FCC Considering Censorship For Washington Redskins Nickname

For decades – though less so in the internet age – social conservatives have been trying to push the FCC into censoring sex and violence on television. The response from the left has generally gone something like, “If you don’t like it, change the channel.”

I wonder if the liberals who are fighting a war on the Washington Redskins logo and nickname would be willing heed their own advice, or are we really going to let the FCC censor the team name?

The FCC, which enforces broadcast indecency violations, has received a petition from legal activist John Banzhaf III, asking that regulators strip local radio station WWXX-FM of its broadcasting license when it comes up for renewal for using the name “Redskins.”

Banzhaf says the word is racist, derogatory, profane and hateful, making its use “akin to broadcasting obscenity.”

“We’ll be looking at that petition, we will be dealing with that issue on the merits and we’ll be responding accordingly,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler told reporters.

I can understand why some find the Redskins nickname to be offensive. Whenever I hear the name I wince a bit, because it’s hard for me to see it as anything other than a slur.

But even so, there are sharp divides among even the Native American community over whether or not it is racist. Native Americans I know and respect here in North Dakota – many of whom were also outspoken proponent’s of the University of North Dakota’s “Fighting Sioux” nickname – tell me that the Redskins nickname is just fine.

In fact, they quite like it.

Given that the relative offensiveness of the team name is subjective, with large pluralities coming down on both sides of the issue in most polls, do we really want a government agency to settle the matter for all of us?

Why can’t we let the market decide? If you think the team name is offensive, then stop watching the team on television. Stop buying tickets and merchandise. If the team feels enough economic pain, they’ll get the hint.

But for the love of liberty, let’s not have the FCC censor the name. Even those who dislike the name should be opposed to that sort of heavy-handed regulation.

On a related note, I once thought of the internet as something that would make us more tolerant as a society. I thought it would be a great mixing pot where different cultures and ideas could rub up against one another, generally promoting more understanding.

What it’s seemingly becoming is an outrage machine. A place we go to get worked up by what offends us. A tool we use to try and silence those we disagree with.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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