Free Speech

Bono’s Bad Words Reach Supremes

Rock star Bono was carried away with the moment when he won a Golden Globe in 2003, and, as rock stars do, let his tongue rip. “This is really, really fucking brilliant!” Trouble was, the event was on live TV and the broadcast watchdog the FCC jumped on the network that let such an obscenity slip. The ruling led to a succession of other finger-wagging fines to shows including NYPD Blue, the CBS News Early Show and a PBS documentary on blues musicians. Five years on, the Supreme Court must now decide whether the FCC was within its powers or whether naughty words constitute free speech under the First Amendment. It makes for a fascinating, and expletive ridden, argument. Bono got things into perspective when he told The Wall Street Journal, “It’s an uncool thing to do. I genuinely blew it,” adding, “I still think freedom of speech is more important than the risk that some idiot—i.e. me on that occasion—might abuse it.”