Notes on the „freedom to offend“

Cunning Hired Knaves

What shape does offence take? How do you distinguish offence from other emotions and affects? It’s common to imagine that people carry out murders, and, in the case of Charlie Hebdo, a massacre, because they were „offended“ by something that got said, something published. But what if such people aren’t offended at all? If you’re going to riddle someone with bullets, wouldn’t your threshold for material that is hard to take need to be fairly low to begin with?

Then there is the attribution of „rage“, cf „The Roots of Muslim Rage“ by Bernard Lewis. But if you’re going to plan a massacre at a magazine publisher it probably isn’t rage you require, but dispassionate calm. Those calling for widespread reproduction of Charlie Hebdo cartoons -and particularly the ones they have telepathically identified as the root of the offence- seem to think that this is the last thing the killers…

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