That fizzling sound you hear is the dying ember of Newfoundlanders’ (but not Labradorians’) unchallenged reputation for having the best sense of humour in Canada, if not the world.
Canadians will, of course, continue to chuckle at the antics of Rick Mercer, the sweet woman-magnet charm of Jake Doyle on “Republic of Dolls” and that witty crowd at “This Hour Has 22 Minutes of Commercials.”
But it can no longer be argued — by ultra-nationalists or cultural snobs — that each and every Newfoundlander is born with an ingrained ability to laugh and cause laughter as their 500-year birthright from living with joy and gusto in a hard, windswept land.
On the contrary, Newfoundlanders are now a laughingstock, an entirely different thing altogether.
This was accomplished by a single resident of St. John’s who recently made national and international headlines by successfully demanding that Dire Straits’ song “Money For Nothing” be banned from the airwaves of Canadian radio stations.
Her complaint to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has garnered broad publicity, so there’s no need to rehash in detail the offending word (“faggot”), lyrics (“That little faggot’s got his own jet airplane/That little faggot, he’s a millionaire”) or the reason both of them are justified (mocking and satirizing morons who are jealous of rock stars).
In her complaint to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council about OZ-FM’s airing of “Money For Nothing,” she wrote, “I find this extremely offensive as a member of the LGBT community and feel that there is absolutely no valid reason for such discriminatory remarks to be played on-air.”
Free speech might qualify as a valid reason. Unfortunately, too many Canadians accept the notion that speech can and should be repressed if it hurts someone’s feelings.
After the station defended its airing of the song, the complainant wrote, “This word carries an unavoidable connotation of hate. By airing it unapologetically on the radio, this station is indirectly propagating hate.”
This could be brilliant satire, if only it were. But the complainant obviously has no understanding of the concept of satire, or irony. If she did, she would know that Dire Straits — far from spreading hate
— portrayed the “faggot”-spouting characters in the song as obnoxious losers.
A couple of radio stations, in Edmonton and Halifax, defied the ruling, and in protest aired the original version of the song. It is an encouraging sign, because this is about far more than a classic ditty. It is a fundamental issue of freedom of speech.
A solitary complaint succeeded in having a song banned. If a book had been banned, the backlash would probably be more vocal, since censorship is more often applied to printed words than to words that are sung.
So far, the complainant is anonymous. In none of the news reports I have seen — in The Telegram, The Globe and Mail or the National Post, or on CBC or CTV — has she been named.
The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council’s website — www.cbsc.ca — contains the council’s decision and correspondence from the complainant, but nowhere is she named.
If she is so bold to accuse Dire Straits and OZ-FM of “propagating hate,” she should have the courage to sign her name to it.
I recently heard a familiar tune on the radio. I knew all the words, but couldn’t place it. When I was in junior high, the song was all over the airwaves.
I resorted to Google. It was “I’d Love To Change the World,” by Ten Years After, recorded in 1971. It’s about peace and love and war and what people can do to create a better society.
The opening lyrics are: “Everywhere is freaks and hairies/Dykes and fairies/Tell me where is sanity?”
Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at email@example.com.