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A truly misguided ruling

A Commentary

Timothy Kincaid

January 14th, 2011

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has its collective head up its collective butt. (Rolling Stone)

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has ruled that “Money for Nothing,” a Dire Straits hit from 1985, is too offensive for Canadian airwaves. The song is being singled out for the repeated use of an anti-gay slur — “that little fagg*t” — in its second verse.

The little fagg*t with the earring and the makeup
Yeah buddy, that’s his own hair
That little fagg*t got his own jet airplane
That little fagg*t he’s a millionaire

Now there is no doubt whatsoever that the lyrics of this song are sexist, racist and homophobic. But the important matter is whether the song celebrates these attitudes or mocks them.

The song narrator is a appliance store delivery man who is resentful of the rock stars he sees on MTV who “ain’t working” but are “banging on the bongos like chimpanzees” and have “the earring and the makeup” and who get their “money for nothing and their chicks for free.” And the lyrics are based on direct quotes from one such guy in a New York appliance store who Mark Knopfler overheard making some of the exact comments, grabbed a pencil, and scribbled down.

But along with the resentment is envy and regret, the acknowledgment that he didn’t “learn to play the guitar” and he doesn’t have his own jet airplane and he isn’t a millionaire. And, as the song was, ahem, heavily played on MTV, it shouldn’t take genius to figure out that the musicians were singing about the attitudes of the people who derided and hated them.

When I first hear Money for Nothing, the “fagg*t” language was jarring… until I finally realized that the protagonists lyrics answer himself, are a reminder of what his own bigoted values have given him. His choices have led him to hauling refrigerators and installing microwave ovens.

But I guess the Very Serious People at the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council just don’t get irony or sarcastic social commentary. So no more “I want my, I want my, I want my MTV”.

Comments

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Mana
January 14th, 2011 | LINK

When I first realized what those lyrics were, I was a little surprised that a song I’d listened to for years contained such an epithet (I have trouble deciphering many songs and often can’t figure out sung words). But even then I understood that the word usage illustrates a character, and the song isn’t intended to actually degrade or insult LGBs.

The term isn’t being glorified, that’s how this person talks (and he isn’t exactly a stellar example of a human being). In other words, Dire Straits doesn’t assert that someone is “a little f*ggot,” it’s the man illustrated by Dire Straits who calls someone “a little f*ggot.” The difference is slight, but important.

Censorship is harsh in Canada though, politicians don’t tend to let little details like narrative devices or artistic expression get in the way of sanitizing media.

Lindoro Almaviva
January 14th, 2011 | LINK

Can I hijack the threat for just a second? My apologies to all but I read something that just hot me funny and i want to share it with you all.

There is an article on the Washington Post titled 5 Myths about why the south seceded Since I am some sort of history freak, I love articles like these because they usually have nuggets of knowledge that somehow my history teachers failed to mention. Well, rather than a history nugget, i found this little paragraph:

South Carolina was further upset that New York no longer allowed "slavery transit." In the past, if Charleston gentry wanted to spend August in the Hamptons, they could bring their cook along. No longer — and South Carolina's delegates were outraged. In addition, they objected that New England states let black men vote and tolerated abolitionist societies. According to South Carolina, states should not have the right to let their citizens assemble and speak freely when what they said threatened slavery.

Let me isolate one little part of that paragraph:

According to South Carolina, states should not have the right to let their citizens assemble and speak freely when what they said threatened slavery.

Now, isn't that funny? 150 years after the abolition of slavery, we have entire organizations demanding that the government espouse the same attitude; just a different target.? I find it funny how they demand to have the people have the right to decide what is good for us, unless that decision is contrary to their beliefs and then, all of a sudden we no longer have that right and then the state should not allow the citizens to decide.

That was all, I just thought that after 150 years we would have evolved a little further than what we actually did.

Now back to our regular programing…

Tone
January 14th, 2011 | LINK

This is just an industry regulating itself, trying to do the right thing, set a good example, and make Canadian society that much less toxic to gay men. The “government” isn’t involved, the CBSC is an industry body. Democracy is not threatened. The planets likely will not collide over it.

I find it ironic that this same industry has for many years self-censored use of another very toxic word, and rightly so. There’s no uproar over it. It’s accepted because we realize the extraordinary history of the word, the oppression wrought on the targets of it, and the pain it has caused them. Now one of the most toxic and hurtful words that has been used against me my entire life is now being relegated to the same place and somehow that’s wrong. And laughably, the gay blogosphere is all in a dither over it. Seems like a good old helping of homophobia, internal or otherwise, to me.

I am proud to live in a nation that is trying so hard to create a safe and just society for its citizens. And to be blunt, if American pundits and libertarians in Canada don’t like it, well so much the better. We must be doing something right.

Survivor
January 14th, 2011 | LINK

I was in college when I heard on the radio, in a drug store — just a random thing — “faggot with an earring.”

It made a hell of an impression on me.

It made me feel terrified, sick to my stomach, and unsure of my survival in life. It helped me stay in the closet.

I didn’t think to find out what the “context” was…or care. I don’t care now, either, to be honest. I am sure maybe people heard “faggot” in a semi-conscious snippet as I did and either (a) had a reaction like mine, or (b) felt emboldened to taunt, threaten, and physically harm gay people.

I’m happy to see that song banned. The Canadian agency did the right thing, as far as I’m concerned.

Matt
January 14th, 2011 | LINK

I know I sleep better at night knowing I’m protected from hearing 25 year old songs and the hostile, threatening climate they create for gay men.

I am proud to live in a nation that is trying so hard to create a safe and just society for its citizens.

I thought you said the organization wasn’t a government entity. But whatever: if creating a “safe” society requires banning ’80s pop tunes, Canada must think gay guys are real pansies.

L. Junius Brutus
January 14th, 2011 | LINK

Ah, so now Tone thinks that it is justified because it’s not the government making this decision. Yet on the hate speech thread, he justified criminal sanctions against people whose opinions differ from his, and claimed that no one has a right to criticize these laws, unless they build a society more peaceful than Canada (and presumably more free of government tyranny). Hypocritical much?

And your precious society is not very “safe and just” when people are hounded for 9 years for voicing thir opinions. Censorship is wrong, even if Tone’s tender feelings are hurt by people voicing their opinions, or radio stations *gasp* playing songs he doesn’t like. That’s the downside of living in a free country: he doesn’t get to dictate what other people say, do or listen to.

L. Junius Brutus
January 14th, 2011 | LINK

Survivor: “I was in college when I heard on the radio, in a drug store — just a random thing — “faggot with an earring.”

It made a hell of an impression on me.

It made me feel terrified, sick to my stomach, and unsure of my survival in life. It helped me stay in the closet.”

Hearing that word does nothing to me. I think we are better off combating underlying attitudes, than waging war on a word – especially when its use is so very often unrelated to bigoted attitues. I’d recommend that you see the South Park episode “The F-Word”, but seeing that hearing that word one time has such an effect on you, maybe not.

Matt: “But whatever: if creating a “safe” society requires banning ’80s pop tunes, Canada must think gay guys are real pansies.”

Now that’s something that offends me much more than a word.

Tone
January 14th, 2011 | LINK

Matt I think you’re deliberately missing the point. No one has banned the full version of Money for Nothing. The Canadian broadcast industry, through their own regulatory body (and I’ll say it again, NOT ANY level of government), has collectively made the decision that the word is toxic enough to be virtually equivalent to a racial epithet and is equally inappropriate. That’s all. No one is going to get arrested, sued or dragged into a human rights tribunal over it. People can still be jerks and say it if they want to.

L. Junius Brutus
January 14th, 2011 | LINK

Tone: “No one is going to get arrested, sued or dragged into a human rights tribunal over it. ”

And let’s just conveniently forget that you, only two days ago, justified arresting, suing and dragging into a kangaroo court people for being “homophobes”:

When that speech is urging active discrimination and violence against a group then it can be addressed both under provincial human rights legislation and criminal code provisions. Feel free to google the details.

We treat holocaust deniers, racists, and homophobes the same way in Canada.

Examples of such people? People who list anti-gay Bible verses, or who print the Muhammad cartoons. And of course, you’re going to pretend that it’s just abouturging active discrimination and violence, but you and I know the true story, don’t we?

Nice just and safe society you’ve built there.

Emily K
January 14th, 2011 | LINK

Tone, Don’t worry about Brutus. He wants society to revert to the society of Ancient Rome, a place he so dearly idealizes. A place where women were not citizens, pederasty was institutionalized, slavery was a regular part of commerce, religious freedom was not a guarantee, and neither was freedom of speech.

people do a similar thing when they talk about “Merry Olde England.”

The fact that he is so upset with you over something from another thread that he has to carry it over and try to argue over it in THIS thread speaks volumes. Don’t let him suck you in.

L. Junius Brutus
January 14th, 2011 | LINK

“He wants society to revert to the society of Ancient Rome, a place he so dearly idealizes.”

You have no basis for saying that. Unfortuantely, you don’t have a basis for saying the other nonsense that you spout, either. I do not wish to silence you, as demanding that you provide an evidentiary basis for what you say would surely do, but I do request that you conclude your remarks with a proviso: “Note: these statements are without any basis in fact.” For example, you have claimed that 82.5% of Americans are stupid, as well as bigoted, in stark contrast with the very intelligent and non-bigoted Emily, who only calls 82.5% of Americans stupid and bigoted.

“A place where women were not citizens, pederasty was institutionalized, slavery was a regular part of commerce, religious freedom was not a guarantee, and neither was freedom of speech.”

By all means, demonstrate that you know absolutely nothing. Any person who knows something more than nothing will laugh at how hilariously ignorant your statement that pederasty was institutionalized in Rome. Any educated person will know that it’s Greece, specifically Athens. Then again, “Rome”, “Greece” – distinctions, distinctions. Oh, how terrible! Why can’t they all be the same thing, to make things easier for Emily?

To make matters worse, I have already pointed this out to you – which you have conveniently forgotten. Perhaps you are suffering from selective amnesia? Oh well, maybe next time, you’ll have learned. (Or maybe not.)

Most of your other accusations are false as well (or at least misleading), but I am not your educator. I suggest that you try opening a book for yourself. It does not take too much physical effort, and it’s well worth the effort.

Anyway, this is all off-topic. I had to respond to your attack, but freedom of speech and freedom from censorship is what is discussed on this thread.

L. Junius Brutus
January 14th, 2011 | LINK

Two leftist MPs, including an openly gay one, disagree with the ban:

[Scott] Brison, an openly gay MP, is a fan of the former British band. He even used the controversial song on the radio to advertise his student business.

“I’m not straight, but I like Dire Straits,” Brison said. “I don’t like the word ‘faggot,’ but in music or literature there’s a context within which language is used.

[…]

But Liberal MP Denis Coderre tweeted about the ban Thursday, saying, “Censorship is not part of my Canada!!”

http://www.torontosun.com/news/canada/2011/01/14/16896471.html

Jim Burroway
January 14th, 2011 | LINK

Tone,

he “government” isn’t involved, the CBSC is an industry body

But if, as I understand it, all private broadcasters are bound by CBSC rulings, then what differnce does it make if CBSC is governmental or an private broadcasting intermediary under the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

Are private broadcasters free to ignore the ruling?

Tone
January 14th, 2011 | LINK

Semantics don’t you think Jim? No different than a regulatory body of physicians and surgeons like CMA or AMA, or the Society of Automotive Engineers, SAE. That’s governance, not government.

Throbert McGee
January 14th, 2011 | LINK

It seems to me that a rough American analogy to this case might be if the MPAA announced that any film using the word “faggot” would automatically get an NC-17 rating, even if the film’s content were overall PG-13.

