We are non-commercial, all volunteer and supported by our readers. Please help sustain the Dew by making a donation.
rights vs. wrongs
Free speech: freedom for whom?
The thoughts so well expressed by Mike Cox in Freeing Free Speech once again set me thinking about my own attitudes to this thorny issue. It’s a difficult one for me; on the one hand I’m pretty much against censorship and all for free speech, on the other I despise those who sneer at ‘political correctness’ for no other reason than that it curtails their right to be offensive to people who are different from them.
I can see nothing offensive in nudity – male or female – and scoff at the double standards of news sites when subs (do they still have subs?) write screamers like [Insert name of celebrity] DARING TOPLESS PICS over photos that have black bars hiding the supposedly daring bits, but I am enraged by what amounts to the kiddy-porn that is the stock-in-trade of Toddlers and Tiaras. I support the right of people to make and buy pornographic films featuring supernaturally appendaged adults but would like to see life-sentences for those who exploit the powerless to produce it. And why in the name of Old Harry would any local or state government waste police time setting up sting operations to catch prostitutes and in the same breath resist efforts to regulate the industry? In my five years in the US I never ceased to be amazed and amused by the attitudes of the general public and the self-styled arbiters of public taste towards anything that may have been contrary to what appear to the outsider as ironclad laws of irrational national etiquette.
I’ll never forget Mike Williams on NBC warning people that a book under discussion “contained the word [Bleeeep] in the title” then showing the offending volume on camera to prove that the jacket did indeed bear the word “Hell”, but at least we hadn’t heard it from him and this dreadful breach of NBC’s standards – formulated I presumed to protect the delicate ears of a militant Christian minority – was the author’s. On PBS’s ‘Mystery Theatre’, female corpses on mortuary slabs in British detective shows had their nipples and pubic mounds blurred, but you could see their horrific wounds in HD. If that was still too offensive, why, just change the channel to watch ‘family entertainment’ featuring two-year-old girls in heavy make-up, feathers and pre-kindergarten versions of g-strings strutting and shimmying in ghastly parody of 1920s burlesque queens and presided over by a gay man who either has no conscience or is as thick as two short planks. And I’ll bet those same parents who push their baby girls on stage to strut and shake imaginary breasts no doubt gasp in horror when an artist exhibits pictures of her own naked children and want all paedophiles summarily castrated before they are executed.
One day in a supermarket, checking the price on a ‘leg’ of lamb caused me to undergo an involuntarily lapse into Australian dialect: “jesus-bloody-christ, forty bloody dollars!” (Australians pronounce that bloke’s name, and his dad’s, without capitals). A fat man in camo gear, face turning purple, turned on me and wagged a fist in my direction: “Y’all are goin’ to Hell sah. To suffah fire and damnation f’evah.” I replied that he might want to leave my vicinity in case “…the old feller’s aim with the lightning was a bit off,” then instantly regretted it as the devout gentlemen seemed about to suffer a stroke. Yet on teevee I could watch the preachers and politicians that many fat men and women who wear camo gear admire seemingly ejaculate in their designer underwear as they drooled over phrases such as ‘homoseksyooal child molesters’ and ‘godless A-rab Moozlms’.
And can you tell me why people in the US, well teevee ‘personalities’ anyway, use ‘ass’ and ‘butt’ and the even worse, ‘buns’ with gay [oops] abandon, yet rarely ‘boobs’ and never ‘tits’, and in a serious discussion about offensive language insist on alluding to the “N word”, usually with those stupid finger gestures that have replaced voice inflection? What’s worse is the opinion often expressed by people who should know better that it is all right if “they” use the “N word” to describe “themselves”. No it isn’t. No matter who utters it, nigger is horrible and is offensive – at least used in the way it is today – but if you want to dissuade people from such vile name calling, then coy euphemisms aren’t really going to help. And used like that, “they” is damn near as fraught with offensiveness as “N word”. Let’s call a spade a spade, but of course I won’t – or shouldn’t – in this context because I’m intelligent enough to know that there are people without my vocabulary or ability to read or interpret who might be offended by it and others who will think it funny and still others who would deliberately use that time-honored saw precisely because they know it will offend just about everybody, allowing them to shed crocodile tears over political correctness and its interference with their the right to free speech.
