity.

Usage of swearing increased between 1950 and 1970 in a ‘swift and dramatic’ manner (Hughes, 1991, p. 197). Fine and Johnson (1984) suggest that the antiwar movement in the 1960s and the women’s movement of the 1970s served as catalysts for changing attitudes toward the use of profanity. College students comprised a large segment of the antiwar movement in the United States and used profane language to challenge existing mores and to cohere as a cultural and political body. Similarly, women used obscenity as a way of challenging mores that had, among other things, constrained women from using what Hughes (1991, p. 209) characterizes as the ‘language of power and assertion.’ Whereas McEnery associated the use of profanity with the disempowered, others see its emancipatory value. McCorkle (2008) characterizes restrictions on the use of profanity as a ‘linguistic loss’ (p. 61) that amounts to ‘power and control—someone else’s over you’ (p. 62).

Much of the psychological literature concerning profanity focuses on how males and females differ in their use and perception of profanity. Foote and Woodward (1973) found that men use profanity more than women and that all those who use such language claim to do so as a method of emotional release. Jay (Angier, 2005) typifies swearing as ‘a coping mechanism, a way of reducing stress’ and a ‘form of anger management,’ whereas Fine and Johnson (1984) cite anger as the top motivator for using profanity for both sexes. Although males may use profanity with greater frequency, Bate and Bowker note that women are using coarse language more than ever before.

Cohen and Saine (1977) reported that males and females learn and use profanity indifferent ways. For instance, de Klerk (1991) found a relationship between expletives and social power associated with men. Similarly, Selnow (1985) reported that males were more likely to consider the use of profanity as a demonstration of social power. Males learn at an earlier age to swear, while females perpetuate the stereotype that males swear more frequently. Females, meanwhile, judge negatively other females who swear. Hughes (1991, p. 211) notes a ‘more ‘‘liberated’’ attitude towards swearing’ among American women since the advent of the feminist movement. Risch (1987, p. 358) challenged the notion that women were ‘socially and linguistically conservative’ and Stapleton (2003) and Sutton (1995) found that swearing is an act of feminist solidarity.

Profanity in Movies and Pop Culture

Although profanity has existed throughout human history, it has lost much of its status as a taboo linguistic practice, ‘becoming more commonplace in everyday discourse as well as on network television’ (Kaye & Sapolsky, 2004a, p. 911). Language once confined to private discourse is reported being used in such public arenas as sports fields, awards shows, schools, even the United States Congress—and used in public by prominent figures, including US presidents. Think of John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, for instance. And who can forget Vice President Joe Biden’s use of the f-bomb (caught on the microphone) when he quietly congratulated President Barack Obama for signing into law the Affordable Healthcare Act. Even President Trump, who has been  stalwart for many Christian principles, uses profanity.

As Sapolsky and Kaye (2005) note, much of the increase in profanity has been attributed to the mass media, with ‘Music, films, and television … [pushing] the boundaries of expletive use’ (p. 293). Hollywood films, the concern of this study, have a deep and ‘dominant’ (Hughes, 1991, p. 198) influence on American culture, as they are not only shown in theaters but are seen by millions more on television and through video rentals (Waterman, 2005). Teenagers are among those most often exposed—they are a popular audience segment for movie makers (Stern, 2005a) because they comprise a significant and loyal portion of the movie-going public (Smith, 2005). Moreover, teens have access to movies like never before through television, DVDs, the Internet, and pay per view, and about two thirds of youth and teens place importance on seeing the most current movies (Stern, 2005a).

With teenagers representing almost 20 percent of the movie-going public—and half of them attending movies two times a month (Smith,2005)—an examination of the portrayal and prevalence of profanity in teen-targeted movies will broaden our understanding of the messages teenagers receive from the media and the potential impact of those messages on viewers’ perceptions. As Stern (2005a) notes, films ‘may play a role in defining or authenticating normative teen activities and roles for teen viewers’ (p. 331). For this young, impressionable audience, the media serve an important socializing function (Arnett, 1995), and researchers report parental concern that children will adopt coarse language as a result of media exposure (Bushman & Cantor, 2003).

Such concern is supported in part by Cultivation theory, which suggests that heavy exposure to media messages will shape one’s view of reality. Gerbner, Gross, Morgan, and Signorielli (1986) see media sources as the dominant symbolic environment for many people. According to this theory, media messages have a significant impact in shaping or‘cultivating’ people’s views of social reality. Cultivation theory is not concerned with the potential influence of a specific TV program or film, but of the patterns or aggregate messages to which groups or communities of viewers are exposed (Signorielli & Morgan,2001).

