mersenneforum.org  

Go Back   mersenneforum.org > Extra Stuff > Soap Box

Reply
 
Thread Tools
Old 2010-11-29, 13:19   #1
Brian-E
 
Brian-E's Avatar
 
"Brian"
Jul 2007
The Netherlands

63008 Posts
Default What is offensive language?

This subject could also be discussed in the "forum feedback" section (or merely in private communication with forum moderators here) because my direct motivation for starting it is an incident which has apparently occurred in the last few days on this forum, but I believe the wider implications are worth tackling here in the soap box if the subject is of interest and concern to other people too.

My contention is that some parts of the world, and the USA is definitely one of them, have a very peculiar idea of what offensive language is. Maybe this also extends to what offensive behaviour is too. I am however definitely open to having my opinion altered about this and appreciate that I have a poor to non-existent understanding of American culture, and even less - if that is possible - of other non-Western-European cultures. So I am trying very hard to keep my mind open and avoid being judgmental right from the start.

The impression which I have at the moment, severely prejudiced and flawed though it undoubtedly is, is that in the USA (where freedom of speech is paramount) you can get away with all kinds of personal attacks and even to some extent threats of violence or a wish that the other person should be dead. Violent language (and behaviour) is normal in films and TV programs which are watched by children and others who are easily influenced. However, as soon as anything connected with sex or even passingly related to sex organs is mentioned, hands are thrown up in horror, children's eyes and ears are covered, letters in the "offending" words are replaced with an asterix or audibly bleeped out, and if it's a film it will not be released for viewing by anyone under 18 if at all.

Which leaves me puzzled. Why the obsession with language relating to sex (an act which normally expresses love or at the very least can be regarded as natural and life-affirming) in a culture where violence and violent death are freely portrayed as a normal part of society?

Is there any truth to my prejudice about USA culture? If so, how is the the American attitude about mentioning sex and anything related to it justified? If not, what have I got wrong? Are attitudes changing at all? How about other parts of the world?

[ The incident here, by the way, which sparked my concern was a posting two days ago (I won't link to it because I find it incredibly offensive) in the thread about Global Warming in which the writer appears to be telling a major contributor to that thread to commit suicide. When I first saw it I was horrified and confidently expected it to be moderated (removed or altered). But a few hours later a moderator and respected longstanding forum member (not in fact from the USA!) merely replied to it in a slightly jocular fashion. This posting by the moderator later disappeared but the original attacking post remained and is still there now. Meanwhile it appears from a later posting in the same thread that the offender had also posted something else which was removed. I did not see whatever it was, but the comment by the contributor who flagged it mentions the "family friendly" nature of the forum, "very vulgar language", and "porn" (as well as "gore" the potential offensiveness of which I do understand). ]

Last fiddled with by Brian-E on 2010-11-29 at 13:21
Brian-E is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 2010-11-29, 14:23   #2
xilman
Bamboozled!
 
xilman's Avatar
 
"π’‰Ίπ’ŒŒπ’‡·π’†·π’€­"
May 2003
Down not across

3×11×307 Posts
Default

A quick answer which may appear to be flippant but is not, is that offen{s,c}e, like beauty, is in the ear or the eye of the beholder.

As you point out, offensiveness is very culture dependent. Personally, I find rather few words offensive but freely accept that I may be rather atypical.


Paul

Last fiddled with by xilman on 2010-11-29 at 14:23
xilman is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 2010-11-29, 14:35   #3
CRGreathouse
 
CRGreathouse's Avatar
 
Aug 2006

17×349 Posts
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian-E View Post
Is there any truth to my prejudice about USA culture?
Almost exactly none.
CRGreathouse is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 2010-11-29, 14:45   #4
retina
Undefined
 
retina's Avatar
 
"The unspeakable one"
Jun 2006
My evil lair

32×647 Posts
Default

I don't find any words to be offensive.

But I do find that some people's use of words can be offensive.

eg.

Merely spouting words will not affect me, I don't care.

But if someone were to threaten to cause harm to my family then I will be offended. And that someone does not need to use any so-called "offensive" words to threaten harm, they could even be completely polite in their spoken manner and word selection while causing offence.

It is all about context folks. And that is something that many country's censor laws do not seem to acknowledge well.

As always: Sticks and stones ...

