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"Each individual should allow reason to guide his conduct, or like an animal, he will need to be led by a leash."
Diogenes of Sinope

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Thousand Flowers tapestry (15th Century) - Beaune, France (detail)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Banned in Canada? Seriously?

On behalf of sensible gay Dire Straits fans everywhere, I humbly apologize for the actions of a gay radio listener in Newfoundland who has succeeded in getting the song "Money for Nothing" banned in Canada:
Money For Nothing, a classic-rock radio staple by Dire Straits, is too offensive for Canadian broadcasts because of its use of the word “faggot,” the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has ruled.

The ruling, released Wednesday, responded to a complaint submitted to St. John’s radio station CHOZ-FM over a Feb. 1 airing of an unedited version of the song, which mentions the word three times.

The complainant wrote that the song’s lyrics were “extremely offensive” to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
A 25 yr old song has now been sent down the memory hole because of a single complaint - one - from an offended gay listener.

For the record, I am a member of the tribe described in the complaint as "gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people". I am also a Dire Straits fan, and I have this to say to Mr. Lighten Up in Newfoundland; you don't know what you're talking about. If you paid any attention to the lyrics that sent you into a hissy fit, you would realize that the use of the word "faggot" in the song is ironic and is actually poking fun at homophobes who use the word as an insult.

The song describes a supposed conversation between two blue-collar working men who make a living delivering and installing refrigerators and microwave ovens. They are watching rock videos on MTV and lamenting the fact that the band on TV (presumably Dire Straits)is making obscene amounts of money by prancing around and playing guitars ("money for nothing") while they slave away doing hard physical labour for pitiful wages. They are particularly incensed by someone in the band with outlandish hair and an earring whom they presume is a "faggot" and thus doesn't deserve to be rich and famous while they languish in obscurity:
Now look at them yo-yo's that's the way you do it
You play the guitar on the MTV
That ain't workin' that's the way you do it
Money for nothin' and your chicks for free
Now that ain't workin' that's the way you do it
Lemme tell ya them guys ain't dumb
Maybe get a blister on your little finger
Maybe get a blister on your thumb

We gotta install microwave ovens
Custom kitchen deliveries
We gotta move these refrigerators
We gotta move these color TV's

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

Gotta install microwave ovens
Custom kitchen deliveries
We gotta move these refrigerators
Gotta move these color TV's

I shoulda learned to play the guitar
I shoulda learned to play them drums
Look at that mama, she got it stickin' in the camera
Man we could have some
And he's up there, what's that? Hawaiian noises?
Bangin' on the bongos like a chimpanzee
That ain't workin' that's the way you do it
Get your money for nothin' get your chicks for free

We gotta install microwave ovens
Custom kitchens deliveries
We gotta move these refrigerators
We gotta move these color TV's

Look a' here
That ain't workin' that's the way you do it
You play the guitar on your MTV
That ain't workin' that's the way you do it
Money for nothin' and your chicks for free
Money for nothin' and chicks for free

Money for nothin' and your chicks for free

Look at that, look at that

Money for nothin' and your chicks for free
I want my, I want my, I want my MTV
Money for nothin' and chicks for free
Clearly the song is meant to satirize the narrow-mindedness of people who would use the word "faggot" as an insult and is not intended to offend actual gay people. I'm as offended as any gay person when that slur is used around me and it can be very hurtful, but in this case by putting the word in the mouth of a bigot, it is a way to negatively stereotype the users of the insult, not the targets. In that sense it is empowering, not insulting.

As Kelly McParland put it in the National Post: has Canada become the world's thinnest-skinned country?
You may have noticed the global snort of derision when it became known that Money For Nothing, a 25-year-old Dire Straits song written by Mark Knopfler and Sting, has been ruled too offensive for Canadian radio play.

What’s interesting, apart from the simple lunacy of suddenly banning a tune that’s 25 years old and has already been played about a billion times, is the reason: A radio station in St. John’s received a complaint.

That’s all it takes in Canada: One person to take offense.


Minority rights are fine and all, but when did it become the practice that, in a country of 34 million people, a single person could overrule all the others simply by declaring they were offended?

I would suggest that the one person responsible for this ridiculous decision is not only offended but clueless, and the people at the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council should be embarrassed for caving in.

UPDATE: Mark Knopfler commented on the same controversy in a 1985 interview with Rolling Stone:
The layers of irony in "Money for Nothing" have certainly confused people. I got an objection from the editor of a gay newspaper in London - he actually said it was "below the belt." Apart from the fact that there are stupid gay people as well as stupid other people, it suggests that maybe you can't let it have so many meanings - you have to be direct. (HT: Towleroad)


Joe said...

Does this mean I can't use fagot to describe a burning stick anymore? Does this mean that my friends who emigrated from Scotland thirty years ago have to stop calling their cigarettes 'fags'. Does this mean that a certain bearing manufacturer must now change its name.

What a mind numbingly stupid decision. And to top it off using the word 'fagot' was compared to denying the Holocaust on national radio.

syncrodox said...

Well said. One person in 35 million can censure a 25 year old song. Of course this gets more bizarre.

I half caught Adler today and he had the Chairman or President of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council on explaining the decision.

At one point the guest corrected Charles by noting the complainant didn't need to be a member of the aggrieved tribe to file a complaint.

Apparently, anybody can be offended by anything, according to the CBSC.

I believe you can find the audio clip in the last half hour of today's show.

Anonymous said...

Can two of us bring a complaint to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council to have this reversed?

Larry said...

This council seems to think it's okay to use "Jesus Christ" as a swear word. Shows you where their mins are at.

Anonymous said...

The next step on the road to broadcasting madness, arrest Mark Knopfler and fine him for his words. There is an extradition treaty with the US - time to show our sensitive side and make an example of this pop icon. No trial, no defense, only punishment. What a bunch of maroons. ps should I admit that I have more than one Dire Straits CD? Will the word police be knocking at my door in the middle of the night? FernStAlbert

Joanne (BLY) said...

Great post Eric!

And there is no way you need to 'apologize'. The blame clearly falls on the shoulders of the politically-correct CBSC.

If you check out Twitter on this topic, Canada has become a laughing-stock from the POV of folks in the States and Britain.

Fire. Them. All.

potato said...

Why don't we just get this over with and enshrine "you have a right not to be offended" into the Charter of Rights and Freedoms so that we can dispense with the facade of freedom and become the tyranny that we're really aspiring to.

Joanne (BLY) said...

Potato - Well said.

That reminds me of something Irshad Manji said recently:

"…The great irony here is that in a free and open society it’s those that hate freedom that feel so confident about expressing themselves and those who love freedom that shrink from the opportunity…”

I thought that was quite profound.