Applied to adolescents’ long-term exposure to media messages, Cultivation theory would posit a cumulative and significant effect on perceptions. The potential for teens to model coarse expressions from the media is explained in Bandura’s (1977) Social Learning theory. Bandura (1994) notes that human learning is not acquired merely through direct experience, but through observational learning, which allows changes in behavior and thoughts as a result of models observed, be they family, friends, or people viewed in the mass media.

The symbolic environment of the media can potentially exercise a strong influence on adolescents’ behaviors. Sociologists have also expressed concern that, with heavy exposure, coarse, violent, and sexualized media messages—including profanity, which is considered a form of verbal aggression—can desensitize media viewers (Griffiths & Shuckford, 1989; Martin, Anderson, & Cos, 1997). For young, impressionable viewers, this is especially true. The prevalence of profanity in the media and the ease with which such utterances can be imitated can influence the likelihood of adolescents adopting such behavior.

As the American Academy of Pediatrics (2001) puts it, ‘Children and teenagers continue to be bombarded with sexual imagery and innuendoes in programming and advertising’ (p. 423). Kaye and Sapolsky (2004a) found increased use of profanity on television, typically occurring during the 9–10 p.m. hour and in situation comedies. In addition, they found that profanity was most often spoken by lead characters and directed at other characters, and was met with either neutral or positive reactions. The researchers also reported that profanity was seldom uttered by or directed at characters under the age of 21. Haygood (2007) examined movies that have been remade and reported an increase in profanity over its use in the original film.

In response to increases in objectionable media content and in an effort to ameliorate the effects of profanity, violence, and sexual content, such practices of‘bleeping’ out offensive words and creating rating systems for television and motion pictures were implemented. A history of ratings systems for films can be found in Jowett (1990) and in Hilliard and Keith (2007). Many of the studies examine violence and sexual content in movies, including Thompson and Yokota (2004) and Leone and Houle (2006), who found evidence of ‘ratings creep,’ or an escalation of sexual or violent material for PG-13 movies.

In 1915, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld cities’ and states’ efforts to censor movies because of offensive language or sexually suggestive content. The first curse word in a movie was used in 1929, just two years into the invention of film with sound. Fast forward, Martin Scorsese’s 2013 flick, “Wolf of Wall Street,” used the f-word a whopping 528 times and 798 total swear words. How did we get to this?

Following the shocking single curse word in a 1929 film , the Motion Picture Production Code of 1930 (The Hays Code) censorship rules were formulated in 1929, presented in 1930 and were rigidly enforced by 1934. The Hays Code was in place until 1965. The Hays Code was developed in hopes of keeping the morality of the nation intact as the film industry took off. In the 1930’s and 40’s, a parent did not have to worry about the amount of violence or nudity in a film. The content was well censored and America could rest easy that the films they went to see would be wholesome, American cinema.

David O. Selznick had a difficult job in convincing Will Hays and Joseph Breen, Hays Code censors, that the words “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” be kept in ‘Gone with the Wind‘. The anti-Christian social engineers of the Frankfurt Institute and other cultural Marxist think tanks wanted to continually push the envelope towards corruption and began to use cartoons to introduce sexually and suggestive characters so the Hays Code even extended to animated cartoon movies to censor famous cartoon characters such as Betty Boop.

Through the years, though, the Hays Code disappeared and the ratings code took its place. Hollywood was tired of being censored and wanted the chance to make movies centered on not-so-wholesome themes. This caused the Motion Picture Association of America to step back and consider their options.

Through the Catholic Legion of Decency, some twenty million Catholics signed pledges condemning ‘vile and unwholesome’ movies that presented a ‘grave menace to youth, to home life, to country and to religion’ (Jowett, 1990, p. 16). Later, the Legion created a rating system that delineated movies that were ‘morally unobjectionable for general patronage,’ from those that were‘positively bad’ (p. 17). Although the ratings system was not enforceable, the church told its members which movies it could and should not see in order to avoid sin.

