One area where I must honestly applaud lefties is questioning the usage of terms like "fag", "pussy", "retard" or "fatass" as insults, due to the fact that used as insults, they are homophobic, misogynist, ableist, and fat-phobic (respectively). There seems to be wonderment among some people what one can use as an insult, if anything (there is considerable value to that position).
I don't think it's rocket science. Follow these two steps:
1: Ask yourself if the insult works by suggesting the insulted person is part of some group of people
if no, it's probably ok, if yes,go to step…
2: Ask yourself if this group of people is morally deserving of scorn and to be considered less than average.
if you answered no to this, then it is most likely a morally questionable insult. If you answered yes, then you'd better explain why these people deserve scorn.
The problem is, the insults that are particularly effective seem to use number 1, and most of them fail on point 2. Political insults are probably ok, as whether they are insults depends on where you stand on the political aisle.
Update: This post got some discussion going in the livejournals, and seeing some over-the-top reactions I just thought that it is relevant to add that this post is NOT about supporting censorship (speaking as Denmark-supporting free-speech loving Finn…). Just because some postmodern types use "respect" as an excuse to censor people and ban speech, doesn't mean that everyone has to play by their stereotype and, in their minds, validate the need for censorship. Nor is it really about the "offensiveness" of words themselves (gay, retard etc.) but about the tendency to use these words as supposedly ultimate insults towards people who are not gay or retarded. That said, I wouldn't ban their use in any case, as that "cure" is worse than the "disease".