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The Right to Offend

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posted on Nov, 14 2015 @ 03:48 PM
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Orwell was right as always—“if liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear”. Freedom in any society is ultimately the freedom for those who think and express themselves differently. Sadly no one wants to hear or even support this notion. Historically, however, wherever freedom of speech was denied, inevitably, so too was culture, so too was rights, and so too was life.

The prevailing argument against this freedom—if you could call it an argument—is that it creates a loophole that panders to the bigoted people to say what they want, no matter who it offends, insults or belittles. Small and insignificant price to pay for something so priceless, in my opinion, which I base purely on the notion that freedom of speech and taking offense to speech, has not injured, maimed or killed anyone in the history the world.

The last time I was really offended by any expression was at my first reading of De Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom. Due to an overly vivid and uncontrolled imagination, a book about the most sordid of sadisms was bound to arouse the most sordid of imagery in my mind, and indeed it did. I was disgusted by the offensive material, and of course, as seemed natural at the time, I blamed the work for this oppression. But it wasn’t until I looked around the room and realized the reality beyond my feelings that I began to change my tune. Here I was completely alone and in the comfort of an easy chair, yet I had laid the blame of my disgust on an inanimate book written by a long-deceased 18th-century Frenchman, or in other words, on anything but myself. Defiantly I threw the book in the trash. In retrospect, the biology and physics behind my taking offense did not match up to my emotionally-inspired interpretation of it. Since then, and through my own insensitivity training, I have grown a little harder and colder in my dictatorship over my own faculties, and I have reread 120 Days of Sodom since that time. Now the little book sits proud on my bookshelf, not as something I might ever pick up when I have a hankering for sadism, but as notch on the belt, reminding me of my own power over expression.

Every individual has been offended by someone else’s expression at some point in their lives. Name calling, curse words towards our mothers, racial epithets, and many threats have been uttered by even complete strangers, and often or not, fighting words turn into fighting people. But luckily for us, the very state of being offended has never caused harm to any human being since the beginning of time and space, and any human can go about her day as if nothing has happened, because essentially, very little has.

Unless someone is willing to evoke some sort of action at a distance, those who are offended by free speech are the perpetrators of their own pain. Even the most derogatory of insults cannot fly through the air impaling its victims. That old adage “the pen is mightier than the sword” is absurd when practiced literally. Anyone who has brought a pen to a sword fight will be left the only one bleeding.

However, there are more superstitious types who dwell upon, brood over and overthink the offensive speech and their relationship to it, and in their self-inflicted anxiety generate a series of fantasies wherein the expression morphs into a weapon of sorts, necessarily causing irreparable harm to the abstract people the offended party imagines are its victims.

Of course, if we were to examine the physical and emotional damage caused by offensive speech, offensive words and offensive expression in general, we would fail to find any causal connection between the offensive material and the offended party. In fact, the notion that offensive expression has any ill-effect on a living being is wholly unwarranted and without merit. One needs only to hear offensive speech in a language he doesn’t understand to realize it isn’t the expression itself that does him harm—for if the words truly were capable of causing damage they’d cause damage no matter the language and no matter who comes across it—but it is his own understanding of the words and language in general (or lack thereof in most cases) that is the true culprit of his own offense. He has rather learned to be offended, and being unable to see through his own indoctrination to concrete world, takes his offense to be reason to act. To expect this kind of subjectivity to apply to all beings and all expression is a position only the irrational can support. The words are only offensive insofar as the offended party is offended by them, and speech can never be fundamentally, intrinsically, or objectively offensive. As of yet, language still proves herself to be the greatest and longest superstition.

[cont.]



