Essay on Censorship: United States and Black Eyed Peas

Submitted By zachh430
Words: 968
Pages: 4

“I know it when I see it,” said United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart in 1964 (LII, 1992). This quote pretty much sums up how the law of the United States of America defines criminally punishable obscenity. But what ever happened to “Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech?” ("Legal information institute," 2010).
According to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, we, as Americans, are entitled to freedom of speech. For the most part, Americans are allowed to express their First Amendment right to free speech, but this is not always the case. “The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories.” (FCC, 2011). The Federal Communications Commission was put into place by President Franklin D. Roosevelt under the Communications Act of 1934 ("Federal communications commission," 2012). It replaced the Federal Radio Commission (FRC) which regulated radio use from 1926-1934 (Goodman, 1999). Many can argue that censorship is not always necessary, particularly when it comes to music.
Music censorship is most popularly known for the “radio edit.” More times than not, the version of songs you hear on the radio is different than the album version in terms of length but more so with words. Inappropriate words are commonly bleeped, removed or changed from many songs that hit the radio airwaves. With songs containing multiple inappropriate words, this can become quite frustrating for listeners.
Censorship often brings more attention and light to the inappropriate word in the song. Silence and bleeping can be far more noticeable than actual word itself. Parents and children across the board take notice to this and this causes even more discussion. Children will ask, “Mommy, why was a word missing?” or they will simply hop on the Internet and search for themselves. A perfect example of this is Sammy Adams’ “All Night Longer.”
I first heard this song at a party with my friends over the summer and there is a line in the song that goes, “I said bartender make the mother-f*cker stronger.” Of course, when I listened to it, it was un-edited because I am twenty years old and was at a party with an older group of people. A few weeks later, I heard this song on the radio and the bleeping out was completely noticeable. Instead of the word, it was the sound of a vinyl record being turned. Personally, I think the song should have never even gone on the radio. The explicit word is repeated four or five times over the course of the song. My younger sister, who is twelve years old, was driving with me in the car one day and the song came on the radio. When that line came up, she said the explicit word! I was pretty caught off guard, not thinking my twelve year old sister would know the actual lyrics. I asked her where she found that out and she simply said she looked it up online. Although I was surprised at first, after thinking about it, I was not. She heard the obvious bleeping out of the word, and decided to take it upon herself to find out what it was. In this case, the bleeping of the word made it completely obvious that something else was supposed to be there and listeners do notice.
It is also quite annoying to listeners when misheard words end up becoming censored. In the Black Eyed Peas’ song, “My Humps”, the word “brothers” was mistaken for “f*ckers” and consequently was censored on some radio stations. The Black Eyed Peas’ other smash hit single, “Don’t Phunk With My Heart”, has been censored on stations to “Don’t Mess With My Heart” as some listeners mistook “phunk” for “f*ck”. Censoring often brings more attention than it is worth and ends up being counterproductive in most cases.