Over on the Kill Zone blogspot today, John Gilstrap posted a provocative piece about his latest novel, which centers around the Iraq War. One of his characters, it seems, refers to the enemy as “Hadjis”, a term commonly used among GIs on the field of battle. John’s editor took a dim view of the word, thinking it would be “offensive” to some group or another, claiming it was like using the word “Kraut” or “Nip” during World War II.

Well, you see where we are here. The PC Gestapo has reached right into John’s novel and is threatening to, I don’t know, call him a racist or something for using this word, which by the way, is now apparently referred to as “the h-word”.

I take great offense at someone telling a writer what words he/she can or cannot write. If the words are technically incorrect, or if they’re overused, or some other traditional objection applies, I have no problem. But to axe a word simply because it might “offend” somebody is BS. Or rather, let me say, bullshit.

In my humble opinion, the more people who are offended by a writer’s output, the better. You can tell he’s done his job if he can get that kind of reaction from people. These are people who probably have no business reading anything in the first place, since they apparently reach for the smelling salts at the merest hint of “offensive” language.

The only people who can truly judge a writer are the readers. If they don’t like what they read, they won’t read that writer again. It’s that simple. But believe me, a lot more goes into that judgment than whether or not the readers are “offended”.

Anybody out there familiar with the controversy surrounding Rhett Butler’s use of the word “damn” in Gone With The Wind? It was thought, in 1939, to herald the end of civilization, so many upright (or is it uptight) people were “offended” by its inclusion in the novel and the movie. If they’d thought about it, they probably would’ve assigned it the label of “the d-word”.

This deal with John’s use of the word “Hadjis” is basically a variation on the same theme that is currently propelling the heated differences swirling around the violence in serial-killer novels. There are people out there who want to censor what is being imagined and written during the creative process, and they will never relent. We’ll always be on defense, but we have to keep fighting them off or else we’ll move into an era of censorship, strict oversight, penalties, and God knows what other restrictions on our freedom.

When a writer caves in to these PC terror tactics, we all lose a little something. We lose it for the silliest of reasons, namely that someone out there–maybe even just one person–won’t be “offended”. That is true BS (excuse me, bullshit!).

I think any writer should be free to use whatever words he/she feels are appropriate.

If someone is “offended”, that’s their problem. Get it? Their problem.

If someone wants to write about spics, wops, niggers, micks, chinks, limeys, kikes, fags, towelheads, wetbacks, japs, or any other “sensitive” group, go ahead. Provided, of course, that it fits the story, is not gratuitous, is not overused, or any of the other common-sense criteria that writers follow. I might also add, these criteria don’t just apply to “offensive” words, they apply to everything in the novel. Characters’ names, use of certain punctuation, syntax, all the tools available to a writer should follow these common-sense guidelines. The work should live or die in the marketplace, not in the twisted imagination of some PC fuhrer.

The notion that something might “offend” someone is not a reason to refrain from anything in writing. I also believe that “offense” is not the real driving force behind these “sensitive” complaints. I believe there’s a down-and-dirty effort out there to clamp down on creativity, and ultimately on every aspect of our lives.

As I mentioned above, we’ve got an h-word now. This will fit in quite nicely with the b-word, the n-word, the c-word, and so on. Eventually, you know, you’re going to run out of letters to connote these words. Then the PCers will have to move to maybe the Greek alphabet and we’ll all be running around talking about the gamma-word and the omicron-word.

But when you run out of Greek letters, where do you go from there? Cyrillic script?

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  1. Fuckin’ A (word) …

  2. Mike Dennis

    I think the PC fanatics would refer to that as the f-wordin’ A

  3. Joyce Ann

    October 25-September 2 will be “Banned Books Week,” in 2010. The list of Banned Books is always extremely amusing.

    As most of you know, the first banned novel to be the basis of a court challenge concerning book banning and “Intellectual Freedom” was The Grapes of Wrath. The growers in California said it was all “a pack of lies,” and that political pressure motivated the Kern County Board of Governors to demand it be removed from the librari’s shelves. However, there was a waiting list of 135 at the Bakersfield Library to read the book. The librarian, Gretchin Kneif complied, but protested to the Board (at the risk of losing her job during the depression) in correspondence. She also loaned copies of the book to other area libraries. It was also banned in St. Louis. Seems some people objected to the closing scene of the pitiful Rose of Sharon nursing her dead baby in a barn stall. It was threaded with a lot of “Communist” ideas (as is the movie “It’s a wonderful Life and many more of the era. Frank Capra eventually ended up making a living doing educational cartoons, most of which I saw in elementary school in the film room.) Grapes of Wrath was not returned to the Kerr County Library shelves until several decades later.

    Stephen King was at the top of the Banned Book List for several years running, as was Alvin Schwartz for his children’s books–Scary Stories. As you may recall the Newbery Award winner for adolescent fiction a couple of years ago was banned in several schools, because it described a dog licking its scrotum (which dogs sometimes do), and I think they had to use the word to describe the action.

    You can read more about it at the American Library Association’s web site: ala.org (I should warn you the ALA is a pretty subversive and radical group) and support them for all they do for Intellectual Freedom in the U.S. and throughout the world.

    The most amusing attempt to ban a book in a school that I have encountered in the past few years was in Montgomery County, Texas. A father wanted the book Farenheit 451 removed from the shelves of the high school library, because it contained “dirty” language. I shouldn’t need to tell you why that was so amusing.

    Authors–if it is the appropriate word for you to use, please do so. We librarians “Have your back!”

  4. Mike Dennis

    Librarians rock!

  5. I was going to write a post about John’s blog, but you have beat me to it and done it better.

    I just hope I have the stones–should I ever get published-to be able to look someone in the eye who has just objected to some language in my book and say, “Then don’t read the fucking book”

  6. Here where I work they made me take down the book cover to Johnny Porno from my wall space. Mafiya is okay. Johnny Porno no.

    Cocksuckers …

  7. Mike Dennis

    That’s exactly the kind of bullshit I’m talking about, Charlie. Johnny Porno “offended” somebody, no doubt, and they made a big deal out of it. You’re lucky that Mafiya didn’t “offend” some Italian guy, otherwise, that would come down, too.

  8. Absofuckinglutely. I am so sick of people applying standards of political correctness to the worlds and characters presented in novels. It’s like the people who can’t admire Shakespeare because he might have been an anti-Semite (that’s a big “might” if you actually read the play) and decline to take into consideration the attitudes of the times in which he lived.

    In fact, one thing (sort of related) that really pisses me off is a historical novel in which the sympathetic characters instinctively possess all of today’s oversensitivity.

    Great post, great site.

  9. Mike Dennis

    Thanks, Tim. I also have a fit when I read a historical novel riddled with PC bullshit.

  10. Thanks, Tim. I also have a fit when I read a historical novel riddled with PC bullshit.

  11. Joyce Ann

    Ha, Ha: Times have really changed. I just read this in The Maltese Falcon:
    “The boy spoke two words, the first a short guttural verb, the second ‘you’.” (Almost elegant)
    “People lose teeth talking like that.” Spade’s voice was still amiable though his face had become wooden. “If you want to hang around you’ll be polite.”
    The boy repeated his two words.

  12. Jim Chambers

    A very good article, Mike!

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