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20 Juli 2006 @ 14:24
Taking shit from anybody  

As you probably know already, George W. Bush recently said shit within range of a microphone he didn't know was live. Apparently this is news. Wake me when he says something that isn't shit, would you?

But then there's the metanews—how the event is reported, and whether the press prints the word in full, bleeps it, paraphrases, or what. For example, Benjamin Zimmer comments on the more-or-less consistent policy of the New York Times to "take shit from the President" but from no one else. The Toronto Star also printed the word shit in full, on the front page, in its coverage of this inconsequential story. I think they are becoming a bit more enlightened, or at least more permissive, about the printing of taboo words; back in May, an obituary of the journalist George Bain, by Isabel Teotonio, included the following paragraph:

The rest of the Ottawa press gallery reported only that Trudeau "mouthed an obscenity" in the now-famous 1968 incident. In his Globe and Mail column, Bain wrote that Trudeau told the MP to fuck off, and without the dashes — the first time the word had ever been published in a Canadian newspaper.

It would, I think, have looked markedly pietistic to bleep the word fuck, or to dance around it, in an article commemorating the life of someone who forthrightly refused to mince this particular word.

But I'm not sure why the papers should take shit and fuck only from presidents and prime ministers (including fictional ones, as Zimmer points out). Shouldn't the courtesy of accurate quotation be extended equally to everyone, as befits a free and democratic society? Either bleep everyone, if you must bleep anyone, or bleep no one, and let us all say in print what the likes of Bush and Trudeau may say in print.