"The godfather of modern hip-hop has decided enough is enough. Russell Simmons, the co-founder of Def Jam records and the inspiration behind bands as diverse as Run-DMC, the Beastie Boys and LL Cool J, is as sick of the lazy vulgarity of rap music as many of the rest of us." -Andrew Gumbel, "Stop using all this bad language, says hip-hop pioneer," The Independent (UK), April 25, 2007
The article goes on to list three specific words about which Mr. Simmons is particularly sensitive. While in the name of good taste I won't repeat them, two of them have to do with women and one refers to a particular race.
Naturally, Simmons' suggestion of a voluntary ban was met with derision and accusation of being politically correct. I find it interesting how many diverse groups are quick to label language "PC" when it hampers their expression. Some of those same groups are quick to suggest banning language that offends them. So who is "PC" now?
I am surprised no one has uttered the "C" word yet. Not to worry, if any record company actually has the guts to ban obscene lyrics one can anticipate the howls of "censorship" echoing across the country from California to New York.
Of course, such howls would only demonstrate the ignorance of those who can't seem to speak the English language with any sense of propriety. If a record company chooses to record only what it wishes, such is not an infringement on freedom of speech. Publishing companies which only publish science texts and refuse to publish poetry are not guilty of censorship, are they? Boys Life (a publication of the Boy Scouts of America) or Christianity Today would not be accused of censorship if it out right rejected a steamy short story written by the late Harold Robbins.*
Is it too much to ask for: people treating others with dignity and respect; when we refer to people of different races or social groupings we do not use derogatory slang; when we refer to women we do not use words which reduce them to the level of animals? Is it somehow bad and tyrannical to suggest a language of kindness and love as opposed to the language of contempt and hatred?
Granted, it cannot be forced. People will say and sing what they will. They will think it in their hearts. I don't suggest we expect the government to monitor everything everyone says. I don't even like boycotts--they tend to be self-defeating. But wouldn't it be wonderful if the entertainment industry began losing money because no one really wanted to listen to obscenity laced songs or wanted to be subjected to the "F-bomb" every time they went to a movie?
What if people just became tired of the contempt?
Now that's something to think about.
*I know I run the risk of being accused of building a straw man. But given the general misuse of the word "censorship" over the past 20 years, one should grant my scenario is not too far-fetched. For those who haven't caught the drift: censorship generally refers to the government infringing on political speech. If the government were to ban a certain book from being published in this country, that is censorship. If the author can't find a publishing company willing to publish his book, it is an entirely different thing. It happens every day in America! The same holds true with privately owned record companies and the movie industry. Theoretically one could self-publish or self-produce. It is a grand tradition which includes writes such as Benjamin Franklin and Henry David Thoreau.