Dear Internet: Stop Being Offended

 

As long as there’s been an internet, there’s been outrage. Whether you hung out on an America Online channel, a CompuServe message forum, or alt.politics.usa.screaming.eagle, there was a market for yelling at anonymous strangers about the news of the day.

With the internet saturation provided by iPhones and social media, outrage is ubiquitous. People want attention and it’s easier to get it through anger than reason. But all this taking of offense is poisoning the public square, civil society, and all of our health (mental and physical).

What’s most tragic is that taking offense is a choice; you can decline it any time you want. I wrote about this over the weekend for the local fishwrap:

I’ve never understood why people get offended by, well, anything. Even if someone attempts an insult, it’s up to you to choose whether to accept it as such. Just as you shouldn’t give others the power over your emotional state, you can’t be offended without your consent.

Or as some fancy-pants old white cisgendered male said, “Remember that it is not he who gives abuse or blows who affronts, but the view we take of these things as insulting. When, therefore, any one provokes you, be assured that it is your own opinion which provokes you.”

Epictetus wrote that in The Enchiridion, Greek for “the handbook,” which means I have appropriated Greco-Phrygian culture. And if you’re offended on behalf of that extinct ethnicity, you need to keep reading.

Let’s reinterpret this 2,000-year-old dead white male for modern audiences. When a thin-skinned audience member shouts “I’m offended!” at a stand-up comic, it only reveals the heckler’s fragile psyche and low self-worth.

If you’re insulted when a co-worker holds the door for his female associate, you are projecting your hang-ups on what is most likely a simple act of politeness. If a Swedish bongo player sports blonde dreadlocks and you’re offended instead of amused, you have more baggage than a deposed Haitian dictator fleeing to Paris.

In our increasingly mad world, there’s no shortage of things to take offense at. But being offended doesn’t solve anything, it’s just emotional incontinence.

Here’s a better option: If you’re offended by lying politicians, work to replace them. If you’re offended by homelessness, volunteer at your local soup kitchen. If you’re offended by this post, write a response.

It sure feels better than typing “I’m offended!” on Twitter.

There are 21 comments.

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  1. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    I’m offended!

    Thanks that felt kind of good.

    • #1
  2. Tim H. Member
    Tim H.
    @TimH

    “Dear tide:  Stop moving!”
    —King Canute

    But yes, you’re right.  Some day, I hope we can get past the culture of offense.

    • #2
  3. Tim H. Member
    Tim H.
    @TimH

    Relevant:  One of my favorite Bloom County cartoons.  “Offensensitivity.”

    • #3
  4. Gary Robbins Reagan
    Gary Robbins
    @GaryRobbins

    I love your post!

    • #4
  5. Pugshot Member
    Pugshot
    @Pugshot

    @jon

    But being offended doesn’t solve anything, it’s just emotional incontinence.

    I love that! Rest assured I will now appropriate it!

    • #5
  6. Trink Coolidge
    Trink
    @Trink

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: If you’re insulted when a co-worker holds the door for his female associate, you are projecting your hang-ups on what is most likely a simple act of politeness.

    Peggy Noonan wrote a column waaay back referencing something she did during the Gloria Steinman/Helen Reddy days.   An older man had tried to help her with her luggage as she boarded a plane.  She’d rebuked him with something like: “I’m able to do this myself!”

    In her column she apologized to him for her years-ago rudeness with something like: ” . . dear man, wherever you are – I’m so sorry.”   That showed some character.

     

     

    • #6
  7. Chuck Enfield Inactive
    Chuck Enfield
    @ChuckEnfield

    I don’t know how anybody can take most of the internet seriously enough to be offended by anything they encounter on it.  Who cares?

    FWIW, I think this explains some of the questionable behavior we’ve experienced on Ricochet.  When people you like and respect suddenly disagree with you about something you consider important, it’s harder to ignore them than to ignore some unknown, witless jerk.

    • #7
  8. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: In our increasingly mad world, there’s no shortage of things to take offense at. But being offended doesn’t solve anything, it’s just emotional incontinence.

    No kidding. You’re just not that important and no one cares about your condition of perpetual hurt. Get over it, people. Or as my mother would say, “I’ll give you something to cry about!”

    • #8
  9. Danny Alexander Member
    Danny Alexander
    @DannyAlexander

    When the Internet got going as something the general public could use, Harvey Mansfield was still a number of years away from transitioning to emeritus, Milton Friedman was still drawing breath, and even Waylon Jennings was hanging in there.

    (I know, I know — one of these things is not like the others…)

    The cohorts that went through the hallowed halls of academe since then have emerged indoctrinated by battalions of Marxist clowns — well, it would be nice if we could have just laughed at them for being clowns, but in pedagogical and sociocultural impact terms unfortunately they’ve proven to be clowns of the John Wayne Gacy variety.

    The upshot is that self-esteem shortcomings may very well be at the core of the offense-taking phenomenon, but interposed between the offense-taking and the problematic self-esteem is a layer of intolerance put in place by the clowns.

    Worse still, that subcutaneous intolerance — appropriately enough, trapped within cohorts of people who themselves remain trapped in adolescence — nowadays has the tendency to burst past the surface offense-taking layer in the form of real-world vengeful action.

    Calls for firings, boycotts, shunning, and violations of privacy bordering on honest-to-goodness violent confrontation are occurring at what appears to be an accelerating pace; it’s as if the offense-taking has automated itself to such a degree that the latency between sensing and then responding with real-consequences attacks is practically imperceptible now.

