Scene:

Melbourne, Australia, Friday 13th, 11:13pm-ish.

LOCATION: STUDY, INTERIOR.

Pan in on SIMON at his computer. SIMON is 28, dark-haired, with an air – no, an aura – about him, perhaps something around the eyes, that seems to say, ’24 hours later, I’m still amazed by the fact I made a conscious choice to start drinking Swedish strawberry cider last night, and, 24 hours and kilos of bacon later, I’m still amazed by how hungover I remain. You tricked me, Sweden. Again. Fuck you.’

Also, he’s really VERY HANDSOME; like Cary Grant, Billy Zane, and someone who onlookers would describe as ‘really very handsome’ all rolled into one.

Soundtrack: This Busta Rhymes – AC/DC mashup that SIMON cannot seem to stop listening to right now.

We see the small red notification informing SIMON he has received a new message appear on the Facebook taskbar. The message is one in an ongoing conversation between SIMON and his friend DARCI in New York. Regrettably, this conversation is about FRED DURST (not present in the scene). The discussion focuses on how anything can be made funny by adding FRED DURST to the equation or rather, SIMON’s half of the discussion focuses on this.

SIMON then makes a reference to the once-famous phrase ‘DON’T FAKE THE FUNK ON A NASTY DUNK‘ and how he finds it just as hilarious as the existence of FRED DURST.

We see SIMON, suddenly inspired, update his status to read ‘SIMON… NEVER FAKES THE FUNK ON A NASTY DUNK.’

Moments later another red notification sign flares into life. This time, it is the small square with rounded edges that sits at the corner of the little blue world globe, letting SIMON know someone has commented on his status. He clicks on it.

Note: Simon remains VERY HANDSOME, but the moment is about to get ugly.

Not Simon, though.

CUT TO: Focus on the screen, where one of SIMON’s friends has commented: ‘Gay.’

SIMON: does that kind of reverse whistling/suck in air thing you do when you see someone bark their shin on a car door and draws back from the computer into the cushions of his chair.

End scene.

*

Now, it was about this time we hit trouble.

Seconds after the first notification, a second friend, from the same group, left a comment on the same status: ‘Double gay.’ A third, again from the same group, left another: ‘Triple gay.’

And I just went… Really?

And that was when I realised that maybe I was about to get caught in the middle of a nasty dunk. And if so, then no matter what else I did, the one thing I could not do was fake the funk.

*

The Nasty Dunk

See, I know these people – some of them for over twenty years. They’re among my best friends. None of them are hate criminals, if that’s a term.. They’re tertiary-educated, cosmopolitan, well-traveled types. They’re not close-minded or mean or particularly bigoted, or at least, my experience of them, which is a fairly comprehensive one, says to me they are not.

On the other hand…

It took maybe twenty seconds for my brain to itemise all the 21st rules of speech and political correctness involved. Everyone involved was and is past the point of ignorance; we’re all internet users, we’ve all been exposed to the difficulties of comment culture, we’re all past the point of being surprised by online speech. And a quick Google search revealed no one had split the gay lingual atom while I wasn’t looking; there hadn’t been some mass acceptance of the term as fair game.

And so that’s where I was: the term gay denotes a particular sexuality, and the term gay was being used as an insult, so, therefore, we’ve got textbook discrimination here, right on my Facebook page, where I am both the owner and the owned of any information that goes back and forth.

With acknowledgment of that fact came the confirmation of my suspicion that this was indeed a dunk I had on my hands, and, furthermore, a nasty one. My question to myself was what would constitute faking the funk, and how could I avoid such an outcome?

*

Faking the Funk

As I saw it, there were a number of options available to me, many of which would constitute faking the funk – the very situation I wanted to avoid.

Funk Fake #1: Over-seriousness.

I’m a firm believer in the use of humour and discussion to deflect and resolve conflict, especially on the internet, when disaster is never further than a LOLFAG! away. Not every situation calls for charging out, guns blazing – doing so can often be counter-productive, because it only makes people dig in their heels and sound off all the louder. I didn’t want to start a giant debate or flame war, because, given that I assumed these people were probably hanging out, and drinking a little, and working themselves into a mentality of poorly-thought-out teasing, rather than expressing any deep and true homophobia, bringing the hammer down wasn’t an option that would do any real good for anyone.

And because, really, when the shoe’s on the other foot… fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke.

Funk Fake #2: Under-seriousness.

But at the same time, if I was to just let the issue slide… that would be a tacit endorsement of speech  I don’t agree with. To engage positively with the name-calling or to say nothing would be to indirectly say ‘Hey! You can use the word gay as an insult, no matter how minor your intent or disconnected from definition, and that’s perfectly OK by me, Simon Smithson!’

It’s not as if I thought the whole world was watching with bated breath; the goings-on on my Facebook page were hardly going to carry over to influence much of anything, anywhere, ever. But still…

Would that go on my passport?

Simon Smithson: Feels OK about discriminatory insults. Facebook proves it.

I could see, in my head, a vision of trying to get back into the USA, and the staffer behind the immigration desk looking at me, looking at my passport and reading those accusing words, then looking back up at me… and slowly narrowing his eyes.

Of course, in my head, he is a member of an ethnic minority. And transgendered. And he/she’s a Scientologist. Who likes Yanni. And the film Glitter.

God.

The shame.

My shame, I mean.

Although the transgender customs official would be right to be ashamed of liking Glitter.

That fantasy aside, all I could think of was this at the 1:30 mark.

Funk Fake #3: Total and Complete Hypocrisy.

99% of humor is based on laughing at someone or something. There has to be an object, which means, no matter how you slice it, there’s potential for someone, somewhere, to be offended. And I laugh at horrible things all the time. I make inappropriate jokes, delight in the shattering of taboos, and if you show me a sacred cow, then I’ll tell you a story about how it cries during sex and also, it’s fat. And we should eat it. Because its tears make it taste sweeter.

At the same time… I pick my audience. And I’m aware of setting. Context changes everything; it’s why the line ‘that’s what she said!’ is funny; why you don’t swear in front of children. It’s why we don’t, when asked by our new girlfriend’s parents how our day was, say ‘It was retarded!’ It’s why you don’t have the same conversations with your girlfriend as you have with your grandmother.

Unless they’re both performing on stage in the same North Korean sex club at the same time.

Because we’re not idiots.

Funk Fake #4: Weird Co-Opting of a Crusader Identity.

Because, just like Ludacris, whose words I try to live by every day, especially when it comes to bitches… man, I don’t want to do that. I want to have a good time and enjoy my Jack, or, rather, my Swedish strawberry cider.

It’s midnight. On a Friday. I don’t want to set off down some moral pathway where I start to define myself as someone who voices disapproval of the possible infringement of the right of a group of people to enjoy an existence untainted by bias¹. I certainly don’t want to end up in some foggy internet netherworld of political correctness and high horses and debate over definition and intent.

Especially because it’s unpleasant and unappealing and nobody likes it.

And yet, here I am. I’ve been put here.

Goddamnit.

You dicks.

Funk Fake #5: Freedom of Speech.

Which is something I believe very strongly in. Where does my subjective truth about what is acceptable or not end and objective truth begin? Can I be justified in calling people out for expressing whatever it is they’re going to express? Isn’t that, like, Communist, or something? It’s definitely Russian, I know that much.

Can I balance thoughts of consequence against thoughts of censorship and find that the scales tip one way or another? Don’t we have freedom of speech on the internet, of all places? We’ve certainly got freedom of porn. All of these questions welled up before my eyes.

But then three sweet, sweet words emerged in my head: right of reply.

*

Then I figured fuck it. I’d just delete the offending comments, the writers would, I hoped, get the message, and we’d all move on with our lives.

I deleted them, and then thought Ah… damn it. Deletion isn’t really explicitly saying hey, don’t do that, but… ah well. The problem has been dealt with.

Seconds later, more comments appeared from the same people. About censorship, me being a gay little lesbian², uberhomo, quintuple gay (you skipped quadruple, idiots)… et cetera. And I thought damn it! I’ve forgotten the law of the schoolyard! Don’t fuel the fire!

And then I thought Wait, what? I’m 28 years old. These people are 28 years old. And no matter what they say about censorship, there’s no way they’d use the term gay pejoratively in, say, a job interview; they’d self-censor at the drop of a hat and jump squeaking through any hoop that was put in front of them.  They’d contort themselves into mewling pretzels to avoid the appearance of bigotry.They just think they can get away with it in this specific instance.

My next step was to write something non-engaging and non-condoning. I searched for the perfect phrase, and, again, found three simple words.

‘Dude. Not OK.’

To me, that was the perfect pitch of disapproval without judgment or self-righteousness.

It didn’t work.

So I followed it up, explaining that on my personal Facebook page, my online representation of my day to day life, I would censor who and what I pleased, and I don’t condone the use of the word gay as an insult.

Again, this didn’t work.

And I thought You know what? Harvey Milk wouldn’t put up with this bullshit.

