The War of the Offended

Just because you’re offended doesn’t mean you’re right. Offence is just a mode of social control. It is taken not given, and more harm is created by taking offence than giving it.

'Gok Wan can call my bangers whatever he likes' by Catherine Deveney in

The above quote came at the end of a rant by Catherine Deveney about the offence she took at other people's offence.

She did this with no sense of irony, basically asking how people could dare be offended at something she found so innocuous as a gay man using a provocative euphemism for breasts.

There are always going to be people who are offended by something others feel is perfectly harmless. Maybe they weren't the intended audience and maybe they are owed an apology. That's for the offenders to work out with the offended.

The offended will always feel justified in being offended. Even those who are offended by other people being offended.

In this case, the originally offended made a complaint to the Advertising Standards Bureau. That's what the ASB is there for and those people were well within their right to do so. They used the proper channels.

Somehow these complaints were released.

That led to Deveney calling these people morons in the local version of the Guardian.

We talk a lot about the quality of discourse in this country. This is the level of it. If somebody has a differing opinion they are called a derogatory name in an effort to bully them into silence.

In Deveney's argument she is not defending anyone or anything. She is attacking pre-emptively because some people have different sensitivities to hers. She tries to justify her outrage in feminism or sexual inclusiveness, but on close inspection she is just attacking people because they have a different set of values, experiences and viewpoints.

Abuse begets abuse. Our civil war will be a series of escalating declarations of whose level of offence is greater.

Bullying, like offence, is a method of social control. It's more aggressive than its passive cousin, and so it is more successful.

Bullying can easily lead to people not speaking up when they are offended because they fear the mockery. They become ostracised and told that society is not for them.

The alternative is to hear their complaint, try to understand their point of view and hope that they can try to understand yours. But that relies on one side listening to the other side and there's no time for that because there's a war to be fought.