From plays to cartoons, books to Teddy Bears--interest groups,
often using the language of human rights, are claiming that they
are offended and attempting to ban, gag, even kill, those deemed to
be the offenders. Intellectual heavyweights throughout the
Anglo-American world of letters have charged to the defense of free
expression. There have been many highly charged incidents, in
particular around Islam, offering opportunities for an orgy of
media self-congratulation about the superiority of secular
democracy and the vital role of the press in supporting freedom.
Using his experience as editor of "New Humanist" (itself accused of
"offensiveness"), Melville tries to disentangle the varieties of
offense, to trace the origins of our current situation to the
failed identity politics of the 1970s and the new language of human
rights, and to distinguish between the duty to offend and the
temptations of cultural chauvinism.
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