Harper's Gives Prestigious Platform To Famous Writers So They Can Whine About Being Silenced

from the freedom-from-consequences-is-not-free-speech dept

There’s a slightly bizarre Letter on Justice and Open Debate that Harper’s Magazine is publishing, signed by a long list of famous people (many of whom I respect, and plenty of whom I think are terribly entitled wannabe “controversial” intellectuals who are really just assholes). The framing of the letter is one I’ve heard quite a lot of late: concerns that there is some sort of “illiberal attack on free speech,” in which certain individuals and their ideas are no longer even allowed. It’s the more intellectual argument against so-called “cancel culture.” And, yes, there are examples of people being shut down for expressing their ideas, but it is much less common than people would have you believe. In many cases, what people are complaining about is not that their speech is being shut down, but that they are facing consequences for their speech being ridiculous.

There are few things more misunderstood than the distinction between speech and consequences. Indeed, all too frequently people argue that consequences from speech are attempts to stamp out free speech, and just as common is the idea that actual attempts to silence free speech (e.g., SLAPP defamation lawsuits) are just “consequences” of speech. Neither is accurate. Attempts to stop free speech are attempts to use state power (such as the courts) to stop people from being able to express themselves. But people saying your ideas are bad and venerable institutions shouldn’t amplify them is not an attack on free speech or open inquiry. It’s a recognition that not all ideas are equal, and not all ideas deserve the kind of escalation and promotion that some speakers wish they had.

This goes back to two recent discussions we’ve had here on Techdirt. First, a discussion about the differences between moderation, discretion, and censorship along with a followup on editorial discretion, and the debate over the NY Times publishing Tom Cotton’s op-ed about sending in the military in response to the possibility of violence at mostly-peaceful protests. There were a bunch of people who responded to criticism of the Times by claiming it was an attack on speech, which was utter nonsense. If the NY Times chooses not to publish something (as it does every damn day) that’s not censorship and it’s not shutting down debate of difficult ideas. It’s just editorial discretion. The fact that the NY Times eventually forced out the editor who made the bad decision to publish Cotton’s piece was not an attack on free speech but consequences for doing a bad job. That’s consequences for speech, and not censorship.

Back to the open letter at hand. It seems to confuse these concepts greatly. I agree that we should be vigilant and concerned about attacks on free speech, but almost nothing described in the letter is an actual attack on free speech.

The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted.

First off, hogwash. There are more places and ways to speak your mind than ever before, and the free exchange of information and ideas is more available and accessible to all sorts of voices than ever before in history. The idea that it’s “more constricted” has no basis in reality. There are so many different ways to get ideas out there today, and that has actually enabled tons of previously suppressed voices to speak out loudly and clearly — even if sometimes it’s to point out that the supposed wisdom of others is anything but. There is no real evidence of any “constriction.” There is evidence that many people are utilizing their newfound voices and ability to express themselves to show that the emperor has no clothes when it comes to some of the ideas presented by the old guard.

While we have come to expect this on the radical right, censoriousness is also spreading more widely in our culture: an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty.

With so many famous and serious authors signing onto this letter, I have to call out the use of the word “censoriousness”. This word is commonly misused and misunderstood. It does not mean, as many assume, prone to censorship. That word is “censorial.” Censorious actually means hypercritical of others, not trying to force them into silence. Given the literary nature and stature of the signatories of this letter, I would assume that those who wrote this (1) know this and are actually using the word correctly, but know full well that (2) most readers will assume the other, mistaken, interpretation of the word.

As to the larger point of this sentence, it is still, itself, quite problematic. First off, “public shaming” and “ostracism” are literally examples of counterspeech and open debate. In other words, this sentence appears to be complaining about the very thing the authors claim to be supporting: counterspeech. Public shaming and ostracism are the consequences of speech that a group feels is ridiculous, problematic, dangerous or otherwise not worth spreading widely. That’s the opposite of being censorial. It is the opposite of shutting down speech. It is literally people speaking up to explain why those who hold odious views should be shamed for those views. It is a form of counterspeech and consequences from that counterspeech. On top of that it is an attempt to encourage bodies that host, promote, and elevate speech to think carefully about which speech deserves it.

That is quite different than actually censoring such speech and suggesting that no one should ever be allowed to say what they want anywhere. It is saying if you have dumb ideas, people may think you’re dumb, and may ask why others are elevating those dumb ideas. The protests are not to say you can’t speak, but rather to ask “why is this speech being held up as insightful or praiseworthy?”

It is only on the very final point of this sentence that I agree with the authors. It is, indeed, a problem when we try to dissolve complex policy issues “in a blinding moral certainty,” and yet… that also seems to be exactly what the authors of this very letter are doing. They are saying that it is morally unconscionable that some of them and their friends have been censured (not censored) for their non-serious ideas. And that is fundamentally a refusal to recognize the complexity of how speech, counterspeech, and consequences work with a “moral certainty” that their own august voices being shunned and shamed must be bad.

We uphold the value of robust and even caustic counter-speech from all quarters.

