Season’s Serene Greetings to Each and All of Every Stripe and Shape and Mood and Size and Weight and Disposition and Ability and Skill Set and Temperament and Race and Sex or Gender and Belief Gestalts and Origins and Present Whereabouts with No Exclusions Intended & So On: A Template

It's that time of year when earnest greetings arrive on every puff of air and cloud extending heartfelt wishes of good cheer and universal joy without reserve.  Who could object? Who, indeed, could t Read more..

How expansile is a culture of cancel?

What would you do if you discovered that one of your good friends has been physically abusing his wife for as long as you’d known them? Or that he secretly hangs out with neo-Nazis? Or that someone Read more..

Tilting at Filters or the Post-Postmodern Bowdler

Offense of the Month, Fall 2020 Dr. Thomas Bowdler (1754–1825), for those of you who can’t quite place the name, was the family sanitizer of Shakespearean dra Read more..

The Wages of Giving Offense: From King to Clown in 23 Days

Offense of the Month, August 2020 It’s been remarked (in these pages, at least) that the wages of giving offense are often worse than actual harmful behavior by Read more..

The Great Toppling of 2020

Whether or not the spring and summer of 2020 will be seen in hindsight as a Great Tipping Point, it is already clear that we are witnessing a remarkable popular revulsion against a major strand of off Read more..

Midsummer Night’s Scream

Offenses of the Month, July 2020 Yoo hoo, it’s Yoho. This just in. I’m ripping up the lead on a piece about two sets of knuckleheads for the July Offense o Read more..

May I call you Mr. Potato Head, instead of, oh, I blush to say?

Offense of the Month, June 2020 I’ve generally used the Offense-of-the-Month space to highlight knuckleheaded instances of offensiveness: not usually premeditat Read more..

Hello, It’s Linda

At least four times a week for the past several months I’ve had phone calls from Robogal. “Hello, it’s Linda,” she begins, in her unvarying, always perfectly inflected voice. Not tremulous Read more..

From contact sport to social distancing

Offenses of the Months: Winter-Spring 2020 By mid-April, according to NASA satellite images, Covid-19 has prompted a 30% drop in air pollution in the northeastern Read more..

What Makes an Offense Offensive? Part I

Let’s get serious. For four years I’ve been commenting on a range of behaviors, most of them verbal outbursts, that everyone seems to agree were offensive. These have included insults, put-downs, Read more..

A Potpourri of Idiocies

Offenses of the Months, 2019 A good way to appreciate our times is to sample tidbits and morsels from the slush pile of reportage on the American penchant for being gratuitously offensive. I offer he Read more..

Supreme Court again K-Os Ban on Offensive Speech

Several hours ago as I write, the Supreme Court knocked out the Scandalous Clause in the Lanham Act, the federal trademark statute, Read more..

Time Bombs

Offenses of the First Quarter, January-February-March, 2019 Voltaire, that incorrigible philosophe, the celebrated Enlightenment liberal and Read more..

FUCT again! The United States v. Offensive Speech

It seems I overstepped nineteen months ago in claiming that in a unanimous ruling involving disparaging trademarks, “the Supreme Court, presumably once and for all, has green lighted offensive spee Read more..

Mocking Misery

Offense of the Month, December 2018 How do you get to be an offender of the month? If you’re in the right place at the right time — or maybe make that the wrong place at the wrong time — it’s Read more..

The Curious Case of Sarah Jeong

The sense of offense is finely calibrated. It can detect an insult in a nanosecond and score it as a vile disparagement or a brilliant riposte, as contemptible or courageous, as harmful or enlightenin Read more..

Megyn Kelly Flames Out

Offense of the Month, October 2018 Trump and his coven aside (it would be hard, nay, probably impossible, for anyone else to compete), the October 2018 offense-of-the-month designee, hands down, is M Read more..

Meek Disinherited

Offense of the Month, September 2018 In this time of the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, there are many candidates in the contest for offender of the month. For example, Rep. Ralph Norman (R.-SC), who dist Read more..

Wilder Evicted

Contrary to the fears of some, the little house on the prairie has not vanished. Well, perhaps the house itself, but not Little House on the Prairie, or any of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s other Read more..

Turtles, but not all the way down

Offense of the Month July 2018 Probably not the most offensive display this month, probably not even by a longshot, but it’s the quirkiest that has come to my attention. To be sure, it’s the dog Read more..