+4 more 
posted on Nov, 14 2015 @ 03:48 PM
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Damage does indeed occur, but not by the offensive speech nor the offensive speaker. The only damage is manifest when the offended party mistakes the offensive material as an attack on his body, health and well-being; and from this error, attempts to return the favor, usually in the form of violence or threat. This is where the platitude “freedom of speech but not freedom from consequences” seems to come into play as a sophistical justification for the inevitable and irrational response to the offensive expression. “The reason I punched you in the nose is because you forced me to”—an irony of significant proportions. You might remember Roald Dahl writing that Salman Rushdie deserved the fatwa put on him. What this says is that the victim of the incoming punch in the nose is in fact the cause of it, which seems to me an attempt to extirpate a whole link in the chain of causation, something like me blaming the Marquis De Sade for me throwing his book out—I suppose he owes me $7 (it was a used book). This is abstract nonsense. Humans are of the capacity to control their responses and actions. Of course, freedom of speech is exactly freedom from its consequences, for any speech, physically manifested as guttural sounds, marks on paper and a variety of gestures in the form of body language, literally has no consequences in the concrete world. And unless one can prove how guttural sounds, marks on paper or body language can physically affect or alter anything besides maybe the one who speaks them, they have no cause nor reason to enact the consequences they themselves deem justified.

As such, the arguments against offensive speech are really not arguments at all, but are more confessions of how thin one’s skin is, and how he has been taught to treat expression in general. Something is deemed offensive because he’s offended by it, which is as circular and subjective as one can get. When the offended party becomes offended and in turn lashes out or expresses how offended he is, he is telling us nothing about the real world besides how offended he is. He cannot say such and such speech is offensive (for no expression can be fundamentally offensive), he can only say he is offended by such and such speech, displaying his wounds much like a crying child would his boo boo so that his mother knows where to kiss.

Yes, free speech includes hate speech and vulgar expression. It is already illegal in many liberal democracies to insult or otherwise demean entire groups of people. But I don’t need to wonder if people respond to hate speech in the typical way because the expression physically oppresses them, or if they simply have been taught and indoctrinated to do so. Imagine if our parents, our education and our cultures didn’t teach us that words were weapons, that expression causes significant physical damage to the one who hears it, and that we are essentially controlled by what we read, see and hear. Imagine if we were more powerful than words. Wouldn’t we react quite differently to speech in general if we were taught the truth? When the Westboro Baptist Church holds a rally wherein its members hold signs saying “God Hates Fags”, does this expression say anything about any real people in the real world? It doesn’t. If anything, it reflects only upon the one holding the sign. Yet, considered true only by sheer repetition, these words are oppressive. Still it proves only that the person holding the sign is an idiot, willing to resort to indecency and disrespect in a civil society, making himself a self-appointed pariah. A swastika painted in feces upon a wall is not a sign of any culture of racism, but is the mark and signature of halfwit. A “sh-tstika” is not going to compel people to grab their pitch-forks and adopt nazi racial policies, but it sure will compel others to pretend it would.

For those indoctrinated into a faith that endows words with supernatural powers, it isn’t too late. Remember, your offensive enemies, the racists, the bigots, and the hate mongers also operate on the assumption that their words can hurt you. Prove them wrong. Do not run to safe spaces, do not turn away when you see a trigger warning, and for the sake of our mutual freedoms, do not enact any authoritarian laws to retain that faith. Go out and be offended. Find the most curse, rude, demeaning and vulgar expressions and face them as if you were stronger than them. Enjoy the fruits of our right to offend. Read 120 Days of Sodom; go look at Piss Christ; read Mein Kempf; listen to the bigots, to the racists and the trolls—and laugh at their absurdity. See, not imagine, what expression is and what it is doing to you, what it really amounts to—the articulation of guttural sounds and marks on paper. Continually observe your health while doing so, and with a clear eye, reassess what you once thought was a threat. Maybe afterwords, we can prove the sword is mightier than the pen, and we can begin to disarm.


Thank you for reading,

LesMis
edit on 14-11-2015 by LesMisanthrope because: (no reason given)



posted on Nov, 14 2015 @ 03:58 PM
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According to liberals, it IS ok to offend.

It's ok to offend the KKK
It's ok to offend Nazis
Its ok to offend intolerant hategroups.

Also according to liberals it is NOT ok to offend the most hateful, intolerant, racist, mysogonistic, anti semetic, homophobic group that has EVER existed.

