The Great, Late, American Right To Offend
July 09, 2005, 05:00 AM
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[Recently by Jared Taylor: Can It Happen Here? Sweden's "Hate Speech" Laws Hateful—And Unequally Enforced]

It's official: at the Grady College of Journalism of the University of Georgia (UGA), it is possible to be guilty of making a sexual advance without even knowing it.

Thus has the university passed judgment, and the dean of the journalism school, John Soloski, has resigned rather than face punishment.

The facts in the case are clear. Dean Soloski was about to leave a black-tie affair in Atlanta to meet a woman for dinner. On his way out, he saw a woman who works on his staff and complimented her on her dress. He was concerned for her—Atlanta has some dodgy neighborhoods—and asked if she was alone.

That was the extent of the exchange. The woman, with whom he had worked for three years and considered a friend, neither replied nor acted offended, but in May she filed an official complaint, claiming he had made sexual advances.

UGA's office of legal affairs swung instantly into action and decided that, sure enough, "it was reasonable, given the totality of circumstances, for the complainant to believe that sexual advances were being directed towards her." [Investigation at UGA cites dean's comments, Athens Banner-Herald, By Jennifer Moore, June 29, 2005]

This created "a hostile or offensive working environment" in violation of UGA's policy.

The sleuths conceded that Dean Soloski probably was not putting moves on the woman, but offered the terrifying explanation that "it is important to understand that one may violate the policy without having the intent to make a sexual advance."

Never mind that after working with a woman for three years, it is apparently possible to create "a hostile or offensive environment" in about ten seconds. Never mind that the investigators were sure the dean was guilty but couldn't decide whether he was hostile or offensive (only at a university could anyone think an implied invitation was "hostile").

The enormity of the ruling boils down to this: All that matters is what the lady thought. At Georgia, a man can be guilty of propositioning a woman without even knowing it.

Since Mr. Soloski—the poor boy is said to be an authority on libel law—has resigned, effective June 29, the college cannot punish him further. But he must submit to "sexual harassment training." This is sure to be edifying.

Welcome to the wonderful world of guilt-by-subjective-impression. If anyone in the protected classes—and we know who they are—can persuade UGA investigators there was some possible reason to take offense, then offense was given even if none was intended.

Better not use the word "niggardly" when blacks are around; better not talk about "girly-men" in front of homosexuals; better not put up a photo of the Venus de Milo where women might see it.

For wicked white heterosexual men, intent does not matter; only their "victims" claims of bruised feelings.

Despicable though the system is at UGA—a university can invent just about any cuckoo crime it wants—the rules the government has set for the rest of us are only one degree less despicable.

To get a federal case on his hands, Mr. Soloski would have had to say something like "How about a quickie?" and if he denied it, there would probably have to be witnesses.

"How about a quickie" would be boorish, but boorishness should not be a crime. It is a private matter in which the government has no right to take an interest.

And, at least for the time being, the government does still ignore certain kinds of boorishness. You can tease an employee mercilessly about being fat or ugly or an opera-lover, but it's best not to even notice if someone is black, Jewish, a woman, Muslim or homosexual.

These days, with the courts taking "national origin" seriously, it's best not to notice if someone is an immigrant or has an accent. Just mention any of this and you could have created "a hostile or offensive work environment."

Government should be concerned with crimes, not manners, and if a man tells a woman "Give me sex or you don't get a promotion," it is bad manners but not a crime. A boss should be free to ask anything he likes in return for a promotion: kickbacks, maid service, yard work, groceries. It's up to employees to decide if their conditions of employment are acceptable. They can quit if they don't like them.

Everyone should always have an absolute legal right to be offensive, intolerant, or downright nasty. If a nasty boss is chasing away workers, the company can kick him out. If a worker is nasty, the boss can fire him. None of this should ever be the government's business.

If people assault each other, that is a different matter. But what they say to each other is free speech.

The government first started policing manners as part of the now-obligatory ultra-sensitiveness about race, but the problem has metastasized wildly. 

As ex-Dean Soloski learned last month, women jumped on the bandwagon early. But mass immigration ensures that now every form of human variation is a potential pretext for "offense or hostility."

There is so much joy in being a victim that fat people, ugly people, and even opera-lovers may yet get in on the act before Americans wake up and take back their right to be nasty.

And Americans will wake up.

John Soloski is just one of many casualties in the American war on fundamental rights: the right to discriminate, the right to choose associates, and even the right to compliment a woman.

The very absurdity of his plight—though awful for him—is good for the rest of us.

The further our country marches down the road to nowhere, the clearer it becomes even to dullards that we are going in the wrong direction.

Jared Taylor (email him) is editor of American Renaissance and the author of Paved With Good Intentions: The Failure of Race Relations in Contemporary America. (For Peter Brimelow's review, click here.)