Offended? You Have Options

But protection from the offense is not one of them.
Novelist, scholar or dilettante (not that these are mutually exclusive), Philip Pullman, author of the recently published The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, is sure right about one thing.

I probably won’t read this book. The subject is outside my normal abnormal interests and my reading list is already long enough but I do like Pullman’s response to the question of offense.
Via Dispatches from the Culture Wars

5 thoughts on “Offended? You Have Options”

  1. On the topic of ‘offense’, I think it’s important to consciously acknowledge the difference between ‘offense from personal attack’ and ‘offense from reason’.
    No one has the right to protection against an offense caused by another who reasons a differing point of view that is free from *personal attack*. Personal attack is a quite different issue that we need protection against.
    Religious zealots confuse personal attack with reasoned attack and being that religious zealots are by nature irrational, it’s unlikely we can get through to them to help them understand why their rights haven’t been trampled on.

  2. Yeah,
    I agree that there is a useful difference between “offense from personal attack” and “offense from reason,” if one means by “offense from personal attack”the intentional defamation of the individual character of anyone other than a public figure with the intent of limiting livelihood or affection or an attack on anyone who are unable to use the options that Pullman enumerates (or the like), children for example. But, otherwise, I would error in the direction of allowing any kind of communication regardless of how offensive to any one or any group.
    And regardless of how “religious zealots” or others may “reason,” I can sure work to make sure that there are not laws that protect free speech and communications.

  3. “But, otherwise, I would [err] in the direction of allowing any kind of communication regardless of how offensive to [anyone] or any group.”
    Alright. So how does “free speech”, in your apparent sense of “free” no matter how irrational (even outright lies??) not just erode to a point where static noise overwhelms coherency, lies outnumber truths, and self-censorship becomes the norm out of necessary self-protection, thereby usurping free speech altogether?

  4. Of course, the risk you identify is real. My problem is that I judge the risk of government deciding what is offensive or false as a greater risk than the risk that rational dispute will be drowned out.

  5. I had a feeling that this is your concern because it seems to be a common one south of the border. Afterall, America – Land of the free. As a Canadian, I’ve learned from American TV channels and dealings with American netizens that to tamper with “free” (in any sense of the word) is to tamper with Lady America Herself.
    Passed the dogma of one country though, and looking globally, there’s not just one pathway to the erosion of free speech and human rights. Yet I fear that the average American seems more concerned by far with only the “government-interference” pathway (tyranny of the few) and not concerned enough with the equally insidious “hostile environment” pathway (tyranny of the popular) that’s palpably developing as we speak. The purpose of free speech laws should be to inspire reasoned society (stress placed on reasoned), not give power only to the provably irrational while threatening the sane.
    That being said, I honestly don’t know what the perfect balance is anymore. It seems that as I age, I just get more confused rather than wise. ;o) So I only have questions and beefs, but no answers.

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