In Defense of Offense

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Not all offensive content online is REALLY offensive.

I was warned. I was also scolded.
I posted a meme to a Facebook group, and although the vast majority of responses I received were positive, there were two people who found it offensive.
Now, I didn’t make the meme. My crime is finding it amusing enough to want to share it. The problem is that not everyone liked it, and even though the two who didn’t were in the minority, the meme was pulled.
That, pardon my French, is bullshit.
Let me explain.
Social media was born in the era of Political Correctness, so it’s not surprising that people were much nicer to each other during its infancy. Of course, there were a lot less people on it at that point as well.
When social media grew up, it started to change. OK, social media didn’t actually grow up as much as it, well, grew. Astoundingly fast.
And when something grows too big, and too fast, a lot of undesirable elements are swept along with it. Which brings us to the social media of today.
It’s big. It’s fast. Today’s social media is also highly influential. And highly sensationalized.
Thus, it’s no surprise that everyone is looking for an audience to hear that very important thing that they have to say. Because of course, we all do, don’t we?
Influencers, trolls, provocateurs, social justice warriors (SJWs), informers, mis-informers and dis-informers–just some of the voices fighting to be heard. Even though many of them should not be heard at all.
Many of the above post things to irritate, insult, infuriate or manipulate. Yet, they continue on, unencumbered by respect, ethics, morals or truth.
Much of what they say is indeed, offensive.
Yet, they have every right to do so, provided the platforms on which they broadcast their thoughts allow them. It’s not bigotry, censorship or political action for a private sector company (all social media platforms are) to pull a post, block a user or close their account. That’s their right.
The Fifth Amendment is alive and well.
For me, I just wanted to share a meme. And I got taken to the woodshed for it. Was it to get attention? I suppose so, but I also thought people would like it (OK, Full disclosure: I also wrote this post and hope you read it. Look at me!).
Racist rants, bigoted bellicosity, political posturing, or any other posts that insult, marginalize, threaten or indict an entire group of people should be excised from the internet like a cancer.
What I posted was not any of those things.
Now if you know football–or even if you don’t–you know Tom Brady. I shared this before he announced his retirement, hence the punchline rang true, which was "Tom Brady Sucking the life out of a child so he can continue to play football" (if you want to see it, you need to Google it because of copyright restrictions.)
So, is it offensive? It's an image of Tom Brady kissing his own child, a tender moment caught on camera. Adding the words is what made it funny, again knowing Tom Brady and how long he has played football at such a high level.
Alas, adding the words is what made a couple people find it very unfunny. My assumption is that because the words suggest the child is being hurt, the two people got upset.
Bite me.
This is an example of a fundamental flaw in social media behavior. Everyone wants to be the Thought Police–and some act on it. If they don’t like something, regardless of how harmless it is, they’ll find a way (like platform moderation) to have it removed.
Again, this meme does not target groups of people who are insulted, harassed, threatened or even killed every day. It’s a sports joke! So where do we draw the line?
Under the criteria I have laid out, a line cannot be drawn. Lines are drawn by people, which makes the enforcement of such lines (rules) impossible by nature. Because even platform moderators have opinions, hence the reason why the meme was taken down.
There are always going to be people who dislike posts that don’t conform to their ideals. In short, someone is always going to be offended. That doesn’t mean they should be able to deny enjoyment of that post to millions of others who will like it.
So, what’s the alternative? Simple. We do what we did before social media came along; we stop looking.
We don’t eat foods we don’t like, but they exist. We don’t associate with people we don’t like, but they are still out there. This concept applies to millions of things I don’t like, but I also know there are millions of people who do. Let them eat cake!
I mean, you can be a cranky Karen, but it’s so exhausting! How much time and energy do you want to expend to take a post down just because you don’t like it? If you don’t like it, you don’t have to look.
Trying to change the world to our own individual liking would be a lengthy, frustrating and ultimately hopeless task. Me, I’d rather watch TV and eat potato chips.
Of course, you’re free to express your opinions on whatever you encounter online that is arbitrarily offensive, but leave the post alone. C’mon, have you ever considered the fact that’s it’s just you, Bubba?
It’s your voice. Use it wisely.

Submitted: February 02, 2023

© Copyright 2023 JL Wolf. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:


olive tree

Interesting perspective. I fundamentally agree with you. "Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so" and "rules are created by the governors, for the governors"... So to derive authority from your sense of self is the first healthy step one can take in this toxic culture. good essay.

Fri, February 3rd, 2023 10:16pm


Thank you! Love your Hamlet reference, so true.

Fri, February 3rd, 2023 3:24pm


Well written article. You describe what a difficult task it is for us to know where to draw the proverbial line and what reactions, if any, are the responsibilities of the greater society.

Sat, February 4th, 2023 11:19am


Thank you! I'm glad you found it worthwhile.

Mon, February 6th, 2023 6:48am

Bert Broomberg

An interesting essay. You made some good points. Freedom of speech is rapidly becoming an endangered species.

Wed, February 22nd, 2023 8:52pm


Thank you. I support some regulation, but we've gone off the deep end as far as what we can and cannot say. I don't recall it being illegal to offend someone. To me, being offended has always been my problem.

Wed, February 22nd, 2023 1:32pm

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