Let’s not try to rewrite what’s already been written

Last week the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council inflamed music lovers across Canada with its decision that the song Money for Nothing by British rock band Dire Straits (from their 1985 album Brothers in Arms) contravened the Human Rights Clauses of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics and Equitable Portrayal Code.

Apparently, a year ago, one listener heard the original version of the mega hit song on St. John’s, Newfoundland’s radio CHOZ-FM. That unedited version contains three mentions of the word ‘faggot’ and the listener complained that it was discriminatory toward gay people. Based on that one person’s complaint, the CBSC deemed the song unacceptable for broadcast and that the radio station was in violation of the codes of ethics.

Who are these socially correct commandoes?

Whether or not you like Dire Straits or the song in question, the points of reference here are a) does the complaint of only one person justify the ban of a song for 34 million Canadians and b) why, when this huge 1985 hit has been played countless thousands of times on public airwaves in the past 26 years, is it an issue now?

Money for Nothing was Billboard’s No. 1 single from September 21 to October 5, 1985 and won the 1986 Grammy for Record of the Year and the 1986 American Music Award for Record of the Year.

The irony of this whole thing, so the story goes, is that when songwriter Mark Knopfler wrote the offensive word into the song he did so to make a point against the people who used the word seriously. In fact, the whole song is loaded with the irony of rock singers earning big money for doing next to nothing while the average Joe drudges through a 9-5 day job. It was never written as an anti-gay song. It’s the opposite, mocking those who use a gay slur.

OK, so they can edit the word out. But why? There is fundamental danger in editing text, whether lyrics or literature, to fit the comfort zone of today’s sensitivities. The act of editing sanitizes history. It discards the proof of the context in which it was written.

It’s no different from the decision by NewSouth Books in Alabama to publish its upcoming edition of Mark Twain’s classic ‘Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’, by replacing the word ‘nigger’ with ‘slave’.

The whole point of keeping these words in the language as written is that they honestly depict the values and beliefs of the past. A 21st century take on the story removes it from being true to the period. Huck Fin, in its original form,  is No. 14 in the top 50 banned books of the decade, according to the American Library Association. How shortsighted is that? Twain’s book eerily parallels Knopfler’s lyrics in that they are both misunderstood in the context of the prejudiced attitudes they are criticising.

The word ‘faggot’, derived from Old French and Latin, actually means ‘bundle of sticks’ and has been used since the 16th century. In the 19th century faggot-gatherers, usually elderly widows, gathered firewood for a meagre income. At some time, the word degenerated into a general insult and crossed a line when its historical gender link became a slur against gays.

Since the CBSC ban, rock stations across the country have been flaunting Money for Nothing. A Halifax station had a mini-marathon, playing the unedited version on repeat for an hour.

It’s wrong that just one person can create all this brouhaha over a hugely successful rock classic. There are many contemporary songs with equally inflammatory words. Are they slated for the ban list on the grunt of just one listener?

Scary thought.

Just Posted

Details of Chilliwack councillor’s expenses being sent to the RCMP

Decision to have expenses audited and shared with police taken at special meeting on Wednesday

Update: Search called off for missing plane between Edmonton and Chilliwack

Search efforts were concentrated along the Highway 5 corridor between Valemount and Kamloops

Around the BCHL – Trail Smoke Eater grad to captain NCAA Michigan Tech Huskies

Around the BCHL is a regular look at the BCHL and goings-on throughout the junior A world.

Chilliwack firefighter seeking to reunite Rosedale VFD’s old auxiliary fire pump with antique engine

It’s been four decades, but Pat Liebault is hoping to reunite Rosedale’s auxiliary pump and engine

Fashion Fridays: Rock some animal print

Kim XO, lets you in on the latest fall fashion trends on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Feds launching review of oil tanker traffic in bid to renew pipeline approval

The feds have ordered the National Energy Board to bring recommendations on whether pipeline expansion should proceed

Horvat leads Canucks to 4-3 shootout victory over Kings

Vancouver dumps L.A. in NHL pre-season contest

VIDEO: Woman files complaint over treatment of cat with two broken legs

Ariel Johnston of Abbotsford says her pet was sent home without pain medication

Why Whistler for ski jumping in 2026? Calgary proposal gets pushback

Calgary 2026 proposes re-using the 2010 ski jumping venue Whistler for that sport and nordic

VIDEO: Hundreds line highway as family brings home body of B.C. teen

Northern B.C. showed their support by lining Hwy 16 as Jessica Patrick’s body returned to Smithers.

Despite progress, threat of 232 tariffs dominates NAFTA negotiations

Any deal is seen to require congressional approval before Dec. 1 to survive new Mexican government

B.C. MP Todd Doherty receives award for saving man who collapsed on a plane

Conservative MP was flying from Vancouver to Prince George, B.C., in June last year

Alleged border jumper from Oregon facing 2 charges after police chase in B.C.

Colin Patrick Wilson charged with dangerous operation of motor vehicle, flight from a peace officer

Most Read