Patterico's Pontifications

12/1/2020

What Should Be the Standards for Social Opprobrium for Speech?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:29 am



Americans have (with exceptions) come to understand and accept that the government has a justifiably limited ability to punish people for speech. Despite this — or perhaps as a result of it — free speech debates often revolve around the topic of individual retaliation or punishment for others’ speech, which is a much more complex issue — one complicated by many factors.

One complicating factor is the fact that retaliation itself can usually (but not always) itself be a form of protected speech. Thus, while the discussion often centers on what people can do to retaliate, the real discussion to be had lies in what people ought to be allowed to do — not “allowed” in the legal sense, but in the sense of norms that we all ought to apply. There are folks out there who seem to take an almost absolutist position that nearly all private retaliation should be considered acceptable. Many of them tend to be First Amendment absolutists, who (in my opinion) often have a difficult time separating what is legal (permissible legally) from norms (what ought to be considered acceptable retaliation/punishment behavior assuming that the retaliation/punishment is legal). Such absolutists will tell you that, for example, social media ought to have an unfettered ability to bounce any user for any reason; or that a non-state employer should be able to fire employees for disfavored speech; or that people should be able to boycott companies, seek deplatforming of speakers, or advocate for other individuals’ firing. The “should be able to” formation shows their concern about government intervention — and this concern is proper, because the uninformed often equate violations of norms with violations of law, and/or try to enshrine violations of norms in the law. But looking at the question in a purely normative fashion — how ought we to feel about this deplatforming or that boycott — is a more difficult question.

Which leads me to a second complicating factor: politics. This post is less sexy and interesting than it might otherwise be, because I am deliberately trying to stay away from concrete examples of retaliation or punishment. I am doing this because concrete examples usually cause most thinkers to allow political considerations to overwhelm any balanced and politically neutral principles as to whether speech should be socially acceptable. It’s much easier to reach an opinion on a particular type or retaliation or punishment if I phrase the issue in concrete terms, such as the right of a broadcaster to fire his head writer for openly racist views expressed publicly but not in the work setting; or the right of a social media company to append cautionary notices to tweets from a political figure; or deplatforming of a particular figure. Especially in that last case, you want specifics before you make up your mind. Don’t you want to know who is being deplatformed, to know whether you should care? And should the person’s identity matter? Maybe it should! Maybe it shouldn’t! This is what we’re discussing here.

Which is a good segue into a third complicating factor: judgment. It turns out that it is very difficult to establish totally bright-line rules for establishing whether retaliation or punishment for speech ought to be tolerated, because different situations are indeed different (unless you take an extreme absolutist view either way, which becomes difficult as specific hypotheticals are posed). It sounds great to say people ought not lose their jobs for political beliefs expressed in a forum outside the job — but ought a political spokesman really be immune from firing when he routinely criticizes his client on Twitter during off hours? The key is to apply that judgment in a politically neutral way. In other words, it might be defensible to have a non-absolutist view about the social acceptability of boycotts. But I think citizens should do their best to develop a politically neutral standard for their views on boycotts (or any other retaliation or punishment), where the judgment to be applied is divorced to the extent possible from the political nature of the views expressed.

For example, Tucker Carlson’s writer probably should have been fired, and even people like me who generally decry “cancel culture” did not criticize Carlson for his decision to terminate his openly racist writer. But we didn’t hold that view because we are OK with racism against whites but not against blacks. Rather, we simply thought Carlson should not be forced to employ an openly racist writer regardless of the target of his racism. If Carlson’s writer had openly advocated the inferiority of the white race, instead of the black race, that would not change our views. Similarly, your view of whether it ought to be socially permissible to boycott a corporation is different from the question whether you would participate in such a boycott. For example, you might take the view that it is wrong to boycott a corporation simply because its CEO says things you don’t like on Twitter, but ought to be considered socially permissible to boycott a company that donates millions to a political cause you despise. The political cause you despise might be the opposite of that of a leftist, and so you might boycott different corporations than a leftist would. But it would be hypocritical and silly for you to claim “boycotts are wrong” as you denounce a leftist for boycotting company x, which donates millions to charity a (which the leftist despises) . . . while you simultaneously advocate a boycott of company y, which donates millions to charity b, which you despise. Either boycotts are wrong under these circumstances or they aren’t — which is not the same thing as saying boycotts are always wrong (or right) under any circumstances. See the difference?

It’s a complicated topic and I have run out of time for this morning. Consider this post to be a stream of consciousness discussion-starter, rather than a full-blown essay on the topic. I intend to write a longer post on this issue when I have more time, and when I do, I hope that I will be able to take advantage of wise commentary left by smart people on this thread.

76 Responses to “What Should Be the Standards for Social Opprobrium for Speech?”

  1. I hope this made sense. I think it’s an interesting and important topic.

    Patterico (115b1f)

  2. It’s a great topic.
    Wish I had time to write a good comment. Maybe later.

    Time123 (306531)

  3. It’s good stuff, Patterico.
    Here’s my highly distilled hot-take stream of consciousness. I don’t like boycott movements but they’re also a form of free speech. I personally boycott lots of things but am no activist and I don’t believe they have a high success rate.
    Also on a personal level, I’m for the broadest expression of speech possible, up to the guardrails set forth by the USSC. It may sound quaint, but I still believe the best way to counter repugnant speech is with more speech.
    Corporations like Twitter and Facebook have the right to restrict speech, although I’d rather they didn’t (except for the aforementioned guardrails). I don’t mind the warning flags like, for example, the ones they attach to Trump’s lies.
    If you’re an employee and you diss your employer, you still have the right to say it just as your employer may be entitled to fire you, especially if the employment agreement has code-of-conduct precepts.

    Paul Montagu (4c9475)

  4. Great topic Patterico.

    I’m a near absolutist for free speech. So long as it doesn’t cause physical or obvious mental trauma, “speech” ought to be protect, no matter how heinous.

    I’m interested in discussing hypotheticals, but as a general framework I think society would be in a much better place where those in power, don’t abuse that power against the disfavored.

    You’re right, the caveat is this: what ARE the “bright lines” that would constitute an abuse of power? That’s the judgement part here.

    Additionally, yes there’s a difference between acts that would break penal laws vs societal norms. Conflating the two is extremely cancerous and I’m not sure how one would mitigate this.

    As an extension to this subject, I think we’ve lost something in this society where the factions retreat amongst their peers while refusing to engage their counterparts in good faith.

    We need to extend a little bit more grace to each other.

    whembly (c30c83)

  5. You says your say, and you takes your chances. The audience’s privilege to react should be greater than the speaker’s right to speak because it was the speaker who chose the time, place, manner and content of the speech. He is the initial aggressor … so to speak. I do not recognize a general right to be heard.

    Does the audience have any duty not to be offended? I would say less than people with corns have a duty not to go disco dancing. The speaker should have known that sound carries when he is heard by people he did not expect to hear him.

    So, overall, sorry, the onus is always on the speaker.

    nk (1d9030)

  6. As frequently as norms are imported into law, this may be an interesting space to explore the importation of law into norms. I think American jurisprudence has developed a dang good system of addressing free speech concerns in the context of interference by state actors – one that practicable, provides a decent amount of clarity without being entirely inflexible, and stands up pretty well to moral/ethical analysis.

