Since long before the election of Donald Trump, Stephen Colbert has given America the gift of humor to relieve stress caused by Trump.
Since the election of Trump, Stephen Colbert has devoted a section of almost every show to humor at Trump’s expense.
The Federal Communications Commission has announced that it is going to investigate the possibility that a recent Colbert monologue went too far. This is the monologue.
As indicated, the show that aired bleeped out the word “cock”. We know what was bleeped out because articles on line reported the actual words. Rolling Stone reported:
On Monday’s Late Show, Colbert quipped that “the only thing [Trump’s] mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin’s cock holster.”
“I have had a chance to see the clip now and so, as we get complaints — and we’ve gotten a number of them — we are going to take the facts that we find and we are going to apply the law as it’s been set out by the Supreme Court and other courts and we’ll take the appropriate action.”
Pai’s comments on Colbert are surprising as “The Late Show” airs outside the FCC’s long-established “safe harbor” time frame of 6 am to 10 pm in which the commission has the authority to police allegations of indecent and obscene material on the airwaves. They would also seem to clash with Pai’s vow to maintain a lighter regulatory environment for media overall.
So the question that everyone in America is asking, is why would Pai announce an investigation? Did Trump, directly or indirectly, order this investigation? Will the “investigation” have the desired effect of moderating Colbert’s derogatory remarks about Trump?
There is no question that Colbert’s remarks fail to meet the criterion of “obscene” as set forth in Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 1464, which prohibits the utterance of any obscene, indecent or profane language by means of radio communication. Consistent with a subsequent statute and court case, the Commission’s rules prohibit the broadcast of indecent material during the period of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. FCC decisions also prohibit the broadcast of profane material between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. Civil enforcement of these requirements rests with the FCC, and is an important part of the FCC’s overall responsibilities. At the same time, the FCC must be mindful of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and Section 326 of the Communications Act, which prohibit the FCC from censoring program material, or interfering with broadcasters’ free speech rights.
Obscene speech is not protected by the First Amendment and broadcasters are prohibited, by statute and regulation, from airing obscene programming at any time. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, to be obscene, material must meet a three-prong test: (1) an average person, applying contemporary community standards, must find that the material, as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest (i.e., material having a tendency to excite lustful thoughts); (2) the material must depict or describe, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by applicable law; and (3) the material, taken as a whole, must lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. The Supreme Court has indicated that this test is designed to cover hard-core pornography. It seems to me that any fair minded individual would not consider Colbert’s remarks as “hard-core pornography.” So who is responsible for this announced investigation and on what basis would the FCC even consider such an investigation? If Trump were a dictator he would be able to order an investigation and demand the resignation of Colbert.
Trump has been frequently compared to dictators. As early as March of 2016 articles appeared to warn of the risk of a Trump dictatorship. The express concern was that Trump might attempt to intimidate any who would oppose him. It appears that those fears have materialized. In February of 2016 it was reported that “Trump Wants A Ruthless America,” in an article identifying Trump as the most dangerous man in the world:
“Believe me, I’ll change things. And again, we’re going to be so respected. I don’t want to use the word ‘feared,'” he told the audience. But that is precisely what Trump wants: to be feared. His bid for the White House, long ridiculed, is a fight for a ruthless, brutal America. Behind his campaign slogan “Make America great again!” is the vision of a country that no longer cares about international treaties, ethnic minorities or established standards of decency.”
Consider these articles:
“The starkest difference between dictatorships and democracies is that democracies are ruled by laws, and dictatorships are ruled by dictators. The “rule of law,” as it’s often referred to, stands for laws that emerge from a process responsive to the majority, that are consistently applied, and are applicable to everyone regardless of their position or power. Donald Trump doesn’t seem to understand this. The best aesthetic descriptor of Trump’s look, I’d argue, is dictator style.”
“When Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi met with U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington on Monday, I couldn’t help thinking about how Trump’s presidency increasingly resembles a Middle East autocracy.”
“U.S. president Donald Trump intends to be a dictator. By this I mean that he wishes to individually dictate law and individually control the levers of the state through a mixture of legal and extralegal mechanisms with no effective external restraint. The actions he is taking are all in pursuit of this goal, and he is already well on his way.”
The U.S. Constitution was created in such a way to protect America by a separation of powers, checks and balances and federalism precisely to avoid concentrated power. Their goal was to stop authoritarians like Donald Trump. If you want proof that Trump is an authoritarian remember that an “authoritarian” is a person who governs by valuing order and control over personal freedom and seeks to concentrate power in the hands of a single “strongman.” Viewed through the lens of authoritarianism, Trump’s approach to governing is logical and coherent. For example, an authoritarian wouldn’t follow the normal process in a constitutional democracy for disputing a judicial decision he dislikes – which is to appeal it to a higher court. An authoritarian would instead assail judges who rule against him, as Trump has done repeatedly. He’d also threaten to hobble the offending courts, as Trump did in urging that the 9th Circuit be broken up.
Likewise, an authoritarian has no patience for normal legislative rules – designed, as they are in a democracy, to create opportunities for deliberation. Which is why Trump told Mitch McConnell to use the “nuclear option” against the time-honored Senate filibuster, in order to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.
Trump called House and Senate rules “archaic” and urged they be abandoned. “We don’t have a lot of closers in politics, and I understand why. It’s a very rough system. It’s an archaic system,” he said.
Through the eyes of an authoritarian, rules that block what the authoritarian wants to do are always “bad for the country,” as Trump said of them.
Trump would like to get rid of the filibuster altogether. “The filibuster concept is not a good concept to start off with.”
An authoritarian also seeks to intimidate the press, in order to avoid criticism and consolidate his power. Trump still doesn’t miss an opportunity to assail the media for publishing “fake news.” His chief of staff has revived Trump’s campaign proposal to widen libel laws so that he can sue the press for stories he doesn’t like.
Authoritarians do not tolerate other levels of government with their own powers and responsibilities. Which is why Trump wants to force states and cities to report on unauthorized immigrants, even though this violates the principle of federalism enshrined in the 10th Amendment.
Finally, authoritarians promote other authoritarians, in an effort to normalize authoritarian rule.
Trump invited President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines to visit the White House. Duterte is an authoritarian leader accused of ordering extra-judicial killings of thousands of people suspected of using or selling narcotics as well as others who may have had no involvement with drugs. He has referred to former President Barack Obama as a “son of a whore.” And he has declared open season on suspected terrorists, saying that if he were presented with a suspected terrorist, “give me salt and vinegar and I’ll eat his liver.”
Two weeks ago, Trump phoned to congratulate President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey for his victory in a referendum filled with voting irregularities that expanded Erdogan’s powers and has put Turkey on the road to dictatorship.
Trump has praised President Xi Jinping of China, the most authoritarian leader China has had since Mao Zedong.
Trump also hosted at the White House Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el Sisi, who had not been granted an invitation to the White House since seizing power in a military coup almost four years ago.
And don’t forget Trump’s vow during the presidential campaign to pursue a warmer relationship with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. (The effort has faltered in light of possible links between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.)