Mark Frauenfelder at 9:08 am Tue, Apr 21, 2009
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A TV reporter forgets he is live, not taped, and utters Deadwood's trademark expletive. The look on his face when he realizes what he has done, and the repercussions that will follow, is haunting.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His latest book is Made by Hand: My Adventures in the World of DIY
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oy vey, when someone is offended it is time for all true gentleman and ladies to moderate their speech until said offence is redressed. The issue is not your choice of words, rather it is the feelings of others. What matter your verbal convenience if you are a true knight?
@Moderator: Who are the most privileged groups in society?
With all respect, I think it is relevant to the conversation at hand. I’m not debating the moderators decision to moderate. It is they’re position to moderate as they see fit.
Instead, I take offense at the position set forth from Takuan and others that if someone takes offense, an immediate backtrack and apology should be forthcoming from the offender. To me this is silly.
Anyone can be offended by anything, depending on well, what they’re offended by.
As Diesel12 states:
What’s my point? Anybody can find offense in any word and if we allow others to impose their sensitivities (right or wrong) on us than we all lose our voice.
There ya go. You can state it’s wrong to state here due to moderation preferences by our forum rulers, and that’s great. It works for you and the forum. Not my right to tell you what rules to moderate by.
However, suggesting that it is somehow hate speech is being disingenuous, and stating that using the word in an academic sense is still using it as hate speech is just beyond reprehensible toward free speech.
Just because you take offense at something doesn’t make it a bad thing to say. Nor does it make it hate speech toward the person it’s directed at, if at anyone.
@Defenestrati, sure, fine, but only when you demonstrate that Matriphiles, the dirty, and Christians, as distinct groups, have had their rights abridged, their status threatened, etc., by such language. Obviously, one isn’t targeting those “groups” (the first two of which don’t exist, as far as I know, as distinct political-cultural groups; the last of which is too big to care) when using that language: one’s just using colorful language that’s quite removed from its literal meaning. Whereas cocksucker can be rationally construed as homophobic. Again, QED.
Perhaps more importantly, unclean motherfuckers won’t sue newscasters who say “motherfucking shit goddamn.” Whereas gay-rights groups might just legally and morally do so, as a way of fighting back against abusive language that could be construed as targeting their group. At the very least, most simple, this is about damage control and limiting liability: it’s not about the newscaster’s soul, free speech, or the issues you’d like it to be about.
It’s not for me, the law, the news company, etc., to determine what the speaker meant when he said cocksucker: his speech act, and its possible, rational interpretation as being homophobic (or sexist), is enough for a rightful termination. That’s all I’m saying…. that, and he should have been more careful with his words. Again, if he’d said the n-word, and was a really, really nice guy, who only used the n-word as a private angry word, NEVER in the context of racist speech, would it make any difference? Of course not: he’d be fired, we’d be saddened, and we’d all move onto more important things…. Like torture prosecutions!
whoever is not being killed at the immediate moment.
Thanks Takuan but you’ve jumped back into a conversation where your response adds nothing to the discourse.
To Nut, no offense taken, so your record still continues. Was only attempting to illustrate a point.
Xopher, Browncoat indeed.
I think we can all agree hate-speech is to be avoided. No reasonable person one should seek out offending someone else. But if it must be discussed, we’re better off discussing it like adults.
As reported on Barry Melrose Rocks – see also:
BMR > Boingboing ??
Sometimes a word has become so tainted with its use as hatespeech that it can’t be used, even by a person with no intention of beating anyone senseless, without evoking those feelings in the group that was subjected to the hate. Once it’s been made clear that that’s the case, polite people will avoid the word whenever possible.
As explained in the policy linked earlier, only three words are forbidden utterly at BB, and there are exceptions even to that. The word under discussion here is not one of them (though its common usage makes it related to one). But what is required in these forums at all times is reasonable courtesy.
I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask people not to use that word.
Did you know that the word ‘Oriental’ is offensive to some people of Asian extraction? Neither did I, until someone took offense to it and explained why. Now I avoid it (unless I’m talking about scales (Oriental scales are not East Asian) or explaining where the verb ‘orient’ comes from). Live and learn.
I keep rewinding the video, but the haunting look of horror is still just as elusive.
Cadfael, discussing it would also go better if you would cease implying that people who are offended by certain words are not adults, or are not acting like adults. I think I’ve been quite adult in this conversation AND I’m offended when someone uses ‘cocksucker’ as a gratuitous insult.
The relative degrees of outrage in American society reserved to torture, cluster bombs, anti-personnel mines, shaking hands with “the enemy”, wardrobe malfunctions and use of “bad words” on television is illuminating.