Filmmakers are free to not submit their films to the MPAA for rating, but not having the MPAA rating can be bad for a movie’s commercial prospects, because some theaters won’t show unrated films. On the other hand, an NC-17 rating can also be damaging to box-office business.

So, although the CBSC is a private industry group, its policies can theoretically be detrimental to the commercial success of a song. (Although it seems equally likely that the CBSC’s disapproval would guarantee that the uncensored version of the song gets massive play and listener interest on college radio and Internet stations, which aren’t subject to the CBSC!)

Jim Burroway
January 14th, 2011 | LINK

Tone,

Actually, no. I don’t think it is merely semantics. The AMA or CMA are not regulatory bodies. When physicians violate regulations, they are sanctioned by state health authorities. If they are in violation of the AMA’s standards, they may be kicked out of the AMA, but that does not automatically disqualify them from practicing medicine in an of itself. The AMA and CMA are voluntary associations, and not organizations that a physician is required to join as a condition for practicing medicine.

So again I think the pertinent question is whether the CBSC is a voluntary organization, or are private broadcasters legally obligated to follow the CBSC’s standards? Leaving aside Canadian content regulations, will a broadcaster be allowed to continue broadcasting without fines or risking its license if it decides to play an uninterrupted marathon of the uncensored version of “Money for Nothing”?

andrewb
January 14th, 2011 | LINK

I would just point out that this is the country that launched the band Bare Naked Ladies by banning them… because of their name.

There are times when English Canada just makes me shake my head (Quebec, usually more relaxed, rocks)…

Tone
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

Hey Jim, I could sit and google for a while and post facts about the regulatory framework of the CRTC and how the broadcast industry is affected by it, but anyone can do that and at any rate I don’t see much value in doing it.

You made some excellent points regarding the nature of professional regulatory bodies like CMA, and those points are well-taken. It doesn’t matter a whole lot to me though because I can’t find any way to convincingly frame a debate over censorship from the CBSC announcement. I just don’t see any red meat there. It’s a simple but significant policy change that sends a very strong message to society that the use of such derogatory comments is harmful to the LGBT community and deserves to be strongly discouraged.

What stands out most to me about this decision is that it is further validation that Canadian society as a whole is evolving in a direction that seeks to enhance the dignity, security, and quality of life for all its citizens. That is the story here, whether you agree or not with the limit that the broadcast industry has adopted. To focus discussion on censorship is to miss the larger and more encouraging point, that Canadians are *trying* to provide a just society for all, not just the majority.

No one would call Canada or our laws and ethics oppressive, except the Ezra Levant types out there in cloud coo-coo land. They’re uniquely ours, and they’re what most Canadians want. In the end, really no justification is required. This is how we as Canadians are choosing to shape our society.

Tone
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

Hi andrewb. Canada did not “ban” the Bare Naked Ladies, it was a one term Toronto mayor who got a little full of herself and stopped a concert from taking place in the city run Nathan Phillips Square, and it was twenty years ago. Ironically her ham-handed sanctimony helped propel the band to stardom.

I’m still wishing I had a million dollars :)

David S.
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

“What stands out most to me about this decision is that it is further validation that Canadian society as a whole is evolving in a direction that seeks to enhance the dignity, security, and quality of life for all its citizens.”
– Tone

One would hope that most societies are “seek[ing] to enhance the dignity, security, and quality of life for all [their] citizens.” How this is best achieved is the subject of debate.

Throbert McGee
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

It’s a simple but significant policy change that sends a very strong message to society that the use of such derogatory comments is harmful to the LGBT community and deserves to be strongly discouraged.

But more importantly, the policy change sends a very strong message to the LGBT community that “OMG, they noticed us! They noticed us!”

L. Junius Brutus
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

Tone: “I just don’t see any red meat there”

We noticed, you don’t think censorship is bad, or that freedom of speech is good. You should put your skills to good use, by becoming an apologist for the Chinese government, for example.

“It’s a simple but significant policy change that sends a very strong message to society that the use of such derogatory comments is harmful to the LGBT community and deserves to be strongly discouraged.”

To society? I thought it was your “safe and just society” that was sending the message? Never mind, the incoherence and inconsistency of your posts is just too much for me.

“To focus discussion on censorship is to miss the larger and more encouraging point, that Canadians are *trying* to provide a just society for all, ”

Hurrah! Canada is censoring all these things to provide a “just society for all” – and let’s not “focus” the discussion on the fact that Canada is Censorship Central, or on the people who get subjected to a Kafka-like trial for speaking their mind! That is the propaganda of capitalist pigs, who said the same ting about the Soviet Union.

“No one would call Canada or our laws and ethics oppressive, except the Ezra Levant types out there in cloud coo-coo land.”

My Tonetalitarian friend, you’re in coo-coo land, not Ezra Levant.

“They’re uniquely ours”

Nope: I can name a few other countries that had no respect for freedom of speech: China, North Korea, Pakistan, and other countries. You’re not that unique, not even in your march to tyranny.

“In the end, really no justification is required. This is how we as Canadians are choosing to shape our society.”

Did you copy this from a David Bahati speech?

In the end, note that Tone is:
(1) completely unable to defend what his “safe and just” country does to people who speak their mind;
(2) claiming that “no justification” is needed for Canada’s strangling of free speech, even as he desperately tries to justify everything Canadian.

L. Junius Brutus
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

Tone: “No one would call Canada or our laws and ethics oppressive, except the Ezra Levant types out there in cloud coo-coo land. ”

And let’s examine who Tone thinks is in “coo-coo land”:

The Alberta Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act is being used to stifle and trample our most fundamental human right. The human rights complaint brought against Ezra Levant, publisher of the now defunct Western Standard magazine, is proof positive of that.

For the past two years Levant has had the almost limitless power of the state grinding away against him, costing him about $100,000 for doing what he should have every right to do: publish news and images in a magazine. In this case, he published the now infamous Danish cartoons of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.

The cartoons caused murderous riots around the world — mostly in countries where the citizens are kept illiterate and ignorant by their oppressive governments and are not free to live and speak as they please.

A Calgary imam and a Muslim group from Edmonton didn’t like the cartoons, sought to have Levant first arrested and then, when that didn’t work, they sicced the human rights commission on Levant to shut him up.

But Levant, to his credit, isn’t the type to shut up or appease those who attack Canadian values, and so the threat to freedom of expression has become almost as big a news story as Britney Spears of late.

http://www.canada.com/calgaryherald/news/theeditorialpage/story.html?id=b46a3661-7f67-4c9d-9919-3f34578a5203

If Levant is crazy by Canadian standards, then Canada is not a country – it’s an open-air asylum.

Andrew
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

You know, Brutus comes off rather “rough” I dare say, but the reality is, I’ll take freedom of speech any day. Banning words is silly. Just like banning books. But I also believe that any form of censorship is unacceptable.

Donnchadh
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

No-one from a minority group should support censorship. As long as the government or a standard-setting agency has the power to censor, it will always be used in the interests of the majority.
Liberty and human rights are only safe when everyone realizes they are in a minority.
If you think hearing this would “embolden” a bully, show him the full lyrics. If it doesn’t crush him to find the joke’s on him, it probably didn’t affect him much in the first place. But most of the bullies I knew would give up on a taunt if they they thought the word had become acceptable. Banning it might well encourage its use.

Mihangel apYrs
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

Tim
if “faggot” isn’t that offensive in the context of this sone, why do you bowdlerise it, thus: “fagg*t”?

On a wider matter, this sort of euphemism is frankly childish and a little insulting: just changing one letter doesn’t stop us from knowing what the word actually is, and is seems slightly precious

Priya Lynn
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

Well said Tone – you nailed it. Watching Canadian actions send Junius into a tizzy is reason enough to ban F*ggot and have hate speech laws.

Throbert McGee
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

if “faggot” isn’t that offensive in the context of this sone, why do you bowdlerise it, thus: “fagg*t”?

Now that you bring it up, if you’re going to bowdlerize the word, “fagg*t” is a rather odd way to do it — since the first three letters have the same meaning as the six-letter word.

[Timothy: Sorry, I removed your examples… for the reason why, see my comment below]

Jim Burroway
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

I just don’t see any red meat there. It’s a simple but significant policy change that sends a very strong message to society that the use of such derogatory comments is harmful to the LGBT community and deserves to be strongly discouraged.

Tone,

I don’t mean to beat up on you as the representative Canadian defending an entire regulatory framework. But I think there are miles of differences between a policy change, as you describe it, and a regulatory one.

If the CMA adopts a policy a doctor don’t like, that doctor can ignore it and continue practicing. The same is clearly not true with health regulations.

I think I agree with most people here that since this appears to be an official ban of the uncensored song, then it is a serious infringement both an artist’s right to self expression when coupled together with a broadcaster’s right to free speech. (I do think the two need to be considered in tandem; an artist can still record whatever song he wants, and a broadcaster is free to decide NOT to air a song, and neither side’s rights are affected.)

As far as I can tell, CBSC may be a private agency but it still acts under powers delegated to it from the government. It’s still regulatory. The only difference as far as I can tell is that the regulatory powers are what we would call “outsourced.” If I’m not mistaken CBSC appears to possess the full force of law, which makes your distinction irrelevant.

And so if private broadcasters are now prohibited from playing the uncensored version of “Money for Nothing,” regardless of the individual broadcaster’s choice, then I do believe that it is a very serious infringement on freedom of speech.

More seriously though, it is just stupid — forgive my harshness. Banning an expression doesn’t make the sentiments behind it go away, and I’m not even convinced it goes very far toward making it unacceptable when resentment is sparked by the ban. It only drives the sentiments elsewhere, and worse, diminishes respect both for freedom of speech and for those who are set up into bizarrely contradictory positions of limiting speech.

Even if Money for Nothing were homophobic — and it clearly is the opposite of that — if it were homophobic, I’d rather such a song be dropped from the airwaves because the community agrees that those sentiments are beyond the pale.

For example, I’d rather know that Sharron Angle or Glenn Beck see no problem with language that appears to endorse violence. I don’t want them banned. I want them to stop.

The absence or presence of homophobic speech are important bellwethers what problems may exist in a community. Banning it is just putting a band-aide on a problem.

I would have to agree. This is ruling is misguided on about a million different levels.

Throbert McGee
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

My opinion — which is mine — is that if you are a homosexual male over the age of 25, and it causes you any significant emotional pain and distress when a complete stranger calls you a “fagg*t,” then you are ipso facto a particularly faggy species of fagg*ty-ass fagg*t.

(Of course, I recognize that hearing this word directed at you by a relative or longtime friend could be a serious blow no matter how old and grizzled you are; and I give young people a pass for overreacting to the word from a stranger, because I know that it’s in the nature of adolescents and people just emerging from adolescence to be a tad histrionic. But really, by 25 or so, your balls should have dropped, and you should have f*cking well inculcated the traditional masculine virtue of stoicism in yourself.)

Throbert McGee
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

To follow up on my previous comment, I don’t think that mature gay adults ought to totally ignore other people’s use of words like fagg*t — but we can choose to deprecate such language as “unprofessional” or “trashy” or “gutter talk,” instead of rehashing our lingering grievances from adolescence and going on about how f@g is “hurtful” or calling it “verbal violence” and weeping publicly about our “psychological scars.”

It sets a very poor example for gay youth when their elders indulge in lachrymose, self-pitying “words can cut like a KNIFE!!!” schtick.