    Honestly, if those prone to taking offense would just limit themselves to that alone, I could live with the bleating; unfortunately, there’s been a step-change in the internal psychic composition of post-Y2K cohorts — they actually *don’t* dwell on any one offense-taking situation for too long, but that’s because they’re trained nowadays to burst over the tolerance scrimmage line, leaving the bleating behind and administering beatings instead.

    • #9
  10. Doug Kimball Thatcher
    Doug Kimball
    @DougKimball

    I chuckled when I read this over the weekend in the AZ Republic (sic. Repugnant.)

    I think you should continue this theme with the prescribed political reaction to all this indignation; that would be the “the fighters.”   I don’t know about you, but having Elizabeth Warren, Nancy Pelosi or even John McCain fighting for me makes me laugh out loud.  Really?  You’re kidding right?  These people couldn’t fight their way out of a dry cleaning bag.  Besides, who are they fighting?  The special interests, they say.  Really?  That’s descriptive, some lawyer lobbiest who buys you lunch every third Wednesday?  Make him pay.  Order the filet and another to go.  Screw the bar liquors, order the good stuff.  And order an expensive bottle of Cabernet.  That will show him.

    Or maybe they mean that they’ll actually fight the opposition.  I’d pay to see that.  I think Ryan could take out Pelosi with a single backhand, though she’d probably come armed with a letter opener or some such.  Imagine Congress in a great GOT moment, laptops, chairs flying, people with pencils stuck in their necks, a bloodbath.  The horror!

    It will never happen.  Most of these people would rather sue than fight.  I’d settle for a simple, honest vote.  And I’ll fight my own battles, thank you.

    • #10
  11. Trink Coolidge
    Trink
    @Trink

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.:  .you can’t be offended without your consent.

    Hmmm . . .  well . . .  ok . . . . but when my leftist sister made a rant on her FB page about being ashamed of her family members who voted for Trump and listed our sins of racism and homophobia and then called us a bunch of antisemantics.

    Well that did it for me!  Consent or no!  I love semantics.

    (She took this post down. Wish I had a screenshot.  It was the best laugh of the day)

    • #11
  12. Chuck Enfield Inactive
    Chuck Enfield
    @ChuckEnfield

    Trink (View Comment):
    …and then called us a bunch of antisemantics

    She may have stumbled onto something.  There’s a case to be made that many Trump advocates are antisemants.  You know, the ‘take him seriously but not literally’ crowd who are glad to tell you what he meant.  Even though I’ve been willing to cut him some slack, many Trump translations diverge wildly from the plain meaning of the words he used.  Mike Pence, bless him, is about as antisemantic as they come.

    • #12
  13. Trinity Waters Inactive
    Trinity Waters
    @TrinityWaters

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: emotional incontinence

    Phrase of the week.  Congrats!

    • #13
  14. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: In our increasingly mad world, there’s no shortage of things to take offense at. But being offended doesn’t solve anything, it’s just emotional incontinence.

    No kidding. You’re just not that important and no one cares about your condition of perpetual hurt. Get over it, people. Or as my mother would say, “I’ll give you something to cry about!”

    (h/t to the good anthropoids at Monkeyshines.)

    • #14
  15. TheRoyalFamily Member
    TheRoyalFamily
    @TheRoyalFamily

     

    Percival (View Comment):

    • #15
  16. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    • #16
  17. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    I was told growing up that a wise man couldn’t be insulted.  If a comment was false, it was beneath contempt, and if true, wasn’t an insult.

     

    • #17
  18. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    And there’s the ever-popular “I’ve been insulted by better people than you.”

    • #18
  19. Sash Member
    Sash
    @Sash

    What is a puzzle to me is how people hear what they want, they pull out some small thing and harp on it.  We hear the same exact thing, but we hear different things!

    Like Trump’s speech on Saturday… he said a lot of good things.  But he didn’t name names, and I didn’t find that offensive.  But even the neo-Nazis seemed to think he was agreeing with them, because he didn’t specifically name them.  He said it’s unAmerican to be racist, and we should all love each other.  And the Nazis thought he sent them a message of support.  So confused.

    I guess I always thought it well understood (universal truth) that Nazis are evil and we really could skip the part where we all say it aloud, before we can even begin to condemn violence done in the name of race.  But I guess some people just need everyone to confirm that Nazis are bad.

    I also remember thinking while Obama was talking sometimes, that what he was really saying “I hate white people, and want them all to die!”  He didn’t say that, but I felt that message.  I guess that blacks could be having the same experience when Trump talks.  I don’t see it or hear it from Trump, but then… I consider it a challenge to figure out what he means at all sometimes.  But mostly, even when he says stupid stuff, he is benign, and has good will, he just doesn’t express it well.

    • #19
  20. Sash Member
    Sash
    @Sash

    Chuck Enfield (View Comment):

    Trink (View Comment):
    …and then called us a bunch of antisemantics

    She may have stumbled onto something. There’s a case to be made that many Trump advocates are antisemants. You know, the ‘take him seriously but not literally’ crowd who are glad to tell you what he meant. Even though I’ve been willing to cut him some slack, many Trump translations diverge wildly from the plain meaning of the words he used. Mike Pence, bless him, is about as antisemantic as they come.

    I have learned to do that… I think of him as that crazy old man who wouldn’t hurt a flea in real life but tries out every stray thought in public to see if he agrees with it.

    • #20
  21. John Stater Inactive
    John Stater
    @JohnStater

    I find myself of late questioning the utility (or maybe ubiquity) of the internet in my life. It’s a valuable tool to be sure, but but if every time I walked into my garage my hammer jumped out of the shadows and clunked me on the head, I’d have to think about parting ways with that valuable tool as well. This post gets down to at least part of the reason why. I doubt I’ll ever leave the internet completely behind, of course, but I have curtailed my use of it.

    • #21

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