The Committee of Banned Words


Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Emanuel, exasperated upon learning that liberal special-interest groups were planning to run ads against conservative Democrats not supportive of health care reform, blasted the plan as "f—— retarded" over the summer. Naturally, some outrage ensued after Emanuel's words came to light, with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin taking to her Facebook page to call on President Obama to fire him for what she saw as the equivalent of a racial slur.

Palin, whose son Trig is afflicted with Down syndrome, said she was informed of Emanuel's comment by a fellow parent of a special-needs child and pleaded with the president to "show decency" to the political process by "eliminating" the Chicago native from his inner circle.

In a post titled "Are You Capable of Decency, Rahm Emanuel?," Palin wrote, "Just as we'd be appalled if any public figure of Rahm's stature ever used the 'N-word' or other such inappropriate language, Rahm's slur on all God's children with cognitive and developmental disabilities — and the people who love them — is unacceptable," adding, "it's heartbreaking."

via Obama chief of staff's 'retarded' insult brings fallout, Palin criticism – Yahoo! News.

One of the more interesting features of modern America is this mania people have for flipping over the usages of certain words. This thing with Rahm Emanuel is a perfect example. His outburst is now going to become a national news story because Sarah Palin took offense at the word "retarded," as opposed to the reason it should be making news — the notion of Rahm Emanuel, a White House official, telling progressive activist groups not to run ads against Democrats, and those groups actually listening. The latter story is a billion times more shameful and obnoxious, but instead of any furor there, we're going to have to get another soap opera over somebody using a naughty word.

I think we ought to get it over with once and for all and ask all the people who are interested in banning words to get together and form their inevitable committee on word propriety. I think it would be a great thing if we could just get the list together ahead of time,  along with what the committee feels the appropriate sanction is for each word. "Ho" we know is a fireable word, as is "niggardly," but what about "snapper"? How about "curry muncher"? What is the appropriate punishment for a "What's wrong, do you have sand in your vagina?" joke? I mean there are so many unknowns right now, nobody knows where he or she stands.

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Matt Taibbi

Matt Taibbi is a contributing editor for Rolling Stone. He’s the author of five books and a winner of the National Magazine Award for commentary. Please direct all media requests to taibbimedia@yahoo.com.

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