The Right to Not Be Offended

Via the indispensible Arts and Letters Daily, Isaac Chotiner praises Stefan Collini’s That’s Offensive: Criticism, Identity, Respect, a short polemic on free speech and those who “take offense.”

Treating people with respect is a fine goal, but Collini notices that respect tends to be shown with special deference to so-called “out groups.” Claims of offense that would otherwise be ignored are instead given credence and even deference. Collini also correctly identifies the people who tend to fall into this trap. Very few “progressive” forces, for example, would have shown any “understanding” of hurt Christian feelings if Jesus had been mocked in a Danish newspaper. The entire force of the argument against the offensiveness of the Danish cartoons was based on the concern that Muslims were somehow less powerful than other religious believers. But this hardly qualifies as an adequate justification for a double standard.

This is Collini’s central passage: “Where arguments are concerned—that is, matters that are pursued by means of reasons and evidence—the most important identity we can acknowledge in another person is the identity of being an intelligent reflective human being.” And in case this seems too easy or too glib, he adds:
“This does not mean assuming that people are entirely—or even primarily—rational, and it does not mean that people are, in practice, always and only persuaded by reasons and evidence. It means treating other people as we wish to be treated ourselves in this matter—namely, as potentially capable of understanding the grounds for any action or statement that concerns us. But to so treat them means that, where reason and evidence are concerned, they cannot be thought of as primarily defined by being members of the ‘Muslim community or ‘Black community’ or ‘gay community’...

The related point, which Collini also touches upon, is that if one decides to criticize a culture or a tradition or a work of art, doing so is not an act of Western arrogance. Criticism is not Western or Eastern or Christian or Jewish, and those facing criticism—and those societies and cultures facing criticism—should respond in a spirit of openness about truth. To withhold criticism from certain communities or religions is, in Collini’s word, a form of condescension towards them. It denies these groups the ability to engage in constructive dialogue, and to fortify their own values. In the final analysis, everyone loses.

The issue of how the Scandinavian culturati would react to “offensive” portrayals of Christians isn’t, alas, merely a “what if,” to which the answer is obvious. In 1998, some religious groups in Sweden objected to Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin’s photo collection Ecce Homo, which includes depictions of Jesus dying of AIDS, a transsexual Last Supper, and God hanging out with some leather boys. Pretty tedious stuff.

Despite the niggling fact that the exhibition was displayed in various Lutheran churches throughout Sweden, with the approval of Archbishop K.G. Hammar, the editorial pages bravely united in opposition to those demanding that the photos be removed from what was then still state churches. Almost a decade later, those very same newspapers would upbraid Jyllands-Posten, the Danish daily behind the infamous “Mohammad cartoons,” for antagonizing a religious minority. And predictably, following fashionable opinion, Ohlson Wallin denounced the Danish cartoons as needlessly offensive, claiming to see no similarity between her exhibit and the satirical illustrations.

The whole thing, well worth reading, here.

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  • Old Mexican||

    The Right to Not Be Offended


    ... and other fantastic bedtime stories.

  • sevo||

    "The Right to Not Be Offended"

    I find this offensive!

  • Ditzy Blonde UCLA Student||

    ooooohhhhhhhh..... ting tong ling long ding dong..... oooooohhhhhh

  • ||

    Jesus built your hot rod?!?

  • sarcasmic||

    I gotta ding a ding dang, my dang a long ling long.

  • ||

    Impressive.

  • Resto Druid FTW||

    I prefer Just one Fix. Ministry at its finest.

  • Tim||

    True, and Scarecrow.

  • A Serious Man||

    I applied to UCLA as a poli-sci major, can I have your spot?

  • ||

    It means treating other people as we wish to be treated ourselves in this matter—namely, as potentially capable of understanding the grounds for any action or statement that concerns us. But to so treat them means that, where reason and evidence are concerned, they cannot be thought of as primarily defined by being members of the ‘Muslim community or ‘Black community’ or ‘gay community’...

