Banning The Other N-Word?

Friday, January 24, 2014


The Israeli Knesset has given preliminary approval to a bill that would criminalize use of the word Nazi, and Nazi symbols, except in certain educational or artistic contexts. Violators could face fines as high as twenty-nine thousand dollars, and up to six months in jail. Backers of the bill seek to prevent disrespect of the Holocaust that results when Nazis are invoked casually, whether in political invective or adolescent insults. Brooke talks with linguistic anthropologist Paja Faudree about this legislative attempt to control the use of language.

The Bees - Winter Rose


Paja Faudree

Hosted by:

Brooke Gladstone

Comments [7]

Will Caxton

You know who else passed laws to restrict speech? The Nazis.

Jan. 31 2014 11:01 AM

Brooke Gladstone's reporting and discussion with Ms Faudree were fascinating, both for what they included, as well as what was omitted. The use of the term "Nazi" and the use of Nazi imagery has, in very recent past, has been used by various groups in Israel to not only slander and defame political opponents, but to incite violence. Perhaps no one at "On the Media" remembers, but there used to be a Prime Minister in Israel, Yitzchak Rabin. In the weeks and months prior to his murder by a right-wing extremist, Israel was awash in posters depicting Rabin in Nazi regalia, in protest of Rabin's support of the peace process. It was in this environment Yigal Amir plotted and carried out his attack on the Prime Minister. So they've kinda got a good reason to want to ban such speech. And, finally, even here in the land of free speech, there are de facto bans on some speech. Don't believe me? Try a little experiment: in some public venue, make statements that some could interpret as threats to the president. wait awhile, probably not very long, then enjoy your conversations with both local law enforcement and the Secret Service.

Jan. 26 2014 10:40 PM
Robert Thomas from Santa Clara

Does Hebrew have grammar nazis?

Jan. 26 2014 08:38 PM
babby660 from Norwich, NY

As far as I can tell, the word nazi is generally used in a derogatory sense. It is not used in admiration, except by fringe nazi groups that in no way will be discouraged by a ban on the word. I doubt such groups exist in Israel anyway.

Jan. 26 2014 12:30 PM

I agree. The word nazi is mostly used to point out an action that is inherently untenable & evil. Conceded, there are small nazi groups in both Europe & the Americas, but these are fringe elements who are generally looked down upon; I doubt there are any nazi groups in Israel, just folks who use the word to show disdain for action or speech that is less than commendable.

Jan. 26 2014 12:09 PM
Anita Schnee from Fayetteville, AR

A real humdinger of an edition, thank you as ever! But you know what Virginia Woolf would say? She, who ought to know, saw that any attempts to corral words by law would be “worse than useless.” She noticed that the “little wretches” have a tendency to be put “out of temper; disobliging; disobedient; dumb.”

If you ask me -- and you haven't really but when has that ever disarmed the power of the Internet -- the antidote to the disobligingness of free speech is OTM. And cats. Read my attitude about the whole thing here:

Jan. 26 2014 08:50 AM
Lou Cura from Boston

Brooke Gladstone's reporting and discussion with Ms Faudree were fascinating. While an action such as the Knesset has approved might work in a closed society (e.g., North Korea), I am certain that, if the law is enacted, the Knesset will find themselves derided as language-Nazis and that the matter will be cast as Nazi-gate, at least by many American iconoclasts. As Ms Faudree indicated, a language is defined by those who speak it. Trying to chain it down is folly. The motive is laudable, the means ridiculous.

Jan. 25 2014 03:27 PM

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