Friday, February 06, 2009

The War on the No Cussing Club

Read here about the No Cussing Club

If you read the link above, you will see something that caught my attention when I heard about it on the radio. A teenager started a "No Cussing Club", a group of people who simply decide that they will abstain from cussing. There are those who see this club as a direct threat to their First Amendment Right and see that this threat must be confronted with anonymous death threats.

When I first heard about this on the radio, the radio host made good point saying, "…what about the First Amendment rights of the teenager who believes that cussing is bad?..." I want to explore the deeper reason why a "No Cussing Club" would pull death threat makers out of the woodwork. The impulse to cuss without restraint and then confront the Cussing Club with death threats are related impulses that connected by an underlying worldview that needs to be exposed and brought to light.

We all value bathroom stalls and bedroom privacy. We have a natural desire for a certain verbal prudence which is an extension of the privacy that we value in having bathroom stalls. Uttering a cussword is the equivalent of momentarily ripping down the walls of everyone's bathroom and sexual privacy and putting a private matter onto a screen for all to see. The F-bomb is rightly called a “bomb” because there is violence to it: it is an act of verbally tearing down the wall of our privacy, and it has the effect on our sense of prudence what scratching a needle across the record has when it halts a song un-expectedly.

In the rarest instances when exploring philosophical ideas, I've used off–color language to make a point (Here is my WWAD post which is relevant to this post). In Letter to the FCC I defended the FCC banning "fleeting indecency" during the hours of 0600 to 2200. I argued that people need to be apprenticed in simple ideas of decency and considerateness before they can navigate moral complexity with an eye towards what is ultimately good and decent. I argued that one must reckon with this need when considering what is best for the common good, and that this need demands a pocket of common time and space where simpler ideas of decency are upheld. The First Amendment right to express adult concerns on issues can be exercised freely without cussing, and people should be held to this standard on the airwaves.

I argued that people must be long apprenticed moral arithmetic to ever be able to use profanity in a moral calculus of "creative violence". There is a very big difference between

A) a rare and conscious use of profanity to shock an audience into seeing something when that audience has proven themselves in need of such a shock when all other means to wake that audience out of a slumber have been exhausted


B) using profanity without regard to boundaries says that privacy and boundaries of time and place do not matter.

Using profanity at will between the hours of 0600 to 2200 on public airwaves is an expression of a B) worldview and not an A) worldview. Unbound cussing is one form of the advancement of and evangelism of a worldview that is denuded of any idea of the sacred or even the special, and unbound porn is another. With this worldview the inclination to guard what is sacred is seen as an expression of human ignorance and fear. In the name of authenticity and naturalness, the power that comes from exploding our impulse to sacredness can be profaned for anyone's banal purposes of self promotion.

There is power to cussing and there is a cost when this power is used selfishly and habitually in a banal way. Banal, habitual, selfishly used cussing begets cynicism and numbness. Unbound and banal cussing can resemble creative violence but really isn't. It not a refinement of moral arithmetic but a replacement of it: it is based on a wholly competing idea of what is "authentic" and 'real" and "natural". Unbound cussing works backward from numbness and ennui as that which is natural and authentic.

In my Open Letter to Big Kids post, I explained that destructive people want the trappings of danger to command respect from people more innocent and more gullible than themselves. Wearing these trappings of danger is what I call "wearing a lion's mane", like a member of a tribe who wears the mane of the lion he has killed to show his bravery and prowess. Cussing is one way among many (gang fashion, etc…) that people try to give themselves the trappings of toughness and danger. Wearing the trappings of danger is a way of saying "Awe me, for I know the ways of the world! Entrust me with your respect and allegiance"

As lion's manes go, a cuss word is not necessarily creative or brave, and is therefore somewhat of a cheap, second hand lion's mane. When everyone is wearing some sort of second hand lion's mane as an expression of coolness, it can take real personal courage to not to wear a lions mane at all. When people lack this courage and lack the vision of a better world that would summon this courage, it can feel very natural to follow a crowd who are all wearing some form of cheap second hand lion’s mane, all seeking to command some low grade admiration from each. This low common denominator is "natural" for those who operate with a worldview that doesn't summon them to anything else.