    Not only that, but by deferring to a less than rational degree of racial sensitivity, you patronize people. Treating people as fully rational human beings doesn't necessarily mean that you don't realize that people aren't always fully rational, but it does treat them with greater respect. By making the assumption that they are capable of intelligent adult behavior you're showing them more respect than you would be if you went out of your way to be overly "sensitive". You treat a child - someone who isn't fully mature - with special sensitivity. You don't treat an adult that you assume to be as capable of rational thought and mature emotional control as you are with that degree of deference.

    In other words, treating minority groups with special deference is an insult to their intelligence.

  • Shanequa||

    "In other words, treating minority groups with special deference is an insult to their intelligence."

    Oh no you dint.

  • sarcasmic||

    I believe it's called the 'Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations'.

  • Sudden||

    The great irony is that I believe that term was coined by the Bush Administration (albeit likely not written by the man himself) and despite all of the media hype about how immensely brilliant the current POTUS is, I haven't heard a single phrase that resonates as true and as eloquently as the "soft bigotry of low expectations."

  • Zeb||

    Michael Gerson wrote it/coined it, I believe.

  • Sudden||

    But he did so in writing a speech for candidate GWB in 1999. The central point remains; for an administration that is so routinely credited for its brilliance, Obama has produced no soundbyte so memorable and so apt as this one produced by an administration that has been so castigated for its lack of sophistication and eloquence.

  • sarcasmic||

    Would any progressive consider that quip to be brilliant?
    First off they judge statements by who says it, not by what is said.
    So since GWB is doopid then that quip is doopid.
    Secondly it is intellectually honest, which goes against progressive "thought".
    Finally it is accurate. Based upon one and two they could never admit to three.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    It used to be called Paternalism, before that word was robbed of any and all useful meaning.

  • Pro Liberace||

    I find that term offensive. It implies that only men can be paternalistic.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Authoritarianism, then?

  • Pro Liberace||

    Authoritarianism doesn't have the connotation of condescension.

  • H man||

    Patronizing?

  • ||

    (M/P)atronizing

  • ||

    I thought "treating minority groups with special deference" is the very essence of being a Progressive.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    I thought "treating minority groups with special deference" is the very essence of being a Progressive.

    And they do. It used to be to sterilize and ghettoize them. But they had a change of heart and realized minority groups are much more useful when dependent on government for positive rights.

  • ||

    'You treat a child - someone who isn't fully mature - with special sensitivity"

    Pah, smack-em around a little. It helps mature'em faster.

  • Progressive||

    Hate speech, Hazel. If whites don't protect the feelings of people of color, who will?

  • Ska||

    If only my grandmother would have lived to see the day when colored people was the right phrase to use again.

    Oh, people of color is different?

  • Progressive||

    Eventually, we embrace everything we claimed to hate. It's about empowerment.

    For example, I'm all for freedom of speech but...

  • Jeffersonian||

    It reminds me of the Doonesbury strip when told that the black students are demonstrating in the quad, a despondent university president says that they've been given their own major, their own dorms, their own fraternities...what more could they want?

    "They want their own drinking fountains," is the reply.

    Trudeau used to be witty like this.

  • ||

    Color me offended.

  • Episiotomy||

    Since it is apparently the fashion to change the generic name for humans with high amounts of melanin in their skins and the terms: negroes, blacks, coloureds,and Afro-Americans have already been used...may I suggest Ebonite as the new term?

    Why does no one like my idea? **sigh**

  • Robert||

    Isn't that what they make a brand of bowling balls out of?

  • WASP||

    What about my right as a conservative Christian heterosexual white male to not be offended.

    Oh yeah. I forgot.
    Tolerance is defined by what not to tolerate.
    Inclusion is defined by who to exclude.
    Equality is defined by who is inferior.
    And offense is defined by who can be offended.

    Not that progressives are hypocrites or anything. I would never suggest that.

