Money for Nothing Revisited

It seems that the wheels that make the government go round and round here in Canada are getting a good oiling from outraged citizens after the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council decision to effectively ban Money for Nothing.

Dire Straits - Brothers in Arms album artwork

The precedent setting ruling stated that due to one complainant, a gay and lesbian rights supporter in Newfoundland, the award-winning 1985 classic rock hit be pulled from the airwaves in its unedited form.

The Panel finds that it has fallen into the category of unacceptable designations on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or physical or mental disability.  In addition to the terms already so categorized by previous CBSC Panels, there are undoubtedly other racial epithets (not yet the subject of CBSC Panel decisions) that would likely fall into the category of words that are inherently problematic.

The word in question, faggot, apparently falls into this category of banned words and phrases in casting the subject of the song, a working man, who rants against the excess of MTV in an unfavourable light.

Now I am not going to get into a full-blown discussion of the song in this posting, for my original thoughts on the subject please refer to my earlier diatribe.  However the thought that this quasi-independent governmental body can continue to gut the artistic soul from artists work on independent privately owned Canadian radio stations does not sit well with me or apparently with a great deal of other Canadians.

If you read carefully the last part of the councils ruling it is enough to make a chill run up your spine.  The fact that this ruling opens the door wide to other complaints to be fast tracked and banned from a free, profit driven marketplace, relieves the general public from choice.

In addition to the terms already so categorized by previous CBSC Panels, there are undoubtedly other racial epithets (not yet the subject of CBSC Panel decisions) that would likely fall into the category of words that are inherently problematic.

That one statement has cast a hornets nest into broadcasters boardrooms across Canada.  Uncertainty is now the norm, forcing stations to self edit to a degree unseen in Canadian history.  This level of uncertainty, coupled with the public outcry has forced the Canadian Radio-Television Commission to request a review of the normally final and untouchable CBSC decision.

In part the letter from the CRTC to the CBSC states that due to the confusion based on the ruling, the length of time the recording has been on the airwaves and the context in which the word faggot is being used.

This request as far as I can determine, is unprecedented.  It seems that a perfect storm of controversy and rational debate can indeed force a change in governmental committee attitudes.

We must continue as free people to raise our voices and demand to be heard.  We must not allow a governing body to take away our very freedom of thought.  Even now in the United States debate rages on over the reprinting of the Mark Twain classic period novels The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Huck and Jim

The New South edition of the book replaces the words nigger and injun with slave and Native American.  The original works repeatedly used the now slanderous language as fact to describe life along the Mississippi river in 1840’s  pre-civil war America.  To simply remove these words from the books does not change the facts that people spoke that way and owned other human beings as property.

In my humble opinion when we arbitrarily begin to change literature or history we do a disservice to those who follow us.  We remove the ability for them to learn from the mistakes of the past.  In sanitizing our culture we remove the responsibility for open debate.  In relying on governmental agencies to protect our ears we weaken our reliance on independent thought and decision-making.

Each one of us was granted a brain and the ability to think as we see fit.  I say we should begin to use it.

Now for your viewing enjoyment, from the music from the Music for Montserrat Benefit Concert.  A very rare version of Money for Nothing.

4 responses to “Money for Nothing Revisited

  1. Hear ye, hear ye!!! Fully agree with you Bob! If we revise history how will anyone learn?

  2. The incredible naivete of whitewashing (if you will) both the Dire Straits and Mark Twain is beyond me. Both instances are clearly completely ignorant of THE POINT of both the song and the book. Not only are they describing the way things were – but they are using those terms for a reasons, and it’s not racist or homophobic. It’s quite the opposite in my opinion. The fact that that is lost on these people is ridiculous. Pay attention!

    That, of course, is outside your larger point, Bob. The fact that you can’t cross the line to regulate art. Or free speech. Instead, you hope that people use their minds wisely.

    • Thanks for agreeing with me Nikki. I think?

      The point that I was trying to make in my befuddled way is that whitewashing as you put it, is not a competent way of dealing with issues of the past that may clash with our modern sensibilities.

      In a free and open society we are constantly exposed to ideas and concepts that may not completely mesh with our own world view. All I am suggesting is that we not rush off and complain to boards or committees to have the offense stricken from the record. Instead we should use our common sense and if need be raise public debate on the issue.

      There is a growing tide against bullying in school, people of differing orientations than the norm have long suffered at the hands of those who do not understand. We have long sought to “Ban” this behavior and it has become pointless. This new drive however I think is raising public awareness and may succeed where the other failed.

      Sweeping public change in attitude is where it’s at, not senseless revisionism that only seeks to erase the mistakes or wrongs of the past.
      Only in learning from history do we stand a chance of not repeating those errors in vain.