The following was submitted to our editors as a letter to the editor. It has been published, here, unedited.
People get offended so easily these days. It’s a sad fact of life that nobody in the public eye, or indeed out of it, can make an observation or joke anymore without offending various groups. Coming from someone who would like to think he is able to take a joke, this development is not only very annoying but is also a hindrance in day to day conversation. We all have that friend who has no problem roasting you given half a chance but then gets ridiculously offended if you respond in any way, (if you don’t have a friend like that then it’s probably you), and we all know how annoying that is. But on a larger scale, society is headed slowly but surely down the same path.
The advent of American culture in Europe is the main culprit when it comes to heightened sensibilities across the western world. This is a culture that prizes political correctness above all else and would quite happily allow it’s children to carry handguns in their school bags but is so appalled by the idea of profanity that it bleeps out such innocuous words as “shit”, “drugs” and “damn” in music videos and TV shows. It has got to such ridiculous levels that it is no longer acceptable for residents in a nursing home to be referred to as “old age pensioners”, they are now “clients”. Can you think of anything more stupid? Nobody can call a stone a stone anymore without fear of offending the stone or the stone community at large. The ancient art of satire, once essential in keeping politicians and the like in check, is slowly being eroded as popular programmes such as “Have I Got News for You?” are constantly limited by the need at add the word “allegedly” to every joke or accusation levelled at anyone with enough money to pursue a lawsuit.
While the internet, and especially social media, is undoubtedly a breeding ground for toxic individuals to level appalling abuse and hate at vulnerable people it is also just as worrying as a gathering place for the equally dangerous “moral high-grounders” who jump on not just the parties who are genuinely guilty of something, but also on anyone who expresses views or ideas that do not conform with society’s strict expectations. Take, for example, last year’s controversy surrounding actor Benedict Cumberbatch’s use of the word “coloured” when describing the dearth of black actors in Oscar nominated films. While the phrase “coloured” undoubtedly has a troubled and misused past, the reaction to the post on Twitter was utterly ridiculous. Cumberbatch was branded a “racist pig” and received condemnation from all quarters, so much so that he was forced to apologise for his choice of wording. One Twitter user went as far as to declare grandly “I never liked Cumberbatch and his use of the word ‘coloured’ seals the deal.” What absolute and utter nonsense! It went completely over the heads of most people that he was in fact supporting the claim that black actors were being overlooked for major roles in films and instead they chose to jump on one minor aspect of his tweet for no other reason than to make them feel good about themselves and to garner the “likes” and “favourites” that are the bane of the internet.
We are cultivating a society of individuals who are unable to take a joke in any shape or form. Free Speech is an important thing, and supposedly something the much-heralded writers and cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo died for. It is incredibly hypocritical that Western society bands together to criticise external forces for suppressing free speech when we ourselves are the greatest culprits. Before the attacks of this time last year, Charlie Hebdo had been pilloried by the French government, the Catholic Church and many other groups as being overly provocative and offensive, but as soon as a more hated group of people come along, they are suddenly heralded as the Angels of Free Speech and the Upholders of Everything That Is Good About The Society We Live In. The hypocrisy is mind-bending.
Unfortunately, we live in a world in which there are cohorts of people who wake up in the morning just waiting to be offended by something so that they can express the moral outrage that is a staple part of their lives in 2016. It is incredibly frustrating to anyone who just wants to be able to have a laugh about a sensitive subject. As Irish Independent columnist Ian O’Doherty said recently, “there is no such thing as an offensive opinion.” This is perfectly true. As long as the speaker is not actively inciting acts of violence or hate it is the fault of the recipient if they feel morally outraged by the opinions they hear. They could choose to ignore such imbecilic blowhards as Donald Trump but instead they give them the fuel to cultivate a status as “speakers of unpopular truths” as can be seen from the idiotic petition to ban Trump from entering the United Kingdom.
Then again, who am I to tell you what to think? The whole point of free speech is that it allows every side of the story to be heard so that we are then able to make an educated decision about which side to support or opinion to take. A society in which we only get half the story is like being told we can own a gun but not be taught how and when to use it so we end up blasting at everyone who comes to the door. Similarly, having half an opinion allows the masses of keyboard warriors that exist on the internet to blast away at anyone who differs from the party line when it comes to sensitive issues. It’s a sad testament to how far we’ve all gone down this road that one cannot say anything controversial anymore. But, it’s the society we’ve chosen to live in and we have nobody to blame but ourselves.
Oh and by the way, this article is entirely the opinion of the author and does not represent the views of the newspaper or the student population at large. Wouldn’t want to offend anybody would we ;-).
You sound like a bit of an asshole to be honest