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It is often said of Kurt Cobain, the late Nirvana singer, that he wasn’t half as good a musician in life as he became after he died. Much the same could now be said for Mark Knopfler who, while not dead, has suffered a fate far more damaging to a musician’s spirit: censorship.

Knopfler, whose popularity peaked at the dawn of MTV era as frontman of rock band Dire Straits, has seen his previously unheralded lyrical ability upgraded in some quarters to that of a master satirist in light of a Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) ruling on his band’s 1985 hit ‘Money for Nothing. The CBSC, the Canuck equivalent of the United States’ FCC, informed the nation’s radio stations that in future broadcasting the unedited recording of the track, which features repeated use of an offensive term aimed at homosexuals, would be considered a violation of the its Code of Ethics. In short: don’t play it.

The prohibition came about in response to a complaint from a member of the public – a 21-year-old gay woman from Newfoundland – who heard the full unedited version broadcast on regional classic rock station CHOZ-FM. The song contains the word “faggot” three times in quick succession, spoken from the perspective of a character voiced by Knopfler. The track was heavily criticised at the time of its release for vague implications of racism and sexism, though the CBSC’s edict relates only to the actual wording of the song.

The issue quickly gained traction following the publication of the ruling on Thursday. Two stations, Q104 in Halifax and K97 in Edmonton, issued separate releases declaring their intention to broadcast the unedited track continuously for an hour on Friday, January 14. Cynical observers have pointed out that both stations are owned by the same media conglomerate. Meanwhile, the decision has found no shortage of opponents in the print media, with (invariably male and straight) columnists, first in Canada and later the rest of the world, voicing their opposition to what many have erroneously referred to as a “ban.”

The song’s defenders counter that its language is not meant to offend, but to educate; that the listener is supposed to be disgusted by the use of such ugly terminology. There is something to be said for this view. Indeed, the lyrics themselves are voiced from the perspective of a blue-collar delivery man, based on a real furniture mover encountered by Knopfler. This working-class anti-hero aims a series of homophobic, sexist and arguably racist barbs at the pop stars he sees making “money for nothing” on TV while he installs microwaves for a modest wage.

Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue claims to have been the real-life recipient of the “faggot” remark, which is made three times in quick succession: “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.” Reading the lyrics in full, it is reasonably clear that the context is satirical, but without the aid of a lyric sheet, you’ve got to contend with Knopfler’s muffled vocals, and that’s no easy feat to accomplish.

Ordinarily, few people would consider such an obvious case of aural narcissism a particularly biting example of social satire. ‘Money for Nothing’ is, at its core, a plea for sympathy from a rich rock star poking fun at the working-class slobs who can barely conceal their jealousy of rich rock stars, i.e.  Knopfler himself. It’s difficult to ignore the latent sense of self-pity that permeates the song’s every crevice. However, for many commentators, defending the principle of artistic expression appears to be more important than the actual content of the song.

Undoubtedly the most naked example of arrogant privilege revealed itself in the radio station’s initial response to the complainant. The station held up the song’s Grammy award for “Record of the Year” and 9 Video Music Awards in part-argument that she was wrong to be offended. The implication seems to be that a slur is legitimate as long as people don’t mind that much – better still if the 1986 Grammy panel and the good folks at MTV’s marketing department happen to agree.

There is no suggestion that Knopfler’s lyrics were intended to cause offense, but his words heard outside of context are overwhelmingly likely to do just that. Pop music does have the capability to educate and enlighten us on otherwise complex social issues, but context is vital and, despite what some opinion-formers would have us believe, pop radio is not a platform that encourages this type of thoughtful reflection. They play the hits, they play the ads and occasionally they break for the news – but they do not pause to explain the social context the way a middle-school English class would to discuss Huck Finn or To Kill a Mockingbird.

