Thursday, January 06, 2005
Conspicuous by Its Absence
Two things struck me from CNN's headlines. First, a case involving Vanderbilt is going forward. At issue is whether the university can remove the "Confederate" from the name of its dorm, "Confederate Memorial Hall." Second, NBC-Universal is in trouble over Motly Crue's New Year's Eve performance: Vince Neill screamed "Happy Fucking New Year" to Tommy Lee. (I'm surprised, actually, that it took so long for it to make the news. I saw it and though, "Oh, fuck!" But, I hadn't seen anything about it until today.)
What gets me is this: at the bottom of the Vanderbilt article, the judge asks whether it would be less of a memorial without the word "Confederate" on it; in the Crue article, the copy uses dashes to replace the "fuck" in "fucking." If you remove the word, but everyone knows what was there, then what does removing it accomplish?
Now, in the VU case, since you might write about the dorm, removing the word removes it from future writings. But isn't the dorm still tainted? Wouldn't the college be better off, except for the cost, tearing the dorm the hell down and building a new one, thereby sidestepping the legal issue?
I'm just not sure who is served or protected when the "bad word" is removed, especially in the fucking case: if you're offended by the ordered letters, "f-u-c-k," aren't you offended by space left available representing "f-u-c-k"? I mean, the idea is spelled out for you without your actually seing the word. If you know the word, you can't make your brain not conjure the image of the word. In the case of the dorm, aren't you just relying on people being lazy and ignorant enough not to know the history of the dorm's construction and presence on campus for decades, or for people who already know eventually forgetting. I don't know, I guess I'm just a vulgarian.
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