I think it’s sad that this man may lose his livelihood, and perhaps even be blackballed from the profession (with the fear of massive FCC fines broadcasters are so leery) for saying something that can be heard in every locker room, at any sporting event or even simply off-camera on a sound stage.
It’s not a bad word. It’s just a word. Out of context, silly and Germanic-sounding.
It’s funny to me that the issue of moderation crops up every so often. It seems to me that the clearly stated moderation policy on BoingBoing is pretty tolerant. Never mind complaining about having your language branded hate-speech and zooming off on a spurious rant about the moderators stifling freedom of speech, it seems to me that the few things that the moderators do have absolute embargos on are better left out of the equation. To allow them, would IHMO, tend to reduce the level of debate somewhat. Sometimes it IS necessary to tell somebody to pipe down if they are just being gratuitous.
For some reason, makes me think of Bender in Futurama *mangles line* “screw your blog, I’m going to start my own blog with hookers and drugs. In fact, forget the blog.”
@23: The standard of judgment should be what a reasonable person would interpret the word or phrase to mean– not what the worst possible (reasonable or unreasonable) interpretation would mean. It is unreasonable to ignore context.
We can’t reasonably be expected to circumscribe our behavior to avoid offending people who invent offenses.
There is no homosexual in that picture as far as we know, and neither is there a heterosexual woman.
I dislike the use of the word “gay” to mean “bad” because I think the “bad” connotation can and does tend to carry over to other uses of “gay”– but I don’t ignore the context in which such language is used I wouldn’t argue that it should be banned. We’re big boys and girls: we can handle it, and we can prepare our children to handle it and speech similar to it.
f h’d sd th wrd “nggr” (why s th ‘n-wrd’ crcmlctn? Dscssng wrd != sng wrd), rsnbl prsn stll wldn’t cncld tht h’s nsltng ppl f crtn frcn dscnt. One could easily argue that its use is inappropriate– just as they could argue against the use of “motherfucker” in that situation– without resorting to pretending that words always have the same meanings regardless of context.
Please just stop pretending and say what you really mean, which I imagine might be something like, “I find the word ‘motherfucker’ viscerally offensive and I’d rather not hear it.”
“and we’d all move onto more important things…. Like torture prosecutions!”
@24: What if I were to tell you that I’m a cocksucker? Would that indicate that I’m autophobic? Context.
“Go fuck yourselves, San Diego!”
I have complained about *ageist* remarks a couple of times on this site. Despite using the “C” word anecdotally I apologize for giving offense to any or all.
Forgive that. It was not intended the way you took it, ironically enough.
The current discourse, has been quite adult.
What I meant by 80 is that if we’re going to discuss a word academically, it is more adult or reasonable or realistic, to use the actual word instead of saying c-word (as it can easily be confused by others), n-word, etc. And in doing so, have it considered to be a discussion instead of it turning to hate-speech against a certain group of people, be they minority or majority.
And before you state the obvious again Takuan, this should supersede a forum/ moderator/ rules position.
“I’m offended when someone uses ‘cocksucker’ as a gratuitous insult.”
so how do you feel about it as an abstract expletive devoid of any real meaning beyond, “!!!”?
When I saw this originally (reported at Torontoist.ca), they said the broadcast was live, but the gaffe was in a pre-taped bit. The fault, therefore, would have been with the tech who cued the tape. I didn’t see the original broadcast, so I have no way to judge for myself.
Cadfael: have you read the Moderation Policy? You have made yourself my business.
By this I don’t mean the rules should be thrown out the window, I mean I understand where we’re discussing this, and the rules listed so let’s move on from that and discuss the points.
Brainspore, I don’t know if you intended it, but I hear that to a tune:
“Go fuck yourselves, San Diego!
The truth is, I never loved you…”
IIRC, the story is that it *wasn’t* live, and the editor used the wrong tape.
and with that I think this has gone meta enough to be moved to the moderation thread.
Haunting? I found the change barely perceptible.
the n-word as a colloquial term is in use by many, many non racist white people. ‘n- please’ or ‘n- what?!’ In fact, even amongst ourselves we tend to never use that term when referring to an african american.
as for the literal use, I’ve met my share of n’s – and none of them were black. the way i define that word is: someone who is so incredibly willfully ignorant, self serving, greedy, and incompetent that their folly is apparent 100% of the time, as they seem to go to great efforts to express self-pride for their way of life.
i often refer to unsatisfactory things as being g** and me and my buddies sometimes call each other f**s. and yet none of us is weirded out in the least that my buddies sister is now his brother. sure i can’t help but stare at a male couple say, holding hands, but it has nothing to do with the specifics, it’s something rarely seen and thus interesting to observe.
what im getting at is there’s a time and a place to drop social conventions and just say whatever the fuck you want, and the rest of the time, no matter how unfair it is that you aren’t intending to use those words in a hateful manner, people are going to take it that way, that’s life, deal with it. you have the right to say those words, just as you have the right to flip off every motorist on the freeway – but neither are particularly good ideas.
