Are liberals more profane than conservatives? Online, the answer seems to be yes. Profanity, those taboo words banned from the broadcast airwaves, is a feature of many people's daily lives. It's much less so in the establishment media world. TV and radio broadcasts are legally prohibited from using it, most newspapers (including this one) have traditionally refrained from its usage.
That's not the case with the Web, where bloggers and readers face no such restrictions. That likely comes as no surprise; what may be surprising, however, is to what degree profanity seems to be a feature more common on one side of the political blogosphere than the other.
Which side is that? For answers, I turned to the search engine Google to see how common swearing is in the right and left blog universes by looking up the late stand-up comic George Carlin's "seven dirty words" in the most popular blog communities.
The results showed that online liberals tend to use profanity a lot more than online conservatives.
Searching for Mr. Carlin's seven words and some popular variants at the top 10 conservative Web communities yields about 70,000 results. That is dwarfed in comparison to the 1.9 million instances of profanity on liberal sites.
Things aren't quite that clear-cut, however, since some Web sites have more pages than others. According to Google, the top 10 conservative sites have about 6 million pages, while the top 10 liberal sites have about 13 million.
Dividing the number of instances of profanity by the number of pages of the sites on which they appear, then multiplying the result by 100 yields what might be called a "profanity quotient."
The top 10 liberal sites (Daily Kos, Huffington Post, Democratic Underground, Talking Points Memo, Crooks and Liars, Think Progress, Atrios, Greenwald, MyDD and Firedoglake) have a profanity quotient of 14.6.
The top 10 conservative sites (Free Republic, Hot Air, Little Green Footballs, Townhall, NewsBusters, Lucianne.com, Wizbang, Ace of Spades, Red State and Volokh Conspiracy) have a quotient of 1.17.
That's quite a disparity. Liberals are more than 12 times likely to use profanity than conservatives on the Web.
The interesting question, of course, is whether this is merely a superficial matter of style, or whether it's a question of fundamental character.
The kind of vulgarity used on leftist blogs betrays a fundamental contempt for the sensibilities of others. That's because those "others" are thought to be morally and intellectually inferior, and therefore fair game.
Matthew Sheffield: Washington Times