By banning offensive words, The Pakistani Telecommunications Authority are limiting freedom of expression to an unacceptable extent are encouraging people to create new slang.

Selection of list of terms banned by the PTA: ‘back door’, ‘barely legal’, ‘black out’, ‘devil’, ‘go to hell’, ‘idiot’, ‘kill’, ‘killer’, ‘queer’, ‘rape’, ‘Satan’, ‘slave’, ‘sniper’, ‘spit’, ‘taxi’, ‘fuck’, ‘flatulence’, ‘pocket pool’, ‘quickie’, ‘butt’, ‘deposit’, ‘fondle’, ‘strap-on’, ‘beat your meat’, ‘crotch rot’, ‘love pistol’, ‘flogging the dolphin’, ‘51 terms with the prefix ass’.

I read in The Guardian the other day that the Pakistani Telecommunications Authority (PTA) recently released a list of 1000+ obscene or offensive words, not just for fun – as I suspected – but because from now on the sending of any one of those words in a text message will result in it being blocked completely. Now, we all know this is wrong. No government body – no matter how many telephones they own or rude words they know – should be allowed to stop people calling their loved ones and telling them what they want to do with their love pistols and where. This much is obvious. But why? Voltaire may once have said: “I disagree with your use of the term ‘barely legal pocket pool,’ but I will defend until my death by fuck-slave sniper your right to say it,” but he never got round to giving his reasons – he was too busy having quotations misattributed to him.

We could invoke the law, after all freedom of speech is included in the Pakistani constitution, but then, according to the PTA, it is also “not unrestricted” – which is a not-unbullshit term for ‘restricted’. We could invoke human rights, but human rights – and it pains me to say it – don’t really make sense without a viable method of enforcement. Without that they are just a blind assertion of what would be nice; they’re a restatement of a belief rather than a reason for one.

What else is there? Democracy? Well, no national poll has been taken yet, and even then censorship might actually be supported. Indeed, a nice man by the name of Zombie_KSA recently hacked onto the Justice Minister’s personal website and demanded that he ban pornography because he had, and I quote, “powefull balls.” He is not alone.

What about something a bit more academic? John Stuart Mill tried to argue that complete freedom of speech was permissible under the ‘harm principle’, that is, the idea that one can do anything one wants so long as it doesn’t harm anyone else. It’s the ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me argument’. Fair enough. But I know a few sensitive souls who might feel genuinely upset – harmed, even – if one accused them of having “crotch rot” or of being one or more of some 51 ass-prefixed words.

The point is this: words can hurt  (in fact, my mate Dave was once crushed under the middle letter of a giant, falling TESCO sign – let no one say their largesse has no victims) so why do we insist on allowing all of them?

There are a couple of reasons. The first of these is the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis; the theory that one’s language shapes – or even restricts – one’s thought. As Wittgenstein had it: “The limits of my language are the limits of my world.” Without the words to express a thought, we lose the thought itself, and that, as a situation, is double-plus ungood. The reason it is double-plus ungood takes us back to J.S. Mill: when he claimed to be defending freedom of speech using the harm principle, what he in fact did was defend it in terms of human progress.

It is only through the free exchange of ideas that progress can be made. In response to this, it has recently become fashionable to say that progress does not exist – and maybe in moral terms this is correct – but considering that what most people want is to stay alive and to have sex, I for one am glad for the existence of chemotherapy and Chanel Allure pour homme aftershave. Neither of which could have existed without a sentence that ended with either ‘cancer cells’ or ‘consenting adults’ and began with ‘let’s fuck these…’

Next, consider that freedom of speech is entirely necessary for political freedom. We, under a mild democratic government, may never have the need to criticise our leaders using such evocative language, but who would deny the right of people under a more oppressive leader to call him a shithammer, fuck deposit or ass-suffix. Not I.

Indeed how really can you stop people from doing this? In the context we’re discussing, the futility of the measure is obvious. Slang, by definition, is a code of communication kept away from elites. Therefore any dictionary of such codes created by the elite will not only be incomplete, but also create ridicule, by allowing the masses to see that, for example, Chairman of the PTA Mohammed Yaseen knows the word ‘strap-on’.

