FCC

The FCC Isn't Singling Out Stephen Colbert for his "Cock Holster" Crack at Trump…

It's only doing what it *has* to do, by Congress' mandate, which is to investigate *all* complaints. BTW, f*ck the FCC!

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As Elizabeth Nolan Brown showed in her thorough debunking of the widespread claim that congressional Republicans had passed legislation defining rape as a pre-existing condition no longer covered under federal health-care law, the American press is characterized by groupthink and agenda-setting. The speed with which the absolutely false statement about the American Healtch Care Act (AHCA) and rape showed up in all sorts of outlets is testament to media credulity, or maybe just plain old-fashioned media bias.

Something similar has happened with one of the other big stories of last week. In an anti-Donald Trump monologue, The Late Show's Stephen Colbert said, among many other things:

"You talk like a sign-language gorilla who got hit in the head. In fact, the only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin's cock holster."

You can watch the whole monologue below (the cock-holster line, which was bleeped both during the broadcast and remains bleeped even at the Late Show's official YouTube feed, appears around 11.10 minutes).

In the wake of the comments, a "Fire Colbert" hashtag is making the rounds on Twitter, arguing that his comments are homophobic. Given Colbert's public support for marriage equality and his obvious comfort level not only with gays and lesbians but affectionately parodying them in shows such as Strangers with Candy (in which he played a closeted teacher who was having an affair with a male colleague) and "The Ambiguously Gay Duo," a Saturday Night Live animated series about superheroes who may or may not be gay, the attacks on Colbert are nothing more than right-wing concern trolling.

Folks have also complained to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which is charged with maintaining content regulation for broadcast radio and television programming (for a variety of reasons, the FCC doesn't have the same mandate for cable and internet content). By law, the FCC must investigate claims that networks have aired "indecent" material (like obscenity, indecency is an utterly made-up, extra-constitutional definition of supposedly illegal speech). The agency, which is headed up Ajit Pai, a vocal and principled opponent of Net Neutrality and government regulation of speech, is doing nothing out of the ordinary here. As Pai's chief of staff, Matthew Berry, tweeted on Saturday:

But like the "Republican reclassified rape as a pre-existing condition and dropped coverage of it" meme, the FCC's requaction is being taken as prima facie evidence that the Trump administration is cracking down on critics via the very administrative state that adviser Steve Bannon promised to deconstruct. From New York magazine (which published and then corrected one of the most breathless and incorrect early stories on the AHCA) comes this from the head of the Writers Guild of America (WGA):

"As presidents of the Writers Guilds of America, East and West, we were appalled to read recent remarks by Federal Communications Commission chair Ajit Pai," WGA East boss Michael Winship and WGA West chief Howard Rodman told Deadline. "He said the FCC would investigate a joke about Donald Trump by Writers Guild member Stephen Colbert, 'apply the law' and 'take appropriate action' if the joke were found to be 'obscene.'"

"Pai's remarks are just the latest in a series of statements by the current administration indicating a willful disregard of the First Amendment. Colbert was poking fun at authority, a time-honored American tradition and an essential principle of democracy."

Well, sure, whatevs. Except for the fact that the FCC is simply following its standard-operating procedure.

So we arrive at a place where right-wingers are concern-trolling a liberal comedian as homophobic and where progressives are trolling a government bureaucracy for doing its job (double-plus-good irony: The FCC is the very agency which left-leaners believe should have the right to control all ISPs and thus the Internet via expansive Net Neutrality rules).

The solution from a libertarian perspective is pretty clear, simple, elegant—and in this case at least, hopelessly utopian: Abolish the FCC or, at the very least, decommission its role in any form of content regulation.

Indeed, it's far from clear that we've ever needed any sort of FCC to hash out technical issues and interference claims, the least-objectionable rationale for its existence. As longtime Reason contributor, Clemson professor, and former chief economist at the FCC Thomas W. Hazlett shows in his brilliant new history, The Political Spectrum: The Tumultuous Liberation of Technology, from Herbert Hoover To the Smartphone, the basic story used to justify the FCC's predecessor (the Federal Radio Comission) in the 1920s is bullshit. Legend has it that larger stations were drowning out and interfering with smaller stations' signals, ushering in period of chaos that only federal control could sort out. All sorts of ad hoc and legal redress "Regulators," contends Hazlett convincingly, "blocked competition at the behest of incumbent interests and, for nearly a century, have suppressed innovation while quashing out-of-the-mainstream viewpoints."

