L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 297, November 14, 2004
"Where can we go from here?"
Your Right Not to Be Offended
Special to TLE
Every time you turn around today you are almost sure to offend someone. In our land of victimhood it has become difficult to avoid saying or doing something which will cause someone else to feel bad or put upon or irritated.
The events of September 11, 2001 have created a whole new group of people to be offended. It is nearly impossible to criticize the terrorists, (all Muslims), without evoking an outcry from secular and religious organizations ready and waiting to impart their own brand of political correctness. The question is; how are the terrorists supposed to be identified? They are of different nationalities so that won't work. They come from different cultures, so, ditto. Their family histories vary widely. In fact, the only common threads are religion and a hatred of America and Americans.
Well funded organizations have sprung up, like mushrooms around a cow flop, that have no function other than to pander to the offended. It has become a cottage industry for the disaffected. Search the newspapers, electronic news media and the Internet for a person, preferably famous or at least wealthy who has made a statement that can be construed as anti-anything and find some person or group who doesn't like it and WHAM!, instant lawsuit.
It wasn't always that way, of course. In the past, if somebody said something about you that you didn't like you would reply in kind, punch the rascal in the nose or swallow hard and take it. That was before the recent proliferation of parasites, (Oops! beg pardon; lawyers) that now infest the land.
Attorneys aren't solely to blame,of course, they're just the primary financial beneficiaries. There are also a couple of generations of government school graduates who have no clue about what the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution means or how it should be applied.
The point is; you don't have a right not to be offended. You can shun the offender, rebut him, make fun of him or even risk prosecution by responding physically, but you shouldn't be allowed to use the police powers of the state to keep him from being offensive.
The current rush to enact "hate crime" legislation is a dangerous first step onto the slippery slope of criminalizing thought. Just as the NAZI Gestapo or the Soviet KGB or the Red Guards of Communist China or the Taliban kept their populations under the dictatorial thumb, there are Americans who think it right and proper for the government to control the thinking of its citizens.
Among the worst of the "Offend nobody" groups are the various anti-defamation associations, homosexual advocacy groups, college professors and some religions. They have perverted the free speech clause of the First Amendment to employ the police powers of government to criminalize utterances that they deem to be insulting or skeptical. They want to use the law to prevent the very critical speech that the First Amendment was written to protect.
The university campus, once the bastion of free thinking and nonconformity has turned into a semantic gulag where every spoken word is parsed and sifted to find any kernel of offense. The jackboots of the Gestapo have given way to the designer sneakers of the language lurker, hiding in plain sight with ears aflutter to catch any hint of speech that might ruffle sensitive feathers. Once admired as purveyors of truth, even at the risk of censure or worse, professors and administrators now act as commissars of correctness.
Of course the political tone of the speech has assumed supreme importance. If it endorses sexual, environmental, socialist, artistic, pacifistic, anti-capitalist or any of a panoply of leftist opinions it is acceptable, nay celebrated. If on the other hand it has any hint of conservative, pro-business, individualist tarnish it must be rooted out and destroyed. Any wonder that the graduates of these institutions see the First Amendment as a one way street, designed to protect their opinion and repudiate those with which they disagree?
A recent example of this kind of idiocy is the proposed 9/11 memorial statue of three NYC firemen raising the flag at Ground Zero, based on a photograph taken at the time. The three are all white but the PC manics have decided that the statue must be politically correct and multi-cultural, so two of the white faces have been replaced with black and Hispanic ones. These folks have come to the conclusion that fact and truth must be subordinated to their opinion of fairness and inclusion. The firefighters have taken the position that the statue should reflect reality and so the statue will probably never be made. Instead, some bland, meaningless monument will rise and the forces of darkness will have prevailed yet again.
The new airport screening posses have raised the idiocy to a whole new level. The screeners are instructed to avoid any hint of racial or cultural profiling to the point that they have to aggressively select those who are obviously not of the Middle Eastern or Arab or Muslim persuasion. This leads to the absurdity of little old white-haired Caucasian grandmothers, red-headed children and blond businessmen being vigorously searched while swarthy, Middle-Eastern appearing men are subjected to only a cursory inspection. Can it be that our whole government, our whole society, has become so racially paranoid that we will risk death and destruction through terrorism rather than risk offending someone? Are we really so brain-dead that we accept the ignorant, stupid, uneducated and arrogant to do the important job of screening airline passengers? It would appear so.
All you have to do today is identify yourself as a member of one minority group or another and you are on your way to being protected from offensive speech. The truth or falsity of what is said means nothing, as long as you can show that your feelings have been hurt you will find advocates ready and willing to smite the perpetrator and hopefully get you (and them) some money.
America is going to have to make some serious decisions soon. Is keeping people from being offended more important than protecting free speech? Can a minority rule the majority through misapplication of Constitutional principle? Will expressing unpopular opinion become a criminal act? Is a criminal act committed while asserting an opinion worse than a criminal act committed while remaining silent? The answers to these questions will determine whether we are to remain a free nation or not. How will you answer them?
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