Because that would be offensive.



posted on Nov, 14 2015 @ 04:06 PM
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Thanks for putting the effort into a really thought provoking and well written post. That's certainly a lot to think about. Star and Flag because it'll keep me deliberating into the night.
edit on 14112015 by Scallywwagg because: (no reason given)



posted on Nov, 14 2015 @ 04:09 PM
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I'll just add my opinion quickly and leave.

People have the right to speak - but to offend, to and SEEK to offend, is just plain idiocy, arrogance, and narcissism.

Why? We exist in a web of relations. We share the same bodies - similarly constructed; subject to identical genetic limitations i.e triggers.

What are some of the "first principles" of human nature? Here's one: we live to survive. Our neural systems are designed to dissociate dissonant information and reflexively (instanteneously) incline to an 'idealized' picture i.e. a version of reality that calms us and makes us feel better about ourselves.

If one speaks, or desires to speak, or as you write, lives for a purpose such as wanting the right to "offend others", they are choosing to live in their little bubble container version of reality that doesn't include the reality of the other.

We can speak, but don't pretend that what we say doesn't grate on the needs of others. And don't pretend (or don't ignore/dissociate!) that acting from such a position is provocative - that is, it forces the other person to self-organize in the same ridiculous way that compels you to speak as you want.

The brain, fundamentally, is about survival. At our most basic, we either approach or withdraw. Our amygdala - and this is one of the most free-will shattering fact there is - responds to stimuli at 10 milliseconds. Consciousness doesn't become aware of itself until around .500 milliseconds. So what does consciousness become aware of? What the amygdala -threat detection system - detects as salient to the wellbeing of the organism at that precise moment. Being the case, whatever fantasy you tell yourself about "the right to offend" is largely just that: a confabulation. A way to make sense of your experience, of course, at the expense of the other.

Ultimately, being embedded and entwined in a system like this means our only way out is to calm the amygdala down. The amygdala and it's tendency to detect threat - whether physical, or social, since it cannot tell the difference - can only be biased if the face on the other end, seems kind and compassionate. A caring voice. A feeling person on the other end which understands the circular nature of it all, doesn't bother itself or concern itself with the fiction that is the "isolated" individual. It's a fiction; an illusion created, which we live, but evidently has unwanted consequences for the individual who doesn't use its memory systems to control its impulses.



posted on Nov, 14 2015 @ 04:14 PM
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originally posted by: Breakthestreak
According to liberals, it IS ok to offend.

It's ok to offend the KKK
It's ok to offend Nazis
Its ok to offend intolerant hategroups.

Also according to liberals it is NOT ok to offend the most hateful, intolerant, racist, mysogonistic, anti semetic, homophobic group that has EVER existed.

Because that would be offensive.

Can't mention Islam, only allude to it because that would make you as hateful as you claim Muslims are.



posted on Nov, 14 2015 @ 04:19 PM
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a reply to: LesMisanthrope


Damage does indeed occur, but not by the offensive speech nor the offensive speaker. The only damage is manifest when the offended party mistakes the offensive material as an attack on his body, health and well-being; and from this error, attempts to return the favor, usually in the form of violence or threat.

I've seen people's ears catch fire, its horrific.

They react by covering them, crying out and falling to the ground… anger wells up.

The dividing line between sentiment and assault is blurred.

I think it comes from too much TV. We are programmed see the screen image and forget its not really happening to us, its only on TV.



posted on Nov, 14 2015 @ 04:19 PM
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In other words, first principles - the reality of our biological organization - takes precedence to any personal philosophy.

Evolution, and the logic of our self-organization - is more relevant than your de-construction of 'what word's mean'.

It doesn't mean anything to the amygdala. Social acts - relational events - trigger the same areas of the brain that physical pain does. Any self-aware person knows and can recognize within themselves their vulnerability to a mean face, a disparaging voice, or a condescending words.

Again, EVOLUTION. Were programmed to operate this way because we survived as we did through group selection. This means, the group, or concept of "shared-intentionality", organizes our self-experience. From early life, to the complexities of social-status, we're modulated by our genes to support shared-intentionality; which means were subject to the same shame-pride continuum.



posted on Nov, 14 2015 @ 04:26 PM
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Like any good monster, what kills me only makes me stronger.



posted on Nov, 14 2015 @ 04:31 PM
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a reply to: Astrocyte


If one speaks, or desires to speak, or as you write, lives for a purpose such as wanting the right to "offend others", they are choosing to live in their little bubble container version of reality that doesn't include the reality of the other.


