I have been wondering lately about sensitive natures in our culture, or rather as I term it here, The Hypersensitive Society. There seems to be so many issues today to weigh in on and there is always the court of public opinion on what is appropriate to have a discourse on too. Take the recent controversy concerning NBA owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, and multimillionaire, Donald Sterling. He was basically judged, convicted and banned for life from the NBA for some comments defined as “Racist” while his girlfriend/mistress taped him in a private conversation. I can’t say that what I heard of those tapes is the way a man of his age, accomplishments and position in society should be espousing, but in my own personal viewpoint, I saw him more as a jealous boyfriend than a racist. Nevertheless, the media jumped all over it to label him as a “racist” and the NBA had no choice but to respond in a politically correct way to protect itself. Sterling certainly didn’t help himself in the CNN interview with Anderson Cooper (Donald Sterling tells Anderson Cooper: I was ‘baited’ into ‘a terrible mistake’). Apparently Sterling has been deemed a racist for a long time, but the media didn’t cover it much until recently. See the 2006 article by Bomani Jones on ESPN Page 2: Sterling’s racism should be news. Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, recently made some interesting comments in an interview with Inc Magazine: Mark Cuban, Post-Sterling, on Combating Racism: ‘We All Have Our Bigotry’.

I have no intention to defend Donald Sterling or his comments, but I do respect his right to state his opinions in private and not have them taped. I also defend his right to his own opinions, even in public, as long as his actions are not designed or directed to be willfully harmful to others. There is, in the media today, something known as a ‘slippery slope’, and it is oft mentioned but never really delved into too deeply. The reality is, we live in a society today where there is no privacy anymore and anything you say, whether authorized or not, is fair game for anybody to make public. This is a very different world than the one we knew before the internet age. The man on the street with a cell phone can change public opinion. The premise of freedom, free speech, free opinion, and uncensored thought is a bit of an illusion. The court of public opinion, driven by the internet, selective editing and media motivations can change any topic into politically correct values and censure further dialog. Being politically correct today is almost a necessity. It’s all ‘Group Think’ in a sense. Does any of this sound familiar? If you ever read Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984” then you get it, if not then you should read it.

My personal opinion is that the so-called “offense” people express today on issues is not a real offense, deeply and personally felt, but one having more to do with the court of public opinion and political correctness. It’s a rather phony way to be actually and ingenuous to the word “offended” to use is for anything controversial that surfaces. We may as well face it, and we live in a Hypersensitive Society. It is a place where anything you say can be recorded, analyzed, scrutinized and manipulated. It is a place where you do not have the freedom to think as an individual in expressing controversial ideas. It is a place where some behaviors are forbidden, and if you stray that way, the weight of the state falls upon you with impunity.

I offer in extension on this theme the recent issue on “trigger warnings” for college students. The idea behind this is that students should be prepared for content that might be discussed in a college course with so called “trigger warnings” lest they have adverse reactions and it triggers some latent behavior or even post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). There was a piece in the New York Times recently on this – Warning: The Literary Canon Could Make People Squirm. An article in the Student Newspaper at George Washington University called “The Hatchet” had an argument too “Triggers” are good to introduce: Why we need trigger warnings on syllabi“. The radio show ‘On Point’ with Tom Ashbrook had a good discussion of the whole issue on balance: Warning Labels On College Courses?

I wonder what is happening to our society and if things are getting out of control, not by lack of the individuals in their contributions to societal stability, but by ‘group think’ taking over and the so-called “Offense” we are conditioned to feel in politically correct ways. This aspect worries me in what I feel we have created – To wit: The Hypersensitive Society. I wish to end on a positive note in perspective, and reference here an old song from back in the day, but with a fresh performance by Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) of ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’.