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A Spoonful of Vulgar Helps the Coffee Go Down

Today viewers were treated to quite a wake-up call on July 6 – the G-bomb. 


Fall Out Boy, a rock band with punk leanings, performed its chart-topping song, “This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race” as part of Today's Summer Concert Series. 


The song's chorus contains the line, “this ain't a scene, it's a G--damn arms race.”  The band wisely, or perhaps simply at the request of NBC producers, did not sing that line.  The audience, however, filled in the blanks for viewers at home.  


Later, NBC played the un-edited version of  the song when the show returned from a commercial break, with the words “G--damn” clearly heard several times. 


Video clips of the live performance on Today's Web site do not include the audience participation, showing that somebody at NBC recognized the offensive nature of the words. 


What a mixed message.  Is NBC now saying that offensive language is okay if it's pre-recorded but not if it's live?


If the band saw fit to not sing offensive lyrics in one of its songs, and NBC felt compelled to edit out the audience participation on its Web site, why was the song ever approved as part of the performance in the first place?  This is the Google age.  It takes approximately 0.14 seconds to find the lyrics to a song.


Keep in mind that kids were watching this, because most schools across the United States are off for summer vacation and Fall Out Boy is a popular band.  Even though the band did not sing the line, the full crowd in Rockefeller Center sent the message that if offensive language is part of a song, it should be sung, no matter the time and place. 


Come on, NBC.  Take some responsibility for what you put on the air.  Even iTunes has a clean version of songs for sale if a person doesn't want to hear offensive language. 


Colleen Raezler is a research assistant at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.