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?