A negative review could condemn a film unless changes were made. “The influence of the Catholic Church on Hollywood became abundantly apparent in 1930, when the moguls of the film industry allowed Daniel Lord, a Jesuit priest, and Martin Quigley, a Catholic layman…to formulate the Motion Picture Production Code” (Phillips, 1998, p. 79). This code was created to regulate the film industry’s system of self-censorship. In 1934, American bishops started the Catholic Legion of Decency “to rate the moral suitability of movies for its Catholic constituency” (Phillips, 1998, p.79). This ratings system was also followed by non-Catholics and due to the absence of an industry rating system, studios tended to censor movies according to the Legion’s standards; the industry rating system would be created in the late 1960s. The Catholic Church, in effect, controlled the moral content of films for almost four decades.

The possible backlash of not creating a ratings system would be tremendous, but too strict a ratings code could have big-name studios knocking at its door. So in 1968, Jack Valenti, president of the MPAA, created the official ratings system of the film industry. “The emergence of the voluntary rating system filled the vacuum provided by my dismantling of the Hays Production Code. The movie industry would no longer ‘approve or disapprove’ the content of a film, but we would now see our primary task as giving advance cautionary warnings to parents so that parents could make the decision about the moviegoing of their young children” (Valenti, 2005, para. 24).

The institution of the ratings system opened the door for filmmakers. They could now include violence, nudity, profanity and sexual scenes in their films without being censored. Some filmmakers took full advantage of this, which would earn them an “X” rating back then, an NC-17 today.

The 1960s saw controversial stage plays opted as possible movies that would challenge people’s faith, values, and thinking. Racier plot lines, in-depth dialogue, and scenes never before having graced the silver screen began to make their way into the theaters. “By 1965 roughly 60 percent of the films in general release were met by some sort of local censorship action, all of it targeted at the nation’s exhibitors” (Lewis, 2002, p.127). Studios in this decade found little sympathy from censorship organizations because of their blatant disregard for the morally upright content that was preferred by those censoring. Films touched on the issues of homosexuality, infidelity, rape, and murder, among others, which had not been made a public spectacle except on stage. “Late sixties culture …was characterized by insurrection on the campus, riots in the streets, rise in women’s liberation, protest of the young, doubts about the institution of marriage, abandonment of guiding slogans, and the crumbling of social traditions” (Lewis, 2002, pp.136-137), and the movies reflected that state of affairs. Jack Valenti took over the Motion Picture Association of America in 1966 with this view in order to prove a ratings system was needed, “It would have been foolish to believe … that movies, the most creative of art forms, could have remained unaffected by the change and torment in our society” (Lewis, 2002, p. 137). The change in culture, Hollywood claimed, resulted in a change in film.

Filmmakers today still argue that it’s merely representative of society, but are films mirroring our culture or influencing it? USA Today reported that family films, with G and PG ratings, out-earned R-rated films by a margin of 5 to 1 in 2004. The only “R” film to place in the top 10 was The Passion of the Christ. As impressive as these numbers are, 63% (nearly two-thirds) of all releases in 2004 carried the “R” rating. If the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) claims that the “attitudes of their board members mirror what’s going on in society at large” (Andersen, 2004, para. 7), then our society would seem to earn an “R” rating itself. This isn’t the case, is it? Passion of the Christ remained, for at least 10 years after, the highest grossing R-rated movie of all-time, however was still considered unsuccessful by most critics. Gibson removed about 5 minutes of violence in an effort to receive a PG-13 rating but was still given the R-rating. Was this to dissuade Christians from attending?

Will Hays, first President of the MPPDA, confirms the Hollywood led erosion of morals:

It was often a case of inherited American standards—products of a Christian civilization—against alien customs variously described as ‘modern,’ ‘liberal,’ or ‘pagan.’ Hosts of Americans clung firmly to their own ideals and strongly resisted the invasion.

The 1970s followed suit and saw the continued production of films that would “reflect” the society in which they were made. Psychological portraits, cynicism, rebellion, and disenchantment seemed to be among the best sellers in film themes. These themes carried with them more intense sexual scenes, violence and profanity, which continued to push the envelope of censorship, being justified as a mirror of society.

The MPAA ratings system failed to satisfy critics, who find substantial amounts of objectionable material, including the use of profanity. Medved (1992) points to polling data that claims that foul language offends moviegoers most—more, in fact, than depictions of sex and violence. Groups such as Focus on the Family and the American Family Association have taken up the cause, widely publicizing their complaints through popular media and on the World Wide Web. Whereas broadcasters are subject to Federal Communications Commission sanctions, Hollywood’s foes must rely on the application of economic pressure.