Rule #1 of broadcasting: never Never NEVER swear near a microphone.
“why can’t you make it a word that lacks racial connotations? ”
im open to suggestions… i generally see fit to employ that word about once a year, and only in private company, of course.
Indeed. Lets suddenly not continue what has been a pretty civil and adult discourse and put this to bed. Thanks Xopher and Nut for giving me something to think about and consider.
I can’t believe there’s another long winded debate about [a] curse word[s] going on here at BoingBoing. It’s the readers who suffer most from these threads. God, how boring does it get?
Just to weigh in, I pretty much use Republican interchangeably with the word in question. Now I’m going somewhere else.
Half-remembered joke punchline from the not-so-long-ago gay bar-busting days: “Just the fine, Your Honor, I’m the real McCoy.” It had a bunch of eupemisms like, sock-tucker, coke-sacker, and cork-soaker…
Anybody remember this one?
Well, he didn’t get fired and it doesn’t look like it’s really his fault:
I couldn’t care less about the language the newscaster uses. As a bisexual man, I find the word cocksucker rather funny, although I’ve had it used against me, a few times in frightening situations when violence loomed. But that’s me. Many in my and other communities don’t feel the same.
That’s completely daft. Circumscribing our behavior to avoid offending others is a cornerstone of polite, civilized life. There’s an especial premium on this behavior when one’s unfettered speech might cause one legal or professional difficulties. I call this prudence and moderation. As for “inventing offenses,” tell that to a member of a group that’s had hateful speech used against it. Go on, try it: tell gays that they’re just getting all hissy when they hear words like cocksucker and faggot. I’d love to see how that works out for you! A disgusting, silly ad hominem: blame the victim!
I use the “n-word circumlocution” largely because of the word’s, for many, irreducible hatefulness. I don’t need the ironies of this pointed out to me, having gamed them out long before, thanks. I’m also leery of this site’s sometimes crusading, rather intrusive moderation policies. So n-word rather than the other, for me, thanks. You type whatever your little heart desires. The point wouldn’t be that he’s insulting Africans or African-Americans using such a word: the point would be that he might be reasonably construed as doing so, or that he’s using a word that’s so inflammatory to said groups that it wouldn’t be legitimate public discourse from an employer’s point of view.
Words obviously don’t have the same meanings regardless of context: that’s my entire point. Words can be rationally construed to mean different things: hence, the newscaster’s possible jeopardy.
I dunno, your last comment might just mean that you’re auto-philic, rather than autophobic, depending, of course, on your relative degree of spinal limberness, your access to sex partners other than yourself, etc. (I once had a friend with bad childhood scoliosis who could pleasure himself thusly: fascinating to watch!) I guess it depends on whose cock, no? Again, it’s not your meaning that’s of interest in my argument: it’s the possible interpretations that could be put onto your words. If there’s a reasonable number of people that find your word offensive, then it’s going to get you into trouble, simple.
I’m done with you.
Sometimes a word has become so tainted with its use as hatespeech that it can’t be used, even by a person with no intention of beating anyone senseless, without evoking those feelings in the group that was subjected to the hate.
Bull. Who decides this status?
Many people can be offended by many things. Doesn’t make it a globally offensive word or hate speech. Just means the person taking offense needs to explain their position and if offended, remove themselves from the conversation.
We will have to agree to disagree. I’m okay with that.
Many years ago H.L. Mencken defined “son of a bitch” as “A term of endearment used among friends.” He wrote that about the same time Stanley Ketchel, the world’s middleweight boxing champion, was shot dead by a stranger he had called that “term of endearment.” Context truly is everything.
I’ve been called a cocksucker many times by certain friends over the yearsâ€”usually the rowdier sortâ€”and much more than that, be assured, but I saw no reason to take offense at this misidentification of my sexual proclivities.
At a lesser magnitude, anyone who would take offense at a directionless expletive is either as sensitive as a child or silly as a goose. Or looking for a publicity-seeking lawsuit.
“The look on his face when he realizes what he has done, and the repercussions that will follow, is haunting.”
Except it isn’t, because he doesn’t. There was nothing to realize, he was just waiting for a new take.
The C word, Buddy66? You mean ‘codger’?
But you’re apologizing; I shouldn’t ding you. As a man who sucks cock (I’m very good at it and I really like doing it, I’ll have you know) who is fast approaching codgerhood, I do find ‘cocksucker’ offensive as a generic swear word or insult.
If I’m actually sucking someone’s cock, he gets to use the word, especially right after saying “you’re a really goodâ€”” Other than that it’s a fairly offensive term.
