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Offense-Taking In The Skeptical Community

11/29/11

Permalink 03:15:39 am, by Ritchie Annand Email , 815 words   English (CA)
Categories: Thoughts, Common Sense, Internet, People

Offense-Taking In The Skeptical Community

I've had it - I've just had it.

The skeptical community has always had its ups and downs, but of late, many corners of the skeptical community have turned taking offense into an art form.

One phrase that is often lauded by skeptics, including me, is "nobody has the right not to be offended". It is at the heart of fighting things like blasphemy laws and cutting at peoples' sacred cows and superstitions.

Now, this is not to say you cannot rip into people for dumb, ignorant or vicious crap. If you blame rape victims or dehumanize any group through racist slurs or violent fantasies, you deserve to get your gonads ripped off. Skeptics' responses vary from high road to Road Warrior.

...but these days, in some of the most brazen displays of claiming "the right not to be offended", the reactions even to things read in to what people say is completely hair-trigger and not only sidetracks everyone into taking sides for and against whoever is reacting, it puts people even more on edge in what appears to be some sort of cycle.

...

Story about Governor Sam Brownback's staff forcing a school principal to force a student to recant their "#heblowsalot" comments on Twitter. Great fodder for commentary - how dare they?

Third comment in:

Sam Brownback: #heblowsalot.

So, homophobic imagery is alright as long as it goes against a wannabe theocrat?

My jaw... dropped.

A blog post talking about this apt analogy of faith versus science using cute little bunnies.

Second comment in:

Please tell me that in the above, it isn’t the little girl rabbit who is brainlessly insisting on believing the box whereas the intelligent little boy rabbit bravely insist on working out the solution for himself.

Because that would truly suck.

In some ways, these would be fine if they stopped there - but they don't. It's been months upon months of hundreds of comments of people competing for the title of most offended.

It would make a great Monty Python skit if only it weren't so soul-sucking.

Then there's Gelatogate, where the Christian owner of a gelato store went to Skepticon IV, saw the mildly funny but definitely shocking Sam Singleton in the midst of making fun of religion: "Can I get a god-damn!?" Crowd: "God-damn" who runs back to their store, and puts up a sign in the heat of the moment saying "Skepticon attendees NOT welcome at this Christian business" but took it down when cooler heads prevailed and pieced together a series of apologies, like this:

Hello, my name is Andy and I’m the owner of Gelato Mio, a gelato shop located in Springfield, Missouri. There has been quite a lot of buzz and discussion concerning a picture of the sign I briefly posted in my front window Saturday evening. I’d like to take this opportunity to tell my story and offer a heartfelt apology to your community. I messed up, plain and simple. This is NOT an excuse, but how it happened from my perspective.

Read the rest of it.

I'm truly inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt, even just based on simple empathy for his story - I can see how it happened, and the apology admitted more than I would typically expect. It's hard to admit fault.

But it wasn't good enough for a lot of skeptics, some of which will never forgive him. He didn't mention learning that violating religious freedoms is wrong. He was only concerned because he got caught. He only cares about money. Hope he goes out of business - heh, heh, heh. Atheists suffer at the hands of Christians all the time. We could have done so much worse to him; he's lucky.

For &#$*'s sake, what do these people want? I'd even be inclined to argue the point a little more nicely, if not for all the self-righteous offense-taking.

I'm going to sign off with one more personal beef. Yes, I have a freezerful.

The word "retard". Those born in the 70s - you know the word - the word you used repeatedly in school, and it was on its way to being meaninglessly general, until the really weird political correctness movements - I swear, the very same ones that instituted "no-fail" policies in schools - saved it from the brink and raised our consciousness about the term all over again.

Ever called anyone an idiot? Or a moron? Has anyone swatted your ear for insulting those with mental disabilities when you do? Idiot started out as a technical term, got adopted as a nasty pejorative - as did moron and imbecile - and then eventually lost their edge.

It's been over 30 years. Please let "retarded" and "retard" go down this same path. We need consciousness-lowering, not a shocked termination of the conversation and a lecture when someone has the temerity to say "Ugh, I feel like such a tard".

Also, $#*! tone trolls.

Love,

Ritchie

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