  • Sudden||

    I have a hypothesis, the reason WASP men have no right not to be offended is because we're not offended, we're fucking men and instead of bitching about unequal or discriminatory treatment, we fucking conquer, succeed, and rub the offending people's faces in the sweet excrement of our domination.

    At least the real men among us do. The others vote "progressive".

  • WASP||

    Good point. Progressives are pussies.

  • ||

    Fucking illuminati.

  • Sudden||

    I should probably add that among any group, there are thinking people who refuse to adopt the posture of the aggreived, who refuse to be offended, and who instead use bullshit collectivist racism/sexism as fuel to energize their success and prove their worth.

    The only white men who ever complain about the fact that they can't claim the mantle of discrimination or aggreived status are the ones who desperately adhere to these same bullshit collectivist notions and would love nothing more than to point to external forces as the causes of their own failures.

    In short, no matter who you are: man the f up, grow a pair, and recognize that you make yourself what you are.

  • Zeb||

    I hear a lot of that sort of complaining from white male conservative Christians. To listen to Pat Robertson go on about it, you would think that Christians are a persecuted minority.

  • Sudden||

    To one degree or another, there is some reason for Christians specifically to be upset with how their religion is shit upon universally while others are seemingly deified simply because their adherents are more likely to be brown. But I think the collectivist mentality of white men who are upset about the lack of an officially recognized aggreived status for white men is collectivist BS and occassionally a starting point for outright klan membership.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Sudden,

    But I think the collectivist mentality of white men who are upset about the lack of an officially recognized aggreived status for white men is collectivist BS and occassionally a starting point for outright klan membership.


    I would argue that this whole self-castigating ethic espoused by white liberals is pretty collectivist in itself. And very obnoxious.

  • Sudden||

    Couldn't agree more with you.

  • Tony||

    Christians have it so bad in this country...

  • Zeb||

    This is still a country where being an open atheist is political suicide in most places and every presidential candidate has to pretend to be a regular church-goer. I don't think it is quite accurate to say that Christians are universally shit upon.
    And I think that the reason for the deference to Muslims at least is that they are far more likely to kill a bunch of people over some stupid shit than Christians (though no progressives are going to admit that). There are shitloads of brown Christians in the world, and no shortage of white Muslims.

  • Sudden||

    True enough regarding POTUS candidates having to act religious. Still, I maintain that Christianity is mocked pretty incessently in the larger culture and usually in ways that would be reprehensible to the same mockers had it been done to Islam or any number of Eastern religions.

  • ||

    Speaking from a global perspective, Christians are more and more likely to be brown themselves. Not that that helps them in the eyes of progressives. For example, when Third World Anglicans declined to sign on to Western views on sexual morality, Episcopalian bishop John Shelby Spong dismissed them by saying, "They've moved out of animism into a very superstitious kind of Christianity. They've yet to face the intellectual revolution of Copernicus and Einstein that we've had to face in the developing world." Condescension much? Why didn't he just say, "Well, what do you expect from savages who only recently came down out of the trees?"

  • cynical||

    Agreed. Nothing more grates on my nerves more than seeing the side that in theory reviles the victim card playing it.

  • OhioOrrin||

    Double O's insult matrix:
    1) Black women can insult anybody.
    2) Black men can insult anybody but black women.
    3) Asians, hispanics, natives can insult anybody but blacks.
    4) White women can insult all whites.
    5) White men can only insult other white men.
    Please hardcopy for handy pocket reference.

  • Ditzy Blonde UCLA Student||

    that makes sense.

    ooohhhhhh... ting tong ling long ding dong....... ooooohhhhh

  • sarcasmic||

    How does religion fit into your matrix?

  • ||

    I nominate: All religions may insult other religions. Unless they are Christian, in which case they may not insult any other religion that is not a subset of christianity.

  • OO||

    yep, falls under #5 since jesus was a white male...like in the movies

  • cynical||

    No, I believe there's still a ranking:

    Atheism
    Agnosticism/Deism
    Eastern Religion/Paganism/Wicca/New Age
    Islam
    Judaism
    Catholic/Orthodox Christianity
    Protestant Christianity
    Scientology

    Although atheism gets bumped down for spiritual folks and scientology gets bumped up in Hollywood.

