Saturday, January 29, 2011

Censorship For Nothin'

According to a Canadian Press story, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has banned the song "Money For Nothing", by Dire Straits, from airplay in Canada following a complaint, received from St. John's, Newfoundland, from an anonymous radio listener who took exception to the following phrase from the song:

That little faggot with the earring and the makeup.
Yeah, buddy, that's his own hair.
That little faggot's got his own jet airplane.
That little faggot he's a millionaire.

Of course, it's the derogatory term "faggot" that got the knickers of both the complainant and the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council all bunched up.

One of my personal pet peeves, besides the gratuitous use of alliteration, is runaway political-correctness, and this ruling is a prime example of what I mean. To begin with, it all started with a complaint from one single listener. To the best of my knowledge, there was no groundswell of indignation against the song among the gay community at large, although EGALE Canada has since come out (if you'll excuse the term) in defence of the ruling. Since when does a democratic society make policy decisions based on a complaint from one overly-sensitive malcontent? The album "Brothers In Arms", which included the offending song, was released in 1985. Several songs from the album, including "Money for Nothing" in particular, have proven extremely popular and have been getting a healthy amount of air play all over the world for over 25 years. In all that time, nobody has had a problem with the lyrics. But one person complains, and suddenly censorship is called for?

To be fair, the complaint has since found more supporters. "It perpetuates the stereotype," declared EGALE Canada's director, Helen Kennedy, "It's negative and offensive."

Apparently, neither Helen Kennedy, EGALE Canada, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council or the original complainant would recognize sarcasm if it came up and bit them in the ass (hint: That was an example right there.) The point that all of these politically-correct reactionaries appear to be missing completely is that the song itself is a musical caricature of a certain mentality, and not a flattering one at that. Songwriter Mark Knopfler was clearly lampooning the sort of ignorant, blue-collar mentality that would make such a statement. He wasn't poking fun at gays, he was poking fun at the speaker.

In fact, Knopfler has long ago explained that the song was inspired by an actual conversation that he overheard in an appliance store one day. One of the store's employees was watching MTV on one of its many television monitors and carrying on with a comrade in much the style that is presented in the song. Knopfler found it so amusing that he took out a pad of paper and started scribbling down notes. He later turned it into a song. He was ridiculing the guy.

If everyone was going to get offended from taking everything that they hear and see at its simple face value, then pop stars should be boycotting the song, because it seems to be declaring that they don't really work for a living ("That ain't workin'. That's the way you do it. Money for nothin' and your chicks for free.") Ah, and women should be boycotting the song because the line "chicks for free" surely implies that most females are whores who charge for their services.

The CBSC has since modified its position, agreeing that the song can be aired as long as it is edited; in other words, you can't say "faggot" anymore. I'll go out on a limb here and assume that "homo" and "poofter" are equally verboten. So what do we substitute? We need a two-syllable word that's somewhat derogatory, but not too derogatory. Might I suggest "Newfie"?

In hindsight, it's a good thing that "Les Boys" never received a lot of airplay!

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