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The Stabbing Knife Vol. 5: Doubleheader Edition

January 15, 2011

Don't sweat it, Roberto. I'm completely made of Tuesday.

If it’s completely true that snitches get stitches then it’s doubly true that self-righteous idiots who attempt to sand down the world’s rough edges through censorship get the business end of Roberto’s stabbing knife. And it’s been awhile, so we’re having a doubleheader. On to the wetwork.

We’ve all heard the phrase “One person can make a difference,” and we’ve all nodded thoughtfully while thinking, “Bullshit.” Just like the eternally optimistic phrase “Every vote counts” allows us to feel like our voice matters in the political arena, the sad truth is that one person has no chance in hell to make significant changes, especially in well-established institutions with years of history behind them.

And then something like this happens.

An anonymous (to us, anyway) complainant has singlehandedly gotten Dire Straits’ Money for Nothing removed from radio airplay in Canada. As many of you are probably thinking, what the fuck for?

This anonymous complainant (hereafter “AC” for the sake of my fingers) was offended by the use of the word “faggot,” which pops up three times as the narrator critiques the hair metal dominating MTV at the time. If you’re not familiar with the lyrics, I’m not going to run them down for you here. Perhaps you can get in touch with AC as you are apparently the only other English-speaking person alive who has not heard this overplayed rock radio staple several hundred times in their life.

A homophobe and his headband rarely part.

Having heard this track 26 years after it was released, AC sprung into action. Assuming the role of spokesperson for the entire gay (or “gey,” as I assume it’s spelled in Canada) community, AC fired off a letter to the offending station demanding they remove the song from airplay.

“A song was aired, “Money For Nothing” by Dire Straits, and included the word “faggot” a total of three times.  I am aware of other versions of the song, in which the word was replaced with another, and yet OZ FM chose to play and not censor this particular version that I am complaining about.

I find this extremely offensive as a member of the LGBT community and feel that there is absolutely no valid reason for such discriminatory marks to be played on-air.”

At first, they blew her off, albeit in a very kindly fashion, running down the reasons for keeping it in the rotation and citing precedent.

“In this specific case, the song in question has been played countless times in its original form, from its #1 release in 1984 to the present day, and continues to be aired on stations across the country in this form.  As this selection has been aired continuously for 25+ years, and the original version is regarded by many as an historically successful and essential rock hit in that form with these particular lyrics, management chose in this specific instance to retain the authenticity of this selection.”

“We understand the concerns you have raised regarding this particular selection and do apologize for any undue stress caused to you as a listener by the lyrical content of this selection, but based on the above reasoning, we have operated with the understanding that in this specific case, no editing of the material is warranted.”

That should have been that.

The C stands for "Capitulation."

Not good enough. AC was still perturbed and fired back, using a lot of words but mainly pointing out than anything less than removal or censorship of the track would be unsatisfactory.

“I am highly dissatisfied with the response I have received.  I do not feel the argument in favour of the unabridged version of the song was valid, and it is certainly not strong enough to justify playing such words on the radio.  This word carries an unavoidable connotation of hate.  By airing it unapologetically on the radio, this station is indirectly propagating hate.  Although I can see the value in a timeless classic rock song in its original form, I cannot help but feel that it does not overshadow the importance of ending discrimination.”

The CBSC, not wanting to be seen as “propagating hate” or not being really on board with “ending discrimination” through continued airplay of a 26-year-old song, consulted and decided in her favor, issuing a lengthy missive explaining their reasons for removing the track.

So, apparently, one person can make a difference.

Now, before you get all inspired and head out to start a carpool or become a locavore or write your Congressman in an attempt to rid hotels you don’t even patronize of PPV porn, take a good, long look at what this is.

This isn’t justice. This isn’t David triumphing over Goliath. Hell, this isn’t even the local repertory theater’s production of Pay It Forward.

This is myopic, narcissistic bullshit.

This is saying, “This song offends ME. Change it. Fuck everyone else.”

It’s not that I think Money for Nothing is a classic work of art or that using the word “faggot” is ok in all circumstances. But maybe, just maybe, this instance is alright because FOR FUCK’S SAKE, THE SONG HAS BEEN OUT FOR 26 YEARS AND YOU WANT TO CENSOR IT NOW??

For Christ’s sake (or so they say), the Parents Television Council is always trying to censor this or that offending bit of culture but at least they’ve got some sort of quorum and the signed petitions and email carpet-bombing to back it up. I don’t agree with them ever but at least it’s not just one person wheedling away with a 2-year-old’s sense of entitlement, moaning “I don’t like this! Changeitchangeitchangeitchangeit!!!”

