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Opening Arguments

Don't care if you don't like this

In the current climate of red hot political rhetoric, with some people urging civil discourse one day and screaming at their opponents the next, it's refreshing to read this common sense take on "offense" by Dick Cavett:

I've never quite understood why this word — “offended” — is so horrifying. What doesn't offend somebody? And who wants to see, read or write anything that is simon-pure in its inability to offend those dreaded “someones”?

[. . .]

Anyone working in the media can tell you that there seems to be an always-ready-to-explode segment of the populace for whom offense is a fate worse than anything imaginable. You'd think offense is one of the most calamitous things that could happen to a human being; right up there with the loss of a limb, or just missing a parking space.

What is our obligation to the offendees? To help them limit their suffering by avoiding all offense? With what advice?

You could stay in the house, watch no TV, read nothing of any kind including potentially upsetting snail mail or e-mail, and you just might manage to glide through an offense-free day.

I had a boss here once who tried to see 10 sides to every issue and demanded that we try not to offend anyone, which mades it very tough to put out an editorial page. No reason to go out of the way to offend someone, but when it does happen, I think the attitude most appropriate is that of William F. Buckley, who even put it in a book title, which I will not use here for fear of offending someone.


Mon, 04/18/2011 - 10:09am

It's true that everyone is offended by something, but there are people, usually the leaders of various social movements of all political stripes, who seem to make it their life's work to take offense at practically everything, however trivial. Al Sharpton on the left and the late Jerry Falwell on the right leap immediately to mind.