Of George Carlin and Obscenity in the Courts Today

It’s 12:30am and I have a pretty solid rule of no writing latenight anymore, ‘cos it gets my mind revving for bed, but then I shouldn’t have stumbled on the midnight airing of Larry King, on which a few comics are lamenting the loss of George Carlin.

Bill Maher nailed it nicely, in speaking of both Lenny Bruce and George Carlin. Lenny Bruce, he liked but didn’t love, ‘cos while Bruce was wildly groundbreaking, he wasn’t always funny. Carlin, however, even when he offended the shit outta you, his fuckin’ smirk would win you over and you’d be smitten by the act’s end.

Here’s the thing, though. Carlin’s greatest contribution to our society, I think, is that words are just words, and if we wanna let ’em hurt us or bother us, that’s our right, but our rights should stop when it starts infringing on other people’s rights to use whatever words they like.

That’s it, in a nutshell. I mean, shit, it’s a fucking word. What’s the motherfucking problem? Why are they getting their tits in a twist? Don’t let the cocksuckers win. They’re a bunch of cunts just taking the piss.

When Carlin unleashed the seven words you couldn’t say on television, and his act landed his ass in a sling for obscenity that same year, it began a serious debate. The debate wasn’t new, but it was much more prominent, because this was Carlin, not Bruce. Carlin played the fucking Tonight Show, man. People actually liked him.

Lenny Bruce’s problem was, he was so antagonistic and angry about pushing the boundaries that he often sort of forgot to bring the humour along with his act. Still, he made important statements, and you can read his How to Talk Dirty And Influence People today and it will still sound like he’s talking about modern society, and it’s more than 40 years old. He was ahead of his time, brilliant, outspoken, groundbreaking, but just a little too hard to take for the common person.

George Carlin, however, was this bright, funny, charming, effusive, witty, and always surprising guy who couldn’t help but to leave you feeling very, very amused. (And probably a little sore from all the laughing.) At the end, you’d think “Damn. That was some funny shit, but how’d he get to be so goddamned right about things? Yet… funny?”

One of the great unfortunate things about George’s lousy fucking timing about getting out of this rat-race of ours is that a landmark case is before the courts now, maybe to finally, for once and for all, debunk the notion of the “obscene”.

God, George would have loved to see this case argued.

As a blogger who sometimes talks about sex, but almost always writes in a way some deem to be “obscene”, with profanities abound, I’m concerned about any case that defines internet sex-related sites as obscene. As should anyone who writes on sex in the blggosphere, even if this is regarding a much more overt sex-filled site.

In a nutshell, the NY Times says:

Mr. Walters is defending Clinton Raymond McCowen, who is facing charges that he created and distributed obscene material through a Web site based in Florida. The charges include racketeering and prostitution, but Mr. Walters said the prosecution’s case fundamentally relies on proving that the material on the site is obscene.

What is the defense? They plan to enter into evidence information about search trends on Google. Comparing, say, the searches done for “apple pie” versus those done for “orgy”. The argument they’re making is, yes, we’d like to think we live in a world with perfect, “normal” suburban people and all, but the reality is, almost everyone’s got a little kink in the closet.

And “orgy”, it turns out, is a pretty darn popular search. Arguably as popular and even as American, it would seem, as apple pie, if the numbers bear out.

I mean, think about it. If Oprah came out tomorrow and said, “GOD, I love it doggie-style!” then taking it from behind would become the new pole-dance. But as much as we want to think we live in a society full of sex, it’s mostly a society full of hypocrisy. ‘Cos it’s that clean sex, right? Tits and ass, a little cock-thrusting, she takes it and likes it, and that’s how we like our sex. Or is it?

The guys passing all the laws in Washington are the ones cluttering up the Rolodexes of all the best escort agencies– err, whorehouses– I mean, escort agencies. They’re the ones doing fancy toe-tap messages in airport washrooms as they troll for clandestine homosexual encounters, and getting caught with, essentially, hookers, yet they want voters to believe they’re somehow perfect people with no strange sexual mores.

It’s insane. It’s hypocrisy. It’s bullshit. Own up and admit that you like it d-i-r-t-y, and get it over with. Fuck!

And probably half the people covering the stories or attacking others based on the stories, are hiding their own strange little fetishes. You know, they’re into toe-sucking, or golden showers, or love to be spanked and chastised like they’re six years old. Then there’s the holier-than-thou who fall harder-than-you, like Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, who just oozed hypocrisy.

So, this case, substantiated by Google, aims to finally assert that people want to know about orgies, and all those other sexual things. And much, much more than apple pie, it would seem.

The reality is, we’re in a whole new kind of sexual revolution, and we’re all getting more savvy, but also more experimental. If we can look to the internet for inspiration and information, in the privacy of our own homes, then we’re liable to do just that. Thus, the web seems like the porn-lover’s playground, because there’s no inherent public shame left in the consumption of porn, not when you can do it at home.

George understood that about us. He understood, somewhere around when he was in ’70-71, that it was all right for him to be confused and disappointed by the world around him. He began to realize that he wasn’t alone. He stopped being a clean-cut comic and gave in to the dark side. He began to point out the stupidity of obscenity, swear like he was hanging out with friends, and just nudged us into a direction where maybe, just maybe, we might finally realize that they really are just words, and we all needed to lighten up a little.

Just like methinks Florida might lighten up about sex. After all, if Google says we’re d-i-r-t-y, then who are we to argue?