Join 3,573 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


June 13, 2002
8:53 AM   Subscribe

Country singer Toby Keith claims he won't be playing his hot country single Courtesy Of The Red, White And Blue (The Angry American) on an ABC July 4th special because Peter Jennings doesn't like the song. "I find it interesting that he's not from the U.S.," Keith says of Jennings, who is Canadian. "I bet Dan Rather'd let me do it on his special." (via cursor)
posted by dack (59 comments total)

 
If Toby Keith doesn't like the situation, let him create his own nation-wide broadcasting system and air what *he* likes. Also: the headline on the USA Today link reads: "Singer Toby Keith speaks out on ABC censorship." I beg to differ -- censorship occurs when the government forbids someone from expressing an opinion, or otherwise exercising their rights. If a corporation denies someone the right to sing a song on their airwaves, it can't properly be called "censorship." Don't media companies have the right to air what they want?
posted by davidmsc at 9:02 AM on June 13, 2002


Blame Canada!
posted by anildash at 9:02 AM on June 13, 2002


Hot country single, indeed. Jennings might allow it if he were hosting WWF or Nascar. Let's see how fast Rush jumps on this bandwagon.
posted by troybob at 9:04 AM on June 13, 2002


Maybe Jennings simply has better taste than to put that on his show.

"An' you'll be sorry that you messed with the U.S. of A.
'Cos we'll put a boot in your ass, it's the American way."

posted by pracowity at 9:10 AM on June 13, 2002


I find it interesting that he's not from the U.S.," Keith says of Jennings, who is Canadian.

Canada... isn't that near Afghanistan? I smell a conspiracy!
posted by krunk at 9:13 AM on June 13, 2002


The lyrics are really hilarious:
and it's gonna be hell
when you hear mother freedom
start ringing her bell
and it feels like the whole wide world
is raining down on you


Ah yes, the bullets and bombs of freedom.

The crap they call country music nowadays astounds. Thank god for the likes of Steve Earle, or I'd think the entire genera was dead in the water.
posted by malphigian at 9:16 AM on June 13, 2002


you'll be sorry that you messed
With the U.S. of A
cause we'll put a boot in your ass
It's the American way.


Yipee Kai Yay Motherf*ckers! Yee Haw!

Good move Jennings. Hopefully Rather tells him the same thing.
posted by almostcool at 9:22 AM on June 13, 2002


I just can't shake the image of the Statue of Liberty shaking her fist.
posted by troybob at 9:24 AM on June 13, 2002


Yeah, I'm totally behind Jennings. This an obvious PR stunt, and I'm afraid that it will work. Those lyrics sound like they were written (and rejected) by a High School kid.
posted by UrbanFigaro at 9:25 AM on June 13, 2002


Well, you wonder why I always dress in black
Why you never see bright colors on my back?
And why does my ap- pearance
Seem to have a sombre tone?
Well, there's a reason for the things that I have on.

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down
Livin' in the hopeless, hungry side of town
I wear it for the prisoner
Who has long paid for his crime
But is there because he's a victim of the times.

I wear the black for those, who've never read
Or listened to the words, that Jesus said
About the road to happiness, through love and charity
Why, you'd think He's talking straight to you and me.

Well, we're doin' mighty fine, I do suppose
In our streak-of-lightnin' cars and fancy clothes
But just so we're reminded of, the ones who are held back
Up front there oughta be a man in black.

I wear it for the sick and lonely old
For the reckless ones, whose bad trip left them cold
I wear the black in mournin', for the lives that could have been

Each week we lose a hundred fine young men.
And I wear it for the thousands who have died
Believin' that the Lord was on their side
I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died
Believin' that we all were on their side.

Well, there's things that never will be right, I know
And things need changin' ev'rywhere you go
But 'til we start to make a move, to make a few things right
You'll never see me wear a suit of white.

Aw! I'd love to wear a rainbow every day
And tell the world that ev'rything's OK
But I'll try to carry off a little darkness on my back
'Til things are brighter I'm the man in black.

