Expletives Deleted

by Tracy R. Walsh

Maria Bustillos traces the history of the bleep. Bustillos prefers it to the “dump button delay”, which “is different from bleeping in that the edit is concealed completely from the audience“:

The dump button provides a relatively insidious, more censorship-like form of editing, because its alteration of the original broadcast has been actively concealed. If we are to have disagreements about what constitutes acceptable media for a civilized general audience — and we should — they should be aired in every possible way. Through a very loud bleep, for example. And through litigation, and yes, complaints to the FCC. Through arguments at dinner tables and letters to the editor.

A bleep is honest, immediate, noisy. It’s the cultural superego in motion, calling attention to a difference of opinion regarding the offensiveness of the bleeped material. Here is this questionable thing; think about it for yourself, investigate if you like. In this way, the bleep is a literal demonstration of First Amendment principles: the 1KHz-sound of a community actively engaged in the process of establishing standards, and struggling to understand itself.