Informationsmarktverzerrung durch Fundamentalismus am Beispiel der USA

Kapitel 5: Information und Zensur

1. Grundlagen

von Margarete Payer


Zitierweise / cite as:

Payer, Margarete <1942 - >: Informationsmarktverzerrung durch Fundamentalismus am Beispiel der USA. -- Kapitel 5: Information und Zensur. -- 1. Grundlagen. --  Fassung vom 2005-04-13. -- URL:

Erstmals publiziert: 2005-03-23

Überarbeitungen: 2005-04-13 [Ergänzungen]; 2005-04-05 [Ergänzungen]; 2005-04-01 [Ergänzungen]

Anlass: Lehrveranstaltung an der Hochschule der Medien Stuttgart, Sommersemester 2005

Copyright: Dieser Text steht der Allgemeinheit zur Verfügung. Eine Verwertung in Publikationen, die über übliche Zitate hinausgeht, bedarf der ausdrücklichen Genehmigung des Verfassers.

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Diese Inhalt ist unter einer Creative Commons-Lizenz lizenziert.

Dieser Text ist Teil der Abteilung  Länder und Kulturen von Tüpfli's Global Village Library

0. Übersicht

1. Klärung einiger Begriffe

Die ALA (American Library Association) unterscheidet folgende Angriffe auf die Informationsfreiheit:


In 1986, in response to inquiries from librarians facing book or material challenges for the first time, the Intellectual Freedom Committee developed the following list of definitions to clarify terminology associated with challenges:

  • Expression of Concern. An inquiry that has judgmental overtones.
  • Oral Complaint. An oral challenge to the presence and/or appropriateness of the material in question.
  • Written Complaint. A formal, written complaint filed with the institution (library, school, etc.), challenging the presence and/or appropriateness of specific material.
  • Public Attack. A publicly disseminated statement challenging the value of the material, presented to the media and/or others outside the institutional organization in order to gain public support for further action.
  • Censorship. A change in the access status of material, based on the content of the work and made by a governing authority or its representatives. Such changes include exclusion, restriction, removal, or age/grade level changes.

[Quelle: -- Zugriffa m 2005-03-15]

Eine fundamentalistische Stimme:

"When a government restricts what its citizens can read—that's censorship. But when parents have input on what local officials do in the schools—that's democracy. Obviously not every school and every library can have every book in existence. The question is will schools and libraries listen to parents or will they listen to People for the American Way? The real story here is the breakdown of democracy. How many times a day does a school board or a school library ignore parents who are merely trying to have input into the education of their children? Who are the real extremists?"

[Gary Bauer. -- 1995. -- Zitiert in: Diamond, Sara: Not by politics alone : the enduring influence of the Christian Right. -- New York : Guilford Press, ©1998.  -- xiv, 280 S. ; 23 cm.  -- ISBN 1572303859. -- S. 195. -- {Wenn Sie HIER klicken, können Sie dieses Buch bei bestellen}]

2. Die USA das Land der Redefreiheit

Abb.: Save freedom of speech — buy war bonds / Plakat von Norman Rockwell (1894 - 1978). -- 1942

"Freedom of speech in United States is generally protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. However, there are many exceptions to this general rule, including the Miller test for obscenity and greater regulation of so-called commercial speech, such as advertising. Other limitations or regulations include copyright, fighting words, campaign finance laws, slander and some content-neutral laws that affect speech.

In its free speech jurisprudence, the U.S. Supreme Court has favored allowing as much expression as possible. The public policy of the U.S. has been to cultivate a "marketplace of ideas." Rather than let people simmer with rage or wander around with their blind ignorance, it is thought that they should be encouraged to express their ideas and hopefully good ideas will triumph over the bad. Another policy is that allowing criticism of the government, its policies, and its officials will encourage good government, because if a policy is ineffective or an official is corrupt, some activist or journalist will eventually expose everything. This is why people can criticize the government in all kinds of ways in the U.S., with both language fair and foul, and can even advocate unpopular ideas (for example, racism) which most people would find distasteful or against public policy. They cross the line only when they advocate imminent violent action against particular persons (the Brandenburg rule). Finally, yet another policy is to avoid "chilling effects" upon legitimate protected speech by encouraging the development of clear bright-line rules.



The origin of the First Amendment was undoubtedly a reaction against the restraint of speech and of the press that existed in English society. Until 1694, England had an elaborate system of licensing. No publication was allowed without the accompaniment of a government-granted license.

One form of speech that was widely restricted in England was the law of seditious libel that made criticizing of the government a crime. The King was above public criticism and that statements critical of the government were forbidden, according to the English Court of the Star Chamber. Chief Justice Holt, writing in 1704, explained the apparent need for the prohibition of seditious libel "If people should not be called to account for possessing the people with an ill opinion of the government, no government can subsist. For it is very necessary for all governments that the people should have a good opinion of it." Truth was not a defense to seditious libel because the goal was to prevent and punish all condemnation of the government. Professor Zechariah Chaffee said that "the First Amendment was ... intended to wipe out the common law of sedition, and make further prosecutions for criticism of the government, without any incitement to law-breaking, forever impossible in the United States of America."


The colonies were mixed on the protection of freedom as record shows. During the time period, there were fewer prosecutions for seditious libel than England, but there were other controls over dissident speech. Professor Levy said that each community "tended to be a tight little island clutching its own respective orthodoxy and ... eager to banish or extralegally punish unwelcome dissidents."

The greatest controls on speech in the colonial period were controls on religious speech to outlaw or otherwise censor speech that was considered blasphemy. A 1646 Massachusetts law, for example, punished persons who denied the immortality of the soul. In 1612 a Virginia governor declared the death penalty for denying the Trinity.

