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We sure do sleep easy at night here in the US of A,
secure in the knowledge that the ever vigilant Federal
Communications Commission keeps evil words like "fuck"
and "tits" from intruding into our homes via our
sets (unless you have basic cable). Yes, we may have
free speech here, but even that has its limits
you can't threaten to kill someone with impunity, you
can't shout "fire" in a crowded theater, and you
can't use radio waves to broadcast the word "shit"
(excepting satellite communications, naturally).
Standard operating procedure is to replace any
profanity occurring in films that are broadcast on TV
with less harsh profanity, or even in extreme cases
utter nonsense. It's for this reason that we get to
for example, watching John Goodman demonstrate to a
nonplussed high school student exactly what happens
when you "find a stranger in the Alps".
However, due to a quirk in the language processing
center of the human brain, what we hear is not always
exactly what was said. It turns out that if you play a
spoken "b" sound over a silent movie of someone making
an "f" sound, the brain will usually interpret the sound
an "f" (surprisingly, this works even if you're aware
happening). This phenomenon is known as the McGurk
effect, and it applies to all sorts of phonemes, not just
those two sounds. The idea, then, would be to record
perfectly innocent line of dialogue, such as "Buck, you!"
and then play it over a closeup of an actor saying, well,
Since the line itself isn't obscene, there's no need to
over it for the TV version. And played back without
picture, nobody could argue that any profanity was
at all. It'd be a sneaky way to get one over on those
Demonstration of the McGurk effect
Jump to about 30 seconds in for the demonstration [ytk, May 19 2011, last modified Jun 16 2012]
Inattentional blindness - the "Invisible Gorilla"
[hippo, May 19 2011]
Why predictive texting won't let you swear
[hippo, May 20 2011]
||The McGurk effect is very weird indeed. I saw it on some TV programme last year and couldn't quite believe it.
||But what about lip-readers? They'd be irreversably corrupted.
||So, nothing to do with hemlines.
||Oh my goodness! I had heard of the McGurk effect
but not actually seen it. The linked video is quite
||[+] not only for a cunning idea, but also for
introducing me properly to this extremely weird
||(re. linked video) I don't hear a 'f' sound at all; instead, when the mouth is making a 'fa' shape, the beginning of the word is simply less percussive. It's a surprisingly powerful effect, nonetheless.
||It does make you question what the split is between stuff your senses tell you which reflects reality and stuff your brain is just making up to fill in what it reckons is a gap or an inconsistency.
||The brain makes up almost everything, at least for
vision. I once saw a video that had been
processed to look like what researchers believed
the "raw" photoreceptor output would be (ie,
something approaching the raw data your brain
gets from your eyes). It was a diabolically poor
||The brain also filters stuff it doesn't need. In
"Animals in Translation", there's a description of a
test some researchers did on professional airline
pilots. They put them in a simulator and asked
them to land the plane, but they put a
(simulated) aircraft parked on the runway.
Apparently, 25% of the pilots didn't see the plane
and landed on top of it, because they have such
an ingrained concept of what things normally look
like, and they never expect to see a plane parked
on the runway when they're cleared for landing.
||Sorry, bit of a digression there.
||That reminds me of the "Invisible Gorilla" (see link) - in which you show people a video which includes a very obvious man in a gorilla suit. Typically the viewers of the video don't see the man in the gorilla suit because they've been specifically told to look for something else in the video. Just weird.
||Love the link [ytk]- it's so fizzare!! [+]
||While I like the idea (bun) I suspect that the reaction of legislators would be to move to subjective censorship and just ban anything they don't like.
||I like the idea, but to be honest a part of me would miss those cursing stand-in phrases. Some are so bad they are genius. The "find a stranger in the Alps" example is almost as good as the "monkey-fighting snakes on this Monday-to-Friday plane".
||I was expecting an idea involving the censorship of
outerwear for women.
||Except that FCC enforcement is punitive in nature rather
than preemptive. So they can't do anything about it until
the program in question has already been broadcast, at
which point they might fine the broadcaster for obscenity.
But since it's the widely accepted industry practice to
replace actual prohibited words with similar sounding
words, the broadcaster could raise the affirmative defense
that the enforcement of the rule is, in legal terms,
arbitrary and capricious.
||[21Q] That reminds me of why predictive texting on
mobile phones won't let you swear (see link).
||"How much money is a very brief moment of very petty satisfaction worth to you?"
||When it involves subversion of authority, quite a lot.
||Cracks me up that the US is so touchy about
profanity. Violence and fresh blood by the bucket
but no-one can so much as mutter "fuck" while they
die on screen.
||This idea serves to illustrate the absurdity of the situation. The solution is to allow any language to be broadcast after a watershed time, a system that virtually the rest of the planet uses.
||Yep. 8:30 pm is bedtime for kiddies.