Sadly, Australia is once again following the Confused Right of US politics. Our new conservative government is led by Tony Abbott (yes, that’s his name), a Lycra-wearing, Catholic, ex-seminarian xenophobe who seems to have problems relating to women in anything other than a subservient role. It replaces one which, when led by a woman, was ranked fifth in the world by Forbes, apparently so deeply affecting the Mad Monk that he has appointed just one woman to his cabinet, as Foreign Minister, and she a simpering sycophant who has now been the token Exhibit A female in two conservative governments. Her name? Julie Bishop. It doesn’t get much better than that, now does it? The Abbott also recently appointed to his Priory of Fools a commissioner of human rights who has vowed to replace political correctness with the right to free speech, i.e. the right to belittle anyone not a member of the privileged, white, anglophile elite. His argument – and presumably his boss’s – is that public opprobrium will be a greater deterrent to racially offensive and inflammatory language than any legislation could be. Yeh? Pull the other leg, mate, it plays In the Sweet By and By.
Among the strongest ramparts against xenophobia, racism and countless other isms are a broad-based education, a broad mind and a well-worn passport. I was absolutely stunned by an audience’s collective gasp when as part of a public performance in Western Australia I told a Kentucky joke about ’coon hunters. Coon is a derogatory Australian word for an Aboriginal but the audience should have been sophisticated enough to have known that it has other meanings elsewhere. Not one of them would have thought twice about telling someone they had a caught a wog when referring to a cold, but would never in a million years use the same word to describe an immigrant from the Mediterranean. It seems that education is now so narrowly industry-focused that general knowledge is becoming a thing of the past, deemed unnecessary by the Lords of Finance and Industry. It is apparently deemed simpler to edit offensive words from Mark Twain novels than educate people about the era in which the books were written.
When we are told that a group of ignorant, bigoted, bible-thumping homophobes are allowed to obtain perverted sexual gratification by intruding on the grief of mourners and expressing joy at the death of their loved ones by exercising their rights to free speech, then perhaps the concept needs redefining. When the pursuit of happiness impinges on the rights of our fellow citizens to go about their lives in peace, then maybe we’re getting too much of a good thing.
- Image: Hear No Evil See No Evil Speak No Evil - licensed by LikeTheDew.com - © amfroey01 - Fotolia.com
This work by LikeTheDew.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.
Worthy of Comment
Also on the Dew
We’ve been down to two cats now, Sophie and Dolly, for over two years. The last two lads, Tucker and Sneezer, took their leave a couple of summers ago, one otherwise healthy gentleman on the operating table to have his teeth cleaned and the other a poor devil who had suffered far too long from a debilitating disease. Now we have two aging dowagers who think they’re still debutantes. They barely tolerate one another, however, and share a porch space during the day as though they’re on opposite sides negotiating a treaty with Iran. Feline peace is not easy to maint Read on →
Guns were the cause of three recent tragedies in the South, in Lafayette this week, Chattanooga last week, and recently in Charleston, S.C. You wonder where it will happen next. For it will. What we can’t understand is the continual gun violence all across the country, almost every day in big cities, while the American public nonchalantly goes about its routine activities with little effort to curb these unfortunate incidents. Does the American public not recognize what is causing all these problems? Pure and simple, it’s the prevalence of guns, plus our nation’s inability to curtail the power of the National Rifle Association. (We reali Read on →
Richard Rose, President of Atlanta's NAACP, advocates that we sandblast the bas-relief of Confederates Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, and Robert E. Lee from the face of Stone Mountain. Months before the havoc wreaked on September 11, 2001, many of us cringed as the Taliban government of Afghanistan destroyed multiple Buddhas. How can destroying icons of another group increase respect and appreciation for your own icons? In March 2001, the government sent envoy Rahmatullah Hashimi to Washington to contextualize the destruction: "The Islamic government made its decision in a rage after a foreign delegation offered money to preserve the ancient works while a Read on →
At the beginning of 1997 I bought a new car. It was modest in price and style, but automatic and practical for a woman living in London. It was easy to park, small enough to fit in the narrowest spaces and comfortable to drive: a navy blue Daihatsu Charade that would not attract thieves or envy. I got it at a bargain price because one of my sons worked for a dealership. It was zippy in traffic, when traffic allowed. British roads are narrower and more congested than American ones, this small island being packed with a population of 63 million. Read on →