Losing the war

Increasing acquiescence to vulgarity is degrading our culture

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Many people believe we are fighting a culture war in America, in which our arts, entertainment and public discourse are being incrementally dragged into the sewer.

If so, a significant battle in that war to retain dignity, wholesomeness and civility has been lost this week – with the advent of a purposely vulgar new show on, of all networks, CNN, called Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.

In prime time. On supposedly America’s most trusted name in news.

You can almost hear the network’s ratings-desperate producers’ thoughts – “Let’s push the envelope, let’s be edgy, let’s go where news programming hasn’t gone before” – as one vulgarity after another reaches America’s living rooms.

Several “F” bombs are censored, but that’s the only thing that is. Other profanity isn’t just allowed, it’s premeditated: Host Bourdain, in prewritten, prerecorded voice-overs, uses the “S” word. One gets the impression that he brings up one subject – the Rodney King beating – primarily so he can describe his profane memory of it.

This is from a food and travel personality.

The inaugural show Sunday seemed built around celebrating the bad behavior of Koreans in America. Now, that is a story angle you do have to seek out. And, of course, it makes for some edgy commentary by the subjects of the documentary: At one point, after describing a Korean dumpling as a scatalogical body part, several Koreans regale Bourdain with a description of a highly personal – what, prank? – that’s described as “like opening up an umbrella inside someone.”

Certainly, CNN is scratching and clawing for viewers and ratings, even as it offends and repulses most conservative Americans with its transparent contempt for them and their values. But this is a new and alarming escalation in the degradation of American culture.

If you think unconcealed profanity and open vulgarity in a culture is no big deal, we beg to differ. And in increasing instances, science does as well.

A 2011 study detailed in the journal Pediatrics shows a correlation in children between swearing and aggressive behaviors.

Intrinsically, we also know that such swearing connotes a lack of respect for oneself and for the subject of the swearing, be it a person, object or circumstance.

We also inherently know that a coarsening of our language cannot help but be accompanied by a debasing of the society in general.

It’s getting much worse, much more quickly than we might have imagined, too: In a 2010 report exquisitely titled “Habitat for Profanity,” the Parents Television Council reported a nearly 70 percent uptick in profanity on broadcast prime-time shows from 2005 to 2010. Use of the thinly veiled “F” word rose an astonishing 2,409 percent.

Of course, profanity is only one diagnostic tool to detect an ailing culture. Subject matters and situations in television shows and movies have become as sordid as the language, if not more so.

The trouble with such degradation is that, not only does it drag the culture into the sewer, but it feeds on itself: Once a particular word or depiction loses its ability to shock, more outrageous ones must be found to obtain a similar titillation.

“When swearing becomes simply reflexive and ubiquitous – as it is today – those words cease to have much power or meaning,” former Nickelodeon executive Anne Kreamer writes at the Harvard Business Review.

Repeated swearing also is a sign of a lazy mind – or perhaps one devoid of more appropriate words which, quite often, can be even more colorful. Keeping erudite language within reach requires thought, sophistication and effort, however.

We do wish more people would purchase a thesaurus – and buy less of the mental junk food the culture is peddling.

That there’s a culture war on seems increasingly evident.

That man’s better nature is losing that war is too.

Comments (14) Add comment
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Jon Lester
2297
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Jon Lester 04/23/13 - 02:32 am
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8
You can see dramatized autopsies on TV every day,

through broadcast and basic cable channels, yet those same outlets can't let out a handful of words, or expose healthy bodies. What's moral about that?

deestafford
27412
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deestafford 04/23/13 - 05:02 am
11
7
There is a total lack of class in public discourse today and it

began with Lenny Bruce in the 60s and has slouched toward Sodom ever since. The left believes that anything one can say and do in private should also be allowed in public because "that is real life". I have heard all my life that the use of profanity is a sign of a limited vocabulary. Verbal communication today is atrocious in most people not only from their use of profanity but to the use of verbal pauses such as "like"multiple times in a sentence.

Ladies and females used to be treated with respect and that includes not using vulgarity and profanity in the presence of them. But now thanks to the feminist movement and the idea that everything is "equal" not only is profanity by males acceptable language, it is also used by females in open public.

There are some of us men who still hold women is high enough regard and with enough respect that we still do not use either profanity or vulgar language around ladies. I would never use either around my wife or daughters nor would I accept it by anyone else.