More to the point, when an attempt is made to limit language or limit expression, the usual result is that ever more ingenious and creative slang is invented. The destruction and creation of language is a dialectical process of code and censorship of which ‘beating the meat’ is only the latest example, and that’s something not even the PTA can stop.

  • Confused

    What's wrong with "taxi"?

    • Also

      Not to mention, "Darling, can I have the key to the back door?" could be totally innocent. Or "your hair is looking a bit queer today". Or if you really do want to beat some aquatic mammals.

    • Pakistani Man

      It's slang for a prosser in Pakistan … TAXI for the culturally uneducated.

      • Slang Judge

        Brilliant. Might start using that one.

  • Philosopher

    Very John Stuart Mill. We need a public forum, even if we disagree what people say, so that we remember why we disagree with what they say.

  • RumbeloDickens

    A rightly awesome article

  • A bit disappointed

    …. after the intriguing title?

  • Field Marshal Truth

    You definitely don't have a mate called Dave. Nobody has a mate called Dave.

    • Ali's mate Dave

      No. You don't have a mate called Dave, because we're not friends with twats.

  • OED

    Does the author know the meaning of the word largesse (5th para)?

  • Good article

    Probably too good for the Tab.

  • Legal philosopher

    Really enjoyed this. One of the best written things on the Tab since Lexi left(!)

    My one gripe is that in your discussion of Mill and the Harm Principle you talk about people being harmed by words. In liberal theories of criminalisation, this is actually a separate notion (the Offence Principle) which is generally considered separately. and it's a real hot potato as to whether or not it's a legitimate ground for prohibiting conduct. But hey, I'm just a pedant pointing out that if people are interested there's a huge amount of interesting stuff to read in this area, not taking away from what's been written!

  • We get it

    You're doing an English degree, we get it. Now stop masturbating in public.

    • Slang

      That's "beating the dolphin in public" surely?

    • Actually…

      I'm in his college, he's not

  • Boz

    Medway isn’t a town. A single place, like Chatham however, is.

  • Deku

    I thought this article might have some wit or insight, but it’s just “highstreet’s bare, birds aren’t classy, here are two venues about which I shall say something negative.”

    It’s like a buzzfeed article without numbers, why bother?

    1/10 very boring, try this article instead: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/27/kent-doesnt-have-cultural-identity-stuart-heritage?CMP=twt_gu

  • Jack

    phahah … whoever wrote this shout get out. i love how ALL the pictues above were not taken from all around medway , but chatham. how about going OUT of chatham to ,, well i dont know, maybe strood , gillingham and some other places, maybe use google to find out what meday has accomplished and sum up what is both good and bad.

    get ALL the facts before writing an article, any news-reporter whould konw this, you are just ignorant.

    • ex medway

      Lol, and you cannot spell!

      • Jack

        1 spelling mistake? wow. looks like anywhere on the internet, no matter where, there is always that 1 grammar/spelling troll.

    • Joe

      Yeah because Gillingham is definitely less grim than Chatham.

      • Jack

        well im not saying it like that, im saying to go some other places aswell, yes, chatham in some repects is worse than gillingham (i live in chatham so i can vouch for it ) but still, them pictures up there (but one, was corrected by my brother) is all in chaham… but im saying why
        not get on a train and ggo some other places around medway, the reporter should know not to focus on one area

    • Lea

      Another article about how shit Medway is. Original. Yes, some areas of Chatham are grim, but it is not all bad. How about an article about the better side of Medway?

  • raj

    I wish people would do their research. Proud to live in Medway a thriving community. Like all areas there are problem areas but this article is so devoid of any genuine research other than a quick look on youtube. Amy McElwaine come down and actually visit Medway and do some proper research into the area before you unjustifiably write such articles which use a couple of youtube videos as the foundation of reaching its conclusions on what depicts Medway as an area.

    • Mark

      I think she said she lives there so…

    • http://www.creatabot.co.uk Ntasha Steer

      Here here Raj!