    If a broader segment of the population had a working grasp of this legal system, I think there is a good chance that it would develop into a similar (not identical) framework for assessing disputes in the private and/or normative sphere.

    Leviticus (efada1)

  7. Humans are social animals who value to the good opinion of others.
    We’re also very diverse in outlook and will decide a balancing test in many different ways.

    It’s good when a venue or platform supports open expression by allowing people to say what they want. But we also want venues and platforms to create spaces for effective communication to happen by not letting speakers be drowned out or participants harassed with threats and insults. No matter what call they make there well be a principled objection to the decision.

    I don’t think it’s possible to create an series of rules that a computer could follow to get a result that would please everyone. Except maybe the small subset that is satisfied when rules are followed correctly. For the most part I think these things tend to work themselves out over time with feedback. For example Twitter was pretty quick to reverse their decision about the Hunter Biden Laptop stories.

    I’m watching the exodus to Parlor with a lot of interest to see if ‘free speech’ is enough of a value for people to give up the larger reach of twitter. If it is, I expect twitter to make changes to how they curate their platform. I expect that most of the people will end up staying on twitter. I don’t think they have as much attachment to free expression as they claim.

    Time123 (306531)

  8. Leviticus, I don’t think this works as well the other way. The state should absolutely not be able to prevent me from using profanity, personal insults or ethnic slurs to make my point. But it’s perfectly reasonable for Patterico to so on his blog, or Twitter to do so on their platform. People who want a different type of speech can go elsewhere. Forcing patterico to follow the same moderation rules that the US government would have to follow would destroy his ability to create a place to have the conversations he wants to have.

    Time123 (306531)

  9. I think “force” is removed from the equation when we’re talking about norms instead of laws. What we’re talking about is social *pressure* (social opprobrium, as Patterico put it).

    Leviticus (efada1)

  10. I agree with this post.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  11. This is a great topic. It’s very complex with a lot of variables pushing and pulling on each other. I have thought about this topic in passing and have a hard time finding a grand theory of speech. So I will just vomit out some random thoughts:

    -Social media: has really changed out society, some for good, some not-so-good. Trolls, echo chambers, other-izing those who don’t agree with us on X topic. All of it degrades civil speech and corrodes our culture.

    -Culture: speaking of which, I think the coarseness of interaction on social media is starting to trickle down into our face-to-face culture. People are meaner in person with those who don’t agree with them than I remember back before the internet ruled our lives. Society today has done a great job ensuring the majority knows it is no longer acceptable to treat those differently based solely on race or skin color or gender. But that leaves the haters with one outlet: political views. And while celebrating diversity has its place, do it too much and you start to Balkanize society.

    -News: clickbait stories rule the day. Reasoned analysis and opinion isn’t what it used to be. Frankly I think clickbait has even overtaken “If it bleeds, it leads.” You don’t see too many stories about massacres in Burma or Syria, but you do hear stories about random one-off events that touch a political third rail. Every story seems to paint the issue in black/white terms, with a clear winner and loser; or even worse, with a clear good guy and a clear bad guy.

    Our society is growing more and more toxic. So has the speech we use to attack each other.

    I have to think longer on how to reverse this trend, as well as standard for social opprobrium for speech.

    Hoi Polloi (3bc019)

  12. To me, the dividing line is whether the retaliation (however that occurs) is properly related to the offense. Mob action to get someone fired for supporting a political view unrelated to their job is almost always wrong. Such behavior is more intimidation of others than it is a response to the person’s actions.

    Case in point: Forcing the Mozilla CEO to resign for supporting Prop 8
    Case in point: Harassing a restaurant manager until she quit, and the restaurant itself, because the manager had donated $100 to the Prop 8 campaign.

    That was 2008. I’m sure that there will be similar boycotts or harassment in 2021 of those who didn’t support Donald Trump — his acolytes seem just as vicious and unprincipled. But so do his opponents.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  13. It makes sense, even though it is bit wordy.

    I’m sure you didn’t get into things you thought of getting into, but that may not be bad. You can run an occasional series on this.

    By the way, Twitter already did change some of its rules, and the basic change is that they’re getting away from all or nothing. Which is very good.

    of course, it’s not acting impartially. Very few people will. The latest controversy is the spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry (the same person who early in the epidemic, suggested that the coronavirus might have been brought to Wuhan by members of the U.S. military) tweeted a photoshopped photograph (probably obviously not real) of an Australian soldier getting ready to kill a child in Afghanistan. This is because of a scandal that came out where, years ago, ending in 2013 I think, Australian military commadnders , not having any obvious goals, created a competition to see which units could kill more Taliban and terrorists, and innocent people were killed sometimes very much on purpose. China did this because Australia wants an investigation of how the pandemic got started, and they’re retaliating in a number of ways, including letting food rot in customs in Shanghai.

    The issue on Twitter is that it took a few hours for Twitter to react to this realistic looking anti-Australia political cartoon and then all it did is label it sensitive. Maybe that’s all it
    should have done. It could be the idea they want to get across is somewhat misleading, but it is not really false. Of course the real message that they wanted to get across is: Don’t accuse the government of China of doing anything wrong.

    BTW, the katest coronavirus theory being promoted by China is that the virus originated in Italy. I don;t know if they;re responsible for the theory, or just using it.

    https://www.wantedinmilan.com/news/china-says-covid-19-might-have-originated-in-northern-italy.html

    Sammy Finkelman (bbf750)

  14. So, overall, sorry, the onus is always on the speaker.

    Some speech is not intended to be heard everywhere. When government forces the reporting of any political donation of $100 or more, and people who search those records to FIND people who might have offended them, this claim that the onus is on the (generally unwilling) speaker doesn’t hold.

    If anything, the donation level for public exposure isn’t reasonable. That reporting is intended to prevent political malfeasance, but it’s not likely that any candidate will be influenced by $100. It seems the actual reason is to deter political donations, not to regulate them.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  15. Freedom isn’t free in fact it is the most expensive thing their is. Glad to see you have come to the conclusion that their is no right to work and those who support the right to work are wrong.

    asset (6368e2)

  16. @6: In the end, sad to say that American jurisprudence isn’t going to matter much, nor is theorizing about the issue. In our globalized world it’s $$ that will do the talking and set the rules. In theory, Daryl Morey and Brendan Eich should be allowed to say what they like, and Hollywood shouldn’t screen content through China’s censors. American jurisprudence and norms, as well as free speech theories, are as likely to influence those outcomes as stomping one’s foot.

    beer ‘n pretzels (042d67)

  17. American defamation law (including any money judgments imposed in court claims/cases) is a mechanism that tries to harmonize the conflict between private free speech and social norms. It also lets different states and communities establish different norms.

    DRJ (aede82)

  18. @6

    As frequently as norms are imported into law, this may be an interesting space to explore the importation of law into norms. I think American jurisprudence has developed a dang good system of addressing free speech concerns in the context of interference by state actors – one that practicable, provides a decent amount of clarity without being entirely inflexible, and stands up pretty well to moral/ethical analysis.

