• RSS Taking Offense

    • Outrages from All Over: A Semi-Annual Compendium
      Offenses of the Month, February to July February If You Can’t Say Something that Cannot Possibly Be Misinterpreted, Don’t The story is as short as it is brutal. On a Monday in late February, Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, chairman of Columbia University’s Department of Psychiatry, happened on a tweet depicting an American model of South Sudanese […]
    • Some Notes on Word Purging
      As I have mused in many earlier posts, offensiveness is not easily defined and what makes a word or phrase offensive to some, or all, is not easily reckoned. By way of further example, I offer three sorts of objections to verbal expressions that someone, somewhere, has found offensive and ask whether they can assist […]
    • Tell Elon Musk, the Hell with It
      I thought I’d wait until you’ve forgotten Ilya Shapiro for the second time. We last contemplated his plight back in mid-February, when he was only a couple of weeks into his suspension from a job he was just about to start at the Law Center of Georgetown University in Washington, DC. Shapiro’s desert wandering lasted […]
    • Humpty Dumpty Derangement Syndrome
      On January 31, as practically everyone who scans headlines will recall, Whoopi Goldberg, the actor, comedian, and conversationalist, waded into a racial identity tsunami. The tsunami won, though unlike many casualties of such encounters, she suffered only a drenching, from which she has now dried out. Goldberg, who co-hosts the ABC talk show “The View,” […]
    • Lost in the Bubble
      Offense of the Month, January 2021 Our designated offender of the month is Ilya Shapiro, the once-about-to-be-and-perhaps-future-executive director of the Georgetown Center for the Constitution, an arm of the law school at Georgetown University in Washington. He was placed on administrative leave one day before he was to start his job on February […]
    • 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 take offense? You’re no dummy: you’re thinking, almost anyone. Say “Happy Holidays” and parochial rabble-rousers from one corner will accuse you of […]
    • 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, […]
    • 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 with those proclivities was a famous actor, whose movies you’ve devoured for decades? Or that a famous writer […]
    • Tilting at Filters or the Post-Postmodern Bowdler
      Offenses 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 drama and eponym of that wonderful verb, “bowdlerize,” meaning to censor written texts either by removing or rewording offensive or otherwise objectionable terms and phrases. The first […]
    • 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 the offender. A case in point: Jerry Falwell, Jr., who from 2007 until a little more than a month ago had been president of Liberty […]