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Prudery in the cause of cyber-censorship? Hardly

The Guardian claims we don't have the guts to call things by their name because we're a bunch of prudes. Au contraire, Baudelaire.

Culture

Bobbie Johnson, who blogs for the Guardian.co.uk, has published what may be the silliest post of 2008. But let's not rush to judgment; there are still nine more days, so he still has a chance to top himself.

Earlier today, we reported that Apple's AppStore rejected a book authored by our CNET colleague, David Carnoy, because it said the work contained "objectionable content." The rejection cited a clause in the iPhone SDK that states: "Applications must not contain any obscene, pornographic, offensive or defamatory content or materials of any kind (text, graphics, images, photographs, etc.), or other content or materials that in Apple's reasonable judgement may be found objectionable by iPhone or iPod touch users."

You decide.
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Tom Krazit's piece described the following:

"In its rejection letter, Apple singled out the passage in question, which we actually can't print either. Let's just say it involves a teenage girl telling a detective that she overheard her friend asking a gentleman caller to "love me like you mean it," just with a slightly more emphatic verb."

It's not terribly difficult to put two and two together. (Even Johnson was able to figure that one out.) But under the flamboyant title, "CNET censors story on iPhone censorship," (subtitled: A sad tale of how fearless campaigners against censorship couldn't bring themselves to say one little word), Johnson reserves his verbal shotgun for our choice of language. To wit:

"CNet's complaint about Apple censorship (thinly-veiled as a "now Apple's screening edgy books" story) is undermined somewhat by the fact that the CNET website won't even print the offending word.

Maybe it was a super slow day at The Guardian or perhaps he could not resist the titillation. But Johnson was milking this for all it was worth to play the part of bad boy.

"Well, I've got no such compunction about swearing--hey, we're all grown-ups, right?--so here are the terrifying literary tidbits that both Apple and CNET thought we couldn't handle."

The rest of his post quotes portions of the texts containing the words supposedly too much for us to bear. So since the blogosphere is a continuing conversation--ostensibly, to help us understand who we all are and what we believe--let me fill in the holes left by Johnson's lazy fiction with fact.

Context, not shock value, is the ultimate arbiter on whether language is appropriate or not. For instance, my favorite magazine, The New Yorker, periodically publishes short stories in which the dialogue gets raw. Quite raw. Some may pine for the days when The New Yorker was not so "modern." Not I. Its pages are simply a reflection of an increasingly complicated modernity.

So why treat our pages differently? We don't. Again, it's all context. Here's a link to previous CNET News articles where the subject matter and the language complemented each other.

The gist of The Guardian piece is that we don't have the guts to call things by their proper name because we're a bunch of prudes. Was Tom Krazit's post about Apple any less newsworthy because he opted to be descriptive rather than blunt? I don't think so.

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