Tuesday, August 27, 2013

OMFG the New York <i>Times</i> Said "Fuck"!

Posted By on Tue, Aug 27, 2013 at 12:49 PM

New York Times fuck
The clean, objective hard-news voice is an art, one perfected in American newspapers like the Times, where it still clings to life. It eschews vulgarity, and that's fair, I guess; reporters and the rewrite desk needn't let loose with a few emphasizing expletives to make their points. On the other hand, though, fuck shit motherfucker pussy shit cunt fuck. When the Times's refusal to say fuck or anything like it really bugs me is when foul language is part of the news or even the news itself. Like in 2004, Dick Cheney told Senator Patrick Leahy "go fuck yourself" on the floor of the US Senate, and the Times printed 650 words about the incident without ever once identifying what had actually happened. (The headline mentions "Salty Language.")

The world is still run by grown-ups, though, which means that sometimes newsmakers utter swears, or that people read blogs like Fucked in Park Slope and books like Go the Fuck to Sleep, or listen to popular songs called "Fuck You." (From a 2010 article about a song it can't mention: the song features "a certain crude phrase... Cee Lo’s single is unusual in that the crude phrase is the title, chorus and punch line to the song." What is it?? "The title words [are] unprintable in a family newspaper.") They won't even print suggestive acronyms like WTF (sorry, Marc Maron) or STFU as the blogger behind STFU, Parents discovered last year. "We don’t like to include such references for younger readers — or for any readers who might be offended," the senior editor of standards told her in an email. "We feel some obligation to try to maintain The Times as a respectable publication and respect all of our readers." Of course this is enforced inconsistently; the band LMFAO gets mentioned without censor, for example.

Also, of course, this sounds dumb. It's mind-boggling that we're still catering to those offended by words—words whose only power is derived by those people's offense. (There's a difference between historically painful terms regarding race, gender or sexual orientation and the word FUCK. Who gives a fuck about fuck?)
Thank goodness, it seems like maybe even the Times is starting to loosen its Victorian standards and show a little ankle: on p. 86 of this weekend's T: The New York Times Style Magazine, the first lines of five upcoming books were printed, including the opening sentence of Jonathan Lethem's Dissident Gardens: "Quit fucking black cops or get booted from the Communist party." Printed right there in a Times publication!

But is it really such a coup for those of us with a salt tooth? "By burying its... use of 'fuck' on what’s essentially the contributors’ page of the fashion supplement, a page that is typically withheld from the online version of the magazine, the Times is breaking with tradition in the most low-profile way imaginable," Laura Miller wrote on Salon. It is, actually, what seems like the second time the Times has let loose a fuck: "in 1998, the paper reproduced the entire text of the Starr Report, in which 'fuck' appears once, in the context of a quotation by Monica Lewinsky," Salon reports. Two f-bombs in 25 years: it might not be much, but it's a fucking start.

Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart

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