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“And you can tell them to go fuck themselves,” said Donald Trump, current Republican Presidential candidate, speaking about a business relocating overseas for lower tax rates. Watch the video and read the article here.
Although many people would argue that foul language doesn’t belong anywhere but in explicit rap music, there may be a place for profanity after all. The New York Times released a fantastic opinion article in 2014 investigating the convoluted sense of censorship that we have introduced. With all things considered, the purpose of news is to bring the most honest, complete version of the truth to people. And sometimes, the awkward method of dodging certain remarks has impeded entire news stories.
It becomes difficult, as a truth-bringer and a media outlet for all audiences, to draw the line between inappropriate and confusing. Many news organizations have faced the same dilemma: to curse or not to curse. More often than not, organizations defer to the politically correct turn of phrase. Yet it is important to realize that when it comes to politics, public events, and culture, our words are what characterizes our actions. Entire headlines have been based off of expletive scandals.
When it comes down to the bottom line, if someone like Donald Trump intended to swear, then let him do it. Otherwise, if the rest of the world lets his immaturity slip by through censors and vague quotes, people like Trump will play innocent and blame others. In regards to a heated f-word that former Mexican President Fox used in describing the proposed Mexican-American border wall, Trump said:
“I saw him use the word that he used. I can only tell you, if I would have used even half of that word, it would have been national scandal. This guy used a filthy, disgusting word on television, and he should be ashamed of himself, and he should apologize, OK?”
Hypocrisy doesn’t even begin to explain it. Quotes can be powerful, but when they are changed or talked around completely, they are weakened. Despite the distasteful edge to profane language, the role of the media is to deliver events as it happened. Any disagreements should be taken up with the original speaker.
In an article regarding Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland “profanely dismissed” the European Union in 2014. But what did she actually say?
The release of the recordings has further roiled the waters. In the first one, posted anonymously on YouTube, Victoria Nuland, the American assistant secretary of state for European affairs, profanely dismissed European efforts in Ukraine as weak and inadequate to the challenge posed by the Kremlin. - Smale, The New York Times
Although the article vaguely portrays the general idea, it fails to address half of the actual story. As the article is currently worded, Nuland’s words could have contained any range of expletives. Had she said it maliciously? How “profane” did she get? How many times had she cursed? In reality, it was three poorly chosen words that riled the political world. “Fuck the EU.”
Still, there are more serious words to be discussed. The “n-word”, for example. When using an excerpt from Huckleberry Finn, it is important to realize that a) Mark Twain was not a racist and b) If you alter the original text, you are altering the value of the work. Each word in a novel is carefully placed by an author. Students who have spent hours reading, analyzing, and annotating any literary work know this.
I recognize how offensive some of these words can be. Sexual and racial slurs are especially controversial, but taking wayward routes around certain words can only complicate things.
Where profanity is needed, it should be used. Language is adaptive and important. Does that mean it’s okay to drop an f-bomb in your next college app essay? Probably not--I would even argue that swearing on the daily is unnecessary--but if we feel uncomfortable when trying to quote our possible future Mr. President, how could we feel comfortable quoting anyone?
Ling is an editor for The Millennial Times.