Graham
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

“Hearing that word does nothing to me. I think we are better off combating underlying attitudes, than waging war on a word – especially when its use is so very often unrelated to bigoted attitues. I’d recommend that you see the South Park episode “The F-Word”, but seeing that hearing that word one time has such an effect on you, maybe not.”

I think its use is related to the bigoted attitudes. Let me explain.

Women have certain secondary sex characteristics, such as the lack of male-pattern aggression. This is a product of the architecture of their brains. Gay men also typically have some of these characteristics, because our brains are somewhat closer to a female brain in terms of structure. That’s why gay men are statistically overrepesented in certain professions, and why many gay men are not typical “tough guy” types. Of course between individuals there is variation.

The word fagg*t is meant to deride those characteristics in males; if a male is a “fagg*t” then he is not masculine enough, and therefore deficient and ‘less-than’. Even if the word is evolving to include every guy who is like that, not just gay males, it is still derisive to us, because it is calling the very traits that make us who we are faults. It’s time to destroy those cultural attitudes. Of course if you challenge heterosexism you’re just a bleeding-heart sissy; challenging thse attitudes makes you a fagg*t yourself because heterosexism is the status quo, and therefore considered to be the accepted, default, taken for granted natural attitude.

Jason D
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

(1) It’s not censorship if it’s not the government.

(2) In the US, the song in question has long had that section bleeped or omitted during most broadcasts, as is TYPICAL for controversial lyrics. Timothy, are you annoyed that radios don’t play the Black Eyed Peas song “Let’s Get Retarded” rather than the radio friendly version “Let’s Get It Started” or that Cee-Lo Green’s “F*ck You” only got airplay as “Forget You”? How about Le Freak’s “F*ck Off” being released as “Freak Out”?

(3)Is it too late? It’s definitely long overdue, but no I don’t see this as censorship anymore than I see pan-and-scan tv versions of movies as censorship.

I’m not for censorship, but this doesn’t meet the criteria of censorship. Censorship means that the government steps in and either edits something and only allows THAT form to be viewed or purchased and or outlaws the viewing or purchasing of the book, song, album or painting outright.

I think it’s reasonable for an industry to not allow vulgarities and cuss words (and yes, Fagg*t is both) in broadcast.

Graham
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

So Jim if you think censoring the word is a bad idea, why did you censor the word in your post? Why “fagg*t” instead of “faggot”?

Graham
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

Excuse me it was Timothy who made the post, not Jim.

L. Junius Brutus
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

Graham: “That’s why gay men are statistically overrepesented in certain professions, and why many gay men are not typical “tough guy” types. ”

I am pretty sure that this is mostly due to the fact that these professions did not discriminate.

I also think that there are many no-op transgenders who label themselves “gay”. I have a hard time believing that some of the “gay men” I see are fully male. Ex. Ross from the Tonight Show? Seriously, that guy is the most annoying, effeminate, *&#@* imaginable. On the other hand, there are lots of gay men who become effeminate after coming out. So that’s not who they are. And people are perfectly free to be critical of that, especially since those people are generally extremely annoying.

“Even if the word is evolving to include every guy who is like that, not just gay males, it is still derisive to us, because it is calling the very traits that make us who we are faults. ”

Not really. Why should I be offended because someone does not sissies (as you call them)?

L. Junius Brutus
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

Jason D: “(1) It’s not censorship if it’s not the government.”

Since radio stations are bound by what this organization says, that’s pretty much the government. Who enforces the commands of this organization (and punishes the stations that do not obey those)? Probably the government.

“In the US, the song in question has long had that section bleeped or omitted during most broadcasts, as is TYPICAL for controversial lyrics.”

The question is: who decides? If private broadcasters decide to edit what they broadcast, fine. But not some unaccountable organization or government.

Graham
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

I am pretty sure that this is mostly due to the fact that these professions did not discriminate.

Partially, but it’s also due to the fact that gay men have a genuine propensity for such jobs.

“I also think that there are many no-op transgenders who label themselves “gay”. I have a hard time believing that some of the “gay men” I see are fully male. Ex. Ross from the Tonight Show? Seriously, that guy is the most annoying, effeminate, *&#@* imaginable.”

So he annoys you, so what? I think his fun, flippant affect is quite delightful. And because you don’t like that affect doesn’t mean it is a genuine fault. It’s just your preference. It doesn’t prevent Ross from being a productive, healthy member of society so maybe you can get off your high horse and stop making pronoucements about who is worthy of respect and who is not.

“On the other hand, there are lots of gay men who become effeminate after coming out. So that’s not who they are.”

Because they affected a macho attitude whlie in the closet. After coming out some gay men will camp it up to fit in with a certain gay crowd, and some will keep the macho BS because they think that they will be more palatable to society as a “normal” gay person.

“And people are perfectly free to be critical of that, especially since those people are generally extremely annoying.”

In your opinion. It’s pretty clear that you have adopted the heterosexist attitude that certain traits are just innapropriate in men. That’s BS, bieng effeminate is no fault because there is nothing wrong with women or womanhood.

Graham
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

“Since radio stations are bound by what this organization says, that’s pretty much the government. Who enforces the commands of this organization (and punishes the stations that do not obey those)? Probably the government.”

Well, Wal-Mart is well-known for banning and censoring records. This punishes artists who don’t meet wal-mart’s litmus for what is acceptable; their records don’t get sold at a market which is present in almost every community. So the economic power wal-mart wields allows them the power to effectively censor. Since wal-mart is private, how is that any different form what this organization is doing? Are the organizations rules binding to broadcasters who dont’ willfully participate?

Rachel H
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

I don’t favour this type of censorship, but if Jason D’s comments about clean versions of songs being required for US radio are correct, then I really don’t see what American posters have to bitch about.

As for effeminate gay men being annoying, well heaven forbid that homosexuals should fail to conform to traditional gender roles! /sarcasm

Tom in Lazybrook
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

I largely agree with your statement. However, I would caveat that with a statement that if the broadcast standards prohibit insults based upon religion, gender, or religion, then I would understand why sexual orientation should be included as well.

Throbert McGee
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

After coming out some gay men will camp it up to fit in with a certain gay crowd, and some will keep the macho BS
[…]
It’s pretty clear that you have adopted the heterosexist attitude that certain traits are just inappropriate in men. That’s BS, being effeminate is no fault because there is nothing wrong with women or womanhood.

Hmmm. If you want people to stop disparaging gay men who are feminine in their behavior, shouldn’t you maybe set a good example by not using terms like “macho BS” to describe the behavior of gay men with a traditionally masculine affect?

P.S. It may astound you to learn this, but some women think that gay male effeminacy — that is, not mere femininity, but the shrieking, camped-up caricature of femininity — is something distastefully akin to white guys singing “Ol’ Zip Coon” in blackface.

P.P.S. I do agree, though, that L.J.Brutus shouldn’t call Ross from the Tonight Show a &#@ just because Ross has the vocal mannerisms of an 8th-grade girl — after all, speech habits aren’t a reflection on character. But as I suggested above, whether Ross overreacts to being called a &#@, or whether he simply shrugs it off and takes it in stride, is a better test for whether he truly IS one.

Graham
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

“Hmmm. If you want people to stop disparaging gay men who are feminine in their behavior, shouldn’t you maybe set a good example by not using terms like “macho BS” to describe the behavior of gay men with a traditionally masculine affect?”

I’m not disparaging all men with such an affect. Only the ones who do so to impress/be acceptable to others. It’s the difference between masculine and macho.

“P.S. It may astound you to learn this, but some women think that gay male effeminacy — that is, not mere femininity, but the shrieking, camped-up caricature of femininity — is something distastefully akin to white guys singing “Ol’ Zip Coon” in blackface.”

That’s silly. These men are being who they are, not pretending to be women.

“P.P.S. I do agree, though, that L.J.Brutus shouldn’t call Ross from the Tonight Show a &#@ just because Ross has the vocal mannerisms of an 8th-grade girl — after all, speech habits aren’t a reflection on character.”

His vocal chords are likely what gives him that voice, another example of an actual physical difference between gay and straight men.

“But as I suggested above, whether Ross overreacts to being called a &#@, or whether he simply shrugs it off and takes it in stride, is a better test for whether he truly IS one.”

You can’t ovvereact to that kind of abuse. I guess you’d expect the jews to not ovvereact when the nazis called them names and caricatured them.

Throbert McGee
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

His vocal chords are likely what gives him that voice, another example of an actual physical difference between gay and straight men.

A most intriguing theory.

Tell me — when some African-Americans say “axe a question” instead of “ask a question,” do you believe it’s because their lips and tongues are physically different from those of white people?

And then there’s the perplexing inability of British people to pronounce the letter R at the end of words, so that they say “butt-ah” instead of “butter” — would you attribute that to some sort of widespread hereditary deformity of the palate?

Throbert McGee
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

That’s silly. These men are being who they are, not pretending to be women.

ALL of these men are “being who they are”? Does that also include the ones who…

camp it up to fit in with a certain gay crowd

…after they come out of the closet?

Timothy Kincaid
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

if “faggot” isn’t that offensive in the context of this sone, why do you bowdlerise it, thus: “fagg*t”?

I try and avoid, remove, or change language that will get BTB blocked by internet monitoring programs. So, in this instance, I used the bowdlerized version.

You may note that when your comments include words that could trigger such programs, they ‘magically’ change to include asterisks or exclamation points in place of certain letters. That’s because I go in and change them. I really want BTB to have as broad of access as it can.

But, while I’m on the subject, some of you do use language that some readers find offensive. (Clearly, some of our Canadian friends find “fagg*t” to be so offensive as to be banned from the airwaves.) While I appreciate that an expletive can at times provide emphasis to a point, BTB isn’t Jersey Shore. And our readers often include those who do not use vulgarity and there’s no purpose to being pointlessly offensive.

So please keep your language reasonable and if you do use a word that will trigger blocking software, please bowdlerize it.

Timothy Kincaid
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

The debate over effeminacy and whether it is affected or inherent is interesting, but probably not relevant to this thread.

I’ll keep my eyes open for a news story, study, or other item around which we can discuss the topic. In the meanwhile, perhaps we should take what others have said, think about it, and be ready to discuss it without presumptions when the topic does arise (as it will).

Tone
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

I hope I’m not *the* rep from Canada, lord knows we can do better :P

I haven’t felt a lot of love anywhere for my contention that this is mostly a tempest in a teapot. The most progressive board I monitor has almost unanimously sided against my position so have to do some rethinking on this.

I can’t help but see a parallel to when Canadian provinces began enacting mandatory seat belt use laws in the 1970’s. The hue and cry from some sectors was enormous. Politicians who supported supported were being likened to Stalin. The rhetoric got pretty wild. It was framed by some as an unacceptable infringement on individual rights. Nevertheless the laws remained and by the early 80’s the issue was forgotten. Now thirty years later it is unheard of not to wear a seat belt. You’d be laughed at if you didn’t buckle up. It has become part of the fabric of our society now.

I thought that the CBSC move was similar in intent. It will cause an outcry at first from people who don’t like to be told what to do, but people will move on and accept the reality that some words are so toxic that that they deserve special treatment from society. In a roundabout way, this is a public safety initiative too, just like seat belts were.

I’d like to set the record straight, so to speak, regarding Ezra Levant. I do think he’s way out in a world of his own, but I thought the flap over the anti-Islam cartoons in his Western Standard publication was ham-handed and poorly thought out. It never should have gone as far as it did. In the end the complaint was withdrawn. I won’t cry any crocodile tears for him. It was an attention-getting move from the publisher of a struggling right-wing political magazine. He gives as good as he gets.

Is the decision by the broadcast industry censorship? I still don’t think so. It still feels more like self-regulation to me, but then I always wore a seat belt too.

