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..

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

Time Bombs

Offenses of the First Quarter, January-February-March, 2019
Voltaire, that incorrigible philosophe, the celebrated Enlightenment liberal and probable anti-Semite, may have been having fun when he reputedly told Mme. Emilie du Chatelet that “history is only a pack of tricks that we play upon the dead.” Which leads me to the probably not wholly original observation, pertinent to our discussion here, that the present is the greater joke that our ancestors have played on us. In fact, it’s the perfect crime.

The joke often comes in the form of time bombs left behind by departed predecessors who can no longer answer for their misdeeds. That’s because until recently “history” took its time, playing out slowly over several generations to our present day. Lately, however, we have been blessed, if it’s a blessing, with a great cultural foreshortening. Today some makers of history live long and well enough into their own greatly altered futures to yoke themselves to the punchlines of their own jokes.

Here I have in mind our featured offenders for the first three months of 2019: Rep. Steve King (R.-Iowa), Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Va), and Maryland Del. Mary Ann Lisanti (D-Harford County). I stick with these three, from a longer list of offensive talkers, because the rules direct that, except in rare circumstances, there be only one Offender of the Month.

I remind you that in mid-January Congressman King was stripped of committee assignments and rebuked by the U.S. House of Representatives for essentially supporting white supremacy. His exact line, quoted in a piece in The New York Times: “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”

On February 1, it transpired that Governor Northam had appeared in his Virginia medical school yearbook in 1984 next to a picture of a student in blackface and another person in the white hood and robes of the Ku Klux Klan. Whether he was one of those depicted remains obscure. Why such pictures are in a medical school yearbook is also puzzling, and many schools are now undertaking to find out why.

In late February, the Maryland House of Delegates censured Del. Lisanti because she labeled a particular majority-black Maryland House district a “n —– district,” as most newspapers delicately put it. (I am cheating slightly here; she made the statement in January, the story broke in February, and it continued to play out in March.) read-more..

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