Tuesday, April 27, 2010

MSNBC Bleeps Levin and McCaskill on Drek Deal

Chris Matthews just put up his Big Number today - it was the number of times Senators Carl Levin and Claire McCaskill lambasted Goldman Sachs in the Senate today for suckering their clients into "shitty" deals.   The adjective came from a former Goldman Sachs exec, Tom Montag, who in an email to a former Goldman Sachs trader characterized a deal as "one shitty deal," and proceeded to aggressively sell it to their clients.

Except, we viewers weren't allowed to hear the actual quotes in full - they were bleeped.  The words written under the Big Number talked about "sh***y" and Matthews helpfully explained that the word rhymed with "kitty".

I once again fail to see the point of this.   Who doesn't know that sh***y stands for shitty?  Whose sensibilities are spared by not seeing the actual word?  Have a majority of Americans risen up in protest at prospect of seeing and hearing shitty on television? 

The FCC apparently thinks so, because it is fear of their outrageous fines that keeps television producers bleeping and asterisking - whether at the conclusion of the Grammys this year or Senators speaking on a very serious matter today.  

But wait - don't we have a First Amendment in this country, that says "Congress shall make no law ... abridging of speech or of the press"?   Why, yes, we do.   So how is it that the media seeking to cover a major Senate hearing are prevented, under threat of FCC fine, from broadcasting a quote from the hearing in its entirety?

A good question.  And one which I hope the new, evolving Supreme Court will take up some time soon.

In the meantime, here's a YouTube clip with the actual "shitty" quotes from the Senate hearing, courtesy of CSPAN 3, a cable station still not under FCC censorship, though the FCC is chafing at the bit to extend its control to cable .... Come to think of it, MSNBC is cable, so why did it bleep Levin?   (I haven't seen yet how Fox and CNN are covering this story, but I would expect them to knuckle under like MSNBC, and not go the brave CSPAN way.)

Note added at 9:32pm:  But Keith Olbermann did indeed play the unbleeped clips on his MSNBC Countdown show onight - kudos to Olbermann for standing up for the First Amendment!




See also The Flouting of the First Amendment
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