  • sarcasmic||

    What about Mormans and Jehovas?

    What if you're self hating, like a self hating Jew or Catholic? Does that bump you up a notch?

    Where does Statism fall into the mix?

  • sarcasmic||

    *Mormons*

  • Episiotomy||

    Satanists don't even make the list.

  • Robert||

    Look up The Pagan Hierarchy: Who Looks Down on Whom. Hilarious.

  • Episotomy||

    It frightens me that I have met and/or hobknobbed with most of the categories in this hierarchy....and it is indeed correct ;)

  • Episiotomy||

    Egads...server squirrels ate one of my "i" s

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Black men can insult anybody but black women.

    Don't hang around with black men much, do you?

    A Black Woman Cannot be First Lady

  • Michael||

    And predictably, following fashionable opinion, Ohlson Wallin denounced the Danish cartoons as needlessly offensive, claiming to see no similarity between her exhibit and the satirical illustrations.

    It must really sting to see some vulgar scribbles upstage one's pseudointellectual claptrap.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    "Via the indispensible Arts and Letters Daily," but actually appearing in the apparently not indispensible (and perhaps even unmentionable) New Republic.

    Just sayin'.

  • Fluffy||

    This is closely related to another progressive canard: the idea that no element of any minority group complaint can be understood by anyone outside that group, because you haven't "lived" the right "experience".

    The entire point of progressive argument on this point is precisely that you are NOT "potentially capable of understanding the grounds for any action or statement that concerns us". If you haven't been black for thirty years, the exact nature of the offense your statement has given cannot be communicated to you because it's fundamentally ineffable. You can't understand it by explanation or explication; you can only understand it by osmosis. This means that no matter how specious or asinine a particular minority's claim to offense may sound, you can't find fault with it because it's all just so beyond you and you haven't lived it and blah blah blahdy blah blah.

  • sarcasmic||

    Progressives judge what is said not by what is actually said, but by who said it.
    They do not critique ideas, they critique people.

    They do not have principles, they only have principals.

  • ||

    "...the idea that no element of any minority group complaint can be understood by anyone outside that group, because you haven't "lived" the right "experience"."

    Unless they're a conservative minority in which case they can be called anything and everything.

    And their complaints can be dismissed in toto.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Despite the niggling fact...

    HOLY FUCKING SHIT!

  • Sudden||

    Gotta love the quirks of language.

    I only wish I could accuse our president of being niggardly.

  • WTF||

    Would that make him a niggard?

  • New Black Panther Party||

    careful...cracker

  • Randal ||

    It's cool - we're taking it back.

  • Tim||

    MY EYES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • ||

    And predictably, following fashionable opinion, Ohlson Wallin denounced the Danish cartoons as needlessly offensive, claiming to see no similarity between her exhibit and the satirical illustrations.

    Interesting fact. Ohlsen Wallin had a sex change and changed her last name to Johnson. She moved to the small town of Rock Ridge where she opened a newspaper. She/he is most well-known for disagreeing with Howard Johnson's views on Nietzsche.

  • Tony||

    See, don't you get it? Her portrayal of Jesus as a homosexual AIDS martyr at a transgender last supper was actually the highest form of flattery she could offer. She depicted Jesus as the highest form a white man could achieve according to progressive sensibilities. It was hardly the offensive and crass protrayal of Mohammad as a terrorist that the Danish hate monger spawned.

  • ||

    So Tony now takes the position that we judge offense by the intent of the speaker, not the sensibilities of the alleged victim?

    Good to know. I suspect that will come in handy soon.

  • Sudden||

    NICE!!! I fucking Tony-spoofed that one well. So well it was believable. Sorry RC, I couldn't help myself.