Bodhisattva
6137
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Bodhisattva 04/23/13 - 07:34 am
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12
Evidently 24 hour news

Evidently 24 hour news channels should be reserved for sensationalizing murder cases like JonBenet Ramsey, Natalee Holloway, and Chandra Levy, and go into 24/7 coverage mode for the cases. They need to examine these cases from all side, bring in all manner of experts, relatives, people who sat beside the victims in kindergarten, and in the latter case, essentially try the case on television to indict and convict the person right there on the tube. Thanks to Fox's fine investigative work they went where the police didn't and worked the nation into a frenzy over the guilt of the wrong man. I'll take an occasional bleeped word over that drek any day.

soapy_725
43676
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soapy_725 04/23/13 - 07:33 am
0
0
You cannot win this arguement in a Jerry Springer
Unpublished

courtroom. White trash television sells and sells big. It gives the black community something to laugh about. It gives the black community someone to whom they can feel superior. The white trash don't know the are white trash, so they are laughing as well.

Move the nation to the lowest common denominator. Street dog animals.

Humble Angela
41338
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Humble Angela 04/23/13 - 08:25 am
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"Thanks to Fox's fine
Unpublished

"Thanks to Fox's fine investigative work they went where the police didn't and worked the nation into a frenzy over the guilt of the wrong man."

Oh really. Care to back that statement up with facts? Frenzy? Please........

ymnbde
9696
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ymnbde 04/23/13 - 08:49 am
8
4
food, shelter, clothing, and Jerry Springer

who needs education?
all the authority of heaven and earth
dismembering the culture
since the 1960's

karradur
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karradur 04/23/13 - 08:58 am
8
6
I notice...

...that the Chronicle makes no mention of Boston Red Sox player David Ortiz's use of the "f-word" on national television before the game on Saturday.

Or FCC chariman Julius Genachowski's statement on Twitter that he supported Ortiz.

I guess the Chronicle is okay with swearing as long as it's about America.

David Parker
7923
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David Parker 04/23/13 - 10:37 am
5
4
Somewhere Tipper Gore is

Somewhere Tipper Gore is smiling.

The "Age of Info" is what it is, you can't have it your way like the BK. Get all bent-up about shock TV, violence, murder dramas, and war coverage BEFORE you go after the potty mouths. It makes you appear more intelligent and sincere about making a positive change. If you are more offended by the word F, than you are about the hourly broadcasts of dramatized and actual murder/crime scene images, you are just different than me.

and lay off Anthony!

Bodhisattva
6137
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Bodhisattva 04/23/13 - 11:34 am
5
4
Back up with facts?

Since the three events I referenced occurred in 1996, 2001, and 2005, I guess you were a tad on the young side. All of the media went into overdrive but Fox went into a 24/7 tabloid frenzy for all three stories. You couldn't tune in without the story being on. Once they found out that Democratic Congressman Gary Condit had an affair with her he obviously murdered her and dumped the body. They were big on speculation and short on facts. Others followed but Fox left them in the dust. It's easy to look this stuff up. I fact check a lot of stuff other folks post. You can't expect people to post a source for everything they write, especially when it's coming from their knowledge base and not something they looked up.

grouse
1635
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grouse 04/23/13 - 11:52 am
0
0
So, Chronicle, why are you
Unpublished

So, Chronicle, why are you watching? Civility ended with the three-hour rants of the likes of Rush Limbaugh and the hate-filled Fox news.

dichotomy
32717
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dichotomy 04/23/13 - 12:06 pm
7
1
As our failed education

As our failed education system produces the third and fourth generation of poorly educated, poorly disciplined, self-centered, disrespectful adults it is not to be unexpected that those with a limited vocabulary use the F-bomb as their only available adjective and adverb.

rmwhitley
5547
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rmwhitley 04/23/13 - 12:10 pm
0
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If your main
Unpublished

source of information comes from: abc, cbs, cnbc, cnn, hln, msnbc, nbc, own, or aljazeera's ownership of current t.v. and al gore, you might be a lefty sympathizer who does not believe in "fair and balanced" news. The above mentioned networks are overtly biased in their "reporting". They remind me of the huffington post, national enquirer and the globe.

burninater
9580
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burninater 04/23/13 - 01:11 pm
1
2
I can almost remember when

I can almost remember when pottypants was a horrible, horrible word.

Then again, children have always been hypersensitive to the sound of a dirty word.

specsta
6505
Points
specsta 04/23/13 - 01:20 pm
4
5
Word Power

What exactly is the point of giving an expletive so much weight? Will an F-word destroy society? Will the utterance of the S-word topple us like a house of cards?

If someone were cursing you out in another language that you did not understand, would you still be offended? How could you be, since you don't understand what they are saying? If that's the case, the power of an expletive is only related to the level of offense in the person hearing it. That's it.

Folks are offended by all sorts of words. But what's the point? Why be offended? Do those words have power or are you giving those words that power?