Beyond technical questions of spectrum allocation and related issues, it should be clear to all but the most censorious and backward-looking that there is simply no role for government to be in a position to police speech simply because it is sent via broadcast signals rather than cable, print, or the Internet. As former FCC head Michael Powell said nearly 20 years ago, "The time has come to move forward toward a single standard of First Amendment analysis that recognizes the reality of the media marketplace and respects the intelligence of American consumers." Powell was confident that if Americans were forced to choose between the First Amendment and free expression on the one hand and censorship and nanny-statism on the other, they'd push to have all media protected by the Constitution.

You can like or dislike Stephen Colbert (I'm a liker) and you can like or dislike the "cock holster" gag (I don't think it's funny and the bleeping is just sad). But in a world that is blessed with hot and cold running culture—from free porn to free Proust—the last thing any of us should give a shit about is granting the government the right to police speech. But that would require a change in law, which would require Congress to do something worth a damn. And it would help if we had a press that was capable of reality-based reporting, rather than glomming on to whatever faux outrage of the moment slides past journos' social-media feeds.

I sat down recently with Ajit Pai to talk about Net Neutrality, innovation, and freedom of expression. Here's the video of our conversation. Go here for full transcript of same.

NEXT: Welfare Reform Paved Trail For Obamacare Repeal

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  1. So we arrive at a place where right-wingers are concern-trolling a liberal comedian as homophobic and where progressives are trolling a government bureaucracy for doing its job…

    What’s not to love about the Trump Era?

    1. Holding the Left to the standards they set for everyone else is amusing.

    2. Trump?

      1. Definitely. This controversy about the rule of law furthers one of the key goals of his presidency???to distract the public from developments in our nation’s leading criminal “satire” case. See the documentation at:

        http://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

    3. We’d be remiss not to add “and libertarians are defending the FCC.”

      1. Aside from the article saying to abolish it? You putz

      2. I think the R word you are looking for is retarded as in “We (read that Tony) would be retarded to add that libertarians are defending the FCC”. This is especially true in an article that calls for abolishing the FEC.

        There is a difference between pointing out the lefts retarded fantasies about this being political suppression and actually defending the agency. If you want to join the author and call for abolishing this regulatory agency good for you. If not that’s cool too. Someone has to be in the bottom 20% intellectually among ditch diggers.

      3. Tony no read words to good.

    4. Drumpf in it

    5. Drumpf in it

    6. Drumpf in it

  2. They should investigate the fact that these hacks are not funny. They stopped being funny right about 2008 when the world decided to give a pass to the SLW.

  3. RE: The FCC Isn’t Singling Out Stephen Colbert for his “Cock Holster” Crack at Trump…
    It’s only doing what it *has* to do, by Congress’ mandate, which is to investigate *all* complaints. BTW, f*ck the FCC!

    Can someone help me out here?
    Why does the USA need the FCC again, I mean besides employing statist control of information and paying a bunch of needless bureaucrats a shitload of money and benefits?

    1. As longtime Reason contributor, Clemson professor, and former chief economist at the FCC Thomas W. Hazlett shows in his brilliant new history, The Political Spectrum: The Tumultuous Liberation of Technology, from Herbert Hoover To the Smartphone, the basic story used to justify the FCC’s predecessor (the Federal Radio Comission) in the 1920s is bullshit. Legend has it that larger stations were drowning out and interfering with smaller stations’ signals, ushering in period of chaos that only federal control could sort out. All sorts of ad hoc and legal redress “Regulators,” contends Hazlett convincingly, “blocked competition at the behest of incumbent interests and, for nearly a century, have suppressed innovation while quashing out-of-the-mainstream viewpoints.”

    2. One station over powering other stations was their original job and should be their only job

      1. They don’t even need that. The power required to overpower other stations costs proportionally more than any benefit, offends more listeners with increased static, and the additional listeners are farther and farther away, lessening their appeal to advertisers. And if they persist out of spite, it’s not hard to embarrass businesses which behave badly, as we have seen with airlines recently.

        1. And yet, 50,000 watt class A stations exist

    3. The FCC used to regulate commercial volume. Yes, this is not something the government should be doing, but I miss the results of that overreach.

  4. So… *rubbing my temples* the fcc IS investigating Colbert, but only because they have to investigate every complaint. So… this is really nothing like the rape-as-preexisting-condition story. This story is true, but because they have Orwellian powers over everyone equally, the details are irrelevant?

    1. “..isn’t singling out…”

      The similarity is in how the media has portrayed both situations inaccurately because the inaccuracy makes the republicans look bad. Which I find bizarre because it’s not like they need any help.

    2. I think the unstated assumption is that, while they have to investigate, nothing is actually going to happen.

  5. You can like or dislike Stephen Colbert (I’m a liker)

    He is a very talented comedian who has morphed into a whiney political stooge.

    and you can like or dislike the “cock holster” gag (I don’t think it’s funny and the bleeping is just sad).

