That’s offensive! So what?

There seem to have been a number of incidents recently where one person has said something that others took offence to which have made it into the news. Some of these cases involve people expressing their opinion but most concern inappropriate jokes. I have some concerns that, given the ability of social media to find things to take offence to and the amount of pressure that can be levied with it, we are heading towards a dangerous situation where it will be safe only to voice the most popular opinions or tell the most politically correct jokes.

At times, the apparent need to get offended gets justified in the most ridiculous ways, as shown here in South Africa. I would encourage everyone to read the Broacasting Complaints Commission of South Africa’s (BCCSA) findings with regards to “jou ma se paw paw” that was said on Heart 104.9FM. A complaint was made after a DJ said “jou ma se paw paw,” which translates to “your mother’s paw paw.” Fairly inoffensive. The problem is that “jou ma se poes,” which translates to “your mother’s cunt” is a common insult. The complainant said that by using something similar it is an attack on women’s dignity and encourages sexism.

Against all common sense the complaint was upheld! Although the BCCSA only reprimanded the broadcaster and found the words did not amount to advocacy of hatred, they , somehow, concluded that:

The words “Jou ma se paw-paw” are grossly offensive within the South African context. They strongly remind of the seriously derogatory original phrase, which need not be repeated here. The words are also, within the same context of children, harmful to children in terms of clause 6(1)

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And how do they know that?

Angel (Source: Wikimedia Commons (Brosen))

A very important question to consider, or actually ask, when someone tells you something is, “How do they know that?” This is important because it can give you an idea of how likely that person is to be correct and how much you can trust them. If someone were to come up to you and say, “Your wife is cheating on you,” you wouldn’t immediately take that to be true. And how much trust you put in those words would differ if the person knew because they had dreamt that she was cheating on you, because they heard she was cheating on you from someone else or because they had video of her cheating on you. The video is tangible, objective evidence to support the assertion that she is cheating on you and the quality and amount of supporting evidence is key. Continue reading

Things to consider when using social media

I’ve really been neglected this site lately. I’m now longer busy at university, and will be graduating next week, but the biggest distraction has been Dota 2. I’d been hearing about it for years and finally got access. It’s a lot like the original and while some aspects are undeniably better (controls) others leave a bit to be desired (match set up) and a few things are just strange (non-game items). But this post isn’t about Dota, I want to draw people’s attention to two interesting videos on Youtube.


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Writers’ Workshop in Stellenbosch

Mont Fleur

Mont Fleur

Near the end of last month, I went to Stellenbosch with some other members of the Division of Human Genetics to attend a writers’ workshop. I’ve already dealt with the academic portion of workshop in a post on the Human Genetics website, so this one will focus more on the casual aspects and some thoughts stemming from it. While we were there, we stayed at the Mont Fleur conference venue which is amazing. The staff are polite and helpful, the accommodation is clean and spacious and the food is unbelievable. All that in an incredibly beautiful setting. Continue reading