To suggest any boundaries on cussing, or its cousin, porn, is the counter evangelism for a this worldview with a wholly different idea of what is “natural” and “authentic”: that some sacred time and space is required to make us better human beings and that profaning it is an act of nihilism. To be concerned about nihilism is to value a reality of goodness/ideals and hope that is being denied by nihilism. It is based on a view of human beings needing special times and places for different experiences to nourish a diet of spiritual emotional and mental needs; a diet that is as broad as the physical dietary needs that we have. In this paradigm to be fed junk is malnourishing to the soul: it is bad to even be fed too much of something that could be a good in a different portion.

To blend metaphors, these nutritional needs of the soul and mind demand the acknowledgement of a sort of "moral geography" in society, relationships and personal choices – a moral geography of boundaries of time and place that negotiates the meeting of these varied needs. The idea of a "moral geography" takes the idea of “moral hierarchy” of virtues and vices and places the hierarchy in the realm of multi-dimensions, a moral landscape of heights lows, middles and cliffs and boundaries. In a moral geography of varied terrain, not all paths are equal: paths that avoid the cliffs and lead to the heights are better than those paths that don't. It is this sense of special times and places in this moral geography that can be summed as the idea of the "sacred" and the "special".

It is with a moral geography of varied terrain that the classical distinction between License and Liberty distinction makes any sense. As I explained in my Naked Smoke post, License is the sheer ability to do something. Liberty is the license exercised with the discretion of acting in good faith to shoulder the responsibilities that come with the license. The idea of Liberty makes sense in a varied moral terrain where common good is something that transcends mere personal advancement.

“Freedom” and not “Liberty” is the rallying cry for those who do not believe that there is a moral geography with a varied moral terrain. In my Porn Moralists post I mentioned how the idea of the "Superflat" culture was used by a Japanese Philosopher Murakami to describe the obliteration between high art and low art in postmodern culture. The idea of the “superflat” can be taken beyond art and used to describe the flatness of moral geography to those who do not perceive that humans have needs that require a varied moral terrain. In a flat moral geography, Liberty is collapsed into License such that distinctions between the two are irrelevant. In superflat land, all you need is "freedom" since the common good is not elevated higher than personal advancement. It is in the broader realm of moral flatness that the consumption of art-- particularly the “low art" of disposable and consumable products and entertainment -- is denuded of “dietary” considerations, as I have defined a diet of spitiritual, emotional and intellectual needs. If the art is pleasing you somehow and not causing imminent harm, then it's perfectly good.

With the First Amendment, the Founders understood that there is a moral reality that transcends the First Amendment that makes the right a right: that the right to free speech operates in an unbreakable package with other moral truths, particularly that rights come with responsibilities to act in good faith to advance the common good. There is a moral geography that Founders understood that lies behind the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and Bill of Rights; that there are the dialectics of rights and responsibilities, personal advancement and common good that operate in a Helenistic sense of balance and proportion to each other. The Founders believed that citizens of a free society needed to invest effort to properly navigate this moral geography and that it took effort to apprentice oneself in moral consideration and reflection.

Those who want unlimited right to cuss and make death threats would hurt the speech of those who disagree are holding the First Amendment as a form of Secular Scripture while they reject every other moral principal that the Founder stood for. For them, the Founders were the secular equivalent of Moses for the First Amendment but can be dismissed as slave owning bigoted white men for every other moral consideration that led to the First Amendment.

For the death threat makers and those who want unlimited license to cuss, the First Amendment is the only remnant of the Founders moral vision that has any place in the moral geography of the superflat. This is based on a hyper rejection of sacredness and an extreme rejection of humans needing a particular emotional/spiritual diet that requires certain pockets of time and space free from the intrusion of cussing. If you don’t believe these needs exist, you don’t have to factor them into your consideration of common good.

In the superflat, the First Amendment it is denuded of any other consideration of common good and so the mere advancement of the morally denuded First Amendment therefore becomes the highest common good. When you flatten the reality that makes the First Amendment right a right, you elevate the unlimited porn and cussing as the highest and only expression of the common good. And so Larry Flint can wear the American Flag as one out to do us all a favor.