Having the right to offend doesn't necessarily mean he wants to offend others, it means that no one has the moral authority to determine what is and isn't offensive, which has been tried and failed throughout history. Once again, your only reasoning is your feelings.

There is only one reality, and it doesn't include bubble-containers.



posted on Nov, 14 2015 @ 04:33 PM
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I just had a deja vu reading your post from a buddhist text I read a long time ago; they are very similar in explaining how the offense is not coming with the sound but it takes birth in our own mind. Hope you're not offended since I have great respect for buddhist wisdom.

I agree with your post, yet my view on this is very pessimistic.
We held our feelings as of a great value.
When nothing really valuable or interesting is there to offer, some offended feelings bring forth attention, sympathy, interest even fame since they can always go viral on Youtube or Facebook. Not a bad deal I'd say. So not many of us are ready to give up of being offended by almost everything. On contrary, these days many seem to make a career out of being offended.
It's tiresome to try to say something while weaving between people sensitivities.
Seems to me that everybody is avoiding the content by taking excessive interest in the package, even making a philosophy out it.

This why it's a good thing we still have the right to be silent. I'll stick with that for now.



posted on Nov, 14 2015 @ 04:39 PM
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a reply to: LesMisanthrope


Very interesting .... S&F


I have always believed 'free speech' by its very meaning also gives

you the right to offend. I have to add not deliberately or to be

offensive, but to put truth at the top of the agenda.


I brought up my own children to grow a thicker skin and not to

take offence that if someone said something hurtful/hateful that

it was only one persons opinion, and as long as they were true to

themselves rise above it, hold their heads up and walk away ....



posted on Nov, 14 2015 @ 04:53 PM
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a reply to: LesMisanthrope




Having the right to offend doesn't necessarily mean he wants to offend others, it means that no one has the moral authority to determine what is and isn't offensive


And so.....nothing to say about the biological embeddedness of our minds?

History, by the way, has never really seen things from the perspective of systems theory. So saying, "its been tried before", is irrelevant. It has never been tried in the way it needed to be done: and this is because self-knowledge, knowledge of our own organization, evidently required a sociological scaffolding that has only recently been attained.

As for your comment that my only reasoning is feelings? Damn right! Feelings are the core of our animalian nature. Pretending that were some disembodied thinking machine, somewhat implied by your overly abstract approach, merely dissociates the more fundamental reality of what in neurology is called the "medial-ventral" complex. The medial ventral complex, as seen in all animals, is built around the amygdala; whereas the dorsal-lateral complex, a later construction, is an extension of the hippocampus.

For instance, I know that this sort of knowledge will likely be difficult for you to metabolize; but what am I supposed to do about that? You seem like a nice guy, but you're wrong. Biology, evolution - these are fundamentally more cogent starting points to work from.



posted on Nov, 14 2015 @ 04:59 PM
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a reply to: WhiteHat


If someone has an opinion but doesn't voice it ... that opinion still exists ?


If on voicing that opinion someone gets their feelings hurt, goes away

hurt and thinks it over, comes to the conclusion that the other person

just could have a point and adjusts accordingly.... Could it not in the

long term be of benefit and improve that 'hurt persons' life?


Achieved a positive from a negative?



posted on Nov, 14 2015 @ 05:01 PM
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a reply to: Astrocyte




And so.....nothing to say about the biological embeddedness of our minds?


Go start a thread on it and I'll meet you there, but no promises. Anything to say about the OP?


For instance, I know that this sort of knowledge will likely be difficult for you to metabolize; but what am I supposed to do about that? You seem like a nice guy, but you're wrong.


Wrong about what exactly? My arguments are there and available in the OP if you wish to refute them. Where did I go wrong?

Jargon is useful only to those who care about it. Jargon is what you seem to know.



posted on Nov, 14 2015 @ 05:50 PM
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a reply to: Astrocyte



People have the right to speak - but to offend, to and SEEK to offend, is just plain idiocy, arrogance, and narcissism.