    If a broader segment of the population had a working grasp of this legal system, I think there is a good chance that it would develop into a similar (not identical) framework for assessing disputes in the private and/or normative sphere.

    Leviticus (efada1) — 12/1/2020 @ 10:53 am

    That’s… an astute point.

    We all know state actors *must* afford Due Process to the accused and apply 1st Amendment principles.

    It’d be good for society to embrace these philosophies culturally.

    whembly (3bda0a)

  19. There is also a role for intentional infliction of emotional distress in some states, and for other tort laws if the speech crosses the line into conduct.

    DRJ (aede82)

  20. The one thing I think I am sure of on this issue is: There are no hard-and-fast rules, only general principles that may/should not apply in certain cases, or even in certain types of cases.

    An obvious example, slightly off-topic. As a general rule, I think the government has no business policing the speech of its citizens. But some of those citizens work for the government, and so they government has every right to restrict their speech to some degree while they are on the clock, the same as any other employer. What degree of regulation is acceptable? Hard to say — and no two people ever seem to draw exactly the same lines. Should government employees be able to say whatever they like in their private capacity? Generally, yes. But what if their comments could be taken to reflect on their ability to do their jobs? Then generally, maybe they shouldn’t be allowed to say those things. But even there, that’s not a hard line. Because what if they can do their jobs despite their words?

    Boycotts are acceptable, by and large. I boycott some places myself. And I think it is also acceptable to inform people whom you are boycotting, and why — and even to encourage them to do the same. I do see a difference, though, between “I/We won’t shop here BECAUSE…” on the one hand, and “I/We won’t shop here UNLESS…” on the other. The first formula is a statement of complaint, and leaves the question of what to do next up to the party being boycotted. The second is a threat, and implies that if they don’t do what you want, then whatever negative consequences come next are really their fault. I am not suggesting that phrasing be legally banned, of course — just that I get suspicious whenever I see it used.

    Cancel culture is generally not acceptable, for several reasons. First, it does not invite further discussion, or examination of circumstances. Instead, to make the charge is to convict and sentence the accused in one breath. (And what if you’re wrong?) Second, it insists on atonement but does not allow for redemption. You must be punished through the loss of your job, your income, and/or your reputation — even for a fleeting, thoughtless, and incredibly minor offense. (See also: Sacco, Justine.) Having said that, I am prepared to admit that there might be some circumstances in which cancelling someone or something is an appropriate, and even acceptable, response to an outrageous sin. But an Internet mob of perfect strangers will probably convict at least a hundred innocent people for every guilty one they properly cancel.

    When it comes to names and labels, I am generally in favor of using neutral and non-derogatory names — Republicans instead of Rethuglicans, Democrats instead of Demogogues, pro-life and pro-choice instead of anti-choice and pro-death, etc. (Though I have been known to make myself a hypocrite on this issue through the consistent use of certain unflattering epithets for, say, the Occupy Wall Street people, or Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.) And I’m generally in favor of calling people whatever they want to be called. I won’t go up to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and say “Hi, Mr. Alcindor,” and when I discuss the greatest boxer of all time, I talk about Muhammad Ali and not Cassius Clay. But there are certain lines I won’t cross, because to use a person’s preferred name is to tacitly admit the truth of something I believe to be false. For example, I will continue to say “Bruce Jenner” and “Ellen Page” in private — and just not talk about them in public, lest I get cancelled for transphobia.

    I guess to sum up, I would say: This whole subject would be much easier to address if we were more mindful of how many different “boundaries” there might be in a multi-ethnic, pluralist society…more willing (especially in the heat of the moment, when we think we see a wrong) to remember how easy is is to transgress those boundaries…and in general, more willing to discuss (even acerbically) and to forgive others. With as much information as the Internet now has on all of us, who is to say we won’t all find ourselves on the digital chopping block one day?

    Demosthenes (d7fc81)

  21. I think “force” is removed from the equation when we’re talking about norms instead of laws. What we’re talking about is social *pressure* (social opprobrium, as Patterico put it).

    Leviticus (efada1) — 12/1/2020 @ 11:57 am

    Understood. I think there’s a principled stance that people should tell twitter & patterico to make no moderation or curating decision that the government would, but I disagree with that POV. I think private actors should be free to create their own ideal places and means of communicating.

    Time123 (306531)

  22. KM @14-
    Which is why I donate only to dark money PACs. They don’t need to report their funding sources. The law should allow anonymous political contributions of any amount.

    Rip Murdock (d2a2a8)

  23. I feel like it’s just overall far too easy to fire someone for saying a “wrong” thing without giving them an appeal, chance to explain themselves, or probation.

    And that goes whether it’s a left-wing boss firing someone for perceived racism, or a right-wing boss firing someone for perceived religious bigotry. So many “cancellations” on both sides feel like they could be solved with slightly less unforgiving HR departments. Though yes, the companies do have that right under the law.

    LYT (b89070)

  24. “We all know state actors *must* afford Due Process to the accused and apply 1st Amendment principles.

    It’d be good for society to embrace these philosophies culturally.”

    – whembly

    Agreed.

    Discourse ethics account for this sort of thing very well, and I think represent a procedurally valuable liminal zone between laws and norms. It’s largely why I gravitate toward discourse ethics as my go-to ethical lens (not my *only* ethical lens, but the one I tend to employ first in most situations).

    Leviticus (efada1)

  25. I’ll boycott a company for the flimsiest of reasons. Case in point: Albertsons. Albertsons is the sponsor of that hideous blue field on which Boise State plays football. As a die-hard college football fan, it hurts my eyes to watch a game played there. And, since my alma mater, BYU, plays Boise State every year, I have to see that stupid field every other year.

    Curiously, I forgot all about my boycott when I stopped in Elko, NV last night on my way back to Reno from Utah. I went in to the Albertsons there to use the bathroom and buy a few groceries. My only excuse is that I was weary from driving, and had seven women on my mind.

    I know that nk and JVW, at the very least, will get the reference. :)

    norcal (a5428a)

  26. I know that nk and JVW, at the very least, will get the reference. :)
    norcal (a5428a) — 12/1/2020 @ 2:43 pm

    Hope you didn’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy.

    Hoi Polloi (3bc019)

  27. I feel like it’s just overall far too easy to fire someone for saying a “wrong” thing without giving them an appeal, chance to explain themselves, or probation.

    It is pretty easy and here in DC, it happened to a popular DJ for something he did on his own time, not even on the show:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2020/10/30/chad-dukes-fired-1067-the-fan/

    Hoi Polloi (3bc019)

  28. According to the story you linked, “on his own time” meant a podcast he distributed under his own name, which is a form of broadcasting just like his former job.

    It doesn’t explain what material his employer objected to, either.

    Dave (1bb933)

  29. We do like, and tend, to turn formal laws into social mores and even moral codes, and it should not be a surprise that Leviticus* would be the one to make the point. It’s part of why we like laws in the first place. They let us know when we are good people and “they” are bad people.

