I’m offended. Well, I’m not, but it seems that wherever you look, somebody is.
Many whip out the offence card in an attempt to magic up come sort of legitimate censorship.
Nobody has a right not to be offended and if they genuinely are, it doesn’t mean that they are either right or have the right to close down a debate. In fact, you might argue that only this beguiling expression should be censored and instead replaced with an infinitely more constructive, ‘I disagree because…’
So, what is ‘offence’? By definition it is an attack or insult felt by those who perceive themselves to be the target of harmful actions or words. Note the significance of perception. You can feel attacked without having been attacked, and this brings us neatly to today’s ‘offence culture’. We seemingly have endless rafts of people who are ‘offended’ when the context does not relate to them at all.
Their offence implies that a difference of opinion about what might be a more general topic is an assault on them. And there lies the problem. It’s all about them. If you make a comment, and somebody pipes up that they are offended, they are appropriating the issue at hand and putting themselves centre stage.
So, what is this all about? Well, something deeply psychologically troubling that is rooted in a profound sense of insecurity. As individuals, we all have our likes/dislikes, our interests, skills, and values. All the stuff that makes us who we are. And the flip side is that there are many pieces of life that do not touch us, and which determine what we are not.
Well-adjusted homo sapiens accept this, crack on, and live their lives. Regrettably, there are other poor souls who find a lack of attention somewhat perturbing. These need to be at the centre of drama or to receive approval or be loved. And that is the crux of it.
This insecurity creates a need for simulation. The sufficiently troubled work up fake persona for themselves that comprise an unfeasibly wide range of perspectives, values and causes that amount to a limitless amalgamation of righteousness. They construct a virtuous Everyman; an idealised alter ego underpinning every cause under the sun, even if these involve manifestly contradictory positions.
Then, they plug themselves into social media and wait for some controversy that might contravene any aspect of the extended, artificial persona. Then, they will be offended by proxy. They don’t feel any personal affront, but their wholesale appropriation creates limitless opportunities to ‘perceive’ an attack that they can subsequently defend. Social media is awash with characters who are offended at all manner of opinions on subjects in which they have zero stake and even less authentic empathy. You only have to look at the many who are offended at critiques of both transgender and radical feminist agendas who have failed to grasp that they are largely in opposition. But both perspectives on sex and gender are too juicy an opportunity for offence, and our fabulous faking friends will merrily straddle both bandwagons.
In defending the values under attack, they reinforce their adherence to it and bolster their moral standing. Personal offence gingers up the context somewhat by positioning an aggressor and a victim. Even an innocuous alternative perspective can take on an unwarrantedly negative guise.
Most disconcerting is that the appropriator of ‘offence’ makes themselves more important than any victim. If I am ‘offended’ by racism, the attention of an audience falls on me rather than on the issue of racism. It is virtue signalling par extraordinaire rolled up in undiluted selfishness. It is furthermore insulting to real victims because their hurt is simply oxygen for the troubled egos of others.
Welcome to the new liberal paradise.
Liberal offence is paradoxically an extraordinarily illiberal caper. Policing the world view of others by centring yourself and marginalising those you hold as victims on the basis of emotions you don’t even feel. Judging and seeking punishment of others on the basis of value judgments that support an idealised person you so want to be but cannot be.
Ironically, new liberals are little more that alternative conservatives who are hell-bent on establishing a new order that they can defend mercilessly. They are building a fence around themselves. Like self-styled Christians who brutally shun non-adherents, liberals cling to their self-appointed status because few would adjudge them liberal by their actions alone.
The fence of liberalism that they build fulfils a purpose. It hides their guilt at extracting every last piece of benefit from the societal advantages and privileges, which they will not be relinquishing anytime soon. By pointing the finger squarely at those who ‘offend’ them, they deflect attention away from themselves as those who have profited and who continue to profit from social injustice.
While people are busy faffing about and pandering to the feelings of the permanently offended, real injustice prospers unabated.
You don’t see many of the ultra-righteous sacrificing their hefty salaries, relinquishing power, or offering financial reparations to those who are disadvantaged or downtrodden. But they are offended by inequality and injustice.
So that’s alright, then.