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If they can sing it, why won’t newspapers print it?

By John Pawlak

Editor’s note: What Pawlak calls censorship, we call editing for good taste. Like all newspapers, we reserve the right to edit and to decline to print anything we deem unfit for a family newspaper of general circulation. He said he sent the same column to the New Mexican. They also said they would not print it. He gets to argue his case here.

Censoring has been going on ever since written language was invented. You think those scratches over cave paintings are a coincidence?  

No doubt some censor thought someone’s rendition of an antelope was perhaps just a bit too risque.

Recently, one of my column submissions was rejected for publication. The column discussed the increasingly vile lyrics in popular songs.  

Obviously, I can’t go into any detail about my censored column, else I risk being censored again.  I did, in fact. understand the paper’s concern.  

If they printed a column that contained lyrics from Rihanna’s hit music, they might get sued for public indecency.  

But today’s pop music is listened to by ‘tweens and teens.  

The iPods at the middle school blare these lyrics out every day.

 The fact is, I was censored not to protect the innocent minds of our community’s youth, but to protect the minds of the very generation who worked so hard to give people the freedom of speech.  

Adults really don’t want to know.  

All I can say about that is [(Pawlak’s own) editor’s note: this section has been deleted due to it being overtly Pawlakian in nature].

 Censorship.  It’s an interesting concept.  

One of my favorite examples I often retell is that of watching “The Godfather” on network television.  

Sonny Corleone gets a phone call from his sister who had just been beaten by her husband.  

Sonny slams down the phone and yells, “That son of a gun!”  

Hmmmm, doesn’t quite work, does it?  

Okay, so Sonny jumps in his car with the intention of killing her husband, but it’s a trap.  

He finds himself attacked by five automatic weapon -wielding henchmen who proceed to shoot a few hundred bullets through him.  

As he lays on the causeway, a henchman walks over and pumps a few more dozen bullets into his already well-aerated body.

 Then the censors do that voodoo that they do so well.  

They decide that the next scene is too “violent” for network television. Viewers don’t get to see the henchman kick Sonny in the head.  Yeah, that’s way too violent.

Censorship.  The concept confuses me, but I know it has value and purpose.  

It’s perfectly okay for girls and boys in middle school to listen to the lyrics of these songs. We can play them on music videos on television. We can play them on the radio.  

We can play them on our iPods.  They’re even played in movies. We just can’t print them?

 When I related this story to some of my students, they laughed. Even a teen sees the futility of how things are censored.

Now understand, my column didn’t have any profanity in it, just innuendo.  

Well, okay, a lot of innuendo.  To test the waters here, let me say that it had a lot of innuendo and outuendo.

 But what I was trying to say to my readers is simply that it’s gotten out of hand.  Whoever was driving the bus on the road to decency retired and no one noticed that we’re swerving into rancid ravines.  

Of course, I could have said that exactly as I just did, but when you want people to listen, nothing works better than discomfort.

Would it make you uncomfortable to read some of those lyrics?  

Or are you content with the fact that you can’t understand what they’re singing anyway and so you smile under the doctrine that ignorance is bliss?  

If a rap star sings in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does he really make a vulgar sound?

Editors often lament that people don’t respond to opinion columns more.  

So come on, write a note to the editor and tell him it’s okay to print these lyrics.  

Or tell him that you are happy that he didn’t! But do send in an e-mail. He really would like to hear from you.

 Just don’t use any off-colored allegorical phrases.  He’s a bit touchy about that.  

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go turn up the volume on my television.  There’s a great music video I want my neighbors to hear.


John Pawlak is a teacher at Los Alamos High School.