    *Google “Leviticus” if you need to.

    nk (1d9030)

  30. @26 Nice catch, Hoi Polloi. Yeah, that too!

    norcal (a5428a)

  31. According to the story you linked, “on his own time” meant a podcast he distributed under his own name, which is a form of broadcasting just like his former job.

    It doesn’t explain what material his employer objected to, either.
    Dave (1bb933) — 12/1/2020 @ 4:24 pm

    It doesn’t and I’ve yet to find an article saying what exactly got him fired. I’m on the fence with this case, even without all the info. If the DJ’s contract was clear on what he could and could not do and say on his own time under his own name – and what would constitute speech that could get him fired – and he broke it, then I have no problem.

    If he wasn’t, I’m torn but still tend to side with the employer. Although in the long run, the company may find it harder to find good talent if the DJs don’t know what they do away from work that will get them fired.

    Hoi Polloi (3bc019)

  32. “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”

    A common childhood chant meaning hurtful words cannot cause any physical pain and thus will be ignored or disregarded.’ -source, Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

    Boycotts are power. Use it or lose it.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  33. Boycotts are power. Use it or lose it.
    DCSCA (797bc0) — 12/1/2020 @ 4:31 pm

    People like to boycott but tend not to like when they are boycotted.

    Hoi Polloi (3bc019)

  34. Here’s the deal. When you tell people to boycott someone, be sure it’s someone they don’t mind boycotting. When Rainbow-PUSH boycotted Coca-Cola, it worked because people didn’t mind drinking 7-UP instead of Sprite. When later it tried to do the same thing to Nike, it was met with “Say what, fool? Keep your hands off my Naix!”

    Soft targets. Low-hanging fruit. What do you really care, anyway? The purpose is to keep you and your organization relevant and prosperous.

    nk (1d9030)

  35. You (general you, not any specific you) have the right to say stupid things and I have the right to tell you they are stupid. Free speech. Now, if I do it loudly and/or using curse words in a restaurant, they also have the right to tell me to leave. Private property.

    Social media deplatforming is, IMO, a form of private property rights. If a company builds a big park and puts a bunch of billboards on it and then lets the public use it because it puts eyes on the billboards, it’s still their property. They aren’t going around listening to people’s semi-private conversations, but if the security guard notices someone doing something against the rules or even just something the company doesn’t like, they have the right to ask the person to leave the park. If they choose to use of their billboards to say “HEY BOB IS TELLING LIES!” it’s still their property. I think it could be different if one is paying for the space they are using, though. I think then you should actually have to violate the rules in order to be thrown off (have you lease voided in effect). So basically, Twitter can make you leave, Go Daddy may have to wait out your lease.

    Boycotts are fine IMO, telling someone why is fine, saying you won’t go back until !thing changes is fine. Calling the company repeatedly to tell them about it, however, can become harassment and I don’t think harassment is protected speech.

    As far as employment is concerned, generally speaking, I think that anything you say off duty, if it doesn’t otherwise affect your job, should not get you fired.

    Nic (896fdf)

  36. I’m a pure libertarian on the issue of job security. An employer should be able to fire an employee anytime for any reason, just as the employee is free to leave anytime for any reason. A job is a voluntary exchange in the free market, and should only take place if BOTH parties wish for the transaction.

    norcal (a5428a)

  37. It is pretty easy and here in DC, it happened to a popular DJ for something he did on his own time, not even on the show.

    Someone who is involved in broadcasting needs to be clear that his speech elsewhere — to the degree it offends his listeners — may come back to haunt him. That speech elsewhere IS related to his job, since his public persona is what he is selling.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  38. @36 That leaves the employee too open to abuse IMO. The 1890s sucked for a very large percentage of people.

    Nic (896fdf)

  39. It doesn’t and I’ve yet to find an article saying what exactly got him fired.

    And the fact that this speech is not (even now) public knowledge undercuts the reason given (“Our air talent are ambassadors of our brand, and we do not want to be affiliated with these comments.”)

    Given that no one seems to know what he said, it couldn’t have caused any such affiliation,

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  40. @38 That’s because there were trusts and possibly other impediments to competition in the 1890s. With a truly competitive and free market, workers could move on from bad employers. Employers would compete for employees, and only the better employers would survive.

    norcal (a5428a)

  41. Addendum to 40.

    Other impediments included union busters.

    norcal (a5428a)

  42. My sympathy is with the person earning their daily bread. I would consider complaining to a boss about a worker one of the worst things I could do even if it affected me personally, and positively evil if over some social or political view opposed to mine.

    nk (1d9030)

  43. @40 Ultimately though, free market employment is, at this point, often more theory than reality. As a practical reality you end up being limited by things like available opportunities in your field, moving expenses, letters of commendation, health insurance, etc. So if drunken Guillaume Gilt tells Bob Widgetmaker that he’s taking Bob’s truck or Bob will lose his job, Bob may not have a lot of choice.

    Nic (896fdf)

  44. omeone who is involved in broadcasting needs to be clear that his speech elsewhere — to the degree it offends his listeners — may come back to haunt him. That speech elsewhere IS related to his job, since his public persona is what he is selling.
    Kevin M (ab1c11) — 12/1/2020 @ 6:10 pm

    Agreed, but it should be in writing, in the contract between the employer and employee.

    Hoi Polloi (3bc019)

  45. An employer should be able to fire an employee anytime for any reason, just as the employee is free to leave anytime for any reason. A job is a voluntary exchange in the free market, and should only take place if BOTH parties wish for the transaction.

    Except that it is rarely a equitable market. The employer has much more economic power, and far more leeway in who (and when) they hire. The individual generally is captive to short-term economic needs that do not usually apply to the employer, particularly a corporate employer.

    This is one of those seemingly equal arrangements that isn’t equal at all. Like “It’s illegal for rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges.” Losing a job is much different than losing an employee.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  46. As far as boycotts, I have a long mental list of companies I won’t do business with. Most of them just suck – I generally give second chances, etc. But there are some that I won’t patronize because of owner politics. I don’t get on a soap box about it, but given the option, I’d prefer my consumer spending not indirectly finance politicking for policies I don’t like, and see nothing wrong with this.

    As far as mass-producing social opprobrium, blacklists are evil. Full stop. And various government entities should make far less of them. But how far does this go before resulting in other things we won’t accept? And to prick my own bubble, what about lists of, say, perjurous cops? I can’t say I’m perfectly consistent, or can fully articulate why I come out differently in reaction to specifics sometimes.

    But personally, I do think social pressure is an important corrective to negative political trends. And, honestly, some political beliefs do make me think less of the holder. Belief, or the assertion of a belief, in demonstrably false things make me trust a person’s judgement; whether it does so in a way that effects our relationship depends entirely on specifics. And I’m not just talking about people to my right – I know a lot of “counterculture” folks of various stripes. Every time I hear a Pizzagate-spawn story, I try to remember some of the fun conspiracy rants I’ve heard on camping trips in Northern California. (That said, I don’t see many wild-eyed hippies in Congress, so both sides definitely don’t have the same influence.)

