Offended becomes Offender

Posted: January 30, 2017 in Opinion piece
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

We live in a time where language has never been quite as manipulated by politicians and the mainstream media. Words like ‘aspiration’, ‘security’, ‘democracy’ and ‘economy’ have been perverted from their original definitions and context; mangled into shiny new tools to shape the national discourse. If words are weapons, the Establishment have dodged the harpoons and fashioned them into dirty bombs, pointed at any resistance to their agendas.

One term it occurred to me has been entirely subverted by its original targets is “professionally offended”. Now of course, we all seem to attribute this to ‘luvvy liberals’, who apparently ‘no platform’ any controversial speakers, and make death threats to anyone online who doesn’t check their privilege. I tend to see this happening chiefly when people make derogatory comments with a sexist or bigoted tone to them, whether intended or not.

Meanwhile, the original “professionally offended” brigade were actually the hardline conservatives, who couldn’t stand anyone with a pubic platform even gently mocking religion, or the sanctity of the family; who frothed at the mouth when smut, violence, vices or non-hetero-normative behaviours were covered in any way that didn’t position them as an affront to God. This led to frightening censorship in things like the Hays Code and the Parental Music Resource Centre in America; with Mary Whitehouse’s prudishness and even Section 28 in Britain. These “professionally offended” actually successfully suppressed culture and free thought in a similar manner to fascist dictatorships.

When I compare the great works of art and thought that were destroyed and smothered by these people, to the casual bigotry being suppressed by today’s apparently “professionally offended”, I don’t really think there’s a contest in terms of which is the more detrimental. Particularly since the modern understanding of the idiom challenges language used to demean oppressed sections of society for generations, in ways that bigoted conservatives couldn’t possibly comprehend.

It is a rich irony that the side now crying foul on over-sensitivity has declared a ‘role reversal’, while failing to acknowledge the gravity of their own inability to handle free speech in the past (and present).

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