No Offense Offends

no offense – A phrase used to make insults seem socially acceptable.

On Facebook, Greg Benford said:

When I ignore requests for drinks, cupcakes, palm trees, etc. to take part Mafia Wars it’s not a statement about the folks who are enjoying such pursuits. If I accepted this invitation to play in a space fleet game (how cool is that?) I would never get anything done. It’s so easy to get distracted as a writer which is why I’m declining all these lovely invitations. Now back to work.

I responded:

You are making a good choice, but you can’t avoid the fact that your choice is also a statement about the choices that others make.

Greg often faces a choice between playing and getting work done, and he seems to usually respect more the choice to get work done.  When he sees other folks choose instead to play, surely he must infer a substantial chance that they faced a similar choice but made the choice he respects less.  Even if he doesn’t think this way, and even if he explicitly says this, the rest of us must assign a substantial chance that he does in fact think this way.  Yes we can’t be sure, but even so, on average disagreement is disrespect.

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