Bill To Outlaw "Fleeting" Swear Words Passes Senate Committee

Ars Technica says that a bill to give the FCC power over even”fleeting” swear words has passed a Senate committee and now moves on to the full Senate.

What’s a “fleeting” swear word? Well, say Bono says, “Hey this is f*cking great!” on live TV, or a girl wears a shirt that says, “F*ck” a certain sports team and they show her on TV. A recent court decision said that the network could not be fined if they let it slip by accidentally.

Now this new bill is aimed at closing this “loophole.”

The bill, called the “Protecting Children From Indecent Programming Act,” seeks to assert that even “a single word or image may be considered indecent.”

Ladies and gentlemen, this is how your representatives spend their time. Good thing, too. We hear that 13 children who were watching that football game killed their parents after seeing that shirt. Not really.

S. 1780 (PDF) [via Ars Technica]


Edit Your Comment

  1. roche says:

    This is bloody ridiculous.

  2. DojiStar says:

    I have one word for you.


  3. supedve says:

    That’s a FUCKING BULLSHIT law and our lawmakers should worry about balancing the budget and worrying about the real indecencies of letting this war go on and on.

    How about the lawmakers stop having sex with prostitutes and the religious leaders sexually abusing parishioners.

  4. mandawest says:

    Yeah, don’t worry about fixing the shambles we call an education system, protecting hardworking people from scams, or even looking at helping the health care system. It’s getting rid of the random curse words that my tax money needs to be spent on.

  5. faust1200 says:

    Having solved all of its other problems the U.S. clamps down on fleeting swear words.

  6. Bellor says:

    Fuck the FCC. They can suck a big, fat dick.

  7. smarty says:

    Finally! Now this is what this site is supposed to be about! A public service to our rights as citizens, humans, and consumers, not about whiny people who claim a company is racist and provide absolutely no proof.

  8. Can we replace the FCC with the BBC? Perhaps then there would be some truly decent programming.

  9. Havok154 says:

    Fuck this.

  10. Shutterman says:

    Well, it’s not like there’s a war going on for Congress to deal with…

  11. JayXJ says:

    Great!!!! My govenrment protects me from secondhand smoke, trans fat, and ‘fleeting’ swear words. Glad they’re focusing on this sort of thing, rather than say street crime, illegal immigration, or stiffer DUI laws. If seeing the word “fuck” in print seriously screws up your child you are not doing your job as a parent.

  12. homerjay says:

    @DojiStar: Ummm….. nevermind.

    You probably already know.

  13. nequam says:

    This bill still needs to be passed in the Senate . . . and then passed in the House. This is not the end of the story. Anyone have any insight into the likelihood of this thing becoming law?

  14. yasth says:


    Generally most bills that pass committee pass in the Senate unless some people get hardline on opposition. There is effectively no time for debate once it is out of committee so…

    This is a hard to vote against as it will be pushed as “Senator X voted to allow vicious vile words on tv in front of our children.”

  15. LuvJones says:

    How about they pass some better laws to protect children for perverts and abusive parents!!! What a fucking joke!

  16. LuvJones says:

    *for perverts* should read FROM PERVERTS

  17. brokennails says:

    Fuck the children. I grew up with a Raiders-fan dad, so I knew every swear word that existed before I was 5. It wasn’t the TV, it was the person watching the TV. And I turned out just fucking fine.

  18. mrmysterious says:

    I have a degree in Political Science and I can’t even understand what the hell our representatives really do.

  19. Dewgrl says:

    Why are they so worried about some one dropping the “F” bomb, yet no one worries at all about the bombs blowing up soldiers and civilians in Iraq?

  20. FromThisSoil says:

    Don’t we have more important issues at stake right now?

    Get a grip.

  21. Thrust says:

    Shameless unsponsored plug time

    Exercise your rights to free expression and speech with great shirts like “Donkeyshow, Support the Fine Arts…, OB-GYN Kenobi, Snuff Film, uSheep, I’m Doing God’s work…, [Picture of a horse hanging in a noose], For English Press 1…, Sponsored by the letter E, White Flour, Swallow or it’s going in your eye, I’m just in it for the parking, If there’s grass on the field…, and Spock Blocker”.