Also, I’m getting disrespected here. And yeah, that really kind of pales in comparison to the larger issue, but still… this whole thing is really getting out of hand.

Three times, I had expressed my disapproval. I don’t know what it is about the magic power of the number three, but, there are the three aspects of God, luck runs in threes, apparently the Condor has three days… and so I said to myself The next person who mouths off… well, we’ll just see about that.

At this point, a friend from high school, and the same group, who had been previously silent, lumbered into the discussion and dropped the g word, and subsequently became a cautionary tale of the power of the block button.

A tingling taste, like raw power, or sherbet, or a delicious, fizzy mix of the two, spread across my tongue.

Before anyone had caught on, one of the earlier perpetrators commented again. “You’re so concerned about people saying gay on your stupid facebook page. That’s gay in itself.”

Boom.

Blocked.

Awesome.

And I don’t care if you are my best friend’s girlfriend.

My phone started to ring at this point, and I ignored it. More comments appeared, this time about hurt feelings.

Not from the people I’d blocked, of course.

Because they couldn’t comment any more.

I spoke to another, unrelated friend about this today.

‘Did you give them any warning?’ she laughed. ‘Maybe they didn’t know that you were going to block them.’

‘Well,’ I said.

‘They fucking know now, don’t they?’

*

This kind of censorship and debate is a new experience for me. I haven’t found myself in a situation before where I’ve felt the need to tell someone they can’t say something, or that I disagree with a public statement they’ve made, on grounds of discrimination.

I’ve certainly been told in the past that I’ve said things that are out of line.

Which is probably fair, in practical terms, if nothing else.

But it raises the question – who’s to say what’s allowable, and what isn’t? Who is to say, objectively, what can and cannot be said, in which theatre? Who is to say what the appropriate steps to engage with such discussions are?

The answer, frankly, is clear.

I am.

 

 

 

 

 

 

¹ – these are also Ludacris lyrics
² – as if I’ve never been called a lesbian before

TAGS: , , , , , , ,

SIMON SMITHSON is an Australian writer and editor. He is currently based in Melbourne, Australia, but frequently finds himself in Los Angeles and San Francisco. His work has appeared on both sides of the globe in print and online in publications such as BLIP, Every Day Fiction, Beat, The Loop, My Sinking Boat, and more. He has a tumblr at www.simonsmithson.com and he runs a lifestyle experiment at www.selfhelpless.net.

126 responses to “But You Know Now, Don’t You?”

  1. Zara Potts says:

    Brew,
    I laughed my way around the whole supermarket after that phone conversation – ‘Well. They fucking know now don’t they?” Gold. Pure Australian gold.

    You know, I saw this whole thing play out and I was surprised at it. I see these same conversations happening on my teenage cousins’ FB pages; UR so GAY. I don’t quite know why this is being used as a pejorative term these days. But you have every right to shut it down. In fact, I think it’s commendable that you do. Most people would opt for Funk Fake #2 or 3 and just get secretly pissed off and then go forth and be passive aggressive when they next talked to said friends. So I think you dealt with this really well.

    And the block. Wow. The block is a serious weapon. It’s so much more serious than just the delete. The delete and block is a knock out punch.

    On another note – I REALLY like the way you wrote this. I love the screenplay intro and the highlighted options. It’s an entertaining way to write about something that is a serious matter for you. I really like your style here, brew. Great stuff.

    I commend you for acting on your principles. Not all of us do so with such aplomb and then go on to write a funny, albeit serious, piece about it. In fact, most of us don’t act on our principles at all. So well done.

    You fucken’ beauuudie.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Ha! Thanks, brew.

      I think that was the single most Australian thing I have ever said in my life.

      I was really, really surprised. I saw someone else, who I haven’t seen for years, put up an update months back, something like ‘XXXXXX’s car has broken down. Gay!’ and was really shocked. So to have people I know jumping on the bandwagon… I didn’t see it coming. And while it would have been better to defuse through discussion, they kept pushing, and so I shut it down.

      And yep. The Block. Take no prisoners, no fucking around, bam. Done. You’re out.

      Thanks! I’ve been trying different writing styles, and the script idea just started writing itself, really. I’m glad to hear it worked.

      I think when you take things completely seriously, you give them more power. And that’s something to be aware of. Obviously, some things are inherently serious, especially when it comes to ideas of consequence.

      And thank you. I wish I acted on my principles more often.

      Ah well.

      You know what they say.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXhKzY0BKwY

  2. dwoz says:

    Two, no three things. No, four.

    First, you rock.

    Second, I know that feeling, the delight of the unequivocal ban, it’s unambiguity. I felt that feeling once when I encountered a statement by some punter Aussie, who said something to the effect of “…so, are your aboriginals all drunks and dole sluts like ours are here?…” BAM. BFL—banned for life. You don’t exist anymore, mthrfckr. Your IP address block is dead to me.

    Third, if I may…I think the word they’re actually attempting to use is “ghey.” Being provincial, they may not understand the finer point of the distinction. But then again, maybe there really isn’t much of a distinction.

    Finally, am I missing something? Isn’t “nasty dunk” a meaningful phrase in the specialized lexicon of male-male intimacy?

    • Simon Smithson says:

      First, I do. I so totally do. I accept that now.

      Second, my God! The power! It’s intoxicating! My favourite is rejecting friend requests, I think. Which I really only do if the person is a complete tool.

      Third, I think so too, having just researched it. But that’s a stand-in, so far as I know – distinction notwithstanding.

      Fourth, is it? I only know of ‘nasty dunk’ in the terms of that ridiculous Shaq ad. Which still makes me laugh.

      Nasty junk, on the other hand…

  3. Becky says:

    Hmmm.

    The word “gay” is tricky.

    Here’s why, at least to the best of my understanding and as it has been explained to me:

    When used to replace the words “stupid,” “dumb,” etc., it’s generally considered offensive. Using it as a synonym for these things suggests that gayness is stupid and/or dumb.

    However.

    When used to say something IS gay, as in, “of or having to do with gay people or gay culture,” it’s permissible (just my understanding of the general rules, mind you. I don’t pretend to know what does and doesn’t actually offend every individual person).

    If I say Rufus came out looking about the gayest I’d ever seen him because he was wearing a wild feathered coat with a 15-foot train…I mean, that’s just sort of the fact of the matter.

    If I say I find MME “kind of gay,” and I say it because you’ve got two grown men rolling around on the floor in close embrace…I mean that there is LITERALLY something LITERALLY gay about that scenario. That word is not standing in for any other word, except maybe homoerotic.

    I mean, gayness is a point of pride for gay people. So to immediately attach a unequivocal shame point to the word without any qualification seems somehow offensive, too.

    If your friends were accusing you of actually having done something “of or having to do with gay people or gay culture,” indeed it was intended to tease you, preying on any latent insecurities you might have about your sexuality, but that insult point would lie with you and your feelings towards being characterized as gay, not necessarily because the word was being used as a synonym for something dumb or stupid.

    This is the way it has been explained to me, anyway.

    And none of this really gets around to the endpoint of the whole piece. Me, generally speaking, I don’t block people. I’ve only blocked one person and that’s because he was a creeper. I just sort of don’t believe in it. People have to do something pretty f’in nasty to get blocked. I think part of me feels like blocking of things I find upsetting or unpalatable is a kind of head-in-sand maneuver. I can’t bring myself to white wash (this is what I feel like I’m doing when I think about doing that sort of thing) my interactions with people or limit interactions to people who never offend or upset me. It is certainly my prerogative to do so, I agree. But, at the end of the day, I find value in exposing myself to things that make me uncomfortable, even if I know I’m right in being uncomfortable. I feel guilty, actually, even weak, for shutting out these things. I feel like I should be able to steel my spine and traverse the coals, so to speak. I feel like shutting them out does nothing to change people’s minds, it only isolates me from ideas I don’t like.

    I am not implying that you should feel weak. This is just the way my belligerent head works, for me. I have to FACE everything. Stare it down. Like a game of chicken. I’ll be goddamned if I’m peeling off first.

    • Becky says:

      Holy shit, this is super long. Sorry.

      • Simon Smithson says:

        Not at all. I think the subject warrants a certain depth of discussion, if people are inclined to make it. And I think you make good points, so it’s doubly welcome.

        Yeah. It is a sticky wicket. And if my status update had been to say ‘Simon… just boned a bunch of dudes!’ then absolutely, they would be correct in saying ‘You’re so gay.’ In fact, I would congratulate them on their powers of observance.

        And I don’t think there’s an inherent negative association to the word. I can say ‘Elton John is gay’ and be 100% factual, inoffensive, and no one would think twice about it.

        In this sense, however, it was being used as an insult. A pretty minor one, it’s true, but one that was connected to disrespect (I’m using that word so much lately), rather than any homosexual connotation. To borrow your term (which I have just learned from your comment, and am now going to use all the time), the insult point lay with the external commenters, not my internal state.

