… where politics & culture meet



A lively and passionate defence of reasoned debate

Everyone has taken and given offence; anyone who claims they haven’t is either lying or uniquely tolerant. Yet in recent years, offence has become more than an expression of annoyance — it’s now a form of political currency. Politicians and religious leaders have mastered the art of indignation to motivate their supporters or deflect unwanted attention, and the news cycle has become increasingly dominated by reports on these tiny tempests.

In this provocative account, Richard King explores how the politics of offence is poisoning public debate. With hurt feelings being paraded like union banners, we’ve ushered in a new mood of censoriousness, self-pity, and self-righteousness. Unofficial censorship has even led to official censorship; blowing the dust off old blasphemy laws, we are moving forward into the past. Yet King contends that freedom of speech is meaningless without the freedom to offend, and that the claim to be offended should be the beginning of the argument, not the end of it.

Politeness is a noble quality, and decorum will always have its place. But when respect comes at the cost of honest criticism, it’s time for us to think again.




‘An excellent insight into the growing culture of intolerance … On Offence should be required reading for all journalists, members of Parliament and anyone who gets offended on a regular basis.’

David Farrar, New Zealand Listener

‘One of the books of the year … an intellectual map for our times’

Martin Flanagan, Saturday Age

‘Lively … a bright and magnanimous reminder.’

Sunday Age

‘An extended essay of uncommon eloquence and brio.’

Geordie Williamson, The Australian

‘King shows how mantras of political correctness, via a lengthy process of ideological entrenchment to rival that of the divine right of kings, have given rise to constant pronouncements of outrage threatening freedom of speech.’

Stella Clarke, ‘Books of the Year’, The Australian

‘A coolly thoughtful analysis … This is a book about right now. The question of what is sayable, and what should be, has seldom been such a live one.’

The Guardian (UK)


The Observer (UK)

‘One of the many pleasures of reading Richard King’s On Offence is it allows you to sift the old from the new. It appears to be an attack on political correctness. But King, an Australian author, who deserves to be better read here, is from the Left and understands that the great issues of any time are as likely to be fought out within the Left and the Right as between the Left and the Right.’

The Spectator (UK)

‘It is clear King is a fan of Clive James’ style and obvious delight in playing with language. Despite dealing with some serious topics, On Offence is filled with humour and beautifully turned phrases.’

Beck Eleven, Weekend Press, Christchurch

‘For King, a freethinking democracy provides expression for all opinions, even unpalatable ones. Exposing the hypocrisy of the current climate of overactive sensibilities, King provides examples of how the insidious infiltration of what is “acceptable” and politically correct often results in reactionary backlashes that damage the very causes they promote.’

West Australian

‘I dare say a great many people will be offended by Richard King’s On Offence. Good. They can take a deep breath, count to ten, pull themselves together, and come to terms with what King convincingly demonstrates is integral to the functioning of civil society. This is a calm, clever, and lucid book.’

Gideon Haigh

‘Superb … I read [King’s article ‘Offence Goes Viral’] on the train, furiously underlining and stifling myself from yelling out, “That’s so true!”‘

Stephen Romei, The Weekend Australian

‘A ripper of a book … Fantastic”

Steve Austin, ABC Radio Brisbane

‘Fired me up’

Andrea Goldsmith, author of The Memory Trap

‘Fascinating … This book is an invitation to rip off the muzzle and start talking.’

Good Reading



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