Rodney Hide on being offended

People take offence at the slightest of things these days. The point is it is them taking offence, not other people giving it.

We live in a democracy with freedom of speech, people can, and do, say things that are offensive to some other people…get a grip…which is what Rodney Hide is saying.

Warning to the readily offended: don’t read further. You have been warned.

I like Maurice Williamson. He’s smart, funny, caring and a good local MP. He’s a gifted orator and puts in the effort to make a good show.

He’s not boring. He’s not politically correct. He bounces up to the edge of acceptability and sometimes bounces right over.

MPs’ speeches are too often mumbled, jumbled rehashes of press statements and policy releases. They provide no thrills. Their public performances are mind-numbingly dreary. Williamson is the exception.

These days that’s dangerous. We have among us wowsers all too ready to take offence and make themselves virtuous through complaining. They will tweet, Facebook, run to the media and blacklist associated businesses, all to humiliate those who dare give them offence, the poor, delicate petals.

Their threshold for offence is wafer-thin.

The offender is always wrong; never the offended. There’s no defence. The only acceptable response is abject apology and a lifetime of shame.

That’s why putting on a show ? especially for a politician ? is dangerous. The offence is determined by the offended. Their outrage proves their virtue. Their fellow wowsers join in without knowing facts or context. They jeer each other along with tweets and online commentary and render their target a pariah. Their vitriol makes the Salem witch hunts look like considered process.

Having been on the receiving end of this vitriol I can understand exactly what Rodney is talking about…and I have never apologised for having my own opinions. No twittering bully boys will ever force one from me either.

And so Williamson is in hot water. Again. Someone was offended by his MCing at an IT conference dinner. We don’t know who. The person taking offence chose to remain anonymous. But the company hosting the dinner quickly apologised and distanced itself from Williamson.

The outrage embroiled the Prime Minister, who in response suggested Williamson’s MCing was “probably not the threshold for leaving Parliament”.

Parliament? Leaving? Threshold? In declaring Williamson could stay the PM didn’t even know what he said to cause offence.

There’s no time for a deep breath or reflection in any of this. Or even hearing from both sides.

But let’s take that breath. The good people of Pakuranga have chosen Williamson 10 elections in a row. He has been their MP for 30 years. It can’t possibly be right to deprive them of their chosen representative because of an anonymous complaint that he MCed a private dinner function where he said, well, we don’t even know what he said.

Whatever happened to free speech? Or democracy? Or due process? Or does the right not to be offended trump everything?

Here’s my message to the readily offended: stay home in your dressing gowns and slippers. Leave the raucous Saturday nights to those who still enjoy naughty laughs and who happily risk being offended for entertainment.

My message to the readily offended is GFY.


– A newspaper on Sunday