  • ||

    Well, I thought it was awfully articulate, but I figured hey, blind pig, acorn, you do the math.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Tony,

    She depicted Jesus as the highest form a white man could achieve according to progressive sensibilities.


    Despite the obvious fact that Jesus was semitic.

    It was hardly the offensive and crass protrayal of Mohammad as a terrorist that the Danish hate monger spawned.


    Despite the fact that Mohammed was indeed a terrorist, if one is to believe the very book he wrote about himself - oh, and about Allah.

  • Sudden||

    Sorry OM, that was me running the Tony spoof. I couldn't help it, that thought had occurred to me that making Jesus a gay AIDS martyr was a compliment and I ran with it as a Tony spoof, my first ever foray into the world of Tony-spoofing. I promise I won't do it again.

  • Old Mexican||

    You sounded just like him... I am astonished!

    That may mean that Tony is simply becoming too spoofable...

  • ||

    Or that Tony only existed as a spoof in the first place.

  • Trespassers W||

    Tony exists only as the anthropomorphization of the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

  • A Serious Man||

    The difference is that if you made fun of Jesus to his face he would forgive you. If you made fun of Mohammed to his face he'd have you beheaded.

  • Zeb||

    So, if you were Jesus. And you were gay. Would you let the Apostles fuck the holes in your hands?

  • Sudden||

    Stigmatacourse?

  • Entitled Slacker||

    Disagree with Howard Johnson's views on Nietzsche all you want but I won't hear a word against his deep-fried clams.

  • Warty||

  • ||

  • Warty||

    This is pretty fucking offensive.

  • ||

    Now THAT shit was offensive.

  • Old Mexican||

    In 1998, some religious groups in Sweden objected to Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin’s photo collection Ecce Homo, which includes depictions of Jesus dying of AIDS, a transsexual Last Supper, and God hanging out with some leather boys. Pretty tedious stuff.


    Facile is the word that comes to my mind, besides "tedious."

  • ||

    Yeah ~ AIDS-inspired art is effete and trite.

    Lapsed Catholics seem to be the creators and audience...at least in my circle. It doesn't seem to be on anybody else's radar.

  • Old Mexican||

    Almost a decade later, those very same newspapers would upbraid Jyllands-Posten, the Danish daily behind the infamous "Mohammad cartoons," for antagonizing a religious minority. And predictably, following fashionable opinion, Ohlson Wallin denounced the Danish cartoons as needlessly offensive, claiming to see no similarity between her exhibit and the satirical illustrations.


    Well, Olson Wallin would argue that Muslims represents a religious minority in Europe... Which would gloss over the fact that the Lutheran Church that she was clearly mocking represents a tiny minority compared to the total number of Muslims around the world.

  • Sudden||

    Which would gloss over the fact that the Lutheran Church that she was clearly mocking represents a tiny minority compared to the total number of Muslims around the world.

    Honestly, given the increasingly atheistic state of affairs throughout the West and vast immigration of Middle East and North African Muslims into Scandanavia, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to learn that practicing Lutherans (or even the larger catch-all of any Christian denomination) are a tinier minority than practicing Muslims within vast swaths of the European continent.

  • Tony||

    You people really struggle with this stuff don't you... OhioOrrin's insult matrix above captures the essence of how this works. Yes, certain things are OK in certain company, and certain things are not OK in certain company, and it's not "fair" or equitable, it just is, so grow up and deal with it. This is because it's not just the content of the speech that matters, it's the particular emotional resonance.

    We don't need laws for the most part. Manners handles these kinds of things nicely. Don't say anything offensive. If you're offended by something, there are polite (but not pushover-y) ways to respond. Among these is NOT the whining of a white heterosexual christian male over his oppressive treatment by not being able to make the same kinds of jokes about minorities they can about him. Grow up, get a sense of humor, and realize that life isn't always fair, a fact, incidentally, that white heterosexual christian males have benefited from for centuries.

  • ||

    And we should care about these arbitrary rules why?

  • Tony||

    Because you are a person who lives among other people?

  • ||

    And...?

