Now THIS Is Incivility!

"Thank you, counselors. We will proceed to fucking closing statements."

“Thank you, counselors. We will proceed to fucking closing statements.”

I just saw a  local Boston TV ad for Ace Tickets. The slogan at the end was “Sit your Ace down!” So clever! Just throw gratuitous vulgarity into a commercial during a baseball game, doubtlessly viewed by many children, because it’s inherently amusing. The message is that vulgarity is cool, clever and acceptable. Other messages in the media, both in advertising and in pop culture, convey the same permissive standards regarding obscenity. Over on the Drudge Report, a much-admired news aggregator for  political junkies, especially on the right, no mention of Anthony Weiner’s annoying candidacy for Mayor of New York is made without a cheap “weiner” joke. Today, Drudge noted that Weiner was “inching up” in the polls. Get it? HAR!  Just under that “gag,” the news that men favored Weiner in polling was headlined “Male Enhancement.” Soooo witty!  The U.S. is being transformed into one huge junior high school. After growing up in such a vulgar, undignified, sleazy environment, the next generation won’t be prone to inadvertently use words like “fuck” and “shit” in public forums such as live award shows and TV interviews, like our current politicians, newscasters and celebrities. They’ll just use them intentionally, all the time. Won’t that be cool? I’m sure David Letterman thinks so. Cool Dave had A.J. Clemente, he of uttering “fucking shit” on the airways in his debut as a news anchor, as a guest on his show. Dave suggested to A.J. that his ex-bosses were jerks to fire him. Good point Dave! A.J. was just ahead of his time. In a decade or so, “fucking shit” may be the sign-off of the next generation’s Walter Cronkite.

Maybe less than  a decade. Note this account, in a court opinion, of a lawyer’s conduct before a magistrate:

“On the evening of 5 November 2011, a Saturday, defendant [ a lawyer ]entered the Buncombe County Detention Facility and went to an area designated by sign as a “Magistrate Court.” Defendant told the magistrate on duty that she was an attorney, was present on behalf of some Occupy Ashville protestors, and then asked, “‘What the hell is going on around here?’” The magistrate told defendant to “watch her language” and stated that, as an attorney, defendant should know not to curse in a courtroom. Defendant proceeded to request a list of names of individuals for whom warrants had been issued in connection with a protest march. The magistrate declined to give defendant the names, but said she could check whether defendant had an active warrant. After defendant requested she do so, the magistrate told defendant that she did not have an active warrant. Defendant then stated: “‘What the fuck is going on around here?’” The magistrate again warned defendant not to curse in the courtroom and asked defendant to leave.

“In response, defendant stated, “‘Oh, yeah, I said “fuck,” “This is fucking ridiculous,” and “This is fucking crazy.”‘” In total, defendant made approximately five statements containing the word “fuck.” After the third or fourth time defendant said “fuck,” the magistrate “informed her that [the magistrate] was going to hold her in contempt.” Defendant continued cursing and walked towards the door. Although the magistrate told defendant to stop and return because she had been held in contempt, defendant exited the office.”

What this most unprofessional of lawyers was thinking, where she went to school and why she believed she could speak that way in court are all questions I would ponder if I weren’t terrified of the answers. It may amuse Occupy types to engage lawyer who share their general disrespect for the system, but disrespect is  not an ingredient of successful legal representation, and this lawyer was neither ethical nor effective. But just wait a while. The way things are going, in a few generations judges and lawyers will be casually hurling “Fuck you!” at each other in open court, and nobody will blink.


Source: Volokh Conspiracy

Graphic: Dataplay

11 thoughts on “Now THIS Is Incivility!

  1. Are we just sounding like a bunch of old out of touch grouches now? Not imo.

    However, when Codes and Standards actually had some teeth, especially on Television, it forced writers and producers to be more creative, and more interesting, with their choice of dialogue and situations.

    What it really boils down to is money.. When standards are dragged into the dirt with the lowest common denominator, any insipid moron can be hired to write and produce whatever trash is put it out there.. This extends to ads, TV, and media in general.

    The only place where standards seem to be holding, is broadcast radio. Maybe it’s because they have an older generation of listeners to appeal to?