Canadian radio stations surrendered to state-imposed censorship in 1990 when they agreed to (and indeed lobbied for) the creation of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council. Before and since, it has been common practice to censor racist slurs, many sexist slurs and even casual swearing at certain times of the day. So it’s interesting to note that, in the 20 years since the body’s creation, this is the first instance where all strands of the media have been more or less unanimous in their opposition to an particular regulatory stance. It’s just unfortunate that the cause they’ve chosen is the freedom to broadcast a word that debases and demeans homosexuals.





thebhoy
01.24.11
Well going to university in Canada it is really clear that people don't understand context and are offended by everything; this is one of the dumber situations I've come across but is by no means the only.

ffs
01.24.11
peep that 80s cgi fellas

ConsiderPhlebas
01.24.11
You'd have to be on the wrong side of wonky-eyed lunacy to think this song is educational. Regardless, it's a song about a homophobe, at least partially, so homophobic language seems kinda appropriate. Censorship for daytime airing is fair enough, but a total ban is ridiculous. Surely even black lesbians would agree that songs can have homophobic/racist characters in them without the songs themselves being offensive.

omnipanzer
01.24.11
I've always thought it odd that no-one has ever had a problem with those lines. That being said I think it is artistic license specifically written into the song for a specific reason and should be left alone.

thebhoy
01.24.11
"songs can have homophobic/racist characters in them without the songs themselves being offensive."

Exactly. Otherwise... goodbye Heart of Darkness, A Passage to India, postcolonial literature in general, a slew of films


americanmusicmachine
01.24.11
I was reading "farewell, my lovely" a few weeks ago and in the book a black guy is murdered and everyone's like "oh well it's just a shine killing" and stuff and i think that is like the point raymond chandler is trying to make. i always identified w. the protaganist of "money for nothing" i guess i'm a racist/homophobe. it's not really homophobic he's just callin' rock 'n roll stars faggots. no real big deal y'know.

BigHans
01.24.11
Ok since my previous comment got deleted heres the politifcally correct version. If you're gay and offended by this, I dont care, deal with it.

americanmusicmachine
01.24.11
amen hans. i'm a redneck but i get over being offended by "rednecks" by randy newman.

BigHans
01.24.11
I should sue the Coen brothers over the movie Fargo because they make fun of accents of people who live in my region. Im deeply offended. Sue!

SeaAnemone
01.24.11
Yes, because BigHans and others who think like him don't care that you're offended, you shouldn't be either!

Never mind that some words, merely by their utterance, have the power to injure or even incite violence (i.e. fighting words)...

But yeah I don't know... I mean I can see what the ban is getting at but it's completely content-based and discriminatory so I'm gonna go with the answer: Ban in this instance = dumb.

americanmusicmachine
01.24.11
just don't listen to the song if hearing a character in a song--who's being made fun of--utters a word you don't like. don't wanna hear the word 'fuck' then don't listen to "fuck you" by cee-lo. if you're offended by "crazy bitch" by the buck cherries then don't fucking listen to it. I'm a liberal but i don't think we need a gov't agency protecting us from bad words, violence, and sexuality,

BigHans
01.24.11
All Im saying is if they ban this, they can go ahead and ban every death metal and Hip Hop record ever made, because they all contain lyrics that are "offensive" to some. Its a slippery slope, and it enrages me when certain minority groups get special treatment in their complaints because our politically correct culture is too scared of the backlash.

theacademy
01.24.11
@Hans, while im generally on youre side of this argument, remember that Fargo is rated R.

we (governments) censor for a reason: so we don't need to curtail free speech.

SeaAnemone
01.24.11
Yeah in that case I agree Hans... like I said, "But yeah I don't know... I mean I can see what the ban is getting at but it's completely content-based and discriminatory so I'm gonna go with the answer: Ban in this instance = dumb."

Admittedly I don't know what usually does/doesn't get banned, but the CBSC seemingly is protecting homosexuals here but not other special groups of people, creating a sort of special class. I wouldn't go as far as to start spouting hate towards the "politically correct culture!!!!" you speak of lol but yeah...