        One of the things I used to make my decision was to substitute different labels. If someone was to write ‘You’re so Mexican’, for instance, followed by ‘Double Mexican’ or ‘Triple Mexican’, we’d have something of a problem, unless they were to do some pretty hasty explaining.

        I see what you mean about shutting out. And I think there’s a lot to be said for challenge. But this wasn’t challenge that was going to be productive. So rather than be strictly punitive (although there certainly were elements of that), a lot of the blocking was dismantling the ability of the commenters to comment. If they can’t abide by the rules that I’ve clearly set out for what I will and will not tolerate, and if they can’t respect the fact that I’ve made a judgment call on what I feel may disrespect me or others who read their comments, then their privileges get revoked.

        • Becky says:

          Yeah, of course. But could you say, “Elton John is looking especially gay today?” or “Hey buddy, your poster of shirtless Justin Timberlake is kind of gay?”

          I’ve made a judgment call on what I feel may disrespect me or others who read their comments, then their privileges get revoked.

          See this…I gotta be honest with you.

          This seems to suggest that knowing you and being able to comment on you fb is a privilege. I mean, I get what you mean. It is a privilege in some sense of the word, and we shouldn’t feel obligated to endure abuse from others.

          But at the same time…I think you may have gotten a little gay (as in the increasingly archaic definition of happy), if you will, with the block button.

          Not my place to tell you how to run your fb page AT ALL. I’m just saying. You seem a little “mwhahahahaha! Who dares defy me????” right now.

          On a separate note, I think it’s interesting–and this goes for racial sensitivities, too–that sometimes, the people most sensitive to PC and balky at these kinds of words are white, straight, etc. I mean, this goes way beyond you. This is a phenomenon I’ve noticed for a long time.

          I find this phenomenon fascinating. I’m curious what it’s about.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          And, as you’ve pointed out, the the Elton/Justin conundrum comes down to the ambiguity of the word gay in common usage. And could I say these things in an honest belief I was being inoffensive, get called on it by someone who found it offensive, and still justify it?

          I don’t know. And I’m comfortable with, in the face of not knowing, making blanket statements rather than clarifying and quantifying every instance of the word with every single person exposed to that usage – for instance, on Facebook – in an attempt to avoid offense – or rather, potential emotional harm.

          You can always be honest with me. Anything else wouldn’t suit you 🙂

          The fact that other people can comment on my Facebook wall is a privilege.

          But it’s not unique to me or my Facebook wall. It’s a privilege that I can comment on yours, on Zara’s, on anyone’s I know. It’s not an inherent right to humanity to be able to do so, it’s a right that’s been granted – on my Facebook wall, by me. It’s an option on internet site – an internet site that, on my very small corner of it, I am responsible for.

          And people can defy all they like, as long as they’re not going to be dicks about it.

          Which these guys were being.

          On the other note… hmmm. I don’t know. Self-indulgent white guilt? Consciousness of the appropriate use of power? The fact that straight white men have been given more opportunity to engage on the kind of level we’re speaking about? Maybe a combination of all or none of the above and other factors?

          I don’t know. It’s interesting, but I don’t have the data to be able to draw conclusions, only hypotheses.

        • Becky says:

          I missed answering your point about substituting other words.

          What about “girl?” “You’re such a chick.” “You’re so female.” (The female thing is more likely to surface as something like, “need to change your tampon?” or “your bra too tight, or what?” but you get what I mean.)

          Or Republican. “You’re so Republican.”

          I mean, there’s some kind of slippery slope there. Why is “gay” impermissible and “you’re such a chick” permissible?

          Or isn’t it?

          I suppose one isn’t born Republican so there’s some nitpicking to be had there, but people use it as an insult, and it’s still a group of people who could potentially take offense. Or is it okay to offend one group of people but not another? What about hillbillies and hicks?

          I get it. At the end of the day, sometimes, you just don’t like someone or their attitude and at some point you just don’t care to hear from them anymore. But if you expect the action to be punitive, that they will be taught a lesson or change their attitudes for lack of your presence, I think that is probably unrealistic and maybe a little ego-heavy.

          For my part, I am intensely confrontational, but on the same token, at the end of the day, confrontations tend to roll off me as quickly as they come on. I generally don’t like terminal actions. I don’t like anything that seems like a relationship death-blow. So I am generally averse, whether fb blocking, friend break-ups, whatever. Just the way I am. So I’m coming from that position, I guess. That these kinds of things pass.

          I think you’re right about white/straight guilt. And I think it is important that people, white and non-white, gay and straight, be on the same page with regard to the unacceptability of racism, homophobia, etc. But in a way that is difficult to articulate, it seems to me that at some point, policing of it, speaking FOR those communities, in a way, is just another form of disenfranchisement. “We, the white, straight people of the world shall protect you, poor helpless coloreds and gays of the world!”

          I think it can cross that line. I’m very wary of it. It makes me uneasy.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Absolutely, there is a slippery slope. And that’s what I was getting at with the whole idea of so much humour being based on offending someone, because you’re (the plural you) generally laughing at someone when you laugh.

          Take that away, and all we’ve get left is puns.

          This is a discussion I’ve had before, and I don’t think there’s any answer in a practical sense. Because either everything’s funny or nothing is – to say anything else is to start drawing arbitrary lines, and saying, in effect, ‘My subjective experience defines what can and cannot be said.’

          I think there’s probably a personal element that’s important, where if someone has said,
          hey, you, stop saying that thing you’re saying, and you continue, you need to have the moral fortitude to stand by the fact that someone has asked you to stop, and you’ve kept going, and you’re prepared to deal with whatever the fallout from that is.

          And I don’t know about being ego-heavy – if I was to take something too far, and you, for instance, were to block me as a result, it wouldn’t take too long before I was apologising. Which hasn’t happened. And it would certainly make me think twice before repeating the behaviour.

          Or at least work out better arguments for my defence.

          But no, I don’t think this is going to be any kind of Road to Damascus moment. Nor do I think such a thing is necessary in this case.

          In terms of policing: yeah. I was very aware of that possibility. To do so is an incredibly subversive and passive/aggressive way of maintaining the paradigm. And it certainly crossed my mind.

          But then I thought no, actually, I personally – me, Simon – have a problem with the potential offense here, and the carelessness of it. I’m not taking on the mantle of police on behalf of someone else, this is for me.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Oh! I forgot!

          Honestly, if I was to drop the line “You’re such a woman,” or “You’re such a Republican”, and someone called me on it, I think I’d have a hard time defending it.

          Unless it was, as has been pointed out before, something like seeing someone’s vagina, or seeing them vote for McCain in 2008.

          Because if I saw someone’s vagina, the first thing I would say is ‘You’re such a Republican.”

    • dwoz says:

      You’re right about the whole “not shutting out uncomfortable concepts” thing, but there are times when someone says something that makes you realize their statement can only comfortably exist within a worldview that’s so damaged and degenerate, that it’s hopeless to engage. Waste of oxygen, pick yer battles, etc.

      As I review my post count here over the last week, I realize I myself am approaching that threshold. Time to go hibernate and write.

      • Becky says:

        Well, to be perfectly honest, I don’t think there is a worldview too damaged and degenerate for me to confront.

        And considering an idea “damaged and degenerate” would come from a position of me thinking that my worldview was somehow pure or correct or superior, which is, itself, maybe, damaged and degenerate.

        So I wouldn’t be comfortable with that. No.

        • dwoz says:

          maybe “utterly discordant to my own” is a more neutral and less judgmental way to say it than “damaged and degenerate.”

          But then again, if it came to my attention that my worldview was not correct, I’d discard it like yesterday’s strawberry flavored thong.

          There’s just not enough hours in the day.

        • Becky says:

          If you didn’t think your worldview was correct.

          Weren’t you just telling me about the subjectivity of experience yesterday?

        • dwoz says:

          You haven’t caught me in a contradiction. Mores and ethics on one hand and vicarious communication on the other.

          The first is internal, the second external. Anything external is entirely beholden to subjective interpretation, while anything internal is merely at risk of subjective interpretation.

        • Becky says:

          You’re painted into a corner here. Both have to do with interpretations of experiences of the external world. How we process and therefore react to incoming information.

          It’s one thing to say, “this is how I experience X, and it leads me to think/feel X.”

          It’s another thing entirely to say, “if other people do not reach the same conclusion as me, they are wrong by default since I am right by virtue of thinking I am.”

          It’s a game of rhetorical 3-card monty. It goes nowhere.

          Anyway, this is increasingly falling away from the point of Simon’s piece, so I’m not going to pursue it further, but if your stance is that you refuse to interact with people who are too unlike you, I say, by all means, enjoy your xenophobia. Because that’s what it is.

        • dwoz says:

          Now becky, that’s just simply rude. You’re putting twisted words in my mouth and then getting angry at them.

          not cricket.

          While one has to almost by definition state that true objectivity cannot actually exist, by virtue of the very laws of the universe, that doesn’t mean that subjectivity all has the same flavor.

          There’s many levels and shades and degrees. Surely this can’t be a debating point?

        • Becky says:

          I’m not angry, dwoz. I’m bored.