    It isn’t funny, and the rant was meh, and Mike Huckabee can go away.

    1. Agreed. And skinheads don’t want Rogaine- they shave their heads. It’s ironic that some of Colbert’s worst work is the reason that he is suddenly being lauded.
      I used to love him, and feel like I have lost an old friend. Plus, his band sucks.

      1. I don’t know what it is about comedians who get too political– especially when they swing left, but I think it’s the accolades. They tend to become unfunny, but that’s replaced by so much serious praise from the media sphere, that I think that’s what begins to drive them. They don’t have to be funny any more, so they can just do political monologues with a few scattered jokes.

        1. And worst of all it’s dull and predictable.

        2. Some other examples: David Cross, Patton Oswald. They are terrible now.

          1. We are society’s vanguard against big government!

            Fuck all those people who make a living criticizing the government (as long as it’s a Republican one)!

            1. It’s odd that you would point out their hypocrisy. Or was that not your intent?

            2. 1) Something about seeing the plank in your own eye comes to mind.

              2) We’re not all humorless apoplectic little twats who obsess about politics like you; some of us would like to be entertained occasionally without some sanctimonious douche bag trying to proselytize his idiotic opinions.

          2. DAVID CROSS WENT LEFT….NOOOOOOO!

            Jesus.

            What the in the fuck is wrong with these guys?

            Colbert…meh The offense for me was that it was predictable and unfunny.

            Now fuck off slaver comedians.

          3. There was a time when Bill Maher was funny. Right, guys?

        3. Poor Twump. Waah wahh. Poor poor Twump.

          You guys don’t even realize when you’re doing this do you?

          1. The only people mentioning trump are you and Colbert.

  6. You can like or dislike Stephen Colbert

    Not a fan. Even 20 years ago, when I had considerably more sympathy for the political left than I do now, I found him mean-spirited, reductive and hypocritical.

    you can like or dislike the “cock holster” gag

    I think it’s generous to call it a “gag.” It’s a politically calculated barb meant to help his audience feel smug and to keep the Trump-Putin non-story in something like currency.

    it would help if we had a press that was capable of reality-based reporting, rather than glomming on to whatever faux outrage of the moment slides past journos’ social-media feeds.

    And Gillespie nails it.

    1. Colbert’s rant was a great example of what happens when people constantly kiss your ass about how awesome you are, your political ideology is your religion, and real life doesn’t conform to your wishes.

      His election night show is a great example of this too, just on the depressive rather than the manic side.

    2. He would do it again!

      Such courageous actions from the celebrity class.

      Bah.

      Faux self-righteous horse shit.

  7. “Given Colbert’s public support for marriage equality and his obvious comfort level not only with gays and lesbians but affectionately parodying them in shows such as Strangers with Candy (in which he played a closeted teacher who was having an affair with a male colleague) and “The Ambiguously Gay Duo,” a Saturday Night Live animated series about superheroes who may or may not be gay”

    This is like a person who made a racist comment saying “but I have black friends so I can say that”

    It was homophobic. Giving negative connotation to a homosexual sex act is homophobia.

    1. But it wasn’t a joke about homosexuals having sex. It was about one straight guy sucking off another straight guy. There can’t be any homophobia in a joke that didn’t refer to any homosexuals.

      1. WHo are you to make assumptions about a persons sexual orientation ?

      2. So, if I discuss, say, Empire and make a lot of references to fried chicken and watermelon, wouldn’t be racist at all, right?

        1. Are you suggesting that the Trump administration has a gay context?

          1. Well he did wave that rainbow flag around that everyone forgot about so they could indulge their vicarious persecution complexes by pretending he was going to gas the gays.

      3. Tony-

        If I refer to Obama as an “African stumpjumper” and Michelle as a “Wookiee”, there’s no racism in that statement because he was born in Hawaii and Michelle wasn’t born on Kashyyyk?

        1. Exactly.

          Also Chewbacca has brown hair, in contrast to Michelle Obama who has black hair.

          But what’s a stump jumper? I dunno… sounds kinda racist with the jumping. Cartoon frogs recently got outed as Nazis so you might want to avoid topics like jumping and lily pads for a while.

      4. If that were the point, when people wanted to insult a gay man, they would say he had heterosexual sex with a lesbian.

        Can’t say I’ve ever heard that kind of insult.

      5. It was a joke about a homosexual sex act. If someone were to call a group of short haired women all “dykes”, it’s a homophobic comment even if none of them turn out to be lesbians.

        Colbert is implying a male sucking another males dick is a bad thing, and even implies the physical positions of the men during the act determines authority in the relationship.

