Friday, January 14, 2011

Canadian Broadcast Standards Council Rules that "Money For Nothing" is Verboten for Its Use of the Word "Faggot", But the Parody Skit "Bob the Fag Man" is Still Okey Dokey

Jeebus, that is so gay.

The mostly toothless Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) has acceded to the identity politics complaint of an aggrieved Elgeebeetee activist. It has ruled that the playing of the Grammy Award winning 1985 hit song "Money for Nothing" by Dire Straits is no longer acceptable fare for Canadian radio.

In the song, lead singer Mark Knopfler assumes the persona of a working-class delivery man shuttling electronics and appliances from the display floor to the homes of conspicuous consumers. The power wall of T.V.s blares MTV programming to personnel and would-be customers alike milling about the showroom. In the second verse, Knopfler's working-class alter ego sneers ironically (and with just a soupcon of envy):

The little faggot with the earring and the make-up
Yeah, buddy, that’s his own hair
That little faggot’s got his own jet airplane
That little faggot, he’s a millionaire

In other words, there is a clear dramatic context to the usage, one that seems to have been lost on the CBSC and the wilfully offended complainant alike. Anyone who was around in the 80s would know exactly what Knopfler's working-class hero character was alluding to -- in a decade in which reports of Radio Star's death at the hands of Video were greatly exaggerated. Duran Duran, Culture Club, Men Without Hats, Wang Chung, and on and on it goes.  Here was a decade replete with glam rock and hair bands, all transient and trendy; and here was Dire Straits buttressing the defenses of (what must have seemed like) the roots-rock Alamo.

"Money for Nothing" contains three uses of the word "faggot".

For our edification, the CBSC reprinted the lyrics in full when posting their decision to their website. So hateful was this reference to the word "faggot", a word which (according to the Council) belongs to "the f-word family". I kid you not.

But they didn't stop there. The word subsequently appears twice more in short order -- once in the introduction to the complaint ...

The CBSC received a complaint about the broadcast via its webform on February 1, which expressed objections to the use of the word “faggot” in the song.

... and again in the reprinting of the complaint itself:

A song was aired, “Money For Nothing” by Dire Straits, and included the word “faggot” a total of three times. I am aware of other versions of the song, in which the word was replaced with another, and yet OZ FM chose to play and not censor this particular version that I am complaining about.

I find this extremely offensive as a member of the LGBT community and feel that there is absolutely no valid reason for such discriminatory marks to be played on-air.

***That's a total of five usages of 'the other f-word' before we're even really out of the gate.***

Of course it continues. After rationalizing the need for broadcasters to stay abreast of the permanently shifting goal posts of language usage in our topsy-turvy progresso-PC world, the Council's decision includes a discursive section entitled (I'm not kidding!) "The Use of the Word 'Faggot'".

Here's a taste:

The Use of the Word “Faggot”

As to the word under consideration in the matter at hand, namely, “faggot”, the Panel notes that no other CBSC Panel has been called upon to render an opinion, although there are two earlier decisions dealing with the English word “fag”. In the first of these, CILQ-FM re Parody Skit (CBSC Decision 95/96-0218, May 8, 1997), the Ontario Regional Panel dealt with a skit entitled “Bob the Fag Man”. The Panel found no breach [...]

In the second, namely, Comedy Network re Comedy Now (“Gord Disley”) (CBSC Decision 05/06-0290, January 20, 2006), the National Specialty Services Panel dealt with a complaint about the use of the word “fag” in a stand-up comedy routine. The comedian began his joke by saying “I’m not a fag myself” and “homophobia in the year 2000 looks particularly stupid.” He then went on to compare the interior decorating abilities of heterosexual and homosexual men, saying “Fags renovate like a [muted phrase: ‘son of a bitch’]” and suggesting that straight men are not adept at decorating projects. A viewer complained that the word “fag” was an insulting and hateful epithet, and questioned why the station muted coarse language but not that offensive term. [...]

The Panel notes that those two precedents dealt with the shorter form of the word challenged in the present complaint, namely, “fag” rather than “faggot”. While the Panel cannot substitute its view of those two decisions for the views of those Panels (in 1997 and 2006), it is aware of the fact that the shorter word has a couple of commonly-known harmless usages in English (although primarily the version spoken in the United Kingdom). The first is the term for a junior who performs duties for a senior in the English public schools tradition. The second is the term for a cheap cigarette or, even more generally, any cigarette. But a 'faggot'? Well that's a whole other story.

Got that? Sometimes a fag is just a fag. So says the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council. But a 'faggot'? Well, that's a whole other story.

In this section of the report, the CBSC almost seems to be doing its best bureaucratic parody of "Yes, Minister". In addition to the five previous uses of the word "faggot" to establish the context of the complaint, this report adds eight more, for a total of thirteen instances of a word that Knopfler used only three times and the aggrieved weeping willow used only once. Meanwhile, in a strange departure into the valley of the shadow of tortured sophistry, the CBSC report contorts and contrives a silly defense of the word "fag", and illustrates their point by using the word fully twenty times in this section of the report. Yikes.

Talk about money for nothing. That's the way you do it.

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