Political Correctness Gone Wild

Apparently, the Dire Straits song "Money for Nothing" has been banned from the Canadian airwaves:

The Dire Straits song "Money for Nothing" was ruled by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council to be "extremely offensive" and thus inappropriate for airing on radio or television because it uses an anti-gay slur.

The decision against St. John's radio station CHOZ-FM in Newfoundland was released Wednesday. In it, the panel ruled that the word "faggot" "contravened the Human Rights Clauses" and its ethics code and is "no longer" permitted "even if entirely or marginally acceptable in earlier days."

This is stupid on its face, and even stupider if the song in question is understood.  If you have never heard the song before, it may seem an odd juxtaposition at first -- why does it alternate between jabs at rock stars on MTV and talk about moving appliances?  Because the song is exactly what it sounds like -- Mark Knopfler overheard some workers in an appliance store watching MTV and heckling the performers they saw for being rich and spoiled and overpaid and not working very hard.

The song is interesting not just because it has a great opening that is fun to play at maximum volume, but because Knopfler is one of those guys on MTV the workers are heckling.  Does he secretly agree with them, is he hurt by them, does he find them funny?   Anyway, the word "faggot" in the piece is essentially aimed at the performers themselves -- they are describing a critique they have received, repeated in all its salty blue-collar flavor.  As such the words feel utterly authentic, perhaps because they are -- Knopfler reportedly grabbed a piece of scratch paper right at the store and started jotting down notes.

I cannot imagine a less offensive use of the word.  There is absolutely no way to read the lyrics of the song and come to the conclusion the word was aimed at gays, or really at anyone else but the author and performer.   I presume by this standard  that Canada expects to ban the entire body of hip hop music?

I could have easily titled this post "the Left and Right converge," because in it I see the Left acting exactly like the religious Right I grew up around in the South that would try to ban any number of books and songs, often out of an incredibly poor understanding of what the story or song was really about.

By the way, the statists among you will be happy to know that this ban only applies to private companies -- the state is still allowed to play the song because, you know, government motives are pure and thereby sanitize any harm that might come from playing this song

Ron Cohen, the CBSC's national chairman, told The Washington Times on Thursday that the decision effectively sets a "nationwide" precedent binding on all private license holders for TV, cable-TV and radio broadcasting. It does not cover the state-run Canadian Broadcasting Corp. or "community and university" stations.

I have seen Knopfler live many times live.  To be fair, Knopfler himself seems to have some sympathy for this position, as I have seen him change the offending word to others in more recent live performances.  I don't know if this is an achnowlegement the word should be changed or he is knuckling under to pressure.    Here is the original video on YouTube.  Here is a live version where faggot is replaced.  Extra bonus cameo - Clapton in a pink suit.
Postscript: It is a fairly commonly-known bit of trivia that the first song played on MTV was "Video Killed the Radio Star."  But this was new to me:

When MTV Europe began airing in 1987, "Money for Nothing," which begins with Sting's opening falsetto whisper "I want my MTV," was the first video played.


  1. Mesa Econoguy:

    This actually happened back in the 80s when the song first came out. Now it's codified.

    In top 40s mixes, the word "faggot" was replaced with "queenie" and Mark Knopfler actually sang it that was at live performances, including Live Aid.

    Indeed this was a collaborative effort on both right and left with the PMRC, headed by none other than Tipper "is it getting hot in here?" Gore.

  2. Kevin R:

    I've only seen Knopfler live once (one of my favorite concerts, actually), but I was impressed that he _didn't_ play Money for Nothing... he apparently felt no pressure to play his biggest hit. Which I was perfectly OK with.

  3. Hasdrubal:

    What really strikes me is this line:

    "In it, the panel ruled that the word “faggot” “contravened the Human Rights Clauses”..."

    Seriously, how can a pejorative violate anyone's human rights? It's a word not an action and isn't not even directed at anyone specifically. It wouldn't really have been newsworthy if they just banned the word because they found it offensive. But the fact that political correctness has apparently become a human right is what worries me.

  4. commieBob:

    My favorite along the same lines:

    The then Toronto mayor, June Rowlands, banned the Barenaked Ladies from an event at City Hall because she found their name offensive.


  5. Dan:

    Re MTV firsts - at least you're not continuing the urban legend that has infected many trivia lists, that Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" was the first song by a black artist to appear on the network.

    In actuality it was the first video by a solo black performer to be given the "World Premiere Video" treatment and go into heavy rotation. "Billie Jean" was not even the first Michael Jackson video to appear; that honor goes to "Rock With You".

