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“This post contains material that some people might find disturbing or offensive.”

That was a ‘trigger statement’. We are all aware of them; they preface just about everything on TV, but I’ve just found out what they are called (credit to Clive James). So, like people sometimes do when they’ve discovered something that’s new to them, I think I’m clever and I’m flaunting it.

The sad thing is, in my view (which means that it might not really be a sad thing, only that I think it is), that one has to be so careful these days. It is the job of the media to inform and entertain (opinion again, I haven’t checked official sources to confirm).

As consumers of the media we must be aware that we not only like having our sensibilities shocked, we actually need it if we are to grow intellectually, or simply not die of boredom (OK, I could have said ‘pass away’).

Surely it is also part of the media’s role sometimes to change minds and shape opinions? In general it does a grand job (in most places). Without media coverage we might still be living in the bad old days where homosexuality and abortion were illegal and women couldn’t own property (these are examples, I am not promoting any particular cause or point of view, many other social iniquities have also been corrected, but I recognise that much remains to be done).

Has progress brought with it a pernicious affliction that renders people delicate and over-sensitive? (Any similarity to any persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental). Have we become so likely to overreact that we are unable to see the world around us except through a sanitized veil of protection that has been put there for our own good, just in case, and because we fear offending someone?

I am not suggesting that people who are easily offended are in anyway inferior, at fault or inaedquate. I am saying that I worry that over-protection stifles debate and makes us less robust. It is a counter-effect to that which is intended.

It has always been offensive to deliberately offend. So much so that it is enshrined in law (I am not a lawyer. If you need advice please seek it from a qualified professional). For the law to be invokes one has to prove that offence was intended, or esle that it was so blatant that it could not be interpreted any other way. Feeling offended is insufficient without evidence of intent.

It has rightly been said that offence can be taken where none was intended (Montagu, 2001), but whether we take offence or not is a matter of personal choice (I recognise that frailty might mean some people are unable to exercise this choice, this is not intended as criticism).

Reference

Montagu, A.,(2001) The Anatomy of Swearing, Penn Press, Philadelphia.

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