Novelist Ian McEwan tells grads straight: No virtue in ‘being offended’

Novelist Ian McEwan tells grads straight: No virtue in ‘being offended’
The novelist, illuminating human truth. (Image via NRO)

[Ed. – MY MAN!!!!]

A rather uneventful college commencement season full of the usual platitudes and bromides was shaken up by British novelist Ian McEwan’s refreshingly challenging the zeitgeist of trigger warnings, free-speech zones, and campus censorship at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania this week. McEwan did not shy away from addressing the current temper on campus, choosing to focus on the creeping group-think in faculty lounges and discussion sections instead of the all too easy targets of Russian crackdowns on free speech or the “industrial scale” state-sponsored censorship in China.

McEwan directly confronted the problem of a country rooted in the tradition of free expression under the First Amendment meekly submitting to what he called “bi-polar thinking” — the eagerness of some to “not side with Charlie Hebdo because it might seem as if  we’re endorsing George Bush’s War on Terror.” …

He argued that the time to “remember your Voltaire” is precisely when confronted with scathing speech that “might not be to your taste” and said he was disappointed that “so many authors could not stand with courageous fellow writers and artists at a time of tragedy.” …

A window into the audience’s discomfort with McEwan’s message can be seen in the fact that the first applause came nearly eleven and a half minutes into the 15-minute speech after a reference to recent deaths of unarmed black men in police custody and grinding poverty — what McEwan called the “ultimate sanction against free expression.”

His condemnation of the massacre of twelve cartoonists in their Paris offices by contrast drew near silence. McEwan reminded Dickinson’s students and faculty that “being offended is not to be confused with a state of grace — it’s the occasional price we all pay for living in an open society.”

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