  • Thal

    I lol’d.

  • Liz

    I think that this article has only showed the people in ‘Medway’ that have no respect for themselves and others around them, and let me point out that all of this was in Chatham not all around Medway. I live in Medway and I go round there a lot and I have hardly ever seen people with caked faces, I have never seen some people fighting either. I think you are just trying to put a bad name on this place when really there are a lot more better people around this place. Its not just a ‘chavvy’ place there are a lot of nice people here and who are you to judge them? You don’t even know who these people are so why go around writing bad reviews about other places thinking you know everything when you dont..

    • http://www.creatabot.co.uk Ntasha Steer

      Good reply also Liz!

    • John

      I live in maidstone n headed up 2 chatham the other day as i do occassionally n as soon i stepped onto the high street i saw a fight, n thats not the only time iv seen it. Same goes for maidstone, if seen countless fights on the streets and been attacked by a group of lads myself for no reason. Sure there is nice people everywhere, but lets face it medway and maidstone… both shitholes…

  • Nick

    They make the Tap sound way better than it actually is.

  • http://www.creatabot.co.uk Ntasha Steer

    I would like to say that I LOVE Medway. I have never felt so supported by a community before, and the projects people are working here are wonderful. People here pull together to make change. There are problems here just like any other town, but the creative community here for instance is incredible. I love the Tap N Tin too! Before judging, go out and actually see all the amazing things that are happening here and how far tourists actually come to appreciate the history here. Also before moaning about things you witness, why not try and do something about it?

  • http://www.creatabot.co.uk Ntasha Steer

    I have looked at your LinkedIn profile, you really should know about all the culture here by now, please please Amy, do some research.

  • http://www.xboxer.co.uk theJeffBarker

    I love the fact that Amy declined to comment on Chatham nightclub MOJO, which is actually one of the best clubs in the South East – rivaling the Source Bar (Maidstone) in sheer quality when it comes to booking massive international DJs like Davide Squillace, Matthias Tanzmann, Sable Sheep, Pirupa, Danny Daze, Jay Lumen and Italoboyz (amongst others). Capacity crowds week-in, week-out with ne’er a hint of bother, nor a face caked in makeup.

  • Souffle Fiasco

    We’re talking about the “chatham girl” again? Is it 1999? really poor article that does nothing to mention any other aspect of Medway than Chatham high street and the Casino rooms. Well done for highlighting the worst aspects of our area. Crappy high streets and crappy clubs can be found throughout the UK. There is nothing special about Medway in terms of it’s run-down crappyness so why people feel the need to draw attention to it is beyond me. I’m really not sure if the author does actually come from Medway as they refer to Chatham high street as the “town centre” of Medway!

    you might be proud to come from the worst aspects of the Medway towns, but don’t paint the whole area with the same clumpy mascara wand

  • 18ns

    leave tap alone :P i love it at tap

  • Kim Marshall

    I love living here I originally come from orpington and apart from my home town this is the only other place I have felt my home, ive lived in Gravesend and hated it, its truly awful there and Gravesend desdrves a post such as this. I have lovely neighbours and have met some wonderful people since living here and cant see I would want to leave

  • Sjd1990

    You know medway isn’t a town right? Another article lacking in the simplest bit of research.

    • me

      do you know the actually word for what Medway is then if not a town? i expect not.

      • Kat

        Medway is a conurbation and unitary authority

        • Graham

          What does conurbation mean then?

      • Matthew Clemens-Lary

        It’s a unitary authority.

        • Matthew Clemens-Lary

          Failed in its city bid so the term medway towns still essentially slang. Better schools here than in majority of UK, plus better transport links etc.

      • Si

        It’s a river that runs through Kent. The ‘Medway towns’ are the towns that grew up around the estuary. There is no specific town called ‘Medway’, the best word for what it is, is district.