The trial of John Peter Zenger in 1735 is most famous for its seditious libel prosecution. Mr. Zenger published criticisms of the Governor of New York. Andrew Hamilton represented Mr. Zenger and argued that truth should be a defense to the crime of seditious libel. The court rejected this argument. However, Mr. Hamilton persuaded the jury to disregard the law and to acquit Zenger; the case is considered a victory for freedom of speech as well as for the theory of jury nullification. It establishes that in the colonial period there was a general public feeling that it was important to allow criticism of public officials.

Early Development Of First Amendment Jurisprudence

Congress in 1798, along with many of the drafters and ratifiers of the Constitution, adopted the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. The law prohibited the publication of

"false, scandalous, and malicious writing or writings against the government of the United States, or either house of the Congress of the United States, or the President of the United States, with intent to defame ... or to bring them ... into contempt or disrepute; or to excite against them ... hatred of the good people of the United States, or to stir up sedition within the United States, or to excite any unlawful combinations therein, for opposing or resisting any law of the United States, or any act of the President of the United States."

The law did however allow truth as a defense and required proof of malicious intent. But this Act of 1798 made the ascertaining of the intent of the framers even more difficult to comprehend. The Federalists under President John Adams aggressively used the law against their rivals, the Republicans. The Alien and Sedition Act was a major political issue in the 1800 election, and after he was elected President, Thomas Jefferson pardoned those who had been convicted under the Act. The Act was repealed, and the Supreme Court never ruled on its constitutionality.

However, in New York Times v. Sullivan, the Court declared "Although the Sedition Act was never tested in this Court, the attack upon its validity has carried the day in the court of history." 376 U.S. 254, 276 (1964). Not surprisingly, then, Supreme Court cases dealing with freedom of expression focus less on the framers' intent than do cases involving many other constitutional provisions. There is little that can be discerned as to the drafters' views other than their desire to prohibit prior restraints, such as the licensing scheme, and their rejection of the crime of seditious libel."

[Quelle: -- Zugriff am 2005-03-10]

3. Etiketten für unerwünschte Äußerungen

Um unerwünschte Äußerungen zu etikettieren verwendet man oft Worte wie:

3.1. Obscene — Obszön

Abb.: Einbandtitel eines grundlegenden Buches von Ludwig Marcuse (1894 - 1971)

"Obscenity has several connotations. Obscenity and its parent adjective obscene come from the Latin word obscenus, meaning "foul, repulsive, detestable", and possibly derived from ob caenum, literally "from filth". The term is most often used in a legal context to describe expression (words, images, actions) that offend the prevalent sexual morality of the time.

Despite its long formal and informal use with a sexual connotation, the word still retains the meanings of "inspiring disgust" and even "inauspicious; ill-omened", as in such uses as "obscene profits", "the obscenity of war", and the like. It can simply be used to mean profanity, or it can mean anything that is taboo, indecent, abhorrent, or disgusting.

The definition of obscenity differs from culture to culture, between communities within a single culture, and also between individuals within those communities. Many cultures have produced laws to define what is considered to be obscene, and censorship is often used to try to suppress or control materials that are obscene under these definitions, usually including, but not limited to pornographic material. Because the concept of obscenity is often ill-defined, it can be used as a political tool to try to restrict freedom of expression. Thus, the definition of obscenity can be a civil liberties issue.


United States obscenity law

The United States has constitutional protection for freedom of speech, which is not interpreted to protect every utterance. The Supreme Court has found that, when used in the context of the First Amendment, the word "obscenity" means material that deals with sex. In U.S. legal texts, the term "obscenity" now always refers to this "Miller test obscenity". The Supreme Court has ruled that the possession of obscenity is legal but that the distribution or transmission of obscenity is not.

Previously various other standards have been used:

  • Hicklin test: the effect of isolated passages upon the most susceptible persons. (British common law, cited in Regina v. Hicklin, 1868. LR 3 QB 360 - overturned when Michigan tried to outlaw all printed matter that would 'corrupt the morals of youth' in Butler v. State of Michigan 352 U.S. 380 (1957))
  • Wepplo: If material has a substantial tendency to deprave or corrupt its readers by inciting lascivious thoughts or arousing lustful desires. (People v. Wepplo, 78 Cal.App.2d Supp. 959, 178 P.2d 853).
  • Roth Standard: All ideas having even the slightest redeeming social importance - unorthodox ideas, controversial ideas, even ideas hateful to the prevailing climate of opinion - have the full protection of the guaranties, unless excludable because they encroach upon the limited area of more important interests. Roth v. United States 354 U.S. 476 (1957) - overturned by Miller
  • Jacobellis: "community standards" applicable to an obscenity are national, not local standards. Jacobellis v. Ohio 378 US 184 (1964) - famous quote: "I know it when I see it [hardcore pornography] and this is not it".
  • Roth-Memoirs Test: (a) the dominant theme of the material taken as a whole appeals to a prurient interest in sex; (b) the material is patently offensive because it affronts contemporary community standards relating to the description or representation of sexual matters; and (c) the material is utterly without redeeming social value. (A Book Named John Cleland's Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure v. Attorney General of Massachusetts, 383 U.S. 413 (1966))

Under FCC rules and federal law, radio stations and over-the-air television channels cannot air obscene material at any time and cannot air indecent material between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.: language or material that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory organs or activities (indecency is not as bad as obscenity).

Many historically important works have been described as obscene, or prosecuted under obscenity laws. For example, the works of Charles-Pierre Baudelaire, Lenny Bruce, William S. Burroughs, James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence, Henry Miller, and the Marquis de Sade.

