George Carlin’s Birthday:
Let’s remember him with a little freedom of speech

Posted on 04 May 2012

George Carlin’s birthday is next Saturday 12 May. If he were still with us, he would be seventy-five years old.

As well as a great comedian he was recognised as a satirist and social critic. One of his most famous routines is “Seven Naughty Words”. This is an amiable piece that nonetheless makes use of language that is deemed indecent. The broadcast of the routine over radio landed Carlin in the US Supreme Court.

In the 1978 case F.C.C. v. Pacifica Foundation the court held in a 5-4 decision that the govenment is allowed to regulate indecent language on public airwaves. George Carlin’s right to free speech was deemed not to extend to the new media of the era.

Despite the scenario suggested by the routine, the FCC has never maintained a specfic list of prohibited words. However, they claim to have internal (non-transparent) guidelines which sufficiently determine what is and isn’t indecent.

In follow-up rulings the Supreme Court has softened its stance about instances of obscene speech, however they have never over-turned F.C.C. v. Pacifica Foundation. Free speech continues to be a point of contention in any media other than print press or public declamation (and even that is questionable). The US government is very much into the letter of the law and apparently not the spirit of freedom.

This is why in addition to bodies such as the American Civil Liberties Union or Civil Liberties Australia we also have the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Electronic Frontiers Australia (of which I am a lifetime member). Other countries face similar problems and some have similar bodies. People in power continue to fear words more than weapons and sex more than violence.

In memory of George Carlin and in support of free speech I encourage people to download the “Seven Naughty Words” routine and find places where you can read it publicly with your friends. This could be in a comedy club, a cafe, or even the steps of Parliament.

The version of the routine which is held by the Supreme Court is copyright free and you can download it from here:

I prefer the version found on Carlin’s album Class Clown. Those words can be found on many lyrics Web sites.

Read “Seven Naughty Words”, rediscover George Carlin’s genius, have fun, and do something on the behalf of free speech. Let freedom ding-a-ling.

Peace and kindness,


2 responses to George Carlin’s Birthday:
Let’s remember him with a little freedom of speech

  • […] year I did an article about this event, if you want more […]

  • […] can read more about George Carlin and the Freedom of Comic Speech Day in my earlier post about this […]

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