'As a Christian I am offended' - there's one of the worst, most repellent formulas in the discourse of complaint we have today - but boy is it popular. Variations of it were all over Nova's 'Judgment Day': one stalwart citizen of Dover after another talking about being offended. I think that was the first thing the awful Bill Buckingham said - 'I am personally offended by evolution because the Bible etc etc etc' - the 'personally' was a nice annoying touch. So you're 'personally' offended by reality, so what! The world doesn't revolve around you, so suck it up...
['Sensitivity' is] another one - it's like the mirror-image of 'offended.' It's what you're supposed to run to the closet and fetch when someone is offended - sensitivity. They're a co-dependent couple, those two words... But all the same, there is something very stomach-turning about the idea that a university is supposed to deploy 'sensitivity' about the organ of offendedness in godbothering students when planning its lectures on academic subjects.
It's so depressing how arbitrary subjective responses are presented in public discourse as though they were legitimate reasons ('Shut up! Shut up! You're making me feel bad! So do as I say!'). We've developed a disastrous social norm according to which anyone can win instant brownie points by claiming to be a "victim" -- and doubly so if their claim is made qua membership in some "community" ('As an X, I'm offended...'). Maybe the thought is that all communities are equal, so if one is feeling a bit hard done by, this must reflect some injustice, and certainly not any shortcoming on their part.
There's no more vicious character trait, we're taught, than being insufficiently "sensitive" to others' feelings. Manipulative liars are hunky dory - nobody cares about intellectual honesty - but the moment you make someone feel bad, social disapproval is sure to follow. Maybe this is legitimate when it comes to personal interactions: as private individuals, we should of course be considerate of others. But the public sphere should not be governed by the same norms.
It's vital for the progress of civilization that there be a space for open debate and unhindered intellectual inquiry into controversial issues. People won't always like what they hear, but that's an inevitable consequence of seeking the truth. A truth-seeking society cannot allow public discourse to be derailed by merely subjective complaints. Feeling offended is not a public reason that has any place in the discourse. It's a purely private fact about yourself (or your faction, if you're angling for the "community" bonus points) that has no claim on society at large.
The underlying problem, I suspect, is that our public culture has become so infected with subjectivist assumptions that people don't realize that there's a difference between desires and reasons. Sentiments are taken as given; no-one ever stops to question whether their reactive attitudes are warranted. Any kind of negative emotion is not just evidence, but constitutive, of suffering injustice. You're offended, therefore they're in the wrong. It's fucked up.
Social norms exert great influence over public behaviour. In recent times, they've been pressing us to become more sensitive to others' arbitrary feelings (and to cultivate our own feelings of victimhood). One gains instant sympathy by playing the victim, and others risk social censure if they don't play along. This is daft. A more sensible society would privilege the truth, placing great weight on intellectual honesty and warranted - rationally defensible - emotions. We have it backwards: unreasoned emotional appeals should lead us to roll our eyes, not roll over -- such coddling simply encourages the blithering idiots!
Of course, if it can be established that you've truly done bad, then that must be taken seriously. But merely making someone feel bad is insufficient. That's a fact about them, not you. If the feeling is unwarranted, then it's their problem, not yours. The quality of public discourse would, like, double overnight if everyone would just remember this. A just society seeks to give each their due -- a matter that calls for measured assessment, not pandering to whingers and whiners.