          And I don’t care if I’m rude.

  4. Irene Zion says:

    Simon,
    I don’t know what a “dunk” is. Is it an Australian thing?

  5. Kittenpants says:

    I cannot believe you have publicly outed me, Simon. Maybe where you live, people are more understanding. Maybe they are more tolerant and forgiving. MY friends are MUCH more judgmental and will NEVER let me live down the fact that we were chatting about Fred Durst.

    In my defense, you brought it up. I only replied with a joke about earhole rape.

    I stopped reading after this part of your article, but I’m pretty sure I got the gist and in no way missed the point. Right? Cool.

    Xx

    • Simon Smithson says:

      I hear Tobey’s on his way over to your house with a cleaver right now. If you’re going to earn his forgiveness for the Durst thing, you’d better be ready to start typing nine-fingered.

      Heh.

      Durst.

      What an idiot. I love that guy.
      xx

  6. Kittenpants says:

    Seriously, though, what is there to debate? You’re taking Simon to task over your desire to call things gay? Pick your battles, folks. It’s fucking Facebook, for crying out loud.

    Now, just the other day I asked Simon if he received my “gay letter” and he was polite enough to let it slide. I mean, I was only making a statement of fact (my letter is romantically and sexually attracted to other letters), but had he pointed out that my remark was a bit insensitive, I would simply have apologized and acknowledged my mistake. My point being, it’s not worth losing a friend over just to be able to throw “gay” around as an insult all willy-nilly.

    My general rule is, it’s okay to say anything, as long as it’s hilarious. For example, had someone commented on this article with a simple “UR GAY” it would have been funny, because of irony. But the comments on Simon’s wall were dumb and pointless, as is any defense of them would be.

    Ok. Now call me gay.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Wait.

      Who’s “you?”

      I guess, if you mean me, I’m not defending anyone’s comments. And I’m certainly not taking Simon to task. I have no overwhelming desire to call things gay.

      If you don’t mean me, carry on.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      @Darci:

      Honestly, I was surprised. It’s Facebook. It’s not a grand rallying of freedom, or the last charge in the battle to take back the earth from John Travolta. Which is why my response was restricted to Facebook; I’m not calling anyone and demand they make public apology.

      And at the risk of sounding elitist and stuff… yeah. If something’s hilarious, it engenders way more respect from me. Especially if it’s got some kind of point to it.

      If it’s a bunch of guys mouthing off and basically saying LOLFAG… yeah. Wilde it isn’t.

      Maybe early Wilde.

      Also, your letter will let any of my other letters buy it a drink.

      It’s such a whore.

  7. Kittenpants says:

    Oh, sorry. “you” referred more to those upset on Simon’s page, engaging in all the gay-calling and crying over Simon’s censorship and resulting blockage.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Phew. Okay.

      For the record, though, I’m more interested in the larger concepts of PC and when we do or don’t call off “relationships” (insofar as fb friendship is a relationship, I guess) than condemning Simon or anything to that effect. Lest anyone be confused. My over-windy comments could easily be interpreted otherwise, so I’m throwing that out there.

  8. Joe Daly says:

    Love it. The screenplay format and courses of action are nothing short of brill, brah.

    I watched this unfold on FB yesterday and kept thinking, “He made it clear that they offended him- why can’t they just apologize? Or at the very least, stop fucking making it worse.”

    Who hasn’t offended someone at some point or another with an inappropriate comment? Everybody has. But the thing is, when someone lets you know they’re offended, it’s time to pour yourself a big hot cup of shut-the-fuck-up and let it go. It doesn’t matter whether or not you think they overreacted (you didn’t)- it’s an elementary issue of respect.

    You did a perfect job of acquitting yourself in the situation- you drew the boundary without accusation or judgment, and when the offenders refused to take the dignified route that you gave them, you solved the problem.

    A good lesson that you may not be able to control what others say or do, but you can certainly control how you let it affect you. Well done, brother.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Thanks brah.

      And happy birthday! Today is pimping’s birthday as well, I guess – you guys are twins, yeah?

      I wasn’t looking for an apology then, and I’m not now… just, as you say, a big hot cup of shut-the-fuck-up. Because, yeah. Everyone’s fucked up and made an inappropriate comment at some point in time. I know I have. I will again.

      I’m certain of it like I’m certain of no other thing in life.

      But, yeah. The request to stop was put down, they didn’t…. and, like any pimp, I was forced to go upside their head.

      On Facebook.

      And I regret nothing.

  9. Slade Ham says:

    Man, am I torn on this one. I am a repeat offender when it comes to this crime. I call things gay a lot. A LOT. I think I briefly explain it on my CD, so if this is repetitive, I apologize 🙂 But…

    I’ve been using the phrase “that’s gay” since I was in probably the third or fourth grade, ages before I even really had a concept of what it actually meant to be gay. To me, it was part of the schoolyard vernacular and it meant “stupid”.

    We have homework over Spring Break? That’s gay.

    Now, I justify it by allowing the word to simply have two meanings. A sexual one, and one meaning retarded. Just like black magic, black crayon, and black pride all mean different things.

    Now, with all that said, I absolutely agree with you. Fuck them. Your page, your rules, your right to ban a motherfucker for blinking sideways. If they don’t like it they can go play elsewhere, because, quote Saul Williams, “To be honest, some freedom of speech makes me nervous.”

    • Becky Palapala says:

      It matters who says it, whatever it is, too.

      I can’t lie.

      If you or Simon or whoever really pissed me off somewhere on facebook, I think it is unlikely that you’d get the terminal stiff arm.

      But some random from high school or something? Giving me headaches? I don’t block people, but they might get the “Go fuck yourself” and get defriended.

      Though I don’t really de-friend people either…

      Still. Some people can get away with more than others.

      • Slade Ham says:

        Oh, I agree. Some people get far more latitude than others. My tactic, because in my case, I have a lot of people on my list that I don’t even know, is generally just to wait a day and then just delete the entire thread. I try to keep my FB profile cleaned up a bit anyway, so stuff always disappears, for content reasons or otherwise.

        Happens all the time, so no one really bitches.

        I don’t think I’ve ever banned anyone, though there are a lot of “hidden” people.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Well, at some point, between liked pages and friends, there’s just too much stuff going by to keep track of and you miss stuff you actually care about.

          So people who are dull or annoying get hidden from the feed, yeah.

          I think, should I find myself in a position where I felt I needed to delete a comment or thread because of other people and they consequently complained about it, I’d tell them to stop whining like little bitches. 😉

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Yeah, in a perfect world, I’d treat everyone equally. But I don’t. If some guy I’ve never seen before on the street yells ‘Hey fuck you!’, I’m going to give him shorter shrift than if someone I’ve known for twenty years yells ‘Hey fuck you!’ at me. Objectively, they’re both people. But I have a pre-existing personal connection to one that informs my actions that I don’t have with another.

          There are two shows that have dealt with this that come to mind.

          Always Sunny in Philadelphia had an episode where they said people could do anything in their bar, because that’s freedom. Then when people started doing things that the owners were personally uncomfortable with, they got upset. I believe the quote is ‘We gave people too much freedom.’

          30 Rock had an episode early on revolving around Tracy and Twofer, two of the black members of staff. And the question comes down precisely to who can say what, and with what intent, that makes it OK or not.

          There are no objective rules here. No one has set down a book of social rules that we can go back to and say ‘Ah, page 30, article 6… yep. You can say gay in this circumstance, but not in this‘ (although Facebook and other organisations probably have codes of conduct). So you have to make these decisions on the fly, based on personal preference and belief.

    • James D. Irwin says:

      I’m kind of with you on this one Slade.

      Part of using an offensive word is in the intent or context used.

      And language changes and evolves over time. If anything I think ‘gay’ has lost any power to offend because it’s use has been diluted.

      There is also the fact that words are just words. We’re only offended by words because we’re taught we should be offended by them. Like the way Patrick Swayze tells someone that the term cocksucker is just ‘two nouns used together together to elicit a prescribed response’ in Road House.

      We can choose whether to be offended or not.

      However, if someone says ‘I don’t like that word being used’ then you’ve got to respect that. The issue isn’t about causing offence, but respect.

      I use the word ‘retarded’ a lot. Last year I lived with a girl who had a mentally disabled relative and asked for the phrase to not be said in her presence.

      • Slade Ham says:

        Yep. “Retarded” is another big one.I actually used it in my comment above without even realizing it. Also though, I suppose that I function in a vocation where I get to test the boundaries of what we can and can’t say every day.

        The intent is everything. I can say some pretty brutal things, but if an audience knows I’m totally kidding, no one gets upset. Hypersensitivity to mere language is a concept that I don’t understand. I’m quite conscious about my friends and their beliefs regarding these things, but I am far less sensitive regarding strangers.

        For instance, with Simon. I wouldn’t type “gay” on his page. Out of friendship and respect.

        If, however, some politically correct soccer mom walked up to me after a show upset that I called the Twilight saga gay, I would probably call her gay as well 🙂

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Well, to be fair, you can’t say “retarded” with regard to the mentally disabled…or is it differently abled…these days.