    Though they pulled the Worse than Hell line which had my favorites… Like “I Fucked the Girl In Hanson, School Shootings Tour 1996-2003, Abortions Tickle, May the Horse Be With You, Management is not responsible for lost or stolen virginity, I got kicked out of school for wearing this fucking t-shirt, Touched by an Uncle, Suicide Bomber, I came on Eileen, SisterFister, Gone Fisting, I think therefore I’m single, [Johndeere hat] My Dad can beat up your Mom, If Pigs could fly I’d be a Flying Pig Fucker, Rape is no laughing matter – unless you’re raping a clown, Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful – hate me because I fucked your dad, I don’t hate you because you’re black – I hate you because I’m white, I read to the deaf [with braile underneath], I bought Christopher Reeves’ wheelchair on Ebay, 1f u c4n r34d th1s u r34lly n33d t0 g37 l41d”… Just to name a small few.

  22. Thrust says:

    Oh and no I have no connection with TShirt hell, I just love their shit. Though the suicide bomber one probably won’t go over well at the airport…

  23. Kaien says:

    Silly, the more they “fear” the word the more damaging it becomes and the more confused a child gets as they attempt to understand why a word can be “bad”.
    They are more likely to pick up the word from their classmates than TV. I heard the word around the age of 5 but was “scared” into never using it until I became semi rebellious during 5th grade.
    I see more children using the word though, since its “bad” and they want to rebel during the teen years, it is likely they’ll use the word even if they never saw it on TV.
    You look at hilarious channels and find things blurred out or hearing meaningless words like “shit” get beeped out. I don’t mind fuck being censored though, it makes it hilarious to me for some reason.
    Meh, tough luck for the networks.

    @ Brokennails
    I’m impressed you knew each word by 5. I still can’t remember a certain word that began with a B and had about 13 characters in it.

  24. TechnoDestructo says:


    Don’t you get it, those are all symptoms of MORAL DECAY, and stamping out dirty words is the first step in combating MORAL DECAY. You can’t get rid of whoremongering politicians and kiddy-diddling priests without getting rid of swear words!

  25. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    How about protection for the average citizen when our government decides to FUCK THE CONSTITUTION!! (and the Bill of Rights)?

  26. dbeahn says:

    @DojiStar: Why does it not surprise me that someone that posts that “first amendment” is one word doesn’t understand that amendment well enough to know it doesn’t apply here?


    Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. With the education system in a shambles, it comes as no surprise that so many Americans are quite happy to skip down the merry path of decline and fall.

  27. frogman31680 says:

    Why don’t parents teach their kids that these words are usually worn or said in public by imature ignorant people that have no respect for others.

    Maybe it’s the parent in me but I hate when your in public and there are a group of people swearing left and right.

    BUT ON THE OTHER HAND… how can a network expect to correct that many people. I work at a major market television station and we air a 4 day music event every summer and we air it LIVE. One year the act made a very offensive comment to the crowd and there was no way to bleep out all the drunken curse words that flew out.

    Truth is, there is no way. Most times, a network is under contract. But my question is this. If your an NBC affiliate and you air the girl in the picture above, does the FCC fine just NBC or does each affiliate have to pay? We’re under contract and we have to air it. So does this law trickle down and screw everybody?

    Stories like this just piss me off.

  28. notebook says:

    Uh, free Speech?
    And, MTV is worse then any ‘accidental’ curse word that ends up in TV.

    Also, it’s WONDERFUL to know THIS is how our lawmakers and memberes of congress spend thier day.
    /sarcasm/ D<

  29. Trai_Dep says:

    If they catch Cheney saying, “major league asshole” or “go fuck yourself” live, then it’s the broadcaster’s fault?

    I’m for this bill if they add an amendment that allows total confinscation of all family (not just individual) assets for any House or Senate member that ever does anything involving minors, diapers, adultry, illegal prostitution or drugs and bribery.

    So long as they’re cleaning up. let them start with themselves.

  30. banned says:

    Doesn’t anybody get it yet!? This government could care less about things like the constitution, human rights, etc. They circumvent the law absolutely every chance they get and why? Because nobody does anything to stop them. Why are they all not impeached yet?

  31. dukrous says:

    The First Amendment does not play at all into this. These are public broadcasts that are regulated by a public body. In this case, Congress is acting with the idea that they are protecting the public. This is the same reason why you do not have the right to yell “Fire!” in a theater.

    The First Amendment has always been second to the public good. That’s one reason why it’s in a separate document…it cannot act as a roadblock to Constitutional powers held by legislative, executive, and judicial bodies when acting on the public’s behalf.

  32. The HZA. says:

    @segfault: Yes, I am with you on that one.

    In the meanwhile, “Hey FCC? Fuck your birthday.”

