Money for Nothing; censorship for free

Lawrence Powell
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Editorial from the January 20 Spectator

The thought police were out and about in Canada last week as the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council took a Sharpie to the word ‘faggot’ in the classic rock song Money for Nothing by Dire Straits.

And the freedom of expression people were out in full force about a minute later. No wonder. Such a ruling, based on a single complaint, is about as senseless as banning winter because one Canadian is offended by a single snowflake in January. Don’t tell us what to think.

That the word can be used in a hurtful, derogatory way is without question, but writer Mark Knopfler intended the opposite in the context of the song. In fact he was denigrating people who used the word as a slur. The CBSC said it realized Knopfler’s use of satire and irony but thought most people wouldn’t.

Hello? It’s not that complicated. The CBSC obviously thinks Canadians are stupid – so they’ll do the thinking for us.

Go to Youtube and watch openly gay Elton John sing the song with Knopfler. Nobody was upset when Dire Straits performed it at the 1985 Live Aid concert, or when it was performed at Nelson Mandela’s 70th birthday and the Prince’s Trust concert in 1988.

Money for Nothing, from the 1985 album Brothers in Arms, was an instant hit and since has become a classic rock standard -- and rightfully is considered a work of art. Should the Mona Lisa be forced to wear a khimar or burqa because she offends Muslims? In Canada it seems it could actually go that far. Just one complaint and that famous smile would disappear.

That an organization can alter the way we think – now that is offensive. With the exception of words used in perpetrating a hate crime, such censorship should never happen. And even in the case of a hate crime, it’s not the words that matter, it’s how the words are used and the intent of using them. The person using the words is censored.

The first irony is that western society has reached a point where rights are handed out with such fervor that they trample on the rights of others in the rush to equality.

Freedom of expression is one of the most cherished of rights, found only in the most forward thinking of democracies. The second irony is that such democracies eventually reach a point where rights are given to curb that freedom of expression. Such is the case with Money for Nothing.  You can’t have freedom of expression and censorship at the same time.

And we’re talking about art, not bigots in the street. Art that doesn’t evoke reaction or emotion is not art. Art makes people think. Almost every artistic accomplishment would have to be banned if one followed the CBSC line of thinking – much like Stalin did; much like Mao Zedong did. The latter two did not want citizens to have the luxury or freedom of thinking – just following and obeying.

You see where Canada is heading? It’s called a slippery slope to allow such censorship as the CBSC ruling. Now, it seems, history can be changed; the offensive things from which we have learned and grown can be whitewashed. Our children will have nothing for reference points in their struggle to learn right from wrong, ethical from immoral.

What word will they choose next week?

Organizations: Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Geographic location: Canada, Prince

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