    The records from MTV's early days seem to have been lost to a fire, but the leading contenders to the title are Music for Youth's incomprehensible pop-ska "Pass the Dutchie", or songe by the Pointer Sisters and Donna Summers.

  6. Kyle Bennett:

    If my trivia memory is correct, the album that was on (which I can't remember the name of) was the first to sell more on CD than on vinyl. It was the song/album that marked the turning point from analog to digital.

  7. Kevin R:

    Kyle: _Brothers in Arms_ was the album. I've heard that bit of trivia too. It was also the bestselling album of the 80s in Britain.

  8. DrTorch:

    I wish they'd have banned "Walk of Life." Horrible and annoying song.

  9. Dan:

    First of all, this is ridiculous. Why are they waiting until now, when the song is 25 years old, is the first question that comes to mind. Had they not heard it until now?

    And of course, I'm strongly opposed to banning a song because of its content. I'm a big Beatles fan, and a number of their songs were banned back in the 60s because of drug references, or supposed drug references (Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds was said to be a reference to LSD, which it wasn't). In addition, after John Lennon said in an interview that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus, the government of South Africa (yes, the apartheid white government that was keeping blacks in basically a state of slavery) banned radio stations from playing Beatle records. There's standing up for morals!

    A bit of background on influence for the Dire Straits song: Knopfler was in a hardware store one day and the TV was tuned to MTV. A corny music video was on, and Knopfler noticed an older guy who worked at the store watching the TV and muttering under his breath stuff like, "That ain't working," and "The little faggot."

    So Knopfler didn't actually make up the lyrics, he took them from real life. Which makes me like the song even more.

  10. Hal:

    There is an annual contest at Duke University for the most appropriate definition of a contemporary term.
    This year's term was: "Political Correctness."

    The winner wrote:

    Political Correctness is a doctrine, fostered by a delusional, illogical minority, and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a piece of shit by the clean end.

  11. Not Sure:

    "First of all, this is ridiculous. Why are they waiting until now, when the song is 25 years old, is the first question that comes to mind. Had they not heard it until now?"

    Just wait until they get around to *really* listening to "Maxwell's Silver Hammer".

  12. Shylock Holmes:

    I presume they're also going to ban the 18 minute version of Arlo Guthrie's song 'Alice's Restaurant', which also uses the word. Although whether that song has actually been played on the radio in the past 30 years is questionable.

  13. Dan:

    There's a station here in Chicago that plays "Alice's Restaurant" every Thanksgiving (appropriate since the song is about a Thanksgiving dinner at Alice's restaurant).

    "I can't tell a lie, officer. I put that envelope with my name on it under that pile of garbage."

  14. Fred Z:

    I am pleased to write that a radio station in Edmonton, Alberta, the most civilized Canadian Province, spent Friday flouting this Stalinist nonsense by deliberately and repeatedly broadcasting the music.

    The only faggots with ear-rings here are the bureaucrats who did this.


  15. Rockstone:

    You know what is extra rich? If you try to view it on Youtube from a Canadian IP it is blocked. Given that Youtube is not a Canadian radio station, this is patently stupid. I wonder if they did this on their own or if they were "asked" to.

  16. tehag:

    " I see the Left acting exactly like the religious Right I grew up around in the South"

    I see the Left acting like the left I grew up with in the Far West, and which I read about in books. They've been this way since the early 20th century, at least; or French Revolution, if you count Robespierre and the Jacobins.

    "often out of an incredibly poor understanding of what the story or song was really about"

    Even if the bureaucrat's reading were correct, the song still shouldn't be banned. The Papacy gave up its Index Librorum Prohibitorum. Isn't it about time the Stalinists imitated the Catholics?

    The desire to silence all that is different is a universal human desire, born of tribalism. Some ideologies and all Leftist ones offer no hope to dissenters ("enemies of the state," "capitalist roaders," "ox ghosts and snake spirits," "kulaks," etc.), while a few humanist ones allow for "error" or tolerance.

  17. Not Sure:

    Apparently, tolerance is only a good thing when you agree with the things being tolerated.

  18. Sam L.:


    First of all, this is ridiculous. Why are they waiting until now, when the song is 25 years old, is the first question that comes to mind. Had they not heard it until now?"

    We had a saying in the performance evaluation business: There are no new problems; there are new people who haven't seen them.

    And how about Randy Newman's "Small People"? Lotta consternation amongst the "right folks" about that one (they shoulda read, or really listened to, the lyrics).

    Hal: Duke U????? Home of the "88" who condemned, and still do, the Duke Lacrosse Team?

  19. 12_string_Frank:

    The song by King Crimson called "The Great Deceiver" begins with the three words -- Health food faggot .... So, should that song be banned from airwaves as well ??