You just offended me with your ignorance.




posted on Nov, 14 2015 @ 06:50 PM
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I'm becoming a firm believer that people understand their environment via language. A persons beliefs/understanding of the language and how much power they give to each word really determines how they will be affected by someone else's speech and how they communicate and how they see their surroundings and etc.

Ex: You called me a ballon knot, and I am very offended. So, the reason why I am offended that you, a mere stranger, called me a balloon knot, is based on my belief system that first and foremost you really matter in my life and are important to me and what you think about me is important! My offense is also based on the belief that everyone should be treated with respect, especially your elders, and lets just say I'm elderly. I'm also offended because of a belief that I am not a balloon knot and that I personally should be treated with respect and listened to, and I'm also offended based on the belief that being a balloon knot is a negative thing opposite to being treated with respect and so on and so forth.

But if you changed your understanding of language and the other person, things could end up quite differently. For instance you could in fact be able to entirely dismiss the other person based on your own understanding, you could detach... on a different belief system, and not be easily offended by ignorance or give power to total strangers anymore. I agree with you.

Ignorance isn't offensive to me, it's a natural state of the human condition. And I'm not even offended that people willingly try to stay ignorant, because I understand how uncomfortable and painful the truth can be... because it's hurt me very much. And I know it's a natural instinct to veer away from all pain, it just makes sense. What I am offended by are people who use these keen insights to trap minds, manipulate, cage, and instill fear in the lives of other human beings where it is largely unnecessary.

I felt I should participate and at the least say I appreciate your contribution here.



posted on Nov, 14 2015 @ 07:01 PM
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a reply to: Astrocyte

I think that the OP, while spot-on, is inappropriately titled. It seems to be talking about the right of free expression. As the OP explains rather well, I believe, you cannot offend someone - it is only the recipient of the "offensive" material who can be offended. In other words, if person A says something to person B, what person A says is offensive only in so far as person B finds it to be thus.

Basically, banning offensive speech is banning something non-existent, since what makes something offensive is purely subjective. Furthermore, as the OP explains - offending someone causes no harm to anyone (hurt feelings are a small price to pay for being able to freely express oneself).




We can speak, but don't pretend that what we say doesn't grate on the needs of others. And don't pretend (or don't ignore/dissociate!) that acting from such a position is provocative - that is, it forces the other person to self-organize in the same ridiculous way that compels you to speak as you want.



Your mother is a hooker.

Are you now going to be able to have less water? Has the food in your kitchen just disappeared. In fact, is there any of your needs that my admittedly rude comment has taken away? No, of course not - so speech of any kind does not grate on anyone's needs. You don't "need" to not have your feelings hurt. That would be a want/desire. It may be a provoking statement what I typed above, but it is your choice how to react to it. I wasn't forced to type that your mother's a hooker - I did so voluntarily - just as any response you have is voluntary. Nothing is forced.


P.S. I don't think your mother is a hooker. I don't know her. It was just to make a point.



posted on Nov, 14 2015 @ 07:14 PM
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Somebody's X rating is somebody else's no rating.

Somebody's R is another's PG, and so on.

Generally speaking, there are few things so boring as no dirt, curse or laundry in my bill of fare.

My dad used to take us to drive in movies. Swear to God, we drove all the way there, paid to get in, parked and hooked up the speaker, then left as soon as George C. Scott said 'son of a bitch' in Patton. Thats barley past opening credits.



posted on Nov, 14 2015 @ 07:53 PM
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a reply to: scorpio84


If I was a hooker it would be my choice ... So if you called me a

hooker .... I would say "so what!"


I should be comfortable in being a hooker and not offended it is

who I am,
however if I wasn't a hooker, I could take offence

and I would be entitled to be offended, But I am comfortable in

my skin and I would just shrug and inform you that your opinion

was of little or no consequence to me.


I think people should be who they want to be and be confident in

their choices and 'grow a pair' so that others don't have to walk on

egg shells or tip toe around in fear of causing offence.



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