Man forced to surrender his "offensive Star Trek license plate

What counts is that the oppression against people who want “ASSIMIL8” on the licence plate continues! The idea that the easily offended have the power in society is nonsense. The “easily offended” can’t even get police to stop shooting their children.

It’s at: There is no one universal rule that can easily be applied to all situations.

There are people who use their judgment to weigh harms. In this case, it’s not about one person being offended, it’s about a person who makes decisions about personalized licence plates going, “Oh, I can see how that might offend people,” and thinking it is reasonable to suspect that many people would be “offended” (where here “offended” is a term for having someone’s licence plate communicate to them that the time they were kidnapped by the government and taken to a school to be sexually abused in an effort to stamp out their culture was a good thing). Then they balance that against the right to have a personalized licence plate (which is nearly zero, and would hardly outweigh even one person being offended).

Governments get complaints from lone cranks all day every day and they don’t act on them. The idea that they jump whenever a single person has an opinion is not connected to reality. Creating some kind of unit test where you pull 10 people off the street at random to check for offense with a predetermined threshold would be a drastically bad way to make decisions.

The goal is that we all trying to understand in good faith how we affect each other and that we then make decisions that take that into account. If you are willing to offend people in order to protect your home, your job, your family, I get it. You aren’t going to weigh someone else’s feelings above the roof of your head. If you are willing to offend people to protect your right to say a particular word or have a vanity plate, that’s just being an asshole.


Wait, someone got shot in this story? I must have missed that. It’s almost like you’re conflating everything and everyone into a single group.

Wow, that took a turn.

I posed the initial question as an invitation to discuss the differences between government issued plate and casual conversation, or your reasons for thinking that there were no differences.

I did not ask because I thought you were an end all authority, but that is the way you answered, effectively shutting down any possible discussion.

I found this to be hypocritical and rude, especially following your above scenario. If someone with a different opinion engages with you and you cut them off, you have no ground to stand on when calling people with grievances unreasonable.


This attitude puts far too much emphasis on the experience of being offended, as if it’s the worst possible thing that ever could happen to a person and needs to be avoided at all costs, when in reality it’s a trivial matter compared to serious issues that people face. Rather than having a society where everyone is constantly kept on their toes in order to avoid accidentally offending someone, I’d much rather a society where reasonable people can accidentally take offense to something, realise they maybe jumped the gun and saved their energy for more important things.

It’s far more important that someone who may have caused some unintended offence understands the underlying issues rather than just worrying about trivial surface level noise, even if they moderated their behavior on one issue, something else would no doubt raise it’s head before too long, there’s no shortage of things for people to needlessly get their knickers in a bunch about (no doubt there are many people who would take offense to that perfectly inoffensive piece of idiomatic English for example). These kind of things are little more than wasteful distractions at the end of the day.

Another thing they do is provide ammunition to people who actually want to deliberately offend people, maybe we’ll see Canadian white supremacists showing up at protests dressed as the Borg now? See the ignorance around Pepe for a similar recent example.


Maybe this is making you think of a more general issue, but in this particular case I think we have to acknowledge that no dialogue was possible or warranted. If the guy continues to have the plate then people will continue to see the plate. He’s not going to have a dialogue with all of them. If this was about a lone crank with a crazy theory about why the plate shouldn’t be allowed they wouldn’t have taken the plate away - they believed this was going to cause offense to more people. And it’s not really the burden of the person reporting the problem to deal with the problem.

I find almost everyone is ready to have a reasonable conversation but to get there is often a lot of work. I have training and experience answering calls on distress lines. A lot of people think that they can just go in and have a reasonable conversation without doing any work, but it’s hard work and they aren’t prepared for it, and then they get upset that the other person isn’t being reasonable.


I’m not a mind reader, I didn’t know why you would think it would be different in that case, and assumed you would tell me in reply. This is quite apt for the discussion, but it wasn’t my intention to be rude with my succinct reply, apologies if it came across that way.

I think you’re bang on the money in the statement above - usually generalized offence (that is, you find something offensive, versus someone directly trying to offend you) is not a reason to engage in fight-or-flight behaviour, even if it makes you feel that way. However, that doesn’t excuse the offense or otherwise suggest nothing should be done about it.

Example: Someone walking down the street with a “shoot the purple people” sign might not offend me directly, as I’m not purple. But it may very well directly offend a purple person who sees it, and it’s entirely reasonable for me to take offence at how purple people might perceive the sign as well.

That’s why in the case of this licence plate, it’s important to consider the context of where it is, and what the demographic makeup is of the community.


