Posts Tagged ‘Mark Twain’

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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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