Wednesday, October 03, 2007

I saw the best minds of my generation...

...censored by the FCC?

There's a great article in SFGate today about the potential for an obscenity fine for airing Allen Ginsberg's poem "Howl" on the radio. As noted in the article, there is particular irony in this, because

fifty years ago today, a San Francisco Municipal Court judge ruled that Allen Ginsberg's Beat-era poem "Howl" was not obscene. Yet today, a New York public broadcasting station decided not to air the poem, fearing that the Federal Communications Commission will find it indecent and crush the network with crippling fines.

And they aren't kidding about crippling:

WBAI program director Bernard White fears that the FCC will fine the station $325,000 for every one of Ginsberg's dirty-word bombs.

And what dirty-word bombs! Some samples:

  • "alcohol and cock and endless balls" (mmm, endless balls...)
  • "who let themselves be fucked in the ass by saintly motorcyclists, and screamed with joy" (wait, is he talking about my college roommate?)
  • "who blew and were blown by those human seraphim, the sailors, caresses of Atlantic and Caribbean love" (oh god, who doesn't love sailors!)
  • "who balled in the morning in the evenings in rosegardens and the grass of public parks and cemeteries scattering their semen freely to whomever come who may"
  • "the wall with a vision of ultimate cunt and come eluding the last gyzym of consciousness" (must restrain self from making joke about "ultimate cunt.")
  • "The tongue and cock and hand and asshole holy!" (A-fuckin-men, brother.)

You get the point: the poem totally rawks. But there's another reason why this story is close to Fosco's heart. You see, Fosco once aired "Howl" on the public airwaves and got himself into a little trouble.

A number of years ago, Fosco programmed and hosted a twentieth-century classical music show on community radio station WTJU Charlottesville. One Wednesday evening (during drive-time, no less), Fosco aired a work by Lee Hyla which set a recording of Ginsberg reading "Howl" to music. Fosco didn't think about it until the Classical Director showed up at the station... Then, the next day, Fosco had to meet with the Station Manager in order to write up an incident report. By the end of the week, every member of the station had to undergo mandatory obscenity training. The Station Manager was nice enough not to tell everyone who had caused all of the fuss, so it was quite entertaining to listen to the classical and jazz staff speculate as to which rap/rock DJ had caused so much inconvenience for everyone. Luckily, no FCC complaint was ever filed and so there were no fines, etc. However, Fosco did feel simultaneously embarrassed and proud to be (probably) the first classical music DJ to run afoul of the FCC's obscenity policies.

Of course, Fosco still feels that "Howl," as art, should be exempt from all obscenity rules. Come on, people: grow up.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Fosco, you confuse me. In the preceding post you say of Clarence Thomas, "He's an embarrassment to the Court and to our country."

Even if Anita Hill's testimony is to be believed, all Thomas did was SAY things to her. How is that embarrassing to the country?

Then, in this post, you describe airing "Howl" over public airways and telling anyone offended to "grow up."

Maybe Anita should just grow up?

If Justice Thomas' crime is lying about Anita Hill in Senate testimony, Fosco must HATE Clinton for lying under oath as well!

Thomas called himself Long Dong, Clinton actually showed his. Anita Hill gets honored, Paula Jones is a pariah. Go figure.

Compare and contrast. Discuss.