http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/7149525.stmMy thought process on this subject started when this whole pointless Pogues debacle started with the BBC. Short story if you can't be bothered to read the article, BBC Radio One censored the Pogues "Fairytale", bleeping out the word "faggot" and "slut". The problem stems from the fact that the song had been played for years and years but has never been censored, so why now? Also, Radio Two was playing the song uncensored.
To me, the whole mess (now resolved, leaving an uncensored song), was totally pointless, but revealed an interesting truth about our society. In our enlightened search for "tolerance" for all the people in this world, in our desire to uphold the tenants of free speech, human rights and social acceptance for everybody, we are slowly stripping away said rights from a group that, while dwindling in size, still makes up a sizable proportion of people.
The problem with the "right" to free speech in this enlightened, 21st century society is that not everyone in the world will always agree on what can be deemed as "free speech". There are a large group of people in the world who are bigots. Nowadays the "pc brigade" (that is often made up of two groups; ultra vocal loudmouths from minorities, and middle class, married white people who feel they should be offended), that is so often mentioned and demonized by the media, espouse that everyone has the right to free speech or equal rights - particularly those who don't have them, such as poor Iraqis (so we invade and help destroy their country so they can have them).
Now, coming out of this push for free speech and equal rights for everyone, comes the logic that there are certain words you can no longer say; nigger being an oft cited example, faggot being another (for the most part it is words that are used to descirbe some kind of minority group that are the words that shall never be uttered). The popular line to toe nowadays is that "you have to be responsible with free speech" which, I suppose is okay, but kind of turns free speech into limited speech. Moreover, this does away with the rights of bigots.
I posted a transcript of a sketch George Carlin did a while ago that was based around the notions of language, which I would like to reassert here: "For instance, you take the word "nigger". There is absolutely nothing wrong with the word "nigger" in and of itself. It's the racist asshole that's using it that you ought to be concerned about. We don’t care when Richard Pryor or Eddie Murphy say it. Why? Because we know they're not racist. They're niggers! Context! Context! We don't mind their context because we know they're black. Hey, I know I'm whitey the blue eyed dough boy, honkey, patty ass motherfucker myself. It don't bother my ass. They're only words.You can't be afraid of words that speak the truth, even if it's an unpleasent truth about the fact that there's a bigot and a racist in every living room, on every street corner of this country."
I think that this is the crux of the problem with free speech and equal rights. The more vocal the outspoken sections of a minority become, the more they emphasise how we MUST accept gays or blacks or asians or handicapped and how important it is to celebrate all our diversity, the more people who don't buy into that idea dislike these minorities. I am all for the removal of bigotry in the world, but it is very important that we all recognise that bigotry and bigots do exist. We cannot cocoon ourselves from the problem and hope that it will disappear. Just as much as minority groups have a right to jump up and down scream about how everyone is equal and wonderful, bigots have a similar right to jump up and down and scream about how everyone is not equal and not wonderful.
Bigotry reminds us minorities that not everyone thinks it's great to be gay or black or disabled. It reminds us that not everyone likes "us". And you know what? That's fine. If we want to espouse the values of equal rights and free speech, then it has to be applicable to everyone, not just those who didn't used to have them.
So say nigger, say faggot, say whatever you want. I will never agree with you if that is a view you have, but you have a right to have it. Just as I have a right to disagree with you. Invariably the people that are most vocal about how such words must never be used are the ones causing people to hate the above mentioned groups; the ones that think that you can ram your own special culture down everyones throat, while preventing them from ever disagreeing with you because that would be racist or homophobic or sexist. That causes as much hatred for minority groups as anything else. Emphasizing the differances between staights and gays, blacks or whites, Muslims and Christians only serves to widen the gap between the two co-existing peacefully.
In building this culture of free speech, eqaul rights and total acceptance of everyone, the architects have created a world where we are becoming more and more distant from one another than ever before. The closer we move towards actually getting along with one another, the more the "pc brigade" demands that many of the unfashionable lot that don't share the same views give up their rights to free speech, so that we will not be bothered by their views or opinions. Our world will never be without bigotry, it's a simple fact, so we have to learn to understand it in order to combat it. Sweeping it under the rug so that everyone feels better about themselves is unrealistic. If you think that the word nigger should be banned, or that homophobes should all be done away with, then the only bigot around here is you.