We gotta protect the 12 year-olds from hearing "bad" words on TV. Even though they already know them and use them amongst themselves we still gotta ban those scary evil words.
retina is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 2010-11-29, 15:00   #5
xilman
Bamboozled!
 
xilman's Avatar
 
"π’‰Ίπ’ŒŒπ’‡·π’†·π’€­"
May 2003
Down not across

100111100100112 Posts
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by retina View Post
But if someone were to threaten to cause harm to my family then I will be offended. And that someone does not need to use any so-called "offensive" words to threaten harm, they could even be completely polite in their spoken manner and word selection while causing offence.

It is all about context folks. And that is something that many country's censor laws do not seem to acknowledge well.
Well said!

Paul
xilman is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 2010-11-29, 15:19   #6
Zeta-Flux
 
Zeta-Flux's Avatar
 
May 2003

5F216 Posts
Default

Brian-E,

It is neither speech about violence nor speech about intimate acts, in and of themselves, that many of us find offensive. It is rather specific instances and combinations of those issues that we find offensive.

Objectifying women, talking about harming women sexually, threatening someone's health; those are all offensive. I also personally find taking the name of God in vain to be unnecessarily offensive (when the other person knows that I would appreciate them respecting that name). Some words convey many of those ideas immediately, without any further context.

I personally appreciate the fact that I don't have to wade through garbage when I come here to see the latest news about certain factoring projects. Thanks gerbils!
Zeta-Flux is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 2010-11-29, 15:39   #7
R.D. Silverman
 
R.D. Silverman's Avatar
 
Nov 2003

26×113 Posts
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian-E View Post
The impression which I have at the moment, severely prejudiced and flawed though it undoubtedly is, is that in the USA (where freedom of speech is paramount) you can get away with all kinds of personal attacks and even to some extent threats of violence
No. Threats of violence are considered an assault. It is a felony.

Quote:
or a wish that the other person should be dead. Violent language (and behaviour) is normal in films and TV programs which are watched by children and others who are easily influenced. However, as soon as anything connected with sex or even passingly related to sex organs is mentioned,

That's because our country is filled with moronic religious hypocrites. Sex is
dirty and any mention of it goes against their religion. The USA in
many parts of the country (the South, Midwest/Bible Belt) is very
puritanical. There is also a strong correlation between the level of
education and this attitude. This attitude is prevalent among the states
that are lowest in education.

OTOH, It is OK to smite one's enemies. (Onward Christian Soldiers and all
that crap).

Quote:
Is there any truth to my prejudice about USA culture? If so, how is the the American attitude about mentioning sex and anything related to it justified?
It is not justified on any rational basis. But you have to live here to see
how deeply seated the religious looney tunes are within US culture.


Quote:
[ The incident here, by the way, which sparked my concern was a posting two days ago (I won't link to it because I find it incredibly offensive) in the thread about Global Warming in which the writer appears to be telling a major contributor to that thread to commit suicide. When I first saw it I was horrified and confidently expected it to be moderated (removed or altered).
Why? Saying "I wish you would drop dead" is free speech. Saying "I am going
to kill you" is a threat punishable under our laws. They are totally different.

The US is still (In my opinion) immature as a culture when compared to many
other countries. OTOH, how many other countries in the world have had a
single peaceful government in place for 150 years? I would say over 220
years, but we had our own civil war. Note that the states that started that
war are exactly the states where the immature attitude toward sex is
prevalent. They are also the states with the lowest level of education, the
highest rates of teenage pregnancy, the highest rates of divorce, the highest
rates of incarcerated felons etc.

Here is an article from the magazine Vanity Fair (2006)

" Red State Babylon


If the blue states are sinkholes of moral decay, as right-wing
pundits insist, how come red states lead the nation in violent
crime, divorce, illegitimacy, and incarceration, among other evils?
To a bus-riding innocent on Manhattan's stroller-filled Upper West
Side, it looks like a case of hypocrisy meets stupidity.