Spiteful Spittle

The interesting thing about ABC’s defenestration of Roseanne Barr two weeks ago when she gratuitously tweeted a racist remark about President Obama’s senior advisor Valerie Jarrett, is that it was Read more..

Dying anyway

Offense of the Month, May 2018 Kelly Sadler and the White House communications team take dual honors. I declare two winners of the coveted title this month because the offense was compounded by an un Read more..

Mum’s the Word

The Mum in this case is Barbara Bush, who died April 17. The word, in case you’ve already forgotten, was “racist.” Read more..

A Slur on the Slab

Words have power. The official story (the story, that is, that we forward-looking, empirically-inclined, reasonable rationalists like to tell) is that their power stems from the ideas that our words e Read more..

Pardon my Procrastination

At first I thought I’d tiptoe around my procrastination these past three-plus months, pretending that it was some dark lump you wouldn’t see if I aimed the spotlight elsewhere. You might never hav Read more..

Taking a Knee

If you’ve been hoping I could make sense of the passing scene, lo these many weeks, your long wait is over. At last, events have crystallized and I can now take on the most important issue confronti Read more..

My Slant on Matal v. Tam: Welcome to My T-Word X-Word G-Word O-Word Z-Word Co., Inc., or Death to the Happy-Talk Clause

It’s old news now, having happened about 30 hours ago as I write, but my long absence from the blog this spring shows that this first day of summer I’m moving at superluminal speed. I do so to bri Read more..

The Winter of Our Disconnect

My Trump Timeout has timed out. It’s high time to get on with things. A few of my more daring friends are way ahead of me, and one or two never tuned out. They’ve actually been reading the papers Read more..

The year of living offensively

Offensiveness won. Or lost. It’s really the same thing: it just depends on how you come at it. For more than a year, the press has treated Americans to a tsunami of stories about offensiveness. T Read more..

Gingrich Gets Giddy

Offense of the Month: July 2016 I never supposed a top Republican could outdo Candidate-Presumptive Donald Trump in offending American citizens with political rhetoric, but I’m willing to name Newt Read more..

An Inoffensive Road Trip

Just returned from a 4,000-mile round trip to the Rockies. It took us by car from the east coast to Cleveland, Ann Arbor, Chicago, Omaha, Lincoln, Cheyenne, Boulder, Denver, and back via Colby (KS), K Read more..

Donald Trump, Olympian Offender

Offense of the Month: June 2016 He’s back — well, at least in my columns. He’s been daily on your other screens, I know, though we can pray that two or three years from now today’s junior hig Read more..

Scrub ’em clean

I’ve been away from the blog for a couple of weeks, writing the first draft of the proposal for the book Taking Offense. During that time, I’ve been musing about a problem that has loomed Read more..

Less Majesty, More Speech in Germany

Offense of the Month: May 2016 Have you heard the one about the president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan? No, that’s not an insult; that’s his name. But just about anything else said of him can Read more..

AO in One Easy Lesson

I missed it at the time, so this is a retrospective reflection on a curious blunder last March, when Microsoft unleashed an AI bot to talk to millennials on the Web. (Now there’s a nine-wor Read more..

Meow

Offense of the Month: April 2016 Richard Emery, chairman of New York City’s Civilian Complaint Review Board, which oversees actions of the police department, stepped down (“resigned abruptly,” Read more..

Fine-Grained Offense Filters

If you strain at gnats you can usually find them or, searching even more closely, gnats’ gnats or smaller. All you need is a fine enough sieve. Same with fine-grained Offense Filters, which seem to Read more..

A New Bus Ride

A doll with measles?  Or a colostomy bag? I’m talking here about a whole a new bus ride. Aficionados of “critical offense studies” (henceforth, COS) will know the reference. In one of the ve Read more..

Harvard Law School Shears Its Shield

After months of study, a Harvard Law School committee recommended to Dean Martha Minow on March 3 that the School jettison a shield it has used for 80 years because it is based on the crest of a slave Read more..

Wanted: Zombies without a Past

Offense of the Month: March 2016 Whatever you do, don’t do it. At least if you’re a retailer that, let’s say, sells bathing suits, polo shirts, mittens, and whatnot. Lands’ End thought to Read more..