    It is a good topic. Everyone else is wrong on the points where they disagree with me, of course.

    john (cd2753)

  47. As frequently as norms are imported into law, this may be an interesting space to explore the importation of law into norms. I think American jurisprudence has developed a dang good system of addressing free speech concerns in the context of interference by state actors – one that practicable, provides a decent amount of clarity without being entirely inflexible, and stands up pretty well to moral/ethical analysis.

    If a broader segment of the population had a working grasp of this legal system, I think there is a good chance that it would develop into a similar (not identical) framework for assessing disputes in the private and/or normative sphere.

    So Leviticus: I take this comment, in conjunction with your other comments, to be essentially an endorsement of using general First Amendment principles as a guide to when social opprobrium ought to be considered by reasonable people to be permissible. Do I read that right? So, putting this into concrete terms, don’t fire someone from their job for speech if the speech in question would not provide government with an adequate justification for punishment. Again, do I have it right?

    If so, what about the problem that the individuals who impose the punishments (or “retaliations” — either is a loaded word which is why I tended to use both in the post separated by a slash symbol) also have a largely unfettered right to free speech, which in many cases includes a right to engage in the punishment or retaliation?

    Further, can’t you readily think of examples that the Government cannot touch (such as carrying a Nazi banner in a parade) yet would easily justify an employer firing a person who engaged in such speech (such as if the person carrying the Nazi banner were employed as a receptionist at the local Jewish community center)?

    Also: can you dumb down for me what you mean by “discourse ethics”? It’s not a term I am readily familiar with and when I tried reading about it in Wikipedia my head started to spin a bit.

    This is the kind of conversation that would go better in real time, like in a chat window like we used to have here occasionally.

    Patterico (115b1f)

  48. Cancel culture is generally not acceptable, for several reasons. First, it does not invite further discussion, or examination of circumstances. Instead, to make the charge is to convict and sentence the accused in one breath. (And what if you’re wrong?) Second, it insists on atonement but does not allow for redemption. You must be punished through the loss of your job, your income, and/or your reputation — even for a fleeting, thoughtless, and incredibly minor offense. (See also: Sacco, Justine.) Having said that, I am prepared to admit that there might be some circumstances in which cancelling someone or something is an appropriate, and even acceptable, response to an outrageous sin. But an Internet mob of perfect strangers will probably convict at least a hundred innocent people for every guilty one they properly cancel.

    Demosthenes,

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment. The problem with labels like “cancel culture” is that it means different things to different people — and using judgment, nearly everyone can construct an example that might technically fit most definitions of “cancel culture” but which nearly everyone agrees is fine (take the firing of the Tucker Carlson writer as an example).

    Patterico (115b1f)

  49. @33. Yeah. No Pepsi-Cola in my home.

    Ever.

    And they’re so hurt they don’t get to sell me their sugar water and take my $.

    Ever.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  50. Heh! Read the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, Luke 16:19. Sometimes scraps fall off the table, sometimes they don’t. In either case, the rich man is not bothered.

    Rainbow-PUSH was Lazarus, not the rich man. Jesse Jackson got a bone from Coca-Cola, his successor at R-P got humiliation from Nike.

    nk (1d9030)

  51. Patterico,

    You do read me right re: “an endorsement of using general First Amendment principles as a guide to when social opprobrium ought to be considered by reasonable people to be permissible.” I think that fairly summarizes the point I was making (with one of the key words being “guide”).

    I think this importation of First Amendment principles (as a guide) would not be unduly impeded by the “problem of symmetrical rights” that you articulated (i.e. that “the individuals who impose the punishments… also have a largely unfettered right to free speech”). Whether in the realm of “laws” or “norms,” all questions of “rights” are pretty inextricably entangled (except in the minds of the true absolutists) with questions of *interests* which countervail or intensify those rights in particular circumstances. Interest-balancing typically tips the scales one way or the other when “rights” collide (e.g. the “right” to free speech still being superseded by “compelling government interests”).

    I think this (admittedly legalistic) approach could serve as an effective guide in the normative realm. Two speakers claim irreconcilably conflicting “rights” to free speech – in a realm of norms rather than law, who has the better argument as to the “compelling social interest” (or “compelling community interest,” or whatever the normative unit may be)? Is the speaker (or community) imposing social opprobrium doing so by the least speech-restrictive means? Is there symmetry between the degree of “punishment” for speech acts and the “compelling interest” of the person or community doing the punishing? For example, a Jewish community center might have such a “compelling social interest” in the resistance of Nazism that an outright firing of an employee for marching in a Nazi parade is indeed the “least restrictive means” of protecting that interest – but if a Cowboys fan employer tried to fire a Giants fan employee for marching in a Giants parade, the employer’s interest would not likely be considered “compelling” to a rational observer and the employer’s action would merit social opprobrium as a result (e.g. boycotts of the employer’s business, etc).

    By “discourse ethics,” I mean an ethical model interested in fair process over fair outcomes. It is a system built on three principles: symmetry, reciprocity, and reflexivity. It’s classic proponent is a social theorist named Jurgen Habermas. Broadly speaking, symmetry is the idea that all parties sit down at a table in a position of equal power. Reciprocity is the idea that all parties at the table are willing to give to others the time to express themselves. Reflexivity refers to the willingness of all parties to be introspective and engage in critical self-examination – to question their own preconceptions and assumptions as a necessary step in addressing the ideas of the other parties. The idea is that these principles are hallmarks of a system of communicative rationality which will allow for the discovery of Kantian “categorical imperatives” or universal norms.

    (The original theory is rooted in a lot of intense Habermas writing that I have only begun to unpack in detail. It is highly idealized, and its proponents are highly aware of that drawback. Still, it guides a lot of useful thinking for me. I’m extremely interested in it, but it has been impossible to do the deep dive in pandemic lockdown with a toddler. A lot of my original interest in and understanding of discourse ethics came from a book called Civil Society and Political Theory by Jean Cohen and Andrew Arato

    Leviticus (686ad8)

  52. Someone mounts a social media platform and says something…spectacularly stupid…or offends some sensibility. Cue Roseanne Barr. What are we to do? Out them, savage them….get their job….rage about it. That’s why I implicitly don’t get Twitter….it’s not “if” but “when” you’re going to step in it….thinking some gem is just too hilarious…or some outrage is truly warranted. The urge is to hit submit before doing a careful accounting of…should this go out?

    A lot of speech just needs to be ignored….and not elevated to public outrage….and unpacked and repacked. Hasn’t that been the lesson of the last four years. We need to ignore stupid….and walk away from the food fight. But there’s something implicitly human about knocking someone down…..just like we enjoy…and need to gossip. We love to “other” people….and punish ideas we disagree with. It’s generally easier than politely making the counterpoint…or being charitable. That’s the difference between face-to-face and…electronic relationships. You have to actually look someone in the eye before beligerently and metaphorically poking “enter”. Good will is on a ventilator…..

    AJ_Liberty (a4ff25)

  53. Demosthenes,

    I would actually go the other way and say that blackmail should be neither a criminal offense or civil tort so long as the threatened action would not be illegal without the demanded payout.