/generic college sophomore response


americanmusicmachine
01.24.11
the movie ratings system has nothing to due w. the gov't it's a studio orginization.

theacademy
01.24.11
if the MPAA didn't exist, some FCC equivalent would exist to essentially "do" the same job for films

theacademy
01.24.11
also that wasn't my point... my point was obviously to say that his analogy was flawed

americanmusicmachine
01.24.11
it was your point tho.

americanmusicmachine
01.24.11
plus anyone can sneak into an r-rated movie.i watched fargo wen i was 7. didn't much care for it. i preffered "a simple plan" but i was just a kid then y'know.

theacademy
01.24.11
anyone can youtube an uncensored version of a song deemed unfit for public broadcast

omnipanzer
01.24.11
"Never mind that some words, merely by their utterance, have the power to injure or even incite violence (i.e. fighting words)... "

I respectfully disagree, not without additional context. No words have that power without a slew of additional factors being in play. And many times there is no way to know that those factors will be in play when someone using those words engages his/her mouth and some times there is.

theacademy
01.24.11
^Dave actually notes this in the 2nd to last paragraph, omni

@Dave typo in 4th paragraph: "Cynical observer have pointed out"

Lastly, you sound critical here: "However, for many commentators, defending the principle of artistic expression appears to be more important than the actual content of the song" and I am wondering why? This is correct in my book...



theacademy
01.24.11
I mean, unless it's an American-Europe thing...

robertsona
01.24.11
i was literally just thinking about this and reading about this song yesterday omg

theacademy
01.24.11
Right, I have no problem with editing the song, but the principles of expression should ALWAYS supersede any subjective judgments concerning the value of the content.

I think I am agreeing with you, but perhaps not the words you have chosen.

ConsiderPhlebas
01.24.11
Probably shouldn't comment on things I've only skimmed over.

Oneiron
01.24.11
This is hardly the first case of either censoring faggot, or retroactively censoring a song that plays on the radio. Artistic merit has nothing to do with why the word has been banned, context should never even enter the conversation. The radio censors every word that can be deemed offensive, including times when the words are themselves inoffensive in context, and sometimes traditional inoffensive words that are offensive when used in context.

Rather than say that if the unedited version of a song offends you, don't listen to it, I think it should be (as it is) that if listening to censored music offends you, don't buy it censored and don't listen to the radio. You guys can't be that ignorant to not see the second option, right? That this is really a non-issue?

theacademy
01.24.11
There's a problem with the arguments that you raise: should we force artists to dumb down their creations to make sure the public 'gets' it?

There is clearly something lost if this is the case... an artist's role as a challenger of social norms is about as old as the audience's tendencies to misinterpret, misuse, co-opt, or confuse his work...


theacademy
01.24.11
*or her work.

Oneiron
01.24.11
I honestly don't get the whole argument behind the song. You can replace faggot with fucker, shithead, asshole, cunt, or almost any other curse that doesn't break two syllables and the song's meaning and rhythm don't change. In this case, personally, the word was picked because it was an insult, not because he wanted to bring awareness to the plight of the gay man. And that comes across as insulting. The song is about a poor man slaving away and resenting a rich man. Yeah it has the irony of being sung by the rich man, but sexual orientation isn't the focus, not even in part.

And no matter whether they censor the song on the radio they can't ban the song or the album because of a word. Nobody is threatening free speech here at all. The entire argument is ludicrous. Thousands of songs have been censored for radio. This one is no different. The only thing such an argument says is that some people have way too much time on their hands.

theacademy
01.24.11
i'm having a hard time accessing the link but he should republish it here

dual viewpoints... dueling staff bloggers...

2muchket!
01.24.11
my dyke comment was deleted

if this is your doing dave we are no longer MX football bros

AggravatedYeti
01.24.11
while I'm all for the conscientious treatment of every human being (except for, ya know, assholes) this whole ordeal seems a bit over the top.
the woman's gripe is understandable. Just edit the song. Sucks, yes. Artistic integrity and the freedom of expression are paramount. But in truth you can just listen to the song on your own accord if the removal of "Faggot" from the airwaves is a burden too large to bear.