U.S. Court Cases dealing with Obscenity

In Miller v. California, the Supreme Court ruled that materials were obscene if they appealed, “to a prurient interest in sex,” showed “patently offensive sexual conduct” that was specifically defined by an obscenity law, and “lacked serious artistic, literary, political, or scientific value.” Decisions regarding whether material was obscene should be based on local, not national, standards.

In Reno v. ACLU, the Supreme Court struck down indecency laws applying to the Internet, which casts serious doubt on the FCC’s ability to ever punish speech using the vague label of “indecency.”

FCC v. Pacifica is better know as the landmark “seven dirty words” case. In that 1978 ruling, the Justices found that only “repetitive and frequent” use of the words in a time or place when a minor could hear can be punished.

On January 20, 2005, in United States v. Extreme Associates (, District Court Judge Gary L. Lancaster ruled that the statutes against the distribution of obscenity are unconstitutional, dimissing the case against Extreme Associates. He asserts that being prohibited from obtaining (due to a ban on distribution) that which is legal to possess, amounts in effect, to a ban on possession. The precedent for this case was violation of due process, based upon the Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence_v._Texas. [1]  ( The federal government stated on February 16 that it intends to appeal the decision to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals. (Of interest is that the stated grounds for appeal are not that the ruling erred in law, but that it would if upheld undermine "all laws based on shared views of public morality"). Statement (

[Quelle: -- Zugriff am 2005-03-10]

The Miller test is the United States Supreme Court's test for determining whether speech or expression can be labelled obscene, in which case it is not protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and can be prohibited.

The Miller test was developed in the 1973 case Miller v. California. It has three parts:

  • Whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest,
  • Whether the work depicts/describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by applicable state law,
  • Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

The third condition is also known as the SLAPS test. The work is considered obscene only if all three conditions are satisfied.

For legal scholars, several issues are important. One is that the test allows for community standards rather than a national standard. What offends the average person in Crawford, Texas may differ from what offends the average person in San Francisco. The relevant community, however, is not defined. Some critics of obscenity law, such as Jonathan Wallace ( and William Huston (, argue that the existence of Miller proves that federal obscenity laws are in fact not defined, and thus unenforceable and legally dubious.

Another important issue is that Miller asks for an interpretation of what the "average" person finds offensive, rather than what the more sensitive persons in the community are offended by, as obscenity was defined by the previous test, the Hicklin test, stemming from the English precedent.

Because it allows for community standards and demands "serious" value, some worried that this test would make it easier to suppress speech and expression. They pointed out that it replaced a stricter test asking whether the speech or expression was "utterly without redeeming social value"--a much tougher standard than "serious" value. As used, however, the test generally makes it difficult to outlaw any form of expression. Even pornography, with the exception of child pornography, is argued to have some artistic or literary value.

In practice, pornography showing genitalia and sexual acts is not normally obscene according to the Miller test. For instance, in 2000 a jury took only a few minutes to clear Larry Peterman, Movie Buffs video store owner in Provo, Utah, which had often boasted of being one of the most conservative counties in the US. Researchers had shown that guests at the local Marriott hotel were disproportionately large consumers of pay-per-view pornographic material, obtaining far more material that way than the store was distributing [1] ([2] (

The advent of the Internet has made this definition more difficult to maintain; as material published on a web server in one place can be read by a person residing anywhere else where there is a computer with internet access, there is a question as to which jurisdiction should apply. The pending case United States of America v. Extreme Associates includes some content delivered purely over the Internet and may clarify the situation. This case includes a video called Forced Entry, which includes depictions of rape, murder, suffocation, beatings and urination in sexual contexts. Each of the components when considered alone, is not uncommon in sexual fantasy (murder probably being the least common) and, except for murder, feature routinely in sexual activities of varying proportions of the US population. Since part of the Miller purpose was to consider the effect on the members of the community who would see the material for sale on the street it's unclear how material which goes directly from a vendor to a residence and is never seen by the community will be judged.

[Quelle: -- Zugriff am 2005-03-10]

3.2. Blasphemy — Gotteslästerung

Abb.: God will punish us for this blasphemy
[Bildquelle: -- Zugriff am 2005-03-10]

Blasphemy is the defamation of the name of God or the gods, and by extension any display of gross irreverence towards any person or thing deemed worthy of exalted esteem. In this broader sense the term is used by Sir Francis Bacon in the Advancement of Learning, when he speaks of "blasphemy against learning". Many cultures disapprove of speech or writing which defames the God or gods of their established religions, and these restrictions have the force of law in some countries.

The public domain 1913 Webster's Unabridged Dictionary defines blasphemy as:

Blasphemy (Blas"phe*my) n. [L. blasphemia, Gr. : cf. OF. blasphemie.]
  • An indignity offered to God in words, writing, or signs; impiously irreverent words or signs addressed to, or used in reference to, God; speaking evil of God; also, the act of claiming the attributes or prerogatives of deity. When used generally in statutes or at common law, blasphemy is the use of irreverent words or signs in reference to the Supreme Being in such a way as to produce scandal or provoke violence.
  • Figuratively, of things held in high honor: Calumny; abuse; vilification.