Dr. Alan Gribben is unaware that his moustache is on slightly crooked.

This is no different than Twain scholar Alan Gribben who’s working tirelessly to crank out a version of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, free of the troublesome word “nigger,” which has coyly been replaced with “slave.” (Also on the chopping block: “Injun” and “Half-breed.”) Once again, lots of history but at least in this case he’s not the first person to censor or ban this book.

“The idea of a more politically correct Finn came to the 69-year-old English professor over years of teaching and outreach, during which he habitually replaced the word with “slave” when reading aloud. Gribben grew up without ever hearing the “n” word (“My mother said it’s only useful to identify [those who use it as] the wrong kind of people”) and became increasingly aware of its jarring effect as he moved South and started a family. “My daughter went to a magnet school and one of her best friends was an African-American girl. She loathed the book, could barely read it.”

His main issue seems to be that it makes him “uncomfortable,” especially now that he’s relocated to the South. If he can’t handle using this in its historical context then he probably shouldn’t be teaching. Obviously it’s too much to expect that he might provide his students with the historical background or engage them in a discussion of how hearing/reading this word affects them.

No, I guess it would just be simpler to jack Tom Sawyer’s brush and whitewash the shit out of an American masterpiece. Even worse, he’s teaching a new generation that if something offends you, you should get rid of it no matter its history or context or importance to other people who aren’t you.

In this era of self-victimization thousands of people are running around with a chip on their shoulder and hot tears of self-righteous humiliation in their eyes. Why should something that offends them need to disappear? Are these self-appointed guardians of our culture really that selfish?

If you think that you might be offended by the word “faggot” leaking out of your speakers in the near future, just shut it off or dial away when you hear the very distinctive opening of Money for Nothing. And if you think you might not be able to handle the word “nigger” in print then just fucking read/teach something else, you projecting bastard.

Stabbity-stabbity-stab-stab-stab.

Quick postscript: Reaction to the ban of Money for Nothing has been pretty much completely negative. Here’s a typical take from an actual gay man, Scott Thompson (Kids in the Hall):

“Shakespeare would be rolling over in his g-word,” said Thompson, the 51-year-old actor/comedian best known for his work with the Kids in the Hall troupe.

When you ban a word, you make the word more powerful. All this banning that’s going on just makes (the hate) go deeper and deeper into the soul, where it festers. Let it it out. I want to know what you really think. I can handle it.

“It makes me feel like we’re five years old and need to go potty. The n-word, I guess, is number 1 and the f- word is number 2.”

Check on previous victims here:
ASCAP
Steve Dahl
Garth Brooks
Bono

-CLT

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18 comments

  1. Nice blade-work CLT and I agree with you (I know, I know, its boring). I have a very dim view of censorship as it tends to reinforce bias and puts a stop to meaningful discussion.

    Oh, and holy fuck, last I heard ‘context’ was an important part of acquiring knowledge. You do know that the word ‘cracker’ appears numerous times in the “Joy of Cooking.”


    • Beautifully put, Bob, and not just the part where you said you agreed with me. Without context, everything becomes offensive. That’s the problem with these two busybodies who are unable to frame these issues in anything larger than their very personal worlds, around which the sun apparently revolves.


  2. I think I`m going to complain about Billy Idol´s song ¨Mony Mony¨.

    While not recognized on the original lyric sheet, the song has a verse suggesting that everybody either “Get laid/get fucked”, or “Drink milk, it`s good!”

    Not only does this song encourage people to have casual sex, it ostracizes those who are lactose intolerant.

    ps. Glad to see the stabbing knife is back, and sharper than ever.


    • Bschooled –

      I’m sure there are hundreds of other songs that should be banned especially because of their built-in deficiencies which force people to fill in the blanks with made-up exhortations.

      Today Mony Mony, tomorrow Margaritaville. Those people need their salt, goddamnit!


  3. On the upside, “the little faggot is a millionaire.”

    (Hey look above. A comment in under 10 words!)


    • So presumably he should be able to take some in-context ribbing. Or maybe, “You’ve got your insults; I’ve got my piles and piles of money.”

      Great to see you, alantru, however surprisingly brief the visit was.


  4. So GNR’s One in a Million has no chance for Canadian airplay?


    • Not if specific someones have heard the track for the first time despite it having been out for two decades. You can’t subsist on Indigo Girls alone.


  5. I love you when you’re angry. No really, I do. It brings the best out of you.

    I totally agree as well. Ignorance will never solve anything. Wait until the kids are mature enough to handle it then give them the historical truth so that they may learn how to progress as a society and as individuals. That’s my opinion.


