Friday, August 7, 2009

where Maoists and middle class moralists meet

The love of speech codes. Being polite is nice. Signing a speech code is troubling, no matter how well-intended the speech code may be. I try to think of the people who couldn't talk if they signed speech codes, and the quick answer is any comedian who followed Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, and Richard Pryor. The proper progression for free speech is more freedom, no matter how offensive you may find it. The fact that something offends people is the proof that offensive language communicates powerfully.

Moreover, for all that irony and parody are often missed by people who read quickly, they are necessary parts of any good writer's bag of tricks.

If you don't know what prompted this, I envy you.

P.S. For people who don't know that "NWA" is a compliment for anyone who's not bourgeois: the original N.W.A.


  1. There are limits, though, Will. Words are like actions in the emotional sphere: and no one is advocating freedom of action (ie: the ability to do ANYTHING you want). Well, no one except a few utter nutbombs who believe anarchy is a viable social system.

  2. Sure, but limits are constantly negotiated by people, and they change according to the context. Signing onto a speech code is just posturing. Worse, it's posturing in support of defining what's acceptable for you and unacceptable for others. Which means it's just a power play.

  3. I am much more inclined towards allowing a very high degree of freedom of speech but being able to hold people accountable in various ways when they take things too far. That accountability can include the kind of accountability demonstrated above where I simply make people chow down on their own poorly chosen words or those they have condoned. One of the problems with speech codes, as per the Wikipedia page linked to, is that they actually allow all kinds of questionable language because they do not specifically address it. Thus *some* harmful and damaging language may result in consequences and accountability while other equally harmful and damaging language that is not within the parameters of the speech code may be allowed with no accountability whatsoever.

  4. Awesome... Somebody saying what´s on his mind... :-)

  5. One major problem with speech codes is that they attempt to ban (the expression of) various ideas.

    I'm amused by the ones that say things like "You may not say anything offensive." I'm offended by violation of my Freedom of Speech, so that code bans itself.

  6. Seth, true. The ones about "vulgarities" attempt to prevent the expression of extreme disgust: they say you may talk about something in certain approved ways, but you may not express your repugnance with strong words. They protect the subject by limiting the language that may be used to address it.