  • 12345

    Sorry Amy McElwaine. It seems your education level resembles the people you bring attention to in your article.
    Medway infact is not a town. It is 3 towns. Most of the examples above are specific to one of these towns – Chatham.
    I have also lived in Maidstone – and really is no better. High street at night time is all above brawls and booze. Tovil, Shepway, Parkwood are hardly pockets of paradise in the garden of england.
    If you make use of the super intelligence that you will realise that most place in the UK is blend of wealth and deprived areas. Some more than others…but the recipe the same every where.

    • me

      Medway is actually 5 towns, together called a conurbation. ‘Home-conurbation’ doesn’t exactly have a ring to it does it? p.s. i never claimed to have super intelligence, but thanks for the compliment.

  • Percy

    Since when has ‘Medway’ been a town?! Since when was ‘Medway’ a thriving Naval Base?! Amy, you make yourself look even dumber than the remedial inbreds you are writing this very piece about?!

  • Kat

    Firstly I have to take issue with the inaccuracy of your statement “Medway
    could be the place for you, as you can rest safe in the knowledge that
    you’ll always be over 20 miles from a Starbucks, an Urban Outfitters or
    an Apple Store.” There is a Starbucks in Maidstone (8 miles) and (Chatham does have a Costa Coffee) and Urban Outfitters and Apple are both in Bluewater (13 miles). Furthermore, yes the 99p store in the high street is shut – because a bigger, better one opened in the Pentagon centre.

    I am not from Medway and yes it is very rough in places and there are some pretty awful inhabitants. But there are also many genuine, warm hearted people who don’t brawl in the street or dress like tarts!

    Your article reinforces a boring stereotype and suggests a disappointing ignorance on the part of the writer which is as demeaning as the image of the town you portray.

  • B

    Oh dear Amy, not a good article. Need to brush up on your facts. :-(

  • Ollie Crook

    I don’t get the point of this article. You’re pointing out Medway’s flaws without really setting foot out of Chatham. Chatham certainly has it’s problems, and I suppose if all you want to report is a 99p store, some empty shops and a fight outside Primark then it doesn’t seem like the most welcoming place, but projects like Nucleus Arts, Creatabot, The Chatham Mural and countless others are working hard to improve our town and eliminate the stigma.

    The “cleavage weekender” was terrible and a real embarrassment, but you missed the part where local residents were outraged and the backlash caused Casino Rooms to swerve and remove all advertising. We did that as a community.

    As for Tap ‘n’ Tin, it’s certainly past it’s most popular days, but the photos are fairly misleading. It’s an alternative club and you’ll find that it isn’t dissimilar to The Roadmender in Northampton, Mosh or Redeemer in Leicester or any other club in the country. Pointing at a pentagram and some chains while avoiding the numerous art pieces and murals on pretty much every other wall at Tap seems like dishonest reporting.

    Also failed to mention: a strong presence of folk music, vibrant underground DIY rock scenes, poetry and spoken word, regular art exhibitions (open a copy of WOW magazine and you’ll be inundated with art shows), festivals, rich history, an obscenely popular cabaret club in Rainham, community gardening, film societies, regular workshops (Creatabot posts these very regularly) and more that I’m probably forgetting about now.

    I quite like Medway.

  • Tel

    “Medway. It was once a thriving naval town.” – Medway has never been a town, it’s a collection of towns, or a conurbation.

    “Like a post-recession wasteland, empty storefronts and 99p stores line the streets” – 99p/£1 stores thrived across the country as a result of the recession, see this article… http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/poundlands-sales-soar-during-recession-1679911.html

    “If you’re a hipster-hater, Medway could be the place for you, as you can rest safe in the knowledge that you’ll always be over 20 miles from a Starbucks, an Urban Outfitters or an Apple Store.” – You can find all three at Bluewater shopping centre, just 11.4 miles from Strood… https://www.google.co.uk/maps/dir/Strood,+Medway,+UK/Apple+Store,+Bluewater,+Upper+Mall,+Greenhithe,+Kent+DA9+9ST,+United+Kingdom/@51.4173201,0.3036574,12z/data=!3m2!4b1!5s0x47d8b1506095804f:0x7edf0a3a3379ed30!4m13!4m12!1m5!1m1!1s0x47d8cc44977d6371:0xbffb32cf38f64742!2m2!1d0.478497!2d51.39247!1m5!1m1!1s0x47d8b1504db46f81:0x990d83723ca1cdee!2m2!1d0.26941!2d51.438918

    Other than that, it’s a solid article you’ve got going here.

