That word, you keep using it…

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend among conservatives over the last several years. When faced with evidence or arguments opposite to their own beliefs, they claim that they are “offended”.

Not upset. Not that they disagree. That they are offended.

I’ve had this put forward on everything from a political cartoon about the causes and costs second Iraq war, to the reality of white male privilege (PDF link), to the lie of the Horatio Alger myth, to a study suggesting abstinence programs reduce one type of sexual activity – but leads to teens interpreting other sexual activities as “not really sex” (or not being effective at all).

I think I know why this is; all of the above statements are *uncomfortable* for true-red conservatives. They do not fit neatly into their world view; in fact, they challenge large parts of it.

Those who have regularly been offended – subjected to ethnopaulisms, discriminated against, and marginalized – have used their feelings as a potent social norming mechanism. By stating that sexist language, for example, is offensive, it is a powerful tool for eliminating that language.

But now the conservatives have lost enough power that the Archie Bunkers are more and more marginalized. (When they’re not elected GOP officials, of course.) So they now have to deal with challenges to thier worldview… and “uncomfortable” is a weak word.

“Offended”, on the other hand, has power. And now the conservatives are learning to use it – inappropriately, perhaps, but use it – to silence those who are still working for equality and justice. It is, in many ways, like when bigots and racists appropriate progressive language; they’re using the tools that levered them out of power to try to maintain their current privilege.

I understand that this is a really, really broad brush I’m using. Many conservatives I know – some of whom I’m messaging specifically to look at this entry – truly do understand the difference between offense and uncomfortableness. They can deal with challenges to their worldview in a coherent, intelligent, and powerful logical manner. Disagreement and debate are absolutely *necessary* in continuing this country’s well-being. When I say “conservative” here, I don’t mean people who tend to lean right, or even most right wingers. I’m talking the type who think Hannity, Limbaugh, and O’Reilley are actually balanced ethical journalists.

Those who use “offense” to simply silence ideas instead of slurs… well, not so much.

Like I said, I’ve seen it myself. Do you think this is a bigger trend, or just a few last holdouts? Or just some people who are jerks?

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