“That’s offensive!” Well, so what?
A compilation for the rejection of the culture of offense. Featuring Christopher Hitchens, Stephen Fry, Penn Jillette, Louis C.K. and Jim Norton, Richard Dawkins, Peter Hitchens, Steve Hughes, Big Jay Oakerson, Ricky Gervais, Salman Rushdie
“Bear in mind, ladies and gentlemen, that every time you violate or propose to violate the free speech of someone else, in potencia, you’re making a rod for own back. Because the other question raised by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes is simply this: who’s going to decide?
To whom do you award the right to decide which speech is harmful or who is the harmful speaker? Or to determine in advance what are the harmful consequences going to be, that we know enough about in advance to prevent? To whom would you give this job? To whom are you going to award the task of being the censor? Isn’t it a famous old story that the man who has to read all the pornography, in order to decide what’s fit to be passed and what’s fit not to be, is the man most likely to become debauched?
Did you hear any speaker, the opposition to this motion — eloquent as… one of them was — to whom you would delegate the task of deciding for you what you could read? To whom you would give the job of deciding for you, relieve you of the responsibility of hearing what you might have to hear?
Do you know anyone — hands up — do you know anyone to whom you’d give this job? Does anyone have a nominee? You mean there’s no one in Canada good enough to decide what I can read? Or hear? I had no idea. But there’s a law that says there must be such a person. Or there’s a subsection of some piddling law that says it. Well, the hell with that law then. It’s inviting you to be liars and hypocrites and to deny what you evidently know already.
About the censorious instinct we basically know all that we need to know, and we’ve known it for a long time.”
“When Dr Samuel Johnson had finished his great lexicography, the first real English dictionary, he was visited by various delegations of people to congratulation him, including a delegation of London’s respectable womanhood, who came to his parlour in Fleet Street and said, “Dr we want to congratulate you on your decision to exclude all indecent words from your dictionary.” And he said, “Ladies I congratulate your persistence in looking them up.” [….]
If people are determined to be offended, if they will climb up on the ladder, balancing it precariously on their own toilet cistern, to be upset by what they see through their neighbours bathroom window, there’s nothing you can do about that.”
“If someone tells me that I’ve hurt their feelings I say well so what your point is. I’m very depressed how in this country you can be told “That’s offensive” as if those two words constitute an argument, or comment. Not to me they don’t and I’m not running for anything so I didn’t have to pretend to like people when I don’t.”
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“It’s now very common to hear people say, ‘I’m rather offended by that.’ As if that gives them certain rights. It’s actually nothing more… than a whine. ‘I find that offensive.’ It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘I am offended by that.’ Well, so fucking what.”
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“If I have the right to say anything you certainly have the right to be offended. If I can say anything I want, you can say “Penn shouldn’t have said that”; and you can say “Penn shouldn’t have said that, none of us should talk to him anymore”; and “Penn shouldn’t have said that we shouldn’t have a job”; and “Penn shouldn’t have said that and he’s not funny”; “Penn shouldn’t have said that we’re going to put a pickets out in front of the club and he should be able to go to that club. All that is within your rights and very clearly within your rights but just like every individual has to make a decision on just because they can say something, doesn’t mean they have to say it. Individuals have to make the decision that just because you might feel offended by something, doesn’t mean you have to announce you’re offended.”
“We’re all offended, all the time and we don’t have a fucking right not to be offended. A free country it’s a marketplace of ideas and college should be more free, not less.”
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Louis C.K. and Jim Norton
“Outrageous BS it’s stupid, it’s people that think that they have a right to be protected from being offended and was wrong in this century is that people think that somehow there should be people protecting them from being uncomfortable, from being stuff out there they don’t like to hear that I think that’s the main thing that’s wrong right now. There’s people that say “well I don’t like that”, so it shouldn’t exist. You should have to feel uncomfortable sometimes. Americans think that they’re owed a perfect day.
There’s this entitlement thing that goes on in this country where they confuse America and freedom with the right to not be annoyed, offended and that’s not it at all.
It’s not just Americans. In Europe we only say to Americans they’re trying to ban ads that are that are somehow gender, a stereotypical gender ads, that are sexy or offensive, because the Europeans are bunch of watered-down douches, it’s not just Americans. In England they coddled Muslims, in England they’re terrified of offending Muslims, that’s like black and white here. So the whole world is just filled with a bunch of sissies.”
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“Nevertheless it’s quite true that many people do feel very strongly about their faith and very offended if you insult it. We’ve come to expect never to be offended “what you say is offensive to me”. I’m offended by some things. I’m offended by chewing gum. I’m offended by backwards pointing baseball hats, but I don’t try to get a version of the blasphemy law passed to prevent people chewing gum or reversing their cap. So what if I’m offended. So what if my feelings are hurt. Does that give me the right to prevent others from expressing their opinions?”