    For example, I see nothing wrong with “Pay me or I give your husband these photos showing you are an adulterer”.. Now, with modern digital photography it might be difficult to demonstrate that you have not kept any evidence but that is an issue for the negotiations.

    Soronel Haetir (10aefb)

  54. Demosthenes,

    I would actually go the other way and say that blackmail should be neither a criminal offense or civil tort so long as the threatened action would not be illegal without the demanded payout.

    Soronel Haetir (10aefb) — 12/1/2020 @ 9:39 pm

    I don’t remember discussing blackmail…but since you bring it up…

    Whether blackmail is, or should be, illegal is not an issue that concerns me overmuch. My problem with it is that it is profoundly immoral. Blackmailers attempt to force someone to pay some amount of money, or do something, in exchange for NOT being harmed socially. Replace the word “socially” with the word “physically,” and you have a great description of a mob enforcer. That’s not a desirable comparison.

    Demosthenes (d7fc81)

  55. I reject morality entirely. I simply do not use it as any basis of judgement for what actions to take or refrain from. Ethics is another matter, the difference being that morals as I define the term comes from an external source. And on that basis I simply do not believe that people have a right to be free from the consequences of actions they engage in.

    A hypothetical you could be exposed as an adulterer and I could be exposed as a blackmailer and I would have no problem with that result.

    I simply do not believe people have a right to good reputation unless they actually live in such a way that the reputation is deserved, if someone else wants to get paid not to wreck that reputation I’ve no problem with it so long as the reputation-destroying information is truthful. Libelous reputation-destroying information is, of course, an entirely different matter.

    Soronel Haetir (10aefb)

  56. The neutral principle I wish would inform more normative considerations is The Golden Rule.

    lurker (d8c5bc)

  57. @52. No Twitter. No Facebook. Fully informed.

    Back in the day, when working for a major Japanese electronics firm, learned a great deal about how they analyzed the American mindset and market to them. Among the more interesting elements was the use of useless gadgets like lights and sounds that do nothing to enhance a product but simply flash and make noise.

    The Beasts need fed 24/7. Stave ’em- they wither and die away.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  58. Soronel Haetir (10aefb) — 12/1/2020 @ 11:30 pm

    I reject morality entirely. I simply do not use it as any basis of judgement for what actions to take or refrain from. Ethics is another matter, the difference being that morals as I define the term comes from an external source.

    In other words, you are (in your own eyes) the only source of judgment on right and wrong that you need to listen to?

    And on that basis I simply do not believe that people have a right to be free from the consequences of actions they engage in.

    Two questions, then. First, what makes this a principle, instead of merely an opinion or a preference? Second, even stipulating that people have no right to be free from the consequences of their actions, what gives you the right to enforce those consequences? I might believe a murderer has no right to live; that doesn’t give me the right to take his life.

    A hypothetical you could be exposed as an adulterer and I could be exposed as a blackmailer and I would have no problem with that result.

    This is consistent with what you’ve said. But I have trouble believing you would continue to hold that attitude at the testing point, once you saw all the consequences of your actions.

    Libelous reputation-destroying information is, of course, an entirely different matter.

    Given what you’ve said so far, you cannot justify the use of the phrase “of course.” If you reject morality entirely, then it seems to me that you must be the sole source of your own ethical principles. Therefore, you cannot take for granted that we have any ethical principles in common.

    A couple of scenarios to close. And I remind you, before you consider them, that you cannot simply wave away my cases by saying “But that would be illegal.” Blackmail is an offense in every state, and you don’t have a problem with it.

    First, do you believe there are limits to blackmail? That is, could I (a prospective blackmailer) legitimately coerce my victim to reveal information I could use to blackmail others? Could I force them to blackmail others on my behalf? Could I force them to commit nonviolent crimes (like embezzlement) for my own gain? Could I force them to commit violent crimes to further my own interests? And if not, why not? Second, if you believe blackmail can be justified, then do you also hold the same opinion of vigilantism? It is an obvious logical inference from your words that it would make no difference to you whether I chose to expose an adulterer to public scorn, or to blackmail him for my own financial gain…because he has no right to be free from the consequences of his actions. So what would you say, then, if I chose instead to castrate him?

    Demosthenes (d7fc81)

  59. That’s why I implicitly don’t get Twitter….it’s not “if” but “when” you’re going to step in it

    I don’t get Twitter either. But Twitter has a disproportionate amount of power these days. Compared to the population as a whole, there aren’t a lot of Twitter users, but the Twitter scolds hold a lot of power. And the younger users are more at risk of “stepping in it” because we all say and do stupid things when we are young. But Twitter memorializes those missteps forever.

    Now, we have scolds pouring through celebrities’ Twitter accounts and having a field day with anyone who did anything wrong back in their youth. I have seen several stories on young MLBers getting in trouble with the Twitter scolds because they used words that the scolds didn’t like.

    Hoi Polloi (3bc019)

  60. …we all say and do stupid things when we are young. But Twitter memorializes those missteps forever. Now, we have scolds pouring through celebrities’ Twitter accounts and having a field day with anyone who did anything wrong back in their youth.

    Hoi Polloi (3bc019) — 12/2/2020 @ 4:24 am

    This is another reason I have a problem with the viewpoint that “you don’t have the right to be free of the consequences of your actions.” People change over time — hopefully, they grow and mature. The person who says or does something stupid when he is young may not be the same person the Internet mob forces to pay for that mistake umpteen years later. As a middle-aged adult, I would hate to be judged on some of the more outstanding social errors of my youth, or even the job-related and money-related mistakes that so many newly-independent young adults (myself included) fall prey to.

    Demosthenes (d7fc81)

  61. My own reaction:

    1. If you are clearly a public figure or influencer in government, politics, or the culture current egregious statements make you and your company fair game for whatever. Long past statements probably should not have that effect.

    2. People who get thrust onto the big political or cultural stage by happenstance should not have the internet mobs thrown at them.

    3. Save boycotts for extreme circumstances. Allow for recantation and forgiveness.

    4. If you diss your employer or speak against its interests in a public forum, you probably can be fired, unless Labor Law is involved. A Coke executive declaring his superior love for Pepsi on Twitter is a firing offence.

    5. Mistrust people seeking to incite the mob against someone. Mistrust short quotes. If someone is famous because they are hot (or were hot 20 years ago), don’t pay much mind to their political thoughts.

    I am not sure there is a consistent philosophy that can unite all these bits. Society appears to be prone to hysteria. It seems so much could be avoided by urging people to take a deep breath and stop being offended.

    Appalled (1a17de)

  62. For groups historically without power, the relatively unbridled power of social media movements and “cancellation” must be pretty intoxicating. I agree that a more moderated impulse is needed, but I think I understand why that will take some time and maturation.

    Leviticus (0003b5)

  63. In other words, you are (in your own eyes) the only source of judgment on right and wrong that you need to listen to?

    Not ‘only’ but I am certainly the ultimate judge of whether I will personally undertake a course of conduct. I, of course, take others’ judgement of those actions into account when deciding. I do not necessarily believe that we have ethics in common, I merely hope that they are close enough that we are not in Hobbes’ state of nature.