    I know you're desperate for the blind approval of the masses, but some people like to think for themselves once in a while. It's a bit ironic that you're whole basis for calling us immature is nothing more than the yearning of a high school cheerleader in a popularity contest.

  • Tony||

    So basic manners is a high school popularity contest?

    They're how adults get along in a world with other people. The normal term we use for a person without an appreciation of the rules of society is "infant."

  • ||

    Sorry -- I'll pass on polite art.

  • Tony||

    Oh, absolutely. Art is another matter--it's OK and expected to push boundaries, even boundaries of decency.

  • Fluffy||

    Well, since you're adamant that it's not about laws, but is about manners, I'll tell you what:

    Get rid of the laws, and the torts, and I promise never, ever, ever to complain about my treatment as a white male.

  • ||

    That's also the term we use for people who take needless offsense at something that they are capable of recognizing as not meant to give offense.

  • Helpful||

    I know you're desperate for the blind approval of the masses

    Isn't that why you comment hundreds of times daily at this site? For approval?

  • WASP||

    Isn't there a black cock somewhere you should be sucking?

  • non-protected class||

    "Grow up, get a sense of humor, and realize that life isn't always fair..."

    That's rich coming from a sniveling faggot bitch who complains about how things just aren't fair and how we need the heavy hand of government to fix it...

    Waaaaaaaaaaaa - aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

    bitch

  • ||

    Don't say anything offensive.

    Fuck you, spoof-boy. I'll say what I like, and deal with the consequences.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Tony,

    Grow up, get a sense of humor[...]


    ... and then Tony bits his tongue.

  • Zeb||

    Manners are good generally. What is not good are special rules about what certain types of people can say, based on fairly arbitrary distinctions like race. Manners like these only serve to emphasize and perpetuate racial inequality and separation. Constantly looking for racism, or whatever kind of -ism, in every statement anyone makes is very counterproductive if you actually want to promote equality and tolerance.

  • Old Mexican||

    bit

  • Tony Quinn||

    Last night I saw an old friend dancing naked behind a thin layer of fabric and subsequently in underpants on the dance floor at Renegade. He won the boxer shorts contest. I had fun.

    I heard rumors today that someone I think is cute, and who has a Ph.D. while still in his 20s, enjoyed my company last night and wants to see me again tonight. Trouble is, I've been invited to three different events tonight, and the one involving him was the last I heard about.

    The party I shall be attending is at Morgan and Tega's. If possible I will find some time to meet up with this fellow so that I can get the disappointing rejection and/or heartless interference by my friends over with.

  • ||

    Cool story bro.

  • When I dance....||

    I prefer to dance in Fruit Of The Loom Briefs.

  • Trespassers W||

    and who has a Ph.D. while still in his 20s

    A PhD in less than eight years of graduate school? He must be some kind of wunderkind. I bet his parents fitted out a special room over the garage as a reward.

  • Jeffersonian||

    He's a fucking ace at those decaf mocha grandes with a shot of vanilla, too.

  • Zeb||

    They do give out PhDs in useful things from time to time. A good friend of mine got his at 27 and is now starting a branch in Shanghai for a major pharmaceutical company.

  • Tony||

    BTW, I find split infinitives offensive.

  • A Serious Man||

    That's actually a grammatical rule that has very little justification. Just sayin'

  • To Boldly Go Where No Man....||

    Yeah, seriously.

  • ||

    Agreed. stupidest rule in the grammer book.

  • ||

    Nobody cares if a droid is upset, why should we care if a Wookie is upset? "Because a droid won't rip off your arms and beat you to death with them if they lose!" And THAT'S why Muslims get to play the aggrieved card and Western Christians don't.

  • Krazy Kartoon Mohamet||

    "Ohlson Wallin denounced the Danish cartoons as needlessly offensive, claiming to see no similarity between her exhibit and the satirical illustrations."

    A krazy kartoon of me taking it in the ass is "different" from one of Krist taking it in the ass. HaHaHa.

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