Around this time last year, both Mark Twain of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Mark Knopfler of Dire Strait's "Money For Nothing," came under attack by cultural commissars who felt both works to contain offensive language and views. During their efforts to censor both works, many writers came out to challenge them including Kevin Courrier.
|Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail (Jan. 14, 2010)|
If we needed further proof that the standards of literacy and education in North America have diminished rapidly, the recent decisions to censor both Mark Twain's classic novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Dire Strait's satirical song "Money For Nothing" now takes us to pretty embarrassing new depths. That these two events should bookend the current heated debate over the contribution of political rhetoric to the tragic Arizona shootings is hardly accidental. We seem to have lost touch with the true meaning of speech, so much so, that we can no longer tell the difference between what's morally offensive and what isn't.
It's chilling that, years after Lenny Bruce broke the language barrier by performing uncompromising satire, censorship bodies still have the pervasive powers that they do. But those powers reveal nothing learned, nothing new. They still have no grasp of the nature of parody, or even the function of irony. We live today in a climate of fear with a strong desire to repress what we don't care to understand. We may have access to all this information, but we have little desire to discern knowledge from it. Is it any wonder that rhetoric now fuels political debate? It's being used to incite buzz rather than thought. "There's a reason for unruliness in art," The Globe and Mail said in their editorial about the controversy. By airbrushing the unruliness from both Twain and Knopfler, they've not only neutered the power of art to say things we don't want to hear, they've deprived us of things that sometimes need to be said.