Updated: Jun 15, 2020
By Oliver James Pike
Karl Marx famously stated that free speech is like a rose. If you want the flower you need to grip the thorns. If we want all the great things free speech brings us we need to accept the crass, the vulgar and the offensive. If we begin to curb the crude jokes we will inevitably lose the ability to effectively hold politicians to account, maintain a free press and test arguments in the marketplace of ideas.
I like Marx's analysis but I don't see the thorns as anything negative. While many would see clenching these sharp talons as self-harm, I say it is a defiant statement in the face of political correctness and the speech puritans. I love the sex jokes, toilet humour, the gleefully offensive statements and the vicious satire that should define human discourse.
Nowhere is such brazen political incorrectness more obvious than rock music. From guns and roses including audio of their lead singer having sex with a groupie during the solo of rocket queen to AC/DC singing about serial killers, fat women and the size of their big balls with school-boyish glee. From motley Crüe churning out songs about strippers to Rage against the machine famously defying BBC producers by chanting "fuck you I won't do what you tell me" on morning television.
We are drawn to this crass offensiveness like a moth to a flame. Why? Because they do what we only dream of doing. That is standing up to the censorious puritans of modern society. Said people dictate what is and is not funny, what is and what is not acceptable and who can say what, where they can say it and when they can say it. Beyond being mind-numbingly tedious these dialect dictators are never happy. Initialisms for minority groups change on a weekly basis and words acceptable only a year ago become outlawed terms. Play devils advocate in pursuit of an interesting conversation and you are told the devil is representing himself in court that day. Challenge an orthodoxy and prepare for career suicide or mob harassment. Rock music appeals to us because it doesn't care about any of this and neither should we. We should all be a bit more rock n roll.
Speech is important because it is as crucial to human survival as sight. Cavemen would share information regarding danger and survive as a result. The urge to speak freely is thus ingrained into our biology and in a world of collective madness where presenting widely held truths is deemed hate and telling a joke analogous to bigotry, a conflict emerges. Should we sit quietly and obey the ritualistically offended, nodding as they outlaw more jokes, more words and more art or should we stand up and ignore these censorious cretins and tap into something that makes us fundamentally human?
AC/DCs song "Rock n roll ain't noise pollution" presents the perfect attitude. The rolling drums and thundering bass gives off a sense of brash confidence while the ear-piercing vocals declare that "rock n roll ain't noise pollution, rock n roll ain't going to die rock n roll ain't noise pollution rock and roll it will survive". The band it's self lives by this spirit. Having been assailed by evangelical Christians for satanic lyrics, feminists for sexist songs and music snobs for being derivative, AC/DC keeps going. Now old men but still strutting across the stage it is clear that the criticism has fallen on deaf ears for both the band and their millions of fans. The fight for free speech summed up in one allegory. Despite the onslaught from a vocal minority those with the resolve to stand for something will never be stopped.
While the band may simply stand for crude banter and rock n roll tradition, that is still something and the act of doing so encourages those standing up for more important things to keep at it. George Orwell argued that within every joke is a silent revolution and I would expand this to every form of entertainment. The everyday rejections of political correction ensure that society is not so sensitive as to be incapable of asking difficult questions. The base, offensive and the vulgar act not only as a litmus test for freedom but grease the wheels of public discourse and keep everyone inoculated from the disease that is snowflakery. Humour is worth dying for as without it not only are none of us free but the world left in the wake of appeasing the bullies is but a barren and joyless hellscape.