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.