The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has declared the album version of Dire Straits' "Money For Nothing" offensive and discourages it from being played on radio stations due to its use of a derogatory term for homosexuals in the song.
First off, nice timing, dear Canadian friends. That song came out in 1986. Just wait until they get to so-called gangsta rap from the early '90s. Second, isn't the more offensive part of this song that anyone would want their MTV?
All kidding aside, it seems to me once again good intentions have clouded our better judgment. There is no denying the word in question is an ugly word. I've only heard it used as a pejorative by ignorant people, usually with hurtful intentions. There's no defense for that. It's a terrible thing to say but – and you knew there would be a "but" – as with most things in life you have to read the fine print. Context matters and does artistic expression. If you listen to the song you realize the joke is really on the person using the slur, but this goes beyond Dire Straits' biggest hit (in no small part because Mark Knopfler has written so many songs that are far better than this one).
Art has the power to confront and challenge a society's thinking. There are more examples of this than I could ever hope to list. Art and expression are vital elements of what it means to be human. We steal from ourselves when we rob artists of the tools they need to create.
Language is a primary tool of human expression and artists need words -- sometimes awful, disgusting, hurtful words -- to convey their message. Debate rages in the United States over whether to teach certain Mark Twain novels in high school and colleges because of the use of racial slurs. To some, those books are offensive and racially insensitive if not outright racist. To others, the books are timeless works of art that have a lot to say about racial prejudice.
We need the words. We have to have them. How do we go about discussing our problems if we put absolute limits on the words we use? I'm not a sociologist but every time I hear one on TV discussing issues of racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination they all say the same thing: dialog and education. Doesn't any meaningful dialog begin with being honest about where we are so we can move forward to where we want to be?
Despite what pop culture smart alecks will say, you can't tell a gay person just by looking at them. That's also true of homophobes, unless they are :: wait for it :: wearing some article of clothing that advertises the fact. The Ku Klux Klan helped us out a lot in that regard, designing a uniform that made it obvious. Other forms of prejudice or hatred are a lot easier to hide. They come across in words and deeds. We have to be able to talk about that and sometimes we need to take the shortest path between the two points rather than the politically correct approach whether in art or in life.