The collective netisphere appears to be preparing to get its knickers in a twist over Senator Stephen Conroy saying the f-word on a live ABC broadcast. The fact that we even care in an embarrassing indictment of us as a nation.
The ABC reported on Conroy's comments, made during an appearance at the Press Club in Canberra:
I have seen a new definition of sovereign risk; it is asymmetrical. If a tax goes up, God, that is sovereign risk. But if a tax goes down, fucking fantastic.
Conroy is now trending on Twitter as a result of this passing remark. But let's be clear here: this is not unusual language in ordinary Australian discourse. I guarantee that when I get on the train to go home this afternoon, I'll hear similar phrases dozens of time.
The only reason anyone appears to care is because (1) this was on the ABC; (2) it was daytime programming, so children might have been tuning in shortly thereafter; (3) Conroy is responsible for broadcast standards. But if you think your children have never heard or used swear words, you're wrong. Like them or hate them, they're an established part of the national discourse. Equally, if you think Conroy swearing once in a live broadcast opens the floodgates for non-stop swearing, you know nothing much about broadcasting or, indeed, anything.
I do come at this subject as something of an expert. I wrote my honours university thesis on swearing in Australia. Back in 1993, it was nigh-on impossible to say any swear words on TV. But standards have changed, as standards often do. Nowadays you can say "shit" on an evening broadcast and no-one cares much. Language changes. That's the world we live in. Get over it.
There's plenty of room for arguing with Stephen Conroy and disagreeing with him. But pretending that a single swear word, offered by one adult in response to another, is one of the important issues he should be discussing or defending is just plain crazy. Can we be bigger than that? Sadly, I fear the answer is no. [ABC]
Picture: Cole Bennets/Getty Images