          As far as I know, you can still call a gay person gay.

          And, for example, if Simon said he was going to take up MME, I would have no qualms with pointing out that it was “kinda gay.”

          If he blocked me for that, I’d buy a plane ticket to Melbourne just to grab him by the shoulders and shake him. Because MME IS kinda gay.

        • Richard Cox says:

          I’m also somewhat prone to using “gay” inappropriately, but never for any ill intent toward (or even thinking about) homosexuals. Like Slade, I grew up using it, so it never crossed my mind that it might be a slur. Now that I know it is, I try to steer away from it, particularly (and obviously) when I’m around gay friends. Even they would know I didn’t mean it in an offensive way, but when a word could have a significant offensive meaning to someone else, I try not to use it around them.

          As an extreme example, when I was a kid it wasn’t that far out of bounds to use the “N” word. In rural Texas it just happened. One of my best friends was black and even then I knew it was inappropriate, but for example if we would ring someone’s doorbell and run away, the terminology for that included the “N” word. By the time I was 14 or 15 I was mature enough to realize I should stop using it ever, and today that word is for me the worst word you can say in English, far worse than fuck or cunt ever could be.

          As a writer I obviously understand the importance of language and words, but still I believe the intent is more important than the words themselves. I have a few friends who use the “N” word on rare occasions for shock humor, only among close company, and I’ve learned to live with it. I know these people are not racist. If they were racist, they could say “kafloomerang” and that would be just as bad. But in almost every case, I think using the “N” word carries too much historical and cultural significance for it to be acceptable. Increasingly I realize “gay” falls into a similar space, so I’ve tried to remove it from my vocabulary. After all, I believe strongly that all people should be treated equally, but someone else might not know that about me, so it’s my responsibility not to offend entire cross-sections of humans when I can avoid it.

          Of course there are individuals I’m more than happy to offend, because they’ve earned it. You know who you are.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          A huge part of it does come down to intent. It really, really does. An example would be teaching someone who doesn’t speak English the phrase ‘Fuck your mother’ and sending them off to repeat it at a party.

          They might use the words, but with any luck, whoever is on the receiving end will be aware that the intent of the speaker isn’t to insult – same words, different meaning entirely.

          As Rich points out, however, some words carry significance that goes beyond intent. Now while some particular significances may be being eroded, I don’t think we’re there yet in terms of the word gay. So I have to disagree with you, Jim – I think power to offend remains. I haven’t canvassed opinion or anything, but a number of people have spoken to me privately and said that they were very taken aback by seeing the discussion unfold on my profile on Friday night.

          And, yeah. These people didn’t respect something I asked them to do. And I wasn’t prepared to put up with it. Which is another element in the mix.

    • Joe Daly says:

      South Park did a great episode on the way the word “fag” has changed usage and is now used in two different contexts- one as an intentional offense to gay people, and another to describe selfish or gutless behavior. But their point was that the two uses depend on who says it and what they mean, and it should be viewed as basically two separate words. That’s how it’s always seemed to me. Usually the intent of the person using it is pretty clear.

      But yeah, in this case, I think the issue was more that Simon asked them to stop and instead they did it even more. So he blocked them. Problem solved.

      • Simon Smithson says:

        Is that the episode where Mr. Garrison goes dancing down the street singing ‘Hey, there, shitty shitty fag fag, shitty shitty fag fag, how do you do?’

        Heh.

        Say what you like about those guys, I love that they are more than willing to tackle every single issue under the sun. And they’re remarkable even-handed with it.

        I think this comes down to a personal barometer, which I expressed pretty clearly. And I’d love to hear the discussions on the other end of this. And which really sums it up for me.

        “I can’t believe Simon blocked me!”
        “Why would he do that?”
        “Ah, I kept throwing the word gay around. And he asked me to stop. Three times. And I didn’t – I just started using it more.”
        “Unbelievable! What an unreasonable son of a bitch.”

  10. Richard Cox says:

    I replied in detail above about my thoughts toward slurs. I think you were totally justified in blocking them if that’s what you wanted to do. I don’t block very many people and don’t even take down very many posts on my wall, even when they piss me off. But if someone was using slurs I would for sure.

    Regarding faking the funk, I love the commercial where Shaq says it. As far as I understand it, the commercial first aired during the 1993 Super Bowl, in which the Dallas Cowboys destroyed the Buffalo Bills 52-17. Occasionally I pop in the VHS tape and watch the game–it’s so glorious–so I’ve also seen the commercial many times. It’s awesome.

    In fact, let’s have a look: Don’t fake the funk on the nasty dunk

    There’s also an interesting rumination about this famous phrase here. A couple of my favorites:

    “This is a phrase used more to indicate when one has NOT faked the funk on a nasty dunk. E.g. when someone goes up and makes a nasty dunk on which the funk has clearly not been faked. It would be harder to imagine how exactly one would go about faking the funk on a nasty dunk even if one should want to do so.”

    “Are we talking about a time when nasty was a bad adjective to have modifying the status of your dunk? Or has the nastiness of one’s dunk always been an admirable goal? If nasty is undesirable, then the phrase clearly means you should not fake the funk if you have just made an average, perhaps slightly malodorous, dunk. If nasty is something to strive for, then it is saying one shouldn’t force the funk of any particular dunk and let the funk stand on its own merits.”

    “In the context of dunking, “fake”, as an adjective qualifying the noun (the dunk), is singularly void. The mere fact that the dunk has occurred logically implies that there must have been some funk associated with it on the part of the dunker. The impetus behind the original dunk performed by Dr. Naismith was to add a certain element of funkiness to an otherwise banal sport. The only real way to ascertain the level of funk on a particular dunk is to poll the dunkee, for it is the only one that can provide this info since the rest of us are merely outside observers. Alas, the dunkee is only an inanimate object thus leaving us in the lurch. The jury is out on this one.”

    Happy Sunday, Mr. Smithson.

  11. Richard Cox says:

    I hate it when WordPress eats comments. Is it really that difficult to include a link? Here’s the comment sans hyperlinks. If the other ever shows up, you can delete this.

    I replied in detail above about my thoughts toward slurs. I think you were totally justified in blocking them if that’s what you wanted to do. I don’t block very many people and don’t even take down very many posts on my wall, even when they piss me off. But if someone was using slurs I would for sure.

    Regarding faking the funk, I love the commercial where Shaq says it. As far as I understand it, the commercial first aired during the 1993 Super Bowl, in which the Dallas Cowboys destroyed the Buffalo Bills 52-17. Occasionally I pop in the VHS tape and watch the game–it’s so glorious–so I’ve also seen the commercial many times. It’s awesome.

    In fact, let’s have a look: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01-vPBqLplg

    There’s also an interesting rumination about this famous phrase here: http://www.sportscenteraltar.com/phrases/usage.asp?ID=125. A couple of my favorites:

    “This is a phrase used more to indicate when one has NOT faked the funk on a nasty dunk. E.g. when someone goes up and makes a nasty dunk on which the funk has clearly not been faked. It would be harder to imagine how exactly one would go about faking the funk on a nasty dunk even if one should want to do so.”

    “Are we talking about a time when nasty was a bad adjective to have modifying the status of your dunk? Or has the nastiness of one’s dunk always been an admirable goal? If nasty is undesirable, then the phrase clearly means you should not fake the funk if you have just made an average, perhaps slightly malodorous, dunk. If nasty is something to strive for, then it is saying one shouldn’t force the funk of any particular dunk and let the funk stand on its own merits.”

    “In the context of dunking, “fake”, as an adjective qualifying the noun (the dunk), is singularly void. The mere fact that the dunk has occurred logically implies that there must have been some funk associated with it on the part of the dunker. The impetus behind the original dunk performed by Dr. Naismith was to add a certain element of funkiness to an otherwise banal sport. The only real way to ascertain the level of funk on a particular dunk is to poll the dunkee, for it is the only one that can provide this info since the rest of us are merely outside observers. Alas, the dunkee is only an inanimate object thus leaving us in the lurch. The jury is out on this one.”

    Happy Sunday, Mr. Smithson.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      I’m not a big blocker. And frankly, I was surprised at myself. It was late, and I’d had enough, and I’m sure, at some point in the future after this whole brouhaha has died down, I’ll add them again. I’m not looking to crucify anyone. But I did make the choice to withdraw their ability to keep commenting when it became clear they were going to ignore my request.

      “It would be harder to imagine how exactly one would go about faking the funk on a nasty dunk even if one should want to do so.”

      Every single line of this is genius.

      Happy Saturday, Mr. Cox.

  12. Lenore Zion says:

    ugh, god. when did you become so self-righteous?

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Lenore, please. You’re a woman. Unless your opinion agrees with me or is about curtains, it’s meaningless.

  13. Greg Olear says:

    This is a slippery slope. I know gay men who say “That’s so gay” in the same context your (ex) friends did, and they’re cool with it. I don’t generally use it myself, mostly because I don’t want my kids saying it; I usually just go with “fucked up.”

