Lines of thought

PhotoCredit: avhell/Flickr

Oliver Wendell Holmes once said that you can’t shout ‘mixed signals!’ in a crowded university. Or something like that. What he actually said was that certain kinds of speech– i.e. anti-draft pamphlets during World War I – cause ‘unnecessary panic’ and should not be constitutionally protected.

Staid authority figures, at times referred to as ‘Ivory Towers’, often hand down proclamations of banishment for this, that or the other thing, and they are almost always wrong. The premise of the ‘Ivory Tower’ carries the implication that, having humbly exposed themselves to any illicit material, these authorities know absolutely that it is not suitable for anybody else. Were anybody to ask why, they would most likely find themselves on the end of some fatuous lecture on ‘fires’, ‘theatres’, or ‘tearing that ass in two’. Naturally, their material would never see the light of day.

This was very nearly the fate of my good friend Robin Thicke, whose only crime was to proclaim that ‘he knows you want it’. Thankfully, it turns out that the St Andrews Students’ Representative Council is neither deaf nor out of their minds. They know we want it, and the proposed ban has been scrapped. What rhymes with ‘Freedom Marches On!’?

“Hey, hey hey”, I hear you say, ‘Thicke’s song was disseminated in a more popularly accessible form than early-1900’s pamphlets, and bore a subtler tone with respect to its subject matter. It is insidious evil and has warped our fragile little minds!’ Possibly, but one still wonders whether the question of this song’s censorship was at all appropriate.

If the concern were really to challenge degradation, rather than to feel cool and powerful, I would happily provide them with an infinitely long list of actual sources of this problem, most of which are promoted by the Union. Want to ban something? Ban the Bop. Does anybody actually know how #thicke the lines are in that debaucherous pit? Or whether there are any lines at all? Maybe the people just go round in circles, spiralling downwards in rhythmically gyrating synchronicity to a lackluster playlist upon which Blurred Lines would almost always be an improvement. It is, after all, a quality tune.

Which is the root of this insipid problem. People who are obviously much wiser than you are evidently very concerned that your deepest principles will simply evaporate in the overbearing presence of this seriously sexy song. No sooner will you be curled up in bed re-reading Feminist Weekly than, upon hearing the opening notes, rolling the magazine into a stick and using it to beat drunken freshers into submission, because, naturally, you know they want it.

But they are wrong. You DON’T know they want it. You have the intellectual capacity to listen to some really silly lyrics without the lines becoming in the least bit blurred. You are a mature and conscientious adult for whom the lines are actually quite defined. You are personally disgusted both by the thought of forcefully violating a woman’s sexual boundaries and being expected to tolerate such a violation. It is not in your nature. You do not need to be domesticated. You are a decent human being who does not spectacularly morph into a sexual predator at the height of the lunar month, or at the cue of a funky bass.

This principle – ‘thinking for oneself’ – extends to every area of life. You can make your own decisions and behave responsibly to boot. Do you want to go to the Bop? Good for you! Do you want to stay away from the Bop? Good for you! Do you need the SRC to make the decision for you? Bad for you. Grow up.

It doesn’t matter what message the song gives. It doesn’t matter that the video is hilariously inappropriate. It doesn’t matter what the SRC wants you to think, or what Robin Thicke or T.I. or Pharrell think, or what the SRC thinks they think. It only matters what you think. It matters that you be given the opportunity to think; the absurdity of censorship is an offense to every individual’s capacity for thought. By neither censorship nor instruction, but by thinking alone, will anybody ever recognize that the lines were never blurred to begin with.


  1. Rather than writing a fairly drivelly article, a better use of the writer’s time would have been to investigate into why the SRC is suddenly under the impression that it has the authority to ban a song from the Union, or, indeed, over anything that is done within the Union. The Union is, and always has been, the preserve of the part of the Association that is elected to manage the Union. That is not the SRC.

  2. Amusing article but completely misses the point. The SRC were not trying to prevent us from hearing the song. We can listen to it in our own time whenever we like. The question was whether the union wished to boycott a song many find offensive. The answer is no.

    • Of course they were trying to stop us hearing the song. That is the principle effect of banning a song; that nobody hears it any more. If they wanted to ‘send a message’, ‘make a statement’, ‘take a stand’, etc., then they would have issued a statement saying ‘we don’t like this song’, and many who find the song offensive (quite rightly in my opinion) would have agreed, but many of these same people would still oppose a ban because they want to make decisions for themselves as to what is offensive and why, and not delegate this power on behalf of everybody else to some higher, wiser censoring body.
      There is no such thing as light censorship. You either censor something or you don’t.

  3. “If anybody was concerned with challenging degradation, I would happily provide them with an infinitely long list of actual offenders, each far worse than Robin’s benign croons.”

    the point is that sexism in the media is an _ACTUAL_ problem and is NOT benign. media and language shape people’s views and thoughts.

    There exist other sexists songs? No shit, sherlock. Whether these are “worse” or not is beside the point – that doesn’t make this _current conversation_ less relevant. The point is: only this song is currently on #1 (or was?) and banning it from being played at union events would’ve been a positive stand against misogyny.

    • Individuals deciding for themselves not to play the song, or not to listen to the song, or to speak out against the song, or to speak out against the general problems raised by the issue surrounding the song, or to make any decision whatsoever that they have thought about for themselves, would constitute a positive stand. Having the SRC decide on everybody’s behalf what we should all be thinking does not.

  4. Two things.
    1) The song is not a quality tune, “it’s rubbish”. I say that purely from a musical point of view.
    2) The SRC were debating a motion to ask the SSC to ban the song from being played. (The motion was actually titled “motion to support a motion to stop playing Blurred Lines)


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