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Putting Asterisks in S***hole Is F***ing Stupid

When offensive words are the story, why wouldn't they be in the story?

Fox NewsFox NewsYesterday the president used an excrement-related vulgarity to describe Haiti and certain African countries, renewing the evergreen debate about whether it is appropriate for news outlets to quote public figures who make news by saying inappropriate things. Somehow the obvious answer continues to elude high-minded editors and prim TV anchors.

The New York Times, after soberly considering the issue, went the full shithole (twice!) in covering Donald Trump's immigration discussion with members of Congress but omitted the term from its headline, substituting "disparaging words." Then it ran a sidebar about how the Times and other news organizations approached the issue.

"It seemed pretty clear to all of us that we should quote the language directly, not paraphrase it," explains Phil Corbett, the paper's associate managing editor for standards. "We wanted to be sure readers would fully understand what the story was about."

Reporter Michael Grynbaum says shithole again in the sidebar but is weirdly circumspect in describing previous episodes in which politicians' vulgarities made news. Joe Biden, for instance, "used a profanity in marveling at the passage of the Affordable Care Act," while George W. Bush "was caught on a live microphone using an expletive when referring to a Times reporter." Readers wondering exactly what Biden and Bush said ("This is a big fucking deal" and "major league asshole," respectively) will have to look elsewhere.

Grynbaum also revisits the 2005 Access Hollywood tape in which Trump bragged about groping beautiful women, saying he was such a big celebrity that he could "grab them by the pussy" whenever he felt like it. When the video emerged in October 2016, the Times reported that quote in full, but now it seems to be splitting the difference.

"The word 'pussy' was published by many major outlets during the 2016 presidential race," Grynbaum writes, "after footage emerged of Mr. Trump boasting, in vulgar terms, that he had grabbed women by their genitals." Why "in vulgar terms"? Having identified the objectionable word in the first half of the sentence, Grynbaum is suddenly coy in the second half.

Grynbaum notes that CNN and MSNBC used shithole in their chyrons yesterday, while "Fox News spelled the word with asterisks." You might surmise that the difference can be explained by the channels' partisan inclinations. But even on CNN, Wolf Blitzer could not bear to say "shithole," opting for "s-hole" instead. What a d-bag.

At Reason we do not have an editor in charge of "standards" (insert the obvious rejoinder in the comments), although I notice that my colleague Nick Gillespie, like the Times and NBC News, opted to say shithole when quoting the president but not in the headline above his post. [Update: The headline is now unexpurgated.] I have discovered, purely through trial and error, that certain words are fine online but maybe not in the print edition, which is rather counterintuitive. My own view is that it is silly and potentially confusing to omit offensive words from a story when offensive words are the story. Enough of this s***.

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  • BestUsedCarSales||

    As someone who often gets upset and argues about things only tangentially related to the main thread of conversation, I love this fucking article. God Bless Jacob. This is some dumb shit.

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

  • Elias Fakaname||

    CUNT!!!!!

    That is all.

  • RightWingA**hole||

    What a shitstorm!

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    Sheeeeiiitttt

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

  • chemjeff||

    Okay that was pretty good.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    G.O.B. is Gillespie, right?

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Matt.

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    I dunno, the delivery is much more Welch, who has a real potty mouth.

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    Excuse me, shit mouth.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

  • Rhywun||

    I have no problem with ostensibly family-friendly media self-censoring words that were, after all, spoken behind closed doors in a meeting between adults. There is literally no other reason to publish the full word than to make a political point, as the same outlets would never do it when quoting, say, a celebrity or a schoolteacher.

  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    CNN actually had the full word all over the front page of their site this morning which surprised me. They do weird things there though like they can't make up their minds. I've seen words censored in a headline but not the article and vice versa.

  • CE||

    Using the full word in a printed or online article should be fine. Otherwise the reader is confused.
    Blurting it out on broadcast TV or the radio would depend on the channel and the audience.

  • BambiB||

    There is literally no other reason to publish the full word than to make a political point

    Or to prove that Trump is, once again, correct.

    All of the countries of Africa ARE shitholes. Some are bigger shitholes than others, but as you get to the HEART of the continent - SURPRISE! No heart! Just a big SHITHOLE!

