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David Harsanyi Headshot

Censoring the Greatest Generation

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I'm a big fan of Ken Burns' chronicles of American history. So
naturally I look forward to watching his new ambitious documentary
about World War II, which debuts on PBS tonight across the country.
When I read about the sanitizing of this historical document, I was
taken back a bit.

target="_blank">Apparently the greatest generation also threw around a
few profanities
- and clearly describing the hell of war, such
language should be expected. Here's what they have to say:

• SNAFU, which is not an acronym for Situation Normal All Fouled Up.

• FUBAR, which does not stand for Fouled Up Beyond All Recognition.

• A popular vulgarity for excrement, and another for a part of the
human anatomy. The words are used by a former ball-turret gunner
describing what it's like to be seriously wounded on a B-17 bombing
raid over Germany.

Two four-letter words and one seven-letter word, used in passing by
members of "The Greatest Generation" as they describe the most hellish
war the world has known so far.

Rather than risk a $325,000 fine per word from the FCC -- if the
offensive words are broadcast between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. -- PBS
provided two cuts of War and allowed stations to decide which
one to air.

Here's the thing, The FCC allowed the same language to be used in a
ABC prime-time showing of Steven Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan" --
a fictional account WW 2 -- a couple of years ago. href=""
target="_blank">In my book, I discuss the often arbitrary nature
of the FCC's take on speech.

In any event, which red-blooded American is going to complain about
PBS airing a soldier using the acronym FUBAR? Does anyone else find it
ironic that a film documenting the great sacrifices of freedom will
have the words of the very men who fought for it edited out?