The Catholic Encyclopedia has a more extensive article on Blasphemy (

Blasphemy laws

There has been a recent tendency in Western countries towards the repeal or reform of blasphemy laws, and these laws are only infrequently enforced where they exist. Such laws still exist in several countries, such as in Austria (Articles 188, 189 of the criminal code), Finland (Section 10 of chapter 17 of the penal code), Germany (Article 166 of the criminal code), Italy, The Netherlands (Article 147 of the criminal code), Spain (Article 525 of the criminal code) and United Kingdom. In the United States, the First Amendment guarantees a relatively unlimited right of free speech, although some US states still have blasphemy laws on the books. Chapter 272 of the Massachusetts General Laws states, for example:

Section 36. Whoever wilfully blasphemes the holy name of God by denying, cursing or contumeliously reproaching God, his creation, government or final judging of the world, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching Jesus Christ or the Holy Ghost, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching or exposing to contempt and ridicule, the holy word of God contained in the holy scriptures shall be punished by imprisonment in jail for not more than one year or by a fine of not more than three hundred dollars, and may also be bound to good behavior.

British author Salman Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses was seen by many Muslims to contain blasphemes against Islam, and Iranian clerical leader Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwah in 1989 calling for Rushdie's death (although strictly this was in response to Rushdie's claimed apostasy, not the novel's supposed blasphemy). The fatwa was not accepted universally by the Muslim Ulema as the way to deal with the problem of Rushdie's book. Some British Muslims called for Rushdie to be tried under English law for blasphemy, but no charges were laid, as the English legal system recognises blasphemy only against the Christian faith. The Rushdie case stimulated debate on this topic, with some arguing the same protection should be extended to all religions, while others claimed the UK's ancient blasphemy laws were an anachronism and should be abolished. Despite much discussion surrounding the controversy, the law was not amended. The last British person to be imprisoned for blasphemy was John William Gott in 1922, for comparing Jesus Christ to a clown. [1] (

Many take the view that accusations of blasphemy and anti-blasphemy legislation are examples of the special pleading logical fallacy where the chosen religion is extended protection from rational enquiry and ridicule that is not extended to other topics.

[Quelle: -- Zugriff am 2005-03-10]


Definition. In English "blasphemy" denotes any utterance that insults God or Christ (or Allah, or Muhammed) and gives deeply felt offense to their followers. In several states in the United States and in Britain, blasphemy is a criminal offense, although there have been few prosecution in this century. In Islamic countries generally no distinction is made between blasphemy and heresy, so that any perceived rejection of the Prophet or his message, by Muslims or non-Muslims, is regarded as blasphemous.

The biblical concept is very different. There is no Hebrew word equivalent to the English "blasphemy," and the Greek root blasphem-, which is used fifty-five times in the New Testament, has a wide meaning. In both Testaments the idea of blasphemy as something that offends the religious sensibilities of others is completely absent.

The Old Testament. At least five different Hebrew verbs are translated "blaspheme" in English translations. Translators choose "blaspheme" when, for instance, the verbs "curse" (qalal), "revile" (gadap), or "despise" (herep) are used with God as the object. No special verb is reserved for cursing or insults directed at God.

However, to curse or insult God is an especially grave sin. It can be done by word or by deed. There is little distinction between the sinner who deliberately abuses the name of the Lord (Lev. 24:10-16), and the one who deliberately flouts his commandments (Num. 15:30-31). For both, the death penalty is prescribed. Similarly, the prayer of the Levites in Nehemiah 9 calls "awful blasphemies" all that Israelites did when they made the golden calf (9:18).

David's flagrant sin with Bathsheba may be called a blasphemy (2 Sam. 12:14), but a more likely translation is that David has "made the enemies of the Lord show utter contempt" (ntiv). Instead of testifying by lifestyle to the character of the Lord, David's action confirms the blasphemous belief of the nations that the Lord is no different from any other national god.

The New Testament. The Greek root blasphem- can be used of strong insults thrown at other people (Mark 15:29; Acts 13:45; Eph. 4:31; 1 Peter 4:4), or even unjust accusations (Rom. 3:8), but it is more usually used of insults offered to God (e.g., Rev. 13:6; 16:9). Jesus is accused of blasphemy for pronouncing forgiveness and for claiming a unique relationship with God (Matt. 26:65; Mark 2:7; John 10:33).

Jesus picks up the Numbers 15 passage about blasphemy in his famous saying about blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matt. 12:31-32; Mark 3:28-29; Luke 12:10). Numbers 15:22-31 distinguishes between unintentional sin committed in ignorance (for which forgiveness is possible), and defiant sin, called blasphemy, for which there is no forgiveness. Jesus teaches that the blasphemy for which there is no forgiveness is that against the Holy Spirit; all other blasphemies, particularly those against "the Son of Man," may be forgiven. Insults thrown at "the Son of Man" may be forgiven because they are committed in ignorance of who he really is: his heavenly glory does not appear on earth. But to ascribe obvious manifestations of the Spirit to the devil's agency is a much more serious offense not committed in ignorance.

This downgrading of the significance of blasphemy against Christ marks an important difference between Christianity and Islam. Whereas Muslims are bound to defend the honor of the Prophet, for Christians Jesus is the one who says, "The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me" (Rom. 15:3, quoting Ps. 69:9). He deliberately accepts the vilification of others and prays for the forgiveness of those who insult him (Luke 23:34). In this, he sets an example for Christians to follow. According to Peter (1 Peter 2:19-25), they must accept insult and blasphemy without retaliation, as he did.

There is only one kind of blasphemy that Christians must resist: the blasphemy they will bring on themselves if they cause a fellow believer to stumble through the thoughtless exercise of their freedom (Rom. 14:15-16; 1 Cor. 10:28-30)."