        He deserves the backlash.

    2. Exactly. If a conservative celebrity had made that joke about a Democrat, advertisers would be trampling each other to pull ads from him.

      1. “It’s different when we do it.”

      2. Picture the reaction to the whole quote, including the gorilla part, used against Obama.
        I wouldn’t be surprised if that reaction escalated to rioting or even possibly murder.

  8. One Colbert is crude, rude, and socially unacceptable. I do not believe that it should be criminal for someone to use vulgarity on air, but I do think it is cause to be thrown off the job, by the company or the government.

    1. Imagine the hue and cry in the MSM and on twatter and facebooger if a conservative TV personality (say the Duck Dynasty guy) made a joke on TV about Obama sucking the Ayotollah’s cock, in reference to the sweetheart Iran nuke deal.

      And yet advertisers will still stuff money into CBS’ coffers to keep the vitriol going.

  9. One Colbert is crude, rude, and socially unacceptable. I do not believe that it should be criminal for someone to use vulgarity on air, but I do think it is cause to be thrown off the job, by the company. CBS has agreed to enforce this just by getting its license to be on air. Colbert should be off the air, at least for a limited time.

  10. Is Nick Gillespie always this laughably biased?

    1. Sometimes more.

    2. I’m not laughing.

  11. A lot of furor over a hopelessly unfunny joke.

  12. A lot of furor over a hopelessly unfunny joke.

  13. Colbert has never been funny doing anything other than mimicking stupid people, which is the lowest form of comedy. He was a one-trick pony even back in his Daily Show days, before turning it into an entire show with the Colbert Report.

  14. Not singling him out?

    Ajit Pai is going out of his way to exceed FCC regulations.

    https://www.fcc.gov/reports-research/guides/ obscenity-indecency-profanity-faq

    6 am to 10 pm. Read that.

    Nick Gillespie is Pai’s cock holster. First make it sound as if such is routine, then blame the regulations which appare5no one has discretion (stickler to the law), and finally call the FCC unwarranted

  15. Enjoyed Steven’s humor and slate on things for a long time.

    But of late his “humor” has turned into a four letter word of harsh, undignified for remarks. Vote for whom ever you choose, think your own thoughts, but when they get as cutting and disgusting as his have, I’m out of here.

    My simple reasoning for me, regardless of how I feel about someone, I can review and or criticize them without such tasteless remarks. It’s called character, which I have and SC does not.

    So SC is no longer a program I watch. Which filters down to No “Buick” commercials or purchases.
    RW

  16. One of the few things the LP has gotten right is the constant reminder of “You wanted more government. THIS is more government”.

  17. I’ll defend to the death Colbert’s freedow to spew whatever the comedian wants, including even his recent fighting words about Trump.

    But let’s do a bit of gender consciousness-raising. Let’s put what the liberal comedian said in a gender-political perspective. Suppose Hillary had won in November. Suppose a conservative comedian had said to her, “In fact, the only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin’s c?k holster.”

    1. What would have happened?
    2. How soon?

    Think about that gender perspective very carefully. It goes, I think, to the heart of gender politics and double standards that scorn sexism against women but far less against men.

    Don’t fire Colbert. He has helped create this:

    “The whole Democratic Party is now a smoking pile of rubble: In state government things are worse, if anything. The GOP now controls historical record number of governors’ mansions, including a majority of New England governorships. Tuesday’s election swapped around a few state legislative houses but left Democrats controlling a distinct minority. The same story applies further down ballot, where most elected attorneys general, insurance commissioners, secretaries of state, and so forth are Republicans.” http://www.vox.com/policy-and-…..ile-rubble

  18. “a “Fire Colbert” hashtag is making the rounds on Twitter, arguing that his comments are homophobic. Given Colbert’s public support for marriage equality and his obvious comfort level not only with gays and lesbians but affectionately parodying them in shows such as Strangers with Candy (in which he played a closeted teacher who was having an affair with a male colleague) and “The Ambiguously Gay Duo,” a Saturday Night Live animated series about superheroes who may or may not be gay, the attacks on Colbert are nothing more than right-wing concern trolling.

    So then it would be OK for Rachel Dolezal to insult people by calling them “nigger?”

  19. The constitution doesn’t forbid the government from regulating speech in some public settings.

    Seriously, If Colbert said “Obama is a N—–” on a public late night TV show he should be heavily fined and deserve whatever condemenation he would earn from the left. It would hardly matter that he supported Obama.

  20. They should investigate the fact that these hacks are not funny. They stopped being funny right about 2008 when the world decided to give a pass to the SLW.
    Sent from from Authority Review Site

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