Wikimania

R.I.P. Kurt Vonnegut. I will always remember the first book of his that I read —Cat’s Cradle. When I was the tender age of 14, it opened my eyes to what science fiction could be when crafted by the hands of a master cultural critic.

Further to this week’s earlier discussion on grammar, I’ve decided to start Deonandia‘s first wiki. For those not in the know, a wiki is an online document that more than one person can edit. So I invite you, my droogs, to contribute to this evolving collection of grammatical faux pas. You may have to sign up for the (free) service to contribute: http://deonandan.wikispaces.com/Grammar+Nazi

(After my office’s first experimentation with a wiki, a girl at a conference once came up to me and said, “I hear you have a winky.” I winked and replied, “Yes. Would you like to see it?”)

As I’m sure you’re all aware, US radio DJ Don Imus is in hot water for using racial slurs on the air. I’ve never liked Imus. He’s not funny. Howard Stern can be offensive, but at least he’s funny. Imus is just a crotchety old bigot.

But that’s not exactly what I want to talk about. See, quasi-Libertarians like Bill Maher are on record as saying something to the effect that, if this is the biggest issue that civil rights activists have to face, then everything is okay. Or something like that. And, of course, I’ve been trolling the conservative discussion fora for their reactions. They’ve been predictably in line with Maher: the real villains are the de-nogginizing suicide bombers out in the desert, not the drunken DJs who make the occasional racist slip; so accept his apology and move on, already!

They all miss the point. First, in the USA and Canada, the airwaves are owned by we, the people. They are not owned by corporations, individuals or even the government. You and me, baby, we’re it. We issue licences to companies and individuals to use these frequencies. Thus, the tone and content of what is broadcast on free airwaves should ultimately reflect the heart and soul of our society. Are casual racist, sexist and homophobic remarks the timbre of a society in which you want to live? I’m not suggesting censorship of any kind; far from it. Rather, I point out that the content of what is broadcast is worthy of discussion and contemplation.

See, I’ve been noticing a steady slide toward the open acceptability of such foulness. In a recent Family Guy episode, for example, Stewie asks, “What kind of man would get a woman pregnant then never call her again?” Brian then responds, “A black man?” And there are no repercussions and there is no depth to the exchange; the insulting comment is offered up solely as a throwaway joke, one rendered at a very high societal price.

This is, I believe, the unavoidable consequence of the groupthink response to a manufactured war. In the wake of 9/11 and the now expected riling up of debasing sentiments toward whomever is deemed “our enemy”, it quickly became okay to verbally debase turban-wearing non-whites and Muslims. The terms “raghead”, “Mozzie” and even “sand nigger” became commonplace in the verbiage of previously respectable pundits and fora. It was unavoidable that this crack in the seal against intolerance would quickly expand into a genuine rift.

Unbelievably, this week I saw a stand-up comedian on prime time Canadian television refer to homosexuals as “fags” several times. No one gasped. Everyone laughed. Rapper Fifty Cent recently referred to his team of lawyers as his “Jew Unit”. He is unrepentant. Epithets are rapidly becoming acceptable again.

So I for one applaud the big deal being made of Imus’s comments. Maybe it’s been blown out of proportion, but society’s response to Imus must serve as a reverse class action suit against a host of other transgressions by all sorts of public figures that have gone unaddressed. The next question we must ask is, Why is vocal racism, sexism and homophobia increasingly prevalent and attractive?


And now the remaining news:

 

  • Finally! The world takes note of my Daily Perv Link with this discussion of the phenomenon.