    • Thanks, Scott. I enjoy a good rant whether I’m on the giving or the receiving end. (Well, not so much the rants where I’m the subject matter, but rants where someone else is ranting about someone else. That kind of receiving.)

      No one’s doing kids any favors by burying potentially offensive material. They’re going to come across it anyway. You might as well at least supply them with some context.

      Not only that, but the world can be an ugly place. But these two examples are not part of that ugly world. There’s a rationale to both of these that gets lost once someone decides that art, literature, music, etc. are purely subjective works and exist in their easily-offended vacuum.


  6. […] may also recall that some long-winded and profane amateur blogger spewed out around 1,400 words (about 40% of them variations of “fuck”) in response to this bit of news. This same […]


  7. My beautiful young daughter’s nickname is FGGT. I hear “Fag, come eat!” by my other daughter on a regular basis (or “call Fag” or “pick up Fag”). Her sister has called her Faggot (affectionately) for years. Personally, I call her TokhesGrl (Yiddish for girl with a fluffy bottom), but Fag predominates in our household. I don’t get all the fuss.


    • I can confirm that I call her “Faggot,” although I should probably mention that it is 100% affectionate and I do not condone the use of the term in a derogative context.


    • That’s adorable!

      Look, I’m on board with whatever you two want to call her and I believe you when you tell me it’s affectionate. Just be careful around others who aren’t as understanding. Like the anonymous defender of the LGBT tribe in Canada.

      Or angry young man Jason here who I believe might be located much closer to you than to me (scroll down a bit in the comment thread):

      http://blogs.westword.com/backbeat/2011/01/canada_bans_money_for_nothing_but_still_missed_a_few_offensive_songs.php#comments

      Wow! He certainly feels ways about stuff! Oh, let’s take a look at his Twitter feed!

      http://twitter.com/st36olly

      Sweet baby Jesus! I can see him whispering to a dramatically-posed Bruce Willis, “I see homophobia… All the time!”

      Christ.

      Thanks for the visit and charmingly informative comments, ladies.


  8. This kind of fucking bullshit really gets me steamed, especially when it emanates from my home on and native land.

    Here’s some Canadian context that, if anything, makes this story even worse. The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (hereby “Cocksucker Council”) is a totally useless body created by the Canadian Association of (private) Broadcasters to project the deliberately misleading image they are “pillars of Canadian Society”. Creating “standards” was meant to help broadcasters preemptively self-censor, something good citizens do to avoid the faux-pas of using their right to Free Speech. Cocksucker Council was created by private broadcasters so that government wouldn’t be tempted to use its own regulatory outfit, the CRTC (Canadian Radio-televison and Telecommunications Commission). The CRTC is similar to America’s FCC. It exists to provide friends of politicians lucrative employment in exchange for giving media companies everything they want without politicians getting their hands dirty.

    Cocksucker Council was also meant to give simpering bitches with far too much time on their hands (but not enough time to read the Constitution) somebody to complain to. Usually, all that results from this process is a “stern warning”. But the urge toward outright censorship on Cocksucker Council is on the rise, especially with regards to radio for some bizarre reason.

    But this isn’t America, where the word “ass” can get bleeped even in prime time. This is Canada, a nation where you can unofficially say “shit” on TV at any time of the day. Fuck, I used to watch The L Word when it ran uncensored during my boxed lunch. (Heh, Heh, Heh) One of its actresses even got elected here. A movie like Clerks 2 appears uncensored on TV almost weekly. And we all know NOTHING in Clerks 2 could POSSIBLY offend anyone.



    This is the kind of story that shows censorship (especially word censorship) for what it is; a foolish, pointless, random and irrational waste of time and resources that operates in its own time-space continuum. One single person gets upset that a deliberately retrograde character (based on a real person) in a song directs a common “anti-gay slur” at people he knows aren’t gay Money for nothin’ and your CHICKS for free. and the media will toss the original lyrics down the Memory Hole as if they weren’t aired every day for the last 26 years.

    “Hey, remember the last 26 years when a homophobic slur was used 53 million times on the radio, 20 years of which occurred while Cocksucker Council was ‘upholding the highest standards in broadcasting’? Never happened!”

    The reality is that censorship is about confirming our false impressions of ourselves as better than we are, or having been better than we were. Just like nobody in the 80’s ever said “faggot”, no Twain era American ever used the term “nigger”. It’s nowhere on the radio, so Canada was never homophobic. It’s nowhere in Twain’s book, so America was never racist. We’re all good.