Jason D
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

I had this whole other comment in my head but wait just a second…

Did Tim just admit that he himself censors our comments right here on BTB?

Seriously?

You want to rail on Canadians for doing essentially the same thing? The same thing that’s been happening to lots of songs for at least 2 decades in the US?

So, Tim, does BTB also “have it’s collective head up it’s butt”? Do you guess that the “Very Serious People” at BTB “just don’t get irony or sarcastic social commentary”?

In this case it might be true, at least in the case of irony.

Oh, and ya might want to update the Comments Policy, as while it does say this:

“we may delete comments and/or ban or moderate commenters who engage in:”

and then goes on to include “Profanity” in the list, there’s nothing that notes that BTB will be “Bowlderingizing” our comments.

At least the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council made a public ruling, rather than “magically” changing the lyrics behind the scenes, and then offhandedly mentioning the change in conversation.

I don’t mind, it’s your blog you do as you see fit, but it’s extremely HILARIOUS for a blog that censors it’s own commentors to complain about supposed censorship elsewhere.

Priya Lynn
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

You got that right Jason.

Priya Lynn
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

Never mind the Americans Tone, they think their limited freedom of speech is some sort of magic wand that makes everything wonderful there – obviously not.

Timothy Kincaid
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

Jason,

You bet we control our comments. Unlike the Canadian airwaves, Box Turtle Bulletin is a private blog site. We have a comments policy and while we are very generous with allowing dissent and open discourse, we aren’t going to let you do things which will get us blocked.

Wow, how radical. We actually don’t let you harm our website.

And we actually distinguish between censorship (which is a term that applies to governments, not bloggers) and destructive comments. We must be horrible hypocrites to rail against governmental (or quasi-governmental) censorship when we don’t let you get us blocked from internet monitoring programs.

I guess I’ll just hang my head in shame for being such a hypocrite.

Or not.

Graham
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

A most intriguing theory.

Tell me — when some African-Americans say “axe a question” instead of “ask a question,” do you believe it’s because their lips and tongues are physically different from those of white people?

And then there’s the perplexing inability of British people to pronounce the letter R at the end of words, so that they say “butt-ah” instead of “butter” — would you attribute that to some sort of widespread hereditary deformity of the palate?

No, those are cultural; a result of the person as a child learning to speak from those who speak that way. And anyway, those are speech patterns and accent, not the actual pitch/depth of a person’s voice. Listening to the radio, I can distinguish between a male and female voice in many languages; likewise I can identify a gay man by his voice often (obligatory caveat: there are exceptions/everyones and individual, etc.)

Graham
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

ALL of these men are “being who they are”? Does that also include the ones who…

No not all, I forgot to add the standard caveat that I am speaking in general….

Throbert McGee
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

Did Tim just admit that he himself censors our comments right here on BTB?

He did, and he also explained that his rationale was to avoid automated filtering (i.e., a type of “censorship”) by mindless software programs that merely seek out forbidden strings of characters and can’t make judgments about context. Moreover, he uses a rather minimalist form of bowdlerizing that replaces only as many letters as necessary to defeat the software filters. (Allowing commenters to use “fagg*t” is far less censorious than replacing the entire word with “******” or “gay male”!)

Anyway, I would say that this is qualitatively different from the case of human decision-makers who concluded that a particular sequence of consonants and vowel sounds was too “toxic” to be heard on the airwaves — and the fact that the offensive word issued from the mouth of a fictional character who is understood to be a resentful, loutish buffoon was not deemed mitigating.

That said, I agree with Jason D’s point that the CBSC’s decision isn’t much different from the routine editing and “sanitizing” of songs that play on commercial radio in the US — so from THAT angle, it’s probably fair to declare this whole thread silly.

But even allowing that Tim jumped the gun a bit doesn’t mean that his criticism of the CBSC is inconsistent with his request to avoid spelling out certain offensive words here on this site.

Tone
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

Of course bloggers have to control their content. A few years ago in Canada bloggers were being sued for libel because they permitted comments that the plaintiff said harmed their reputation. They were all SLAPP suits mind you, but it really did put a chill on open discourse for a while. People were bankrupted by legal fees. More Canadian bloggers than not actively moderate now, that is your post won’t appear on their blog until reviewed.

To suggest that BTB is somehow hypocritical because they moderate their board, well that’s just daft.

Priya Lynn
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

Timothy said “We have a comments policy and while we are very generous with allowing dissent and open discourse, we aren’t going to let you do things which will get us blocked.”.

That’d be fine if that were all there were to it. I however have had a number of comments censored that didn’t contain any foul language or anything that would cause BTB to be blocked – you just didn’t like my viewpoint.

This “the government censoring is bad, but its okay for our private organization to do it” is just a cop-out. If you think free speech is good enough for the government it should be good enough for you to.

L. Junius Brutus
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

“Partially, but it’s also due to the fact that gay men have a genuine propensity for such jobs. ”

And I had a propensity to be a Marine. I think that gay men without gender problems are actually precisely like straight men.

“So he annoys you, so what? I think his fun, flippant affect is quite delightful. And because you don’t like that affect doesn’t mean it is a genuine fault. It’s just your preference. It doesn’t prevent Ross from being a productive, healthy member of society so maybe you can get off your high horse and stop making pronoucements about who is worthy of respect and who is not. ”

I’ll decide whom I respect and whom I don’t.

“Because they affected a macho attitude whlie in the closet. After coming out some gay men will camp it up to fit in with a certain gay crowd, and some will keep the macho BS because they think that they will be more palatable to society as a “normal” gay person. ”

And… sometimes a gay person has no desire to act like a girl. Shocking, I know.

“In your opinion. It’s pretty clear that you have adopted the heterosexist attitude that certain traits are just innapropriate in men. That’s BS, bieng effeminate is no fault because there is nothing wrong with women or womanhood.”

Alright, and since there is also nothing wrong with manhood, it’s OK for women to have hair on their legs and chest. To say otherwise is… homosexist? Whatever.

Priya Lynn
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

Junius said “Alright, and since there is also nothing wrong with manhood, it’s OK for women to have hair on their legs and chest.”.

Of course it is – what’s your problem?!

L. Junius Brutus
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

RaxcTone: “I haven’t felt a lot of love anywhere for my contention that this is mostly a tempest in a teapot. The most progressive board I monitor has almost unanimously sided against my position so have to do some rethinking on this.”

If this were a “progressive board”, I’d be “outta here”. You’ll find that the commenters are quite diverse in their political views: some are very liberal, others moderate, others conservative. Fortunately, this board knows something Canada does not, namely, it allows one to express one’s point of view. Even homophobes (who would be hauled before a kangaroo court in Canada) can express their point of view here without being censored. Even a notorious troll named Quo was not censored.

“I can’t help but see a parallel to when Canadian provinces began enacting mandatory seat belt use laws in the 1970′s. The hue and cry from some sectors was enormous. Politicians who supported supported were being likened to Stalin. The rhetoric got pretty wild. It was framed by some as an unacceptable infringement on individual rights. Nevertheless the laws remained and by the early 80′s the issue was forgotten. Now thirty years later it is unheard of not to wear a seat belt. You’d be laughed at if you didn’t buckle up. It has become part of the fabric of our society now.”

Wow, government coercion actually works. What a shocker, if you threaten people with prison and heavy fines for exercising their liberties: most people will stop doing it. Next thing, you’ll be telling me that the communists actually faced a lot of resistance between 1917-1921, but that 30 years later, it became unheard of not to be a communist. People’d be laughed at and arrested if they were not communists, just like in your seat belt case. It hd become part of the fabric of their society then.

“I thought that the CBSC move was similar in intent. It will cause an outcry at first from people who don’t like to be told what to do, but people will move on and accept the reality that some words are so toxic that that they deserve special treatment from society.”

For Portugese dictator Salazar, that word was “freedom”. Two students were jailed because they toasted to freedom. Maybe Canada’s next target, once people begin to realize that their freedom is being systematically dismantled?

” It never should have gone as far as it did. In the end the complaint was withdrawn.”

That is your defense? After two years, and after hundreds of thousands of legal expenses for Ezra Levant, your kangaroo courts still had not acquitted him. Instead, the complaint was dropped because it was doing too much damage to the Islamist cause. Which ensures that any future person who decides to publish those cartoons will have the Damoclean sword of being hauled before these kangaroo courts hanging over his head. Very nice, very safe, very just.

” It was an attention-getting move from the publisher of a struggling right-wing political magazine. He gives as good as he gets.”

Nice rationalization. Really? Well, what he got was a politically motivated, Kafka-like prosecution for publishing his cartoons. Are you saying that he is responsible for “giving” something like that? The truth of the matter is that Ezra Levant thinks that Tone should be allowed to express his opinion, but Tone won’t allow Ezra (or anyone else, for that matter) the same indulgence.

“It still feels more like self-regulation to me, but then I always wore a seat belt too.”

You need a seatbelt, the road to serfdom is a dangerous one.

L. Junius Brutus
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

Priya: “Of course it is – what’s your problem?!”

If you’re being serious, I can only laugh in response.

David S.
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

For the record, I’m also a Canadian.

And I think that there’s an enormous difference between (a) laws requiring people to wear seat belts, and (b) laws abridging the freedom of speech.

Aaron Logan
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

It’s difficult for me to view the CBSC decision as censorship since no one is being prevented from playing the song and no fines or other penalties have been levied. In fact, broadcast radio and television in Canada are far less regulated and censored than in the US. For example, The Sopranos was broadcast over the air on CTV completely uncut and uncensored.

We Canadians do appreciate your concern regarding freedom of expression and in return we hope that you all in America will regain the right to habeus corpus and the protection of the fourth amendment very soon.

L. Junius Brutus
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

David S: “And I think that there’s an enormous difference between (a) laws requiring people to wear seat belts, and (b) laws abridging the freedom of speech.”

I oppose both (except for minors), but I’d much rather have laws of the former than of the latter variety.

Aaron Logan: “We Canadians do appreciate your concern regarding freedom of expression and in return we hope that you all in America will regain the right to habeus corpus and the protection of the fourth amendment very soon.”

First off, that’s habeas corpus and secondly, American citizens do have that right. But nice try at defending your government’s houding of people who publish cartoons people don’t like. It’s a strategy totalitarian regimes like Iran and China like to use, pointing fingers at others to avoid scrutiny.

Aaron Logan
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

Brutus: I should have known you would only respond to the snark rather than the substance which is that there is much less censorship of the airwaves in Canada than the US. And it’s hounding not houding.

Timothy (TRiG)
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

Tell me — when some African-Americans say “axe a question” instead of “ask a question,” do you believe it’s because their lips and tongues are physically different from those of white people?

Do you mean “white people other than Irish people”, as Irish people also say axe. (Incidentally, I thought you Americans spelled it without the e.)

TRiG.

L. Junius Brutus
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

Aaron: I know perfectly well how the verb “to hound” is spelled. See, for example, my post starting with “Ah, so now Tone”. Nice (but failed) try at getting back at me for pointing out your failure to spell “habeas corpus” correctly – which I did because it suggested that you have only heard of it, and never read anything about it.

Moreover, it’s funny how you demonstrate what I said: “It’s a strategy totalitarian regimes like Iran and China like to use, pointing fingers at others to avoid scrutiny.” Whatever the FCC does, it does nothing to negate the fact that (politically correct) censorship is rampant in Canada, as the Ezra Levant and Bible Verse guy cases show. You should fight against censorship, instead of defending it, if that is not yet a human rights offense. Not hard to imagine:

Defendant John Doe stands accused of hate speech because of his internet postings. In these postings, he advocated for freedom and against censorship. He identified censorship with Canada’s protection of minorities against hate speech.

