Opinion: Taking offence for all the wrong reasons

The pressing need to create an existential crisis on every topic has gripped both our media outlets and social media sites. Serious words have been stripped of all meaning.

It’s impossible to have a practical discussion on any topic on social media. Some outlets, in an effort to be heard and seen above the cacophony, have resorted to inflammatory words and expressions on nearly every topic.

Offence appears to be the only thing growing faster than inflammatory words.

In July 2017, a woman attending a baseball game in Atlanta (I presume her first Major League game) tweeted a picture of three letter Ks in sequence on the upper deck of the stadium, outraged about the implications. She didn’t ask anyone with her what this represented, she just assumed it was a reference to the Ku Klux Klan. Of course, anyone familiar with baseball would know that in scoring, a K represents a strikeout.

Her response when a black man responded to her tweet indicating he wasn’t offended?

“You must not care about your race as much as I care about yours.”

Beyond the poor grammar, how insane does this need to get before we all stand back and say enough is enough?

Racism exists way more than many people are willing to acknowledge. But searching it out and decrying innocent topics doesn’t improve the dialogue.

In 2017, neo-Nazis claimed to be offended by the video game, Wolfenstein 2, since it had the hero shooting Nazis. If you self-identify as a neo-Nazi, you can’t claim Godwin’s law when people lump you in with Hitler and the Nazis.

Our political discourse is even worse. Not only do all political parties use inflammatory hyperbole and claim a catastrophe lurks around every corner, they’ve elected to operate in a world devoid of facts and real information. If someone states forcefully enough that something is true, then their followers will repeat it as dogma.

When the Conservatives were in power in Canada, Liberal supporters were outraged that the government ran a deficit. Conservative supporters’ views on the topic were somewhat more sanguine. Once the Liberals were elected, party members had no issue with a deficit and Conservatives were apoplectic.

In early January, the RCMP issued an ultimatum to protestors in B.C. who are attempting to block the construction of a pipeline for liquefied natural gas. The protestors called it “an act of war.”

But an act of war indicates a situation between two sovereign nation states. And the leaders of the First Nation protesting approved of the project. So who is this act of war against and why use words like that?

You can oppose the pipeline or the RCMP’s intervention without saying things that are inaccurate and simply inflammatory. Just say what you mean and leave off the attention-seeking hyperbole.

People are so easily offended (on the right and left) that their instinctive response is to seek out an offensive interpretation of anything said by an opponent. We attempt to outdo each other in a race to be horrified by what the other said.

Engaging in discussions on serious topics with people today is like watching professional soccer – touch a player and he suddenly falls to the ground, writhing in agony. I prefer Canadian soccer star Christine Sinclair’s response to injurious situations. In 2011, after having her nose broken by an accidental elbow, she put on a protective mask and returned to the game.

In a 2005 issue of the Guardian, the brilliant Stephen Fry wrote: “It’s now very common to hear people say, ‘I’m rather offended by that.’ As if that gives them certain rights. It’s actually nothing more … than a whine. ‘I find that offensive.’ It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘I am offended by that.’ Well, so what!”

Troy Media columnist Eamonn Brosnan is a research associate with Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

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