Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Censored Redacted Bleep: a Modest Proposal

By now Perry's "N*****head Rock" scandal has almost blown over, along with Rick Perry's candidacy. I don't think that Perry himself is racist, exactly; that dishonor goes to the landscape he inhabits. (Literally the landscape, with a slur painted upon a rock.) His insensitivity isn't specifically racist; he's insensitive in general. He may or may not be a racist, but he's definitely a jerk.

It comes down to manners. In general it is prudent to not insult random strangers gratuitously; or, at least, not strangers who count. When people who didn't count start to count, then suddenly some words reveal meanings previously ignored in polite company.

This reminds me of a comment by Bertrand Russell, to the effect that 'national character' is really a description of that nation's dominant political class; so that after any important political change, the national character will change too. Well, which slurs may be painted on rocks is part of the national character.

Part of the problem is that slurs, insults, obscenities and other naughty words operate at a pre-rational level. People react whether they want to or not. Therefore we should rarely talk that way, partly in compassion for the mere humanity of our neighbors, and partly as strategic thrift in the use of a powerful weapon.

Another part of the problem is that you can't talk about a naughty word without using the naughty word...

... or can you?

I have a modest proposal; that we use the word "bleep" as an all-purpose obscenity. Also "censored", "suppressed", "redacted", "expletive deleted", and so on. The idea is that censorship itself is an obscenity; it is inherently shameful; and therefore it and related words should themselves be considered vile cuss words, and used accordingly. For instance, I can refer to Perry's rock as "Bleephead Rock", and thus refer to the word (bleeped out above) without speaking it. 

"Bleep" has relatives and derivatives; censoring, redacter, bleepy, suppressed, and so on. Define them all as universally offensive. They comprise all slurs, especially the violent ones; and all gross-out references to body functions and body parts. Since these are generic cusswords, they leave their vileness up to the listener's own filthy imagination.

You may think that 'bleep' is just a censorious euphemism; and indeed part of its purpose is to enable us to discuss the 'real' cusswords without feeling their emotional effect. So 'bleep' is safe cussing. An ordinary dirty word is to 'bleep' as a bleep is to a bleep in a condom!

But I think that 'bleep' has real potential as an cussword in its own right. As Mark Twain noted, it's not the words but the music. If you truly project 'bleep', then you get to be both a critic of hypocritical censorship, and a hypocritical censor! A bleeping win-win!

Best of all, you can't bleep out 'bleep'; because if you bleep out a bleep, then all you get is… another bleeping bleep!

Aw, expurgated! The suppressed redacter is all censored up! Expletive deleted!

See how easy it is? And as for Perry... he can go bleep my classified!

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