Enotron
01.24.11
my belief is that individual radio stations should be allowed to choose what to play and not play and how to play it. I'm against forced censorship and I'm against forcing radio stations to play a song in its original format. if people want to hear the non-censored version it's for them to find the right radio stations or just find the song by some other mean. if the band doesn't want it to be played censored, they should only grant the right to radios who will play it in a non-censored format.

btw I didn't read the article yet, so inform me just in case I left out something.

theacademy
01.24.11
my belief is that nobody should get offended by anything ever and that all the hottest girls should be into all of the smartest guys and that public school teachers should earn more money than basketball players and that scott pilgrim should sweep the oscars

just not how the world works, bro...

Waior
01.24.11
"Well going to university in Canada it is really clear that people don't understand context and are offended by everything"

Yes, you're absolutely right. And where are you from, the USA? Cute.

ConsiderPhlebas
01.24.11
Artists don't have any responsibility to their listeners at all, let alone one that means they need to rid any offensive material of ambiguity. Art shouldn't be some passive, toothless slave to political correctness - it's vital that if offends, makes people uncomfortable and causes debate. Free speech is there precisely because, at some point, everything will be offensive to someone. There was a case in England awhile back where a columnist in the Daily Mail drew a connection between gay marriage and death by (supposed, on her part) drug overdose. Everyone flipped their tits, saying she shouldn't be allowed to say it. But she should absolutely be allowed to say it, and just as absolutely people should laugh in her retarded face. Banning her from saying it would strengthen her belief and bolster her support - but no one's going to side with a laughing stock. We should all be like Eastwood in Gran Turino, calling each other gooks, faggots and wops (white meat, white trash, pasty cue balls) whilst, deep down, there's a heart of gold waiting to burst out everytime someone else gets raped.

TheAlmightyBungler
01.24.11
the song is still not good.

Waior
01.24.11
"nobody should read the Mail ever."

There we go!

Enotron
01.24.11
"just not how the world works, bro..."

sorry are you addressing me? pretty sure I didn't espouse that at all. what I advocated were basic property rights, no?

theacademy
01.24.11
sort of... i obviously agree with everything you wrote it's just that those types of beliefs don't apply to the reality of radio broadcasting or music distribution.

Knott-
01.24.11
"The consensus view was that she was a vicious waste of air and nobody should read the Mail ever."

This.

Pretty much nobody argued against her right to write it. Just that it was a disgusting article by a more disgusting newspaper.

Still, arguably not as bad as the tragedy porn article they published by Liz Jones last week where she went around Jo Yeates' area and lamented how the streetlights would get uglier since her murder.

Enotron
01.24.11
tbh, i never listen to the radio or have much knowledge of the industry, but I imagine radio stations acting as free enterprises isn't too far from reality

Enotron
01.24.11
"The airwaves are publicly licensed so basic property rights don't strictly apply - it's the same reason you can't take a shit into your briefcase in the park"

Was not aware they were, I see now.

theacademy
01.24.11
extremely far from reality.

in the U.S., the radio has basically NEVER been a free enterprise. not sure about Canada, but I believe Dave's explanation expresses that this is not the case their either...

Aids
01.24.11
"it's the same reason you can't take a shit into your briefcase in the park." fucking government, telling me where I can and cannot defecate.

Aids
01.24.11
the radio is so last millennium anyway

Waior
01.24.11
We have defecation laws in Canada?

Enotron
01.24.11
my bad then, didn't know how privatized the state of radio really was

joshuatree
01.24.11
all i care about this is that i don't have to hear this song now when i go to see my family

theacademy
01.24.11
@eno u mean the opposite lol

Enotron
01.24.11
yerp thats what i mean

Aids
01.24.11
so will this be a precedent for similar "banning" in the near future do you think? I mean if all it took this time was for one woman to be offended and raise the issue, why wouldn't songs with similar slurs be looked at. I mean if this holds up, it seems there will eventually be a huge list of popular songs whose unedited versions can't be aired in Canada (in this case).

theacademy
01.24.11
It is my understanding that there is no 'banning' here -- just a lot of squalking about whether the radio stations are right to defy the Canadian-FCC-equivalent...

keep in mind that 'faggot' has been bleeped out on U.S. airwaves for fucking ever... it's not like people will invent new words that offend them + get older songs 'banned.'


