Go Out And Get Offended

People should be able to say stupid things without being told it’s their fault they were attacked by crazy extremists

This is bad advice.

Getting offended is a part of life.

No, getting offended is a valuable part of life.

Without being offensive, no one would listen to Howard Stern, Piers Morgan wouldn’t have 4.4 million Twitter followers, and Chelsea Handler and Wendy Williams never would have risen to prominence with major television shows.

Offensiveness has been getting a bad rap lately on a lot of fronts, but recently made a strange, somewhat incongruous appearance after a shooting by Muslim extremists at a ‘draw Mohammad cartoons’ event put on by Pamela Geller. Rather than defending Geller’s free speech and condemning the terrorist wannabe-ISIS members, outlets like the New York Times and commentators have taken the yes-but approach. ‘Sure, Geller has the right to do and say these things, but should she? Doesn’t she invite this type of reaction?’

My exchange with CNN contributor Marc Lamont Hill a couple days ago:

Look — Pamela Geller is objectionable. So what? Lots of people and things are objectionable. Don’t go to her events. Ignore her. Being objectionable has nothing to do with what happened in Garland. They shouldn’t even be in the same sentence.

Far more objectionable than Geller are people who shoot others because of words or drawings.

This is also bad advice.

And also more objectionable than Geller (although still less objectionable than the people who shoot others because of words or drawings) are the apologists, who justify violent, criminal lunacy.

This tacit terror rationalization is a problem both on the left and the right — and that’s exactly what happens when you juxtapose the belief that Geller and her ideas are offensive with the shooting that occurred at her event precisely because of those ideas.

Take what happened in Baltimore on Saturday. A protester wearing a “F*** The Police” shirt approached cops after curfew and was pepper-sprayed and brutally detained. Now, generally I find “F*** The Police” shirts, especially while around dozens of police, to be objectionable and provoking. But bringing up objections to the sentiment on his shirt in the context of how he was treated by police leads to the feeling that I would be somehow justifying this police action. These conversations don’t belong together.

Much of the Geller backlash has centered on her target: Muslims. But, as Bill Maher says, it is “the soft bigotry of low expectations” to think drawing Mohammad will automatically lead to violent action by anyone of the Islamic faith. Something can be offensive and be ignored, or even condemned. But it is only Islamic extremists who resort to violence in response to this form of free speech — like we saw in Paris at Charlie Hebdo — and it is Islamic extremist apologists who shake their head and mutter ‘well what did they expect?’

Offensive content is all around us. Change the channel, avoid the website… just shake it the hell off. It takes a fundamental lack of respect for our First Amendment to want to silence those you disagree with or find offensive. But it’s happening more often.

Much has been written about the regression of college students’ open-mindedness recently — a group that at one time was all about new ideas. College students: if you’re a Republican, go see Michael Moore speak. If you’re a Democrat, go see Dick Cheney speak. Take classes way out of your comfort zone. (When I was at Syracuse University, I specifically sought out a class taught by one of conservative author David Horowitz’ “Most Dangerous Professors.” It was all good.)

Follow people you strongly disagree with on Twitter. I find some of what Peter Feld and Glenn Greenwald tweet about Israel to be offensive, but they’re good people to follow (and good people, just in general — having met both in person, you can get along fine with people who hold certain belief you find to be objectionable or offensive).

Go get offended. Embrace it. Drink it up. Laugh at people who bristle at the notion. They’re weak. They’re petty. They’re provincial, thin-skinned scolds. You’re better. You get offended too, but then you exhale and move on with your life.

Because what’s infinitely worse than those who offend are offendees who try to shut offenders up. Or who try to shoot them.