Political correctness in Dire Straits

What an interesting couple of weeks. Writers of all stripes should take note, it’s obviously time to take a whole lot more care with your selection of words – or the “nanny state” organizations could be on to you, with a vengeance.

What an interesting couple of weeks. Writers of all stripes should take note, it’s obviously time to take a whole lot more care with your selection of words – or the “nanny state” organizations could be on to you, with a vengeance.

History revisionists, for example have apparently decided that Mark Twain’s classic novel, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, published in 1885, is offensive and has to be sanitized of the “n” word.

One more example of how, if we don’t like the past, we can change it through its culture.

Now, a complaint from Newfoundland has caught the attention of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council which promptly “banned from the air” a mundane, 25-year-old rock song by Dire Straits, “Money for Nothing”, which contains the word “faggot” three times.

The council has agreed with the gay complainant’s contention that the word was used in a “hate” context. Why did it take so long to make the decision? “We needed to receive a complaint,” according to the commission.

Do these people have any sense of how foolish and irrelevant such actions make them look?

I doubt a day goes by that the “n” word of the ‘f’ word is not used thousand times on radio and TV, mainly, let it be said, in rap and hip-hop performances by black performers. Or in dozens of movies being telecast to fill programming time.

It is not seen as racist or homophobic in most cases. I use the word homophobic, but I’m not sure it is an actual English language word. Still if Google is a verb, why not?

Frankly the enormity of the task of expurgating and sanitizing music or any of the pop-culture or more sophisticated ‘arts’ would be such a hopeless and futile thing.

Could all nude painting and photography be targeted or just material that could be considered offensive by the “gay’ community?

Books, movies, videos, day-to-day themes of television shows, radio music and discussion – not to mention the proliferation of the most pernicious pornography of all types on the internet, in retail book and video stores, or easily downloaded on your home computer – could all be targets for a sanitization.

But of course this simply won’t happen, not because the CBSC doesn’t have a complaint, but more so because the CBSC is a “feel good” but quite useless council with extremely limited powers of censorship.

There are numerous other organizations and interest groups just as capable of pressuring a censorship possibility, but most of them and simply overwhelmed by the level of opposition.

So, what will come next? This council’s decision, however illogical, begs several questions in day-to-day life for all of us. Will other well-known classics be sanitized – how about James Joyce’s “Ulysses”?

Surely, even in the year 2011, “Ulysses,” although published in 1922, probably still sells about as many copies of “Huck Finn?” Will its publishers find a need to expurgate it? I doubt it.

In everyday life, however, one wonders what might be the effects of campaigns to “clean-up” our literature or music so it fails to offend anyone?

For example, would homo milk be re-named? Will the fruit and veggie section of grocery stores be renamed farmed products, in case someone objects. What will they do with fairy tales?

One situation, however, that does reflect real life as well as the silly case outlined above, was provided on January 16, in the Financial Post, where we read about the results of a continuing, six-years-old life-style dispute between neighbours in Quebec. This one has just resulted in one

Kitimat Northern Sentinel