Appropriate Responses To Being Offended
There have been a lot of great cartoons made in response to the murders of Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, writers and security personnel this week. This cartoon is obviously inspired by those events. But novelist William Gibson tweeted an interesting observation:
That sad apprehension that even the most horrific terrorist acts are basically no more than a form of trolling.
— William Gibson (@GreatDismal) January 8, 2015
The cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo were master trollers, if you want to look at their provocations that way. They certainly had no compunction offending people. Those of us who spend too much time online — and that is an increasing portion of the global population — or spend too much time watching cable news or too much time in extreme places of worship or too much time in MMPORGs have a minute-by-minute exposure to ideas, expressions and images that will offend us. There are those who would argue that “you have no right to not be offended” — fair enough. But trollers have no right to not face the outrage of the people they have offended. A fundamental part of free speech is its role in fostering debate. Unfortunately there are elements in our society — murderous terrorists, but also white supremacists who bomb NAACP headquarters and the #gamergate idiots who drive women out of their homes with violent threats to rape and kill them — who don’t seem to get that threatening the lives of others is not a legitimate part of the argument. Disagree — be disagreeable! — but don’t forget your humanity.