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the bleep is a literal demonstration of First Amendment principles
August 27, 2013 11:16 AM   Subscribe

"Curses! The birth of the bleep and modern American censorship" by Maria Bustillos
"The bleep of censorship invariably draws attention to the material it was intended to conceal; circles it, if you like, by loudly omitting it. Bleeping also serves as proof that there is a watcher: someone looking out for us in advance. In the bleep lies the evidence that you are being “protected” — but by whom? Why? And from what?"
posted by andoatnp (15 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
In to complain about the highlighting gimmick before finishing reading the article.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:27 AM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I used to think it was ridiculous that people got all concerned about simple words which are only offensive because we decide they're offensive. After all, "fuck" and "get it on" have very similar meanings, but very different levels of offensiveness.

However, I now realize that censoring swear words is necessary in order to retain them as swear words. If we didn't censor them, they'd just become normal words and we'd all lose our ability to add snap to our words when we want a quick laugh or to offend others when we're angry.

Furthermore, the bleep is actually a word by itself which can add humor to a tv show in ways that the non-bleeped word can't. In my opinion, non-bleeped south park episodes are actually less funny when I can hear what was said despite the fact that I already knew what was said and had mentally translated the bleep already. I'm not exactly sure why this is.
posted by HappyEngineer at 11:28 AM on August 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


In to complain about the highlighting gimmick before finishing reading the article.

Did you see that you can turn it off? After the fifth paragraph, there is a red box that says "SHOW REDACTED".
posted by andoatnp at 11:29 AM on August 27, 2013


Did you see that you can turn it off? After the fifth paragraph, there is a red box that says "SHOW REDACTED".

I didn't! Too late for me, since I've finished the piece, but other people will be glad to know. It was okay, but I felt a bit lost about what the author was actually arguing about the significance (or lack thereof) of bleeping.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:37 AM on August 27, 2013


I'd be remiss not to point you all to the hilariously censored version of Microsoft's Windows Launch Party video from a couple of years ago.
posted by gauche at 11:44 AM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Now I am genuinely curious about the adoption of the bleep. Yes, this other stuff is interesting, but the article uses "birth of the bleep" in the title, and to have the bit about the "proto-bleep" at the start leaves this large blank spot following it where I still don't really know how a bleep became a popular convention for covering obscenity.
posted by RobotHero at 11:44 AM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


On the subject, and for those with love of play, Blackbar is an interesting demonstration of the use of redaction in game design.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:45 AM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


In to complain about the highlighting gimmick before finishing reading the article.

Ibid.
posted by NedKoppel at 12:54 PM on August 27, 2013


It doesn't matter if you can turn it off or not. Half the people who visit the site will do what I did, which was to leave the browser tab immediately.
posted by NedKoppel at 12:56 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: pooping, farting, mentioning of the peen.
posted by louche mustachio at 1:08 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Arrested Development continued to bleep things, to often hilarious comical effect, even after they moved to Netflix and didn't have to bleep anything. Maeby's speech at the Opies wouldn't have been nearly as funny unbleeped.
posted by Cookiebastard at 1:21 PM on August 27, 2013


Arrested Development continued to bleep things, to often hilarious comical effect, even after they moved to Netflix and didn't have to bleep anything. Maeby's speech at the Opies wouldn't have been nearly as funny unbleeped.

Personally, I find Jimmy Kimmel's "Unnecessary Censorship" bits hilarious for pretty much the same reason.
posted by hwestiii at 1:37 PM on August 27, 2013


"The bleep of censorship invariably draws attention to the material it was intended to conceal; circles it, if you like, by loudly omitting it."

Proof of concept.
posted by solotoro at 2:08 PM on August 27, 2013


What an absolutely great article.

But come on, the opening anecdote is just too good, too wonderful, too congruent with exactly what I believe our culture's most haunting underlying fear is to possibly be true:
In A Tower in Babel, media historian Erik Barnouw describes the invention of bleeping at the dawn of the radio age. Or proto-bleeping, I should say, since the earliest system didn’t produce a censorship sound, but rather provided the engineer with a switch to a nearby phonograph that could be flipped to play music in case any troublesome content should appear over the live microphone.

This innovation seems to have been prompted by the 1921 appearance on Newark’s WJZ of one Olga Petrova (born Muriel Harding in 1884), a famous vaudeville actress and singer known (and feared) for her strong views. Petrova was “a fanatic on birth control and always making speeches about it,” according to Barnouw. She was friends with Margaret Sanger, who founded the American Birth Control League, the organization that would later become Planned Parenthood.
...
One night in 1921, Petrova, then engaged at a Newark theater, went to the local radio station WJZ to perform. ...
Over the air censorship technology was developed as a direct and immediate response to an uppity woman getting on the radio and talking about the importance of birth control.

Words fail me.
posted by jamjam at 2:24 PM on August 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


A novelist finding fame when his work was (needlessly) censored was the premise for Kenneth Patchen's Memoirs of a Shy Pornographer.
posted by rhymes with carrots at 2:54 PM on August 27, 2013


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