    What else would you call a place where males infected with AIDS (a disease that is the #1 killer in Africa and which only exists because bushmeat traders were hacking up and eating monkeys) rape toddlers to "cure" their disease? What else would you call a place that kills or chases off productive farmers (who were producing a surplus), so people who don't know dick about farming can come in, seize the land, and fail to produce enough to keep the population from starving (despite tons of grain from foreign donors being just a few miles down the road in warehouse)? What do you call a place where the average IQ is less than 65 (recalling the less than 70 is "mental retardation)?

    Bedlam? Hell? Idiocracy? Or maybe just... a shithole.

  • SIV||

    Trump really " tells it like it is". You fake news-mongering journo-cucks go try and argue that Haiti is NOT a shithole.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Not really the point of article.

  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    Try to not try and.

  • dave b.||

    It's a shithole thanks to the combined efforts of France and the US

  • BambiB||

    And what is Africa's excuse?

  • Elias Fakaname||

    And really, Trump is well mannered compared to the likes of LBJ.

  • BambiB||

    LBJ absolutely made Trump look like a class act.

    URINATING in a sink, inviting people into his bathroom, showing off his abdominal scar, exposing his private parts: after a while nothing surprises a biographer of Lyndon Baines Johnson.

    https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/ 1998/04/three-new-revelations-about-lbj/377094/

  • Billy Bones||

    Correct me if I am wrong, but isn't this precisely one of the reasons given for Volokh Conspiracy Blog moving to Reason from Washington Post--inability to directly quote, specifically foul language?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I don't watch CNN at home, but I'm traveling on business this week and the hotel has CNN on in the common room. Jesus H. Christ. Here's a summary of what I've seen over the last week.

    Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump.

  • Microaggressor||

  • Ecoli||

    Did they mention that Melania didn't wear sensible flat shoes? Oh, the horror!

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Our country will never be free until we have completely stopped talking about the first lady ever.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Her jugs are a national treasure.

  • BambiB||

    And that Trump threw rolls of paper towels at the Puerto Ricans!

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/video/
    2017/oct/04/trump-throws-paper-towels-into
    -crowd-in-puerto-rico-video

    Just look at all those horrified, cowering, angry, offended people!

    Oh wait. Those are the lamestream media reporters taking umbrage on behalf of the Puerto Ricans they obviously think are too stupid to be upset over presidential playfulness.

  • CE||

    You forgot Russia, obstruction of justice, unhinged and 25th Amendment.

  • lap83||

    I don't give a s***hole about anything I read about on twitter unless it's funny. Be funny or gtfo

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Hey, one thing I did notice on CNN this morning, is they were SAYING "shithole" and it was uncensored. Is "shit" now ok with the FCC?

  • chemjeff||

    I don't think cable channels are covered by the FCC's indecency rules.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    then why don't I see boobies on CNN?

  • Mickey Rat||

    Sure you do, I believe Andrew Cuomo's less competent brother is an on air personality there.

  • ||

    Upvoted.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    then why don't I see boobies on CNN?

    Cuz CNN sucks ass!

  • ||

    then why don't I see boobies on CNN?

    Naked News airs on and is produced by Playboy TV or so my friends who subscribe to cable/satellite and watch such shows have informed me.

  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    It seems like many channels are loosening up on shit. I've heard it uncensored on quite a few channels lately including AMC and Syfy. I think they still have to wait until it's late enough though, say after 8 or 9.

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    AMC did a while ago, and I think they have a policy of one fuck per season. FX seems to allow a fuck per episode. As chemjeff said, FCC indecency rules don't apply to cable. It's always been self-censorship by those stations for the sake of not scaring off advertisers.

    The Expanse sure does abuse Syfy's recent leniency on shit.

  • BambiB||

    Sort of pisses me off to watch a movie and hear him the actor say, "*censored* damn it!"

  • CE||

    Yeah, cuz lots of kids go to bed at 8 these days.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    I think the notion that there are "bad words" has about run its Puritanical course. Finally!

  • Rhywun||

    If there are no "extreme" words then how do you express "extreme" thoughts? There is a reason that all languages have always had "taboo" words.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    They can be extreme without being taboo.

    Words convey meaning. That some of them are "bad" is absurd.

    If I'm talking about having sex, what's the difference between sexual intercourse and fucking or making whoopie for that matter? Same act. Yet one is wrong?