That’s a good point. It would be nice though if he could have a conversation with the people reporting his plates so he could realize why it would be a good idea to get a different plate and they could realize he wasn’t saying what they thought he was. In short, I would like to live in a world where the example of good dialogue you posted was the norm, not the exception. I agree it takes work, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it. That said, it may not be practical in the case of vehicle plates.

I’ve often wished when riding my bike or driving my car that there was some way to send a short audio message to other drivers. Mostly when I see someone driving without headlights at night, or to thank someone for letting me merge in heavy traffic. I even considered building a sign in the back window that could light up to say thank you, but worried people would assume I was being sarcastic and get road-rage-y.

Most motorists being the jerks they are, this would almost certainly go really wrong, so I’m also kind of glad it doesn’t exist.


It absolutely doesn’t. I gave a range of how heavily we should weight offense, and it didn’t include infinity. I said that if someone you know a word choice or a vanity licence plate is going to hurt feelings then you’re a jerk if you insist upon it anyway. That’s only saying offense has infinite importance if word choice and vanity licence plates have infinite importance and if being thought of as a jerk is also terminally bad.

Word choice is trivial. Licence plates are trivial. Being thought of as a jerk by people you don’t think too much of anyway is hardly the end of the world.

I’m saying that people should put some weight on other people’s feelings when they make decisions for themselves. I’m also concurring with others that vanity plates are a particular instance where there’s no need to have any tolerance for offense because it wouldn’t really do any harm if they cancelled them altogether.

As I said, I’ve observed a tendency among those who don’t like other people being offended to present the offended people as the unreasonable ones. Don’t project that onto me. I’m actually using judgment to balance different considerations instead of trying to fall back on absolute principles and extrapolating from a licence plate to the woes of society.


What did @GulliverFoyle ever do to you?


We’ll have to agree to disagree here because I don’t think that would make that person a jerk at all.

Due to the fairly flexible word order of English, the song Purple People Eater has caused a lot of difficulty over the years.


I didn’t expect you to know anything, I expected that you would expand on your position so that something like your imaginary dialogue would be possible.

You can’t simply answer NO to an open question and expect people to want to further engage with you. It functions in the same way that saying you don’t care would.


I think you can, though maybe it’s more natural to do so in an actual conversation, rather than an online one, lacking the various non-verbal cues that would help it along. But I see where you’re coming from, we both it seems expected things of the other person that they didn’t realise was expected of them. I hope my follow up post expanded on my position to your satisfaction.

"i can’t really defend the plates and say it’s not a problem."
I can. Easily.

Why is assimilation wrong?
I think assimilation is preferable to the previous current and historical reference of “Ghettos” where each sub-group lives separately. A lot of the anti-Jewish sentiment was driven by this lack of assimilation, moreso than any other single factor.

The alternative to assimilation is “keep to your own kind”.
I find that considerably harder to defend.

Because your culture will adapt to service ours. No. In fact, I would expect my fellow TNG fans to have a better understanding than most of why it’s offensive without awareness of the Trek context.

False dichotomy. The alternative is co-existence. Only a bigot would suggest different cultures cannot peacefully coexist. And please do yourself a favor and don’t use this opportunity to trot out ethnic stereotypes you might think represent other cultures. You’ll be so much happier and the mods will have less work to do.


I live in a country where there are Highland dancing festivals, fireworks for Diwali, parades for Chinese New Year, week-long Caribbean festivals… Rather than being assimilated or kept to themselves, divergent cultures should be not just accepted, but celebrated and showcased.


It’s easy to say you don’t see what the big deal is when you’re in the safety of a majority that has no concept of such things. Cognitive bias is a hell of a thing. You don’t know what you don’t know and ignorance is bliss. Must be nice living in some people’s realities.


There is some irony here around word usage.

The word “assimilate” on a licence plate triggers some people because they were kidnapped as children by the government; abused; grew up not knowing what parenting was even like because it had never been modeled to them; struggled to parent their own children; watched their children struggle because of that; had the government refuse to even apologize (let alone take any action) for all of this for decades; and still face abuse for all of that by a huge portion of the population who think they deserved it because indigenous people are “naturally” lazy and inferior.

The word “offensive” triggers other people because it makes them feel like they can’t do anything they want at any time without thinking about other people’s feelings and without suffering even the most trivial consequence (e.g. have someone else disapprove).

What we are essentially debating (with a lot of window dressing) is whether the latter ought to trump the former.


Welcome to bOINGbOING, comrade.