America the Offended

 

If I’m going to succeed in this new America, I need to learn how to be offended. It’s not that I haven’t tried, but I sadly have neither pearls to clutch nor a fainting couch to collapse upon.

The past few days have provided a crash course in the new Politics of Offense:

Let me give everyone of all races, creeds, genders, sexual orientations, disabilities, income levels, academic backgrounds, and nationalities a brief piece of advice: You are only offended if you choose to be.

If someone insults me for who I am or what I believe, I don’t get hurt feelings, I just think that person is lame. Obviously he’s in the wrong, because I’m awesome. (Of my many admirable traits, humility is the greatest.)

Whenever I provide this sage advice, the perpetually offended reply, “Oh yeah?! Easy for you to say! You’re not [female/latino/gay/poor/gluten intolerant/etc.]!”

I agree that it’s easy for me to say. I’m a healthy, middle-aged, middle-class hetero white male with an amazing wife and 2.5 kids. I’m one picket fence away from being a Norman Rockwell painting. Perhaps I’d have a different perspective if I belonged to an oppressed subgroup. But I don’t understand how that makes the principle any less true.

Being offended all the time is exhausting and unhealthy. Life is too short and happiness too dear. A content person doesn’t surrender control of their emotional state and self-worth to others, especially not to far-off celebrities or anonymous strangers on the Internet.

What do you think, Ricochetti — am I missing something? Is there ever a reason to be offended and, if there is, is taking offense helpful in any way?

No Signs image via Shutterstock.

There are 71 comments.

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  1. Profile Photo Inactive
    @FordPenney

    Darn! EJ beat me to the punch line!

    • #1
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    @JohnDavey

    I am outraged.

    • #2
  3. Profile Photo Member
    @MarciN

    Funny how no one is offended by the Muslims’ chanting “Death to Jews” and “Death to Israel” five times a day.  

    • #3
  4. Profile Photo Podcaster
    @EJHill
    Jon Gabriel, Ed. What do you think, Ricochetti — am I missing something?

    I’m offended you had to ask.

    • #4
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    @RedFeline

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: “If someone insults me for who I am or what I believe, I don’t get hurt feelings, I just think that person is lame. Obviously he’s in the wrong, because I’m awesome. (Of my many admirable traits, humility is the greatest.)”

    Love you attitude! Especially the humility bit. I’m like that too, so I understand. :))

    Now, please don’t be hurt because I said this! Och, perhaps I ought to have thought before saying this, as I definitely ought to be totally, completely, absolutely, concerned about your feelings. Sorry if I hurt you! Really! Hope you don’t take this the wrong way!

    Please don’t think I am insulting you. I wouldn’t like you to think I am lame.

    • #5
  6. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Douglas

    Are you suggesting that we should never be offended, to always turn the other cheek? Kind of a Hakuna Matata thing?

    • #6
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    @CrowsNest

    [redacted for offense]

    • #7
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    @Goldgeller

    Being offended gets attention. Being offended makes an issue “personal” and subjects it to the considerations of emotions rather than the intellect, and cost/benefit analysis. It’s the new weapon of choice to manipulate and move people around. It’s cheap, and it’s easier than making an argument. 

    • #8
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    @JonVin

    Why does your picket fence have to be “white”?

    • #9
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    @RickWilson

    I’m increasingly convinced that the outrage culture is just a content-provision mechanism for an increasingly hungry media creature that we just don’t know is sentient yet.

    • #10
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    @PsychLynne

    The only time I can think of when I take offense is when teenagers or young adults are swearing (really bad swearing) around me or my kids.  I don’t get angry, I just kindly ask them to stop.  Most of the time they do.  So, maybe I’m not offended…

    • #11
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    @FordPenney

    The ‘obvious answer’ is that by being offended I don’t really have to address the issue at hand, change the subject and go for offended… which means that the ‘offender’ is supposed to shut up!

    • #12
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    @FordPenney

    It’s a lot like sticking your fingers in your ears and humming; “I’m offended so I don’t have to listen to anything you say!”

    • #13
  14. Profile Photo Member
    @tabularasa

    The offense industry has created some new rituals:

    A public person makes a crude, rude, even offensive remark. Out come the knives.  He or she is publicly reprimanded and, further, demands are made for the person to resign from whatever position he or she holds. The person makes an abject apology, which, nonetheless, must be parsed carefully as it may be a non-apology apology.  [Note: conservatives play the game as well, though liberals have turned it into an art form].

    A variation of the theme is that a person makes a perfectly inoffensive remark, such as referring to people who act like thugs as thugs. Why?Because the word was uttered in racist code (little do they know that the word “thug” is of Hindi origin).  The person may or may not apologize, but is thereafter branded a racist.

    Finally, we have the non-apology apology.  It looks and sounds at first blush as an apology, but when you analyze it with the same intensity as a contract lawyer, the person has really said that anyone who was offended is a nitwit.

    Solution:  can’t we just “man” or “woman” up? We’ve become a nation of helpless ninnies.

    • #14
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    @JenniferJohnson

    I am reminded of C.S. Lewis’ observation about the gluttony of delicacy. His examples in the Screwtape Letters revolve around food. The idea is that it’s OK to be offended as long as the offense is the right type. If the tea is not properly brewed or the bread not properly toasted, one practicing the gluttony of delicacy is demonstrating maturity and refinement to notice this and express offense, even if it’s expressed in a subtle and off-handed way.

    It seems to me the idea is applicable to our day and age. Expressing offense seems to be a mark of maturity and refinement, as if one is saying, “Look how delicate and pure minded I am about my particular cause.” It’s a kind of gluttony of delicacy, a picture frame to encourage others to view us in a certain way regarding our ideas of ourselves.