The panel notes that Defendant failed to qualify the “freedom” he wrote about. In a safe and just society, freedom has limits, and by advocating for a blanket freedom, the panel finds that Defendant likely exposed Complainants to hatred and contempt, as other individuals might see freedom as a license to discriminate against or otherwise disadvantage Complainants.

Defendant also called the protection Canada offers to minorities “censorship”. Specifically, he criticized the HRC’s investigations into the offensive cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

By referring to such protection as “censorship”, as though Canada were a totalitarian state that was violating a citizen’s rights, he implicitly declared that he thought he had a right to print such cartoons. He considered those offensive cartoons to be alright, and thereby likely exposed members of minority groups to hatred and contempt.

Moreover, he demeaned a lawfully instituted organ of the Canadian state by alleging that it had something to do with censorship. Freedom of speech is not under treat in Canada, nor is there censorship. Every citizen of Canada has the right to say whatever he wants, whenever he wants in the manner that he wants, as often as he wants, to whomever he wants, unless we disapprove of it.

Defendant is hereby sentenced to 20 months in prison. We hope that he will consider the value of tolerance, respect for the views of others and world peace during his time there, and that he will return a re-educated man in this in this safe and just society that we are trying so hard to create
.

Timothy (TRiG)
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

Brutus: Reductio ad absurdum is a valid rhetorical technique, but you seem to think that the screed you just posted is actually possible. Or are you just trolling.

TRiG.

Aaron Logan
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

Okay, Brutus, you’re right. You Americans have the far superior human rights record. We’ll all try and emulate your exceptional example. Thanks.

Jim Burroway
January 15th, 2011 | LINK

We Canadians do appreciate your concern regarding freedom of expression and in return we hope that you all in America will regain the right to habeus corpus and the protection of the fourth amendment very soon.

Touché.

Mihangel apYrs
January 16th, 2011 | LINK

Timothy, as a Brit (of a certain age!)”f****t” doesn’t touch me as it was never used (see “f*g, a public schoolboy term).

When I grew up, queer, poof, bum-boy, and a*se-bandit were the words thrown at me, so these carry resonance, though “”queer” has been reclaimed by the younger set.

I dislike censorship of what was written in the past to make it accceptable in our age: if nothing else it can serve as a device to show how we have improved; in the case of Huck.Finn it distorts the purpose of the book.

In this case, I’ll leave off going over the top

Mihangel apYrs
January 16th, 2011 | LINK

and apologies for misconstruing your intent in altering words.

@L. Junius Brutus

you are of course big, butch, and totally able to take care of yourself. However there is an entirely new generation of gay kids growing up who can’t, yet. That is why we place certain words off-limits in civilised society. I suggest there are certain words you use in certain company that you wouldn’t use around you mother or grandmother. That is self-censorship; certain people don’t know how to do that, r don’t respect others enough to try. That is the basis of “political correctness”, enforcing good manners.

And to you over-riding point concerning freedom and free speech. In a civilised society we all give certain things up for the general good or better funtioning of that society. For example, no-one is free to shout “fire” in a crowded mall without consequence, no-one can walk down the street naked. In the latter case no-one is harmed, but “Society” disapproves, and we all generally go along with it.

Finally, your strawman trial pales in comparison with the way the US has treated peacful demonstrators against Bush (and I know the UK has its problems), extra-ordinary rendition, Guantanamo Bay detention centre, use of military courts in these circumatances, etc, etc.

I agree that liberty and human rights can’t be rated, though that of life does come above the right to say “knickers” on air, but there are so few libertarians that we must choose fights that are important, but concede that the human condition may be a reason that ither rights are subject to oversight.

Jason D
January 16th, 2011 | LINK

“Jason,

You bet we control our comments. Unlike the Canadian airwaves, Box Turtle Bulletin is a private blog site. We have a comments policy and while we are very generous with allowing dissent and open discourse, we aren’t going to let you do things which will get us blocked.”

Awesome, kudos. Execept the part where you do so covertly. NOTHING in the comments policy says that you will edit people’s comments. NOTHING.

“Wow, how radical. We actually don’t let you harm our website.”

Getting blocked by nannyware is “harm” now? And it’s interesting that you’re so concerned about this potential harm but make NO EFFORT to alert your commentors on the action you will take to “correct” the issue.
The double irony is that you’re okay with changing your blog to fit communications industry expectations of decency –and you don’t criticize that industry standard. But you DO then turn around and criticize a different industry making the same call.

“And we actually distinguish between censorship (which is a term that applies to governments, not bloggers) and destructive comments. We must be horrible hypocrites to rail against governmental (or quasi-governmental) censorship when we don’t let you get us blocked from internet monitoring programs.”

Nope. Just inconsistent. If it’s okay for you to protect yourselves (albeit covertly) why isn’t it okay for an industry (sorry it’s not the canadian government) to do the same?

“I guess I’ll just hang my head in shame for being such a hypocrite.

Or not.”

You should hang your head in shame, but not because of of your blatant inconsistency or your machiavellian tactics.

You should be ashamed that you covertly edit people’s comments without their knowledge.

And just to make sure it’s clear: You edit people’s comments without warning them. That’s my issue.

The issue of inconsistency is just plain funny. You expect bravery where you show NONE.

Priya Lynn
January 16th, 2011 | LINK

So now Junius is forced to make things up to defend his viewpoint – you’re hilarious Junius.

L. Junius Brutus
January 16th, 2011 | LINK

Timothy: “Brutus: Reductio ad absurdum is a valid rhetorical technique, but you seem to think that the screed you just posted is actually possible. Or are you just trolling.”

It’s only slightly hyperbolic, considering the fact that people have been hounded for publishing cartoons. Who knows where the kangaroo courts will stop?

Aaron: “Okay, Brutus, you’re right. You Americans have the far superior human rights record. We’ll all try and emulate your exceptional example. Thanks.”

Mr. Habeus Corpus, you argue like a 4-year old: simply keep repeating whatever you were saying, even when that argument has already been refuted. Alternatively, maybe you just didn’t read the response and decided that this Tu quoque-pearl of wisdom bore repeating. I’m sure that in your imagination, this has been a victory for you on the scale of Jena.

Priya: “So now Junius is forced to make things up to defend his viewpoint – you’re hilarious Junius.”

Try reading, dearest Priya, and you’ll realize (or maybe not, but not due to any fault of mine) that I was mocking your country, by asking whether or not advocating for freedom had already been outlawed by its kangaroo courts. Also, I would not recommend reading “The Onion”, you’d be outraged over its contents.

By the way, have you had enough time to think about what you were going to say in defense of the concrete cases I have mentioned? Occasionally, you’ll make a post here to defend Canada’s kangaroo courts, but you’ll disappear quicker than a snowball in hell when people question its record: Bible Verse guy, Ezra Levant. Or should I ask again next year, to you give you more time? I understand that it’s hard to defend the indefensible. Still, you should not give up hope.

Priya Lynn
January 16th, 2011 | LINK

Junius said “By the way, have you had enough time to think about what you were going to say in defense of the concrete cases I have mentioned?”.

I’ve already dispatched your hypocritical whinings. You whine about people having to defend themselves against hate speech accusations yet have no problem with innocent people having to defend themselves against other laws. Case closed.

Throbert McGee
January 16th, 2011 | LINK

Do you mean “white people other than Irish people”

Irish people are white?!?!

;-)

P.S. “Ax” and “axe” seem to happily co-exist in US English — it’s possible some individual Americans may definitely prefer one spelling over the other when using the word as a verb rather than a noun, but even then I’m not sure you’d find much consistency across America as a whole.

Rachel H
January 16th, 2011 | LINK

For Junius, because whilst I more or less agree with him on freedom of speech, I don’t think he actually knows the meaning of this term he can’t stop overusing:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kangaroo_court

Throbert McGee
January 16th, 2011 | LINK

P.S. “Ax” and “axe” seem to happily co-exist in US English

I guess you could compare this to theater/theatre. Although generally speaking, -er spellings are hugely preferred to -re spellings in American English, theatre is an exception — while probably less often used than theater, it’s still in wide currency, and isn’t necessarily seen as an affectation or an obvious “Britishism.” (Whereas an American who writes “centre” will be suspected of putting on airs, and probably drinks tea with his pinky extended, etc.)

L. Junius Brutus
January 16th, 2011 | LINK

Priya: “I’ve already dispatched your hypocritical whinings. You whine about people having to defend themselves against hate speech accusations yet have no problem with innocent people having to defend themselves against other laws. ”

Thaks for dragging the debate down to Kindergarten level – as usual. And once again, there isn’t the slightest connection between your writings and reality. Outside the world of your imagination, here in reality, you haven’t dipatched anything, you’ve offered no defense whatsoever of your country’s criminalization of free speech, and basically, you’ve spouted some nonsense (already refuted by me) that you imagine to be very strong.

Thanks for playing, but you lose (as usual, much to your chagrin).

Rachel H: “For Junius, because whilst I more or less agree with him on freedom of speech, I don’t think he actually knows the meaning of this term he can’t stop overusing:”

I hope it wasn’t the case that you didn’t know the meaning, because I see nothing in Wikipedia that would invalidate my use. But for a more concise definition, I’ll turn to a dictionary.

1.
a self-appointed or mob-operated tribunal that disregards or parodies existing principles of law or human rights, esp. one in a frontier area or among criminals in prison.
2.
any crudely or irregularly operated court, esp. one so controlled as to render a fair trial impossible.

(from dictionary.com, based on Random House)

As a matter of fact, it partially fits the first definition and completley fits the second. Clearly, my use of the term is entirely justified, except in one thing: these human rights commissions staffed with leftists do not even have the pretense of being courts. My sincere and heartfelt apologies to the Canadians here, I’ll call them kangaroo faux courts in the future, if they want. Hopefully, this won’t count as hate speech.

Eastside Jim
January 16th, 2011 | LINK

I’m not a frequent contributor, but this thread seems to me to be what’s wrong with a lot of public discourse these days in the US and elsewhere… There is an extreme lack of tolerance and reasonable discourse in the public / broadcast / print arena. I can see both sides of this question, and I’m willing to let the Canadian society regulate itself with out holding the regulations up to the standard of another society… namely the US. They are allowed to set up their society however they wish.
And I wouldn’t want to see the US Freedom of Speech tampered with because, some other country does it differently (or not at all).

However, my main purpose for posting is that we as a society can’t seem to discuss things without it devolving into a flame war.

What has happened to tolerance and manners? They too are essential to a free society.

L. Junius Brutus
January 16th, 2011 | LINK

Eastside Jim: “I can see both sides of this question, and I’m willing to let the Canadian society regulate itself with out holding the regulations up to the standard of another society… namely the US. They are allowed to set up their society however they wish.”

You are willing to let Canadian society regulate itself? I was unaware that this was up to you. Actually, I think you mean that you are unwilling to utter a word of criticism against a regime of censorship.

I wonder whether this same standard applies to Pakistan, which has democratically decided (by omission) that people who utter hate speech against Muhammad should be executed. Does “however they wish” apply to Pakistan as well, or not?

“What has happened to tolerance and manners?”

I’m pretty sure that the first rule of tolerance is recognizing other people’s legal rights. Catholics and protestants in the late 17th century hated each other and insulted each other, but they recognized each other’s rights. I feel the same way about people who would squeeze the oxygen out of gay people’s lungs, but self-righteously declare that they are against slurs like ‘f*g’.

Eastside Jim
January 16th, 2011 | LINK

I’m not going to participate in this flame war. I will correct your misunderstanding ONCE, and leave it for better uses of my time.

“You are willing to let Canadian society regulate itself? I was unaware that this was up to you. Actually, I think you mean that you are unwilling to utter a word of criticism against a regime of censorship.”

Actually, I meant what I typed.. perhaps I’m splitting hairs here, but I’m unwilling to try to convince others that their society is lesser than mine or wrong. I’m unwilling to try to convince the other society to change to fit my conception of what they SHOULD be doing. This is called manners and tolerance.

“I wonder whether this same standard applies to Pakistan, which has democratically decided (by omission) that people who utter hate speech against Muhammad should be executed. Does “however they wish” apply to Pakistan as well, or not?”

Actually it does apply to that situation. Again, it’s not what I want that is at question, but what that society wants. I’m not willing to try to change their mind or invade them to change it for them.

“What has happened to tolerance and manners?”

I’m pretty sure that the first rule of tolerance is recognizing other people’s legal rights. Catholics and protestants in the late 17th century hated each other and insulted each other, but they recognized each other’s rights. I feel the same way about people who would squeeze the oxygen out of gay people’s lungs, but self-righteously declare that they are against slurs like ‘f*g’.

This whole paragraph is so far outside the point I was trying to make, that I can’t even enumerate the false assumptions implicit in it. There is a world of difference in the way Catholics and Protestants treated each other (and not so respectful of rights as you imply as the inquision in Spain in the 1600/1700s proves) and the lack of civil discourse in a representative democracy.

I’m not continuing this as your reply proves the lack of civil discourse, that I was referring to.

L. Junius Brutus
January 16th, 2011 | LINK

Eastside Jim: “Actually, I meant what I typed.. perhaps I’m splitting hairs here, but I’m unwilling to try to convince others that their society is lesser than mine or wrong. I’m unwilling to try to convince the other society to change to fit my conception of what they SHOULD be doing. This is called manners and tolerance.”

It’s a good thing that you did not live in the antebellum North. Your “manners and tolerance” would prevent you from “try[ing] to convince the other society to change to fit [your] conception of what they SHOULD be doing [i.e., not hold slaves]. It’s a good thing you did not live during the Nazi persecution of the Jews in the 1930s and 40s, as your “manners and tolerance” would prevent you from supporting an invasion or even trying to change their minds so that they would not commit.

This doctrine is called cultural relativism, which holds that there is nothing wrong about, for example, killing a Christian mother of four for “blaspheming” against Muhammad. It is wrong to try to stop them or convince them not to do it, as that is intolerant and shows a lack of manners. It is pure evil.

“Again, it’s not what I want that is at question, but what that society wants”

I guess the Hutu massacre of Tutsis was right after all. It’s a good thing that the world was tolerant and well-mannered enough not to try to stop the slaughter of 700,000 people.

“There is a world of difference in the way Catholics and Protestants treated each other (and not so respectful of rights as you imply as the inquision in Spain in the 1600/1700s proves) ”

Talking about false assumptions. The “Inquision” in Spain was never directed against protestants (and certainly not in the 1600/1700s), but against “conversos” and later against Catholics who violated the Church’s laws. It’s funny that you apparently know no other “Inquision” than the Spanish one, or you would have mentioned, for example, the Roman Inquisition – which WAS directed against protestants. But even that did not have the hayday of its activities in the late seventeenth century. From 1648 onward, with the Peace of Westphalia, protestant and Catholic rulers generally accepted the right of the respective religions to exist. That is what I was referring to. Please don’t pretend to know stuff when you don’t. Thanks in advance.

“I’m not continuing this as your reply proves the lack of civil discourse, that I was referring to.”

There was nothing uncivil about what I wrote, and you know it. More probably, you just know that your cultural relativism is indefensible, so you’re trying to flee the debate without admitting defeat.

By the way, even if that represents uncivil discourse, this is what I want. Please don’t try to convince me that I am less than you, or that I am wrong. As you yourself say, that’s called manners and tolerance. Apparently, I cannot be granted the same indulgence as Pakistani murderers. For shame!

L. Junius Brutus
January 16th, 2011 | LINK

Let me demonstrate my manners and tolerance: killing gay people is OK, and we shouldn’t criticize it, as long as it takes place in Iran. That’s what the society wants. I am certainly not going to argue that they are wrong, as that would be evil! Unless my society thinks that arguing that others are wrong is right – in which case that is something that may not be criticized. If not, I only need to move to a society that does think so. If my society changes its mind, I magically move from being right to being wrong.

Can I have my degree from the Eastside Jim School of Manners and Tolerance now?

Aaron Logan
January 16th, 2011 | LINK

Brutus: I’m not trying to defend the hate speech laws that you are railing against, I don’t know enough about the cases you mention and I’d prefer to keep to the topic of the original post. Tim’s and your accusations of censorship with regards to the Dire Straits song are simply wrong. There is no government agency at work, no fines, no penalties and no one is being prevented from playing the song. False accusations of censorship are tiresome regardless if you have valid criticism elsewhere and just smacks of projection.

L. Junius Brutus
January 16th, 2011 | LINK

Aaron Logan: “There is no government agency at work, no fines, no penalties and no one is being prevented from playing the song.”

Ah, so no one is prevented from playing the song? A radio station can simply opt to play this song regardless of this decision?

Aaron Logan
January 16th, 2011 | LINK

Brutus: Right, radio stations can opt to play this song regardless of this decision and many have. Some have even put it on a continuous loop for hours at a time.

L. Junius Brutus
January 16th, 2011 | LINK

Then what the hell is this decision? A non-binding resolution?

Timothy Kincaid
January 17th, 2011 | LINK

Jason,

You should hang your head in shame, but not because of of your blatant inconsistency or your machiavellian tactics.

I’ll just pause there a moment. Just a brief moment to marvel at the phrase “Machiavellian tactics”.

Take that Cesar Borgia, you got nuthin’ on me.

You should be ashamed that you covertly edit people’s comments without their knowledge.

Oh Noes, I’ve covertly edited folk’s comments by replacing an “i” with “!” or an “s” with “$”. How nefarious.

And how sneaky. The commenter would never know that their profanity had a changed letter.
Unless they were to look at it.
It was kept entirely from their knowledge.
Until they glanced.

Oh my.

And just to make sure it’s clear: You edit people’s comments without warning them. That’s my issue.

No. That’s not your issue.

You really aren’t incensed that “as$hole” is revised to include a dollar sign. You know it doesn’t change the meaning or in any way alter the commenters message.

Nor are you furious that our comments policy doesn’t say “if you use profanity, a letter might be changed in the word.” In fact, I’d wager that you didn’t have a clue whether our comments policy said exactly that until you went searching for a reason to call me a hypocrite.

You just want to win your point and think that if you can show hypocrisy on my part that it will somehow diminish my Commentary.

You haven’t.
It doesn’t.

Priya Lynn
January 17th, 2011 | LINK

Timothy said “You really aren’t incensed that “as$hole” is revised to include a dollar sign. You know it doesn’t change the meaning or in any way alter the commenters message.”.

That would be fine if it were the only editing you ever did – it isn’t.
When you surrepticously edit a person’s comment to include a link they didn’t put there,that does alter the commentors message. When you remove a comment altogether that doesn’t contain foul language or volate the comments policy, that alters the commenter’s message a great deal. For example, if a person were to suggest a reason for the correlation between a country’s religiosity and social dysfunction you’ve been known to remove such a comment when it didn’t reflect well on religious people. You however have no problem with someone suggesting many atheists don’t believe there is a right or wrong, or truth:

http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2011/01/16/29524#comment-87301

Timothy Kincaid
January 17th, 2011 | LINK

Priya Lyunn

I invite you to create your own blogsite which can operate under your rules and your personal beliefs about what is and what is not acceptable.

But here at BTB, it is the authors, not you, who determine when a comment violates the Comments Policy. You, of course, need not comment if you don’t like our criteria.

Priya Lynn
January 17th, 2011 | LINK

Yes, I’ve heard that before Timothy. I will however say that I am pleased you left my previous comment up.

Adam
January 18th, 2011 | LINK

L. Junius Brutus:

I’m interested in hearing how you reconcile your contempt for what you call “the doctrine of cultural relativism” with one of the fundamental principles underpinning the rule of law, which is that a people should have the right to self-government. Implicit in this principle is the express legitimacy of the government via the consent of the governed. At what point does your “cultural absolutism”, if I may extrapolate your meaning, infringe on this principle of international law?

Also, and I know this is off-topic, your point about women with hairy legs and chests is grossly sexist. Just so you know.

Timothy (TRiG)
January 18th, 2011 | LINK

Let’s have some facts:

The song hasn’t even been banned from the public airwaves. The CBSC is the Canadian broadcast industry’s self-regulatory body. It is not a government organisation, membership is voluntary, and only members are asked to adhere to its code of ethics. Violators can’t even be fined. In fact, two Canadian radio stations have already played the unedited song nonstop for an hour on Friday as some kind of crass protest. The worst that will happen to those stations, if they’re even members of the CBSC, is that they’ll have to issue an on-air apology or leave the CBSC—and only if someone complains.

from Slap Upside the Head

Happy now, everyone?

TRiG.

[This comment was caught in our spam filter eleven hours ago. I have updated the time stamp so that it won’t get lost in this thread. — Jim B.]

Timothy (TRiG)
January 18th, 2011 | LINK

Let’s have some facts:

The song hasn’t even been banned from the public airwaves. The CBSC is the Canadian broadcast industry’s self-regulatory body. It is not a government organisation, membership is voluntary, and only members are asked to adhere to its code of ethics. Violators can’t even be fined. In fact, two Canadian radio stations have already played the unedited song nonstop for an hour on Friday as some kind of crass protest. The worst that will happen to those stations, if they’re even members of the CBSC, is that they’ll have to issue an on-air apology or leave the CBSC—and only if someone complains.

from Slap Upside the Head. (I left the link out this time as it wouldn’t post with it.)

Happy now, everyone?

TRiG.

L. Junius Brutus
January 18th, 2011 | LINK

Adam: “I’m interested in hearing how you reconcile your contempt for what you call “the doctrine of cultural relativism” with one of the fundamental principles underpinning the rule of law, which is that a people should have the right to self-government. ”

Apparently, you don’t know what “rule of law” is, because it has nothing to do with the right to self-government. A state can have the rule of law without having self-government (like post-Glorious Revolution England), or vice versa (ancient Athens), those two are completely separate.

“Implicit in this principle is the express legitimacy of the government via the consent of the governed.”

Au contraire, it merely means that the people have the authority to govern, not that all their acts are legitimate or correct, nor that what they do ought to be free of criticism. Even if one believes that any society has the inalienable right to commit atrocities (like the genocide in Rwanda): the person I argued with, not only believed that such cold-blooded murder of innocent people should not only not be stopped, he even said that it’s wrong to criticize it. When one man butchers another, no third man is allowed to object. Even more egregious, he thought that refraining from criticism of butchery is called tolerance and manners. That’s not tolerance, it’s not manners, it’s not good in any way, it’s insane and it’s purely evil.

“At what point does your “cultural absolutism”, if I may extrapolate your meaning, infringe on this principle of international law?”

LOL. You actually believe that the right to self-government is actually a principle of international law?

This is about as hilarious as the comment about the Spanish “inquision”. Please, people, only pretend to know things when you actually do. Thanks.

“Also, and I know this is off-topic, your point about women with hairy legs and chests is grossly sexist. Just so you know.”

Again, I’m just going to laugh: people who hold opinions that are so far out of the mainstream that they think normal (and correct) ideas are “sexist”.