by James Wolcott November 2006

In contemporary lore, the good people of the red states walk in Jesus's
sandals while the rest of us are following Satan into the licking
flames. Twenty-plus years of conservative propaganda have convinced
millions of Republicans and their pet Beltway pundits that they
inherited the legacy of frontier values and dwell in baptismal light,
unlike modern Democrats, who crawled out from under rocks and prefer the
ambiguous dark, where there's no right or wrong, only "personal
choices." Newt Gingrich once spouted that Susan Smith's murder of her
two children in 1994 was a sign of the evil that liberal Democrats had
wrought: "I think that the mother killing the two children in South
Carolina vividly reminds every American how sick the society is getting
and how much we need to change things.... The only way you get change is
to vote Republican." According to the gospel of Saint Newt, William J.
Bennett, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Michael Savage, and similar
blowholes, the dying raptures of Sodom and Gomorrah can be found in the
cultural duchies of the blue states. Here sin and moral sloth have set
up shop, and venereal outbreaks of trendy ideas go unchecked.
Conservative pundits and politicians regularly jeer that these Jurassic
Parks of geriatric do-gooders and brainwashed college students don't
represent the "real" America?the God-fearing, flag-waving,
decent-living, high-octane, steeped-in-common-sense, everyday-low-prices
heartland. Yet even as blue states hug the coasts and red states spread
like a bloodstain across America's outstretched body, the influence of
these elitist enclaves remains pervasive, corrosive, rotting away the
pillars of moral order and foisting abortion, divorce, pornography, gay
marriage, snail-darter environmentalism, secular humanism, dovish
appeasement, moral relativism, and Rosie O'Donnell's TV comeback upon a
once virile nation. The very names of the enclaves breeding such
bacteria make the nostril hairs quiver. Hollywood. Berkeley. San
Francisco. Madison, Wisconsin. Cambridge, Massachusetts. Martha's
Vineyard. Georgetown. And, worst of all, New York City, especially
Manhattan, most especially its Upper West Side, disparaged by its
critics as the outpatient clinic for last-gasp liberalism.

It's so unjust.

As a resident of the Upper West Side and a regular bus rider, I must
protest that the truth has been perverted and inverted. Yes, the Upper
West Side is liberal, socially conscious, multi-culti, gay-friendly
(Rosie's brother Daniel?also gay?is our state assemblyman), and
occasionally itchy with political correctness. And, yes, it's true that
we care, perhaps care too much, rattling our Zabar's bags as we nag the
nation's conscience to no avail. Really, though, such little harm we do,
what unracy lives we lead. It's like Jewish-Hispanic-Amish country up
here! The broad sidewalks present a wholesome cavalcade of baby
strollers, Columbia University students, diabetics on canes, and
tourists posing in front of Tom's Restaurant, the diner made famous on
Seinfeld. It isn't the cultural bastions of the blue states such as the
Upper West Side that are greasing America's slide into the disco
inferno. It's the Republican red states that are lowering the country's
moral standards and dragging us through muck and malaise, the red states
that are pustulating with horny hypocrites, rampant crime, polygamy,
crystal-meth labs, federal handouts (The Economist recently christened
Alaska "America's welfare state"), illegitimate births, blimping
waistlines, and future generations of dumb bunnies. JonBenet Ramsey,
dolled up and immortalized in her beauty-pageant footage, is the
pre-pubescent red-hot-mama mascot of red-state Babylon.

"Red States cling to double standards like a drunk holds on to the last
beer he can afford," writes Justin Cord Hayes in the semi-humorous
survival guide Blue State/Red State. Hypocrisy is the hallmark of the
red-state bull-roarer. Gingrich, who makes Hayes's dishonor roll of
"conservative scalawags," has been married three times and has been
known to have problems keeping it zipped. Limbaugh has three marriages
in the loss column. He is also a prancing Tartuffe on the drug issue,
condemning addicts and users on his radio show for their weak wills and
moral failings (and wanting to chuck them behind bars), only to be
revealed as a painkiller anteater himself. Bennett expended volumes of
wind preaching virtue and decrying seamy decadence, only to be exposed
as a high-stakes slot-machine love monkey. But these are minor-league
hypocrisies, as much a by-product of male prerogative as of Republican
humbug. It is at the extremes that the red-state double standards are
most sharply defined.

For the purposes of lurid illustration, no one is a better, more bitter
distillation of red-state double standards than Dennis Rader, the
monster who achieved lethal renown in Wichita, Kansas, and across the
nation as the "BTK" killer (BTK: Bind, Torture, Kill). Convicted and
sentenced to 10 consecutive life terms after a reign of terror that
lasted decades, Rader was a methodical sadist, murdering his victims as
if staging his own theater of cruelty, a Black Mass of the sacred and
profane. The Los Angeles Times reported, "After killing neighbor Marine
Hedge in 1985, Rader took her body to his church and photographed it on
the altar. Then he hid her body, changed into his Scouting uniform and
went off to chaperon a camping trip." It was the Scout-leader uniform
and the other trappings of patriarchal authority that enabled him to
blend into the community, elude suspicion. He played the role of
respectability to the hilt. Rader was not only a Scout leader but also
an officer at Wichita's Christ Lutheran Church and a registered
Republican?a psychopathic parody of the Upstanding Citizen. Because he
fit so well the stereotype of how a pillar of the community should
conduct himself in daylight, his church congregation didn't have a
collective clue. ("Nobody, nobody saw this coming," said the Reverend
Michael G. Clark, the church's pastor, regarding Rader's arrest.) On the
outside he couldn't have been more conformist; inside, he was an icebox
of finely chiseled rage. Rader is the nightmare embodiment of the
red-state personality at its most self-conflicted: piously Christian (he
quoted the Bible at his sentencing hearing), yet torturously punitive;
arrogantly proud, yet sloppily maudlin ("I've humbled myself," he
blubbed at the same hearing); dotingly paternal (Time: "Rader was known
as an attentive father who used to take his kids camping and fishing"),
and a petty despot (as a compliance officer in his Wichita suburb, Rader
was known to measure grass with a ruler and give citations for unkempt
lawns).

"
R.D. Silverman is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 2010-11-29, 15:44   #8
R.D. Silverman
 
R.D. Silverman's Avatar
 
Nov 2003

26·113 Posts
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by R.D. Silverman View Post
No. Threats of violence are considered an assault. It is a felony.

<snip>

Here is some more:

http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/f.../wolcott200611

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, of the 10 states with
the highest number of total inmates per 100,000 residents in 2003, 9
were red. Of the 10 states with the most female inmates per 100,000
residents that same year, all were red. (Conversely, of the 10 states
with the lowest incarceration rates of female prisoners, 9 were blue.)
Not only do red states pack a larger percentage of their populations
into their sardine cans, they have a near monopoly on capital
punishment. Since 1976, the highest number of executions have been
carried out in red states, with Texas - no surprise - ranking No. 1
on the hit parade.

[...]

It's never fun having your ass shot off, but the odds of that occurring
seem higher in the red states, which account for all of the top 15
states in rates of death by firearms (2003). Methamphetamine addiction
is a national scourge, but it's been chewing the heart out of the red
Middle West, where Missouri has the tragic distinction of hosting the
highest number of lab incidents (meth labs or production facilities
raided by authorities), with Indiana, Tennessee, Iowa, and Kentucky
also among the top six states afflicted with an outbreak of bootleg
chemistry. The 10 states with the lowest meth-lab incidents? Eight of
them are blue. Then there's the violence or despair directed selfward.
Of the 15 states with the highest adjusted rates of suicide (2003), 14
are red.

[...]

According to a 2005 publication by Ernst & Young, of the 11
top-grossing gaming markets (excluding Native American gaming revenues
- see below), 8 are in red states. Five of the six states that offer
riverboat gambling are red, and they should be red with shame, because
you know what goes on on those riverboats: Fancy Dans with diamond
stickpins and concealed derringers fleecing honest cardsharps to the
rhythm of Dixieland music. Some red states are so economically parlous
that casinos are the only thing between them and Desolation Row.

[...]

The 10 states in the union with the highest divorce rates in 2004
(among the 45 states for which figures are available) were all red! The
fireball center of the red states when it comes to getting unhitched
is, no surprise, Nevada, whose marriage laws encourage major turnover
in the honeymoon suites. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, until
the spouse finds out, and then it's say hi to your new friend, Al
Imony. (A joke, I'm ashamed to say, I saw printed on a Vegas cocktail
napkin.) Illegitimacy rates? Once again, the red states can hang their
baseball caps in shame. According to the National Center for Health
Statistics, of states with the highest percentages of births in 2003 to
unwed mothers, 9 of the top 10 were red.

[...]

According to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, supported
by the C.D.C., in 2004 14 of the 15 states with the highest percentage
of obesity were red. Moreover, there is a correlation between
corpulence and economic deprivation. Based on a three-year average of
obesity rates, "the five states with the highest obesity rates -
Mississippi, Alabama, West Virginia, Louisiana and Kentucky - exhibit
much higher rates of poverty than the national norm," the Associated
Press reported in August. All five states are red states.

[...]

In a survey done by Morgan Quitno Press, an independent, private
research-and-publishing company in Kansas, blue states accounted for 8
out of the top 10 "Smartest States" as measured by pedagogical
criteria. (And one of the 2 red states that did make the top 10 -
Montana - is trending blue.) As for the bottom 10 states, 8 of them
were red. Blue states not only put a premium on education but are also
willing to pay the premium. Nine of the 10 states paying the highest
average salary for schoolteachers in 2004-05 were blue; the 10 states
with the worst-paid teachers were all red. This gap helps explain why
our children isn't learning, to paraphrase President Bush.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

So, let's see: not only are the RED states the "godless" ones, but
they're also the POOREST ones who depend on government handouts,
handouts that come from the taxes placed on BLUE states. Ever wonder
why those pious red states refuse to leave the union despite being so
obviously disgusted by all those evil liberals (who somehow seem to
lead far better lives that the hypocritical "christians")? Now you have
your answer.

I propose that all those Jesusland freaks get their own country --
let's see how long they last. Meanwhile all the grownups will live in
prosperity without being hassled by ignorant idiots who complain about
seeing a titty on TV, while ignoring the avalanche of violence.
R.D. Silverman is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 2010-11-29, 16:16   #9
rogue
 
rogue's Avatar
 
"Mark"
Apr 2003
Between here and the

595310 Posts
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian-E View Post
Is there any truth to my prejudice about USA culture? If so, how is the the American attitude about mentioning sex and anything related to it justified? If not, what have I got wrong? Are attitudes changing at all? How about other parts of the world?
I was going to be the first to respond to this, but didn't have the time. Bob used one of the words that I was going to use, "puritanical". I have often joked about how a naked breast (or nipple) is somehow offensive on television, but swearing, gore, rape, murder, etc. is not. There is no problem with medical programs showing blood (sometimes squirting blood) in surgery, but a naked breast is against the FCC rules. Is the FCC worried that some 14 year old boy is going to be aroused by that? Porn is free and easily accessed on the internet, so why is TV so sacred? There is already so much innuendo on TV (watch Saturday Night Live) that nudity shouldn't shock anyone.

Unlike his diatribe against the right I was also going to mention that the US is not the only country that is puritanical in this respect. The Middle East is a hotbed of it. Women forced to wear a head scarf or a burqa, girls being subjected to female castration, and women being stoned for adultery while men get off without even a slap on the wrist are examples of how puritanical that part of the world is, yet a willingness to kill "infidels" indiscriminately is commonplace.

IMO, religious zealots (and their leaders) are some of the biggest hypocrites in the world. How many times do we hear "do as I say, not as I do" from religious leaders who steal from us, have affairs (sometimes homosexual ones), sexually molest children, etc.? What gives them the right to tell us how to live our lives when they break so many rules themselves? Why do so many continue to listen to them?
rogue is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 2010-11-29, 16:23   #10
R.D. Silverman
 
R.D. Silverman's Avatar
 
Nov 2003

26×113 Posts
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by rogue View Post
Unlike his diatribe against the right I was also going to mention that the US is not the only country that is puritanical in this respect. The Middle East is a hotbed of it. Women forced to wear a head scarf or a burqa, girls being subjected to female castration, and women being stoned for adultery while men get off without even a slap on the wrist are examples of how puritanical that part of the world is, yet a willingness to kill "infidels" indiscriminately is commonplace.
This does not stem from Puritanism, but rather from the barbaric viewpoint
that women are property.

Women wear burqas so other men can not look at them.
Women are circumsized so that they will not enjoy sex and thus will not
stray from their owner. Women are killed by stoning because they are
property and displeased their "owner". It is nauseating.
R.D. Silverman is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 2010-11-29, 16:25   #11
R.D. Silverman
 
R.D. Silverman's Avatar
 
Nov 2003

26×113 Posts
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by rogue View Post
I

IMO, religious zealots (and their leaders) are some of the biggest hypocrites in the world. How many times do we hear "do as I say, not as I do" from religious leaders who steal from us, have affairs (sometimes homosexual ones), sexually molest children, etc.? What gives them the right to tell us how to live our lives when they break so many rules themselves? Why do so many continue to listen to them?
You say this and acuse me of a diatribe? You are a hypocrite.
R.D. Silverman is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools


Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
What language should I study next? EdH Programming 25 2014-10-26 14:52
What type of language is offensive to you? jasong jasong 80 2013-03-05 13:44
Offensive politics ftw jasong jasong 0 2012-11-10 15:58
Fortress: A new math language mephisto Programming 1 2006-11-17 11:06
Body Language Orgasmic Troll Lounge 2 2005-11-29 16:52

All times are UTC. The time now is 02:18.

Sat Oct 31 02:18:12 UTC 2020 up 50 days, 23:29, 2 users, load averages: 2.27, 2.04, 1.96

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.11
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.

This forum has received and complied with 0 (zero) government requests for information.

Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation.
A copy of the license is included in the FAQ.