--Johnny Cash
posted by cell divide at 9:32 AM on June 13, 2002


so how soon do you guys think it'll be before all those 'real amurrcnns' start clamoring for a great wall to be put up so 'we can keep the bad guys out'?

gross. so gross. just when you think the pathetic grandstanding that passes for 'patriotism' in this country can't be more of an embarrassment, some new idiot wraps himself in the flag in hopes of getting an uptick in revenue sharing.
posted by maura at 9:35 AM on June 13, 2002


Ah, yes, Johnny Cash, right on cell divide...

And let's see, what did Mr. Cash have to say about commercial country music?

He had this to say, and a couldn't agree more! (quite possibly the best magazine ad ever)
posted by malphigian at 9:42 AM on June 13, 2002


that's awesome, malph.
posted by moz at 9:50 AM on June 13, 2002


Not to hijack, but since when does "censorship" mean government censorship? I call bullshit on that. Hey, let's have a decent political and otherwise debate. Maybe people who believe that the media or certain media are controlled by too few institutions are wrong. Maybe, you're right, davidmsc, but let's argue it out instead of trying to make an unsubstantiated claim that the word censorship only refers to the actions of the government.

Not that this excuses someone who wants to confuse the issue by conflating the two without any support. However, playing word games is sinking to their level.

m-w.com gives "to examine in order to suppress or delete anything considered objectionable" for censor. The OED might have something more interesting to say on the history of the word. (I can use oed.com when I'm at school.)
posted by Wood at 9:56 AM on June 13, 2002


a) It's probably over-reaching to call this censorship. There was no contractual obligation by ABC.
b) Censorship is certainly not limited to government actions. Nevertheless, First Amendment rights apply only to government actions (Federal, and by extension through later amendments, State and local governments). A distinction often overlooked in these discussions.
c) It's a dumb song, but people have a right to write dumb songs, and other people have a right to want to listen to them.
d) What a classic NPR-Metafilter-liberal we're-college-educated-unlike-those-stupid-hicks class-divide pile-on. You all should be very proud. Catch any rain in your noses today?
posted by dhartung at 10:09 AM on June 13, 2002


Wood - I think you're partially right. There are many kinds of censorship, but the governmental kind is the only kind that is patently illegal, since it's a violation of the first amendment. I, as an individual, may be found to be violating your civil rights if I attempt to stifle your right to free speech (by restraining or attacking you, for instance).

In a commercial venture like this, though, a producer or editor is responsible for contracting and generating appropriate content. By Mr. Keith's logic, once he was asked to be on the show, he could have performed any damn thing he liked.

This isn't really a censorship issue. It's a "Liberal media doesn't want to promote my simplistic revenge anthem" issue.
posted by chino at 10:10 AM on June 13, 2002


Freedom of the press has always only been about government restrictions. If you have a press, you're free to say or (not say) what you want. unfortunately, presses themselves are not free. They cost a lot of money and it has always been a limited number of voices who could be heard.

Consolidation of media influence is a separate issue, and it is a problem, but it has nothing to do with censorship. This isn't merely a semantic argument. If we were to say that those with the press should be compelled to broadcast all voices then that would be the same as saying that they are NOT FREE to broadcast their own voice.
posted by willnot at 10:18 AM on June 13, 2002


Well, dhartung, if by "these discussions" you mean the college-educated (not how I would put it) ones on metafilter, then I disagree. I think, by now, everyone who participates in these sorts of discussions is well aware that the 1st amendment does not require ABC to play your song.

On the other hand, I can understand where davidmsc is coming from. He's up against a "censorship is bad" cliche/belief that people have. Honestly, maybe I'm wrong. If the majority of people thing "censorship is bad" and they think this sort of editorial judgement is OK, then maybe by extending logical thought to the hick masses we can declare that the meaning of censorship has changed.

It's like when people argue about the word murder. We all think murder is bad. So, if you think the death penalty is bad you think it's murder. If you think that the death penalty is OK, you think it's killing or something else. I probably shouldn't have gotten involved, because I think arguing about this sort of thing is a waste of time. But by responding I'm doing exactly the same thing.

(By the way, I'm not wearing any shirt or shoes. I mention this not to titillate but to see if I can be on the hick side of this class-divide pile-on.)

p.s. willnot, I liked the last sentence of your post. It makes a good point. It's better than the part where you claim the English language for your particular politics. Some people think it is censorship when TV networks refuse to show ads expressing anti-consumerism views. Can you prove them wrong? Not that their politics are wrong but their English?
posted by Wood at 10:26 AM on June 13, 2002


What a classic NPR-Metafilter-liberal we're-college-educated-unlike-those-stupid-hicks class-divide pile-on.

What? You yourself said it was a dumb song. "Ghastly" would be my term, but that's just me. Why is it necessarily liberal or edumacated or classist to point this out? Or did you just want to pack that crabby sentence with as many loaded epithets as possible?
posted by Skot at 10:27 AM on June 13, 2002


By the way, I'm not wearing any shirt or shoes.

Well, I'm naked.
posted by fuq at 10:34 AM on June 13, 2002


I grew up on a farm, I love country music (Jennings, Cash, Haggard, etc.). This is a bad song but more because it's just badly written, not that there isn't some validity to the feelings he wants to get across. I think Dhartung is being a little too quick to condemn the condemners, I didn't see any class-divisions in their reponses. Again, I grew up in the country (and I'm college educated, and like Country music, wow!) and I think it's a lame song too.

I posted the Cash lyrics (sorry for the large space it takes up) as a rejoinder both in spirit and in song-writing ability.
posted by cell divide at 10:35 AM on June 13, 2002


let him create his own nation-wide broadcasting system and air what *he* likes.

Absolutely! In fact I'm starting my own nation-wide broadcasting system this afternoon. It will be so fun to air what I please. I suggest the rest of you do the same.
posted by mrhappy at 10:40 AM on June 13, 2002


Since our hectoring moralizer has again reminded me that I'm just part of a Maoist horde, I'll make a self-criticism -- I hate that Lee Greenwood song too.
posted by nikzhowz at 10:42 AM on June 13, 2002


Wood - I think semantic arguments tend to miss the point of the thing, but OK. You mentioned the OED. From the OED, the first use of the word was a Roman title of office, so from the beginning, the key to understanding the word was that it was on official imposing of will over the people.

That remains consistent in most of the definitions. It is not a private imposing of will. As the word devolves towards Censure, you begin to get towards judging rather than imposing, but that doesn't seem to be the way you're using it. Yes, it's not always government. Sometimes it's school administrators. I guess you could make the argument that by extension it should also include editors since they exercise an official duty, but at least in my opinion, it would be stretching to make that case.

More to the point, you seem to want to view the word censorship as implying editorial control rather than official control. If that's the case, then the word connotes a good thing rather than a bad thing most people associate it with.

Follow the logic. If censorship is bad, and broadcasters have a social obligation to provide all voices a forum, then you don't have news or entertainment, you have a shouting match. Even to take a limited set: Country Singers with patriotic songs. How many of those singers are there in the world? Would it even be possible for 1 broadcast station to play each of their songs? How long would that take? Would you sit through them all? And if they could somehow manage to get all those songs played, how could they possibly make sure every voice with an opinion on something is heard? There are 6 billion people on this planet. They each have something to say. How long would it take to give each of those people a voice? Longer than my lifetime I'd wager.

Quoted from OED (I've removed the usage quotes for spaces sake. If you're interested though...)

T1 The title of two magistrates in ancient Rome, who drew up the register or census of the citizens, etc., and had the supervision of public morals.

2 a transf. One who exercises official or officious supervision over morals and conduct.

b spec. An official in some countries whose duty it is to inspect all books, journals, dramatic pieces, etc., before publication, to secure that they shall contain nothing immoral, heretical, or offensive to the government. More explicitly dramatic censor, film censor.

c In Universities and Colleges, the title of various officials.At Oxford and Cambridge it is the title of the official Head of the Non-collegiate or `Unattached' Students; in the Royal College of Physicians, the officers who grant licenses.

d U.S. (See quot.)
[1635 N. Carpenter Geog. Del. ii. xv. 257 The Censors and moderators to decide controuersies in matters of state. ] 1794 S. Williams Vermont 349 A council of censors, to consist of thirteen persons to be elected by the people every seventh year. The duty assigned to them is to inquire whether the constitution has been preserved inviolate. 1876 Bancroft Hist. U.S. V. xxii. 577 Once in seven years an elective council of censors was to take care that freedom and the constitution were preserved in purity.
e An official whose duty it is to censor private correspondence (as in time of war: cf. censor v.).