So the First Amendment in the superflat world is the right to cuss without limits. In this flat terrain, the engine is of one’s intentions revved for maximum freedom to go full steam ahead like a car, speeding, careening, doing donuts on the dessert floor. All pleasure is morally equal, so you are “free” to do whatever you want where-ever and whenever.

Any moral system must manage how people interact with each other and the “superflat” moral system is no exception. Trying to create moral freedom by creating moral flatness makes it necessary to enforce a low common denominator of behavior. Part of the underlying idea of "authenticity and "realness" is that there are not higher ideals that people must aspire to in their thought and language. In this realm, "I cuss therefore I am", since all people are fundamentally animals who's only motive is to pleasure themselves by gaining dominance over others. Since people are essential domineering animals, all thoughts and ideas can be decoded for certain "dominance instincts" and thus certain conspiratorial dominance intentions. Those thoughts and ideas that will lead to bad dominance equilibrium among brutes must be policed.

Anyone who aspires to live according a vision of a more varied moral terrain is the potential domineer of others. Since people cannot be entrusted to think through nuances they must their thoughts policed to make sure that they do not ever impose their thoughts on others. The only acceptable imposition is to impose the superflat that is seen as promoting maximum instinct expression. In the superflat, maximum cussing is the calculus of maximum diversity of instinct expression among brutes. You must keep your non-cussing values to yourself. If you evangelize them in any way, it would upset the equilibrium of brutes and give domineering animals the idea of dangerous moral hierarchies. Even if you keep to yourself while quietly practicing your values you can be persecuted for having incorrect thoughts that have the potential to poison the PH balance of society with potentially toxic ideas.

While I have argued for the FCC 0600 to 2200 hrs ban on cussing/profanity on the airwaves, the leader of the no cussing club has stated that he is not trying to impose a law and that he and others are only trying to put a personal value into practice. From the moral view of the threat makers, it does not matter that the No Cussing Club isn't promoting law since law has its genesis in thought. Therefore thought must be policed. People cannot be trusted to have thoughts that may end up in laws they don't want, even if they say they don't want to impose laws. Those thoughts might put brutish people to march in goosestep formation so they must anticipate this brutish goose-stepping with their own pre-emptive total war against a "pre-crime". Any thought that can challenge the superflat must be nipped in the bud by any means necessary, using any available cyber weapon, threat and assassination of character.

Such an extreme rejection of sacredness has lead to this view of human brutes needing violent thought policing. This impulse to thought policing it is not a generous enough view of human potential to be worthy of democracy and to be worthy of the government of by and for the people that the Founders bequeathed to us. The Founders said, “…we've given you a republic if you can keep it…” In bequeathing a democracy to us that bequeathed to us a place where different views were allowed to be expressed where the parties make a good faith effort to be civil. Democracy is a civic matrix for dialogue that, if heated, makes every effort to be civil and peaceable. In bequeathing Liberty the Founders bequeathed the freedom to undermine it and choose tyranny.

Many of the death threat makers are advancing/protecting their idea of freedom in the name of protecting it from something that is religious or at least connected to religion. In fact, the superflat is its own alternate religion that seeks not only to make exposure to cussing a freedom but a requirement. The death threat makers have become the Inquisition of the superflat religion. Its in the force of their thought policing that they make the force of their allegiance to their religion known.

Those who think A) that an anti-cussing club is an affront to their First Amendment and B) that they can enforce that right with death threats will not be remembered well by history. They owe their debt to terrorists and not to the Founders. To have any integrity these anonymous people making death threats need to stand up and be counted. Until then they are cowards who must hide in secret to promote ideas thought threats because they know they will look stupid defending their actions in public.

The audacity of 22,000 death threats against the No Cussing Club is a dragon breathing down the neck of those who value sacred space, who question the superflat moral vision and those who would impose it with force. It is a dragon that will grow if it is not confronted. To the No Cussing Club: keep it up and don't back down.

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