    • #15
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    @JMaestro

    It’s an interesting moment in history. Proud peoples throughout the ages sang of strength, overcoming, and hard-won glory.

    Our people compete over who can be the more pathetic victim.

    Forward!

    • #16
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    @wilberforge

    The whole thing plays out in various ways. Not the least of which is to give in to selfish thin skinned folks that cannot generate attention any other way.  Another would be a “Smoke screen” for deflection and permission for otherwise distastefull acts.

    The had been a cartoon strip featuring “The Insulting Rock” where exchanges could take place and go no further. Anyone recall that ?

    Otherwise, just stop engaging grief mongers or at best mock them.

    • #17
  18. Profile Photo Podcaster
    @EJHill
    Robb Penney: Darn! EJ beat me to the punch line! · 46 minutes ago

    But I am impressed that you knew I was going to that in the very first post.

    • #18
  19. Profile Photo Member
    @Goldgeller
    Rick Wilson: I’m increasingly convinced that the outrage culture is just a content-provision mechanism for an increasingly hungry media creature that we just don’t know is sentient yet. · 22 minutes ago

    This is a very good point. The rise of the internet and YouTube means that more “voices” are heard now than ever. Perhaps the “net” amount of outrage hasn’t really changed, just an increase in our observation? That’s one argument. But I tend to agree with you. Making a “viral” video or blowing up Twitter can be very profitable now, so I think we end up getting more of.  

    But I also wonder if the increase in “offense” is a consequence of moral relativism– there isn’t really “right and wrong” anymore. The only measure is “the man himself.” “I’m offended” is about as deep as some of these people’s moral calculations go. They just don’t know to express themselves in other ways. 

    • #19
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    @DrewInWisconsin

    Declaring something “offensive” is used as a method of silencing one’s ideological enemies. I think the best response is to just point and laugh. Which, of course, is offensive, but so what?

    Ah, I long for the simple days when we used to just hit each other with clubs.

    • #20
  21. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Pseudodionysius

    Of my many admirable traits, humility is the greatest

    Based on your avatar, you could even say that your cup runneth over.

    • #21
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    @JMaestro
    DrewInWisconsin: Declaring something “offensive” is used as a method of silencing one’s ideological enemies. I think the best response is to just point and laugh. Which, of course, is offensive, but so what?

    Ah, I long for the simple days when we used to just hit each other with clubs. · 0 minutes ago

    The club system was more civilized. No seriously: people lose their livelihoods over that sort of calumny. With clubs at least a person had a fighting chance — an attacker had to come within bad-breath range of his prey.

    • #22
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    @DavidWilliamson

    At our (compulsory) sexual harassment course at work, the key point was made that it is the duty of the employee not to offend anyone – if someone is offended it is the offender’s fault, not the offendee’s.

    This taught me everything I needed to know about modern life – It’s best to keep quiet.

    Not that I have learned the lesson…

    • #23
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    @SteveSc

    Being offended is like the Matrix.  It’s about control.  If conversation can be curtailed, they (the mysterious they) win.

    When it all gets down to Newspeak, I will be guilty of Crimethink and shortly thereafter become an Unperson….

    • #24
  25. Profile Photo Thatcher
    @JamesGawron

    Jon,

    I am offended by the offended.  This leads to an infinite vicious circle of offensiveness.  Exciting no?

    By the way, how is the .5 child.  It must be tough only being only 5 tenths of a child.  There’s a story of overcoming adversity.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #25
  26. Profile Photo Inactive
    @JohnnyDubya

    My 14-year-old daughter is gluten-intolerant.  I look forward to the day when, in the college cafeteria, she can take offense at those who are intolerant of the gluten-intolerant.  Down with the gluten-intolerant intolerant!

    Seriously, though, “taking offense” has become simply a method of shutting other people up, plain and simple.  It is a consummately passive-aggressive activity that demonstrates the simultaneous weakness and strength of the “offendee”.

    • #26
  27. Profile Photo Inactive
    @billy
    Jon Gabriel, Ed.

    Let me give everyone of all races, creeds, genders, sexual orientations, disabilities, income levels, academic backgrounds and nationalities a brief piece of advice:You are only offended if you choose to be.

    Have you no shame? How dare you say such a thing! Is this brand of hate endorsed by all the editors of Ricochet?

    • #27
  28. Profile Photo Member
    @VanceRichards
    EJHill

    Jon Gabriel, Ed. What do you think, Ricochetti — am I missing something?

    I’m offended you had to ask. · 1 hour ago

    John Davey: I am outraged. · 1 hour ago

    All the low hanging fruit has already been taken. I’m out.

    • #28
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    @TerryMott

    The offense industry is just another example of the emasculation and infantilization of the culture.  It’s the grammar school whine of, “Teacher!! Johnny said my hair looks funny!!!!” writ large.

    Of course, since the oh-so-compassionate left looks at the various protected groups as children needing protecting and nurturing, they consider Johnny to be an insensitive bully.

    This, naturally, rewards the whining, producing more of it.

    • #29
  30. Profile Photo Inactive
    @wilberforge
    DrewInWisconsin: Declaring something “offensive” is used as a method of silencing one’s ideological enemies. I think the best response is to just point and laugh. Which, of course, is offensive, but so what?

    Ah, I long for the simple days when we used to just hit each other with clubs. · 36 minutes ago

    Hailing from the simpler days myself, clubs were for mayhem.

    Real men (Gentlemen and often True thugs)) settled via fisticuffs and honored the outcome. It was usually very painfull and not very pretty. Speaks to a time when peer review and social constructs were more defined.

    • #30

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