3 †a One who judges or criticizes (obs.). b esp. One who censures or blames; an adverse critic; one given to fault-finding.

4 Psychol. [Mistranslation of G. zensur censorship.] A mental power or force which represses certain elements in the unconscious and prevents them from emerging into the conscious mind. Also attrib. Cf. censorship 3.

2. 'censor, v. [f. prec. sb.] trans. To act as censor to; see censor sb. 2 b; spec. with reference to the control of news and the departmental supervision of naval and military private correspondence (as in time of war) or to the censorship of dramatic or cinematographic productions. Often in ppl. a

posted by willnot at 11:02 AM on June 13, 2002


revenge anthem

Great phrase!
posted by rushmc at 11:03 AM on June 13, 2002


You know, the funny thing about this is that, before 9/11, when a television network asked an artist to either tone down a song or to refuse to play it, no one complained about it. It was all part of the business. It was accepted that if you wanted to publicize your hot flava of the minute ass on radio and television, you would be expected to provide a radio friedly version of your song. This was a great way for any culturephile to track the true sellouts, the artists who didn't care one way or another how their material was butchered and regaled audiences with adult contemporary garbage that was entirely unlistenable.

But after 9/11, an artist can get away with accusing a television network to be a censor simply because he haven't foreseen the distinct possibility that the television network will not permit him to perform his song. The word "CENSORSHIP" is often used, part of magically incendiary argot, something that nearly any ragamuffin with even a few brain cells can get behind. But what is happening here is no different from before, only this time around the artist has not had the foresight to provide that all encompassing radio friendly version.

But what ends up happening in this case is that the artist looks like an idiot and the television network retains their Teflon carapace.

The only real way to reform the boneheaded decisions made by the network suits is for artists to do one very simple thing: stand up to anyone who tries to tamper or tone down their music and refuse to perform on television. While I have no personal experience in the pay-for-sex department, I understand that it is relatively easy to pull out of a whore. It is also worth noting that no one has to stick in their frankfurter in the first place.

But as the artist remains shackled to endless contracts, obligations, television specials, Disneyland apperances, etc., as the artist maintains the idea that s/he cannot find any form of publicizing other than the almighty media conglomerates, this will never happen.
posted by ed at 11:03 AM on June 13, 2002


Simpler and more cogent definition of "censor": to act in such a way as to limit access to information.
posted by rushmc at 11:08 AM on June 13, 2002


Johnny Cash Rocks.
posted by revbrian at 11:11 AM on June 13, 2002


Thanks, willnot, I'll have to think about it. I don't, by the way, think there's anything wrong with this sort of editorial control. I do believe that in the case of broadcast television there is plenty of scope for public control. (It's a limited medium very unlike, say, newspaper publishing.) And I think that an law mandating equal access to advertising time would be a great idea.
posted by Wood at 11:22 AM on June 13, 2002


What a classic NPR-Metafilter-liberal we're-college-educated-unlike-those-stupid-hicks class-divide pile-on. You all should be very proud. Catch any rain in your noses today?

Wow, Dan, ~you've convinced me~! I hope you are very proud of yourself, as well. Keep up the good work, but next time, might I suggest throwing in a "namby pamby" or perhaps one of your favorites, "liberal weenie" to further degrade your respectability?