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In this dispute what the offensive person has actually said is seldom very important. It is what the offended person believes in to have said that counts and this is the process into which we are rapidly entering as a society. We’re moving towards a strength dictatorship of rage, where any approved group or any approved person’s fury is sufficient to trigger calls for the denial of platforms, for the ostracism of one kind or another of that person, in effect for the silencing of those people and the suppression of their opinions. This is a sinister development. The very idea that it should be possible to claim to have been personally offended by the expression of opinion is a dangerous absurdity and a danger to a free society.
We now have many categories of people – and pinko-gray male middle class heterosexuals are not alone – who are entitled by some system, which is never quite clear, to be offended or insulted by any disagreement with their views and to follow their offence and insult, by suppressing that view and by trying, with a great deal of self-righteousness, to prevent it from being expressed, by for instance – this has happened in this city quite recently – preventing the holding of meetings at which opinions with which they disagree were going to be expressed by people of whom they disapproved. The person who is disapproved of, is then classified with a pathology, so he’s described as suffering from some sort of phobia. He is then cast into the eyes of darkness amid wailing and gnashing of teeth never again committed to speak in this or that place and driven increasingly out of public life. This is straightforwardly censorship in the hands of an unpleasant semi-literate and uneducated mob, it is very very disagreeable to watch in the hands of supposedly educated students it is alarming and absurd but in the hands of the state which increasingly also resorts to the idea that the beliefs described by itself as extremism or it is glorifying terrorism can be the subject of legal sanction it is terrifying and is that terror I wish to draw to your attention. This idea that any opinion legitimately expressed can be dismissed on the grounds that it is an offence or an insult to an individual is the foundation of a new and terrifying censorship and censorship is the foundation of tyranny and if you don’t want censorship or tyranny then you must support this motion. Thank you very much.
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“And then we have political correctness, that is the other side of health and safety, which is a small oppression of our physical movement so we can’t do anything with their permission from the state, and political correctness, the oppression of our intellectual movement so no one says anything anymore in case somebody else gets offended. What happens if you say that and someone gets offended? Well they can be offended. What’s wrong with being offended? When did “sticks and stones may break my bones” stop being relevant? Is that what you teach children, for God’s sake? That’s what you teach toddlers? “He called me an idiot.” “Don’t worry about him, he’s a dick.”
They have adults going “I was offended, I was offended and I have rights.” So what? Be offended, nothing happens. You’re an adult, grow up, deal with it. “I was offended!” I don’t care, nothing happens when you’re offended, there’s nothing like “I’ve entered the comedy show and and the comedian said something about the Lord and I was offended and when I woke up in the morning I had leprosy.”
Nothing happens. “I want to live in democracy but I never want to be offended again.” Well, you’re an idiot.
How do you make a law about offending people? How do you make it an offence to offend people? Being offended is subjective and has everything to do with you as an individual, or a collective, or a group, or a society, or a community, your moral conditioning, your religious beliefs. What offends me may not offend you and you wanna make laws about this?
I’m offended when I see boy bands, for God’s sake! It’s a valid offence, I’m offended! They’re corporate shills posing as musicians to further a modelling career and, frankly, I’m disgusted. What am I gonna do, call the cops? “Hello. It’s me again. They’re on the telly this time. Five of them. That’s it. Yeah, white suits, dancing like girls, that’s them. Five minutes? I’ll be at the front, traumatized. Bye!”
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Big Jay Oakerson
Relax, just laugh at it. You’re fucking, “Uhh…” “Ahh…” I hate when crowds get whimpery during comedy. You should never get like that. Never do anything but just laugh. If it ain’t funny, don’t laugh. But if it was funny, laugh, but all that, like… Ooh. Such a waste of time. Letting words affect you at all like that is a waste of time. I’ve had so many situations where if people would just laugh and get over themselves, it would be such a better time. And also, I give you this as a lesson for life, if you want to take lessons from a guy who wears a wallet chain still. Zero Fucks said it was cool, so… Take my advice, please. If you could learn to not let words affect you in a way that makes you, like, cringe up and ooh and ahh, it is so liberating in life. You will never lose an argument, ever, because if you have no fear of what’s coming your way, you can say whatever you want to people– horrible, terrible things. And words do hurt most people, and it’s fun to watch them just crumple into a ball as you’re saying viciously crazy things. I do this for a living, you know. So this is something where a lot of mean stuff gets thrown my way. You got to learn how to, like, just Teflon. You can’t hurt me with words– that’s for sure.