    As for you personally killing a murderer I do believe in a reasonably strong principal of non-violence. However I also believe that most any violation more serious than the theft of a couple hundred dollars forfeits someone’s right to live in society and that society should actually enforce that forfeiture through execution. Of course, I also recognize that society does not agree with me, that there is barely agreement when it comes to murderers.

    As for your final questions, depends on the nature of what you mean by ‘force’. If you mean using the threat of exposure to get even more damaging information I would say yes, I have no problem with that. So long as the threatened action (exposure of the reputation-destroying information in the case of a blackmailer, lack of business and urging others to do the same in the case of a boycotter) is not itself unethical I have no problem with the scenario.

    As for non-violent crimes, I would answer that theft is still violence against another. And that also takes care of vigilantism, that we forfeit the right to use violence against others to society as a whole so that others must do the same toward us.

    Soronel Haetir (10aefb)

  64. Sometimes someone who falls into the category of an entertainer (a sports player for instance, or who someone who endorses in an advertisement) has a contract that guarantees payment, even if fired, but it has a morals clause.

    The question could be what could that apply to?

    https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=5f23cbad-5c7d-4f5e-9002-b5e1db396409

    … Even today, some representing talent fear that morality clauses, particularly those that are broad or ambiguous, may create pretext for termination of contracts based on other factors. There is also concern that morality clauses can be unfair to talent since anyone can invent an accusation, or make a public statement that is not necessarily true. Both the Director’s Guild of America (DGA) and the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) have banned morals clauses in guild member agreements for decades. The DGA Basic Agreement states that: “Employer agrees that it shall not include or enforce any so-called ‘morals clause,’ as the term is commonly understood in the motion picture and television industries, in any contract of employment or deal memo for the services of an employee.” Similarly, the WGA Basic Agreement states that: “Company agrees that it will not include the so-called ‘morals clause’ in any writer’s employment agreement covered by this Basic Agreement.” Though the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Radio and Television Artists (SAG-AFTRA) does not contain a similar prohibition, talent agents and attorneys often negotiate for the removal of a morality clause from a talent agreement, or to narrow and clarify the terms.

    Sammy Finkelman (bbf750)

  65. Not ‘only’ but I am certainly the ultimate judge of whether I will personally undertake a course of conduct.

    Soronel Haetir (10aefb) — 12/2/2020 @ 8:46 am

    This…is not a response to my question. Let me see if I can explain why.

    To refresh your memory: you said that you “reject[ed] morality entirely,” but that ethics was “another matter.” Then you implied a difference between them by defining morality as “com[ing] from an external source.” The implication is that you define ethics as coming from an internal source — I.e., yourself. If you approve of an action, it is ethical; it you don’t, it is not. Am I right? If not, where did my reasoning lapse? (My definitions are different from yours, which is why I’m trying to figure out what you mean.)

    Even though we have different definitions, we both recognize a distinction between the moral/immoral dichotomy and the ethical/unethical dichotomy. They do not mean exactly the same thing. (It is possible for an action to be moral but unethical, or ethical but immoral.) But they do have one significant thing in common: they are both ways of discussing right and wrong, as are other dichotomies like proper/improper, appropriate/inappropriate, and the all-time classic, good/bad. An action fitting any of those positive terms is “right,” at least in some sense. An action fitting any of the negative terms is in some way wrong.

    So, assuming I am right about what you consider “ethical” being a matter of your judgment, this is why your comment above doesn’t answer my question: It is possible to undertake a course of action that you consider wrong (in this case, “wrong” meaning “unethical”). I’d be willing to bet, in fact, that you have done so at some point in the past…as have I, as have we all. So when I ask a question about right and wrong, and you respond with an answer about courses of conduct, I sense we’re not talking about the same thing.

    I, of course, take others’ judgement of those actions into account when deciding.

    Well, now I’m more confused than ever. Aren’t those persons you’re speaking about external to you? And therefore, wouldn’t you consider their judgments to be a form of morality, which you have already said you rejected?

    Demosthenes (f930bf)

  66. Morality is a transient; Twitter is for the lazy-minded; DiGenova pulled a bomb-throwing-Gingrich- 101; when was the last time anybody even gave him attention or a though-let alone a mention.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  67. By “discourse ethics,” I mean an ethical model interested in fair process over fair outcomes. It is a system built on three principles: symmetry, reciprocity, and reflexivity. It’s classic proponent is a social theorist named Jurgen Habermas. Broadly speaking, symmetry is the idea that all parties sit down at a table in a position of equal power. Reciprocity is the idea that all parties at the table are willing to give to others the time to express themselves. Reflexivity refers to the willingness of all parties to be introspective and engage in critical self-examination – to question their own preconceptions and assumptions as a necessary step in addressing the ideas of the other parties. The idea is that these principles are hallmarks of a system of communicative rationality which will allow for the discovery of Kantian “categorical imperatives” or universal norms.

    Interesting. To me, when it comes to communication on the Internet, the first and most troublesome task is finding a person with whom it is worthwhile to invest the time in such discussions.

    In a longer post on this topic I would likely explore some of these issues your comment reminded me of, like:

    1. Most people on the Internet are, frankly, not worth talking to.

    2. There ought to be an even greater stigma attached to dishonest forms of discourse than there is now. When I speak of dishonest forms of discourse, I am (unfortunately) referring to the dominant mode of Web discourse: one in which the speaker a) does not listen, b) acknowledges absolutely nothing valid about his opponent’s position, and c) comes up with hypocritical and fallacious forms of response like whatabouts, cherry-picking the weakest points in any list and ignoring the rest, ignoring valid points in general, false equivalencies, and on and on and on. This is a non-exhaustive list. Honestly, this is the way most people speak on the Internet.

    3. There is a phenomenon where the larger the audience, the stupider the commenters. In a way, having a blog that has shrunk in readership can be a blessing of sorts because there are fewer idiots to contend with. I notice any time on Twitter that I am retweeted by a big account — no matter the politics of the retweeted — I get an influx of sub-morons. Even in a smaller and very curated setting like this one, only a handful of you are really worth spending much time talking to.

    Anyway, I appreciate the response and I would be interested to hear more about how you would put these admittedly idealistic principles into practice in an environment where most participants are dishonest and annoying idiots.

    Patterico (115b1f)

  68. There is also a role for intentional infliction of emotional distress in some states, and for other tort laws if the speech crosses the line into conduct.

    Right, DRJ, and that is an illustration of one way in which the law affects social punishments. For example, the government might not outright mandate that you fire your racist employee, but the presence of discrimination law and the prospect of lawsuits for inhospitable work environments will still pressure a lot of employers to do so.

