George Will: Sacked for a loss by the language police

Wretched excess by government can be beneficial if it startles people into wholesome disgust and deepened distrust, and prompts judicial rebukes that enlarge freedom. So let’s hope the Federal Communications Commission embraces the formal petition inciting it to deny licenses to broadcasters who use the word “Redskins” when reporting on the Washington Redskins.

Using the FCC to break another private institution to the state’s saddle for the satisfaction of a clamorous faction illustrates how the government’s many tentacles give it many means of intimidating people who offend it. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, empowered to ban trademarks that “may” disparage persons, has already limited trademark protection of the Redskins’ name.

The FCC petition argues that broadcasting during prime time of the word “Redskins” has “an adverse impact on impressionable young Indian as well as non-Indian children.” (Today’s sensitivity arbiters say the word “Indian” does, too, but never mind.) Furthermore, uttering “Redskins” is “akin to broadcasting obscenity” and pornography, is “hate speech” and an “ethnic slur” that “keeps alive the spirit of inhumanity, subjugation and genocide” and “may” cause violence against American Indians. Besides, it is a “nuisance,” defined as something “annoying.”

Is the FCC empowered to protect an entitlement to a life without annoyances? What if the FCC is annoying? This is complicated…

Share