On topic, I figure ABC can play what they want, and if they don't like the song, then that's too bad for Toby. I figure there are several hundred other new pop singles that aren't getting played on that special either.
posted by daveadams at 11:36 AM on June 13, 2002


So what's going in the empty slot-a Noam Chomsky spoken word performance perhaps?
posted by quercus at 11:43 AM on June 13, 2002


Country music has a illustrious history of what some would call 'reactionary' anger in the lyrics. I agree that ABC has the right to play or not play whatever it wants, but I don't really get what Jennings is so exercised about. Like the two songs I linked Keith's tune is an exercise in populist anger/catharsis(obviously not up to the same standard as Haggard or even Bocephus). It's th 4th of July, if it's not acceptable to blow off a little steam on the first independence day after the worst terrorist attack in history, I'm not sure when it is.
posted by jonmc at 11:58 AM on June 13, 2002


Jennings probably just thinks Toby Keith is an idjit. I know I do. As painful as it is to watch him sing, it is way worse to watch an interview with him.
posted by domino at 12:35 PM on June 13, 2002


It was the way everybody felt when they saw those two buildings fall." -Toby Keith

wow, perhaps peter jennings is unaware of the fact that toby keith is now speaking for everyone in america.
posted by witchstone at 12:38 PM on June 13, 2002


I do believe that in the case of broadcast television there is plenty of scope for public control. (It's a limited medium very unlike, say, newspaper publishing.) And I think that an law mandating equal access to advertising time would be a great idea.

1. Why is there "scope for public control?" Why should "the public" (by which I assume you mean the government) have control over a corporation that exists to serve the customers, the shareholders, etc?
2. TV is a "limited medium" -- does that mean because not "everybody" can own their own TV network? Well, not "everybody" can own their own diamond mine, or oil refinery, or Mercedes-Benz. Does that mean that those who DO own such must submit to "public control?"
3. If TV is a "limited medium," how can you argue that newspaper-publishing isn't? They are BOTH "limited mediums." Again, that doesn't mean that they are any different from the diamond mine, fancy car, etc.
4. "Equal access to advertising time" means what, exactly? Everybody should have the right to their very own commercial? Well, they do -- if they are willing & able to pay for it.

And, slightly back on topic, if someone other than the government is preventing you from reading/viewing something, then it is *not* censorship. If your parents block out MTV and Toby Keith videos, it's not "censorship" -- it's parental control. If your boss prevents you from viewing Toby Keith videos on the computer at work (business computer, business ISP, etc), it's not censorship -- it's his (her) business to run as he sees fit. If ABC decides not to air Toby Keith, it's not censorship -- it's ABCs right to decide what to air on its network. If the government mandates that Toby Keith videos are anti-patriotic and forbids TV stations from airing his video, or requires that all networks bleep-out the word "ass" -- THAT'S censorship.
posted by davidmsc at 12:43 PM on June 13, 2002


David,

2. Broadcast TV is a limited medium because of the scarcity of the airwaves. Granted, land is a scarce resource as well. However it is much less scarce. The airwaves are still more-or-less under government control. "We the people" never did sell them. We license them.

4. It is not true that everyone who is willing and able to pay for a commercial can get one.

By the way, thanks for defining censorship. They ought to sell books with definitions in them, so we don't have to wait for you to get back to us.
posted by Wood at 12:58 PM on June 13, 2002


"Why should "the public" ... have control over a corporation that exists to serve the customers, the shareholders, etc?"

Because the corporation is using a disproportionately enormous slab of my EM spectrum. If they were instead profiting by some nonpublic resource -- say, a herd of cattle -- and not at my expense, I'd be somewhat less concerned.

With that in mind, I still applaud ABC for doing its part in keeping one tiny iota of crap off the airwaves. It isn't much, but every little bit helps.
posted by majick at 1:23 PM on June 13, 2002


johnmc: The Merle song in question was, according to the man himself, written as at least sort of a joke. (Isn't the white lightnin' bit a tip-off? That's a reflection of family values or something?) It's an obviously over-the-top thing whose original B-side was, I believe, a song praising interracial love. Methinks Merle just liked to keep people off-balance. Toby's lyrics, by contrast, are pretty lame, even for an angry song.

