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  • RSS Taking Offense

    • 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 offensiveness in American life. All around us are the signs that public patience with the display of phony heroes […]
    • 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 of the Month column because up popped Rep. Ted Yoho (R.-Florida). You’ve been reading about him the past week or more, likely watching him squirm […]
    • 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 premeditated, but ostentatious nevertheless, produced by that sui generis creature, the Great American Dimwit. This month I offer the Tale of the Offensive Name, a story much making the rounds the past ten days. It […]
    • 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 or saccharine; not overbold or tentative; not gruff or timid; not hesitant or strident; not cheerless or giddy; not glum or lighthearted; not solemn […]
    • 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 United States. Social distancing seems to be having a similar effect on commentary about offensiveness, even if our propensity to offend hasn’t much changed (and who could measure that)? In […]
    • 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, verbal wounds, snubs, slights, and other sorts of humiliations; disdainful, derisive, scornful, and contemptuous slurs; disparaging, discrediting, disrespectful, belittling, and derogatory snubs; jibes, affronts, […]
    • 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 here a small sample, in random categories and without regard to chronology, of stories that have bubbled up through 2019 to […]
    • 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, as predicted here last January, though by a smaller margin than I expected, and with a loophole that could but is unlikely to be exploited, at least not soon. The vote in the […]
    • 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, […]
    • 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 speech.” In Matal v. Tam, you may recall, the Court struck down a law that banned registration of trademarks that disparage people, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols. […]