Via Butterflies and Wheels, a philosophy blog on the silliness (well, it’s a philosophy blog, so rather the unreasonableness) of imagining that being offended—even deeply offended—gives one the right to demand that offending statements cease:
The underlying problem, I suspect, is that our public culture has become so infected with subjectivist assumptions that people don’t realize that there’s a difference between desires and reasons. Sentiments are taken as given; no-one ever stops to question whether their reactive attitudes are warranted. Any kind of negative emotion is not just evidence, but constitutive, of suffering injustice. You’re offended, therefore they’re in the wrong.
A similar phenomenon, perhaps the flipside of this unquestioned subjectivism, is the way people seem to believe that their own anger about an issue is some sort of proof that they’re right about it. Very often among left-wing “viewers with alarm,” and probably among right-wingers, too, though I don’t pay as much attention, we hear that the country needs to see how angry they are. It’s summed up perfectly in the bumper sticker I’ve made fun of before: “If you’re not completely outraged, you’re not paying attention.” Those who are outraged are obviously the best informed, and if you’re not exploding with anger, well, you must not know what you’re talking about.
But isn’t anger generally an unreliable guide to what’s right? Certainly you can be outraged over true cases of injustice, but if I were to look over all the times I’ve been angry and the proximate causes thereof, I’m quite sure I’d find that often I was angry for no good reason at all. Anger and passion can certainly motivate (though they can also exhaust and depress), but they’re only worth celebrating if they’re motivating something worthwhile.