Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Language Arts 101

No one has a finer command of language than the person who keeps his mouth shut.
--Sam Rayburn

Some very interesting comments from NewsCorp’s Rupert Murdoch at the Milken Institute’s Global Conference yesterday…calling it shameful that the American public has a better grip on the mythical pro’s and con’s of global warming theory than the far more deadly threat of militant Islamists…and the political climate in which solutions for both issues could be achieved is absolutely toxic.

Murdoch says it’s a tragedy that the US is not more united on the war on terror… Guess he missed the memo from the Congress and the UK Parliament that WOT is no longer PC.

Speaking of PC—the godfather of rap says shut yo’ mouth with a voluntary ban on the three most racially-incendiary words in the hip-hop lexicon.

Joining George Carlin’s infamous list of seven words you can’t say on the radio, Russell Simmons says the B-word, N-word, and H-word as denigrating pronouns are “inconsistent with any sense of social responsibility by rap artists or their record companies.”

"The words 'bitch' and 'ho' are utterly derogatory and disrespectful of the painful, hurtful, misogyny that, in particular, African American women have experienced in the United States,” wrote Simmons this week.

“The word 'nigger' [and its derivative, 'niggah'] is a racially derogatory term that disrespects the pain, suffering, history of racial oppression and multiple forms of racism against African Americans and other people of color," according to a statement released by Simmons through his Hip Hop Summit Action Network.

Okay, fine, if they can make this stick.
The problem goes deeper than vocabulary, and unless attitudes and cultural values are adjusted accordingly, H-words, N-words, and B-words will just be replaced with x-words, y-words, and z-words: newer, hipper euphemisms that belie the true feelings of those that use them, regardless of context.

The height of hypocrisy is record companies’ SOP of producing two versions of rap songs - an unexpurgated version for CDs, often with a warning attached, and a "clean" version for the airwaves in which the lyrics have either been changed, erased or bleeped out.

The change has to come from both ends of the consumer pipeline.
If you’re really serious about flushing this crap from the rap toilet, don’t produce it, period. And if you, as a consumer, are really serious about sending a message to the purveyors of this garbage, don't buy it.

This is not about censorship, by the way.
It’s about how we as a people want to grow and cultivate the fabric of our society.

In a society that wishes to be characterized by the deeds of its people, and not the color of our skin, words and terms that exist and that are used solely for the purpose of demeaning and denigrating specific groups--or promoting practices and themes that serve no positive purpose--should be washed from the mouths of the public with a toothbrush and a bar of soap.

By the way—you want to get back to the roots of Freedom and its meaning, take a review of the stirring film, “Amistad,” with Anthony Hopkins as John Quincy Adams.

His brilliantly-played soliloquy before the Supreme Court of 1839 is as stirring a recitation of what Freedom for all people is about as you will ever see. The scene shows the positive power of language, in stark contrast to the hopeless, hateful terminology that has evolved from the rap world.

It is our contemporary rap-tinged language, ironically, that seems now to consume and enslave the very culture that has cried for freedom since the first profiteers sailed from the shameful shores of Sierra Leone over two centuries ago.

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