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Different kinds of 'offense'

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    Whenever a debate about whether an action should be condemned because of the 'offense' it causes to others arises, someone often chips in with 'everything is offensive to someone, we can't judge our actions based on who gets upset about it'.

    Which made me wonder, are there different kinds of offense and should they be considered seperately? If offense the issue at all, or should we judge an action by it's intended consequences (i.e. whether it was meant to be offensive or not)?

    Take these examples:

    1) Someone refers to a person by a racial slur and states that all people of that demographic are undesireable in some way.

    "You're just a filthy paki, why not go back to the desert and live in a mud hut where you belong"

    The individual and their community (or what is percieved to be their community) is targetted and comments are made that are both generalisations and insulting.

    2) Someone dresses up as a stereotype of another demographic and makes exaggerated gestures to emphasise the cultural/behavioural/etc differences.

    Men's football team goes out on social dressed in drag and many of them affect a 'feminine' accent for the evening.

    Perhaps it is intended to mock women (or perhaps trans/cross-dressing individuals) or perhaps it is intended to raise a laugh simply because it is so unlike what the men concerned would normally do. Some might find it upsetting because it's based firmly in stereotype but if it's not intended to upset or insult, is it bad?

    3) Someone disagrees with the beliefs of another and claims such beliefs are weak/stupid/ignorant or otherwise poorly formed.

    "I think veganism is stupid - we evolved to eat meat and animals eat each other in the wild all the time. It's clearly just ignorance and sentimentality that makes people vegan."

    The intent is perhaps not to insult vegans, but as their beliefs are considered weak by the dissenting individual, it is inferred that vegans themselves are perhaps stupid or ignorant.

    4) An idea is challenged in a rational and considered way

    "I don't see how God can exist, at least in the omnipotent-omnibenevolent-omnipresent-omniscient form. Surely if God had these qualities, there would be no harm or evil in the world? Even the 'free will' argument fails to justify this as 'free will' is not truly free - we are still limited by our minds and bodies - and we could be have created in a manner that prevented us from hurting others. And if the need for 'free will' in humans was so great, but so much harm would be done as a result, why did God create us at all?"

    The idea is attacked but at no point are the believers of the idea brought into the argument. No-one says 'religious people are stupid', but if the idea is attacked, perhaps the inference that those who agree with the idea are ignorant or thick is made?

    5) Someone acts against the beliefs of those in their presence in a manner that directly affects those people.

    Someone serves a Muslim pork, fully knowing they will not eat it for cultural/religious reasons.

    The beliefs of the individual have been willfully ignored and they are expected to act against their beliefs or suffer as a result. Tricky one this. Does it depend on the beliefs in question? Serving someone pork who has expressed they are not willing to eat it for philosophical or cultural reasons is effectively saying that their beliefs and their values are not worth considering. However, what if the belief in question conflicts with the philosophical belief of others? Aside from 'the law prevails', do we have any way of determining the respectful and considerate course of action when beliefs go head to head?

    6) Someone acts against the beliefs of another but does not directly involve them

    A vegan sits down for dinner in non-vegan company and is served a vegan meal. However, their companions all eat meat, knowing the vegan believes that killing animals is unethical.

    Similar to cases where religious figures are drawn by cartoonists, despite the religion involved holding the belief that their deity/prophet/etc should not be depicted. The beliefs of someone are respected (i.e. they are not put in a position where they are asked to change their behaviour) but a boundary is put between that individuals conduct and the conduct of others.

    In all of these examples, someone may be offended. However, only in some examples is the offense meant and only in some examples is the individual directly insulted or descriminated against, while in others the intention is not to insult or upset. Is ignorance a defense ('I didn't realise that my behaviour was mocking or insulting') and is intent a defense ('I know how this looks, but I don't mean to upset you, even though I can see why I have')?

    My feeling is that we should not condone behaviour that is insulting or descriminatory - racism, sexism, abelism, homophobia, transphobia, etc that makes a clear statement that 'these people are not worth as much as others'. We should also not condone descrimination that is based on differences - 'I won't treat you in the way I treat others because of who you are. I don't think you're worse, but I think your differences (percieved or real) mean you shouldn't get the same treatment, even if you disagree'. What about behaviour that 'accidentaly' mocks someone? Should we let it be as insult was not the intent or should we try and educate the accidental mocker that their 'fun' is at the expense of someone else, and that if they are considerate they should be aware of how their actions appear to others? There is also the issue of 'deserved insults' - someone throws rubbish in your garden, you call them a ****. Deserved? Well, they were not considerate to you at all! However, maybe they can't help that - they are the way they are and some people seem fundamentally incapable of change. Is someone's psychology a 'protected characteristic' in the way that sex, race, gender, sexuality, etc are? If not, why not? After all, we can't help the brains we're born with.

