“Sit on it!”

With all the bad news coming out of Russia, a new censorship law is a minor item, though symptomatic of a state flexing its muscles over people and culture. As reported by the ITAR-TASS News Agency, “Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law prohibiting explicit language in literature and arts, mass media products, at concerts, theatrical performances, entertaining events, and in film.”

Films will be refused a distribution certificate if they have obscene language, however DVDs with obscene language can be sold if they are sealed and labelled. The different treatment appears to be due to the law’s concern with public performances, and DVDs are generally for private consumption. In a nod to nationalism, films cannot be considered truly Russian if they contain foul language. The law is not retroactive.

I’m not opposed to some limitations on swearing, as I noted in this post and this post, though fines and the possibility of imprisonment are harsh. Restrictions on foul language on TV brought us the memorable phrases “sit on it” and “up your nose with a rubber hose,” as well as the infamous “melon farmer.” Such a law is certainly repressive, but in the scheme of things more a nuisance than a  harm. The likely effect will be more creative and meaningful expressions replacing meaningless intensives.

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