Daily Archives: January 15, 2011

The F-Word

No, not that one… I am referring to the word “faggot” that the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has, through some misguided sense of political correctness, elevated to a similar status of public reprehensibility as the “n-word” with its recent edict concerning the Dire Straights’ signature tune Money for Nothing.

I couldn’t agree more with Scott Thompson about this, who was quoted yesterday in the Toronto Sun saying that “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.” In the same article, playwright Daniel MacIvor also put it well, stating that like Americans, Canadians are “starting to be infected with a fever that blocks irony.”

Funnily enough, this asinine decision by the CBSC comes just a few weeks after the flap south of the border about the clumsy (and likewise well-intentioned) bowdlerization of Mark Twain’s classic The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for not dissimilar reasons of shielding young readers from the painful or offensive experience of being exposed to the word “nigger” in a classroom setting (and also providing cover for gutless and/or inept teachers).

Of course, Twain used the epithet frequently in the book quite deliberately, not only to unsettle his readers at the time, but to show how the use of such derogatory words to describe another person diminishes their intrinsic humanity. Knopfler was apparently using the f-word in a similar way, quoting derisive (and sometimes homophobic) remarks overheard while working in the moving trade.

Hapless attempts at censorship like the two described here, however well-intentioned they purport to be, are fundamentally misguided in that they avoid rather than directly confront the reality of bigotry and prejudice in society by simply hiding their more obvious aspects from view and then pretending that they no longer exist. As far as I’m concerned, the condescending presumptions of would-be censors are every bit as offensive and insulting as the words they seek to eradicate.

Update: the issue of censorship is discussed at length on The Agenda.

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