Russia starts Word War

Russia starts Word War

That’s right…Word War. Why, what did you think I said? Oh, no, there’s no L in that first word.😉

Actually, this is a serious and disturbing story, but I wanted to lighten it up a bit…by using words.

After all, that’s what this is about: the words artists use.

According to this

The Moscow Times article by Ivan Nechepurenko

and other sources, President Vladimir Putin just signed a bill banning the use of swearing in public performances…that means in movies and theatre. I’m not sure why TV isn’t being immediately listed, although they may feel that is already sufficiently controlled in Russia.

Regular readers know that I don’t use swear words in these posts (for example, I may refer to the title of Charles Fort’s book as “The Book of the D*mned”). I also don’t use them in my “real life”.

However, that does not mean that I oppose their use by others, including in art.

I do warn people when there is language in a book…but that’s so that they can make an informed decision on reading it or buying it for someone else.

I read books with obscenities in them. I know they are going to be there ahead of time…that doesn’t stop me.

In fact, I have a problem with all kinds of obscenity statutes. I think anything fictional should be allowed. I don’t want to ban ideas.

That is ideas…not actions. There are certainly illegal and harmful physical actions people can do, and profiting from the actual (as opposed to fictional) marketing of recordings (not simulations) of those is an entirely different issue.

Banning words, though? I can’t justify it.

It doesn’t matter to me what the words are. The Institute of Russian Language recently (in December) defined some words which would certainly be included in the ban. The article describes them:

“Two depict male and female reproductive organs, one describes the process of copulation and the last refers to a promiscuous woman.”

Presumably, those words will be in Russian (I actually took some Russian years ago), but the ban will likely also apply to foreign movies using equivalent words in English.

Now, when I say “ban”, it’s really a matter of being fined for using them in certain kinds of works of art. It’s not that big a fine…about $1,400 for a company (although the penalties get more severe with repeated infractions). Gee, I suppose if they show The Wolf of Wall Street in Russia, it might offset the impact of foreign sanctions on the economy.😉

This isn’t retroactive, though. It’s all a bit convoluted. Books will be issued with warnings…it’s more about movies and theatre, from what I can see.

The bottom line is the statement of it. “We will control your language”.

Even if you agree with, for instance, banning books with the “F word” or “N word” in elementary schools, this is a dangerous precedent for Russia. Suppose they decide a term for a minority group is an obscenity? Or a minority idea? What if they said that “free market” was obscene? What if they said that if you say “Roma” or “Krymchak” you can be fined?

In many countries, it has been made illegal to speak specific languages. That’s a way to hold down minorities…and can lead to the endangerment of the existence of that language.

For me, it’s the concept that the government controls the words that are used that’s the problem. I have no issue with the market voting against the use of words by not buying a product. I personally prefer to have information (but not spoilers) about something before I buy it…but I don’t want the government to force that on us.

What do you think?

Please feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post…I know the poll doesn’t cover all of the options. Could it happen in the USA? How is this different from the movie rating system (which is industry self-regulation, not government mandated)? Is the Russian government just trying to protect its people? Is this much ado about nothing? I look forward to your comments (and yes, I might change obscenities you use…but I’ll make it clear if I do. I find that quite different from the government doing it. I think publishers and movie theatres can choose the content with which they are comfortable: again, that’s a market thing to me).

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8 Responses to “Russia starts Word War”

  1. Zebras Says:

    It’s frightening that Russia can so easily go back to its old ways. At what point will the people start protesting the changes, when they are going hungry and are on food lines, or when they are told where to live? I could see this next extending to books say made available in libraries, and then being sold, you see the progression. Its scary.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Zebras!

      It’s particularly amazing to me, following the Sochi Olympics where they made a point of including references to authors banned under the Soviet Union. This isn’t the same…but it’s a dish served in the same restaurant…

  2. jjhitt Says:

    Russia: as Asian as Europe can get, as European as Asia can get.

    I’m amazed how short their list of words is, It shows a dreadful lack of creativity and expression. I know at least ten words for fun loving women.

    I’m pretty much an anything goes person. My casual conversation wouldn’t be out of place in a biker bar. I find hate speech distasteful, but would rather wait for it to go out of style than try and ban it.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, jjhitt!

      I think banning hate speech only gives it more power…since it is already intended to be an affront, proving that the government is affronted by it gives its users confirmation that it is working.

  3. Lady Galaxy Says:

    The whole concept of profanity or obscenity just confuses me. Why does society need to brand some words as “bad” words. We can have a whole range of synonyms for bodily functions, but for some reason, society picks one out of the pile and decides that it is obscene but leaves the others untouched. Does that one word out of the pile name a different thing? NO? So why can we safely say “doo doo” to a small child, but not the word that rhymes with spit? Does it change the color texture or odor of the substance being named? Then why is that one considered to be a “bad” word while the other one just sounds silly?

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Lady!

      Quite right!🙂 I remember seeing a play which was a parody of mysteries (unfortunately, over the years I’ve forgotten the name). The detective has one of those “big reveal” scenes, where they go around the room explaining why each person was suspected, then rejected. After getting it wrong, someone calls the detective an “effing idiot” (using the word I’m shortening here). The detective replies, “I think it’s unfair of you to call me an idiot…copulating or otherwise.”😉 That fits exactly into what you are saying.

      Often, rejection of slang like that is a way of ostracizing the group which used it originally, or with which it is associated. Not too long ago in the Kindle forums, someone used the phrase, “‘Nuff said”. A poster responded that nothing made them surer the person was…I think it was something like an uneducated pimple-faced teenager, but I’m not quite sure. I took a quick look for the thread, but there were 286 instances of ’nuff said being used.🙂

      I assume the person who said that doesn’t associate excluding that term with marginalizing ethnic minorities, but it may have come from there originally (from some evidence I’ve seen). No, they are likely to be following the 1950s demonizing of comic book readers, since Stan Lee certainly popularized it.

      Regardless, condemning the use of specific terminology often has the impact of dehumanizing or belittling the users of the terms.

    • Marvin Says:

      I think it is not that people pick up words which are obscene, I think it is part of evolution in language. When some word starts to be used in a way to offend (even if they were used in non offensive way before) then the perception becomes that the word is obscene. It takes time.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Marvin!

        I’ll have to ask my adult kid, the linguist.🙂 My feeling is that words tend to be consciously defined as obscene to exclude a group of users, rather than people first using it intentionally offensively and then that becoming general usage. I say “tend”, because there are probably several routes.

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