Sorry You Weren’t Offended

This is True has tackled the issue of people choosing to be offended on a number of occasions (such as in the tagline of this story).

Most times, of course, the offended are complaining about a story, not embracing it. On most of those occasions, when someone is writing to complain how they’ve chosen to be offended by something I said (or, often, didn’t say!), I’ll often get an amusing response from other readers — the ones who don’t unsubscribe in protest.

The Ones Who Get It

They’ll “complain” that I haven’t offended them yet. I need to try harder, or slaughter more sacred cows, or whatever. And they’re often serious. (Others are more tongue in cheek, saying they have a Premium subscription and a free one, so that they can indignantly unsubscribe from the free edition in protest — but still be able to read the Premium edition.)

Just before going to bed Saturday night after dinner out with friends, I checked the This is True page on Facebook and noticed that it had nearly 6,000 “Likes” (or “fans” as they were called in the old days). So as I went to bed I was wondering what to do in the morning to celebrate the 6,000th fan.

By morning it was well over 6,000, and I had my response ready. I whipped up a graphic to post what I said was a “very heartfelt message”:

For the visually or graphically impaired, the bold graphic is titled “My Most Sincere Apologies” and says, “In the past 18 years, This is True® has run many controversial stories, and more recently, quite a few thought-provoking posts on Facebook. If I have failed to offend you personally yet, please remain patient: there are many more stories and posts to come. Thank you.” It’s signed “The Proprietor, ThisIsTrue.com”.

I knew a lot of people would get a chuckle, but I was astounded by the response. There were 100 “Likes” in the first 15 minutes, and nearly 700 in the first 24 hours (that’s definitely a lot; most don’t bother to click “Like” even if they do like it).

Even more amazing to me was that dozens “Shared” the graphic on their own Facebook pages. That was totally unexpected. (The original post is here if you’d like to share it yourself.)

Then the Comments

What I did expect was some very thoughtful comments, and I wasn’t at all disappointed. I wanted to share a few of those comments with you — from the non-offended and the offended alike.

“I’ve been reading This is True for so many years now..it just seems like part of the lexicon of my life…and writing this comment I just realized why This is True doesn’t go by its acronym…ever! 🙂 Randy if you are ever in Eugene, OR, look me up..I would like to buy you a beer.” —Peri, Oregon

At the risk of offending, Peri, I’d rather you upgraded to Premium than buy me a beer. Less fattening for me, and helps to ensure True can continue! Premium is something like 85% of True’s income, and thus vital to its survival. (Peri later replied, “You are right…and I still want to buy you a beer. Looking forward to 2 years of Premium content!”)

And yeah, I use “TRUE” for short.

“Unlike most when they complain I think that when I’m offended by something you write I will finally get a paid subscription, instead of unsubscribing in a pouty tiff!” —Mark, California

(I told Mark he’s “WAY too ugly and stupid to follow up on that threat!” but he replied, “You’re going to have to work a lot harder to offend me. But thanks for trying.” Damn! 🙂 )

and…

“Randy, lotsa luck. I’m really not so easily offended, and while I have raised an eyebrow on an occasional post or story, being actually offended is too much effort. Unlike many in this point of history, I don’t see power in being offended or angry. (and that’s, frankly, why I think these people choose to be offended and angry). Anyway, keep tryin’, and I’ll keep readin’. When you accomplish your goal, I’ll be the first to let you know. Deal?” —Teresa, Louisiana

This and other comments below are examples of thinking first, and reacting later (if at all).

A Better Choice

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.” My version of that: “No one can offend you without your permission.” Surely it’s better to “learn something important about myself” and understand that “If my opinions cannot withstand a bit of offense, they are not worth holding” than to whine and mope and …well… act like an obliviot when someone runs up against your own biases.

It’s really cool so many said they doubted they could be offended. I’m still striving for that! I’m still at where many others are: they definitely can be offended, but rather than blame the messenger, they look inward to see what’s going on, and address their own insecurities or beliefs first. If they still disagree, fine: they know there will be another story they will like.

I’ve said I’m not a pessimist, but rather “a frustrated optimist.” And that is why I’m still an optimist: because there are people out there who can think, and grow, and make the world a better place, rather than whiny jerks who not only demand to be offended, but demand to have someone else to blame when they have chosen offense.

No one can offend you without your permission. When you’re offended, look within to figure out why. There’s growth there.

– – –

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26 Comments on “Sorry You Weren’t Offended

  1. About once a month I read a story and think, “I should have been offended by that, but damn it, he’s right.”

    Keep trying. 🙂

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  2. If you are never offended, you probably aren’t paying attention.

    Have I been offended? Yes…but so what? If my opinions cannot withstand a bit of offense, they are not worth holding. You prod, agitate, provoke, and yes, offend. But you also entertain, you engage, and you encourage conversation. Would that more people offended me the way you do!!!

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  3. Should This is True manage to offend me, I will have learned something important about myself. Generally it isn’t Randy or This is True I find offensive but the people that manage to get themselves written about in This is True.