[Quelle: Stephen Motyer. -- In: Evangelical dictionary of biblical theology / edited by Walter A. Elwell.  -- Grand Rapids, Mich. : Baker Books ; Carlisle, Cumbria : Paternoster Press, ©1996.  -- x, 933 S. ; 26 cm.  -- ISBN: 0801020492. -- s.v. -- {Wenn Sie HIER klicken, können Sie dieses Buch bei bestellen}]

3.3. Profane — Vulgär

Abb.: No profanity or alcohol allowed
[Bildquelle: -- Zugriff am 2005-03-20]

"Profanity is a word choice or usage which many consider to be offensive. The original meaning of the term was restricted to blasphemy, sacrilege or taking God's name in vain (profane speech, or swear word), especially expressions such as "God damn it", "go to Hell", and "damn you". The word bloody [verdammt] may belong in this category. They are sometimes made mild, resulting in less recognizable forms, such as the minced oaths.

However, the meaning has been extended to include scatological, sexist, homophobic, racist, or sexual terms (in English, primarily fuck [ficken], shit [scheißen, Scheiße], cunt [Möse], nigger, and frequently, bitch [Hündin] and bastard). Also when used "in vain", or to express discontent Jesus, Christ, Jesus Christ, and God damn are considered profanity. The list includes words that are merely vulgar as well as those thought obscene. Compare the concept of the four-letter word.


There has always been great difficulty in defining profanity. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission, in response to complaints about a 1973 broadcast comedy routine by George Carlin called Seven words you can never say on television, ruled that such language could not be broadcast "at times of day when there is a reasonable risk that children may be in the audience." The Supreme Court of the United States upheld this act of censorship in 438 U.S. 726 (1978). The words occurring in Carlin's monologue were: shit [Scheiße, scheißen], piss [pissen, Pisse], fuck [ficken], cunt [Möse], cocksucker [Schwanzlecker], motherfucker [Mutterficker] and tits [Titten]. Carlin's routine using these words has since been broadcast, however. In the early 1960s, Lenny Bruce had been taken to court for using some of these same words in his own comedy routines.

Profane words with multiple meanings

Some words are profane or vulgar in one context but completely acceptable in another. For example, cock is commonly used to describe a male chicken, and is nonoffensive, and as a verb ("she cocked her head to the side") it is nonoffensive. "Dick" [auch = Schwanz] , as a nickname derived from "Richard", never raises objection. "Faggot" [auch: Schwuler] is also nonoffensive when used in the word's original context— a bundle of sticks— but becomes highly profane when directed at a homosexual person. In these cases, the alternate meanings have no connection to the profanity with, coincidentally, the same name. "Tits" [Titten] is considered profane, but "teats" [Zitzen] is not. "Arse" [Arsch] , considered as objectionable as "ass" [Arsch] in the United Kingdom, is considered nonoffensive (along with bloody [auch: verdammt]) in the United States.

Some vulgarities have emerged from nonoffensive words that become offensive in a particular context. The word "broad" is decidedly nonoffensive, but when applied to a woman (potentially connected to the idea of a broad chest) becomes vulgar. The slang word "sucks" emerged from a nonoffensive word for suction, and became a serious profanity as "sucking" became a euphemism for fellatio [Schwanzlecken]. As "sucks" grew in popularity, and was prolifically used in nonsexual contexts, and alternative nonsexual expansions of "sucks" emerged ("that sucks like a vacuum", "that sucks zucchini") it became decidedly less offensive, and is today considered a " PG"-phrase [Rated PG – PARENTAL GUIDANCE SUGGESTED].


Terms of profanity have historically been taboo words. Some words originally considered profane have become much less offensive with the increasing secularity of society, while others, primarily racial or ethnic epithets which can be considered part of hate speech, have become increasingly taboo.

The word cunt [Möse] maintains much of its taboo status at least partly due to the influence of feminism, though other feminists are attempting to "reclaim" a neutral or complimentary status for this word. Shakespeare hinted at the word in Hamlet and Henry V: Hamlet quips about "country matters" when he tries to lay his head in Ophelia's lap; and the French Princess Katherine is amused by the word gown for its similarity to the French for cunt, con.

Many people today consider the word nigger much more offensive than sexual or scatalogical terms. (Although it depends on the context in which it is used -- people of African descent sometimes use the term among themselves, typically dropping the r and ending on the vowel: nigga.) This sensitivity to the word nigger has even extended to the point of attempting to ban the use of the word niggardly (meaning "stingy" [geizig, knausrig]), which many mistakenly believe to be related to the word nigger. In 1999, when Washington, DC's black mayor, Anthony A. Williams, pressed for the resignation of his white staff member, David Howard, because Howard uttered the word "niggardly" in a private staff meeting, the ensuing debate had some elitists snickering [1] (

Psycholinguistic studies have demonstrated that profanity and other taboo words produce physical effects in people who read or hear them, such as an elevated heart rate.

This fact is seen by some as evidence that reclaiming of words such as queer [homosexuell] is a valid way to remove its power. See also the article on nigger, as well as Drum and Bass for the reclaiming of the word jungle.

The offensiveness or perceived intensity or vulgarity of the various profanities can change over time, with certain words becoming more or less offensive as time goes on. For example, in modern times the word piss is usually considered mildly vulgar and somewhat impolite, whereas it appears in the King James Version of the Bible where modern translations would use the word urine (2 Kings 18:27; Isa 36:12) or urinate (1 Sam 25:22, 25:34; 1 Kings 14:10, 16:11, 21:21; 2 Kings 9:8).


The relative severity of the various English profanities, as perceived by the public, was studied on behalf of the British Broadcasting Standards Commission, Independent Television Commission, BBC and Advertising Standards Authority; the results of this jointly commissioned research were published in December 2000 in a paper called "Delete Expletives". It listed the profanities in order of severity, the top ten being cunt [Möse], motherfucker [Mutterficker], fuck [ficken], wanker [Wichser], nigger [Neger], bastard [Bastard], prick [Schwanz], bollocks [Eier], arsehole [Arschloch], and paki [Pakistaner], in that order. 83% of respondents regarded cunt [Möse] as "very severe"; 16% thought the same about shit [Scheiße] and 10% crap [Kacke]. Only about 1% thought cunt was "not swearing"; 9% thought the same about shit and 32% crap.