Hehe, Sue Simmons’ slip up was in a way more spectacular :)
Cadfael, I’m not so offended by the word that I can’t cite it in single quotes as part of the discussion.
However, Antinous is, perhaps because he HAS been beaten badly enough to require facial reconstruction, or something similar, by people using it as an epithet. He’s also a moderator here, and therefore we’re operating by his rules. I don’t think he’s being childish by refusing to allow it to appear here, but more importantly it’s his choice whether it’s allowed or not. I can’t make rules for this conversation. Antinous can. Follow them, or you’ll wear out your welcome here.
Nutbastard, certainly not to the same degree, but I never heard it used that way before watching that video. I thought he was cursing his cameraman, actually. I’m not sure how I’ll react if I hear it and know it’s being used as an undirected expletive. I expect it will annoy me the way ‘gay’ does (when used to mean lame and stupid).
@XOPHER I believe he was quoting Ron Burgandy, from Anchorman
A few years ago, Henry Schulman (sp) a baseball writer for the SF Chronicle was writing about a pitcher who got hit by a batted ball or got some injury and didn’t want to come out of the game because, as Henry conjectured, he didn’t want to be a “sissy.” The gay community in SF went batshit about “sissy.” Two days later, the sportswriter had to write an apology in the sports page. Now “sissy” had always meant to me a coward. It comes from sister and can mean an effeminate man or a timid person. Are gays all effeminate or cowardly? No. Are all effeminate men gay or cowardly? No. But that writer still had to apologize. I didn’t get it then and I don’t get c-sucker now. It’s always meant to me a fucking jerk. Never attached anything more to it. But, there you are.
“I’m not sure how I’ll react if I hear it and know it’s being used as an undirected expletive.”
i’m 100% certain that’s the way he’s using it – it’s not directed at anyone the same way if i spill coffee and say ‘shit’ i’m just saying it, im not saying it AT someone.
(heh, I have GOT to a transcription of this little exchange to be voice acted by plummy, university professor type accents)
For once, Takuan, we’re in agreement. Sock puppets with goony expressive faces for the visuals! We’ll call it “Cocksucker.”
Xopher @4: Brainspore, I don’t know if you intended it, but I hear that to a tune:
BWahahahaha! Somebody write the lyrics and I will sing it.
“oy vey, when someone is offended it is time for all true gentleman and ladies to moderate their speech until said offence is redressed. The issue is not your choice of words, rather it is the feelings of others. What matter your verbal convenience if you are a true knight?”
I take offense at the name, Takuan. I’d rather not discuss the reasons, but your name offends me. Now what?
I believe you; I meant I haven’t heard it used that way until now, and by the time I realized that’s what he was doing in this video, my initial reaction was no longer available for comment.
@1, I have to disagree. While it wasn’t the reporter’s fault that the gaffe made it to air, saying that it’s a non-issue because “it’s just a word” is very naive. Words have meanings. Yes, you can hear “cocksucker” in any locker room or sporting event, but viewers watching the news weren’t in those places — they were at home, with their kids. And kids who say that word in school get suspended.
I work on a live TV truck in the tape room, and last year I did something similar during a big event, but there was no swearing. A pre-taped interview, the talent got mixed up on a question, and the director asked him to re-start the interview.
I was so busy with other tasks, I forgot to mark the new in point, so when it came time to run it at half time, I called up the wrong take. What bugs me is that 5 seconds into it, the director starts freaking out it’s the wrong clip, but he still had 10 seconds to bail out of it and save face.
Instead he’s yelling and cursing himself, when he could have gone to a wide shot, or a quick break…
So then it makes everyone look stupid. Of course I took the biggest hit, but that whole day was FUBAR from the start, heavy winds shifted our uplink dish 5 mins before live, it was a freaking zoo. I ended up being the dog to kick for that whole day..
Generally, swearing while on a mic, before, during & after the show is against the department rules, because the signal is going out all over, you never know who might be listening.
Except that in this case, if the offenders want to keep using it, THEY have to remove themselves from the conversation…unless they’d rather be removed.
Please note that I said it can’t be used without evoking those feelings. Nobody’s deciding a status. It’s a connotative property of the word. If anyone “decides,” it’s the people who yelled it at me while throwing bottles out of their moving cars at me as I rode my bicycle, and people like them.
If a group of people expresses offense, then in general you get to decide whether you’re willing to offend that group or not. You can use the N word if you like, if you’re willing to offend African-Americans. And you can use the C word if you’re willing to offend me and Antinous.
Of course, it may have consequences. If you use the N word in front of the wrong African-American, you may get yourself knocked about a bit. And if you use the C word in this conversation, Antinous will probably take some action: disemvowelling, deleting, timeout, something of that nature. It really is up to you.
