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'Fuck' documentary article causes stir on Wikipedia

Columnist

Published: Monday, February 10, 2014

Updated: Monday, February 10, 2014 22:02

Should Wikipedia consider allowing such an article on its front page?

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I’ll just cut straight to the chase. I don’t give a fuck about the word fuck.

It’s used as a verb, an adjective, a noun and sometimes as prefixes and suffixes. In 2005, it was the title of Steve Anderson’s documentary about free speech and censorship.

The film has had a corresponding Wikipedia page since its release, but only recently has it generated controversy. An article on The Daily Dotnoted that there’s a massive debate on Wikipedia about whether or not the entry for the film should be one of the Internet encyclopedia’s “Featured Articles” listed on its front page.

Advocates of featuring the article note that it is well sourced and properly written about a noteworthy subject. Those who would prefer not to see the article prominently displayed believe that profanity mars the front page and damages the credibility Wikipedia has earned over the years as a competitor to World Book and Encyclopedia Britannica.

We live in a world where tweens can look up words like “skullfuck” on Urban Dictionary and “The Human Centipede” on IMBD. I’m pretty sure an article about “Fuck” won’t scar people for life.

I’m well aware that Wikipedia is the sixth most-visited site in the world, and I understand that image is a big deal. However when the website is an unofficial nonprofit encyclopedia written by anyone with Internet access who can type, who cares?

If anything it’s a high-quality article about a serious topic and the documentary is clearly educational. On Wikipedia, the article resembles anything else you’d see there about a film. It has a summary, notes about the production, a section on the critical response, footnotes, references and external links. In other words, it’s a regular Wikipedia page.

According to the American Film Institute, “Ultimately, ‘Fuck’is a movie about free speech… Freedom of expression must extend to words that offend.”

Because of that film, I learned more things about “fuck” than anyone would ever know. For instance, M*A*S*H was the first large studio film to use the word in 1970. Two years later, the Oxford English Dictionary added the all-purpose word to their stately tome. It was also recorded during Apollo 16’s moon landing mission. Even “Meet the Fockers,” the most successful live action comedy at the time hints at the dirty little word in its title. But hey, throw in Ben Stiller and Robert DeNiro and no one bats an eye, right?

Fuck is the ultimate all-purpose word in the English language. It can describe a complex situation in one syllable. It can sum up a person’s entire personality in three tenths of a second. It describes what you did last night in just four letters. Even Sponge Bob said it’s a great “sentence enhancer.”

It’s no secret that the meaning of words and their cultural acceptance changes with the times. For all we know, “fart” could be considered an extremely offensive word in 300 years; but let’s not pass gas on the issue. “Fuck” is a powerful word that’s commonly used in everyday conversation. Kids say it (not around parents at least). Adults say it. We say it in different languages. Hell you’ve probably said (or thought about) it it at least once today. So next time you’re driving and someone cuts you off, feel free to say that infamous seven-letter phrase.

Wikipedia’s editors should lighten up and accept that they operate a site that isn’t always meant for PG audiences. There are articles on butt plugs, goatse.cx, diaper fetishism (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and fisting. I think they can tolerate a link on their front page to an article that fights for free speech using a word that may not be perfect for everyone.

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