Oh, and I've heard "Okie . . . " played at a folk art festival that was headlined by Richard Thompson and, I presume, attended by many "NPR liberals" (who probably got all riled up at Cokie Roberts's sucking up to GW in 2000, or various corporate sponsorship . . . or, wait, they didn't?) who did not get up and leave.
posted by raysmj at 1:33 PM on June 13, 2002


"I bet Dan Rather'd let me do it on his special."

it'd be nice to see Dan Rather release a statement saying 'No, I wouldn't.'
posted by tolkhan at 1:48 PM on June 13, 2002


if someone other than the government is preventing you from reading/viewing something, then it is *not* censorship.

Yes, we get it. According to your rather limited definition of censorship, it is not. Can you really not see/acknowledge that some of us are using a somewhat broader definition? Is it necessary to demand ownership of a particular word in order to successfully make your point?

I would be the first to grant that there is a very significant difference between what you are calling censorship/not censorship and what others are calling different kinds/levels of censorship. Rather than bicker over terminology, shouldn't we be having much more interesting discussions about which types are acceptable, appropriate, necessary, or good?
posted by rushmc at 2:03 PM on June 13, 2002


ie. definition of censorship: "...who exercises official or officious supervision over morals and conduct."

Supervision of morals and conduct shouldn't be assumed by the media, as they surely took it upon themselves in their perspective on Clinton and Monica, Gore and election, Condit and Levi, 9/11 and Muslims, Israel and Terrorists, etc.

I'm with rushmc: "Simpler and more cogent definition of "censor": to act in such a way as to limit access to information."
posted by semmi at 2:25 PM on June 13, 2002


wow, perhaps peter jennings is unaware of the fact that toby keith is now speaking for everyone in america.

Has anyone broken that news to George Bush?
posted by pmurray63 at 2:25 PM on June 13, 2002


Yes, jon, and don't forget it was after getting stoned with the band and riding through Muskogee in the tour bus, that someone sang the line We don't smoke Marijuana in Muskogee...and the rest was history. As Merle himself said, Son, Muskogee is the only place I DON'T smoke it...

Also germane is this comment of his--

I don't like all of country music--in fact, I like very little of it.
posted by y2karl at 2:31 PM on June 13, 2002


Simpler and more cogent definition of "censor": to act in such a way as to limit access to information

But not every single song can be on television. Someone has to decide not to put a song on because it's really really bad. Not offensive, just bad. In this sense, there must be arbiter of what sucks and what doesn't.

I'm sure the Country Music Channel will play it, so what's the big deal?

I, by the way like some country too, before I have a bunch of you hayseeds out for my blood.
posted by Kafkaesque at 3:37 PM on June 13, 2002


But not every single song can be on television.

That's true, Kafkaesque, and limiting access to information is a necessity in a limited medium like television. One can fairly discuss the degree and criteria of limitation, I think (I think ABC's decision is entirely appropriate, and it has nothing to do with my own reaction to the song).

By this reasoning, the more capacious the medium (books, internet), the less censorship is justified.
posted by rushmc at 3:56 PM on June 13, 2002


I think Toby should watch out, because he's gonna get Lee Greenwood's boot in his ass for moving in on Greenwood's racket. the first time I heard Greenwood's sing his song was when I went to shoot photos of a Reagan appearance at a republican election rally, the same week that news was coming out about secret arms deals involving Iran and Nicaraguan anticommunist rebels, and a guy in the basement at the White House.
posted by planetkyoto at 6:38 PM on June 13, 2002


Can you really not see/acknowledge that some of us are using a somewhat broader definition?

What I see is a *very* powerful word being tossed about way too casually. I understand that some people equate ABC's decision not to air Toby Keith with "censorship." I just hate to see the meaning of a word get watered-down and lose some of its weight.

majick: "...my EM spectrum..."
Hmmm...while some accuse me of trying to "own" the definition of censorship, others appear to be "owning" the EM spectrum. The argument is bogus, anyway, though -- HOW is a herd of cattle any different from a portion of the airwaves? Both exist in limited quantities, and both can be used by individuals/businesses to satisfy the needs of consumers. Why should they be different? I know this is veering off of the Toby Keith topic, but what the hey...
posted by davidmsc at 8:31 PM on June 13, 2002


