The Rocket

Grab them by the what?

The context in which vulgarities are used are worse than the vulgarities themselves

The Rocket Staff

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This editorial contains strong language. Reader discretion is advised.


The president has come under fire over his use of harsh language in the past  few weeks after the Washington Post reported that, during a meeting about immigration policy in the oval office, Trump asked why the US was “having all these people from shithole countries come here,” referring to immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and Africa. This is the second time Trump himself has been criticized for his choice of words, the first being the Access Hollywood tape that showed Trump saying he can “grab them (women) by the pussy” because he is a celebrity that surfaced near the end of 2016.

In the coverage of these two incidents, many media outlets have decided not to censor either the word “shithole” or “pussy.” Most notably, CNN and anchor Anderson Cooper in particular have not been shy about using the word “shithole” on air since the Washington Post report came out.

The Rocket staff believes that, while these words are vulgarities, media outlets should not have to censor themselves when talking about instances like these when the words are being used within the context of stories relevant to the audience.  As adults, and especially as college students, swearing and using vulgar language is not unfamiliar territory, and considering the majority of journalism is focused towards educated adults, censorship of explicit language has little moral ground on which to stand.

The Rocket concludes that words, by themselves, do not hold a lot of meaning. Yes, these words are vulgar, but anyone, even the president, saying the words “shit” or “pussy” is not in it of itself news. The context in which these words are used however, matters much more and is what should be discussed, not the use of the words themselves. If we refuse to cover, or for that matter sugarcoat, these words and their context, simply because of their connotation of profaneness, then we are limiting media based on subjective morality and limiting the accessibility of coverage.

For example, while the word “pussy” is considered generally profane, there is nothing innately negative about its definition. But when an elected official says “pussy” within the context of bragging about sexually assaulting women,  it is a huge deal. If an elected official says “shithole” it is not a big deal, but if an elected official says “shithole” in the context of primarily black and brown immigrants coming to the US it is a huge deal.

It is not the media’s responsibility to censor the words that the people of interest say. It is the media’s job to report on those officials as is of interest to their readership, and if those officials are using words like “shithole” to describe African and majority-black countries or using words like “pussy” to detail how to assault a woman without being charged, then media has not only the ability to refuse to censor the words, but an obligation.

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Grab them by the what?