FREE SPEECH, Filthy language and Society. Calorius takes a “secular” look
Comedy has debated the issue of what's allowable, for a very long time. I think this is because comedy, as an art form, seeks to allow free expression. And because it is true that "out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks", certain people, filthy in their thoughts, are bold enough to bring stuff out and to perform crass comedy knowing that they have a ready audience in our own depraved hearts and minds.
In the specific case of D Imus, the speech was derogatory to black women, with some spillover to all blacks and all women. However all filthy and crass content comes from the same place, and the same arguments should be applied to pornography, divisive language and, in my opinion, all filthy speech. Tolerating it in public media is harmful to society. In the NBA players get fined and awarded technical penalties if they use foul language on the court. That's one area in which they are trying to clean up, and I applaud Mr. Stein (?Stern) for those standards. But it's getting worse and worse, and it is manifested in the following ways:
1. More and more women are using the language of "trash talk" formerly restricted to sailors, and surgical operating rooms, even so-called fashionable women of culture. Why some people would argue that it is a form of liberation beats me.
2. More and more public media are allowing more and more of this kind of thing. Yes, they will bleep it out, but everybody knows what was said, and the message does go out.
3. I don't know if this is more now than before, but certainly the dirty private speech of politicians and other public figures is more public today than some time ago. I have mentioned this before that when Billy Graham (a personal friend of Nixon's) was asked what surprised him the most about Watergate, he said it was the language on the tapes. Another President has been caught using bad language to refer to specific individuals. Not good.
To cut a long story short, I just wanted to mention a few ways in which I think the “Imus-type” of slur is harmful and in a wrong way kills many birds with one stone.
First, it is divisive. It opens and deepens wounds between groups of people. If Louis Farrakhan is not freely on public airwaves; neither should Imus. He can go to private AM radio, like Limbaugh and the others.
Secondly, it is derogatory to women. It degrades women. Like pornography, it causes those women who hear and see such images to have a lower self-worth and image. Calling people bad names does that.
Third, it is derogatory to Blacks. For the same reason that a politician lost elections because he called someone a Macaca, Imus had to go.
Fourth, it attracts disrespect for the people given the bad name. Black men who listen to this rubbish a lot are less likely to view their sisters and girlfriends respectfully. I have heard many African American women complain that when they traveled abroad, people treated them disrespectfully and expected them to welcome it. Many of these women recognized that disrespect as coming from images portrayed in certain music videos which have become popular abroad. If you live abroad, what's going to be the predominant image of the American black women that you see? Or if you grew up not knowing any blacks personally, what would be the image you see? Not good.
Fifth, it contributes to the creation and perpetuation of stereotypes. Once those stereotypes are established, those people who are different but belong to the same stereotype get an unfair deal in the world: in their job applications, school grades, court decisions, etc. It institutionalizes discrimination.
Sixth, it stifles clean competition. Because base language and course culture is easier to produce, cheaper to present and yet easier to sell, those who would compete on a platform of clean humor have a harder time. Nowadays it has already become difficult to be a successful comedian if your language is all clean. Movies do better if their ratings reflect more violence, sex or foul language. These are actually some seasons why it is so hard to find a truly G rated movie. Sometimes they put in "a little" bad language or adult themes just to sell the movie
Seventh, it provides a bad example. If people like Imus are successful and tolerated, a generation of people will seek to emulate them. This is why the behavior of our (even non- Christian, civic) leaders is important. It is equally important that such behavior and speech is seen to be sanctioned by society. So, for example the Lewinsky affair was terrible, and I favored the vote of sanction (though not of impeachment). We can debate the extent of the sanction, but it is important for our children to see that such failures do not pay.
The above are all common-sense, ordinary reasons why that type of speech should not be tolerated. If we were to look in the Bible, there would be yet more reasons which pertain specifically to Christians. We discussed this briefly before here and maybe Christians need to remind themselves constantly about this - Calorius
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