    It's just a word.

  • Rhywun||

    They can be extreme without being taboo.

    I don't think so - being taboo is what makes such words "extreme". Plus you've just removed a curse word from the language.

    Yet one is wrong?

    Not wrong. Just reserved for certain situations.

  • BambiB||

    Well, you could say, "Worse than Obozo"

  • Zeb||

    I believe that broadcast TV can show "indecent" stuff after 10 PM. Cable can show whatever they want. They just don't want to scare off advertisers.

  • Juice||

    Oh no! They said it? They said the word of curse?

  • Elias Fakaname||

    I was waiting for someone to link that. +1000.......shits.

  • Finrod||

    This will mess with your brain: the referenced South Park episode, with its 162 utterances of 'shit', was originally broadcast in June 2001, nearly 3 months BEFORE 9/11.

  • Lucius Fergeson||

    Here's a curse word for you:
    Niger

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    What's niggardly, chopped liver?

  • NoVaNick||

    Give it time-they will be pressured into changing the name of their country under the pretense that it was imposed on them by white nationalist Frenchies...

  • Mickey Rat||

    Well, there is a place for politeness and civility, and frankly what good is expletive you can use without shocking anywhere, at anytime in front of anyone?

  • NoVaNick||

    The Children! Won't anyone think of the fucking children!

  • Ecoli||

    +1 Shirley Temple.

  • Jerryskids||

    What I want to know is: whatever happened to that guy and that book he wrote about Trump? I can't remember his name or the name of the book because it happened such a long time ago but I swear it used to be a big fucking deal once upon a time.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    The Pee Dossier?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    The Art of the Deal?

  • Old Mexican's Speedos||

    Death In Venice?

  • Old Mexican's Speedos||

    The Pussy-Grabber's Guide To Shithole Countries?

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    But what of the chilrenz?

    Don't you know that children will mimic what they hear and read in the media?

    Why do you hate the children, Jacob?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    It's funny you mention this, but Mark Zuckerberg announced today that he's making "Meaningful Changes" to Facebook's newsfeed because he wants his kids to know that his father was a force for "good" in the world.

  • CE||

    Just make your cash, spend it and enjoy it, then give away what's left.
    Don't try to be a "force for good" in the world.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I also like the image of Mark himself down in the database, personally intercepting each malicious post in the name of a better world.

  • Mickey Rat||

    Making a platform that millions of people use was not enough?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I thought he said sinkhole.

  • CE||

    No, that would be referring to Florida.

  • CE||

    At Reason we do not have an editor in charge of "standards"...

    There doesn't seem to be an editor in charge of anything. But that's as it should be for a libertarian publication.

  • Mickey Rat||

    Unfortunately that gets you hires like Wiegel.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    I wish they had someone in charge of implementing an edit button for us.

  • Old Mexican's Speedos||

    Grynbaum notes that CNN and MSNBC used shithole in their chyrons yesterday, while "Fox News spelled the word with asterisks."


    Yep. And Fox News has been parsing his words and placing a different context around them as if the man was a prophwt or spoke in riddles.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    It's just too bad they don't a 24/7 anti Trump propaganda newsfeed, isn't it? You k ow, like every other news outlet.

  • Mongo||

    I like shitholes but only in the context of Hustler.

  • crufus||

    Double plus ungood was good enough for Big Brother.

  • operagost||

    Bigly.

  • operagost||

    Some days I feel like I'm living in some shithole created by a major fucking asshole who grabs women by the pussy. That's a big fucking deal.

  • DRM||

    Yesterday the president used an excrement-related vulgarity


    Did he?

    See, last time I checked, he was just accused of it by Senator Durbin, and Trump himself denied it. With nobody actually presenting any objective evidence either way. Is Senator Durbin such a model of probity that we really should trust his uncorroborated word enough to assert it as a fact?

    I mean, sure, some might claim it's plausibly in-character for Trump, but then, some said the same thing after they were duped by the Gorilla Channel parody.

  • Agammamon||

    "We wanted to be sure readers would fully understand what the story was about."

    Does. Is. Wait, do these people think there is anyone who doesn't know what the word is because you replaced a couple letters with asterisks? If no, then just stop. Its pointless.

    If yes, how stupid do you think those people are? They probably can't even read.

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