The situation is rendered more complex when other languages enter the picture. Merde in French, and Scheiße in German (both usually translated as shit) are also quite common. It is also interesting to note that while German and other languages' profanity seems to focus on precipitation, English seems to have an issue with sexuality in this respect. Likewise, in European Spanish, coño (usually translated as cunt in English) is very common in informal spoken discourse, meaning no more than "Hey!" or "Christ!"

Some scholars have noted that while the French and Spanish are comfortable hearing native speakers use these words, they tend to hear the "stronger" meaning when the same words are spoken by non-native speakers. This may be similar to the differences in the acceptability of queer or nigger depending on who is saying the words. Or it may be an example of how it is easier to learn swear words in a new language or dialect than to learn the fine shades of intensity which accompany their use.

A profane word in one language often sounds like an ordinary word in another. Fuck sounds like the French words for seal (phoque) and jib (foc), as well as the Romania word for do (I do = eu fac); shit sounds like the Russian for "to sew". Even names in one language may appear as vulgar words in another linguistic community, which causes many immigrants to change their names (common Vietnamese personal names include Phuc and Bich). A particular coincidence is the Hungarian and Spanish words for curve: Spanish curva sounds like a Slavic and Hungarian kurva meaning "prostitute", and Hungarian kanyar sounds like coño, mentioned above. In Romanian curva means "prostitute". See another example in Laputa. Additionally, puta is genitive and accusative case of two often used words in south Slavic languages; but in Portuguese, means "prostitute", and filho da - is an offensive word, similar to son of a bitch.

Quebec French can string a few basic terms from Roman Catholic liturgy into quite impressive strings of invective of up to a minute or more. This is known as sacre. [...]"

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3.4. Dirty — Schmutzig

Abb.: Four letter dirty words — wash [waschen], cook [kochen], iron [bügeln], dust [abstauben]!!  [Bildquelle: -- Zugriff am 2005-03-10]

The Seven dirty words are seven words that were prohibited from use on broadcast media in the United States, including both over-the-air television and radio stations. The original list of seven, popularized by American comedian George Carlin, is:
  • shit [scheißen, Scheiße]
  • piss [pissen, Pisse]
  • fuck [ficken]
  • cunt [Möse]
  • cocksucker [Schwanzlecker]
  • motherfucker [Mutterficker]
  • tits [Titten]

In 1973, comedian George Carlin recorded a monologue called "Filthy Words," (Carlin's monologue word for word ( which was subsequently broadcast by Pacifica radio station WBAI-FM on October 30 of the same year. A man complained to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) because his son had heard the broadcast.

The FCC asked Pacifica for a response, then issued a declaratory order upholding the complaint. No specific sanctions were included in the order, but WBAI was put on notice that "in the event subsequent complaints are received, the Commission will then decide whether it should utilize any of the available sanctions it has been granted by Congress."

Pacifica appealed against this decision, which was overturned by the Court of Appeals. The FCC in turn appealed to the Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the FCC, see: FCC v. Pacifica Foundation 438 U.S. 726 (1978).

This decision formally established indecency regulation in American broadcasting. In follow-up rulings, the FCC clarified that the words might be acceptable under certain circumstances, particularly at times when children would not be expected to be in the audience.


Carlin later expanded the list to include the following words:

  • fart [Furz]
  • turd [Scheißhaufen]
  • twat [Möse]

Since then Carlin's expansion of the list has included hundreds of words and phrases, including "beating the bishop" and "yodeling in the gully."


In the 2000s, tits and piss are generally no longer prohibited from broadcast over public airwaves in the United States, with shit often allowed as well.

It is important to note that FCC regulations only apply to broadcast affiliates, not the networks themselves, they can not be targeted against FCC attacks; cable networks are not officially regulated. However, many cable networks have Standards & Practices departments which censor their programming regardless because of the pressure put on them by advertisers. Once that obstacle is dealt with, the seven dirty words are fair game: see most FX original series and Comedy Central's airing of the South Park episode "It Hits The Fan" (during which shit is uttered 162 times in one half hour; a counter is provided at the bottom of the screen) and the R-rated film South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999). These shows all air later at night, usually after 9:00 pm. The band Blink 182 has a song called Family Reunion in which the words "shit piss fuck cunt cocksucker motherfucker tits fart turd and twat" are repeated 4 times, followed by "I fucked your mom." The ten words are from Carlin's ten-word version of the list.

More generally, the level of offense (if any) generated by a profane word or phrase depends on region, social situation, and many other factors.

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4. Zensur in den USA

Abb.: Censorship causes blindness. Read! - Button [Bildquelle: -- Zugriff am 2005-03-14]

"Censorship in the United States has been relatively light, compared to its occurrence in other countries, due largely to the First Amendment. However, there has always been a degree of censorship exercised by American governments.

The US Bill of Rights explicitly forbids the government to censor advocacy of religious ideas or practices and guarantees the rights of citizens to speak and publish freely, as well as to "assemble" to demand "redress of grievances" (see First Amendment).

Yet perfectly free expression of ideas or information has never existed in the US. For example, the U.S. military has always censored news on war. And no one is permitted to "shout fire in a crowded theatre" just for their own amusement. There are also laws about incitement to riot, which draw a fine distinction between (a) saying a situation is intolerably bad and (b) urging people to take immediate, illegal action to "right the wrong."

