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Linz's New Book
Who Should Be the Republican Nominee?
Total votes: 7
Radio Pacific Editorial, Wed Aug 8
Submitted by Lindsay Perigo on Wed, 2007-08-08 09:12
The most offensive thing about contemporary public debate is that it’s deemed to be so offensive to cause offence! This is the Age of Umbrage. Umbrage—the taking of offence. It is the first, second and last resort of evil-doers. Call them evil, and they repair to their hurt feelings. End of discussion. End of the challenge to evil. Flying a plane into a building is an understandable expression of Muslims’ hurt feelings—calling those who support it “Islamofascists” hurts their feelings, and is unacceptable—”hate speech,” soon likely to be made a crime. Umbrage is now an art form and a legal bludgeon. It’s already illegal to make utterances deemed conducive to racial disharmony—strictly speaking, those who described child abuse as a “Maori problem” were breaching the law. Soon it will be illegal to say what I am saying now. Religious zealots will be able to close me down on the basis of their hurt feelings. Never mind whether what I say is the truth.
In this Age of Umbrage it’s perfectly OK for the Ayatollah Khomeini to issue a fatwa—death order—against Salman Rushdie: he hurt the feelings of Muslims, after all. When Rushdie points out that freedom of speech is nothing without the freedom to offend, no one—least of all the West—takes any notice. In this country, all media who published the Danish cartoons, except my own magazine, apologised for the offence they had caused. Nauseating. Treacherous.
William Lloyd Garrison, the great anti-slavery campaigner, was not afraid to ruffle feathers and hurt feelings. For 35 years he fulminated fulsomely in his weekly, The Liberator. He stopped only after the signing of the 13th amendment abolishing slavery. In his first issue, he wrote of slavery:
"On this subject I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. No! No! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest; I will not equivocate; I will not retreat a single inch; and I will be heard."
He was heard, all right! So ardently did he attack the defenders of slavery that he was jailed once for libel, almost lynched twice and had a bounty on his head of $5000 from the legislature of Georgia who wanted to try him for sedition. The Liberator was outlawed in many states, with jail for anyone subscribing.
Samuel May, a friend and fellow-abolitionist, once entreated him to be more temperate. "O, my friend, do try to moderate your indignations, and keep more cool; why, you are all on fire." Looking him straight in the eye, Garrison replied: "Brother May, I have need to be all on fire, for I have mountains of ice about me to melt."
If only we had politicians and media imbued with this spirit, intent on melting ice. Instead, their primary concern is to avoid causing offence—especially to the evil, such as Islamofascists and Mordi racists, and the apologists for evil, such as the New Zealand Herald and Campbell Live. That’s why evil is winning. That’s why freedom of speech is not long for this country.
While we still have it, offend a fascist a day—and keep the Thought Police at bay!
Note: In discussing related matters with me, Mitch came up with a new Linzism: DOHUT: Drop-of-the-hat umbrage-taker. I endorse it heartily.
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