    But, as we’re constantly told, censorship is about “protecting innocent children” from words they constantly use and images they spend all their free time looking at, if not creating. Fuck the Internet. Any Canadian kid using 1970’s technology can record movies, songs, or TV shows with far “worse” content and enjoy them any time. Why the fuck is Cocksucker Council so hung up on banning words in a 26 year old song from the radio? What could they possibly hope to accomplish?

    The song was a big international hit, even on MTV, the very station it criticises. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Money_for_Nothing_%28song%29 But it ceased being relevant about 20 years ago. Today, the song plays on a dying medium, radio, to a select demographic who live in a voluntary state of suspended animation. Anyone who will ever hear the song has probably heard it twice a day for the last 26 years and probably can’t remember more than 2-3 lines of it. Taking out 3 uses of the word “faggot” in this song ain’t gonna do ANYTHING…other than erode your right to Free Speech.

    But censoring the song will allow folks who wallow in their own nostalgia to pretend they didn’t grow up marinated in a homophobic culture and it will allow them to pretend they themselves were always as gay-friendly as they are today. It’s all about keeping those rose-coloured glasses on, especially when looking in the mirror.

    The idea that a 26 year old song could be silenced nationally by the ruling of a small, non-elected, non-governmental, panel made up knob-gobbling panty-waists assigned the task of giving people the false impression the mammoth corporations they work for have anything remotely approaching standards is a complete fucking joke! It’s so much of joke, even the CRTC has asked them to re-think their stance. http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/com100/2011/r110121.htm
    That’s right, Canada’s closest thing to a national censor board politely told Cocksucker Council that they got it all wrong and why.


    • I don’t really have anything to add. This pretty much sums up the whole debacle: the point at which the main censoring board decides you’re being too much of a prude.


  9. RE: Twain gets censored

    What kind of fucktards remove an intentional continuing reference (Nigger Jim) to a key theme of a book (the role of blacks in America), so that it can be taught in a classroom? You can’t talk about racism towards blacks without the word “nigger” being involved. It’s like teaching the Pythagorean Theorem without saying the word “triangle” or teaching Algebra without using letters.

    I’ll tell you what kind of fucktards do this. Fucking assholes who have no problem chopping up a classic American novel just to sell more units. THAT is what this is about. A bunch of morons try to shield their children from America’s ugly “past” by removing a book just because it contains a word still commonly used today. In steps a publisher with zero integrity. He takes the troublesome word out of the book. The book is then magically “racism free” and can be taught again. Every school board in America will drop the real Twain and buy their Non Racist Edition. Holy cash grab, Batman!

    And what did these geniuses replace “nigger” with? Slave. Yup. The idea of owning human beings as property and doing with them as you please is less offensive to modern America than a slang version of the Latin word for their skin colour. Come to think of it, slavery probably is more acceptable in modern America than using “bad” words.
    http://www.freetheslaves.net/Page.aspx?pid=356

    And replacing the word “Injun” with “Indian” sure corrects a longstanding historical (and geographical) injustice. No longer will Cherokees, Mohawks and such be degraded by being confused with the people of Gandhi. I’m sure every Native American will just run out and buy a copy! I also wonder what Cher thinks about these worthless book rapists changing the oh-so offensive word “half-breed” to the oh-so incomprehensible “half-blood”. (Look for Cher’s big hit single, Half Breed, to get censored anytime soon.)

    The bottom line is that, if your students can’t handle the subject material in its entirety, they aren’t ready to learn it in the first place. If they can’t handle issues of racism, not only are they not ready for Huckleberry Finn, they aren’t ready to live in America.

    If this move works, I’m sure New South will release an entire line of censored classics. I wonder if these douche-bags are going to give the Twain treatment to my favourite race relations book, Die Nigger Die, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Die_Nigger_Die! so they can teach it class without “offending” anyone.

    New South Books: We Pretend The Old South Never Existed

    (I have half a mind to write these motherfuckers a letter.)


    • (I’ve got half a mind to let you. WordPress is beginning to badger me about abusing my free blog which continues to run dangerously over the word limit.)

      I’m sure the African Americans won’t mind having “nigger” replaced with “slave.” Just think of the horrific undertones that would be suddenly present in 90% of the rap charts:

      “Put it this way
      You “slaves” sideways
      Always making money
      My “slaves,” crime pays…”

      – Rick Ross, whose Blowin’ Money Fast suddenly implies that his drug-runners are working for free and thus keeping his profit margin sky-high.

      It’s a brave new stupid world out there, full of protectionist nannies looking out for a populace apparently made out of emotional porcelain.



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