  • Elaine Higham

    I live in Rainham but work in Chatham, yes it does have a problem with a minority of residents who feel the need to drink 24/7, but the majority of people get along just fine, the rest of the towns have a lot to offer for visitors and residents to enjoy, the Sweeps festival which is one of the biggests in the country, the 2 Dickens festival once again the biggest in the country if not the world, the Historic Dockyard, the Royal engineers museum, Fort Amherst to name but a few, the links with Japan though Will Adams with a one day celebration in September held in Gillingham park, twinning with Valenciennes France, Itto and Yokosuka Japan, Cadiz Spain and sister city ship with Foshan China, More to offer in Medway!

  • hookerLad

    1) Why would you try and run down the place you go to uni? Hardly selling it to potential students.
    2) Only a vodka mixer for £1?! Jesters and Sobar in Southampton can double the vodka for that price.
    3) A good mix of music makes for a fun night out, Elton John and SOAD are nightclub essentials in my books
    Lots of love,
    A tired Southampton Undergrad holding off the deadline blues

  • DogStar

    Oh no … have I missed the ‘National Cleavage Weekender’? Still, you know what they say: You can take the girl out of Medway, but not Medway out of the girl!! Have you heard of that mysterious place called the Historic Dockyard … chap called Dickens … need I continue?

  • Benjamin

    Without getting to deep into the mental constructs associated with why ‘you’ or ‘individuals’ would find said area ‘depressing'; lack of materialistic charms as a ‘need’ for apparent happiness as one example.

    If we find an area depressing, maybe we should look at ourselves – like the various of creative centres/cafe etc (probably none of which the many moaners are even aware of) have/are being set up in the area. I think people should spend less time moaning about what others offer and maybe make something happen.

  • Matthew Clemens-Lary

    Medway isn’t a town. Chatham is, Rochester is etc, also there are worse towns, Thetford, Doncaster, Enfield wash all spring to mind.

  • tim

    They forget to mention the ‘chains and pentagrams’ at Tap N Tin are because 1) Tap n Tin is in fact an old brewery and 2) that photo from an Halloween themed night. So many facts not mentioned. But yeah Medway’s pretty meh but you are worse places.

  • Missy Elliott

    I don’t mind Medway these days!
    Sure, it has its God awful parts – like every town I’ve been to; show
    me one that’s not been affected by industry, recession etc. We had our
    main industry (ship building and all the associated trades that
    encompassed) closed and it takes decades to recover. Medway also has
    some fabulous gems. Rochester High Street is the obvious one; it still
    holds appeal for the alt scene (young and old) – a town where you can
    pretty much be who you want without too much of an eyebrow being raised.
    If all you’re looking for is shopping, sure, it’s shit, but we have
    beautiful woodlands, river, parks, coastal trails and countryside. The
    writer of that article hasn’t really looked at the Med broadly, eh. We
    have great connections out of the Med to the great beyond, and a well
    established arts and music scene throughout the towns. We get more bang
    for our buck from our council tax (comparatively to Maidstone). I’ve
    had a love-hate relationship with the towns over the years, but have
    found wherever you go, you still get the small minded mentality, the run
    down shops, the inbreds….the list goes on. All over England and
    beyond. It is what you make of it. It’s all about perspective, having a
    broader outlook and looking for the good in things to me, and Medway
    has some good things So in answer to the artcile’s question, I don’t think it is the most depressing home town!

  • Hannah

    Oh dear this article is such an epic fail

  • Dean

    I live in thamesmead next to Woolwich and yes it’s a very high crime area and notorious, but I’ve been to Chatham and all I see is scum horrible run down area full up with comets low life kids with no ambition no respect for people or even self respect, and this is coming from someone who was born and raised in one of the worst areas in south London.