    But.

    If you bar “gay,” you have to also look hard at other curse words rooted in homophobia…and there are a lot of them. Cocksucker, for one. You also can’t say something sucks, bites the big one, or licks it, or that someone should choke on it. “Sucks” is common parlance at this point. They say it on cartoons for first graders. And it’s absolutely homophobic, when you stop and analyze it. But when I say that The DaVinci Code sucks, is my intention really to impugn Dan Brown’s straightness? Not at all.

    “Gay” is also tricky because unlike, say, the n-word or the c-word, it meant something completely different until quite recently. (Make the Yuletide gay…).

    This is not to say you were wrong to take umbrage, especially when they didn’t stop. But it’s hardly the with-us-or-against-us issue that, say, gay marriage is. Opponents of gay marriage are homophobes, period. People who say “that’s so gay” are just being careless with an expression that’s been in the lexicon for quite some time, and most of the time, I’d guess, don’t think about it expressing a homophobic sentiment.

    Now, if they’d said “fag,” that’s a whole other issue…

    • Simon Smithson says:

      It really, really is a slippery slope.

      And it’s not just the confined lexicon of curse words rooted in homophobia – as soon as you say one thing’s not OK to say, then you open the possibility that a million other things aren’t OK to say.

      And just about everyone, somewhere, has their sore point. They will have a situation or a setting where they will say ‘Don’t say that.’

      Somewhere, a line will be drawn – arbitrarily. I drew mine on my Facebook page.

      I think the difference here is that I personally don’t believe that the secondary definition of the word gay has subsumed the primary definition yet. I think it’s still a term that holds offense in many contexts, this being one of them.

      And you’re right – it isn’t on the level of gay marriage, equal rights, DADT… anything along those lines. I mean, this was a handful of comments on one man’s Facebook page, it’s hardly going to stop the earth from turning.

      And it’s not as if I’m going to report these people to the authorities, or even stop hanging out with them. I just bitch-slapped them on the internet.

    • Erika Rae says:

      I don’t generally use it myself, mostly because I don’t want my kids saying it; I usually just go with “fucked up.”

      Bwahahaha

    • Dana says:

      Wait. Greg? Did you just imply that cocksucking, sucking, licking and biting are only used in homosexual sex?

      • Greg Olear says:

        Ha! I suppose I did…

        But seriously, those words were originally meant to convey the “you are a sodomite” “insult”. If the derivation was from the ladies engaged in said activities, the words would be praises, not jabs!

  14. Simon Smithson says:

    Oops, gotta go. I have an art exhibition to get to (anyone who says la-di-da in a snooty kind of tone will not be blocked on my Facebook account). Thank you to everyone for the discussion so far – I’ll be back. I promise.

  15. Erika Rae says:

    Can’t stop laughing enough to comment at this point…will check back in later after making donuts. (Yes, again.) Don’t judge me.

  16. ah, yeah, Simon, this is a good point to bring up. I personally feel all slurs get less painful the more they’re used, and so the “forbidden” aspect gives them additional power to harm. Clearly there needs to be a consideration of intent. Until, of course, situations arise where intent is unclear.

    For many years, I’ve had a copy of Billy Lee Brammer’s “The Gay Place” on my bookshelf. There have been innumerable times where I’ve seen a dinner guest’s eye pass over the title, and then seen them frown, look at me, look at my wife, and possibly reconsider dessert. Only once have I gone on to explain that Brammer’s book is one of the best written political accounts of an American presidential election in all of literature, in this case Lyndon Johnson’s.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      I think it’s an evolutionary thing. In terms of what people are sensitive to, familiarity breeds contempt. Just look at language on TV. It’s taken us barely a handful of decades to almost completely and totally not care about swearing on TV.

      Although the C-bomb retains much of its firepower.

      And I agree – making something taboo gives it additional power to harm. But it depends on the nature of the taboo, I think. If you say ‘Oh you mustn’t! You mustn’t!’, then suddenly people want to.

      If you turn around and say ‘No, you’re an idiot for using it,’ it depowers the word. It makes the person using it smaller, not bigger.

      I guess. That’s my feeling on it, anyway.

      I think what’s important to remember is that words don’t have an inherent meaning, positive or negative. It’s just some words have a stigma that is so powerful and all-pervading that you can’t help be aware of it.

      The N word is the prime example. So much so that now we say ‘The N Word’.

      Gay? As a word? I don’t think it’s there yet, in terms of having two meanings that are acceptable. Maybe it never will be.

      • Becky says:

        People say “The N-Word” in public, anyway.

        It’s like Richard points out.

        I don’t think aiming to making a word taboo in polite company and discovering that it does, in fact, become taboo necessarily means people don’t use it.

        It’s largely a line between public and private behavior, not whether the word or the sentiment behind the word has fallen away.

        (I am not suggesting that Richard’s friends are racist; just that “We say ‘The N-Word'” may not really be accurate.)

        This, to me, is the one critical failing of PC language. At the core of what makes those words offensive is an idea–racism, homophobia, whatever. So with PC language, you don’t get, “Let’s eradicate those things,” you get “let’s hide evidence of those things.”

        And, of course, language doesn’t determine thought. Generally speaking, if humans have an idea they want to express, they will be endlessly creative in devising a way to do that. They don’t abandon the idea because there’s no polite way to say it. They just make up something new.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          I think the more you look at this sort of thing, the more you realise that it’s a very, very gray-shaded area.

          I don’t think you can say ‘Hey! We don’t use racist words! Racism is dead! Hooray!’, because that’s not going to true at all. Racism is the example that springs to mind based on the use of the term ‘The N Word’, but it would be true of any discriminatory speech.

          But is the point of PC language to eradicate these behaviours in a kind of leaves-to-roots culling? Or is it more a way of saying ‘Yeah, this shit is unpleasant, and might hurt people, so, despite the existence of bigotry and bias, I, personally, am going to respect the feelings of others?’

        • Becky says:

          Well, though I get the metaphor, I’m not sure leaves-to-roots works with language. I mean, to be fair, there are plenty of plants it doesn’t even work on. My yard is testament to this.

          I guess, with regard to the last sentence, I feel like it begs the question: To what end?

          Like, yes, of course, to avoid offending or upsetting anyone in your immediate company, but is there a greater point than that, or is it simply politesse? The language equivalent of chewing with your mouth closed?

          If suppressing “bigoted” language gives it both the power of taboo AND does nothing to actually eradicate bigotry (or even the use of those words, even if it changes where and with whom they’re used) what are we doing?

          I mean it’s this big picture thing that gnaws at me.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          It really is a less than perfect analogy.

          And you’re absolutely right on the big picture sense.

          But we’re not really working to a blueprint here, just bumbling our way around concepts of language that are pretty recent in a lot of ways.

          An interesting counterpoint is the radio host (Dr. Ruth? Is that her name? Dr. Laura? She’s American, so not immediately familiar) who caused a stir – hang on, I’ll find it.

          Aha! Dr. Laura Schlessinger.

          Have you heard about this?

          One article I read made the point that while we may not – and never – be able to stamp bigotry out of the human experience, we can certainly recognise it, and refuse to condone it.

          The issue of taboo is a curious one. By banning a word, I think we need to be careful. My take is that it can be done in a way that lessens the power of the word, not strengthens it. Not to say, ‘You can’t use that word!’ but rather, ‘That word detracts.’

          Damn it. I’m hitting word salad here, I think. And a lot of it feels very academic in terms of effectiveness.

          Is this making sense?

        • Becky says:

          This is an instance where “The N-Word” becomes a curious case study.

          Because it has become taboo to even utter the word, even in talking about the word–even in purely dry or academic contexts where it doesn’t condone or signify bigotry.

          As a white person, I officially have a word that is off limits to me, in any context ever.

          So what we’re dealing with is a power dynamic and the “owning” of language. At the same time, it’s sort of a false power shift. All that I or any person has to do to undermine that power dynamic, literally, is “say the word.”

          My general feeling will always be that language is not the problem and therefore restricting language–or even objecting to the use of certain language rather than the feelings that underpin it–is not the solution.

          I mean, to me, it misses the big-picture mark. I would feel weird holding other people accountable for tender handling of my own particular sensibilities. Like, that couldn’t stand alone for me. “X behavior is wrong because I don’t (or someone else might not) like it.”

          I don’t feel like I’m explaining this very well either. I guess what I’m saying is that I would feel uncomfortable getting angry at someone for using a word like “gay” and offering “Because I said so” as the only justification for my demands that they stop using it. I mean, it would have to get the full treatment.

        • Becky says:

          Another way of putting it is that reacting purely in offense is not something that I think is generally effective. A lot of people simply aren’t moved by offense.

          Reacting in challenge, though…making people justify their decisions to use language in a certain way…I mean, that’s a way to make people gobble that word right back up.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          It could be – and I think probably is – a different sensitivity to certainly racially-loaded words in the States, as there are over here. I don’t think outlawing any given word in all senses is a good idea, because then how can you discuss the issue?