There have been rare examples the government exercising "prior restraint" of sensitive material, for instance the Pentagon Papers' publication in the New York Times and the Washington Post, but these exercises have generally been ruled unconstitutional.

Courts censor "obscene" materials. School libraries, in a way, have occasionally censored a book by refusing to shelve it -- although the public library in the same town might carry it. Much 19th century vintage erotica was destroyed when fear of discovery came knocking at the door, according to The Early Days of Erotic Photography.

Although the First Amendment to the fledgling nation's constitution was intended to guarantee the free expression of political and religious ideas, many writers have charged that political parties and corporate interests have found ways to suppress ideas which are so effective as to be tantamount to censorship itself.

Political parties and corporate interests hire public relations firms, who use spin (a form of propaganda) and media manipulation to direct people's attention away from issues they prefer not to be discussed, or towards others. The techniques are not, however, universally successful. Political scandals, in particular, such as the Monica Lewinsky incident, have a tendency to leak out, in particular if there is sordid or ribald interest.

Abb.: Dank Monica Lewinsky bekamen amerikanische Kinder unzensierten "Sexualkundeunterricht"

Moreover, the book Manufacturing Consent argues that economic pressure on media corporations enforces a pro-government slant on news reporting. Similarly, the book Bias argues that a prevailing liberal viewpoint among TV journalists results in the suppression of conservative views. See the media bias page for further discussion of allegations of conservative vs. liberal biases in the American media.

Censorship efforts directed towards musicians have occurred several times in American history. This began at least as far back as jazz in the 1920s, when observers expressed fear that the music was corrupting the minds of young Americans. This has been a common accusation throughout the years, and has been applied to the blues, swing, hip hop, punk rock, rock and roll, heavy metal, psychedelic rock and rockabilly. Artists like 2 Live Crew, Marilyn Manson, Elvis Presley, The Doors and Eminem have been subjects of censorship efforts.

Richard Feynman's autobiography discusses the quasilegal censorship which he and his then-wife worked under while he was at the Manhattan Project.

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4.1. Aus der Geschichte: Comstock Law

Abb.: "Your Honor, this woman gave birth to a naked child!" / Karikatur von Robert Minor auf Amerikas Oberzensor Anthony Comstock. -- In: Masses. -- 1915-09

[Bildquelle: : Heins, Marjorie: Not in front of the children : "indecency," censorship and the innocence of youth. -- New York : Hill and Wang, 2001. -- xiv, 402 S. : Ill. ; 24 cm.  -- ISBN: 0374175454. -- Nach S. 178. -- {Wenn Sie HIER klicken, können Sie dieses Buch bei bestellen}]

"The Comstock Law was a 19th century United States law that made it illegal to send any "obscene, lewd, or lascivious" books through the mail. It was passed on March 3, 1873 and is a clear example of censorship. It was named after its chief proponent, the anti-obscenity crusader Anthony Comstock. The enthusiastic enforcement of the Act, often by Comstock himself, made American censorship notorious in Europe. George Bernard Shaw, who had his own works censored in the United States, coined the word "comstockery" to describe censorship without regard for culture or merit.

The Comstock Law not only targeted pornography as such, but also all contraceptive equipment and descriptions of contraceptive methods.

Comstock Law states:

Be it enacted… That whoever, within the District of Columbia or any of the Territories of the United States…shall sell…or shall offer to sell, or to lend, or to give away, or in any manner to exhibit, or shall otherwise publish or offer to publish in any manner, or shall have in his possession, for any such purpose or purposes, an obscene book, pamphlet, paper, writing, advertisement, circular, print, picture, drawing or other representation, figure, or image on or of paper of other material, or any cast instrument, or other article of an immoral nature, or any drug or medicine, or any article whatever, for the prevention of conception, or for causing unlawful abortion, or shall advertise the same for sale, or shall write or print, or cause to be written or printed, any card, circular, book, pamphlet, advertisement, or notice of any kind, stating when, where, how, or of whom, or by what means, any of the articles in this section…can be purchased or obtained, or shall manufacture, draw, or print, or in any wise make any of such articles, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and on conviction thereof in any court of the United States…he shall be imprisoned at hard labor in the penitentiary for not less than six months nor more than five years for each offense, or fined not less than one hundred dollars nor more than two thousand dollars, with costs of court.

The Comstock Law prohibition of birth control was not overturned until U.S. v. One Package of Japanese Pessaries in 1936."

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Abb.: Anthony Comstock

"Anthony Comstock (March 7, 1844 - September 21, 1915) was a United States reformer dedicated to imposing his ideas of Victorian morality.

He was born in New Canaan, Connecticut.

In 1873 Comstock created the Society for Suppression of Vice, an institution dedicated to supervising the morality of the public. Later that year, Comstock successfully influenced the United States Congress to pass the Comstock Law, which made illegal the delivery or transportation of "obscene, lewd, or lascivious" material. He lent his name to the term comstockery, meaning "censorship because of perceived obscenity or immorality". [1] (

Comstock's ideas of what might be "obscene, lewd, or lascivious" was quite broad. During his time of greatest power, even some anatomy textbooks were prohibited from being sent to medical students by the United States Postal Service.

Comstock aroused intense loathing from early civil liberties groups and intense support from church based groups worried about public morals. His methods were frequently unscrupulous in the cause of doing good (as he saw it). His twin obessions were public distribution of pornography and commercial frauds. He was a savvy political insider in New York City and managed to be appointed a federal postal inspector. With this power he prosecuted with zeal those he suspected of either. His efforts to suppress public information on sex education materials and birth control is now often viewed as misguided. But he also shut down the nation's largest fraud, the Louisiana Lottery, ostensibly meant to found a public university. It was, instead, a pyramid scheme set up by state officials.