A fairly recent study looked at profanity in teen movies. From the selection of ninety teen films there were 2,311 instances of profanity. Since the genre was teen movies, not surprisingly teens were involved in the vast majority of instances of profanity (n51,596, 69.1 percent), and adults (n5715, 31.4 percent) accounted for slightly less than one third of the total profanity used. When profanity totals were broken down by gender, profanity totals for males (n51,662, 72.2 percent) exceeded by more than double the totals for their female counterparts (n5649, 28.1 percent). When broken down by age groups, teen males (n51091, 47.1 percent) accounted for the majority of profanity used, followed by adult males (n5571, 24.7 percent), then teen females (n5505, 22.1 percent), and lastly adult females (n5144, 6.2 percent).

The first research question asks how the types of profanity in teen movies have changed over the last three decades. A two-sample chi square analysis indicated no significant difference in profanity type across the decades. The greatest differences occurred with a slight increase in the use of excretory words from the 1980s to the 2000sand a slight decrease in the seven dirty words during that time period (see Table 1).

Research question 2 asks if adult and teenage movie characters differ in the types of profanity they use. Results indicate a significant difference in the types of profanity used by adult and teen characters, x2 (4, 2,311) 564.6, p,.001. The percentages within each profanity category in Table 2 indicate how adults and teens differ in their profanity use.Mild profanity is the most prevalent among adults and teens, with the percent of adults using mild profanity considerably higher than the percent of teens. Teens are more likely to use one of the seven dirty words or strong other compared to adults.

In comparing decade means for use of mild, sexual, seven dirty, and strong other language, all differences were statistically significant. The total number of profanities in each decade (thirty films per decade) was 1,068 in the 1980s, 758 in the 1990s, and 485 in the 2000s. Although the numbers have decreased, profanity is still very prevalent in teen movies. In the current decade, the mean across all thirty movies was 16.2(SD518.3), for PG-13 movies the mean was 32.2 (SD516.8), and for PG movies the mean was 4.4 (SD55.0).

Although the use of profanity on television continues to rise (Kaye & Sapolsky, 2004a), this study provides evidence that in the realm of teen-oriented movies, the trend has been surprisingly downward. Although profanity is certainly still prevalent in teen movies (in the current decade, the mean for instances of profanity per film was 16.7, with a median of 10), especially in PG-13 films, the trend over the last three decades shows a decrease in usage across nearly all profanity types. Further, while teen movies still contain teen profanity, the decrease in usage more closely reflects levels of teen profanity usage on television, where, as previously mentioned, Kaye and Sapolsky (2004b) reported that profanity was seldom uttered by or directed at characters under the age of 21 on television.

The Family Safe Media website states that between 2005 and 2010 profanity on television increased almost 70 percent. One can only surmise how much that percentage has increased since then.

Ashley Haygood of Liberty University conducted a study to see if remade movies contained more profanity, sex, and violence and if they did then was it reflective of society? The results of this investigation demonstrated clearly that some controversial content increased over time from the original film to its remake in most of the films examined. The largest increased content area overall was profanity.

Haygood also found in the MPAA’s market snapshot for 2005, that 58 percent of the films released since 1968 have been given an “R” rating even though according to the MPAA, that category only accounts for 10 percent of the highest grossing movies from 1968 to 2005. Michael Medved’s book, “Hollywood v. America” takes the idea that filmmakers and Hollywood pushing their own agendas and worldviews on Americans even further. He discusses how Hollywood “glorifies brutality, promotes promiscuity, excuses profanity and debases the family.” It is possible, then, that filmmakers could be using their movies for propaganda purposes, so it is important for us to be aware of the content present in the films we watch.

Profanity in Literature

According to a study by San Diego State University, psychology professor Jean M. Twenge, the underlying cause of the increase in profanity is due to the cultural trend of individualism and free expression. During the study, they analyzed books from 1950 and 2008 to search for the “the seven words you can never say on television” (a list of swear words). They found there was a steady rise of a trend of those words appearing in the books. According to the study, in total, American authors used the seven words 28 times more often in the mid-2000s than the early 1950s.

Americans use swear words more often than they used to because they have become “normalized” and they’re now seen more as a way to be expressive than anything. Senior, Chloe Barnes, voiced,  “I feel that swear words have become super normal nowadays. My friends and I use swear words multiple times a day, and we don’t even really think about it anymore.”

