Guest post: Very few people understand what a “right” is

Guest post by George Felis, from a discussion on the “right to insult people” issue elsewhere.

In addition to the obvious smug stupidity here, there’s a subtler level of plain old ignorance: Very few people understand what a “right” is. The word “right” does not necessarily always mean a civil right, legal right, or constitutional right. For one person to have a “right” simply means that some other person or persons has an obligation to do or refrain from doing something that affects that person. For example, children have a right to the love and care of their parents because their parents have a moral obligation to love and care for any children they create. Rights can be personal (an obligation owed by a particular person or persons) or universal (an obligation owed by everyone).

Since everyone has a moral obligation to refrain from heaping insults and abuse on people who have done nothing to deserve it — and, more generally, an obligation to refrain from inflicting any kind of undeserved harm on anyone — people do in fact have a moral right not to be insulted. I suppose someone might disagree with this very modest moral principle, but the principle is so transparently obvious and so widely shared that the burden of proof ought to fall on someone who rejects the principle rather than those who accept it.

Furthermore, whenever someone violates this obvious moral principle without offering any justification whatsoever for doing so, they have clearly done something objectionable and wrong. And if you do something obviously wrong (without being able to offer any justification, or indeed without even trying), your behavior deserves some sort of censure or punishment. Therefore, someone who called you an asshole for heaping abuse and insults on undeserving people would not be violating the principle that you one shouldn’t heap abuse and insults on undeserving people — because you would be deserving rather than undeserving.

Therefore, Milo Yiannopoulos and all his sycophantic man-boy cronies who attacked Leslie Jones for the horrible “offense” of being a successful black woman in a popular film are all worthless assholes. (Incidentally, the whole purpose of a sphincter is to keep defecation inside rather than letting it spill out into the world anywhere and everywhere, so calling these feces-spewing goons “worthless assholes” is descriptively accurate as well as richly deserved.)
Q.E.D. ;-)


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