First, Give No Offense

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The phrase "First, do no harm," is not actually in the Hippocratic oath. Rather, it is a maxim widely taught to doctors that is actually a Hippocratic aphorism. But the title of this post could best be described as the Hypocritical Oath. Mark Steyn is in rare form today, pointing out that new supreme human right – that to be free from being offended – is destroying real rights that we hold dear.

The holiday season is here, and that means it's time to engage in the time-honored Christmas tradition of objecting to every time-honored Christmas tradition. Australia is a gazillion time zones ahead of the United States – it may even be Boxing Day there already – so they got in first this year with a truly fantastic headline:

"Santas Warned 'Ho Ho Ho' Offensive To Women."

Really. As the story continued: "Sydney's Santa Clauses have instead been instructed to say 'ha ha ha' instead, the Daily Telegraph reported. One disgruntled Santa told the newspaper a recruitment firm warned him not to use 'ho ho ho' because it could frighten children and was too close to 'ho', a U.S. slang term for prostitute."……

……But the point is that the right not to be offended is now the most sacred right in the world. The right to freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of movement, all are as nothing compared with the universal right to freedom from offense. It's surely only a matter of time before "sensitivity training" is matched by equally rigorous "inoffensiveness training" courses. A musician friend of mine once took a gig at an elevator-music session, and, after an hour or two of playing insipid orchestral arrangements of "Moon River" and "Windmills of Your Mind," some of the lads' attention would start to wander, and they'd toot their horns a little too boisterously. The conductor would stop and admonish them to bland things down a bit. In a world in which everyone is ready to take offense, it's hard to keep the mood Muzak evenly modulated.

Steyn has a lot more – and even more egregious – examples of the out-of-control right to be free from being offended. It is a political weapon being used against all of the real basic rights. Those who would manipulate the system have the tools handed to them by the very people who push this political correctness run mad. If the very means to discuss issues is taken away by some screaming that they are offended, necessary dialog is completely throttled. That is a recipe for disaster in the long run.

Perhaps somewhere in Sydney there's a woman who's genuinely offended by hearing Santa say "ho ho ho" just as those New Hampshire atheists claim to be genuinely offended by the Pledge of Allegiance. But their complaints are frivolous and decadent, and more determined groups are using the patterns they've established to shut down debate on things we should be talking about. The ability to give and take offense is what separates free societies from Sudan.

Amen to that.

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