The Real Alternative

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“I’m a – – – – Starboy”

Okay. I like this song. I like it a lot. I’m not sure if I like the censored version better than the uncensored. I mean, I am all for freedom of expression. Even as a Christian, I am not against the artist who put a cross in a bottle of urine (can’t remember the name offhand, and don’t really care to). On some level, that “art” might mean something worthwhile to someone.

Usually, I deplore censorship.

However, this tune raises some interesting questions.

The two main contentious words are the N-word and the MF-word (be forewarned if you follow the links from the above tweet).

So why can The Weeknd ft. Daft Punk can use these words, get about a billion hits at YouTube but if little ‘ol me were to use these words in this here blog, I’d run the risk of being sued?

Double standard?

As for the censored vs. uncensored versions, I admit that while out the other night with my FM/MP3 player, I really liked hearing the censored version on FM. Cutting out the heavy stuff just made it more spiritual.

Hearing the word “Starboy” after a string of synced scratches instead of the MF-word made the whole experience far more transcendent. Walking along a moderately busy road, I could almost envision that Star Child in 2001: A Space Odyssey watching over us, making sure we don’t blast ourselves to hell.

So what’s the story? Should this tune be “cleaned up” for radio?

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 China bans online videos showing homosexuality, affairs (


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Religion and censorship – An ever-changing line?

Mike Myers’ upcoming film The Love Guru has mobilized religious groups who, from watching the trailer, feel that its content might be inappropriate and insulting.

This raises an important question for free, democratic societies, one that sociologists have been talking about for decades:

At what point does freedom of expression conflict with the right to not be harmed by others?

Put differently, can individuals be entirely free while belonging to a society which by definition requires some kind of functional inter-dependence and mutual respect?

This has been a thorny issue at times. One only has to remember artists like Andres Serrano who depicted Jesus Christ through extremely unsavory imagery in his photograph, Piss Christ.

To complicate matters, interest group ‘A’ might claim that interest group ‘B’ never really respected ‘A’ in the first place. Does not ‘A’ have a right to talk back, as it were?

Moral guidelines and respectful discretion seem to be an ever-changing scenario. What was utterly scandalous in the early 1960s, for instance, is usually regarded as humorous today.

And sometimes we see a complete moral reversal, as with the rock group The Rolling Stones. Initially regarded as the bad boys of Rock and Roll, a sort of dark flipside to the much beloved Beatles, The Stones’ frontman Mick Jagger is now a bona fide ‘Sir,’ knighted by the Queen.

The Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman once wrote in Socialism: The Active Utopia that

There is nothing in the nature of freedom as such, or in the nature of equality as such, to safeguard their consonance and prevent their conflict.†

But Bauman’s view seems to be missing something and, perhaps, a bit pessimistic. Liberal democracies aren’t just cold machines to wind up and watch unfold like clockwork. Nor are they like freakish, random chemistry experiments made by children. Rather, they’re organic processes informed by the dialogue that arises from concerned, qualified and well-meaning individuals.

At least, they should be.

The answer to The Love Guru controversy will hopefully work out as it should. It will take respectful dialogue and, perhaps, even prayer for the right choices to be made by all concerned parties.

The Love Guru Trailer


†Bauman, Zygmunt, Socialism: The Active Utopia, London: Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1976, p. 52.

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“Religion and censorship – An ever-changing line?” © Michael Clark.
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