          Like, Conrad’s book being re-titled The N-Word of the Narcissus? Seriously? Way to decontextualise something that indicates moods and standards of the time.

          I agree, I don’t think language is the problem, in and of itself. But I think over time, and with a history of usage, certain words have become so strongly linked to certain attitudes and actions that the word itself has become a red flag.

          I mean, technically, this should be the case.

          But human relations leave the technical stage very quickly. Being aware of that, and being aware that other people may have a knee-jerk reaction due to their personal history, I’d prefer to err on the side of caution.

          Even if I’m aware of the arbitrary nature of censorship.

          And I believe that the people in this particular case are educated enough in anti-discriminatory practices that as soon as I said ‘Hey, quit it,’ they would know exactly why I was saying so.

          “Reacting in challenge, though…making people justify their decisions to use language in a certain way…I mean, that’s a way to make people gobble that word right back up.”

          Damn.

          If it had have been earlier in the night, I might have thought of that 🙂

        • Becky says:

          And I believe that the people in this particular case are educated enough in anti-discriminatory practices that as soon as I said ‘Hey, quit it,’ they would know exactly why I was saying so.

          I’m not so sure about this.

          I mean, beyond relying on an assumption of mind-reading in general.

          As right as you may be about the inappropriateness of what they were doing, to get that sort of finite and upset about any given thing is not something that I would characterize as “usual” for you.

          And if they were making decisions based on who they were talking to, as most of us do, there is a good chance they didn’t totally get what was going on or how serious you were.

          But this is minutiae, really. Neither here nor there. Really the important thing, for me or anyone else who wasn’t among the blocked, is the realization that, indeed, Simon has a dark side, and don’t piss it off. 😉

        • Simon Smithson says:

          With these guys, who I know well, I’m going to rest comfortably with the statement. Two of them work in corporate communications, all of them are tertiary-educated, and discussions about censorship and awareness of consequence have certainly been present in the past.

          It’s funny. Generally I’m pretty laid-back about most things. And I prefer to seek to understand, rather than react. I think it’s much healthier, all around.

          But I’ve recognised a growing tendency in myself to suddenly hit a point where the wall comes down. There’s an episode of The Sopranos where Tony has been pushed and pushed and pushed by this guy, and finally he grabs him, beats him, throws him to the ground, and says ‘You bottomed out.’

          These guys bottomed out.

          😉

  17. Dana says:

    I once chided a close friend for using gay in a way I sensed was pejorative. He, who has many more close gay friends than I, suggested that I was being hypersensitive (who? moi?!). As we were discussing a rather flamboyant belt buckle at the time, he indicated that in this instance, he was using it as a compliment, ala Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

    Whatever though man, they were being complete douchebags, and I applaud your chutzpah in kicking them to the curb. If you still see them in the real world though, be prepared, if they’re anything like my friends, this disScussion is not over.

    Hey, now that you’ve gotten rid of a few fb friends…. I promise not to sully your page…

  18. Dana says:

    Also, forgot to mention – loved the style of this! And since I didn’t see any of this drama unfolding on fb, I thought for sure this piece was going to be about a lethal hangover. 🙂

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Thanks Dana!

      It’s a topic with some pretty gray edges, really. Especially with, as has been pointed out, the growing number of meanings of the word gay.

      Maybe I should put a sign up on my FB page: Freedom of Speech in effect… just don’t be a dick about it.

      And thanks for the style points, Dana!

      I’m sure it will be brought up again. We generally all hang out for coffee once a week at least.

  19. Tawni says:

    Damn it. I haven’t been on Facebook much lately. I always miss all of the good stuff.

    Like Slade, I’m also a fan of the “delete uncomfortable threads a few days later” and “hide annoying people” Facebook moves. I have probably hidden 50% of my Facebook friends. I have a low tolerance for eighty status updates a day, eighty music videos a day, posts referring to games/applications, negative/emo attitude on a regular basis, and the religious beliefs of others being Facebook-fed down my throat. (I don’t care “what God wants you to know,” people. I DON’T CARE.)

    I think you handled this perfectly. You made your opinion clear and they disrespected it repeatedly. Blocking justified. Well done! (:

    • Simon Smithson says:

      I’ve blocked so many applications. And felt good about doing it. Especially after the days when you weren’t able to do that.

      Thanks, Tawni! It’s nice that the internet has my back on this. Although it brings up interesting ideas about freedom and censorship.

    • dwoz says:

      When my facebook page was active, I just ended up having to block several people, one in particular, who incessantly put up little brief self-affirming aphorisms, like they were out of a book or something…

      …Tanda is blessed

      …Tanda is workin’ it

      …Tanda is making good things happen

      …Tanda is invincible today

      oh, man it just got under my skin like stinging nettles.

  20. Gloria says:

    “I could see, in my head, trying to get back into the USA, and the staffer behind the immigration desk looking at me, looking at my passport and reading those accusing words, then looking back up at me… and slowly narrowing his eyes.”

    Don’t worry, they would still let you come over, they would just confine you to Arizona.

    I took two different writing for television classes over a six month period toward the end of my education. They were taught by the same man. One of the things I learned was that the optimal number of times to repeat a particularly funny joke (in one episode of a show) is three. David Letterman, apparently, is the king of this. He’ll make a specific joke once, say at the beginning of his monologue, then once more toward the end of his monologue he’ll make another joke about the same subject, then once more, to a guest, sometime before the show is over he’ll reference it again. 3 is the magic number.

    It’s weird to read this story. I have been away from Facebook for only two months, but it’s shocking to me already how much is can affect the way we interact with each other socially. I do not miss it.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      I could bring my America blankets!

      Oh. Wait. You’re not on FB. You wouldn’t have seen them. Is there a way to upload photos into comments?

      3 is the magic comedy number, apparently. If there’s a patch of ice, it’s funniest when one guy walks over it and doesn’t slip, a second guy walks over it and doesn’t slip, and then a third guy walks over it and gets hit by an asteroid.

      The whole FB thing, and internet commentary in general… it’s really odd, and disconcerting, to see how people act when the boundaries are lifted – or at least, when people think they are lifted.

      • Gloria says:

        Yes, but Simon… I wonder if you realize what I suspect to be true – that FB not only affects how your friends act and react, but how you do, too. Would you have made such a fuss in a group full of people?

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Oh absolutely – on the front of changing how I act, too. It’s a different forum, with different rules, different abilities, different exposures… static/public, as opposed to dynamic/private…

          I think it would depend very much on the situation. If you were to transpose the situation as nearly as possible into real life – so, I was on stage, talking to these people, an audience of [(all my Facebook friends) – (the ones involved in the discussion)], some of them paying attention, some of them not, some of them sleeping or eating or watching TV, or doing whatever, in front of us (this is a big concert hall), and the exact same discussion went down… then yes, absolutely, I would say: stop saying those things you’re saying.

        • Gloria says:

          I believe that, actually. You’re kinda that guy. That’s a compliment. 🙂

          Your comparison of FB vs. how it would look in the real world is spot on. And hilarious.

    • Zara Potts says:

      The Law of Three. It works.

  21. dwoz says:

    On the subject of censorship on your own FB page…

    …it’s worth keeping in the back of your head that your social media links are becoming increasingly relevant to things like university acceptance, employers, (publishers?), and financiers.

    I was actually asked what my facebook handle was on a mortgage application. (optional info…today).

    It becomes necessary to exert some measure of control over how the rest of the world sees you through your internet persona. This is only going to become more pervasive.

    So that’s not a tin-foil-hat call to arms, it’s just a pragmatic call to awareness. When you google yourself, what do you see?

    • Simon Smithson says:

      I think that’s something these people forgot in the moment- although I do operate a totally-locked down profile. But given that we have friends in common, some of them people that the commenters work/worked with, they clearly forgot that they would be under scrutiny as well.

      The scrutiny that has come back so far has not been impressed.

  22. Lorna says:

    I was waiting for someone to bring up the issue of boundaries here (thanks Joe). We all have various sensitivities to different issues depending on what challenges our lives have dealt us.
    I absolutely would and have deleted comments on my page that offend me. I have also deleted comments I have left on others pages after rethinking or rereading the comment and realizing I may be out of line.

    Quoted from Simon’s comments: “I see what you mean about shutting out. And I think there’s a lot to be said for challenge. But this wasn’t challenge that was going to be productive. So rather than be strictly punitive (although there certainly were elements of that), a lot of the blocking was dismantling the ability of the commenters to comment. If they can’t abide by the rules that I’ve clearly set out for what I will and will not tolerate, and if they can’t respect the fact that I’ve made a judgment call on what I feel may disrespect me or others who read their comments, then their privileges get revoked.”

    I couldn’t agree more, Simon. Well played, sir.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      I can live with people having different opinions of what’s offensive or not – variety is the spice of life, you know?

      But there’s a boundary issue there, and when someone has clearly and distinctly delineated their own personal boundaries, in their own personal space, and you still cross them…

      Well, that’s when you get trouble.

