More Evidence of America’s Slouching Toward Gomorrah: Profanity And Vulgarity In TV Commercials … J. D. Longstreet

Americans Are The New Barbarians!
A Commentary by J. D. Longstreet


About the time you think it is impossible for America to become more crude, rude, vulgar profane, and just plain nasty in our communications with one another, it gets worse.

Now advertisers  are using profanity and vulgarity in advertising on TV.

Let me be clear about this:  If an advertiser had approached me with one of those ads containing the unacceptable language, I’d have politely shown them out of my office and suggested they never return, no matter the amount of money involved.

TV stations and networks that accept such ads ought to be ashamed of themselves.  They ought to remove them, at once, and apologize to their listeners and viewers.

I’m no prude.  I learned to cuss in pre-school. I grew up in a tough part of the city with little gangs of local toughs roaming our streets.  I had my share of scrapes and I learned early how to swagger and bluff in order to present a tough guy image, just to survive.

I’m not particularly proud of it, but I can cuss a blue haze when I lose control of my infamous temper.


There is a degree of civility needed to separate a civilized person from a barbarian.  I am sorely afraid we in America are the new barbarians!

I once had a grammar school teacher who said that cursing was a sign of weakness and a lack of education.  She said it meant you were unable to express yourself in acceptable standard English and must resort to profanity, which simply showcased your own inadequacy, your own insecurity.  Sixty plus years later and I still remember that.

Of course, it’s all about grabbing the attention of the listener or viewer.  But, in my opinion,  it is a cheap, underhanded, way of showcasing a product that, apparently, the advertiser feels is so inferior that extolling the product’s values alone will not gather the attention needed to persuade the consumer to purchase said product.

Of course, it’s not JUST about the commercials.  The TV shows themselves are filthy with potty humor, profanity and crudity of all kinds, and rumor has it the FCC is looking at the possibility of relaxing the rules, even more, to allow more of the profanity and vulgarity and, some say, even frontal nudity on the airwaves that belong to the American public.

This is simply unacceptable.

You may find it difficult to believe but it was illegal to swear in public in North Carolina until 2011 when a Superior Court Judge struck the law down saying it was unconstitutional.   The law said:  “If any person shall, on any public road or highway and in the hearing of two or more persons, in a loud and boisterous manner, use indecent or profane language, he shall be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor.”

There are other states with similar laws.

Massachusetts’ blasphemy law threatens that:

“Whoever willfully blasphemes the holy name of God by denying, cursing, or contumeliously reproaching God, his creation, government or final judging of the word, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching Jesus Christ or the Holy Ghost, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching or exposing to contempt and ridicule, the holy word of God contained in the holy scriptures shall be punished by imprisonment in jail for not more than one year or by a fine of not more than three hundred dollars, and may also be bound to good behavior.”

Michigan’s blasphemy law says: “Any person who shall willfully blaspheme the holy name of God, by cursing or contumeliously reproaching God, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.”

Oklahoma law provides: “Blasphemy consists in wantonly uttering or punishing words, casting contumelious reproach or profane ridicule upon God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost, the Holy Scriptures, or the Christian or any other religion.” Uttering such speech is classified as a misdemeanor.

Other states have general anti-profanity laws conceived to protect society from the potty-mouthed. Consider this Mississippi law:

“If any person shall profanely swear or curse, or use vulgar and indecent language, or be drunk in any public place, in the presence of two (2) or more persons, he shall, on conviction thereof, be fined not more than one hundred dollars ($100.00) or be imprisoned in the county jail not more than thirty (30) days each.”

Another Mississippi law prohibits entering “the dwelling house of another” and using “abusive, profane, vulgar or indecent language.”

Drivers beware, as well. Some states have laws that specifically limit cursing on public highways.

Some anti-profanity laws were passed to shield women and children from foul-mouthed men. Consider this Michigan law: “Any person who shall use any indecent, immoral, obscene, vulgar or insulting language in the presence or hearing of any woman or child shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.”

Another Oklahoma law warns, “If any person shall utter or speak any obscene or lascivious language or word in any public place, or in the presence of females, or in the presence of children under ten (10) years of age, he shall be liable to a fine of not more than One Hundred Dollars ($100.00), or imprisonment for not more than thirty (30) days, or both.”

Some states, at least, don’t impose hundreds of dollars in fines for cursing and swearing.

Under Rhode Island’s profanity law, “Every person who shall be guilty of profane swearing and cursing shall be fined not exceeding five dollars ($5.00).”

It is not unusual these day for me, or my wife, to simply turn off a TV program that is riddled with profanity.

OK.  So I’m an old fuddy-duddy.  I can accept that.  But I refuse to relinquish my hold on dignity.

There is a coarseness to our conversation these days that did not exist a few decades ago.  We are, I am convinced, a less civilized nation as a result.  Civility is nothing more than showing respect for others.  Today’s coarse, crude, vulgar, profane conversations on screen, on stage, or  toward one another in public are far less than civilized.  They cheapen not only our discourse, it lessens the degree of regard we have for our fellowman.

I don’t give a hoot for “artist’s license.”  If a screenwriter is incapable of writing a script that will capture an audience and hold them for the duration of his/her tale without exploiting the entire dictionary of profanities, then he/she has no business writing anything for public consumption. (Editor’s note-Query: which screenplays demonstrate more creativity and great writing? Those for films “Casablanca,” “Citizen Kane” and “A Man for All Seasons” or for most of the garbage that Hollywood pumps out today?)

If the FCC wants to actually DO something worthwhile, they could clean up our airwaves.  But — they won’t.  In fact, I expect them to allow it to get much worse.

J. D. Longstreet


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