A clue into how it has become more and more inundated in society, look at the schools which have continuously become less strict about what books their students are reading. For instance, the book ‘The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian‘ has become popular for many US teachers to assign as required reading and it contains a lot of profanity. It is rationalized because Alexie’s use of profanity is normal for an Indian reservation. While this may be true, why are we not assigning books that instill higher moral character? For the answer, read the Wickedpedia entry ‘Dumbing Down’ and ‘Education System’.

Social Effects of Profanity

Beyond the nature and use of profanity is the concern that exposure to profanity may carry negative effects. In responding to the United States’ Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decision to ban the broadcast of indecent speech because of its potential effects on young children, Donnerstein, Wilson, and Linz (1992) questioned whether there was sufficient evidence for such a regulation. They note that no studies at the time of their writing focused on the effects of children’s exposure to indecent language. The restraints on researchers to propose experimental designs that expose minors to offensive language obviously hamper researchers’ ability to test for harmful effects.

Nonetheless, Social Learning theory and Cultivation theory provide some support for possible media effects on children. In Bandura’s (1977) social learning theory, the author explains that beyond real-life models, people use media models to shape behavior. The learning they acquire from the media can endure for many years after the viewing experience (Huesmann, 1986). The possibility of media affecting children is further argued in cultivation theory, which explains that the media has a significant impact in shaping or‘cultivating’ people’s views of social reality and, when applied to children, would predict that heavy viewers of media content are more likely to be influenced by how the content depict social reality than light viewers (Gerbner et al., 1980).

Parents fear that repeated exposure to profanity, whether in school or in the media, can desensitize children. The concern with desensitization is not peculiar to profanity. According to Jay (1992, p. 14), any word that is repeated will induce desensitization. Building on Social Learning theory (Bandura, 1977) and Cultivation theory (Condry, 1989), others have suggested that the desensitizing effects of profanity eventually lead to antisocial behavior. For example, Infante, Riddle, Horvath, and Tumlin (1992) tied verbal aggressiveness to aggressive—even destructive—behavior. Further, Griffiths and Shuckford (1989) found that exposure to profanity, either through media or in everyday life, leads to a dulling of emotional responses. In some cases, viewers did not even notice the use of profanity in certain television entertainment programs.

Profanity is not Freedom of Speech!

by Connie Eccles

Many Americans think using profanity is a right built into the Constitution of America as part of the Bill of Rights. Hmmm… Let me check…

Nope… It’s not there.

Freedom of speech was not added to our Bill of Rights to excuse profanity, bad manners, libel, or outright lying. Let’s look again at Freedom of Speech. It is included as part of the First Amendment to the Constitution, also known as one of the Bill of Rights.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Our forefathers never meant “freedom of speech” to cover something as base as profanity. Their intention was to assure the future of a government “run by the people.” A government “run by the people” requires the ability to discuss and vocalize opinions about the government. A government “run by the people” requires a press willing to uncover and report truths so that corruption in the government would be discovered and would not be allowed to continue [a good idea when it works]. A government “by the people” allows people to peaceably assemble and come before the government with grievances with expectations of receiving a fair hearing and outcome.

These rights are important. They are critical in maintaining a free country. But nowhere in the Bill of Rights or the Constitution does it mention that we, as a people, have the right to be offensive and vulgar to others. If that were the case where would the offended’s rights come into play? Whose rights supercede the other’s? And what about little children, don’t they have any rights not to have filth said in their presence?

The Internet is a fascinating place, full of interesting facts and opinions. Many people enjoy visiting bulletins or message boards in hopes of finding new information they are seeking. Sometimes they run across another user expressing himself in the only way they seem to know how – with profanity. For some it doesn’t matter at all, for others it is merely an annoyance, but for a growing number – it is offensive. And they are getting tired of having their eyes and ears assaulted.

Most of these offended people are not prudes. They are not naive or innocents. They may or may not be Christian. They do accept that some people swear in the heat of anger, but they will never condone the usage of profanity in everyday language. These are people who choose not to use swear words in their own conversations and would prefer not to see or hear them either. Is that not a fair request?

There are some efforts to correct excessive profanity. If you drive through some states with an offensive bumper sticker, you could be arrested and fined. In the workplace, you could be sued for sexual harassment and at the very least will lose your job. In some states using hand gestures and swear words while driving can now get you a fine for exhibiting symptoms of ” Road Rage.” It will get you removed from many business establishments, such as restaurants, stores, movie theatres, etc. Profanity spoken by a student in a school [K-12] will result in a detention, suspension or possibly even expulsion. Our world, in numerous ways, is telling us profanity is not acceptable. So where is the problem?