      Thanks, Lorna!

  23. Stefan Kiesbye says:

    wish i could have had some of the cider. no one makes arrogance so sexy, mr. smithson.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Mr. Kiesbye, I’m going to see if I can’t get you some of that cider. Let me tell you, it was freaking delicious.

      And, you know.

      It’s a gift.

      A sexy, sexy gift.

  24. kristen says:

    Sigh, people projecting their own shit onto you… Blocked, indeed. xo.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      And it feels so good…

      Heh.

      I found myself kind of wishing that more people would act up so I could block them too. Possibly because I’ve never really done this before. It was like being on holiday.

  25. It’s your page, man, censor away! You’ve used your power for good. My fabulous L&G friends and I salute your efforts. Go you!

  26. Ronlyn Domingue says:

    I have just donned my devil’s advocate hat and wondered what would have happened if you had deleted your status update entirely after the first and second comments appeared. A great deal of unpleasantness may have been avoided. Yet by letting it play out, you learned something about those connected to you (whether emotionally or virtually) and about yourself, too.

    There is a delicate balance among opinions. Several years ago when I taught college-level English composition, a male student made a comment out loud in discussion that was prejudiced against gay people. I told him in front of the class that he was allowed his opinion but that in our class, such comments weren’t acceptable–I wanted everyone to feel welcomed. That afternoon, I received an e-mail from a student who is lesbian. I did not know this about her. She thanked me for what I did. And I guess things were handled okay, because the young man who made the comment and I had a good relationship the rest of the semester.

    As for Facebook, I use my account for personal and professional reasons. The professional trumps everything, and I am admittedly guarded about what I post or comment.

    I’ve “hidden” FB friends because of their posts. There’s only so much negativity in the realm of someone’s personal life or political opinions that I can tolerate.

    Timely, thoughtful piece here, Mr. Simon.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Honestly, I don’t know what would have happened. I ended going back and deleting the whole status the day afterwards, and clean-slated the whole issue.

      I was very aware of the idea of pouring more fuel on the fire by interacting. But I was aware that on my Facebook page, I had the ultimate power if things were to get too out of hand.

      And, yes, I think there’s an important case to be made for allowing people to have and express their own opinions, just as it’s important to allow the right of reply.

      I think in the past I’ve probably been more black and white on this stuff than I am now. So it’s good, in some ways – it’s made me think about the issue with more precision than I would have otherwise.

  27. Matt says:

    Fuck ’em.

    It’s your page, you laid down the rules, and they refused to comply. It’s not as if you told them not to say gay as a perjorative–or were even making a judgement call on them as human beings–you just asked them not to do so there. If you want to block, that’s on you.

    If a person came over to my home, engaged in a particular behavior that I didn’t like and then continued doing it when I asked them to stop, I’d tell them to leave. Period.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Thanks, Matt. Fuck ’em is right.

      My whole belief on the issue of censorship, and if they’re going to cry foul on that issue, is, fine. Let’s see how that stacks against your self-interest. Go and start using sexual and racial slurs at your place of work, and when you get censured by your boss, yell ‘This is bullshit! Stop impinging my free speech!’

  28. JM Blaine says:

    There’s a part in Klosterman’s last book where
    he says celebrities are underpaid because
    if Britney Spears had a dollar
    for everytime we used her as an example to
    signify our own superiority
    she’d be richer than Warren Buffet.
    & Fred Durst would be Bill Gates.

    Who funked the dump?

    Have you ever seen the original
    cover to License to Ill
    which was entitled
    Don’t Be a Faggot?

    Check spell,
    just suggested I change that
    to “Don’t Be a Foghat.”

    Simon, you know how to stir, sir.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      You know
      I have never read
      Klosterman

      And yet
      The last week
      He just keeps
      Appearing

      Interesting.

      I have not seen the cover
      Interesting too
      the Beasties
      Have since come out
      and apologised
      For many things
      They said.

      And honestly
      I thought that said
      (At first)
      License to Kill
      And I thought less
      Of Ian Fleming.

      Sometimes
      A good stir
      Is exactly
      What’s needed.

  29. Brin says:

    That was way too much fun.

  30. Cynthia Hawkins says:

    Good on ya mate! (I’ve learned all of my “Australian” expressions from the Wiggles and Crocodile Dundee. I know — I’m impressing you.) Although you’ve accumulated way too many comments for me to read expediently, I did read Zara’s and I agree: I love the way you begin this like a screenplay. Terrific description of your reaction: “does that kind of reverse whistling/suck in air thing you do when you see someone bark their shin on a car door and draws back from the computer into the cushions of his chair.” I paste this as if you won’t remember. But there you have it! And I think you did absolutely the right thing. Those assholes! Someone once left a comment on an Academy Awards post of mine, calling it the “gay superbowl.” Deleted. But fortunately he got the idea and never commented on anything of mine since.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      I’m so impressed. Now, if you can decipher the perfectly intelligible phrase ‘Shazza, Dazza, and Bazza went to Macca’s, listening to Acca Dacca, after some hard yakka’, I’ll be in awe.

      Thanks Cynthia! The screenplay idea just kind of wrote itself, and I wasn’t sure about it, but rolled with it, and I’m glad I did. Playing with form is something I’m trying to do more and more of lately.

      Ah, that reverse whistle. There should be a name for that action. There probably is in a European language. They have all the best words.

      I think it’s easy to forget how much administrative power we have on the internet.

      The answer is, sweet levels.

  31. Marni Grossman says:

    Oh, Simon. You’re such a good egg. Your humor is never mean-spirited.

    My best friend from high school’s brother has Down’s Syndrome. He’s an amazing guy. Funny and fun and lovable. Because of him, my friend has always been sensitive about people saying “that’s so retarded.” Naturally. And while I- like you- believe in freedom of speech, I would hope that any friend of mine would be sensitive enough to realize that using that 4th grade expression is a) juvenile b) not very creative and c) just not right.

    Also: “And that was when I realised that maybe I was about to get caught in the middle of a nasty dunk. And if so, then no matter what else I did, the one thing I could not do was fake the funk.” So. Funny.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      That’s very sweet of you to say, Marni, but my humour can actually be mean-spirited a bit of the time. It really can. I just try to rein it in. Sometimes things fall out of my mouth and I think Wow! That one would have gone to the bone.

      Of course, that’s generally more satirical humour, with a grain of truth to it. That’s usually what hits the hardest.

      The term ‘retarded’ is an interesting case in point. It seems that over the last few years, there’s been a real movement to stamp it out. From where and when, I couldn’t say, but it’s lost cultural currency, totally and completely.

      Am I alone in thinking/feeling this way?

      Also, thanks 🙂

  32. This is awesome, and I wish I’d had the loan of your quick-fire brain cells in a class I was teaching about Whitman, when a stunningly thoughtlessly homophobic comment was made, and I stood there knowing I had to make it right somehow, but how? Absolutely could not let 30 students walk away with hatemongery in the air, but also didn’t want to publicly humiliate the one student who said it (though it would have been so, so easy). Fair play to you.

  33. PS: Meant to say I didn’t want to humiliate any student in a classroom setting; humiliation in and of itself is a fair consequence of bigotry. PPS: Also meant to say, you are so dang funny.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Thanks Maile! It’s nice to ‘meet’ you, as it were.

      The more you delve into this kind of scenario, the more it becomes clear there’s a lot of grey. In practical terms, especially – what’s going to be effective, what’s going to actually lead to more than just a teacher imposing authority?

      There aren’t easy answers. But it sounds as if the student did an effective job of humiliating themselves…

  34. Gregory Messina says:

    As a fan of “ish”, I loved 11:13pm-ish! There are too many comments to know the gist of what people said, but it’s your facebook profile so you can do as you see fit. It’s not that you’re censoring, you’re not tolerating something you don’t agree with in your own personal space.

    Using “gay” as an insult in most ways is completely insulting to gay people, though many people argue that they don’t mean anything against gay people. It’s just a word with a negative connotation, like jerk. I wish these people could hear themselves speak.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Is -ish one of the words popularised by Joss Whedon? I didn’t realise how much of an effect he’d had on langauge, but apparently he did. Now that I’ve said that very thing, I don’t think it was – I think it definitely pre-dates Whedon.

      Yeah, it’s kinda hard to launch a defence in this day and age, unless you’re prepared to really commit to the discussion (if you haven’t watched it, I love that clip to Let Me Borrow That Top, and the 1:30 marks says it all). My personal stance on the matter is that to use the word gay as an insult isn’t something I can condone. The comments on this piece show a range of standpoints, I think. So if nothing else, it’s a an important discussion to have, I think.

  35. Ashley Menchaca (NOLAdy) says:

    Just so you know, after reading this, I checked to see if we were still friends on fb. It’s not right to put that much pressure on your friends/fans. 🙂

  36. Shannon says:

    ha! “flame war”. hahahahahahha!!

    you can totally delete this if you want. i won’t be hurt.

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