    What about 'live and let live' - I'll do my thing, you do your's and we're all good? Does respect for the beliefs of others mean we have to conform to them to some degree? To what extent should we expect others to conform to our beliefs, or is it simply a case of 'as long as it's legal'? How should the law be determined - moral discourse or simply public opinion? Can we have an immoral democracy?

    I know this is long and basicly a list of questions (some only loosely related to the title) without much in the way of answers. It's late, I'm tired, etc. Anyway, what do you lot think?
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    Well, I read it all, but it's late, so I'll make a simple reply.

    Where there is intent to cause outrage with no other agenda, that is wrong.

    However, where there is intent to cause offense, but in the service of a greater point, such as Draw Mohammed Day, that is ok.

    Where there is offense without intent, such as mocking someone with certain phrases, or dressing as a stereotype, you can make your offense known.

    But at the end of the day, we should not ban things because they are offensive. We should not afford people special liberties based on how strongly they believe something. As such I often find Religious and Race related 'hate' laws insulting in themselves, they are effectivley elevating certain discriminations against others.
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    Katy Perry recorded the song ''Your so gay'' it sounds homophobic but of course she was using the other more fashionable version of the word meaning anything generally bad. If you think that's offensive, you should just Jew off and stop being so bloody black about it!
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    Hi all, I have found myself asking these questions myself, I am doing a degree at Uni and our class is mixed to say the least as we have different age ranges from 18 to 51 not including our lecturer, we have different nationalities, language barriers and different cultures and religions in so I find myself on edge with every debate we have as almost everything I say as a young women is slang or seen as offensive by someone somewhere, like I often say "oh my god" then I cringe to myself, I find myself being fake and thinking before I speak so not to offend anyone, but isn't this in itself offending myself as I am not allowing the real me to come across, everything is so PC and red taped, I find I adapt myself to almost every group of people I interact with from staff, to student members to lecturers and family. WHYYYY DO WE DO THIS TO OURSELVES?
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    (Original post by nattbat_123)
    WHYYYY DO WE DO THIS TO OURSELVES?
    That awkward moment when someone suddenly realises what is wrong with political correctness.
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    (Original post by Steevee)
    Well, I read it all, but it's late, so I'll make a simple reply.

    Where there is intent to cause outrage with no other agenda, that is wrong.

    However, where there is intent to cause offense, but in the service of a greater point, such as Draw Mohammed Day, that is ok.

    Where there is offense without intent, such as mocking someone with certain phrases, or dressing as a stereotype, you can make your offense known.

    But at the end of the day, we should not ban things because they are offensive. We should not afford people special liberties based on how strongly they believe something. As such I often find Religious and Race related 'hate' laws insulting in themselves, they are effectivley elevating certain discriminations against others.
    a purpose is merely a reason for offense not the end point, hence even if there's a purpose it may merely be there as a shield to allow the offense.
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    "they attacked our country and we found that offensive"
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    Being offended is a choice, it's a fault with that person, not with the one who 'offended' them. It is used now primarily to stop conversations and debate going in a direction they cannot handle, it has no real meaning in my opinion.
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    Nothing happens if one gets offended. Your head doesn't fall off, puppies continue to live, and it's very seldom that people spontaneously combust because of an offense. Surely on this basis we should be mature enough to not have laws about causing offence?

    I understand it's not socially desirable to offend people, and I think most of us would abhor it for that reason - but even the intent to offend cannot be universally wrong; it's basically a Nietzschean method of critique.

    If people are offended then it's unfortunate - the correct response is to say "I believe you are wrong, and I will demonstrate why with the use of logic, facts, and reasoned arguments" not to run off crying and demand apologies, ice cream and special treatment for the future.
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    (Original post by Stratos)
    a purpose is merely a reason for offense not the end point, hence even if there's a purpose it may merely be there as a shield to allow the offense.
    But you must not deny a point for sake of 'offense'. Draw Mohammed Day being a case and point.

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