Friday, May 29, 2009

A visit from the newsroom cat

... is what you would be looking at a picture of if my cell phone service hadn't suddenly disappeared. Or at least the e-mail function.

So instead, let's talk censorship. The UAE just announced that it is banning the sale of Busta Ryhmes' new album. I'm not a huge fan of Busta, but I have never found his music particularly provocative. (and maybe that's why I'm not a huge fan) But on his track "Arab Money," he pushes the envelope a little bit. He quotes the Quran.

Not such a huge deal in absolute terms, maybe, but a lot of folks here found it offensive, apparently. And Busta, who is Muslim himself, apologized.

But clearly it struck a nerve. In fact, as I listened to the song just now on YouTube, one of the editors, who is an Arab, walked by, looked at the screen and said, "it's appalling, isn't it?" I dunno. Probably if you are Muslim. For me it just sounded like a mushy, overproduced hip-hop track.

The lyrics--again, not really inspired--aren't blatantly offensive. It's all about, surprise surprise, how much money there is in the Arab world, and how he is getting it, spending it and impressing women with it. (also "gambling with Arafat," whatever that means) And I am about as anti-censorship as you can get. I'd just as soon see the thing on the shelves, and people can buy it, not buy it or mock it as they please.

On the other hand, it's not that much different from the album censorship attempts in the U.S. back in the '80s, when 2 Live Crew got a lot of attention, and so on. Then the First Amendment kicked in. Of course, there is no First Amendment in the UAE. But the genius of this ban is that no one will really get upset because:

1) You can still buy and download the album online.
2) You are perfectly free to own the album--you just can't buy it in this country. Hello, eBay!

In the end, conservatives are mollified and Busta Rhymes aficionados aren't terribly inconvenienced. It's not the best scenario, but this is a land of compromise. In 20 years, maybe government types here will be incensed about more important things, like what kind of dog the sheikh is getting for his kids.

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