The problem is we are a country of mixed messages. On one hand, we set up laws to fight profanity [as stated previously.] On the other hand, we seem to exploit profanity to attract our [somewhat rebellious] youth. How is profanity exploited? The worst offenders are the motion picture and the music industries.

How many movies have you seen recently that have not included profanity [and I’m not just talking about a word or two]? The movie industry is well aware that big bucks come out of the younger crowd. They believe that an “R” rating will increase the appeal of their movie. [And unfortunately, statistics seem to agree.] In order to achieve an “R” rating, they must include a required number of swear words or a certain degree of violence or sex; or any combination of the variables. The criteria occasionally changes. Case in point: remember back to some movie [10 or 15 years ago] that previously had an “R” rating and chances are very good that it would now carry a “PG” rating.

Truthfully, times have changed – but not for the better. For instance, when many of us were growing up there was an ultimate swear word. You know which one. The one that was saved for an extreme situation. The one word that many of us never used [and still don’t] – it was that bad. In the past, it was an indicator of an uneducated or uncouth individual, someone you wouldn’t bring home to meet your parents. Now, unfortunately, it has become the norm in many people’s conversations. Have you walked the halls of your neighborhood school recently? Or sat in the bleachers at a high school game? Or shopped in an area shopping mall? Or even gone to the public beach? Profanity is there.

Pity the youth of today. They have no ultimate word to use inextreme situations. After all, if they use this word to describe what a good day it is, how can they use they same word when they discover someone has stolen the stereo system from their car?

It is a problem that adults let happen. We should have demanded more responsibility from the movie, television and music industries. We should have demanded good movies without the sex, violence, and swearing. We should have demanded more choices besides children’s animations or “R” ratings. It can be done. Just watch a movie that was previously rated “R” when it is shown on TV without the language, sex and violence that gave it the “R” rating. One I can think of recently shown was “Broken Arrow” with John Tavolta and Christian Slater. My kids told me not to see it on video – that the swearing would ruin it for me. So I never rented it …but when I watched it on TV, it was quite interesting.

Which leads me to a few questions? Do all criminals and prisoners swear? It would appear so in the movies. Do all policemen and law enforcement personnel swear? They do in the movies. Do all college kids use foul language and get drunk? Well, they do on screen. Are all high schoolers lazy, sex-crazed, dope-addicted, alcohol- consuming, foul-mouthed, psychotic, irrespsonsible brats? According to the movie industry. Typecasting? …you bet. Irresponsible? …Absolutely!

What about our music industry? Don’t they hold any personal responsibility for the lyrics they promote? Apparently not in their eyes. Such garbage as “Kill your mother …Kill your father” is not promoting sanity in an unstable world where kids are using guns to show the world their frustrations. Commonplace in America? No – not yet, but becoming increasingly a possibility. The music industry sells our children on sex, drugs, and violence. They glorify it. And because of the misinterpretation of “Freedom of Speech” – society will have to pick up the pieces. Irresponsible? …Absolutely!

Now isn’t television a tad more subtle? Well, it was when many of us grew up. There is nothing subtle about television anymore. If television is a reflection of a realistic society – we are in big trouble. Often when a show is in its first year, it is interesting and humorous. But as time goes on, the show gets increasingly daring and outrageous. Compared to the movie industry, television is expected to tone down the violence, profanity and sex. But on television, sex is dealt with in a different way. Television promotes sex through humor. Sorry, but there is nothing funny about a promiscuous friend or relative. There is nothing funny about not remembering the name of someone you slept with. There is nothing funny about a bet on who can score the most or abstain the longest. Morality is not funny. Irresponsible? …Absolutely!

As parents and as a society, we have got to get serious about protecting the rights of the offended instead of the offenders. What are we teaching and promoting? Profanity or common decency. You decide and stand strong for your convictions. Don’t let your standards be ruled by the movie, television or music industry, where money is their motivator.

America will not be destroyed by an enemy from the outside. If we were ever attacked, our citizens would unite and defend our great country. However, if an enemy should sneak up on us and attack us from within, in subtle ways, at our very ideals, our country will not stand. And saddest of all – it will be our fault.

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