In this episode, I share an opinion column I read recently written by Andy Kessler, an opinion columnist for The Wall Street Journal. Andy’s column resonated with me because it goes along with the theme I have been talking about: the notion of being offended.
I’ve said that I don’t get offended; I get my feelings hurt sometimes, and I hear things I don’t always want to hear, but I do my very best not to get offended. To me, being offended means that I’ve allowed someone to come into me and manipulate me in a way I haven’t invited them to. To me, I can only be offended if I invite somebody in.
In any event, I think you’ll get a kick out of this column, and I definitely thought it was worth sharing!
Full transcript below.
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I’m Not Offended.08.19.2022
Tue, 7/26 1:36PM • 10:51
carlin, words, andy, thought, summerfest, talk, offended, language, opinion, hear, episode, censorship, routine, column, profanity, milwaukee, ruled, discussion, carla, assistant district attorney
Mike Malatesta 00:03
Hey everybody, welcome back to my Friday solo episode. I’m really happy to have you here. Thanks for joining me, I’m going to share with you today something that I read in The Wall Street Journal. That’s an opinion column written by Andy Kessler. I’ve been following — I guess it’s the right word — or been acquainted with Andy for many years, probably close to 20 years. I became aware of him reading his books in the mid-2000s. He’s written five or six books, but three that come to mind are Running Money, How We Got Here, and Eat People. It’s a very strange name for a book. But Andy is, I think, a great writer, a great thinker, and a realist, and I wanted to share this column which is titled, The lesson of Carlin’s dirty words, because it goes along with the theme that I have been talking about and writing about, which the notion of being offended. And I’ve come out and I’ve said that I don’t get offended. I get my feelings hurt sometimes. And I hear things that I don’t like and don’t want to hear, which I’d rather have not heard, but I do my very, very best not to get offended, because to me, being offended means that I’ve allowed someone to come into me and manipulate me in a way that I haven’t invited them to do. And it feels to me like, I can only be offended if I invite somebody in. And I just choose not to invite anybody in. But I think you’ll get a kick out of this, this column, and I definitely thought it was worth sharing.
So this is a quote. “Now, everyone is walking around wondering what they can say and censoring themselves and, as a result, lowering the standards of discussion and thought.” End quote. Sounds like 2022. But the guy who said this was arrested 50 years ago this week, on a charge of disorderly conduct, profanity. We’ve come a long way but seem to be looping back. Comedian George Carlin was performing at Summerfest in Milwaukee, which is where I am on July 21, 1972. Doing his then-current routine, noting the absurdity that “there are more ways to describe dirty words than there are dirty words. Dirty bad, filthy, foul, vile, vulgar, off-color, blue, naughty-bodied, saucy, raunchy, street language, got her talk, locker room talk, Barix language, indecent, in poor taste, suggestive, cursing, cussing, swearing, profanity, obscenity, and all I could think of where you then listed what will forever be known as the seven words you can’t say on television. I won’t repeat them, but I bet many of you can rattle them off from memory. I am one of those people.” The Summerfest arrest wasn’t his first for refusing to show his ID; he was thrown in the same Paddy Wagon as Lenny Bruce in 1962. Maybe that’s why Carlin developed a routine to push free speech rights even further.
He goes on to talk about an HBO documentary, George Carlin’s American Dream, and I’m going to skip over that part. Getting back to the Summerfest event in Milwaukee, the Milwaukee district attorney asked a policeman, “was it disorderly?” Getting no answer, he turned to an assistant district attorney and said, “you were you there; what did the audience do?” Well, they gave him a standing ovation. During the trial, the judge apparently hid his face to cover his laughter. Mr. Carlin was acquitted.
In 1973, a man complained to the Federal Communications Commission that his 15-year-old son heard Carlin’s famous routine on WBAI FM, on a non-commercial station in New York. Eventually, FCC vs. Pacifica Foundation made its way to the Supreme Court and Justice John Paul Stevens. Stevens’s 1978 opinion, which still stands, ruled that to protect children from “inappropriate” speech — add that to Carlin’s list of dirty descriptors — those seven dirty words shouldn’t be heard on public airways. Though antiestablishment, Carlin’s politics were hard to pigeonhole. On the illusion of choice, “we’re led to believe we’re free by the exercise of meaningless choices. Ice cream flavors, what do you want? We got 31. We’ve got the flavor of the week. We’ve got the flavor of the month, but political parties, we’re down to two.” He had a disdain for both sides.” This 1996 bit has been replayed a lot since the draft of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision was leaked and published, and subsequently ruled upon. “Boy, these conservatives are really something aren’t they? They’re all in favor of the unborn. They will do anything for the unborn. But once you’re born, you’re on your own.”
But there’s also this from 1992. “I’m tired of the self-righteous environmentalist, these white bourgeoisie liberals who think the only thing wrong with this country is that there aren’t enough bicycle paths. People trying to make the world safe for their **.” After the Pacifica decision, Carlin told the Los Angeles Times, “thought and discussion depend on language and when you decrease its base, then you decrease the base for rational discussion and thought, and that’s what they want to do.” In 1970s vernacular, “they” meant the man; the establishment. Today, they means the politically correct the social justice warriors, the thought police who insist you’re racist. Maybe Carlin’s gift to the world wasn’t identifying hypocrisy, of having words you can’t say on TV, but pointing out that shutting down words or ideas or thoughts is destructive to a free society. He’d probably be aghast at the state of social media censorship today. If the price of our freedom is that someone may take offense, Carlin surely would think that’s worth the cost. I’d agree. [That’s Andy Kessler saying I agree, and I would as well.]
Thanks to censorship and technology, the public airwaves have been greatly diminished. Car radio moved to Sirius XM, and Spotify, television moved to cable and satellite and blu ray. Now it is all streaming and anything goes. I still think youth need to be protected. But good luck with that. Eight-year-olds with smartphones can hear the forbidden words daily. I laugh at Netflix kid magnet warnings: gore, language, smoking. Even Disney isn’t as family friendly as it used to be. [And I’ll add one thing here, and that is there are so many movies where the young people in the movie are using the seven words and more as if it’s just the normal talk of the day in a family and that always drives me nuts. Not that I, first of all, kids are too young to be using it; second hiring them to play a role where they have to talk that way and use that language all the time seems, I don’t know, seems like you’re putting kids into a bad spot and taking advantage of them. And three, I just don’t see the point. But anyway, I digress. Back to Andy’s story. Last paragraph.]
Carlin died in 2008 as cancer culture and campus safe spaces for the anxious we’re beginning to become widespread. Today, there’s a long list of things you can’t say including all lives matter and chief and birth mother and even master bedroom. Goodbye discussion and thought, then add sports team names and wrong pronouns on the playgrounds and shoot. We miss you, George Carlin.
So whether you agree with Andy or not is not the point of this. Really, his opinion piece struck me because of my interest in this whole notion of being offended and my choosing, at least to the extent that I can, not to be offended and to just accept that people have opinions that aren’t mine that I don’t like, and it’s their right to have them as long as they’re not bothering me with anything about their words. I choose not to invite their words into my life. And I think, and I’m certainly in no position to speak for everyone or anyone, but I think that if we adopted that approach, it would be much tougher to get upset about things over which (1) we have no control, (2) there’s nothing we can do about, and (3) they probably don’t make a difference in our lives. And I just don’t like creating problems where there is no problem.
So thanks for listening. I hope you got some value out of this episode. And until next time, maximize your greatness.