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7 Words You Can’t Say in Campaign 2008

Holy #$%@! Do you mean we can't say *$@#! when talking about Obama's record or %&#$! if we want to discuss attacks on McCain?

by
Bridget Johnson

Bio

June 29, 2008 - 9:13 am

So here’s my common ground with the late George Carlin: Besides heartily affirming his treatise on “stuff,” I think the Federal Communications Commission is pretty useless. Or at least utterly humorous, given the June 2007 press release in which FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, bemoaning a 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that sided with Cher and Nicole Richie’s on-air verbal malfunctions, dropped the F-bomb four times and the S-bomb three times.

In fact, Carlin even got a cameo in Martin’s rant: “In the 1978 Pacifica case, the Supreme Court affirmed the Commission’s finding that the broadcast of comedian George Carlin’s monologue about the ‘seven dirty words you can’t say on TV and radio’ was indecent,” Martin wrote in one of the non-swearing paragraphs. “In the case before the court today, the Commission was restricting only the use of two of those seven words.”

Like Carlin, I’ve wondered who decided that, out of all the words in the English language, these are the chosen dirty few. I’ve wondered why using technical language to describe dirty acts is permitted but the shorthanded jargon is markedly more offensive. I’ve wondered why, if these words are so destructive, they’re in the dictionary, which comes with no R-rating or parental warning (don’t get any ideas, Martin). I’ve wondered if the superior nature of HBO and Showtime series has anything to do with their freedom to curse. I think too much, dammit.

But like those seven dirty words you can’t say on TV — including the FCC chairman’s top picks — the culture of political correctness is swallowing more and more of our “acceptable” lexicon. Especially in this oh-so-sensitive campaign season, consider the “Seven Dirty Words You Can’t Say in Campaign 2008″: Pundits and voters alike, beware the rap of the Politically Correct Commission!

  • Swift boat: If you split the compound term, the words are completely innocuous. Swift is always good, especially in L.A. traffic. Boat brings about pleasant thoughts of sailing along the ocean blue. Until Somali pirates come aboard, of course. Swift boats are good, because they get you to your destination on time. But Swift boat ought not to be uttered in conjunction with Campaign 2008. People start to twitch. John Kerry turns shades of scarlet. Liberals sing of dirty tactics and stolen election. And now, it doesn’t even have to do with a boat. Bring up dirt from the past? Aw, man, you Swift boated me! Who cares if you never even served on one?
  • Reverend: It’s good to revere and be revered. Didn’t Machiavelli say something like that? But in Campaign 2008, the holy man isn’t coming ’round to bless your house. If he baptized your kids, before or after the anti-American rant, you’d better find an electoral confessional. It’ll taint you by pew association. Then your Pew numbers will plummet. Then the requiem for your political career. Oh, lordy Lord. Soon to be replaced by the word “Bible.” Presidential hopefuls trying to be theologians. And doing a bad job.
  • Experience: Jimi Hendrix once asked if you were experienced. Not necessarily stoned, but beautiful. The campaign connotation isn’t quite so colorful. It’s just about experience, man. Do you press the button or not? Pakistani invasion? Why not? Who’s the president of Russia? Who said voters shouldn’t give you a learner’s permit for running the country?
  • Present: Not the good kind of present. Not the one wrapped in a bow or slammed onto a gift card. It’s the kind of noncommittal vote – the non-vote that only serves to confirm one’s existence on this Earth, or to denote that you’re simply a seat-warmer in the state Senate. With big ambitions. Big, big, big ambitions. So just don’t vote. Don’t leave a paper trail, a shiny ribbon of proof of what your views really are. Just vote present. Nobody will ever know the difference. They’ll just think you were too busy. Your mind was too occupied with all the cool votes you actually plan to cast in the future. Really.
  • Hussein: Both of ‘em. Not allowed to say Barack Obama’s middle name. It’s kinda Muslimish sounding. And you wouldn’t wanna do that. Because he goes to that church with the “God damn America” guy. Shouldn’t that make you feel better? And mentioning the other Hussein is just as taboo. You know, Saddam. Can’t remind anti-war voters that Saddam Hussein was bad. Really, really bad. Genocidal bad. Just keep cramming that being “present” – eek! – in Iraq for 100 years thing down voters’ throats. With no correct context.
  • Financing: Buying a car? Nope. Buying a home? Nada. Buying an election? Of course! Just don’t utter that F-bomb. Yeah, the guy said he’d take public financing if his opponent did. His opponent did. And now, Mr. Moneybags isn’t. What, can’t a guy change his mind? Especially when it suits him? Egads, I went and said the C-word there. You know which one.
  • Change: Not loose change. Not climate change. Mysterious change, like Marky Mark and his Funky Bunch running from the wind through the willows in The Happening. Good change is like morning in America. Bad change sucks. It’s the word that sounds all juicy and hopeful, but can be a bigger letdown than the fourth Indiana Jones. The PCC chastises the chastising of candidates who liberally use this word without any explanation. Just feel good, man. And be present for that financing juggernaut.

Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.
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