I had a thing with a guy a few years back– not even, maybe about a year ago–here in New York. He was talking during a whole show at a comedy club. They were gonna kick him out. He was there with his wife and his daughter. His daughter was an adult. And they were gonna kick him out for talking. I go, “No, I like to talk to the crowd. “Let me see if I can save this guy. “Maybe he’s an all-right dude, just a little drunk. Maybe he’s an all-right guy. Let’s try to save him.” Now, I was wrong. He was a piece of shit. But that’s hindsight. At the time, I’m like, “Let me see if I can save him.” And I said to the guy, I go, “Hey, buddy, what’s going on? Who you here with?” And he goes– with this attitude too– he goes, “My wife and my daughter.” I go, “Cool, man. How old’s your daughter?” And he goes, “None of your fucking business.” And I was like, “All right, man. “I didn’t ask you if I could butt-fuck her on your table. I just asked you how old she was.” And the girl was like, “I’m 26.” I’m like, “Okay, she’s 26. “Like, what’s the big– why are we fighting, dude? “You’re at a comedy club. “We’re just trying to have fun, right? What’s the big thing?” And I go, “I’m trying to relate to you, man. “I also have a daughter. How about that?” And he replies, he goes, “Yeah, I know. I met your daughter.” Like, implying something. And I was like, “Where, on ‘To Catch a Predator’? She’s 13.” And then I was like, “Oh, wait, you know what, dude? “She actually told me all about you. “She said she could fit her whole 13-year-old fist around your pencil dick.” Yeah, and then, just like you queefs, that crowd was like, “Whoa… “How can you say that about your daughter, man? How can you say that about your daughter?” And here’s how I can say that about my daughter. And listen up, this is a good one. It’s because I fucking made it up. It never happened. Turns out my daughter never jerked that guy off. Don’t even worry about it. If she did jerk him off, I probably wouldn’t bring it up at a comedy club to the very guy she jerked off. I’d probably handle that in some sort of a legal forum. She’s my daughter, and I love her. That’s the whole– It’s the middle of a comedy show, like, “You’re going to jail, mister. “Sorry, everyone, I’ll be right– “You son of a bitch. My apologies, it’s the man who fucked my daughter.”
You got to have a tough skin for shit like that, man. World’s too tough. If words are taking you down, you’re not ready for the world. I have people yell out– people don’t know me. They yell out all kinds of things. I had a guy yell out one time from the audience– This is like a 1950s insult. He goes, “Your mom sucks dick down by the docks.” That should have been followed by a “see.” “Your mom sucks dick by the docks, see?” I’m like, “Well, tell her to change locations.” We bringing our boys back home from the war? Like, fucking, by the docks? You trying to blow merchant marines? Like, hit the city, man. Get some foot traffic. Not gonna make any money blowing dudes by the docks. Some people are like, “How can you say something like that about your mom?” And it’s like, because my mom’s fine. I don’t know that guy. What am I supposed to do when a stranger says my mom sucks dick by the docks? Just call her right away and be like, “Mom, I just heard! What’s happening?” “Is Joe not working?” Joe’s my stepfather. Probably should have mentioned that before I brought him up.
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“I see offence as collateral damage of free speech. I hate the thought of a person’s ideas being modified or even hushed up because someone somewhere might not like to hear them. Outside actually breaking the law or causing someone physical harm “hurting someone’s feelings” is almost impossible to objectively quantify.
What some people find offensive, others will not. Such is life. Offence is rarely about right and wrong but rather about feelings. Feelings are personal. Trying to have a consensus about what is objectively offensive is rather like arranging books in a library in order of merit. We’d all have a completely different order in mind.
We can’t go round not saying what we want to say in case it offends someone somewhere. It will. Some people are offended by equality. Mixed marriage. Being gay. So you’re offended? So fucking what!”
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“Nobody has the right to not be offended. That right doesn’t exist in any declaration I have ever read. If you are offended it is your problem, and frankly lots of things offend lots of people.
I can walk into a bookshop and point out a number of books I find very unattractive in what they say. But it doesn’t occur to me to burn the bookshop down. If you don’t like a book, read another book. If you start reading a book and you decide you don’t like it, nobody is telling you to finish it.
To read a 600-page novel and then say that it has deeply offended you: well, you have done a lot of work to be offended.”
1 thought on “ON THE STUPIDITY OF BEING OFFENDED”
I’m a huge fan of Steve Hughes, so much so that I’ve invited him to be the guest comedy coach at the February 2019 stand-up comedy course in Melbourne.
You’ll be able to get up close and personal with Steve, and learn about his comedic journey – and why he’s so frustrated with those that are offended.