His enemies were legion, and in later years his health was affected by a severe blow to the head from an anonymous attacker. He lectured to college audiences and wrote newspaper articles to sustain his causes. Before his death, Comstock attracted the interest of a young law student, J. Edgar Hoover, interested in his causes and methods."

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5. Communications Decency Act

"The Communications Decency Act (CDA) was Title V of the United States' Telecommunications Act of 1996. Passed by the U.S. Congress on February 1, 1996, its primary aim was regulating internet pornography. Free speech advocates, however, worked diligently and successfully to overturn most of it.

With those portions invalidated, the net result was an act which enhanced free speech by making it unnecessary for ISPs and other service providers to unduly restrict customers' actions for fear of being found legally liable for customers' conduct. The 1995 decision in Stratton Oakmont, Inc. v. Prodigy Services Co. tended to have that effect.

Indecency in (ground wave) TV and radio broadcasting had already been regulated by the Federal Communications Commission - broadcasting of offensive speech was restricted to certain hours of the day, when minors were supposedly least likely to be exposed. Violators (broadcasters) could be fined and potentially lose their licenses.

The CDA contained a number of provisions criminalizing the display or transmission to a minor of material of a violent or sexual nature. The media affected by this act were the Internet and cable television. In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on June 12, 1996 a panel of federal judges blocked part of the CDA, saying it would infringe upon the free speech rights of adults.

Next month on July 29, a US federal court struck down the portion of the CDA intended to protect children from indecent speech as too broad. A year later, on June 26, 1997, the Supreme Court upheld the lower court's decision in Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union, stating that the portion concerned was an unconstitutional abridgement of the First Amendment right to free speech.

The CDA was criticized for prohibiting the posting of "indecent" or "patently offensive" material in public forums on the Internet, which many felt was too ambiguous and could easily be misconstrued. Opponents argued that speech protected under the First Amendment, such as printed novels or the use of the seven dirty words, would suddenly become unlawful when posted to the Internet.

Critics also claimed the bill would have a chilling effect on the availability of medical information. Online civil liberties organizations arranged protests against the bill, for example the Black World Wide Web protest which encouraged webmasters to make the site backgrounds black for 48 hours after the passing, and the Electronic Frontiers Foundation's Blue Ribbon Online Free Speech Campaign.

A narrower version of this act relating to the internet was later restated in the Child Online Protection Act (COPA). COPA was overturned in lower courts in January 1999 based on case law established when much of the CDA was invalidated. Appeals in that case continue.

Section 230

Section 230 of the act added valuable protection for online service providers and users from action against them for the actions of others, stating in part that "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider". This portion of the Act remains in force.

It is controversial because several courts have interpreted it as providing complete immunity for Internet service providers with regard to the torts committed by their users over their systems. See, e.g., Zeran v. AOL, 129 F.3d 327, 330 (4th Cir. 1997), cert. denied, 524 U.S. 937 (1998), which held that Section 230 “creates a federal immunity to any cause of action that would make service providers liable for information originating with a third-party user of the service.”

Courts across the country have upheld Section 230 immunity in a variety of factual contexts. Batzel v. Smith, 333 F.3d 1018 (9th Cir. 2003) (website operator immune for distributing email sent to listserv); Carafano v., 339 F.3d 1119 (9th Cir. 2003) (Internet dating service provider was entitled to Section 230 immunity from liability stemming from third party’s submission of false profile); Ben Ezra, Weinstein & Co. v. America Online, 206 F.3d 980, 984-985 (10th Cir. 2000), cert. denied, 531 U.S. 824 (2000) (no liability for posting of incorrect stock information); Blumenthal v. Drudge, 982 F. Supp. 44, 49-53 (D.D.C. 1998) (AOL has Section 230 immunity from liability for content of independent contractor’s news reports, despite agreement with contractor allowing AOL to modify or remove such content); Gentry v. eBay, Inc., 99 Cal.App.4th 816, 830 (2002) (Section 230 “immunizes providers of interactive computer services . . . and their users from causes of action asserted by persons alleging harm caused by content provided by a third party.”); Kathleen R. v. City of Livermore, 87 Cal.App.4th 684, 692 (2001) (city immune under § 230 from liability for public library’s providing computers allowing access to pornography); Doe v. America Online, 783 So.2d 1010, 1013-1017 (Fl. 2001), cert. denied, 122 S.Ct. 208 (2000) (§ 230 immunizes AOL for negligence).

Immunity under Section 230 requires that: (1) the defendant is a provider or user of an interactive computer service; (2) the cause of action treat the defendant as a publisher or speaker of information; and (3) the information at issue be provided by another information content provider.

This rule effectively protects online forums but has been criticised for leaving victims with no hope of relief where the true tortfeasors cannot be identified or are judgment-proof.

Section 230’s coverage is not complete: it excepts federal criminal liability and intellectual property law. 47 U.S.C. §§ 230(e)(1) (criminal) and (e)(2) (intellectual property); see also Gucci America, Inc. v. Hall & Associates, 135 F. Supp. 2d 409 (S.D.N.Y. 2001) (no immunity for contributory liability for trademark infringement); Perfect 10, Inc. v CCBill LLC (No. CV 02-7624 LGB) (C.D. Cal. June 22, 2004) (state right of publicity claim is not covered by Section 230); cf. Carfano, 339 F.3d 1119 (dismissing, inter alia, right of publicity claim under Section 230 without discussion)."

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Zu Kapitel 5.2.: "Weh dem Menschen, durch welchen Ärgernis kommt!" (Mt 18, 7)