There is profanity. You hear profanity a lot these days. My kids hear it in the streets and on the school buses. You see it on the Internet a lot. Comedy Central has quite a few shows which feature profanity — South Park, in particular, strikes me as being quite inventive in its use of the words you can’t say on television — except you can, since it’s cable and not broadcast.

As a parent, you are supposed to worry about profanity, and discipline your children when they use it, and scowl at adults who use it in public.

Far better, though, that they hear profanity than obscenity.

Obscenities are screamed all the time by all sorts of madmen: they are the shouts of hatred raised by violent extremists, the venom spewed forth by Fred Phelps, by Osama bin Laden. They are like rabid dogs, to be kept in sight and quarantined, but not to be reasoned with.

It is the obscenities softly and gently spoken that do the most damage. The calm voice reasoning that it is surely acceptable to torture one person if to do so would save the lives of many others. That those who allow terrorists to live among them are colluding with acts of terror, and therefore should expect no mercy. That “collateral damage” is merely regrettable.

And then there is …. the clear rational sane civil amoral voice which states that not only is it acceptable to kill children, it is a virtue to do so.

It is rare that a post has made me literally sick to my stomach, but this one did. The calm dismissal of objections as naiveté (stock-in-trade for most who utter these sorts of obscenities); the reduction of war to some sort of exercise in game theory (albeit with deadly consequences); the inability to see the other side as anything other than cardboard cutouts; the blindness to the long-term consequences of such an evil (there is no other word) policy; and, on a much more superficial level, the psuedo-intellectual use of dialogue a l&aacute Plato; all of it enough to make the skin crawl. (My favorite comment, by one Jason, summed up Grim’s argument nicely: “It was necessary to kill the children in order to save them.” Reading the comments, however, takes a bit of a strong stomach. I wish the commenter who said “Brilliant Satire. Very edgy, avant guarde. Thank god no one actually thinks this way.” had been right.)

On the whole, I much prefer profanity. I think I need to go take a shower now; I feel dirty just having read this.

(Link from Atrios)

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10 Responses to Obscenity.

  1. Andrew says:

    You’re right, that sort of thing is very difficult to read.< HREF="http://lovehonoranddismay.blogspot.com/" REL="nofollow">To Love, Honor and Dismay<>

  2. Bill G says:

    One of the great dangers of war is that we sometimes become what we’re fighting against.This would be an example.

  3. Pat Greene says:

    I know. And it scares me how far along that road some people have gone, and how many people have gone along with them.

  4. I agree, Pat. My kids both pepper their speech with profanity quite frequently. I wish they didn’t, but they’re my kids and they grew up hearing me speak and I swear like a sailor on the best of days. Momma was a Navy brat. What’re ya gonna do? I scowl at them, I sigh their names long sufferingly, I say to them, “Perhaps you should try not swearing.” but really, that boat has sailed. The handful of times I have truly gotten offended and angry are when they’ve been obscene. There are a handful of words that will get a person thrown out of my home and never invited back and those are the words that hurt and perpetuate hatred. Obscenities. That article you linked to? That was obscene. I think I join you in wanting to wash out my brain and I’m sorry that viewpoints like that exist. Scary monsters.

  5. Pat Greene says:

    My kids swear too, for the same reason : ). We’re working on it. Or at least getting them to not swear without provocation.But swearing will get them a mild reprimand; saying “that’s so gay” in a derogatory manner will get them chewed out good. They haven’t said anything more offensive, thank goodness.

  6. Granny says:

    I’m linking to this. It expresses my feeling far better than I ever could.Thanks.Ann< HREF="http://isamericaburning.blogspot.com" REL="nofollow">is america burning<>

  7. Anonymous says:

    Are you REALLY REALLY saying that you would not torture One person to SAVE the innocent lives of many THOUSAND others.We will never hide behind our children but we really have to get over the fact that others do.

  8. Pat Greene says:

    Anonymous:No, I would not. Firstly, there is the matter of becoming the monsters we decry. Absolute brutal Realpolitik is an ethically bankrupt system of foreign policy. Believe it or not, there are fates worse than death.On a practical level, acting like monsters in the world increases our long term insecurity. We may think being the biggest nastiest dog around makes us invulnerable, but it simply creates more enemies for us. Stating that we think it is acceptable to kill Lebanese or other Arab children, as the author of the piece I linked to did, is the best recruiting tool we could have handed Al-Qaeda and like-minded terrorists.And as far as torture goes, there is another reason not to do so: <>it doesn’t work<>.When people are tortured, they tend to tell the torturers anything they want to hear, to make the torture stop. They will give up information about innocent people, they will tell stories about plots that don’t exist. Precious time, energy and resources will be spent tracking down false leads.But hey, don’t take my word for it: Google “Terry Karney” and “torture” and you’ll get an eyeful. Terry is a army interrogator who has been spreading the word far and wide over the Internet about exactly how torture is not only reprehensible but really stupid, as well.

  9. Josh Jasper says:

    For the “torture *might* work, so we have to try it” crowd, I’ve got a rebuttal –Yes, torture *might* work. Also, flipping a coin *might* work. throwing darts at a map might pinpoint terrorists. Lots of things *might* work. Torture *might* work, but it’s notoriously unreliable, and other forms of interrogation work *better*. I keep asking myself, why would people want to torture, given that it’s ineffective, and there are better methods out there. And the answer I keep coming up with is that people who propose torture enjoy the thought of it. Other than blind ignorance and stupidity, there’s not other reason to be pro-torture.

  10. Pat Greene says:

    I think there *is* a lot of blind ignorance out there, and even more than that a lot of wishful thinking, that it *is* possible to achieve safety through quick and easy means rathern than through longer and more arduous ways such as careful and in-depth investigation.tmyfqox

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