ConsiderPhlebas
01.24.11
"So you're saying artists have a responsibility to offend, make people uncomfortable and cause debate?"


No. What I'm saying is that artists shouldn't waste even a moment on trying to make their position clear when going near offensive stuff, because it's pointless. If Dire Straits had sang 'We hate the word faggot and homophobia in general', which would seem to make their position clear, what would stop someone thinking it was done sarcastically, that in fact they were raging homophobes? It's the listerner's responsibility to decide their position to a song, no matter how offensive it is. Art is there to reflect and provoke human experience, not just the thin wedge accepted by the prissy do-gooders of the world. The young woman who complained about this track, along with the people who've bent over for her, have done nothing but further reinforce the taboo around the word 'faggot', so now when the effeminate boy in the playground gets labelled with it, it'll hurt all the more - instead of being that word in that song his granddad used to like.


"Few if any people made this argument. The consensus view was that she was a vicious waste of air and nobody should read the Mail ever."


The argiument was so widespread in Engalnd it made every major news show for two to three days, with a whole spectrum of celebrities and the great British public screaming for censorship. Only Stephen Fry made the case for free speech. And whether you like it or not, some people will always read the Mail and identify with its grotesque ideology.


ConsiderPhlebas
01.24.11
*England

Waior
01.24.11
"And whether you like it or not, some people will always read the Mail and identify with its grotesque ideology."

That does nothing to make their claims any less unfounded or ultimately wrong, it's no different than a crappy band having many crappy fans. Band's still crappy, source still sucks.

ConsiderPhlebas
01.24.11
Of course it doesn't. I was just using that article as an example of why people have the right to say offensive shit.

Defeaterr
01.24.11
censorship is retarded, people get butthurt (ha) over nothing, and you will never eliminate people being offended over nothing no matter how much you take away or add

another case of one dumb bitch/bastard out of millions creating a facade which makes it seems like people as a whole really give a shit about the situation at all

Defeaterr
01.24.11
"so it's possible that nobody really cares."

that's what I said

ConsiderPhlebas
01.24.11
"Well hopefully the tone, tenor and the exact words used would be enough."


It'll never be enough for some.

I don't literally believe this case has changed things in any significant sense, but it's a drop in an ocean that will only have negative consequences.

I had no intention of trying to find examples; unless I've finally lost all grip on sanity and imagined it all, it happened. I might check out the BBC website for the interview with Stephen Fry, in which he explicitly refers to the calls for censorship and makes the case for free speech and mockery, but I've got some fishfingers on the go so it'll have to wait.

ConsiderPhlebas
01.24.11
It sets a precedent and chips away at the concept of free speech. It's an attempt to combat an imagined instance of bigotry with a knee-jerk reaction that has one goal: to supress an opinion that someone doesn't like - it's the close-minded criticising people for being close-minded. It seems safe to assume that this event will have some influence, will give some people the idea that any instance of the word 'faggot' immediately puts that song (or book, article etc) in the position of homophobia, and will cement that view in those who already believe it; when in reality, Dire Strait's use of the word is a poorly executed, distasteful joke that should people should have continued to ignore. It's already had an effect, sending small ripples through the global media and provoking yet more antagonism toward apparent political correctness. The fact is, bigotry plays a role in human life, so art has to deal with it, because otherwise we'll all be doomed to a lifetime of panpipes and Justin Bieber. Sexless, grey, sterile politeness. And it can't just deal with it by explicitly stating it's wrong, somethings have to be put across through character, through supposed positions that the artists don't really occupy. It would be like replacing every film or book that focuses on crime with a police officer telling us that crime is wrong.

I was under the impression that the majority of complaints to the PCC, along with the bluster of those in agreement, were in fact calls for censorship. Either way, everyone that complained missed the point that the woman had every right, and should continue to have that right, to express her opinion. People don't seem to understand what the loss of free speech can lead to.

MCGF
01.24.11
"Rather than say that if the unedited version of a song offends you, don't listen to it, I think it should be (as it is) that if listening to censored music offends you, don't buy it censored and don't listen to the radio. You guys can't be that ignorant to not see the second option, right? That this is really a non-issue?"

