Banning doesn’t change behaviour

It’s too easy to hit the “off” switch when you are a bureaucratic deity.

It’s too easy to hit the “off” switch when you are a bureaucratic deity.

In January, the CRTC announced that Dire Strait’s 25 year old but still popular song, Money for Nothing was banned from Canadian airways because it contained an offensive word.

Someone complained so the CRTC hit the kill switch. Problem solved.

It’s like a fantasy – all the things that have every annoyed you get turned off. Well, not all of them, because there will always be something new and even more annoying to take their place.

Why? Well, maybe the problem isn’t with those “things” but with ourselves. And what may annoy the heck out of one thing may be someone else’s idea of paradise.

To illustrate, a bit of dialogue from the movie, Demolition Man (1993). In 1996 Sylvester Stallone’s character is frozen, and awoken in 2032. He asks for a cigarette and is told:

“Smoking is not good for you. Anything not good for you is bad. Hence, illegal.

Alcohol, caffeine, contact sports, meat…

…chocolate, gasoline, uneducational toys and spicy food.

Abortion is illegal, so is pregnancy if you don’t have a license.”

Sure, there are words that many of us don’t like to hear. But if we banned all the music that contained offensive words or implications, there would be a lot less Rolling Stones, Beatles, JJ Cale, Eric Clapton to listen to, to name a very few.

There is a big difference between including offensive words in a song and inciting hatred against specific groups of people.

Think of all the books we could ban – and have. Often it’s not for the bad words they contain, but the bad ideas. Ideas that may not incite hatred, but perhaps incite thinking on the part of the reader.

We’ve learned through experience that you can’t solve a social problem by banning individual manifestations. The key is using them to teach a better, more tolerant alternative.