Lenny Bruce meets DH Lawrence
I previously posted the following when My Telegraph was having a brief relation with the service provider ‘One Site’. I was objecting to the censorship that this site arbitrarily imposed on the use of expletives. It is not the expletive that require censorship. The site had chosen a cheap way, in whatever context you use the word cheap, to monitor ‘personal abuse’. Automated censorship seems like a neat solution. As the service provider originated in the USA, I thought it worth looking at what the Supreme Court defines as Obscenity. “A thing must: be prurient in nature; be completely devoid of scientific, political, educational, or social value; violate the local community standards. If it meets all three of these things, it is obscenity”. Automated (artificial intelligence AI) censorship is not capable of such rationale.Very little has changed since and maybe The Telegraph should now apply its own standards, as published in their ‘Style Guide’ which state:
Be temperate in language, especially in headlines. Keeping a sense of proportion, recognising that “storms” and “fury” are often merely disagreements or differences of opinion, shows balance and maturity and is part of The Telegraph’s appeal.
Profanities are always to be avoided in news coverage and to be used only when absolutely essential in other coverage. The most obscene swear words are never to be used in any circumstances. Language of a sexually explicit nature should only be used when essential – such as in certain court reports or features about health or relationships – and never gratuitously or for effect.
However, if you search The Telegraph site profanities abound.
The Guardian in its Style Guide states that; “We are more liberal than any other newspapers, using language that our competitors would not. But even some readers who agree with Lenny Bruce that ‘take away the right to say **** and you take away the right to say **** the government’ might feel that we sometimes use such words unnecessarily”. The editor’s guidelines are as follows:“First, remember the reader, and respect demands that we should not casually use words that are likely to offend. “Second, use such words only when absolutely necessary to the facts of a piece, or to portray a character in an article; there is almost never a case in which we need to use a swearword outside direct quotes. “Third, the stronger the swearword, the harder we ought to think about using it.
“Finally, never use asterisks, which are just a cop-out.”
Tom Hume in his article ‘Ten years of the Guardian online – plotted in expletives’, started with a list of commonly used swearwords and searched the Guardian’s content archive of the last 10 years. He also weighted the results so that they reflected the different proportion of stories each year. His conclusion being that even a liberal rag like the Grauniad seems to be pretty resistant to the tidal wave of filth which some might have you believe is flooding the English language nowadays.
(The Y-axis runs from 0 to 0.9%)
It’s interesting that Hume’s survey was conducted during the period of New Labour – and particularly Blair’s administration. The use of the words ‘shit’ and ‘Fuck’ have a meteoric rise in use with a decline in the use of ‘bastard’. I haven’t checked, but post the 2010 general election I would imagine that the use of these words (including ‘bastard’) will now rise even faster.
When the case was brought against Penguin over the unexpurgated version of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, a plethora of the literati were brought in to defend the work. The prosecution avoided articulating the offending words by asking the witnesses for their assessment of the literary merits of the book. Virtually all took the view that it undoubtedly had literary merit, but was not Lawrence’s best work. On November 2, 1960, the jury took less than three hours to reach its decision that Penguin Books was not guilty of publishing an obscene article.
This is the section of the book by D.H Lawrence that caused such a furore (moderated on behalf of My Telegraph): –
He laughed. Her attempts at the dialect were so ludicrous, somehow.
“Coom then, tha mun goo!” he said.
“Mun I?” she said.
“Maun Ah!” he corrected.
“Why should I say maun when you said mun?” she protested. “You’re not playing fair.”
“Arena Ah!” he said, leaning forward and softly stroking her face.
“Th’art good ****, though, aren’t ter? Best bit o’ **** left on earth. When ter likes! When tha’rt willin’!”
“What is ****?” she said.
“An’ doesn’t ter know? ****! It’s thee down theer; an’ what I get when I’m i’side thee, and what tha gets when I’m i’side thee; it’s a` as it is, all on’t.”
“All on’t,'”she teased. “****! It’s like **** then.”
“Nay nay! ****’s only what you do. animals ****. But ****’s a lot more than that. It’s thee, dost see: an’ tha’rt a lot besides an animal, aren’t ter? — even ter ****? ****! Eh, that’s the beauty o’ thee, lass!”
She got up and kissed him between the eyes, that looked at her so dark and soft and unspeakably warm, so unbearably beautiful.
“Is it?” she said. “And do you care for me?”
He kissed her without answering.
So where does all that leave The Telegraph and especially MyT, if it is unable to publish the unexpurgated works of D.H Lawrence? Quite clearly MyT is considered to be a integral part of The Telegraph Online, and in this respect I’m not claiming that there is any ‘literary merit’ in any contribution that is published on MyT, that’s not for me to decide’. I am claiming, that if The Telegraph is to retain ownership of all of the MyT contributions, then it should afford MyT the same standards of moderation as any other contributing source to The Telegraph Online. Until this happens I’m inclined to tell the moderators to ****-off.
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