Karl, belive me I know that "Okie.." was at the very least, a semi-spoof. And believe me I love Merle as much as you do, during my rowdier days I even toyed with the idea of getting "Mama Tried..." tattooed on my bicep.
But the reason Merle writes songs like "The Fightin' Side of Me" and "I'm a White Boy" so well is that while, yes, the songs are to a certain degree satire, he can understand and sympathize to a degree with the people he's satirizing. His genius perhaps lies in his ability to sing both "The Fightin' Side of Me" and "If We Make it Through December'" and understand and embrace the contradiction that lays behind that gesture.Which is why Haggard is, along with Johnny Cash the country singer most embraced by rockers from progs to punkers.

Now Karl, Ray sing with me:
I'll change your flat tire, Merle/Don't Get yer sweet country pickin' fingers all covered in erl...
posted by jonmc at 9:00 PM on June 13, 2002


But who owns the EM to begin with David? (I hope David is OK.) The way I see it certain things need to be thrown into the capitalist fray. And it is reasonable for the people to place limitations on this. For example, in some countries everyone has the right to walk over land. It's a historical precedent. No one can complain that their property rights are being violated because the right to keep people off the land was never a property right.

Spectrum is clearly a far more modern "invention" than other things like plain old land and cows (which aren't limited in the same sense, of course.) So we are still negotiating how to divide it. One ultra-capitalist perspective would be to try to make every thing as private as possible, sell it off to the highest bidder and then forget about it. But I don't think we generally do that sort of pure philosophy in our government.

p.s. I don't think the incident of the original post is really "censorship". I was more reacting to your original phrase suggesting that anything non-governmental is not censorship. There's lots in between, certainly.

I don't post often enough for a signature to overload the server, so, Peace, Daniel.
posted by Wood at 12:35 AM on June 14, 2002


Shit. The parenthetical "which aren't limited in the same way" was supposed to apply only to cows, not to land which really is limited, although the scale is dramatically different.
posted by Wood at 12:36 AM on June 14, 2002


I just hate to see the meaning of a word get watered-down and lose some of its weight.

Fair enough, but I don't really see it getting watered down by people accepting a more complex usage of the term. If people understand that "censorship" itself is neutral and that there can be "good" censorship (parents controlling their young kids' viewing habits) and "bad" (governmental), well, that seems a more realistic way to talk about the issues.
posted by rushmc at 7:18 AM on June 14, 2002


I would agree that 'censorship' is neutral, but its context in the original linked article is that ABC censored in a bad way. Given Keith's intention to get publicity out of this, I would characterize ABC's action as a refusal to offer free publicity for what many would consider an inferior product rather than an effort to limit access to information. This song was obviously targeted to a specific audience, and I'm guessing that particular audience has been saturated.

I'm not particularly proud of my own hasty criticism of this song, given that it seems to accurately reflect the frustrations of a particular group of people in a way that group responds to; however, I do think Keith overestimates his song's potential to have cross-over success (probably brought on by his eager accountants), and that from his point of view ABC took away a career landmark. Of course, I'd be more likely now to question whether his original intent in writing the song was heart-felt patriotism or commercial opportunism.
posted by troybob at 9:09 AM on June 14, 2002


Given Keith's intention to get publicity out of this, I would characterize ABC's action as a refusal to offer free publicity for what many would consider an inferior product rather than an effort to limit access to information.

I agree. Or they just felt that it didn't fit with their program, for whatever reason. They have the right to make such creative decisions, certainly.

I also think, however, that they made a poor decision from a financial viewpoint--and an unusual one, which I think is why it made news and why we are talking about it--because a large part of the demographic that will watch their program would have eaten this crap up.
posted by rushmc at 11:00 AM on June 14, 2002


Fair enough, but I don't really see it getting watered down by people accepting a more complex usage of the term.

By broadening the definition of any word, you are necessarily making it less precise. Censorship means a specific thing, that is, the official prohibition of dissemination of information. By applying it more generally you are destroying the meaning of the word when other, more accurate, words can be used instead.