  33. gtr225 says:

    Last time I checked there are still people in this country who lack health care and also people who are going to bed hungry tonight. I’m no expert on these matters but I would certainly think the kid who’s starving and sick would benefit more from a doctor and a nice hot meal then banning curse words from TV.

  34. alhypo says:

    Finally, all our problems are solved. This will surely eliminate gang violence, put an end to poverty, and stop global warming in its tracks.

    Hurray for our clearly adept government!

  35. Christopher says:

    If someone is so fucking worried about their children hearing a “fleeting” swearword on television, they should just not let them watch TV. In fact, if they’re that worried, they shouldn’t let them listen to the radio either… or use the internet. In fact, they should pull them out of school, in case another student says a swear. They should avoid all public spaces, too, just in case someone lets one slip. Actually, to be a good parent, they should lock them in the house at all times, and sound proof the walls, in case someone drives by with swear words blasting on their car stereo.

    That’s the best way to raise a functioning adult… shelter them from every thing!

    You’d think with how large the major networks are they’d have lobbyists in congress fighting bills like this. If this bill passes, it only gives more reason for us consenting adults to subscribe to HBO/Showtime/etc and never watch network television again.

  36. emax4 says:

    I kind of agree with this. Kids learn swear words eventually, but why start the bad habits early? Someday they’ll swear at one of your relatives or someone you’re trying to impress, and the other person might et offended, then who’s at fault? You can’t blame that on the first amendment!

    I don’t use swear words that often myself, nor do I listen to music that has swear words in it. Yeah there are a few songs that I like that might use them, but I wouldn’t play them around my girlfriend’s 9-year old son either. He’s already learned the F-word from a troublesome neighbor anyway, (and got in a lot of trouble for saying it). But wouldn’t it be inhibiting bad behavior if you never pointed out that swearing is inappropriate?

    Those who cower behind the First Amendment, let me say that I’d bet you change your mind if I advertised your Consumerist screenname and email addresses on a shirt saying that “(Insert person’s name) is a child molester” followed by your information. Surely you wouldn’t want THAT. I’m not right, but that is just my opinion

  37. Christopher says:

    Before trying to asserting your straw-man argument, please look up “slander’ in the dictionary. It has no bearing on this discussion, and your “example” is, therefore, meaningless.

  38. mrwok says:

    Why is it necessary to wear a shirt with a curse on it? Whatever happened to decency? I don’t think federal government action is necessary, but why would anyone defend these morons who have no class?

  39. royal72 says:

    “Protecting Children From Indecent Programming Act,”

    (a) fuck you

    (b) feel free to pass whatever bullshit bill you like you cunt pumps, because it doesn’t make a shit bit of difference.

    (c) i’m very happy to protect my own child from your useless standards of decency.

    (d) when you stop showing fox news at 11 commercials,

    “local police officer shot point blank in the face.”

    with grainy footage of the event during prime time tv… maybe then, you can speak for me and legislate what’s decent.

  40. Michael says:


    Since the relationship between the signifier (the word) and the signified (its meaning) is arbitrary, the force of profanity is communally mediated and ascribed, not inherent in the power of the word itself. Words aren’t magical talismans. Moralists just don’t understand this, for some reason, and resort to censoring the mostly Germanic profanity from our language, while failing to realise that they’re just synonyms for Latinate and French cognates (pudendum, coitus, etc.).

    But to get a congressman to respond to this would be to ask him to use a word that has more than two syllables. And I doubt that will happen anytime soon.

  41. MommaJ says:

    Apparently the bill was introduced by Senators Rockefeller, Stevens, Pryor and Inouye, so Consumerists in West Virginia, Alaska, Arkansas and Hawaii–have at ’em! I expect nothing less from Ted Stevens, but Rockefeller and Inouye are Democrats and…oh, never mind, I’m too old to be disillusioned.

  42. mconfoy says:

    God will strike all you heathens down for your foul mouth sins. Repent sinners, repent. We are a god fearing nation, not a godless nation. Amen.

  43. TechnoDestructo says:


    “The First Amendment does not play at all into this. These are public broadcasts that are regulated by a public body. In this case, Congress is acting with the idea that they are protecting the public. This is the same reason why you do not have the right to yell “Fire!” in a theater.”

    I don’t think you understand that example. Actually, I’m positive you don’t.

    You can’t engage in speech which will cause clear and imminent harm. Saying “awww, fuck!” will not. Setting off a panicked stampede of people will.

    “The First Amendment has always been second to the public good. That’s one reason why it’s in a separate document…it cannot act as a roadblock to Constitutional powers held by legislative, executive, and judicial bodies when acting on the public’s behalf.”

