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"Money for Nothing" - a gay bashing song?

Updated on January 14, 2011

Recently, in Canada, there has been a bit of controversy over a 25 year-old song being banned from radio play in this country. In spite of it's popularity and awards, the Dire Straits' song "Money for Nothing" has suddenly been banned from airplay in Canada due to the use of the word "faggot" in the lyrics. The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council received a single complaint about this song and decided that the radio station had "breached the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics and Equitable Portrayal Code in its broadcast of the song “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits on February 1, 2010. The song contained a word that referred to sexual orientation in a derogatory way, contrary to Clause 2 of the CAB Code of Ethics and Clauses 2, 7 and 9 of the CAB Equitable Portrayal Code." (Full decision, song lyrics in question, and explanation of the decision can be seen at http://www.cbsc.ca/english/decisions/2011/110112.php).

Now, I apologize for using that word in this article, if it offends you, and please note that I use it only to show what the issue is, not to convey any type of slur or message of hatred towards anyone. I do, however, disagree with the fact that this song has been censored and deemed inappropriate in this country.

First of all, this is artistic censorship, which I wholeheartedly disagree with. I have never censored what my children listen to in their choices of music, and I don't think it is the governments place to do so, either. Art and its appreciation is a personal journey and choice for every person. While I personally disagree with some words used in hip hop music that have been ingrained in us as racially offensive and beyond reproach when spoken in an offensive manner (let's refer to this as the "N" word, since I will not utter it based on the fact that my own race is determined to be racist and offensive when we use it), I do not complain about it's use in popular music that is being aired or sold in this country. I will not listen to it because I find the music and its message to be offensive, but that is MY personal choice. I will not make that choice for anyone else. It is a parent's responsibility to impart their values on their children, not the government's to impart theirs.

In the case of Money for Nothing, the song is said to contain a word that refers to "sexual orientation in a derogatory way". In this, I wonder if any of the members of the panel actually lived in the time that this song was created and originally aired? I know that I did, and often, calling someone a "faggot" was not a slam against their sexual orientation. It was simply a way of telling someone you didn't like them, or didn't respect them. In the context of the song, they are referring to someone who is rich, and made money playing music, and whom they, therefore, do not like or respect. In essence, they are jealous of the musician in question (no, not the Dire Straits, but the characters they represent as telling the story in the song), and therefore are using a word that was meant as an insult, yes, but not in the context of sexuality. My belief is that the panel should have taken the direct meaning of the word in its context into consideration, not just the derived North American meaning of the word.

Yes, the North American meaning - in other countries, faggot is a word that means a bundle of sticks, or a particular style of meatball. Somehow, in the west, we have turned that meaning into something derogatory. So now, after 25 years of airplay, suddenly "Money for Nothing" has become a taboo song. We can listen to songs with the other F word in it, we can hear "bitches and hos", even the N word, and yet such an outcry comes from one person complaining about one song that has not received this complaint before.

The other part of the decision that I found perplexing was that a comedian had once used the shortened version of this word, "fag", in a comedy routine. During his routine, he was comparing homosexual men to straight men, and used the term in that particularly derogatory way. Yet, somehow, the CBSC found that this use was NOT offensive. Why? Because the panel "does not consider the word “fag” to be either inherently hateful, abusive or unduly discriminatory." So in the context of the particular comedy routine, the word was OK to refer to a gay man. Yet in this decision against the station playing the Dire Straits song, the word was NOT found to be OK in spite of it not necessarily referring to a homosexual man.

I think it is time that some newer blood was put into these panels that determine our standards for ethical conduct, if they are going to be censoring artistic pieces based on a single complaint from a single person. I do believe that some things are necessary to shelter younger ears and eyes, but to censor something that for years was socially acceptable means that we are becoming too "Politically Correct" in our attempts to please everyone. We are a society of many societies, and we cannot please everyone all the time. But the right to freedom of speech is now being challenged by a single individual. Some people are missing out on something because of a single opinion.

In my opinion, if the word offends you, change the channel! If the music is unacceptable to you, TURN IT OFF!! If the picture challenges your beliefs: LOOK AWAY! Is it really so hard?

Weigh in on the issue

Do you think the word "faggot" in the song "Money for Nothing" is being used in a sexually derogatory way?

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    • SlydeDraco profile imageAUTHOR

      Sean K. Lueck 

      7 years ago from Kanata, ON

      Thanks for the comment AC. In most cases, they do bleep out particular words, and there are even versions of this song with the word bleeped, or even changed (also songs like "Get it Started" - Black Eyed Peas, "If You See Amy" - Britney Spears, etc.). It's done, but there are times when some words are acceptable to Canadian standards, for the most part, based on context. This was one time they got it wrong! :)

    • ACSutliff profile image

      ACSutliff 

      7 years ago

      Interesting controversy. Though I must abstain from voting, I have to point out that here in America, we simply bleep out naughty words in songs on the radio. Why couldn't they have just bleeped out the word and let you enjoy the music???

      I do agree, it should be up to the individual to turn it off, leave the room, look away, whatever, if something is personally offensive.

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