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  4. I’ve been reading your newsletter for years now, and I must tell you that there have been more than a few times that I’ve been offended by something you’ve written. You know what though? Those are the times that really make me think.

    You and I have different perspectives politically, but I really do appreciate the points of view you bring to my attention. Keep it up, our society needs debates like these to keep it alive. Thanks!

    I don’t know if you can actually tell what my political perspective is (other than being anti-stupid, no matter what the party), but that’s part of the point. -rc

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  5. I’ve probably said this before in response to one of your posts so forgive me if you’ve heard it before. I learned many years ago that taking offense at anything is a choice. One we are very much in control of. I’m rarely offended at anything because of that knowledge. I enjoy your column and your posts because I welcome the opportunity to think, to learn and even to see things from another point of view.

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  6. While I don’t always agree with your positions, I have never been offended. The reasons for your opposing opinions seem to be logical, coherent, and make me think. I think taking offense is a sign of conceit-believing your own opinion is the only one that counts. More power to you, Randy!

    The interesting thing (to me) is, I rarely take a position (ZT is the most notable exception). So the question is, are you perceiving a position that’s not actually there? Because often (such as the Sarah Palin story linked in the second paragraph), people sometimes have thought so, and were totally wrong. -rc

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  7. In the (I want to say) 10 years I’ve been reading TRUE, I’ve never been offended by your stories. Stories that might be offensive to others are more thought-provoking than offensive. Even if I don’t always agree with your tag (which I know is not your position but your method of provoking thought or humor, or both), I find the tags that I don’t agree with the ones that provide the most thought.

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  8. Like Anne in Reno, I’ve disagreed with your position on (or, rather, interpretation of) a few stories. But how can making me think about issues from a different perspective be offensive?

    I guess some people don’t like to admit that there might be viewpoints other than their own, that might be equally valid.

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  9. I’d say the fact that you don’t take a position is generally what triggers those that decide to be offended, albeit in a roundabout fashion. Your lack of a position isn’t condemning that which they feel should be condemned, or it isn’t supporting something that they feel should be supported, so it seems to them that you are doing the opposite. I regularly run in to the same thing, and my words have a much smaller audience than yours. 🙂

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  10. For some years I’ve been looking forward every week to This is True. I have agreed with your rants about ZT (I’m a SPED teacher), and disagreed with some of the things you’ve posted (OK, so I can’t think of any right now, but I’m sure it’s happened). However, in order to offend me you would have to stop thinking and start posting thoughtless-knee-jerk reactions to the stories you post. I don’t believe that is within you. You may surprise me yet, but I have a suspicion that you won’t.

    Congrats on your 6,000 and may it grow for years to come!

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  11. Having chuckled at your free edition for several years, (directed there by Quinion’s “world wide words”) I thought it only fair to subscribe. So I have taken out a two year subscription through Amazon. However, if you fail to offend me during the two year full subscription, I may renew it. You have been warned!

    That’s an awful lot of pressure, but I’ll bloody well try! -rc

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  12. I definitely can be offended. And you can be certain that you have done so. The catch is, I don’t admit it. It gives other people leverage over me. I teach my students, “You cannot control the things that happen to you, but you can control your reaction to them. Never blame YOUR reactions on somebody else.”

    Learn to project the buttons you WANT people to push, the ones they think they see, but don’t bother you. That way, they miss the ones that are better hidden; the ones that do bother you. Give them a standard reaction; all the while remaining in control of yourself.

    And, Randy, thank you for sharing one from Deepak Chopra, something on the order of, “If you take things personally, you will be offended all of your life.”

    If I shared that, I don’t remember it! But I do agree with the sentiment. -rc

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  13. When you say something that “offends” me, I realize it means I have closed my mind to new information. I take the time to listen to why you think the way you do. In the end, I may not agree but I certainly have been challenged to re-think my beliefs. That is always a good thing.

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  14. I recently came across the following quote that was attributed to Bertrand Russell. I think it is relevant to this discussion:

    If an opinion contrary to your own makes you angry, that is a sign that you are subconsciously aware of having no good reason for thinking as you do. If some one maintains that two and two are five, or that Iceland is on the equator, you feel pity rather than anger, unless you know so little of arithmetic or geography that his opinion shakes your own contrary conviction. The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way. Persecution is used in theology, not in arithmetic, because in arithmetic there is knowledge, but in theology there is only opinion. So whenever you find yourself getting angry about a difference of opinion, be on your guard; you will probably find, on examination, that your belief is going beyond what the evidence warrants.

    –Bertrand Russell, “An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish,” 1943

    I found this on futilitycloset.com.

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  15. You have never offended me, and I’ve been reading True for many years. I’m rarely offended by things that people traditionally are supposed to be offended by. But I am deeply offended by one thing: willful stupidity. Yes, most of the stories in True deal with stupid people, but that’s not what I’m talking about — I’m talking about people who don’t understand that belief is not necessarily fact, who only look at one side of an issue, accept that as truth without further investigation, and then close their mind to anything that disagrees with that belief. Just because a person wants something to be true doesn’t make it so, but the world is filled with people who struggle to make that happen, even in the face of solid evidence to the contrary.

