• RSS Taking Offense

    • 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, with 2021 […]
    • 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
      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 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 bowdlerized volume […]
    • 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 University in […]
    • 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 […]