Taking offence

Beck Eleven writes in The Press:

In his book, author argues it is all too easy to give offence. Not only that, but we practically leap at the opportunity to take it.

On Offence: The politics of indignation is King’s first book. Using popular culture examples, he explains how the cycle of giving and taking offence works to shut down debate and democracy.

“The determination to give offence matches the determination to take it,” he writes.

I reviewed his book a year or so ago. It is very good.

“Newspapers have less money these days,” King says. “And let’s face it, it’s cheap, easy copy and it’s copy people want to read. Some sections of the media almost drum up offence. You don’t have to pay a reporter to go to the Ukraine, these types of stories keep generating.”

Among other things, the book examines political correctness, an American pastor bent on burning the Quran, the Tea Party, religious and racist battles.

Finding examples for the book were everywhere.

“If you try to keep abreast of them all, you find yourself sinking beneath them. Offence and indignation are fantastically ubiquitous.”

One only need turn to social media or an online news story to find outrage.

“Comments hang on the end of them like seaweed. It doesn’t matter what an article is on, comments turn very abusive. Road rage is gone and internet rage is here.

So true.

As New Zealanders approach the general election, much of what King says about offence shutting down debate will start to ring a bell.

“The taking and giving of offence is a form of political currency. These days somebody only has to say something is offensive and that is deemed to be their whole argument although no real argument has actually been made.

“The way offence and offendedness is whipped up and weaponised strikes me as being almost corrosive of genuine civility.

“It ends up being more like ‘you have been offensive to me, therefore I am going to grant myself leave to something incredibly offensive back’.

“Offence is bad for democracy because it is treated as an argument in itself.”

His key reasoning in the book is that there is no right not to be offended.

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