    Uh, that is precisely what it’s for. In the barest, most minimal, narrowest interpretation, is is precisely for the purpose of restraining Congress. “Congress shall make no law…”

    Christ, I hope you aren’t allowed to vote.

  44. HawkWolf says:

    can someone give me a good, reasonable, short explanation of why it is bad for children under the age of X years to hear profanity or see boobies?

    I’m dead serious.

  45. G-Dog says:

    Ehem… “shit”


  46. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    @HawkWolf: Because Pat Buchanan and the rest of the religious right think that it is so.

    And ‘decency’ rules will always look good to your typical scumbag politician…how can standing up for decency be bad?

    WAKE UP FOLKS…if Big Brother bans them from TV, next you’ll be arrested walking down the street with your ‘obscene’ shirts. And don’t delude yourself into thinking they’ll stop with George Carlin’s ‘seven words’…

  47. Rusted says:

    I’m not responsible for parenting other people’s kids. Stupid law.

  48. mac-phisto says:

    wow. well, it looks like ted kennedy doesn’t get anymore face time on c-span.

  49. bongoherbert says:

    So, any reason you censored ‘Fuck’? Or are you afraid of being fined / sued / causing children to kill their parents?

  50. Trick says:

    Great, first the Democrats fixed the war, the economy and impeached Bush, now they finally have time to fix all the pee-pee and caa-caa words on TV.

  51. junkmail says:

    “Take away the right to say ‘fuck’, and you take away the right to say ‘fuck the government’.”
    Lenny Bruce

    That being said, I do agree with Frogman31680, swear words are a crutch for the ignorant and those with a weak vocabulary.

  52. not_seth_brundle says:

    I think this bill is bullshit and all, but do people really believe that Congress should do nothing else but deal with the biggest issues? If they had to wait until the war was over, poverty was eradicated and the criminal justice system was completely reformed before tackling anything else, that would be a big problem, no?

  53. banned says:

    I absolutely can. Most industrialized nations allow nudity and swearing on tv, and those nations have lower crime and violence rates, lower sex offences, and don’t have chilrdern running around swearing and playing doctor. You see, if we can teach our kids that swear words are for people too lazy to use the right words, and nudity is a natural body state not to be embarrassed by, then our kids will be fine in the end.

  54. banned says:

    n/m misread your question grrr.

  55. purkinje says:

    Bunch of asshats. No wonder they’re polling at 14%. This batch is even worse than the last ones, and we thought those were the worst ever.

  56. backbroken says:

    Even though I can’t afford health insurance for my kid…

    Even though I had to take half of my vacation days last year because his school closed for a week after it was discovered that the drinking water wasn’t safe…

    I can finally sleep at night knowing that he won’t hear anyone say “fuck” on a tv show that airs 2 hours after his bedtime.

    Thank you purveyors of common sense, thank you!

  57. WhatsMyNameAgain says:

    Fuck Da Elephants!

  58. @HawkWolf: As a general thing, to protect children from some of the coarseness of the adult world until they’re old enough to process it. And it’s very much about context — bare breasts on a nude beach is very different from “naked boobies” on a billboard or whatever. A brief profanity when hitting one’s thumb with a hammer is very different from knowing only one fucking adjective for all fucking uses.

    (As a secondary thing, because any 3-year-old exposed to the word “shit” is ABSOLUTELY going to go repeat that in front of your in-laws. It’s just the way the universe works.)

    But, you know, turn off the TV and otherwise control your child’s exposure to coarseness. It’s one thing to expect people not to spout screaming profanities on a public thoroughfare, TVs can be TURNED OFF. (And nobody’s MAKING you go to Hooters, dude with the 4-year-old who wants the guys at the next table to stop talking about chicks in a vulgar fashion!)

  59. insert “but” between “thoroughfare,” and “TVs” in that last paragraph. :P

  60. floofy says:

    I don’t think stopping on “fleeting” swear word is going to make any difference. To make a difference, they need to stop all swear words on tv, including hell, damn, and bitch which are still heard regularly on any station. In addition, why not work on the ubiquitous sexual innuendos and sex scenes? It is ridiculous to have to change the channel during the Simpsons due to language. I guess that is what America calls “entertainment.”

  61. gtr225 says:

    @CBragg: Network TV is going down the same path as terrestrial radio. This small group of losers goes on about how they want their kids protected, however uncensored shows on premium channels and satellite radio are gaining popularity each passing day. It seems that senators are listening to a very tiny minority that just keeps going on about swear words.