    • idk, I think it also has to do with who the client is and what he/she wants. In TV that translates to: the tv station’s owners decide what they “think” the audience wants to see on telly. Then they contract professionals to produce it (and make no mistake the writers don’t get a say). In his early career my brother used to shoot and edit news clips for a national tv station. I sometimes watched the raw version and was always astounded of how they edited the footage to combine the most ignorant and stupid people – my brother told me they’d often get clips sent back for revision because it was not lurid enough to satisfy the producers and station managers… And the stuff they were sent to shoot was never of any great educational or newsworthy value in the first place. My brother was almost always contrite about what he did to earn money and got out as soon as he could.

      What I’m trying to say is I don’t think the problem mostly lies with the audience who supposedly demands it or the people who shoot/write that stuff but with producers and station managers who decide that the audience should be deluged in dirt… It’s like corruption from above. Like some devious plan on how make people even more ignorant and vulgarity-prone than they already are.

  2. Can’t help but note the connection between these last two alarms.
    Inside the Actors’ Studio devolved from a fascinating and educational series into an advertising platform, but (I must assume, as I stopped watching years ago) one constant is the closing questionnaire from Bernard Pivot (pronounced Behhhhrrrrr-NAAHr PeeVOH, of course) in which the interviewees get to share their favorite curse word. Perhaps, in light of this (and other recent posts on language), we may conclude it is that moment alone that explains the show’s longevity.

    • I think that’s a good insight.
      And “Fuck’ has been cited as the interviewee’s favorite curse word with increasing frequency. I’ve never been able to decide whether the questionnaire is perceptive, clever, overly precious, or unbelievably pretentious.

      Here it is, for those who have never heard of it or watched the show. My answers (today) are in bold.

      What is your favorite word? Basingstoke.
      What is your least favorite word? Whatever.
      What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? Baseball.
      What turns you off? Ideology
      What is your favorite curse word? Crap!
      What sound or noise do you love? Tony Williams’ voice.
      What sound or noise do you hate? Styrofoam or balloons squeaking.
      What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Full-time professional stage directing or President of the United States
      What profession would you not like to do? Patent Lawyer
      If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? “I bet you’ve never been so glad to be wrong!”

  3. Come on, Jack. Stop hyper-ventilating. Just apply the Julie principle.

    God grant me the serenity
    to accept the things I cannot change;
    courage to change the things I can;
    and wisdom to know the difference.

    Wise up. The younger generation has already decided in favor of unlimited profanity. It’s only a matter of time. Sure, it’s not neccessarily the best way to win an argument, but there you have it. Who are you to decide what’s civil? You have no right to impose your outdated standards on younger, less forward thinking people. Lean forward! The Europeans would think nothing of this. They’re more enlightened than we are. We should encourage children to be creative. Lenny Bruce was a hero and a martyr. Howard Stern? A God! He’s rich, for God’s sake and his rating are through the roof in the beer drinking demographic. How can he be wrong? You can’t discriminate against people who want to be potty-mouthed. They’re just like we are. How can a minority of rule thumping oldsters be taken seriously?

    • You don’t comprehend the Julie Principle. Being uncivil is not inbred. It is a choice. It can be learned, and unlearned. If it’s not tolerated, it won’t persist.

      Now go back and re-read both posts.

      • Who decides what’s inbred and not a choice? My father used to drive my wife nuts. Whenever he was being a jerk and she’d call him on it, he’d respond, “It’s my nature.”

        Which self-destructive behaviours are learned vs. inbred? Who gets to decide? I’m sure there’s an Insolent Jerk Advocacy Group (IJAG) led by paid professionals just around the corner, Jack. And what if the behaviours are “culturally based?”

        • For example, aren’t you, as a white guy, barred from calling “gangster rap” uncivil because it’s “real” and reflects a “reality” you don’t understand because you’re white (as a result of your breeding) and not poor (also as a result of your breeding or forces of social nature).

          • And of course, you’re right. All this sort of conduct is horrible and uncivil (at a minimum). All I’m saying is that things have gotten so twisted in our society that someone like you gets caught in a hail of gunfire for saying things like you’re saying. And I think the Julie Rule may inadvertently contribute to the mire. It sounds too much like “It’s all good.” Ugh. When I see that bumper sticker or hear some celebrity or jock say it, I want to scream, “No it’s NOT! Have you ever heard of Hitler or Stalin? The Holocaust? Ten million starved Ukrainians? Mao and all the peasants he murdered? Slavery and the slave trade? The genocide and subjugation of Native Americans? Castro and Che Guevara murdering political opponents?”

    • At the risk of sounding platitudinous, it is none the less true:
      kindness and civility are timeless values that will prevail no matter how hard sheeple resist.

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