Timothy (TRiG): Let’s have some facts:

Do you have proof that those alleged facts are actully true? If it’s truly a voluntary and completely voluntary association, then I have no problem with the decision. However, considering that even left-wing Canadian MPs and gay rights activists have protested against this and called it censorship, I won’t presume to know more than they do.

Adam
January 18th, 2011 | LINK

L. Junius Brutus:

Thank you for taking the time to reply. I appreciate your correction with respect to the scope of the rule of law; I mistakenly conflated it with other constitutional principles. I hope you’ll forgive me: I’m relatively new to this field of study, was in a rush, and did not have time to check my understanding.

Nonetheless, I disagree with what you seem to imply about legitimacy and self-government. According to D. Beetham in “The Legitimation of Power”, the exercise of power is legitimate to the extent that:

(i) it conforms to established rules,
(ii) the rules can be justified by reference to beliefs shared by both dominant and subordinate, and
(iii) there is evidence of consent by the subordinate to the particular power relation.

For Beetham, then, the legitimacy of government is derived from what amounts to the consent of the governed. There is no scope in this definition for the judgment of external agents. So my question to you is really: on what basis can an external agent claim the right to interfere with the legitimate exercise of power by a government over its consenting subjects? I’m not talking here about the right of those external agents to criticise – exercise your cherished free speech as you see fit. My point is that you condemn cultural relativism when it seems that only cultural relativism – as opposed to cultural absolutism – can be reconciled with these ideas of legitimacy.

When I linked self-governance to international law, I meant to refer to the idea of the sovereign nation-state. Given that a nation-state is sovereign, and that nation-state is legitimately governed, on what basis does one assume any position other than cultural relativism? Surely it is for the citizens of the nation-state to determine what is legitimate government?

“Again, I’m just going to laugh: people who hold opinions that are so far out of the mainstream that they think normal (and correct) ideas are “sexist”.”

I can’t believe that this is what it appears to be: a blatant argumentum ad populum. Yet no matter how I try to twist it, it just doesn’t look like anything else. On the other hand, at least you are consistent in promoting your (culturally relative) ideas of normality to some kind of universal, objective truth.

L. Junius Brutus
January 18th, 2011 | LINK

Adam: “Thank you for taking the time to reply. I appreciate your correction with respect to the scope of the rule of law; I mistakenly conflated it with other constitutional principles. I hope you’ll forgive me: I’m relatively new to this field of study, was in a rush, and did not have time to check my understanding.”

No, at least you – unlike many other people – admit it when you make a mistake, instead of fleeing and pretending that your flight was spurred by some horrible, crushing incivility on my part.

“Nonetheless, I disagree with what you seem to imply about legitimacy and self-government. According to D. Beetham in “The Legitimation of Power”, the exercise of power is legitimate to the extent that:”

It depends on how you define the word “legitimate”. You’ll find legal positivists who think that any government action, no matter how wrong, is legitimate, as long as it’s “legal” under positive law (as opposed to natural, customary or divine law). And, of course, they are right that it is legal, but that still does not make it right. Nazi criminals certainly wished that legality was the same as rightfulness, but despite the fact that they did nothing wrong under the laws of Nazi Germany, they were still hauled before the postwar tribunals – which had no other basis than universal principles of justice and natural law – and imprisoned or hanged.

As for Beetham, he may have an opinion, which is entitled to just as much respect as any gentleman in one of Chicago’s bars, and I don’t see why he is a particular authority on what makes the exercise of power legitimate, and definitey not on his say-so. He’s not the first, and won’t be the last, and whatever he said is completely irrelevant to the issue of cultural relativism anyway.

“I’m not talking here about the right of those external agents to criticise – exercise your cherished free speech as you see fit. “

Yet that is exactly what cultural relativism is. According to cultural relativists, I might have a legal right, but I no moral right to, for example, criticize the genocide in Rwanda, or whatever else it is that a “society” wants to do. In fact, not criticizing the Rwandan genocide apparently demonstrates my “manners and tolerance”.

“When I linked self-governance to international law, I meant to refer to the idea of the sovereign nation-state. “

Sovereignty is not linked to “nation-states”, it’s about a century and a half older than nation states themselves. A state is supposed to be sovereign, according to such principles, regardless of whether it encompasses one nation, or multiple, or oppresses many nations. As such, it has absolutely nothing to do with the right to self-governance. States have sovereignty whether or not they allow their people self-government.

Given that a nation-state is sovereign, and that nation-state is legitimately governed, on what basis does one assume any position other than cultural relativism?

Your (assumed) conclusion does not follow from your argument. I don’t see what sovereignty and legitimate government have to do with cultural relativism.

“Surely it is for the citizens of the nation-state to determine what is legitimate government?”

With respect to the authority that they have, yes. But that does not mean that they are right, or always right, or that all cultures are equal because of that. And it certainly does not mean that whatever they opt to do is morally right, which is the position of cultural relativists. If Germany decides to gas 6 million Jews, that’s wrong regardless of what its citizens determine. If Iran decides to stone gay people, that’s wrong regardless of ” ” “. If 50.1% of the citizens of Joinville vote to massacre the other 49.9%, that’s wrong regardless of ” ” “.

Any civilized person must condemn such acts of barbarism. We don’t want or need cultural relativists telling us that we can’t condemn it, because the “society” wants it.

I can’t believe that this is what it appears to be: a blatant argumentum ad populum…On the other hand, at least you are consistent in promoting your (culturally relative) ideas of normality to some kind of universal, objective truth.

It was not an argument, or did you think I tried to convince you by saying that? I was simply making you aware of how out of the mainstream you are. Perhaps you should be less strident, when you are so out of the mainstream, and maybe offer arguments in support of what you think. By the way, if you are a true cultural relativist, then you are a deviant by your own standards, as your view is shared by a negligible number of people in the civilized world.

As for your views, you’d be a lot more consistent if you brought your rejection of universal, objective truths to its logical conclusion and declared that there is nothing wrong with what the Nazis did, or with the genocide in Rwanda, or with Iran’s stoning of gay people, or with holding slaves in the antebellum South, or with segregation and lynching in early 20th century Dixie, or with throwing babies into the fire in ancient Carthage. The original cultural relativist (Eastside Jim) actually thought it was perfectly OK for Pakistan to butcher a Christian woman for “blaspheming” Muhammad – and he even patted himself for having enough “manners and tolerance” to refrain from condemning such cold-blooded murder.

Of course, I don’t think you’ll actually support Nazi atrocities and other heinous crimes, because most people who think that they are cultural relativists are actually decent but naive people (i.e., most leftists), who haven’t fully thought through the implications of what they think they stand for.

Adam
January 19th, 2011 | LINK

L. Junius Brutus:

No, at least you – unlike many other people – admit it when you make a mistake, instead of fleeing and pretending that your flight was spurred by some horrible, crushing incivility on my part.

Ah, well, I can’t speak for others, but I’m genuinely curious to know the answers to my questions. I don’t have an agenda here (well, except about the last part, perhaps). And although I try to avoid the Dunning-Kruger effect’s crippling trap, I can’t claim always to be successful. As for incivility, I don’t really have time for discussions about tone (which may seem ironic in a thread that is ostensibly about censorship…).

You’ll find legal positivists who think that any government action, no matter how wrong, is legitimate, as long as it’s “legal” under positive law

I don’t agree with them. Legality is necessary for legitimacy, but it’s not sufficient. It’s part (i) of Beetham’s definition. Which I used, incidentally, as a starting point. I don’t have any way to rate the weight of this authority, but I accept that his is not the only possible definition of legitimacy. Would it be fair to say that you would add to Beetham’s list of criteria that, in order for the exercise of power to be legitimate, it must also be done in accordance with “universal principles of justice and natural law”? This raises the question – which, for me, is at the heart of the matter – what is the source of these universal principles of justice and natural law?

As for the legitimacy of the Nazis, I believe that was called into question the moment they exercised power in respect of a people that did not consent to Nazi government – that is, populations other than Germany. There is a more difficult question as to whether the Nazi regime acted “legitimately” (excluding a rider about universal / natural law) in respect of German citizens, and that comes down to what one would consider a “people” to be. I suppose under Beetham’s definition, one might argue that, insofar as the persecuted population in Germany was a small subset of the governed which had consented to Nazi rule, that rule was legitimate. The larger the population that did not so consent, the less legitimate that rule became. Even Beetham acknowledges that legitimacy is not a binary condition.

Yet that is exactly what cultural relativism is.

Ah. Then I misunderstood you. If cultural relativism is just a prohibition on judging other cultures and expressly criticising them, then I actually agree with you. No-one ought to be immune to criticism, and everyone has the right to assert the quality of their values. I only see a problem where this criticism and assertion amounts to an exercise of power to which a self-governing people (while I acknowledge your point that self-governing != sovereign state, I think that, democratically speaking, there is much overlap) did not consent and which forces them to adhere to rules or principles other than those to which they would consent. If all you’re saying is that you should be allowed to call Rwandan genocide wrong, I’m sorry I butted in! The moment that becomes “it is wrong, so we should make them do the right thing”, I think things become much less clear, and it is at this point that I would like to see further justification for that kind of intervention.

I don’t see what sovereignty and legitimate government have to do with cultural relativism.

I was under the impression that you were using your dismissal of cultural relativism as a justification for intervention in the government of a sovereign nation otherwise legitimately governed. It seems that I misunderstood what you meant by cultural relativism, so yeah, I can see why that led to confusion.

But that does not mean that they are right, or always right, or that all cultures are equal because of that. And it certainly does not mean that whatever they opt to do is morally right, which is the position of cultural relativists.

And here I must confess that I was not entirely straightforward. I, too, am of the opinion that there is some higher authority than can be ceded by the members of a people to their government. But I don’t know what the source of that authority is, and under what right it may be enforced. How do we even know what is universally just or naturally legal (if you’ll permit me to torture those phrases). That’s the real point of my question to you. Where does natural law and universal justice come from? Where these are disregarded by an otherwise legitimate government, is it right to exercise power to enforce them?

It was not an argument, or did you think I tried to convince you by saying that?… offer arguments in support of what you think.

That’s fair. It was wrong of me to bring up that subject, fail to justify my criticism and then hold you to a different standard. It’s not the topic of this thread, though, and it is a guaranteed derail. And we are anyway talking at cross-purposes. But, seriously, if you’re interested in discussing this rather than simply humouring me, I think we should take it elsewhere.

Graham
January 19th, 2011 | LINK

“And I had a propensity to be a Marine. I think that gay men without gender problems are actually precisely like straight men.”

There you go again. Because somone has an affect you don’t like doesn’t mean they have “gender problems”. Hell, as far as the right is concerned, you have gender problems merely for being homosexual, since being attracted to males is a female attribute, or so they say.

“I’ll decide whom I respect and whom I don’t.”

Unbelieve able, you would castigate someone just for having a voice you don’t like. You do hace the right to decide whom to respect, but your basis for doing so is incredibly supeficial and comformist.

“And… sometimes a gay person has no desire to act like a girl. Shocking, I know.”

which is FINE. But it’s also fine that some do like things which aren’t associated with males. And they’re not acting “like a girl” anyway since these traits not exclusive to females.

“Alright, and since there is also nothing wrong with manhood, it’s OK for women to have hair on their legs and chest. To say otherwise is… homosexist? Whatever.”

Yes. Shocking as it may be to you, people are allowed the choice of how to groom themselves, and they may not make a choice that pleases you. Hard for you to accept I know. And your example would be heterosexist, obviously, since the hetornormal standard for women is to be feminine. Try to keep up and really ocmprehend things, instead of just saying “whatever”; that makes seem challenged.

