Taking Offence

Caspar Melville

Manifestos for the 21st Century


4.25 x 7 inches, 104pp. March 2009

ISBN : 9781906497026

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The effects of 9/11 go far beyond the launching of the amorphous war on terror, the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq or the ‘state of fear’ to which many populations the world over have been reduced by their governments. They reach into the very heart of public debate, silencing free speech and stifling the expression of opinion. The fear of ‘giving offence’ and the violent repercussions this often resulted in put an end to any serious engagement with the real issues and, aided and abetted by the media, reduced dialogue to the simplistic level of ‘them’ and ‘us’: we are right, they are wrong; the West versus the rest. In his closely argued and compelling analysis of events, Caspar Melville admits the ‘uncomfortable possibility’ that the commitment to identity politics, political correctness and multiculturalism might have been at least part of the problem—and for the very best of reasons. Nevertheless, he argues, it represented ‘the most powerful threat to free speech and reason’. How then do we deal with the current debate around offence? Not by further pieties. He offers, instead, some practical guidelines in the form of a ‘modest manifesto’: the right to offend is part and parcel of our world, but we must choose our targets with care and know why we are doing it. 

Caspar Melville is the editor of the UK magazine New Humanist.


Manifestos of the 21st Century
Offence Series