Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Is Being Offensive Really All That Bad?

Lucky for me, blogs have a function that sends the comments made by readers to your email.  From
time-to-time, little gems of wonder come floating through my inbox, notifying me that an old article of mine has received a fresh comment.

Usually, it's comments on the article about Americans being dumbasses (see 80% of Americans Are Functionally Retarded); and because the universe has a sense of humor, the commenters on that article always tell me that the plugs in the picture are European.  It always gives me a chuckle.

But just yesterday, I received a comment from a user on my article "Jesus Digs My Style."  In the article, I featured the picture to the right.  It's one of my all-time favorites: Jesus flipping the bird.  I know that a lot of people find it offensive, and this user did not disappoint.  Here is what she said:

"Every right entails responsibility. I am very ashamed for having seen this image. You may call it anything you want, but for me, this is plain disrespect for anyone's belief and faith. You could have at least keep it to yourself. I did not read amything you have to say in your blog, the picture says it all. I'm not trying to be righteous here but seeing this, I feel ashamed how cruel men can be, and I have, in many ways, disappointed my God and i am very sorry for that. If there is one thing I want to ask from you, use your right to speak, for a cause. The world will be a lot better when people are sensitive enough not to harm and insult others. May my God, Jesus, bless you."
The people who know me personally know that I rarely shy from the opportunity to express my true feelings on important matters.  Many people find some of the things I say to be offensive, but fortunately my friends give me the chance to at least explain myself.  Sure, I offended this woman, but this particular line was most salient to me:

 "I did not read amything you have to say in your blog, the picture says it all."
Yes, words can be hurtful, and one should not ignore the feelings of others.  But too often do we shy away from saying things that need to be said all for the sake of avoiding offense.


For starters, we don't want people to think that we are insensitive assholes.  I, for one, do not relish legitimately offending someone I really care about.  Actually, when a friend of mine tells me that he or she is legitimately offended by something I've said, I immediately apologize because I don't like feeling as though I've done wrong to someone close to me.  I understand the desire to avoid being offensive--at least, I understand my own desire to avoid being deeply and truly offensive.

What I also understand about myself is that I do not enjoy being censored in any way.  There is a difference between self-censorship--fighting the urge to say something edgy because I don't want to actually hurt anyone's feelings--and being censored by others, being told that I'm not allowed to say something because it is "offensive."  When I am told that I can't or shouldn't say something, my immediate response is to ask "why?"

I should probably start posing a different question to people, because simply asking them "why" never elicits the response I'm looking for.  Instead, I should ask people this:  if someone you loved was engaging in incredibly destructive behavior--like drugs or dog fighting--would you not tell them that they have a problem simply because you don't want to hurt their feelings?  I would hope that any good friend would tell that person what they need to hear: stop using drugs, because you're destroying yourself and taking down your loved ones with you.

All opinions--even the crazy ones--have some truth to them.  I'm not suggesting that all opinions are "right."  The truth may be that the expression reveals something about the person who said it.  Shows like Family Guy and South Park go to great lengths to be offensive in the name of comedy, but you know what?  Sometimes, there really is something to some of their "offensive" humor.

So is it really all that bad to be offensive?  I think not, but that's because I see it as a matter of personal freedom and an exercise in discovering truth.  The most critical error in all of human history is that we humans consistently fail to listen to each other.  If that commenter had actually taken the time to read some of my writing, she would have seen that I do use my voice for a cause.  Perhaps it's my own cause, but I think increased self-awareness and fostering honest, open dialogue are worthy pursuits.

She couldn't bear to set her feelings aside and make an attempt to get to the heart of my message.  As a result, she's missed out on an alternative perspective on life--perhaps a way of thinking that she has not been exposed to.  She has given up on the pursuit of truth.


AHB said...

Yes Jackie, transparency and more importantly honesty... is sorely lacking from our society and in fact most of the civilized world.

It is a barrier that is going to limit our ability to grow as a race.

Put it this way, I listen to as much as I can, Alex Jones, Coast to Coast AM, John Wells, Glenn Beck, Rush, even turn on the TV and get the mainstream heat from CNN, ABC, MSNBC, and even The View, Ellen, and Oprah.

I try to get as much as I can that conflicts with each other and weed out the parts that are flat ass illogical, and they all are pretty much illogical.

What I have found is for the most part, nothing you are handed and gift-wrapped is going to be accurate completely. Even Alex Jones who has some great things to say, radically contradicts himself from time to time.

The reality is we need more Ron Paul sort of truth in politics. Sure it was an unpopular message that we are strangling the golden goose with our bullshit consumerism, militarism, and wanton mal-investment... that it was time to cinch the belt down and get to work fixing problems with real solutions instead of band-aids.

I am not saying the sky is falling and it's over tomorrow, I am saying that if we keep going down this path there will come a time where it is the point of no return, then nothing anyone will do is going to matter.

Booms and Busts economically are important to the cycle to keep the value of goods "true stable" the things that are not working or losing money must be shed.

This notion we can just keep pump pump pumping funds into a weak economy and into corporate interests is counter-productive and prolongs the pain. what you end up is "False Stable" where on the surface the ship seems to float, but there is thermite wrapped around the inside of the entire hull, just waiting to go off and sink that prick to where the whale's shit.

We have had our differences, you and I, but I feel as though even when we are 180 degrees out on our views, we can argue and actually get somewhere.

I don't like offending people either, but what people find offensive these days oft-times must be said.

Jersey McJones said...

Well, being offensive for the sake of being offensive is pointless. And being offensive to convince someone of something is usually counter-productive. And getting upset for being called out for being offensive is stupidly ironic.

That said, one can't help but be offensive sometimes because some people will always be offended by challenges to the status quo.


Jack Camwell said...


"And getting upset for being called out for being offensive is stupidly ironic."

I'm guessing you misunderstood what I was trying to say. When a friend of mine tells me that I have offended them, I'm not upset because they called me out--I'm upset because I actually hurt their feelings somehow. I'm mad at myself, not them.

Everyone else can pretty much suck it, though. I don't try to do or say things for the sake of making people angry. I'm no troll. Part of the problem is that people consider certain opinions to be intrinsically offensive.

A woman at work tried to convince me that it could potentially be offensive to state that women, on average, eat less food than men. To that I answered: "there's nothing offensive about stating human physiological facts."


That's why our conversations--although sometimes intense when we disagree--are productive: because we actually examine each other's arguments rather than just dismiss them as hogwash. Some epic debates have occurred between us!

AHB said...


Fuck em, don't uber em.


Jersey McJones said...

Yeah, I wasn't aiming at you on that one, Jack. Like you, I actually enjoy it when people call me out. Gives me something to think about.


Anonymous said...



THERE! THat so should about cover it. And exsactly what did we accomplish?

KP said...

BITchee deBASTARD said,

<< And exsactly what did we accomplish? >>

You made me laugh :)

Jersey McJones said...

Yeah, that was very clever. Good point.


Constitutional Insurgent said...

"I actually enjoy it when people call me out. Gives me something to think about."

Well said. I tire quickly of blogs that pretend to advocate honest dialogue, but are really just another echo chamber.

Jack, I like your picture. For me, it speaks to Jesus's disgust over how many have perverted the meaning of faith...and turned into yet another political arrow in the quiver.

Jack Camwell said...

Thank you for your comments CI.

Yes, that is part of the point of the picture. I would like to think that a sense of humor is not a trait relegated to the human race.