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  • RSS Taking Offense

    • 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. […]
    • 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 pretty easy. You can do it in just three simple steps: (1) Take insensitive […]
    • 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 enlightening, as doleful or droll, as wretched or risible, all according to the recipient’s sense of identity, community, and ideology. Such is […]
    • 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 Megyn Kelly, partly for her actual offensiveness—that is, her racial insensitivity—but mostly for her obtusely loopy dopey stupidity or, as the British might better […]
    • 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 distinguished himself opening an election-related debate at a Kiwanis Club in Rock Hill, South Carolina with this doozy: “Did y’all hear this […]
    • 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 prairie books. What’s missing, as you may have read fleetingly a month ago, is her name, which until then was attached […]