Dish it out? Be prepared to take it

Bob Wakeham
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Before passing a comment or two on Randy Simms’ boorish, on-air description of one of his callers as an “arsehole,” I can’t help but admit to my own rather enjoyable penchant for using off-colour language.  

In fact, I’ve always believed that unleashing a mighty stream of cuss words is a greatly under-appreciated form of therapy that has been unfairly maligned by the holier-than-thou crowd.

Most people who know me can attest to the fact that I have a grand, unabashed fondness for expletives, that I indulge in cursing and swearing as a matter of course, that I’m an expert at utilizing the F-word as an adverb, adjective and noun all in the same sentence.

They also know that once upon a time I even exploited that prowess for potty-mouthed language to enliven benign CBC meetings in Toronto whenever the arrival of

a fresh batch of publicly funded muffins seemed set to dominate the agenda.  

Truth be known, I’ve always felt slightly sorry for those pious types unable to let loose with a healthy cathartic barrage, as if there’s a Lord Almighty with a giant calculator tabulating each and every curse word a sinful earthling uses during the course of a lifetime (along with a calculation of all the Hail Marys, Our Fathers and rosaries recited by the holy rollers in a variety of candle-lit venues throughout the world).  

Lots of curse words, lack of prayers? The Lord’s conclusion is that you had better get prepared for a permanent, eternal corner in Perdition.   

No swearing and lots of knee-pad adorations to the Blessed Trinity? Welcome to heaven, even if you’ve mistreated your fellow human beings, engaged in slander and backstabbing, and bullied the

vulnerable whenever the opportunity arose. No problem, says the almighty adjudicator; you didn’t curse and made enough excursions abound the gory and X-rated  Stations of the Cross. That’s what really counts.      

Cursing is so minor in the overall scheme of things, don’t you think?

As George Carlin once put it in an exchange on Fox TV with that tight-arsed, hypocritical, moralizing right-winger Bill O’Reilly — they’re just words, man. Get over it.  

Anyway, this pro-cursing rant was inspired, as I say, by the publicity generated by a saucy outburst from Randy Simms last week on his pseudo-journalistic talk show on VOCM (the Voice of the Cabinet Minister, as some cynics have described it).

Now, believe me, I recognize the prominence of cursing in the newsroom.

Aside from launching into a healthy and normal barrage of

F-this and F-that while watching a hockey game or fixing a flat on a frigid February morning, I probably saved my finer moments of swearing for the journalistic workplaces where I hung my hat for decades, all the attacks aimed at my fellow colleagues which were returned in kind.

But during my thousands of interviews for print, radio and television outlets, I don’t ever recall telling the interviewees that they were “arseholes” or that they were “stupid.” Certainly not on air.  

Might have thought it, but never said it.

There always seemed to be more appropriate, much deadlier and much more effective ways to cut into the person’s jugular. When they deserved it, of course (a purely subjective matter, I do admit). And I’m talking here about interviews, not nasty exchanges with disgruntled and rude viewers or listeners or readers, which were often, I confess, punctuated by the odd curse.  

But poor unseemly Simms delivered his tavern act on air, live to the province.   

And he deserved the subsequent flak.

First of all, though, before some of you Randy regulars start to feel sorry for your hero, remember that open-line hosts and their stations thrive on this sort of controversy, that they love it when the so-called “personalities” say and do provocative things. It’s all part of the routine, part of the act.   

It’s not journalism; it’s entertainment.  

And it all draws attention to the show, provides a great shot of free PR.

I can’t swear to it, but I’ll bet you the VOCM  bosses celebrated quietly with a drink over this one, even as the host, Mount Pearl mayor, Frosty Festival participant and Telegram columnist was apologizing, with qualifiers, for the way in which he attacked aboriginal groups for bringing down caribou with no apparent concern for the future of the herd.    

There were certainly no winners in this odd incident.

The aboriginal leader involved in the set-to with sinful Simms did his cause no favours by lazily playing the race card (criticize the butchering of caribou in a dramatically depleted herd and you’re bound to hear a scattered charge of racism, the same way, I’m sure, that any negative thoughts about that bizarre hunger strike in Ottawa were greeted with cries of racism).    

For its part, the open-line show showed itself for exactly what it is, a tabloid program that deals all too often in broad, sweeping generalities, and it also managed to enhance its host’s reputation as the ringmaster of the talk-radio circus.    

About the only people who didn’t benefit were those in the province genuinely interested in real information and a needed public debate about the state of the caribou herd.

Instead, they were exposed to a farce and a possible sketch for the next Rising Tide “Revue.”    

Bob Wakeham has spent more than 40 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at

Organizations: CBC

Geographic location: Toronto, Perdition, Mount Pearl Ottawa Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • David Pearce
    David Pearce
    February 13, 2013 - 11:19

    Yeah, Wakem's a classy guy, no mistake; now if only he could write.

  • Aunt Lizzie
    February 12, 2013 - 10:54

    If profanity is the best way you can think of to express yourself, then you must lack either vocabulary or imagination, or both. There are plenty of powerful words in the English language that can be used to express any fact or opinion with devastating force and clarity, without resorting to profanity. As a supposed journalist, Mr. Wakeham, perhaps you should take the time to learn some of these words - and so should Randy Simms.

  • aubrey smith
    February 09, 2013 - 19:11

    Come on now Bob,you know Randy Simms is the best of the VOCM hosts .He has a broad municipal experience , years of air time, is feisty when necessary and is a damn good debater and very intelligent .Personally though I am not a great admirer of Randy because of an incident some years ago with a lady from St. John's whom he unjustly besmirched by asociation .I wrote him and asked him to aplogize but he wasn't man enough to hold up to his mistake in that incident .Yet, despite his hubris, I can admire his positive points. Signed Aubrey Smith GFW,NL

  • Herb Morrison
    February 09, 2013 - 12:20

    Nowisee. What George Carlin's material may have lacked in the area of taste, there was a lot more truth than humor in some of the things he said.

  • Winston Adams
    February 09, 2013 - 12:15

    Bob, your views here are mostly correct , I beleive. Swearing is a minor offense compared to the others you cite. But it seems to me that you're anti- religous positiion can get confused, by the reader, with anti - Christain views. But your views suggest to me that, at the core, beyond that gruff tough image, you are on the way to the true understanding of the teachings of Christ. Not St Paul, certainly. I may be wrong, of course.

  • david
    February 09, 2013 - 10:27

    Just for the sake of argument, how would you or anyone else possibly react to the following scenario: Your task at hand is to discuss important issues with someone in a postion of legitimate authority and influence over his group. Now for whatever reason, say the person put in this position actually has very little skill or ability to advance or defend a point of view in an objective, rational or consistent way, and he or she has no desire or incentive to be perceived as amicable or conciliatory. In fact, past precedent clearly indicates that this group and this leader much prefer to antagonize, provoke and threaten than to reasonably and rationally exchange ideas. Now ..... how might YOUR interview with this person go ?

  • NowIsee
    February 09, 2013 - 10:14

    Anyone who has to use a quote from George Carlin should not be writing articles for a newspaper.