We can’t stop you from using the word. We can, however, make you wish you hadn’t. Do as you see fit.
“Who decides this status?”
whoever can hear you speak does.
“Just means the person taking offense needs to explain their position and if offended, remove themselves from the conversation.”
and if they aren’t IN the conversation to begin with, i.e. some guy at a bar?
Im not saying the world makes sense – on the contrary, it more often than not doesn’t. but if you’re at all interested in avoiding unnecessary conflict, you, like the vast majority of people, will give due diligence when using words that are almost guaranteed to be misconstrued – this is why, in a completely unfair manner, that one congressman got in hot water for saying ‘niggardly’. He shouldn’t have gotten in trouble (and the irony is that those offended were those who were ignorant of the words origin and meaning) but he did, and anyone could have seen that coming. so should he HAVE to censor himself from saying words that might be misconstrued as being hateful? no. but that still doesn’t make it a good idea. the world is full of people who are likely less objective, less intelligent and less interested in principles than you are. I didn’t put those people here. but indeed, here they are. and they are just as capable of inflicting misery upon you as the rest of us.
so the question comes down to pragmatism – is the n-word fight really worth your time and effort? if you think it is then by all means, go for it. it’s your right. however i think you’ll find that there are better things to do with your time, and refraining from using those certain words might save you getting punched in the mouth, with very little effort on your part. your argument is 100% reasonable – but people aren’t, so using reason in every instance may not be the most advantageous way of conducting oneself. absurd, i know, but true nonetheless.
At least he didn’t say “Jive Turkey.”
As a continuation to my previous post, upon further consideration, the term ladies conjures up thoughts of when women were keep underfoot, considered less than men, and very much placed in the minority as baby-making factories. Your misplaced chivalric ideals are offensive to women suggesting that we cannot take care of ourselves.
Okay, then we go back to my other argument. I think your name Nutbastard is offensive. Which, in reality, could easily be construed as such. So I’d like you to leave and not talk in this conversation anymore. I consider the use of the b-word as hate-speech toward myself and other illegitimate people. I appreciate your understanding.
Luckily this was a canadian broadcast and we don’t have the FCC, so I doubt there was even a fine given.
@12 – It’s still just a word, and kids will hear it regardless.
Referring to a word (ie, “the n-word”) by name is not equivalent to employing the word. If your aim is to banish the word from the language (thereby banishing it also from our histories), why even use the circumlocution? Regardless, I’m no fan of the word, but I can’t pretend the word doesn’t exist and I can’t pretend that referring to it by name is the same as employing it. Maybe I’m wrong about the latter; if so, I would appreciate it if you’d demonstrate the equivalency.
To ban a word from reference by name even when that word is under clinical/academic discussion creates a chilling effect around the free and clear exchange of ideas concerning important matters such as the relationships between word, meaning and context and how those relationships find expression amongst people.
Like you, I’m no fan of these words– in particular “the n-word”– but we’re talking about clarity of thought and communication in an area in which clear thought and communication are very important. Of course I’ll respect your rules– but I feel compelled to register my discomfort with the dismissal of free speech in a clinical/academic context.
One final and somewhat more subjective point: If the mere existence of the word “cocksucker” is so offensive that it shouldn’t be used in this conversation, maybe Mark shouldn’t post a video in which that word is the salient feature. Of course we would talk about it and as the word occurs in the original post, it’s reasonable to suppose that the use of the word– again, in a clinical/academic context– wouldn’t be verboten.
This is the policy and the rationale.
Xopher: As I said before, I didn’t think the reporter’s choice of word was the best; I was merely defending the use of expletives in general. Some are more appropriate than others in their various contexts, of course. :)
Defenestrati, first, using a word while discussing it is still using it, and that word in particular is especially problematic. There may be circumstances where it’s OK to use the n-word, but this conversation isn’t one of them. The taboo around that word is stronger than those around other offensive words.
Second, I have a very low tolerance for people who accuse other people of “invent[ing] offenses” over the use of insulting terminology.
Third, it doesn’t matter that there wasn’t a visible homosexual man (or heterosexual woman) in frame when the reporter said “cocksucker”. He was still using a reference to a particular sexual act as a swear word, which is derogatory towards those who perform that act.
Fourth, when you compare using the word “cocksucker” to using the word “motherfucker”, you’re implying that performing fellatio is an offense equivalent to incest.
personally, I go for ‘son of a bitch’ or ‘motherfucker’ when i botch something. it’s just a generic expression of dissatisfaction. frankly i dont even think about the words themselves, it’s as if the phrases are single words, devoid of roots. motherfucker != someone fucking a mother, motherfucker == “!!!”
Cocksucker is hate speech. There’s no reason for it to appear again in this discussion.
If you haven’t noticed, popular culture media which would never dream of using offensive terms for black people or Jews have no problem using the comparable terms for gay men. The excuse is those words have lost their original meaning. That excuse isn’t good enough. The meaning hasn’t changed for us. All that excuse says to me is that we’re still considered appropriate subjects for hatred and ridicule.
I’m particularly disappointed by commenters in this thread who have been quick to ask for moderation of slurs against their own demographic group and are not willing to extend me the same courtesy.
Anyone who hasn’t read the Moderation Policy – now would be a good time.
No harm, guys/gays/parents, but his discussion is pitiful; especially from the viewpoint of europeans.
If you get offended by a word and/or spend a great amount of time discussing this, you would not survive a second on the other side of the atlantic (this big waterthing facing NY, we are on teh other side …)
Antinous, thanks for the explanation! It is much appreciated.
“The biggest reason is because it’s nearly impossible for one of those words to get used in an online conversation without having the thread collapse into stupidity and reflexive bad manners shortly thereafter. It doesn’t matter how intelligently or appropriately the word is used. Just having it there on the page is enough to do the damage.
“Saying “the n-word” doesn’t produce that effect. If you dislike having to use the euphemism, well, tough. I care a lot more about having good conversations here than I care about letting one of you use a word that has the magic power to turn things stupid.”
So basically, we aren’t allowed to use grown-up words here because some people here aren’t grown-up enough to handle them. So what’s at issue here isn’t the existence of the words themselves, but the irrational behavior of people who respond to their existence in print with violence of the online equivalent thereof.
That’s unfortunate. I’ve loved BoingBoing and the comment sections here for a long time. The above conclusion leaves me heavy-hearted. I miss the idealism I had five minutes ago, when I believed that rationality was more powerful than its opposite. Honestly, that’s… disappointing. Oh well.
Your argument tells me that you’ve never heard a word like that followed up by a beating so severe that you had to have facial reconstructive surgery. Hate speech is intended to terrorize vulnerable people to keep them in their place, and it works quite well. Even when used without malice, it’s a constant reminder to the oppressed that they do not have equal rights and they are subject to violence at any moment. The idea that words don’t have power is a notion enjoyed almost exclusively by the privileged who have no reason to associate speech with violence.
We allow those words to be used only in substantive quotes that are germane to the topic.
and there we have it; offence HAS been given, so there is no need to debate if it is inoffensive or not. I suggest apologies are in order, to show good faith.
I’ll begin: I should have spoken up sooner. Sorry about that.
I’ve been looking for a clip online of a UK politician (John Prescott??) being interviewed live, making a mistake, swearing, and asking if they can do that bit again. Then being reminded it’s live.
For some reason I’m having no luck finding this clip.
fwiw I prefer goddamn. Or gorram if the mood strikes. Rarely do I prefer the word we’re discussing. And never have I used it in a derogatory manner.
I think this discussion is a good one. I just wish there were fewer self-righteous prudes. Instead of worrying about wardrobe malfunctions and naughty words, why don’t we focus on where the real violence is? The true injustice? As was mentioned earlier, why don’t we educate instead of censor? That’s where improvement lies.
@12: Yes, a kid who says that word gets suspended– but that’s not necessarily appropriate, either. The reason there’s a near-zero tolerance policy regarding the use of blue language by children is that the vast majority of children fail to use such language appropriately.
The man in this video used it appropriately, I think, or nearly so (I would have used another equally risque word in that situation), and he’s an adult, so what’s the problem?
Don’t kid yourself into thinking that children don’t know these words: children often hear them from adults and other children.
It’s the context that give these words their meaning: CONTEXT. Instead of relying on abstinence-only linguistic education for children, perhaps we should teach them the pitfalls and utility of the use of such language, and the importance of context as a prophylactic against unintended consequences.
It’s funny, the meaning of ‘bastard’ as “offensive jerk” goes back to when illegitimate people were treated abominably for something that wasn’t at all their fault, and to the extent they acquired the power to do so, they responded in kind. While this bad treatment is not completely a thing of the past (far from it, unfortunately), I think very few people would associate the two meanings, or have anything literal in mind when they say “you bastard!”
I’ve never known anyone who I knew was “illegitimate” (in part because that’s not even a category on my radar), but I certainly wouldn’t have expected such a person to be an offensive jerk.
I may have to rethink that now.
You see, there’s another principle involved here, Cadfael (how unlike your namesake you are!). You’ve made it clear that you don’t care one whit whether you offend me or Antinous. One of the consequences of that is that WE don’t care if we offend YOU. See how that works?
haunting? right. anyway, he’s canadian, of course he won’t lose his job. we’re civilized.
And of course you suddenly make a more reasonable comment AND identify yourself as a Browncoat (or at least a person familiar with that ‘verse), and therefore at least to some extent a kindred spirit, as soon as I decide you’re not worth considering.
Which is a lesson to ME.
I read boingboing religiously. I also read videogum regularly.
Lately I’ve been noticing a number of boingboing video items that were on videogum like a week before. One or two things, fine, but it seems to becoming a regular source of material.
But it’s not just a swear word, or “blue language,” or whatever: it’s a word that has a specific resonance in specific communities, i.e., it’s often a word of abuse directed against homosexuals. Why should homophobia or anti-gay language–or that can reasonably be construed as such–be protected speech? Just because it’s also on Deadwood? That’s idiotic.
when you realize you have given offense: stop. Apologize. Go away and think. If you conclude after reflection you are not guilty of malice, return and progress from there. What is important? This is not about “winning”.
But I will say this: Cadfael, if you think Antinous or I is a “self-righteous prude,” you truly have not understood what we’re saying at all. How anyone who posted my #45 could be called a “prude” is gorram mysterious to me.
@17: You seem to be willfully ignoring context.
I believe you; I meant I haven’t heard it used that way until now, and by the time I realized that’s what he was doing in this video, my initial reaction was no longer available for comment
and i am willing to risk offending such people, and endure the criticism that comes along with it. case in point – i’ve had this handle for over 5 years and you’re the first to complain. I think I can live with that.
Mid-80s, TV newsroom, monitoring live network (NBC) feed.
Big Time Anchorwoman Connie Chung in studio tosses to network correspondent for a live remote update, by asking a simple, leading question.
Correspondent’s response: “Well how-the-hell do I know, Connie?!”
Correspondent’s face as he realizes he’s on live TV and the gravity of his situation — THAT was truly haunting!
@74 xopher – I honestly don’t see how I’ve shown any lack of caring in this conversation. In truth it’s not about giving offense to either. It takes a lot to offend me and one might say that’s the problem. You and Antinous can try I suppose, if you like, but I don’t see how that advances the debate.
Nay, in fact through this conversation you’re beginning to think about the things you say. I believe words have a lot of power, but it relates to context. I’m not saying I can freely say whatever I want. Well, I am. And I can. But it comes down to context. If I’m talking about ignorant people in a academic way, it’s different than calling someone this n-word. One is academic. The other is hate-speech.
@Defenestrati, well, so aren’t you, maybe? That’s the problem: your cocksucker may be a simple expression of impotent rage (watch the anger management, man!), but my cocksucker may be raging homophobia. Either one could be actionable, and neither one can be rationally protected speech by a private entity whose employees feel the need to say such words. He didn’t say shit, fuckingoddamn, ‘Zounds: he said cocksucker, which can be rationally construed as homophobic speech, and therefore opens up other issues, like lawsuits and liability, than those of free expression. QED.
Diesel12 @54: I have a choice to never speak with you again but do not have a right to tell you that you can never use the term “fat pig” because it’s offensive. Never, ever.
Oh, on the contrary, Diesel12. You do not own the servers upon which these conversations are hosted. If the Boingers decide that the word “bookkeeping” is banned because it contains three consecutive pairs of letters, then they have the right to do that.
I used to agree with the point of view you’re pushing, but then Teresa pointed out to me, a few years ago, that you can’t actually create an online discussion space that’s hospitable to everybody. There will always be people who insist on being obnoxious and offensive, and people who are driven off by such behavior, and you can’t be a good host to both. And often, people in the second group, the ones driven away by obnoxiousness, are more fun to have around.
WPNcyril @62 you would not survive a second on the other side of the atlantic
Seriously? Like in Spain, where cartoonists have been fined for offending the royal family? Or Germany, which bans the display of symbols of the Nazi party, and is pushing to extend that ban throughout Europe? France, where a comedian has been fined for making antisemitic and anti-Israeli jokes? Austria, where a man has been jailed for Holocaust denial? Turkey, where an author faced criminal charges for acknowledging the Armenian genocide? Italy, where a journalist faced charges for “defaming Islam”? Sweden, where a clergyman was convicted of hate speech (later overturned) for homophobic statements? Britain, where a minor party leader faced trial for making anti-Muslim statements?
Tell me, where can I find this Europe where people don’t take offense at offensive statements?
NutBastard @67, if you really must have a special word just to use for people who are “so incredibly willfully ignorant, self serving, greedy, and incompetent that their folly is apparent 100%”, why can’t you make it a word that lacks racial connotations?
well now, again we have to explain from the very bottom up why manners are not only nice but necessary to live. If someone says they are offended, what is your immediate response? Is it “fuck you, you thin skinned sack of shit, I wasn’t trying to offend you!” Or is it more along the lines of “Excuse me?”, with relevant pause for both to collect their thoughts and examine just what HAS been said?
Since you are alive to read these words, I suspect the latter. If you live by the former, I doubt you can live here, regardless of many biker bars you have survived. We need manners, we insist on manners, no manners would mean no discussion, and that would mean why have comments?
Who decides what is offensive? First you do by thinking instead of reacting. A little applied empathy perhaps? If someone says that they are offended (and does NOT mean their ideas are disagreed with), then give them the benefit of the doubt. You obviously have the superior power in the exchange since you gave injury – intentionally or not. Withdraw and let the balance adjust. If they, after reflection, do not have reasonable grounds for offense, try again. Or walk away. The idea is to makes things better, not “win”.
Hopefully things work out. If they don’t work out, the House will decide. The rules are posted.
As to democracy and fairness; this is about power in the end. You will note any amount of effort has gone into politely explaining the limits of discourse here and great amounts of time have been spent talking with people who overstep the bounds. Those resources are not infinite. Application of power (meaning bouncing people out the door in the last case) will be made on the principle that the greater discourse will be preserved by occasionally limiting the discourse of some individuals.
As to “cocksucker”, there is not enough reason to use that word considering the cost. We all know it is there, it can be fetched at any time when it is impossible to convey meaning without it. It has been clearly declared as offensive and for reasonable cause. Don’t use it.
Skunks are dear little, myopic creatures with useful habits. They are still unwelcome at picnics.
TDWWG @ 17
t’s ls wrd ftn drctd t strght mn, by yr lgc tht mks t nt-strght lngg.
Stp bng slly.
I think it’s very sexist of you to say that the word “ccksckr” is homophobic. I hate to break it to you, but gays are a minority in the cock sucking demographic and it’s selfish of you to steal that term from the upstanding (or upkneeling) female ccksckrs of the world.
x99901 52: In number of practitioners, perhaps. Not in instances of the act.
Cadfael 60: The rules here are the rules here. While I take your point about someone popping in and claiming to be offended by the word ‘the’ (to give another example), it’s actually irrelevant to the discussion here. This is why moderation is important, and has to be done by a human brain.
WPNCyril 62: Thank you for claiming that Europeans are a bigoted and inconsiderate lot. I daresay many Europeans would contest that, and tell me you speak only for yourself. Funny, usually Europeans claim to be MORE civilized than Americans, rather than less.
Actually I do know that being openly racist is far more acceptable in Europe than in America. We took our racism through the fire in the 1960s, and while that didn’t cleanse us of it entirely (nothing could, short of the elimination of all racial categories, conceptually if not biologically), it did make us try to suppress it and be properly ashamed of it, as all civilized people ought to be.
When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
`The question is,’ said Alice, `whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
`The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, `which is to be master – - that’s all.’
@18 You are clearly not a parent.
@20: Please indicate the homosexual in the context of the reporter’s use of “cocksucker.”
Would “motherfucker” be an expression of raging matriphilophobia? Is “shit” an accusation of uncleanliness? Would “‘Zounds” in the context of the flubbed news report be a literal reference to the wounds of a god?
Context is relevant.
@Blue, indeed, but it’s not to whom it’s directed, but the possible interpretations of said word: the main interpretation of cocksucker that I know of is “gay male who sucks cocks.” Therefore, it’s not rationally protected speech by a private entity: it can be reasonably construed as inflammatory and homophobic. That it’s said about straight men, dogs, Martians, whatever, is not the point.
The other common interpretation is sexist, being used to degrade heterosexual women. Again, inflammatory and possible hateful, being sexist; again, not rationally protected speech by a private company, who’d be liable by letting their employees say this kind of thing.
Indeed, the newscaster doesn’t obviously mean those meanings: he’s just pissed. But what if his private word of rage were the n-word? Would you be arguing the same? I doubt it.
Stop being obtuse.
I have never in my life heard or understood anyone to use c sucker as hate speech. I just spoke with my little brother (gay) who lives in West Hollywood and he laughed at me when I asked him if he considered that hate speech or was offended when it was used in movies / tv / conversation.
What’s my point? Anybody can find offense in any word and if we allow others to impose their sensitivities (right or wrong) on us than we all lose our voice.
We all have a right to use the choice of words we like and others have the choice to not listen. Anybody can take offense to anything if they so choose and allowing words to affect you is in fact a choice. Tell me I’m a fat pig and I and ONLY I am responsible for my reaction to that. I have a choice to never speak with you again but do not have a right to tell you that you can never use the term “fat pig” because it’s offensive. Never, ever. I do not have that right to dictate what you can and cannot say, hate speech or otherwise.
Try getting 100 people in a room to agree in unison on any one topic, it will likely not happen, the same is true of communication and semantics.
We, on the other hand, have the right to set standards for these comment threads that allow everybody to feel comfortable, not just members of the most privileged groups in society.
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