  62. Thrust says:

    Jesus christ on a pogo-ball, I sleep in a couple hours and look how much there is to catch up on…

    @Kaien: VERY true, censorship can actually be funnier than having the swear, but it’s all about tease. Fuck is funnier than ****, F*** is funnier still, and F**K the best of em all. And for people who think I’ve lost it, F**k is when you hear them start with the Fh, and you definitely hear the Kh at the end, with a short beep. Much funnier than just a long beep.

    @TechnoDestructo: You better be joking/sarcastic about Moral Decay, because the Christian/Catholic/Judaic ideology of morals is an out-dated bad joke which they’d better stop cramming down everyone’s throat. All organized religion must be abolished because religion is freedom’s antithesis, and I for one choose Freedom over the concept of an imperfect god who cannot be pleased.

    @frogman31680: There are many, MANY reasons people wear crude shirts. Some people like to get a rise out of others, some live to offend, some are just crazy or stupid. More often, it is to rebel against an authority, express themselves, to fit in, or to stand out. Personally, I’d wear a really offensive shirt because I personally find something about it funny, and if someone else doesn’t like my sense of humor I don’t care. You can’t narrow it down to someone’s upbringing because for every one person that IS the reason for, there is another who wears it AGAINST their upbringing, and five million others with totally unrelated reasons.

    @rocnrule: America is in the state it’s in because Americans as a whole, have become pussies. I’m not trying to slander the US (at least, not right now), Canada is the same for the most part. We are all a bunch of whiny, sniveling pussies who can’t stand up for ourselves. People say el Presidente’ Bush is the problem, but the president is ONE MAN. Even as retarded as GW Shrub is, he can’t be the source of all problems because he’s one person, one stupid redneck Texan hick retard. The problem is that the American people haven’t stood up for their rights, and the less they defend them, the more those rights get stomped on. You can’t defend your rights by doing nothing. Get vocal, get violent, I don’t care, but do SOMETHING. If the government passes a law that is against the interests of the people, it is the duty OF the people force them to appeal the law, or remove the government.

    Now as many of you mentioned, the censorship of vulgarity on TV does not fall to the government, it’s civilian run. What you the people need to do is oust the religious FUCKTARDS who are forcing their moral viewpoints on TV. Organizations like the MPAA, ERSB, etc have always forced the pro-christian pro-catholic ideology on the entire USA through comics, movies, TV. These are the fuckers you need to deal with. Why do they even still exist since you supposedly have freedom to choose your own religeons.

  63. Angiol says:

    @Thrust: I think TechnoDestructo was being sarcastic in that post.

  64. frogman31680 says:


    You make a good point, one that I hadn’t thought of. But here is what I meant by that point. The times that I ran into it was from people between the ages of 10 to 18. That time where every other word is four letters and begins with F. I’m not against saying it. Not in the least. If your at a sporting event and the ref makes a bad call, by all means. But just hanging out at the mall and saying it 5 times in one sentence to make you look cool, makes people look like an idiot.

    As for T-Shirts, I aimed my comments for the people that have walked up to me and HAD to make sure my attention was on their shirt. If I notice, good for you. If I don’t, I HATE when people feel like I should have.

    I also feel like there are good times to be offensive and times where it makes one look like the idiot in the crowd.

  65. nhoj1962 says:

    Guess I’ll have to start wearing my, “Thank F__king God for Senator Durbin” t-shirt under my Sox jersey, and take off my Sox jersey once I make it to my 8th row seat.

  66. BadDolphin says:

    Typical of Republicans. They’re a far greater threat to our freedoms than a bunch of Saudis with box cutters. And they should be dealt with accordingly.

  67. nysports says:

    Why are we so prude? Why, why, why, why, why? It just stinks that our government has this notion that these things matter. It’s a few loud uptight people who make the government thing that they do.

  68. toddkravos says:

    Department of Morality: +12
    American Citizens : -4

  69. axiomatic says:

    Amerika the prude!

  70. Trick says:


    Typical of Republicans. They’re a far greater threat to our freedoms than a bunch of Saudis with box cutters. And they should be dealt with accordingly.

    Great, another partisan bonehead who thinks there is a difference between the idiots with (D) or (R) before their name.

    You are even more of a partisan bonehead because if you had actually read the article, you would have seen what letter was before the idiot who sponsored this bill.

  71. Timbojones says:

    I don’t understand why the FCC insists on giving these words so much power. Prohibition raises the value of the prohibited and vilifies the margins of the culture, no matter which idea or substance is banned.