For example, decimate means to destroy a part of something (more specifically a tenth of something) in order to control or subdue the remaining larger part. But most people simply use it as a synonym of slaughter or obliterate. The language does not need more synonyms of these words, but a word that that means what decimate means could be quite useful. However, decimate has lost its true meaning through missapplication.

By forcing upon the word censorship false meanings you threaten to eliminate its uniqueness and consequently lose one more linguistic tool.
posted by ljromanoff at 12:36 PM on June 14, 2002


By broadening the definition of any word, you are necessarily making it less precise.

I disagree. In some cases, as in this one, you open up the concept to a more nuanced and better understanding. By not assigning a moral judgement to the term, you allow it to be qualified in various ways to more specifically address the type of censorship being performed in the particular case you are citing, which increases the listener's understanding of what you are trying to impart, which is the purpose of language.

Also, it seems silly and redundant to insist upon the use or even creation of a number of additional terms to describe what is essentially the same act in a variety of different circumstances. This is not an efficient use of language, I think.

Censorship means a specific thing, that is, the official prohibition of dissemination of information.

That is the very point we are debating; simply stating it to be so does not advance your argument.
posted by rushmc at 1:17 PM on June 14, 2002


By broadening the definition of any word, you are necessarily making it less precise.

I disagree.


Something that is more general can not at the same time be more specific. That's completely illogical.

In some cases, as in this one, you open up the concept to a more nuanced and better understanding.

Nonsense. By applying the term to numerous actions that are only related in the broadest sense, you rob the term of its meaning. If, for example, I decide that the term murder means any time one person kills someone else, I'm not creating a more nuanced and better understanding, I am in fact making the distinction between murder and other types of killing less clear.

By not assigning a moral judgement to the term

There's no moral judgement of the term when correctly applied. That's not the issue.

you allow it to be qualified in various ways to more specifically address the type of censorship being performed

If you use the term censorship to describe more than what the word is defined to mean you are inherently being less specific. If you are striving to be precise, one should use the precise words, not redefine words to fit the circumstances.

Also, it seems silly and redundant to insist upon the use or even creation of a number of additional terms to describe what is essentially the same act in a variety of different circumstances.

Except, of course, it's not the same act, which is why the terminology is different. By using the term censorship in this instance you are necessarily confusing the issue because the use of the term implies that ABC is an official authority over the speech of Mr. Keith.

Censorship means a specific thing, that is, the official prohibition of dissemination of information.

That is the very point we are debating; simply stating it to be so does not advance your argument.


Except the definition of censorship is not in question - the word censorship means what it means. To argue that it should mean multiple things is first of all an argument to change the meaning that already exists, and secondly is an argument in favor of vague language.
posted by ljromanoff at 1:40 PM on June 14, 2002


Woohoo! ljromanaff, I tip my hat to your excellent & articulate explanation of what I was *trying* to communicate.
posted by davidmsc at 3:54 PM on June 14, 2002


Except the definition of censorship is not in question - the word censorship means what it means.

You couldn't be more wrong. Prescriptive grammarians are long in disfavor, and in any case, the definition you prefer is merely one among many. Words change over time to adapt to a changing world. I'm surprised this is news to you.
posted by rushmc at 8:56 PM on June 14, 2002


the definition you prefer is merely one among many.

So on the one hand you argue in favor of adapting or expanding definitions of words at will, and on the other you acknowledge that there are already existing definitions.

In any event, there aren't many, there are three. The one that is being misapplied here, the psychiatric definition, and the historical one relating the Roman official known as the Censor (this definition is the source of the modern definition as the Censor was a government official.)

Words change over time to adapt to a changing world.

Obviously. However, adaptation is not the same as blatant misuse. And certainly, repeated blatant misuse will ultimately force the evolution of the word, but as I stated before that is something to be avoided if possible. The adaptation you wish to force on the word censorship debases its usefulness.
posted by ljromanoff at 8:08 AM on June 15, 2002


« Older Why the tobacco industry feared The Patriot Act....   |   Georgian Rep. Bob Barr is a fr... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments