The Right to Offend

The Right to Offend May 1, 2019

Dog whistle alert! More free speech shenanigans from the Islamophobia crew.

Want Ethnocentrism With That?

Recently, the owner of a sandwich shop in Illinois, an establishment rather appropriately named Gross Burger, got into hot water over a bumper sticker on his restaurant’s wall. Next to a snippet of Arabic script, the sign reads, “If you can’t read this, thank a Marine.”

In the face of criticism from offended patrons, restaurant owner Brad Gross defends the sign as merely an appreciative gesture toward Marines. He claims the sticker was donated by an Iraq war veteran over a decade ago and has no intention of removing it. According to Yahoo News:

A number of people have supported Gross and have argued that the bumper sticker is “not racism.” Some even suggest that the message has been misunderstood.

“It’s not about speaking another language. Be fluent in as many [ways] as you want. That’s great. But the sign is about being under a Muslim law or Sharia law & government that would make us write Arabic and abide by their laws,” one person wrote. “We need to thank our military we are not forced to be under that type of law.”

These denials fail to acknowledge a lot of not-so-subtle messages in the sticker’s slogan about people who live in the Middle East, US foreign policy, and Islam. Gross could show his appreciation for US troops and veterans in a way that doesn’t also offend or alienate people, but his refusal to remove the sticker says all we need to know about his sensitivity toward the feelings of Middle Eastern or Muslim patrons and his opinion about multiculturalism in general.

Schoolboys In Disgrace

Flash back a few years to the London School of Economics, where an incident took place at an orientation expo to welcome incoming students. (This is an old story, but was discussed earlier this week at the Rational Doubt blog.)

Here, two members of the school’s Atheist Secularist and Humanist Society (ASH) were at their organization’s stall and were approached by agents of the event’s organizers and security personnel. The atheists were told that their Jesus & Mo T-shirts had to be covered up or removed “in the interests of good campus relations”, since there had been complaints about their propriety. The students complied, but were so affronted at their treatment that they filed a statement with the school’s administration and were subsequently issued an apology.

Their treatment at the fair seems heavy-handed, but what disturbs me about the matter is that its coverage in the atheist-humanist blogosphere focuses on the free speech aspect and not the ideas of multiculturalism and responsibility. Bob Ripley, the author of the Rational Doubt post, delivers stale freeze-peacher rhetoric by the ton:

Being offended is the price you pay for living in an open and free society.

When an educational institution bans a shirt, which offends the religious sensitivities of some students, it is not a victory for progressive liberalism but for dogmatic oppression.

When religion is off-limits for debate, we are all in trouble.

Sounds like this is less about free speech than about our need to police the beliefs of others, mock and ridicule them, and decide what sort of consequences we consider appropriate for our behavior. Neither in the ASH members’ statements nor in any of the posts and comments about the controversy did any atheist or humanist even pay lip service to the idea of multiculturalism.

In other words, it’s about privilege.

White and Wrong

I’m convinced this idea of a right to offend is a right-wing dog whistle. It’s based on the idea that the worst that can come from unrestricted speech is that people’s feelings might get hurt. Despite pretty glaring evidence that an atmosphere of distrust and contempt toward Muslims causes an increase of hate crimes against them, this myth reinforces the majority’s sense of entitlement.

This goes beyond the freedom of expression and into territory where we maintain we have the right to insult, intimidate, and demonize others by characterizing beliefs they hold dear (but which we don’t) as dangerous delusions. And even though nine times out of ten, this “right” is being wielded against a Muslim minority in the West, free-speechers make it sound like such mockery and ridicule does wonderful things for the minorities under attack. Look how my buddy Kevin, contributing to the discussion at Rational Doubt, asserts that mockery was instrumental in the civil-rights battles of African Americans and the LGBTQ community:

If folks previously worried about mocking or bucking what others hold dear, then black people in USA would still be going to “separate, yet equal” facilities and LGBTQ people would still be in the closet.

Oh, come now. If anything, mockery and degrading stereotypes of black people as well as gays and lesbians were the majority’s way of legitimizing their oppression. Rosa Parks wasn’t just trying to offend white people, she was employing civil disobedience to motivate social and legal change in the status of an oppressed minority. The college boys in London, on the other hand, were defending their right to intimidate and offend an oppressed minority. Doesn’t anyone else see the difference here?

It’s not as if a cartoon on a T-shirt represents some sort of scholarly debate on religion. Everyone involved understands that the mere image of Mohammed is taboo to Muslims, and so the claims that the T-shirts were innocuous and inoffensive ring very hollow. Brad Gross could just as easily claim that the bumper sticker on his restaurant’s wall never mentions Muslims, so anyone who objects to it must be motivated by hatred of Marines.

Distinction Without a Difference

It’s time we abandon the crusade to make everyone recognize the distinction we make between criticism of religion and criticism of religious people. As J Enigma 32 pointed out in the discussion on Rational Doubt, the idea that we can criticize Islam without implying lots of things about how Muslims act and think sounds way too much like love-the-sinner-hate-the sin: a rhetorical cop-out unworthy of people who pride themselves on critical thinking.

Touting our right to offend makes us no different than the gun nuts who think shall not be infringed is the be-all and end-all of the matter of firearms regulation in the USA, or religious folks who say the Constitutional protection for religious freedom allows them to discriminate with impunity. We either acknowledge that we have responsibilities that go along with rights, or we’re not living in the real world.

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  • llDayo

    Next to a snippet of Arabic script, the sign reads, “If you can’t read this, thank a Marine.”

    Another sticker next to it should read “If you can read it, you may be an interpreter for the US armed forces that kept a Marine alive.”

  • It’s a really puzzling slogan. I could see being grateful that you haven’t been beheaded by ISIS, but having to read Arabic words just doesn’t seem like the worst consequence of a hypothetical Islamist takeover to me.

  • Raging Bee

    Yeah, right, like Ay-rabs woulda conquered North America if the Marines hadn’t stopped them? Please. Some of them may be as fascist as Hitler, but they’re nowhere near as powerful or well-organized.

  • igotbanned999

    You might have a point if the cartoon was only mocking Islam, but it was mocking Christianity too, which is the established majority religion in the west.

  • I support the right to offend. But there are different kinds of offense, and I judge people differently depending on their intent.

    The bumper sticker in question rather clearly offends Muslims, not Islam. And people are fooling themselves if they don’t understand that people who dislike Muslims are generally getting a lot of that dislike from racist undercurrents (of even surface currents). That’s a nasty sort of offensiveness, even if I support people’s right to express it. My opinion of such people is pretty low.

    The T-shirts are not reasonably seen as racially offensive at all, but rather, critical of ideas. Criticism of ideas is always acceptable, and it is not a factor in the least if some people take personal offense at having their ideas criticized. Islam, like Christianity, is a bad belief system. Mocking it is one tool we have to express that idea. This is not only tolerable, but arguably meritorious.

  • He has every right to slap that sticker on the wall of his business.

    I have every right not to support his business or his opinions.

  • The T-shirts are not reasonably seen as racially offensive at all, but rather, critical of ideas. Criticism of ideas is always acceptable, and it is not a factor in the least if some people take personal offense at having their ideas criticized.

    As I mention in the article, I think this is a myth we’ve been telling ourselves for so long that we can’t be reasoned out of it. We feel entitled to instruct people on what basis they’re allowed to be offended, and we’ve decided that we don’t need to feel responsible if people take umbrage at our implication that they’re delusional and dangerous.

    Just because we don’t care about religion doesn’t mean we get to demand that everyone else be so blasé about the matter. And if we’re saying that we realize that people will get offended, but we want to decide what consequences we consider acceptable for our lack of respect, then that demonstrates a really sociopathic level of privileged cynicism.

  • I support everyone’s right to offend. I’m just pointing out how I judge them when they do so. Others may judge differently.

  • I admitted that the treatment the kids got at the LSE sounded pretty draconian. But it says a lot about us that giving offense is our first, middle, and last resort.

    That’s a great recipe for an edgy stand-up routine. But is that the best approach for a multicultural society? Or do we just not care about multiculturalism in the first place?

  • I’m not sure what “multiculturalism” means. Not all cultures are equal. There are cultures I want to see die, such as those of the Abrahamic religions. I feel I owe those cultures no respect. I feel no need to avoid criticizing those ideas, and I can judge on a case-by-case basis what my best strategy towards that end is- sometimes rational, sometimes mocking, sometimes with offense as part of the intent, sometimes without. These are all effective under the right circumstances.

    In reality, it is very rarely my intent to give offense. But I have no issue at all with saying something reasonable and rational in a situation where I suspect a person may, nevertheless, take offense. I have no respect at all for people who are offended by having their ideas or beliefs challenged.

  • I have no respect at all for people who are offended by having their ideas or beliefs challenged.

    Like I keep saying, we want people to acknowledge that distinction-without-a-difference just because it panders to our self-image as noble, rational, brutally honest truth-tellers. If others see us as insensitive pricks who are fuzzy on the notions of multiculturalism and social responsibility, can you really blame them?

  • Yes, I can blame them. And do. I don’t think it’s a “distinction-without-a-difference” at all. It think it’s a profound and fundamental difference.

  • Yes, I can blame them. And do. I don’t think it’s a “distinction-without-a-difference” at all. It think it’s a profound and fundamental difference.

    “I’m not calling you dangerous and delusional. I’m just saying that the beliefs that shape your worldview and motivate your behavior are dangerous delusions!”

    So you’re demanding respect from people you don’t feel are worthy of your respect. What could be more rational?

  • Dhammarato

    “powerful or well-organized.” They were and maybe will be and maybe sooner with out the work already done by marines. Muslims love to be victimized and we should be kind to them and insult them at every opportunity, they will love you for it. The no mo pics is their shit, not ours, so please post more pics of Big mo and JC, these pics are funny as hell. Muzzies will eventually get use to it. Its a stupid rule anyway that comes from the fact that Arabs are bad at art.

  • Dhammarato

    My whole way of life and every thing I say and every thing I ware is offensive to both Christians and Muslims. Why? because i an not that shit, I am my own shit and that offends victims and hate mongering religious assholes. The only statement I have is ridicule and it is a very worthwhile and fun loving life style to be 100% offensive to fools who believe. Every thing a Christian says is worth a belly laugh and every thing a Muslim says is worthy of ridicule and a big belly laugh and a pic of big mo with his small dick. That really pisses them off because they are taught big mo had a biggy. (was it big enough for a 9 yer old girl?) Ridicule of fools is my religion and I will honor that religion happily even if i get shot for it. My only regret is that those who read this are most likely not christin and not muzziy. But maybe offended anyway, good, have a belly laugh on me.

  • Chuck Johnson

    “The bumper sticker in question rather clearly offends Muslims, not Islam.”

    The offense is even broader than that.
    In my bedroom I have my grandmother’s Bible.
    It’s printed in Arabic. – – – I can’t read a word of it.

  • You certainly seem mature and reasonable.

  • EllyR

    The sticker reminded me of a very popular joke right after the Twin Towers collapse: In the year 2030 a grandfather is showing New-York city to his 10 years old grandson and passing the wonderful monument for the twin towers he explains that Arabs have attacked the towers and they collapsed. The grandson interrupts the story and asks, granddad, what are Arabs? https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/5f6e62c3572fdb1011d33e15b1f6033d6237f00e5f34745475c8c726dd3d92eb.jpg

  • So you’re demanding respect from people you don’t feel are worthy of your respect.

    When did that happen?

  • I’m not demanding respect from anybody.

  • Well, we always wonder why people in the USA are so mistrustful of atheists.

    It must be, as always, because they resent our virtues.

  • Well, you’re demanding that they respect your right to instruct them about what they are and aren’t allowed to take offense to. And if they do get offended, you demand that they respect your right to suffer no consequences whatsoever.

    Privilege Street is a one-way route, isn’t it?

  • I heard a conspiracy theory that said that atheists engineered the 9/11 attacks so we’d never have to differentiate between Muslims and terrorists ever again.

  • No, Shem, it’s because their leaders tell slanderous lies about our incapacity to behave morally.

    Complaining about misplaced sarcasm is just the pretext.

  • it’s because their leaders tell slanderous lies about our incapacity to behave morally.

    I agree, that doesn’t sound fair. But to quote Walter from Big Lebowski, “Fair? Who’s the fucking nihilist here?”

    It’s not like we’re totally dedicated to propriety and moderation when we’re the ones dishing out the invective. Making the terrorist and the homophobic redneck typify religious believers doesn’t testify to our commitment to an honest, objective look at the way religion operates in society. Not a week goes by that I don’t hear some village atheist intone “Religion poisons everything,” and not in an ironic way, either. When the shoe’s on the other foot, I guess it’s just a whole different shoe.

    And the brouhaha at the LSE I mentioned above doesn’t illustrate our capacity to behave morally, if ethical decision making can be said to involve even a modicum of empathy or restraint. I think we have every right to criticize the religious for their frequent insensitivity and immaturity; but we have to apply that same standard of behavior to ourselves. The atheist kids at the LSE never once mentioned that a civil, multicultural society involves responsibilities on our part, and more than one person responding here basically denied that we have any such responsibilities. It’s not like our “right to offend” outweighs our obligation to treat others with respect, it seems to completely nullify it.

  • I’m defending my legal right (in the U.S.) to give offense. And I’m arguing that I recognize no moral responsibility to avoid giving offense. I don’t know where you’re getting the idea I’m making all these demands of others. They don’t have to accept my “instruction”, they don’t have to avoid taking offense at anything I say, and I claim no right to avoid consequences.

    I have no control over what others might take offense at, and in general, I simply don’t care if they do so.

  • I’m defending my legal right (in the U.S.) to give offense. And I’m arguing that I recognize no moral responsibility to avoid giving offense.

    As I mention in the post, though, this sounds like the gun nut defining the entire matter of gun ownership in the USA as shall not be infringed, and ignoring any and all social context or responsibility that goes along with the right to bear arms.

    Expecting rights but denying responsibility sounds sort of sociopathic to me.

  • What responsibility do you imagine I’m denying?

  • I think people in the U.S. are far less mistrustful of atheists than we tend to suppose.

  • (((J_Enigma32)))

    It seems like every time this debate crops up, it focuses on whether we have a “right” to offend. But for me, it emerges from a much simpler concept: empathy and social appropriateness.

    Sure, you may have the right to offend. And as a citizen of Texas, I have the right to carry around small nation’s worth of weapons on my person and in my vehicle regardless whether I’m walking to the shooting range or going out to eat at McDonald’s. Do I have to care what you think about it? Nope. I don’t have to give a single damn how you feel.

    Here’s the problem with rights: they don’t take into considerate social context and the situation. Empathy is not included.

    And while carrying around enough firepower to outclass the Luxembourgian military is an extreme example, consider this one: an alcoholics anonymous meeting where a person shows up drinking beer and bragging about how much fun they had getting plastered last night. Sure, they aren’t doing anything “wrong,” but the context for that behavior is entirely inappropriate. A less aggressive example would be the guy who showed up to a thread on LJF that, if I remember correctly, dealt with women working outside of the home. This guy shows up and starts talking about how women are superior species and this and that, and it took us a second to figure out he wasn’t an MRA troll (I thought he was originally), but a femdom role-play account. Did he have the right to that account? Absolutely. Was it remotely appropriate given the context of the conversation? Hell no. Weirdly amusing, yes, but not remotely appropriate.

    This situation is further complicated by the fact that the fascist right has essentially weaponized the concept of rights. You see this whenever one of these theocratic assholes starts on a tear about “right to religious freedom,” or whenever the first go-to for some loser on line is “FREEZE PEECH” or “MUH RIGHTS.”

    I typically leave conversation regarding rights to the people who understand them — i.e., constitutional lawyers. But everyone is an expert in everything on the internet, and everything has black and white answers with no middle grounds, so it’s always all or nothing. And as a result, empathy doesn’t enter the picture and I can go derail a conversation about the abuse black people suffer at the hands of police by calling them welfare queens and accusing their sons and fathers of being thugs. That is absolutely my right. But just because it’s a Right doesn’t make it morally or socially right.

  • Mushi Mage

    I value freedom of expression (bias for freedom of expression) and being decent to others, but the ideas ARE in conflict, since, expression of some ideas can be offensive which can definitely be indecent.. If I find a conflict, I tend to focus on the idea that is an issue as opposed to any particular group. The challenge is in presenting what is the ACTUAL issue since, we have a tendency to use people as an example of what is wrong as opposed to stating what exactly is wrong. This can result in people being considered the the target as opposed to an idea. The distinction being that people can’t change what they are but they can change the ideas that they embrace given an understanding of the issues. Unfortunately, many people identify their ideas as being synonymous to there being and this is NOT the case.

    People HAVE ideas, but they are not synonymous with their ideas.

    [Next to a snippet of Arabic script, the sign reads, “If you can’t read this, thank a Marine.”]

    So, is there really an issue with the sign? Yes. The issue being ambiguity which creates confusion since the meaning of the sign entails a fair amount of interpretation with the interpretation often following whatever current stereotypes and/or prejudices.

    Arabic is a language and a racial category, but it does tend to mean Muslim/Islam in the minds of most Americans. I don’t know what the presenter intends with the statement “If you can’t read this, thank a Marine.”, but I get the impression of violent action which can easily degenerate to being Muslims as a target as opposed to being an opposition to an idea (which needs to be presented). So, I have objection to the sign due to the suggestion of violence against a group without an actual reason being presented which degenerates into bigotry.

    The article poster seems to have a difficulty with distinctions. Unfortunately, the poster isn’t alone. There are many who have a difficulty with distinctions which makes addressing various issues quite difficult since the target of a bad idea becomes conflated with the people holding such ideas. I suspect most people object to dogmatism as a point issue, but do not know how to articulate such issues.

    So, if I were to be charitable to the intent of the sign poster. it would simply be an objection to Islam within the context of their understanding without them understanding that their depiction suggests assault against people as opposed to an idea. I grant that my picture is probably laughable, since, there is no expectation of the nuance that I am presenting in my charitable depiction.

    However, there is a threat that is implicit to a fight against an idea which is the idea of violence against application of an idea such that IF one persists in an attempt to enact an idea then they become an issue with respect to their actions. It is only in this way that violence against a person and/or group is supportable with respect to ideas. .Granted, this depends on the ideas and the adjudicators of such.

    So, speaking as an adjudicator of ideas. I support well being as a general notion which makes assaults to such an issue. Unfortunately, what that entails is not as well understood as I would hope. This requires enumeration to many.

    1. Is violence against a person for having an idea wherein they don’t understand the issues – moral?
    2. Is violence against a person for performing actions against well being of others – moral?
    3. Is violence against a person for performing an action against the well being of others wherein they don’t actually know that it is an assault – moral?

    Some would denote all three questions as being essentially the same, whereas I don’t consider them the same questions.

    1) There is nothing being done in the first question. Having an idea is NOT the same as acting on the idea. Nor is it the same as thinking the idea good, thus assault cannot be warranted by my notions, since, knowledgeable/free consent of assault on well being is critical to even a consideration of action.

    2) I would not consider the action which assault the well being of other moral, thus the action would need to be addressed and the degree to which there is an issue is the degree to which an individual understands that such is an unwarranted assault to others.

    3) This is similar to question two, but there is the issue of ignorance and thus not an action wherein there is intent to be an assault (cause harm). The action would still need to be stopped, but the degree to which one would hold such an individual culpable would definitely not be the same by my notions.

    The point of this potential tl;dr (too long, didn’t read) post on my part is to point out the details that attend the poster’s article. There are numerous points of consideration that show that there are numerous points of distinction which show that “hate the sin, not the sinner” is not hollow rhetoric. The sentiment of the statement can easily be taken as address the action as opposed to making the action the same as the person. We should be addressing the issues, since, there are many who are struggling with ideas well before any action is taken. Thus, it is important to address the ideas.

  • (((J_Enigma32)))

    Because nothing gets laughs like the notion of genocide. Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines was one of the most popular Rwandan comedy radio channels in the early 90s, you know.

    Sometimes my fellow citizens make me ill.

  • Nemo

    A shirt mocks all religions equally. I wonder if Shem is offended on behalf of one religion more so than others? But that would imply some sort of favoritism…..

  • Nemo

    So….. you want all dark skinned people to die, right? You are a racist Nazi.

    I am being sarcastic, of course.

  • There are many who have a difficulty with distinctions which makes addressing various issues quite difficult since the target of a bad idea becomes conflated with the people holding such ideas.

    I think I made it pretty clear in the article that, especially when we’re talking about a vast historical construct like Islam, making a distinction between the ideas and the people holding them isn’t very easy. Islam is what makes people Muslim, after all; any analysis of the set of “ideas” that supposedly constitutes Islam inevitably runs into the impossibility of defining these “ideas” in completely separation from the way Muslims act, profess belief, and form their interpretations of what Islam is and what it means to be Muslim.

    I submit that the value of this distinction lies in the way we keep using it to pretend that we’re making some sort of scholarly, empathetic, objective “study” of Islam, rather than just stereotyping Muslims as delusional and dangerous and patting ourselves on the back for our fair-mindedness.

  • EllyR

    Saudi atheists…???

  • Chuck Johnson

    It doesn’t puzzle me at all.
    Maybe you didn’t live through the McCarthy era here in the USA.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHv-83x58B8

  • C_Alan_Nault

    “Sure, you may have the right to offend.”

    And if something offends another person,that person has chosen to be offended. Don’t want to be offended?Then don’t decide that another person’s opinion offends you.

  • (((J_Enigma32)))

    That’s easily enough said, but frankly, I’m offended by ideas like all types of child genital mutilation and forcibly assigning gender to intersex babies. Maybe you aren’t. Maybe I’m wrong for deciding those are things to get offended at. You’ll have a hell of a time convincing me I am, though.

    If only we could all be so utterly objective and dispassionate that nothing matters enough to get us upset or angry. Here’s the thing though: if people didn’t get offended at things, stuff would never change. You might be fine with what Trump is doing at the southern border, and how he’s staunchly supporting the religious right, but that deeply offends my sensibilities and propels me to act against it. It’s rarely as simple as deciding whether or not something offends you. It’s a matter of how deeply those things attack your core beliefs.

  • C_Alan_Nault

    ” frankly, I’m offended by ideas like all types of child genital mutilation and forcibly assigning gender to intersex babies. Maybe you aren’t. Maybe I’m wrong for deciding those are things to get offended at.”

    There is a difference between getting offended at a physical action and getting offended at someone else’s opinion on something like religion or humor.

    “Here’s the thing though: if people didn’t get offended at things, stuff would never change. ”

    Nothing wrong with getting offended.

    The point is no one has a right to NOT be offended.

  • C_Alan_Nault

    “It’s rarely as simple as deciding whether or not something offends you. It’s a matter of how deeply those things attack your core beliefs.”

    It is a matter of what your response to being offended is. If your response is violence, then you are in the wrong. If your response is to try to take away another person’s freedom of speech or expression, then you are in the wrong.

  • The point is no one has a right to NOT be offended.

    I really wish we could discuss these matters in a little more nuanced way, because I think it involves more than just people taking umbrage and people claiming the “right” to offend. As I mention in the OP, this is more about privilege and marginalization. Living in a multicultural society makes demands on us, and politically charged messages like the Gross Burger sign, as well as edgy collegiate humor like the Jesus & Mo shirt, have the ability to create an atmosphere of mistrust and exclusion. I don’t think every complaint should necessarily provoke a seismic shift in our cultural landscape, but we shouldn’t just dismiss each and every attempt to get us to be more sensitive as “political correctness run amok” either.

  • C_Alan_Nault

    “I really wish we could discuss these matters in a little more nuanced way, because I think it involves more than just people taking umbrage and people claiming the “right” to offend.”

    No, it really doesn’t involve more than people with freedom of speech ( and freedom of expression) having the right to offend.

    I agree that it would be wrong for an atheist to enter a place of religious worship ( a temple, church, mosque, synagogue, etc) and make comments that could offend the people there.

    But if it is a public space ( a street, park, etc) or a public forum (such as youtube), then freedom of speech also includes freedom to offend.

    If a religious person or organization is presenting their beliefs in public spaces or forums, anyone seeing those beliefs is free to dismiss, question, or ridicule the beliefs.

    This reminded me. Draw Mohammed Day is every May 20th. I haven’t yet decided how to draw Mohammed the pedophile this year ( I am thinking in women’s clothing & walking his dog Allah). Or I may sculpt Mohammed out of ham & other pork products & call the sculpture “Moe Hamhead”. What are your thoughts?

  • C_Alan_Nault

    “Living in a multicultural society makes demands on us, ”

    No. It may make requests on us & make suggestions. But it makes no demands… if it tries to make demands the demands should be ignored.

    Which is why someone may choose to wear a burkha in public but private businesses are not required to allow that person to enter their property.

    “we shouldn’t just dismiss each and every attempt to get us to be more sensitive as “political correctness run amok” either.”

    Correct. All incidents that are attempts to promote political correctness can be examined & we can choose to comply with the REQUEST or not comply.

  • This reminded me. Draw Mohammed Day is every May 20th. I haven’t yet decided how to draw Mohammed the pedophile this year ( I am thinking in women’s clothing & walking his dog Allah). Or I may sculpt Mohammed out of ham & other pork products & call the sculpture “Moe Hamhead”. What are your thoughts?

    My thoughts? Basically, that you’re an entitled, ignorant, self-infatuated clown who would rather vent his immature cynicism than make the effort to earn a seat at the grown-up table of society’s discourse.

    No offense.

  • C_Alan_Nault

    And my thoughts are as an adult the opinion of an unknown stranger on the internet can never offend me.,so there is no need for you to end your diatribe with the statement “No offense.”

    From your comment I am inferring that you are a supporter of freedom of speech as long as no one gets offended.

    if this inference upsets you,feel free to find a safe space (where you can avoid the possibility of hearing something you don’t like) and work on your coloring book.

  • C_Alan_Nault

    Mocking Christianity? What is there about Christianity that could be mocked?

    How could anyone find something to mock about a belief system that entails:

    – believing a man made of dust & a woman made from the man’s ribs were tricked by a talking serpent to eat a forbidden fruit( that some powerful god was incredibly stupid enough to put in the garden) and because they ate the fruit they acquired knowledge of good and evil

    – because the man & woman disobeyed god ( before they could know it would be evil to disobey god),the god punishes them and every other human being who will ever exist

    ( what kind of god would punish people for the sins of others? oh yeah,a god stupid enough to put a forbidden fruit in the garden)

    – now,since we are all born as sinners because god is blaming us for his colossal screw-up we are all doomed to eternal punishment

    – we can avoid this punishment by believing a demigod ( who is simultaneously his own father) born of a virgin sacrificed himself to himself to become a zombie demigod

    Now who couldn’t take that story seriously?