Graham
January 19th, 2011 | LINK

The question is: who decides? If private broadcasters decide to edit what they broadcast, fine. But not some unaccountable organization or government

Well, in America the FCC decides. Howard Stern was forced off of terrestrial Radio for being “indecent’ or whatever. I’m not sure but I think if you’re calling blacks the n-word or jews the k-word you’ll get fined. So we’re more free than canada how exactly? I mean we can’t even handle Janet Jackson’s breast.

L. Junius Brutus
January 19th, 2011 | LINK

Adam: “Would it be fair to say that you would add to Beetham’s list of criteria that, in order for the exercise of power to be legitimate, it must also be done in accordance with “universal principles of justice and natural law”?”

I would not use Beetham’s list of criteria at all, but I definitely do think that universal principles of justice should be a criteria for legitimate state actions. As for natural law, that issue is a bit more complicated.

“As for the legitimacy of the Nazis, I believe that was called into question the moment they exercised power in respect of a people that did not consent to Nazi government “

It is somewhat disturbing to me that of all the things that the Nazis did, it is attacking another country that is the very worst action. It suggests that the Nazis would have had more legitimacy than, for example, the French government (which, by your standards, would lose its legitimacy if it attacked the legitimate German Nazi government), if it decided to intervene to stop the rise of German Nazism in 1934.

“Even Beetham acknowledges that legitimacy is not a binary condition.”

You put way too much trust and faith in one single individual, rather than in his reasoning and arguments. Evaluate them instead. It’s not a “And the Lord saith”, for him, or anyone else. Any individual could be wrong, even very intelligent people.

“Ah. Then I misunderstood you. If cultural relativism is just a prohibition on judging other cultures and expressly criticising them, then I actually agree with you. “

I did not make up the term “cultural relativism”, others have preceded me. If you want to learn more about it, see Stanford’s Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s article on cultural relativism: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-relativism/ (though it calls cultural relatvism “moral relativism”, it discusses the same thing)

“If all you’re saying is that you should be allowed to call Rwandan genocide wrong, I’m sorry I butted in!… I was under the impression that you were using your dismissal of cultural relativism as a justification for intervention in the government of a sovereign nation otherwise legitimately governed. It seems that I misunderstood what you meant by cultural relativism, so yeah, I can see why that led to confusion.”

It’s half of what I’m saying. I actually do believe that we should call the Rwandan genocide wrong, which is not something that my interlocutor believed – as he has the “manners and tolerance” that I do not. I also believe that we should do something about atrocities such as the Rwandan genocide, although opposing that does not make one a cultural relativist. I would recommend reading and re-reading Eastside Jim’s posts, as they are absolutely fascinating. He is a cultural relativist through-and-through, as he clearly thinks that neither I, nor anyone else, should call what any society does “wrong”, but he cleverly inserts that, aside from criticizing that society, we should not “intervene” – perhaps because he thought that this would appear more rational than railing against any criticism of barbaric practices. Or maybe he thought that criticizing a society is a prelude to military intervention, and that he therefore had to “defuse” any criticism of any society, lest it lead to military invasion. Personally, I can’t think of any reasonable basis to support cultural relativism, so I’m still befuddled by him, and anyone who would say such things.

Notwithstanding state sovereignty and the idea that this idea has become less popular after the Iraq war, one simply cannot stand by and let an innocent population be slaughtered, or enslaved, or segregated. And if the orthodox doctrine of state (or popular) sovereignty objects to that, then I object to it. As I have stated, I object to the idea that when one man butchers another, no third man is allowed to object, or intervene.

“But I don’t know what the source of that authority is, and under what right it may be enforced. How do we even know what is universally just or naturally legal (if you’ll permit me to torture those phrases). That’s the real point of my question to you. Where does natural law and universal justice come from? Where these are disregarded by an otherwise legitimate government, is it right to exercise power to enforce them?”

Oh, now that’s a question. I do not presume that you are asking me to resolve a 2000-year old debate (referring to Cicero, not Christianity, and even he was not an original philosopher). And of coures, this is not mathematics, you should not expect advocates of such principles to provide ultimate proof to you, or an ideology that demonstrates ideas without having assumptions, but rather, to make these ideas plausible, and to provide a firm rational grounding for them. As you have probably noticed, some people do not have a firm rational grounding for their ideas. I would argue that ideas that find greater support in reason and rationality are superior to ideas that do not. Thus, you might ask: “Brutus, why are your ideas better than the ideas of the Pakistani butchers of innocent people?” And I’ll say: “Because my ideas are based on reason and arguments, while their medievalist ideas are based on absolutely nothing but fanaticism: they would kill anyone who dared to argue with them, instead of providing arguments.”

That question can be better answered regarding universal justice: both people who are unjust and the people who have injustice inflicted on them, agree on what injustice is. Even the thief does not want someone to steal from him, notwithstanding his wholehearted approval of stealing when it involves him stealing things from other people. So basically, we have double standards here, and that is not particularly rational, but rather, self-serving.

As for natural law, I did not really advocate it, rather, I mentioned it as a counterpoint to legal positivism. I can’t say the Nazis were right, or that the Allies were wrong in prosecuting them without any positive legal basis whatsoever, but natural law is a difficult concept. It is based on the idea that a bad law is not really a law, because a higher law ‘invalidates’ it before it even goes into effect. I certainly don’t believe in obeying hideously bad laws, but I can’t argue that they are not law. Again, it’s a difficult issue, and I haven’t thought or read about it enough to say something meaningful or interesting about it (and I would hate to pretend to know things that I don’t know, like “Spanish inquision” guy). I do consider bad laws to be illegitimate, thus, I refer to Iran executing gay people as murder, rather than as legitimate executions.

“That’s fair. It was wrong of me to bring up that subject, fail to justify my criticism and then hold you to a different standard. It’s not the topic of this thread, though, and it is a guaranteed derail. And we are anyway talking at cross-purposes. But, seriously, if you’re interested in discussing this rather than simply humouring me, I think we should take it elsewhere.”

This thread is pretty much dead, so I’m not sure that Jim & Tim will mind this discussion. Actually, the interesting thing is that cultural relativism is somewhat related to the topic of this thread: namely, what right to we have to criticize Canada’s policies? That’s the way they do it, who are we to criticize it? (Let’s for a moment disregard the fact that this assumes that the right to critcism apparently depends on geography and nationality.) As you probably know, I think we have every right to criticize Canada, and any other society, and not just a legal right, but also a moral right. I am no way deficient in tolerance or manners because I criticize Canada’s policies, or Iranian stonings, or Pakistani butchery.

As an aside, the pernicious thing about cultural relativism is that people are often introduced to it with benign examples, but the logic of it leads them to justify true atrocities. If you read Stanford-Plato, you’ll see that Herodotus has a ‘culturally relative story’ (I’m not recounting this exactly as he records it), in which the Persian king summons two groups of his subjects: Greeks and Indians. He asks them how they dispose of their deceased. The Greeks say: we bury them. The Indians are absolutely horrified. You have to burn people who are dead, that’s the way the Gods want it. Herodotus concludes that neither group is right or wrong. Now, one might accept this when it comes to burying rituals, since it hardly makes any difference, except in the minds of the individuals doing the deed. But I certainly hope that people will not accept cultural relativism when it comes to grave matters (no pun intended).

L. Junius Brutus
January 19th, 2011 | LINK

Graham: Because somone has an affect you don’t like doesn’t mean they have “gender problems”.

True, because not all acts involve extreme effeminacy. However, I do wonder about supposed guys who act like girls.

“Unbelieve able, you would castigate someone just for having a voice you don’t like. You do hace the right to decide whom to respect, but your basis for doing so is incredibly supeficial and comformist.”

I am anything but conformist, Mr. South Park Goth, but that does not mean that I can’t criticize ridiculous behavior when it happens to be non-conformist.

“And they’re not acting “like a girl” anyway since these traits not exclusive to females. ”

“Like a girl” refers to how females generally are, and thus is not invalidated by the fact that some people choose to emulate females.

“Yes. Shocking as it may be to you, people are allowed the choice of how to groom themselves, and they may not make a choice that pleases you. Hard for you to accept I know. And your example would be heterosexist, obviously, since the hetornormal standard for women is to be feminine.”

Really? Explain to me how proper grooming has anything to do with heterosexuality (which you apparently don’t like very much).

“Try to keep up and really ocmprehend things, instead of just saying “whatever”; that makes seem challenged.”

What was that? Did you mean to say ‘mentally challenged’?

“I mean we can’t even handle Janet Jackson’s breast.”

Who can?

Graham
January 19th, 2011 | LINK

“True, because not all acts involve extreme effeminacy. However, I do wonder about supposed guys who act like girls.”

Well, there are very effeminate men who nonetheless are not gender dysphoric. Better to just get on with your life instead of wondering about them.

“I am anything but conformist, Mr. South Park Goth, but that does not mean that I can’t criticize ridiculous behavior when it happens to be non-conformist.”

If you’re so non-conformist then come up for some better criteria for judging people besides the pitch of their voice and stop calling neutral variations of human behavior “ridiculous”.

““Like a girl” refers to how females generally are, and thus is not invalidated by the fact that some people choose to emulate females.”

They are not emulating females. They are dressing how they want to, and acting how they are predisposed to act. The fact that it happens to be more feminine does not imply that their preference to do so is volitional, or that they are consciously imitating women.

“Really? Explain to me how proper grooming has anything to do with heterosexuality (which you apparently don’t like very much).”

Well what is proper grooming? Is the proper grooming for females what you decide it to be, or what is understood to be proper for them? What is proper or improper for women, not just in grooming but in every arena, has changed a great deal over the last century or so, and for that matter throughout history.
What you are calling proper grooming has nothing to do with heterosexuality in some biological or natural sense, but expecting all women to adhere to it is buying into the heterosexist conceit that certain behaviors and traits are proper for men and some for women. This used to extend to almost every area of life including careers…ever heard of “barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen”? Do you think we should return to that?
And I’m fine with heterosexuals, for the record. I take that back, I’m fine with some of them, and have problems with others. Heterosexuality and homosexuality are both just neutral variations of human sexuality IMO,so I don’t have any feelings, positive or negative, about heterosexuality.

“What was that? Did you mean to say ‘mentally challenged’?”

No, I meant “that may seem challenging”

“Who can?”

Likely a straight guy, with glee.

Graham
January 19th, 2011 | LINK

And you still haven’t answered how this makes Canada any different from the USA. They have this organization, we have the FCC, what is the difference? The only difference I can see is that Canada is trying to be über-PC by stamping out expressions of racism/misogyny/homophobia, while here in the USA we we’re trying to be puritanical by censoring raunchy sex-related content.

Timothy Kincaid
January 20th, 2011 | LINK

okay… this thread has devolved to a cut and paste spat. Why don’t we call it a day and leave the playground.

Adam
January 20th, 2011 | LINK

Brutus: Thanks for your thoughtful and thought-provoking post. I can’t really respond to the points you’ve raised until I’ve had an opportunity to study the meaning and implications of moral relativism in depth, and I just don’t have that kind of time at the moment! Thanks for the source, though, and for taking the time to discuss the matter.

Lorenzo from Oz
January 20th, 2011 | LINK

If freedom is subordinated to the right not to be offended, then we do not have freedom. People are, after all, offended by two men, or two women, walking down the street holding hands or kissing.

These things are always about power: who has the power to make their sense of “being offended’ count and who does not. Really, we should not go there. Queer folk particularly should not go there.

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