    I’m not just talking about (most) politicians or (some) religious types. I’m talking about school boards bullying their students with ZT, or denying their students the right to learn about particular areas of science (or, worse yet, forcing them to learn religious doctrine thinly disguised as science). I’m talking about “news” broadcasters who present nothing but opinion, and wouldn’t know a fact if it bit them in the butt, who nevertheless hold sway over large numbers of people. I’m talking about the millions of people who insist on espousing beliefs which have long since been proven to be wrong, dumb, or sometimes even downright dangerous.

    You, on the other hand, present information in such a way that we are forced to think for ourselves. You understand that people need to look more than one side of an issue to come to an informed a decision — and that it’s not right for one person or group to force their beliefs on another person or group just because they can. You give us food for thought, not undigestible lumps of opinion.

    I really doubt you could ever offend me; but hey, if you want to try, I’d love to see what you could come up with!

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  16. I’ve been reading True for a number of years, and finally managed to upgrade to premium recently. You have not yet managed to offend me. You have made me think, chuckle, groan at the tag lines, and research stories for more detail, but you haven’t offended me. Keep up the good work!

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  17. I’m constantly offended by the stories in True — but it’s not Randy who offends me, it’s the ever increasing number of obliviots out there enforcing things like ZT, defending child abusers and so on.

    Keep it up mate!

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  18. I read a Facebook post about Nancy Grace and her so-called journalism. With her I am offended. With True and TSA (I miss Stella) I am not offended but am enlightened. I see both the poignant humor in the tagline and the very real problem with the people and/or events described in the story.

    Keep it up Randy. With luck, you might one day offend me.

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  19. When I read your blog or True, I’m often offended — but not by you. I’m offended by the Zero Tolerance zealots or by the way too tolerant Paterno defenders.

    And I need to be offended — so I will speak up and take action when I see those kinds of things happening in my sphere of influence.

    So, keep it coming!

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  20. I remember once that someone offended me greatly. They maintained that 2/3 and 3/4 were the same thing & no matter how I showed them this wasn’t true, they continued to argue with me. I know I probably should have either felt pity for them being so dumb (or being such a jerk if they were just faking this to get a reaction out of me) but their smug reactions towards me every time they felt they’d “proved their point” that I was wrong & they were right just made me want to put their feet in a bucket filled 2/3 with cement & drop them 3/4 deep in the water at low tide.

    I don’t apologize to people who have never been offended in their lives, but rather those who have never been offended by TRUE. At least, I don’t recall such an argument on my site! -rc

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  21. There are those, unfortunately, in our society who are what I like to think of as “offence kleptomaniacs”. They seem to define themselves by what and how much they are offended by, and if they can’t find enough legitimate things to be offended by, they will go out and deliberately misinterpret or misrepresent things in order to make up things to be offended by. I’ve never understood the mindset, but I’ve seen it again and again. The only theory I can come up with is that they think that the more things they are offended by, the better people they are.

    I think the Paterno case, though, is another phenomenon at work. I suspect what’s going on here is that people who have more or less worshipped Paterno for their entire adult lives are outraged at the idea that he could turn out to have such a horrific moral flaw, because if their hero turned out to be so deeply flawed, then maybe that means they’re flawed too. “If my hero is a child abuser, does that mean I’m supporting child abuse? He CAN’T be a child abuser!”

    The irony of this, of course, is that when they deny their hero’s failings and try to whitewash them, they become exactly what they’re afraid of being. By denying that it happened, they are supporting it.

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  22. Office kleptomaniacs; pretty good term. I’ve always referred to them as Professional Victims. If they don’t have something to constantly take offense about, they apparently have no validation as human beings.

    What a pathetic existence! Sheesh. (But yeah: I know they exist!) -rc

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  23. Well, if you really want to offend me, you’re going to have to get up off your lazy behind, and lose about 150 IQ points. Sure, there are things you have written that I have skimmed at first that got me steaming, but I always tell myself to go back and read it carefully, and then I understand.

    On the other hand, you have my permission to keep TRYING to offend me. You need to work harder at it, though! ;^)

    Wow, what a concept! You get peeved, so you read it again?! A lot of people don’t have the guts to do that. Good for you, Milady! -rc

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  24. I say this and say this and say this (and I’m about to say it again)… You do not have the “right” to never be offended (assuming you choose to take offense at something). That’s what the remote control, the off switch, and voting with your feet (or dollars) are all about. If you find something offensive (and choose to be offended by it), change the station/channel, turn it off, don’t spend money on it, or just leave. You have a perfect right to do any or all of those things. What you *do not* have the right to do is to try to foist your offense and your standards onto the rest of us who are *not* offended. All you’re saying when you whine about being offended and the need to remove (censor) whatever it is that you’re choosing to be offended by is that you do not choose to control your emotions and you want others to exercise that control on your behalf. My response to this is grow up and behave like an adult!

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