  • Since I wrote the OP and my responses to you in what I consider plain enough English, you should have inferred that talking about these incidents in nostalgic liberal terms like “freedom” and “rights” ignores the social context and the power dynamics involved. There’s a lot of complexity here that you’re not acknowledging.

    Instead of trying to intimidate and offend Muslims here in the West, why don’t you go to Saudi Arabia and draw your cartoons of Mohammed, or wear your Jesus & Mo T-shirt? Sounds like you know a safe space when you see one.

  • C_Alan_Nault

    “you should have inferred that talking about these incidents in nostalgic
    liberal terms like “freedom” and “rights”

    When exactly did freedom and rights become just nostalgic terms? Did I miss a coup?

    “ignores the social context and the power dynamics involved.”

    There is no social context or power dynamics that restricts our freedom of speech and expression.

    “There’s a lot of complexity here that you’re not acknowledging.”

    I am dismissing it because it is moot. We have freedom of speech and freedom of expression here. We do not have freedom to not be offended.

    If a business offends you,don’t be a customer.If an individual offends you, don’t hire them or have them as a friend.

    “Instead of trying to intimidate and offend Muslims here in the West, why don’t you go to Saudi Arabia and draw your cartoons of Mohammed, or wear your Jesus & Mo T-shirt? ”

    Do they have freedom of speech and freedom of expression there? If not,your suggestion is moot.

    “Sounds like you know a safe space when you see one.”

    Sounds like you enjoy the illusion that it is a safe space here. The people that were killed in the 9/11 attacks would disagree with you.

    The fact is there are no safe spaces. The question here is how many of your freedoms are you prepared to sacrifice so you can imagine you are safe?

  • Step away from the melodramatic sloganeering before you hurt yourself.

    You’re not responding to anything here, you’re just sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting, “Rights and freedoms! I can’t hear you! La la la!” every single time I try to tell you that your ivory tower rhetoric is missing a lot of nuance. There are issues of marginalization and privilege that you’d rather ignore because of they way they complicate your simplistic framing of the whole matter, but you don’t want to see it anyone else’s way.

    You’ve decided that you have the “right” to offend people and other people don’t have the “right” not to be offended. I get it. I get it. I get it.

  • Dude, there’s only about a million other places online where you can peddle these corny old routines. I’ve never tolerated Scripturebots here, and the same goes for village atheists.

    There’s no God, let’s move on.

  • I thought I’d respond here because Hissy Fit Harry banned me at Neil’s blog for, y’know, agreeing with Neil and all. I may have been uncivil in calling mythicists crackpots, but I think Neil’s right that amateurs don’t understand the methodologies and expectations of professionals and can’t acquire this understanding just by surfing the Web and skimming a book or two.

    Compare NT scholarship to phrenology if that’s what floats your boat, but at least admit that I’m not way off base in being skeptical about a position held almost exclusively by com-box keyboard warriors. It’s just that, after years of engaging with creationists, 9./11 truthers, and birthers, my skeptic alarm goes off when some factoid collector claims that professionals in whatever industry are all either biased, in on the conspiracy, or too intimidated by the imposed consensus to admit what even Username-Du-Jour can plainly see.

    I really don’t care about the mythicist thing, and I’ve sworn off debating with conspiracists in general, but I’m just playing the odds here. It’s possible the com-box booger-flickers aren’t just affirming the validity of a claim that tells them what they want to hear, but have truly stumbled onto the truth that the academics are too brainwashed to grasp. Maybe this is the one time that the vast majority of experts are wrong, and the amateurs are right.

    And maybe not.

  • I really don’t care about the mythicist thing, and I’ve sworn off debating with conspiracists in general, but I’m just playing the odds here.

    So you didn’t know bout the topic and don’t care, but thought you’d mouth off about folks being crackpots anyway, and you figure you might have been uncivil?

    You know, you’re the second person who was kicked from GiD on that thread and then later came back to follow up with me; Neko was the first. And he did the exact same thing that you did. It’s almost like, if you make fun of people without addressing what they ask and what they claim at even a basic level, they take issue. Who would have thought?

  • I think Neil was addressing what the mythicist concept appeals to: the presumption of the amateur. I agree with him.

    And yeah, I admitted that it was uncivil to call these guys crackpots. But I also think it’s quite appropriate to use a pejorative to describe someone who dismisses virtually all expert opinion in a matter, as you and I both do in literally every other instance where amateurs do this.

    You seem to think these factoid collectors are different from creationists, truthers, and birthers. They look the same to me. And the only thing surfing the web has made me an expert in is Spot The Loony.

  • n=2^i – 1

    Who’s the arbiter of what’s too offensive to be protected? The government? No thank you.

  • You’ve demolished a claim no one here ever made.

    The point of this OP was to demonstrate that the idea of free speech has been hijacked by bigots in their campaigns of intimidation against Muslims. The phony frontier individualism that’s the basis for how people approach the matter of speech doesn’t take into account the power dynamics at work; it’s relevant to talk about privileged and marginalized groups when we’re trying to define what’s acceptable and what’s not. “Anything goes” just reinforces oppression.

  • C_Alan_Nault

    “You’ve decided that you have the “right” to offend people”

    I didn’t decide that.It happens to be the law of the land ( here at least).

    If you don’t like that fact,I suggest you try to get the law changed.If that happens,no one will be allowed to say anything.

  • “You’ve decided that you have the “right” to offend people”

    I didn’t decide that.It happens to be the law of the land ( here at least).

    Um, no, it happens to be your tendentious interpretation of the law of the land. It’s an interpretation that validates your evident wish to heap scorn and contempt on people’s closely held beliefs with total impunity.

    If you don’t like that fact,I suggest you try to get the law changed.If that happens,no one will be allowed to say anything.

    More vapid, melodramatic sloganeering that’s not intended to do anything more than make me feel embarrassed that I thought you were equipped for rational adult dialogue.

  • n=2^i – 1

    That’s one of your points, sure. However, you write:

    Touting our right to offend makes us no different than the gun nuts who think shall not be infringed is the be-all and end-all of the matter of firearms regulation in the USA…

    And this seems to suggest that you think “offensive” speech should be regulated. Hence my reply.

  • What I meant is, I never said The government is going to be the arbiter of what is and isn’t offensive speech. That’s the claim you implied I made.

    I’m not saying there need to be laws regulating free speech. I’m not proposing some easy answer to this problem. Once again, all I’m saying is that the idea of free speech has been hijacked by xenophobes, and this should bother us.

  • n=2^i – 1

    It should, and does bother us. And there are many, many outlets that demonstrate this by speeking out against bigotry.

    However, here’s where I think it truely gets complicated: When there are valid criticism of the ideologies of a “marginalized” group, should reasonable people shy away from voicing those criticisms?

  • When there are valid criticism of the ideologies of a “marginalized” group, should reasonable people shy away from voicing those criticisms?

    As I mention in the OP, I think the atheist blogosphere gives itself way too much credit for voicing valid criticism of the ideology of Islam. I don’t see a lot of sober, scholarly, empathetic study of the beliefs or culture of Muslims. I see a lot of cherry-picking of verses from the Koran, and characterizations of Muslims as prone to violence, homophobia, terrorism, and misogyny. The bigoted scaremongering that goes on even here at Patheos Nonreligious doesn’t resemble objective, fair-minded analysis.

    I’d say there’s a world of difference between criticizing the actions of the state of Israel toward its Palestinians and characterizing Islam as a misogynistic death cult that enables terrorism. If someone gets accused of anti-Semitism for the former, there’s a chance that the accusation is just a ploy to silence criticism. If someone gets accused of Islamophobia for the latter, there’s a chance that the accusation is right on the money.

  • n=2^i – 1

    From my observations, both terms (anti-Semite and Islamophobia) function as lazy ad hominems.

  • They can certainly function that way, but it would be wrong to say that that’s all they are. Like I said, I don’t think it’s anti-Semitic to criticize Israel’s actions in Gaza; however, I’ve heard a lot of criticism of Israel (like that the nation “has no right to exist”) that certainly seems anti-Semitic to me.

    Similarly, I think people are well within their rights to point out that there are religious aspects to the way young men are radicalized in the Middle East; however, calling Islam “the motherlode of bad ideas” and the Koran “a manual for terrorists” sounds like textbook examples of Islamophobia. These aren’t opinions about ice cream flavors, these are ways bigots paint foreigners as savages and subhumans.

  • Anat

    [Next to a snippet of Arabic script, the sign reads, “If you can’t read this, thank a Marine.”]

    So, is there really an issue with the sign?

    Yes, it celebrates ignorance. Being able to read in multiple languages and multiple scripts is to be celebrated.

  • taylor_serenil

    My first reaction: I’m pretty damn sure there’s some Marines who speak fluent Arabic because that’s what they grew UP speaking, and I would not be at all surprised if there were also some who learned it as a job deal. I’d like to see what THEIR reaction is to that sign.