Is Profanity Online Really Necessary?


The swear jar is looking mighty full today.

First, I swear on occasion, especially among certain friends.

Second, I also used to work in a news room where salty language was the norm.

But I’d argue that there is a big difference between using profanity in the moment – and doing it on social networks or during “live” (i.e. recorded) events.  In the former the profane language is ephemeral and in the latter it is part of the permanent record – forever searchable.

This comes to mind in the wake of tech blogger Mike Arrington’s interview of Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz this morning at TechCrunch’s Disrupt Conference.  The two gathered on stage at the conference for a “fire side” chat in front of live audience that was being live streamed by TechCrunch.

Arrington, the pugnacious editor of the Silicon Valley tech blog, opened the interview by asking Bartz: “So, how the f*** are you?”

Bartz later told Arrington to: “F*** off.”

The exchange – which happened all of two hours ago – has already become an instant hit on blogs and on Twitter (where “Bartz” and “Arrington” immediately became trending topics).

There’s little doubt that profane language riddles the internet.  Anyone who frequents chat rooms, forums or reads comments on blog posts comes in extreme contact with profanity.  As a blog author (and former journalist) there are few curse words that haven’t been hurled in my direction.  So it’s not as if profanity offends me in a personal way.

But is it appropriate?  Should a journalist (and I know many would argue that Arrington is not a journalist) open an interview with a chief executive by swearing – especially when it is being broadcast live online?  And should the chief executive respond in kind?  Is this how we want our business discourse?  Is there really a place for profanity in business settings?

Or should I just don robes and join a cluster of monks?

What do you think about profanity online or in business settings?

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2 Responses to “Is Profanity Online Really Necessary?”

  1. I think eloquence is power in this case. Making a point and establishing a tone without crass language has much more of an impact – IMHO.

  2. Hard to disagree with that, RJ.

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