Polysemy, Now You Don’t

I’ve been thinking about people who proclaim themselves offended by words for which they mistakenly assume the wrong meaning. A celebrated example is “niggardly,” the use of which cost an aide t Read more..

Football Über Alles

Offense of the Month: February 2016. Must be the silly season in Iowa. On January 1, Stanford University, the football team, beat the University of Iowa football team in the Rose Bowl, 45–16. But t Read more..

Watch that killer metaphor!

Offensive — or merely tasteless? No, not the Iowa primaries; I cover only serious things. But we can tarry in Iowa to consider this item, which I stumbled across as I’ve been attempting, at a snai Read more..

Disparaging Trademarks: This Time It’s “Slants”

In what may prove to be a major First Amendment ruling in favor of offensive trademarks, a federal appeals court in Washington on December 22 said that the federal government may not refuse to registe Read more..

Offensive Inoffensiveness: Tale of the Red Cup

A curious species of the penchant for feeling offended is what, henceforth, I will call “Offensive Inoffensiveness.” For the past several years a frenzied form of it pops up annually as the calend Read more..

What would Santa say?

'Tis the season — though I'm not sure why. (Should I be offended at Santa Claus showing up before Halloween?) Anyway, some retailers got in trouble with consumers this week for jokes that misfired. Read more..

“Panties Off” Defense to Redskins’ Offense

Just when you thought you’d heard it all: In 2014, you may recall, a federal trademark appeal board cancelled the trademark registration of the Washington, DC, professional football team’s name, t Read more..

Making Sense of the Flotsam

Stuffed into folders, stacked on my desktop, and strewn about elsewhere are random piles of articles more or less about “offense.” It’s time to put them into some kind of order. That will no dou Read more..

Anger verboten

Offense of the Month: November 2015. A little hard to classify, this one. You’ve probably already read the story. A black woman in a hoodie is taking morning exercise in the street in her neighborh Read more..

An Offense Sense?

Like you, I’ve been offended, off and on, by one thing or another, on this day or that, all my life. But I’d be hard-pressed to tell you what any of those things were. Which is part of the point. Read more..

TrumpGate?

Offense of the Month, July 2015: The most widely remarked offense of the month was Donald Trump's bad-mouthing Sen. John McCain for being held captive in a brutal North Vietnamese POW Read more..

Offense of the Month

2021: The Year in Review

Offenses of the Month, 2021
When 2021 began, I thought it was a year destined for quiet and change, one that I could devote to other literary pursuits. All I’d need to do, I supposed, was collect the few stories of the sort of offenders of the month who typically outwit themselves. Now, with 2021 just hours from seeping away, my report.

January to May
Right-Wing Snowflakism
By now it’s conventional wisdom that it’s left-leaning professors, students, and political action groups who pose a threat to American free-speech traditions through their hypersensitivity and promotion of politically-correct culture. To a point, the charge may even occasionally be true. But every once in a while, events unfold in such a way to show that the aversion to mockery, derision, and put-downs is a universal feeling, affecting even stalwart libertarians who ordinarily exalt free-speech principles over free-speech outcomes. Witness the spectacle of Stanford University Law School’s moment of stupidity.

About three weeks after the lethal mob attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, Nicholas Wallace, a third-year law student at Stanford, emailed fellow students a satirical flyer announcing a mock event titled “The Originalist Case for Inciting Insurrection.” The flyer claimed to be from Stanford’s chapter of the Federalist Society, a well-known libertarian organization, largely based at American law schools, that promotes conservative legal principles and judicial appointments. The flyer attacked, by name, U.S. Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, both major supporters of the laughable claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. The flyer’s tone was wildly over the top, advising students that they would be emailed riot information hours before the event, and calmly proclaiming that even though it conflicted with the rule of law, “violent insurrection can be an effective approach to upholding the principle of limited government.”

In late March, Federalist chapter officers protested to the university that its members had been defamed and otherwise harmed in significant ways. On May 27, five days after the society pressed the university to act (or so the university said), Stanford officials notified Wallace that his degree, due to be awarded just fifteen days later, might be held up because of possible misconduct in circulating the flyers. Six days later, on June 2, Stanford relented. According to newspaper accounts, the university’s legal counsel told its law school administrators what you might have supposed law school administrators would already know, that Wallace’s email was legally protected speech. Stanford said it would reassess its procedures for holding up diplomas under such circumstances. read-more..

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