The crazy part of this story is not that a handful of people on the internet got worked up over something insignificant and trivial. It’s that Beyoncé actually caved to this loud but essentially irrelevant Twitter mob.
“Beyoncé will remove the word ‘spaz’ from one of her new songs, ‘Heated,’ after she received criticism from disability advocates,” Rolling Stone reports.
“The word, not used intentionally in a harmful way, will be replaced,” one of the artist’s representatives told the publication.
That’s right: Beyoncé is self-censoring her art to remove a commonly used word that a handful of people on the internet got upset over. She certainly has the right to self-censor if she’d like, but, in my view, it’s cowardly compliance that reveals just how out of control cancel culture and the outrage economy have gotten.
First, the notion that “spaz” is an “ableist slur” is pretty absurd. It does derive from “spastic,” which Oxford defines as “relating to or affected by muscle spasm.” And, in some other countries, “spaz” has a more negative connotation. But in the United States, it is commonly used to refer to someone hyper, someone freaking out, etc. Almost nobody uses it in a way that’s meant to involve disabled people or even has that in mind.
Yet, even if it is a mildly offensive word, so what? Hip-hop and R&B regularly use far more offensive words, including the N-word, “b****,” “f*****,” “whore,” “slut,” etc. That’s all fine, but “spaz” is beyond the pale?
As my friend and former colleague Liz Wolfe wrote for Reason, “It’s pathetic to give these activists this veto power. Rap tends to use words in ways people actually talk, not the platonic ideal of how people should talk if they want to be maximally sensitive.”
“[Beyoncé’s] decision suggests that perhaps she didn’t mean what she initially said; that words can be substituted on demand; that she has little attachment to the art she released,” Wolfe concludes.
There’s another element here: the infantilization of the disabled.
Physically disabled people or people who suffer from cerebral palsy are not emotionally fragile and in need of woke protectors to shield them from a word in some random song. On the long list of problems in their lives, this probably doesn’t rank in the top 1,000 for most disabled people. It’s noxious virtue-signaling and clout-chasing.
Shame on Beyoncé — not for using a common word in her song, but for caving to a relatively tiny online outrage mob and further fanning the flames of cancel culture.
This article originally appeared in the Washington Examiner.
Like this article? Check out the latest BASEDPolitics podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or below: