Is it ever acceptable to be offensive?

Cllr Val Stevens twittering on

On the way to my office this morning I was listening to a debate on 5 Live about the decision of the Press Complaints Commission not to uphold the 25000 complaints made over the article written by Jan Moir in the Daily Mail, the day before Stephen Gately’s funeral. Peta Buscombe, the PCC Chairman defended the decision claiming that the Moir column “just failed to cross the line”.
During the debate, Matthew Parris, the former MP and openly gay journalist, was arguing that while he considered the article to be offensive he defended the right of Jan Moir to write the article.
So it is acceptable for a journalist to be offensive, but compare this to the reaction to David Wright, the Labour MP for Telford, allegedly describing Conservatives as “scum-sucking pigs” on Twitter. (He has denied it, and has claimed that someone had hacked into his Twitter account). I also remember the understandable outcry when my colleague Cllr Norman Lewis was likened to Frank from Shameless, and the residents of the Barlow Moor estate were likened to the inhabitants of the Chatsworth estate by a well-known Manchester Labour blogger (and Council election Candidate).
It’s all very well talking about freedom of expression, but where do you draw the line? I was contacted today by a constituent who had read a tweet by Labour Councillor Val Stevens. She has claimed that I’m so worried about losing my seat that I’ve taken to ‘comfort eating and losing my temper at random moments’. Personally I’m not worried by silly comments like this, and as a politician you have to be a bit more thick-skinned.
Everyone is entitled to express their opinion, but there is no need for it to be done in an offensive way. The Jan Moir piece the day before Stephen Gately’s funeral was offensive, both in its content and in its timing. If it had been written by a politician they would have been rightly hung out to dry. Why should a journalist be treated any differently?

3 responses to “Is it ever acceptable to be offensive?

  1. Personally I think ‘being offensive’ is absolutely fine, because offence takes two, and plenty of perfectly reasonable statements can cause offence (for example, Ms Moir might well be offended by me referring to her as a disgraceful, contemptible bigot who ghoulishly profits from the tragedies of those who have added more to the world than she ever has or will, were she ever to read those words).

    I suspect one could find someone to take offence at pretty much every statement anyone could make, and so worrying about ‘offensiveness’ is a fool’s errand, unless you’re in a job that requires tact and discretion. I think the whole Wright storm-in-a-teacup is faintly ridiculous.

    *Lying*, on the other hand, is absolutely unacceptable when one is in a trusted job, whether it’s Ms Moir’s disgraceful – and absolutely unfounded – claims or Councillor Stevens’ (I presume untrue, given what I know of you 😉 ) statements. Luckily, in at least those two cases, the lies reflect more on those making the statements than on those they’re about.

    Personally, I’d gladly defend the *right* of anyone to be offensive (while also equally gladly supporting boycotts of their newspapers/campaigns to unseat them if I found their comments unacceptable). But I find the spreading of outright untruths by certain newspapers and politicians *far* more worrying…

  2. Cllr. Stevens is just one of many people who just use twitter to abuse politicians they are either jealous or envious of. Voters don’t read twitter, they see what people do and vote on their actions.

    Unfortunately, Cllr. Stevens is standing down, so she can be as bitter as she wants as nobody can vote her out.

  3. You could have also mentioned the fake Leech twitter account obviously set up to smear you at some point in the future, the various smear facebook groups and the aforementioned attack blog ran by a labour council candidate.

    Do these people have nothing better to do? Or offer???

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