This.

and how is faggot different than nigga?

MCGF
01.24.11
"Sexless, grey, sterile politeness."

... also known as radio!

ConsiderPhlebas
01.25.11
The band in question is irrelevant to the issue

ConsiderPhlebas
01.25.11
After listening to the song a few times, though (urgh), that one word seems to play a key role, and its omission stops the message, or at least the strength of the message from being relayed. I suspect I've gone and got a little carried away, imagining an attack on free speech throughout the western world, but still... I mean the the ambiguity of the character and its position in the song is kinda interesting - it could be homophobic, but it could also be vehemently opposed to it. I know something about the ban of the uncut version bothers me immensely, but need to think on it more.

Also, what has become very obvious to me is that the strength of my opinion isn't backed up with any concrete understanding of what body does what in the complaints about, and censorship of offensive words and material. Need to do some reading.

theacademy
01.25.11
just remember, there are varying degrees of censorship

'censoring what can be released' is not the same as 'censoring what may be broadcast,' especially when, in the case of the latter, there is a voluntary agreement in place.

Ovrot
01.25.11
this band sucks.

arguement ended


Hey! I like this band.

DaveyBoy
01.25.11
Hypothetical example:

A father of a teenage girl makes a similar complaint against various Ke$ha songs since he does not want his daughter to drink liquor for breakfast, take advantage of rich older men & generally become a slut.

Now that would make the world a better place (although some rich older men may disagree).

Defeaterr
01.25.11
well in america we want girls to be sluts

omnipanzer
01.25.11
"^Dave actually notes this in the 2nd to last paragraph, omni"
I agree with you however I was commenting on Sea's statement (I didn't "skim" the article) ;^)



omnipanzer
01.25.11
The public airwaves are subject to censorship and the word “faggot” should be handled equally to any other foul word as it is a foul word. I don’t believe there should be a debate here. If someone wishes to debate the right to censor at all well that is a different issue entirely.

Dev518
01.25.11
I don't understand how anyone can be dumb enough to think that censorship is a good thing. All censorship does is discourage responsibility and encourage complacency. It discourages free and radical ideas because you might offend someone. A good society would be able to educate others about words such as "faggot" and why they are wrong to use and make an actual intellectual argument against the use of these words instead of giving government such a dangerous power.

Spec
01.25.11
I don't know if anyone has seen the South Park episode where they change the meaning of the word but they raised a lot of valid points believe it or not. No one uses the term fag when talking about gay people anymore, it's used in the same context as the word "jerk."

Spec
01.25.11
Regardless, censoring the song is ridiculous.

Oceans
01.25.11
wtf saw this vid in history of rock today

MCGF
01.25.11
if the government said that no one can say faggot in a song, I'd be the first person rioting in the fucking streets because that would be awful.

but thats not what is going on here. its RADIO, guys.

gabethepiratesquid
01.25.11
"Ok since my previous comment got deleted heres the politifcally correct version. If you're gay and offended by this, I dont care, deal with it."
I am gay and offended by this
I hope you care

theacademy
01.26.11
youre not actually offended by 'this' tho, you're only offended by Hans' attitude



gabethepiratesquid
01.26.11
I'm not actually offended by Hans or whoever made the song. It has no genuinely 'homophobic' origin. People are silly.

Puzzles
01.26.11
HOMOPHOBIA, WE MUST DESTROY THEM

theacademy
01.26.11
wow i just read about the Huckelberry Finn thing

had no idea that was happening

bungy
01.28.11
pretty soon faggot will be a curse worse than motherfucker

DiceMan
01.28.11
Words hold the power that people give them. Making a big deal out of a word only makes it that much worse.

bungy
01.28.11
must be where I live, I know people who would never say fuck but say faggot pretty often it's just not as offensive.

theacademy
01.28.11
recently someone told me that it means something derogatory towards homosexuals

bungy
01.28.11
or to any other straight person, faggot's only especially offensive to homosexuals which are in the minority especially where I live. Overall I think "stupid motherfucker" is more offensive.*


*probably wrong



bungy
01.28.11
which is why I think it's worse

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