Instead of expressing outrage and shock over a word, why not express outrage and shock over real atrocities that actually do dismantle our humanity in society, like the acceptance of violence and the ever-present gun culture in America. Atrocities like the torture of prisoners in Guantanamo, the millions of hungry and homeless, the fact that people are locked up for drug possession and have property confiscated by the government - while Wall Street bankers responsible for countless Americans losing their homes just prop their feet up on a desk and light a fresh Cohiba.

Cursing would seem to be at the lower end of the pole in terms of issues that we face. Like Redd Foxx said - " You don't curse? Then meet me outside and let me slam my car door on your hand!".

Humble Angela
41338
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Humble Angela 04/23/13 - 01:42 pm
5
5
Bodhisattva
Unpublished

Again.... YOU saying something is true, does not make it true.

"All of the media went into overdrive but Fox went into a 24/7 tabloid frenzy for all three stories. You couldn't tune in without the story being on."

Please back up YOUR accusation with verifiable facts. It is YOUR job to back up accusations when YOU make them. No one says you have to give references to everything you say, but when what you say simply is not true, it would be good if you at least tried.

Humble Angela
41338
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Humble Angela 04/23/13 - 01:41 pm
6
5
Specta....it's about having
Unpublished

Specta....it's about having class. Some have it, but that number is getting smaller every day.

Humble Angela
41338
Points
Humble Angela 04/23/13 - 01:45 pm
5
5
Specta
Unpublished

"the fact that people are locked up for drug possession and have property confiscated by the government - while Wall Street bankers responsible for countless Americans losing their homes just prop their feet up on a desk and light a fresh Cohiba."

Which one is convicted of committing a crime? I would imagine that most of the people who lost their homes did so because they didn't make their payments.

Darby
25496
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Darby 04/23/13 - 03:18 pm
5
5
Well, Bodhisattva

What you are making very clear, is that you have no facts and in fact have a vivid imagination, as well as a faulty and selective memory.

Not to mention a selective bias against anything you see as conservative.

Humble Angela
41338
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Humble Angela 04/23/13 - 05:05 pm
2
4
I know that if what I'm
Unpublished

I know that if what I'm saying is actually true, I wouldn't hesitate to prove it to someone. I certainly wouldn't leave it up to the person with the opposing view to prove MY point.

Darby
25496
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Darby 04/23/13 - 06:13 pm
3
4
"Which one is convicted of committing a

crime? I would imagine that most of the people who lost their homes did so because they didn't make their payments."

.
As it should be. No grownup would enter into a binding legal agreement that he knows or should know he can't honor.

Darby
25496
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Darby 04/23/13 - 06:25 pm
2
4
"Will an F-word destroy society?"

Certainly not. On the other hand, what is it's purpose other than to cheapen and coarsen the dialogue?

At some point down the line, the language becomes degraded; and truly intelligent conversation becomes a thing of the past.

Old proverbs such as the one about the straw that breaks the camel's back begin to have real meaning.

I can speak for hours and never utter a foul word or phrase. On the other hand, if I wanted to, I could turn the air blue with expletives. I chose not to. I'd rather my children and grandchildren be respectful of me and I of them.

Does the utterance of the F-word end the world? Not really. Does it tarnish the speaker's dignity? Absolutely!

I'll leave the potty mouth to others. If you need it that badly, have at it.

Truth Matters
6745
Points
Truth Matters 04/23/13 - 07:24 pm
3
2
Discourse

I do not necessarily disagree with the point of incivility in speech. It really amazes me that the examples the ACES think of are almost always by those with whom they have ideological disagreements. Were you not offended when the speaker of the house yelled, "Hell no!" Or Joe Wilson's "you lie," and Rush calling a student a slut?

Your readers beg for you to demonstrate some consistency in your outrage. Trust me there is enough to go around.

fedex227
11187
Points
fedex227 04/23/13 - 09:43 pm
3
0
For some reason, my television came with a ...
Unpublished

"remote control device." It allows me to choose what I wish to watch (using a button marked CH). As well as another that allows me to completely avoid watching TV programs at all (this is designated the On/Off button). I have used these buttons many times, such as when ...
Fox programs like 'the family guy' are on, a show which has aired episodes referencing pedophilia, bestiality, and matricide. A Fox program known as 'hell's kitchen', whose host drops the 'F' bomb in every other sentence he utters. It has also allowed me to keep from listening to the utterly vulgar and 'F' bomb-dropping Ted Nugent who appears regularly on Fox news.

Unfortunately I missed your editorials on the shows mentioned above and had to discover their distastefulness on my own. But thanks ACES for the heads up on this new CNN program. My remote is at the ready.

Darby
25496
Points
Darby 04/25/13 - 05:28 pm
1
0
When is a student not a student

but is a slut?

Answer: When she's getting so much sex she believes she needs government assistance to pay for her condoms.

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