    The notion that Kevin D. Williamson could be fired from The Atlantic in part because his presence (due to his political opinions) makes other employees nervous (or at least claim to be) makes me think: OK, the presence of people who are made nervous by Kevin D. Williamson makes me nervous — because I might share some of his beliefs and such people might try to get me fired. Is that a ground for me to try to get them fired? Why ought their nervousness be privileged over mine? I think this goes to a common argument over whether it is appropriate to tolerate the intolerant, or provide free speech for those who would employ that freedom to argue against the freedom itself. Ultimately, I think the best answer is that people should — meaning here, that it is not a good idea to give me a reciprocal right to use my own discomfort as a club, but rather it is a better idea to take the club away from everybody. But as long as there are laws against making a workplace hostile towards group x (such as those of a certain race, sex, or religion) but not group y (such as those holding a particular political opinion), the government has a thumb on the scale that influences what nominally private actors feel legally compelled to allow in the way of speech. I’m not certain that’s a good thing.

    Patterico (115b1f)

  69. @51,

    Leviticus, I think your proposal is a good one for me, but I’m not sure how universal it would be. I’m skeptical of anything that ‘gates’ people’s right to participate in the conversation. I see how it’s used with respect to culture war issues where if you don’t have the background and vocabulary to correctly make a point, you’re accused of being offensive when you maybe didn’t mean to be. I think too many people are pushed out of conversation for that reason. On the flip side, people who are personally impacted by an issue are often pushed out if they can’t speak about it with sufficient calm.

    I think we need to make reasonable allowances for those types of things. Which is hard online. I also don’t think this lends itself to bright line rules.

    Time123 (daab2f)

  70. Patterico wrote

    Interesting. To me, when it comes to communication on the Internet, the first and most troublesome task is finding a person with whom it is worthwhile to invest the time in such discussions.

    In a longer post on this topic I would likely explore some of these issues your comment reminded me of, like:

    1. Most people on the Internet are, frankly, not worth talking to.

    2. There ought to be an even greater stigma attached to dishonest forms of discourse than there is now. When I speak of dishonest forms of discourse, I am (unfortunately) referring to the dominant mode of Web discourse: one in which the speaker a) does not listen, b) acknowledges absolutely nothing valid about his opponent’s position, and c) comes up with hypocritical and fallacious forms of response like whatabouts, cherry-picking the weakest points in any list and ignoring the rest, ignoring valid points in general, false equivalencies, and on and on and on. This is a non-exhaustive list. Honestly, this is the way most people speak on the Internet.

    3. There is a phenomenon where the larger the audience, the stupider the commenters. In a way, having a blog that has shrunk in readership can be a blessing of sorts because there are fewer idiots to contend with. I notice any time on Twitter that I am retweeted by a big account — no matter the politics of the retweeted — I get an influx of sub-morons. Even in a smaller and very curated setting like this one, only a handful of you are really worth spending much time talking to.

    Anyway, I appreciate the response and I would be interested to hear more about how you would put these admittedly idealistic principles into practice in an environment where most participants are dishonest and annoying idiots.

    As I started reading this my first thought was about the outcome you’re after. I think much of what you raise in #2 can be attributed to people wanting to ‘win’ by saying something clever or funny or by inflicting mild emotional distress. I think there’s also an element of people building their self worth by strongly showing they belong in their ‘tribe’ by defending the tribe’s position.

    Not everyone is here for that, personally What I mostly get out of my participation here is that it helps me clarify my thinking and learn. It’s similar to how a college class would assign a paper, take a position, arrange the pertinent facts and lay them out logically. There’s an added benefit that people who have background I don’t take the time to explain some of those details.

    As I finished your comment I wondered if responding to your comment was a waste of both our time.

    Time123 (daab2f)

  71. Well, now I’m more confused than ever. Aren’t those persons you’re speaking about external to you? And therefore, wouldn’t you consider their judgments
    to be a form of morality, which you have already said you rejected?

    Perhaps I wasn’t as clear as I might have wished. By others’ judgement I wasn’t referring to others’ judgement of the proposed action so much as their judgement of me for having undertaken it. That flows naturally from having to live with the consequences of whatever actions I perform, other’s judgement being just one such consequence.

    The morality I particularly reject is of the form “XXX is wrong because ___ says so”, especially where the basis does not provide for questioning the result.

    Soronel Haetir (10aefb)

  72. The morality I particularly reject is of the form “XXX is wrong because ___ says so”, especially where the basis does not provide for questioning the result.

    Soronel Haetir (10aefb) — 12/2/2020 @ 2:18 pm

    Which still leaves the question: on what basis do you consider an action to be right or wrong?

    Demosthenes (f930bf)

  73. Depends on the action I suppose. I do not believe I have any over-arching theory of ‘right’.

    Soronel Haetir (10aefb)

  74. Related: How act checking became controversial:

    https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/arts-letters/articles/fact-checkers-media-criticism

    Once ensconced almost exclusively in the editorial departments of legacy publications, fact-checking is now its own free-standing business. By this time last year, there were nearly 200 fact-checking outfits professionally engaged in debunking, correcting, and fixing facts—with names like PolitiFact, Snopes, and the International Fact-Checking Network. Some sell ads, and some get seven-figure donations from people pushing assorted sets of causes. In other words, they are modern media enterprises.

    The Washington Post . and New York Times also have their own in-house fact-checking czars, but their purpose is nontraditional—in the sense that these operations, supported with millions in sponsorship donations by billionaires like Pierre Omidyar, do not engage with ensuring the veracity before publication of reports that they themselves have made. Rather, their job is to correct the published work of others, by issuing declarations of unreliability or ratings of inaccuracies. As is often the case, these tasks are performed in direct collaboration with Google and the social media platforms that eviscerated the old business models of media-making, in order to censor the distribution of stories by rivals.

    It’s a weird three step process: Destroy the media, create a toxic replacement in social media platforms, use the fading credibility of legacy media tools to censor their replacements. And for however odious or ill motivated one might find the political viewpoints of others, the new fact-checking regime has become a phenomenally one-sided endeavor—one devoted to self-promotion while invalidating the truth-claims made by the other half of the political spectrum.

    The term “one-sided” may in fact understate the case. A recent analysis of the Associated Press fact-checking vertical found that 94% of fact-checks were made on Republican and conservative statements. During one 13-month stretch spanning the first half of Trump’s administration, there were no checks of liberal or Democratic statements whatsoever. Such naked partisanship does little to encourage a robust First Amendment, which operates under the theory that people can best shape their own views by encountering a spectrum of beliefs and ideas, including those they disagree with, even vehemently. It therefore comes as little surprise that younger Americans who are growing up under this system tend not to believe in the First Amendment, either….

    He says print magazines used to be the most reliable sources, more than books. Pieces could sit around for up to twenty years at the New Yorker while it was broken down into numerous specific assertions and checked.

    The article doesn’t have a good ending. It could be intended satire that segues into an imaginary audience member for the fact checkers.

    Sammy Finkelman (5736b6)

  75. Kevin M, at 45: that’s the best explanation for the value and importance of unions i’ve ever seen on this blog.

    aphrael (4c4719)

  76. I agree with your comment 68, Patterico. (Sorry for the delay but I just saw it.) My initial reaction is this wouldn’t be a problem if we hadn’t opened the door to hate crimes, such as the James Byrd legislation, but some events are themselves so shocking that they result in harsher results. Maybe we shouldn’t prosecute or legislate based on emotion, but sometimes we can’t help it.

    DRJ (aede82)


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