Unless it includes public shaming or consequences for your in-group speech, apparently. Indeed, this is the most frustrating thing about this letter. It seeks to do to others exactly what it, itself is complaining about.

But it is now all too common to hear calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought.

Yes, via counterspeech. And, again, the complaint is not that one is allowed to speak wacky ideas, but rather that those ideas are being hosted, elevated, or held up as special when they are in fact trash.

More troubling still, institutional leaders, in a spirit of panicked damage control, are delivering hasty and disproportionate punishments instead of considered reforms.

This is a complaint about consequences of speech, not speech. It is a complaint about how people react to the counterspeech the authors falsely claim to be so supportive of.

Then comes the list of examples — none linked, none with details.

Editors are fired for running controversial pieces; books are withdrawn for alleged inauthenticity; journalists are barred from writing on certain topics; professors are investigated for quoting works of literature in class; a researcher is fired for circulating a peer-reviewed academic study; and the heads of organizations are ousted for what are sometimes just clumsy mistakes.

With the possible exception of public schools (which have more restrictions as government entities), all of these appear to be about the actions of private organizations making decisions based on counterspeech, and presenting speakers with the consequences of speech that many have deemed (often for very good reasons, though not always) unworthy of praise, promotion or elevation.

Read that sentence again carefully. What the signatories here seem to be requesting is not more free speech. Nor is it more counterspeech (indeed, it’s an attack on counterspeech). They appear to be asking for freedom from consequences for their own speech. Please don’t publicly shame us or make our bosses rethink our employment for our speech, no matter how bad it is. That is not a pro-free speech stance. It is a anti-consequences stance, and it’s truly disappointing to see many of the signatories endorse this.

Whatever the arguments around each particular incident, the result has been to steadily narrow the boundaries of what can be said without the threat of reprisal.

The first clause of this sentence is doing a lot of heavy lifting. The arguments matter. The arguments are the counterspeech. The arguments are the speech that the signatories of this letter seem so uncomfortable with. The arguments have been persuasive. That’s why these signatories are so upset. The counterspeech has been effective. It has resulted in consequences as institutions have recognized that maybe they shouldn’t be employing people with bad ideas, or promoting and elevating those ideas.

And, again, it is fundamentally ridiculous and ahistorical to argue that the boundaries of what can be said have narrowed. Honestly, you do not have to go back very far to find examples of topics of conversation that were fundamentally taboo and are now widespread and common. And many of those new ideas have resulted in massive, important social change: civil rights and civil liberties now exist in more meaningful forms than they ever did before because of people speaking out. The ability of LGBTQ+ people to marry whom they love coming just decades after it was literally illegal to do so is a result of more people being able to speak out. The ability of the Black Lives Matter movement to rally so many people in support of their cause and pull the curtains back on centuries of institutional, systemic racism is a result of more people being able to speak out.

The idea that there’s been some narrowing of ideas is nonsense. These people are getting criticized for their bad ideas and their response is to play victim and pretend that the space in which they can speak has narrowed. They’re full of shit.

We are already paying the price in greater risk aversion among writers, artists, and journalists who fear for their livelihoods if they depart from the consensus, or even lack sufficient zeal in agreement.

Oh, come on. Spare me the sob story. Go down the list of signatories. Many are incredibly famous, are regularly published in the top publications, and often appear on TV. They have no fear for their livelihoods. And trust me, whatever “contrarian” ideas they claim they’re not able to share are, in fact, still being shared widely. There are all sorts of ways in which they get to express their viewpoints, and they do. Getting criticized for those ideas is counterspeech — the the thing they claim to be supporting. They’re just playing the victim.

This stifling atmosphere will ultimately harm the most vital causes of our time. The restriction of debate, whether by a repressive government or an intolerant society, invariably hurts those who lack power and makes everyone less capable of democratic participation.

If the problem was a repressive government actually engaged in censorship, I would agree wholeheartedly. Yet, note that in their list of examples they do not provide a single one that involves a repressive government. Rather they only present examples of private entities making decisions (consequences) based on counterspeech. Counterspeech which these cowards pretend they support.

The way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion, not by trying to silence or wish them away.

We agree. And yet, the only ones trying to silence anyone here are those in this letter, saying that public shaming is somehow beyond the pale. It’s almost as if they don’t really want “argument and persuasion” while pretending that’s exactly what they do want. If they believe that the public shaming (counterspeech) is bad, then they should go right ahead and use argument and persuasion to show why it’s actually bad, without claiming it’s an unfair attack on their speech. Inasmuch as this letter attempts to do so, it fails. They should recognize that if their arguments suck — as they often do — people nowadays are less afraid to call that out.

We refuse any false choice between justice and freedom, which cannot exist without each other.

A meaningless, empty sentence.

As writers we need a culture that leaves us room for experimentation, risk taking, and even mistakes.

Indeed. On this I agree. But if you look around, there are so many wonderful experiments and plenty of risk taking going on. More than ever before. That’s not the problem. The problem is this privileged bunch of elites are upset that people are now actually willing to call out their bad ideas as bad.

We need to preserve the possibility of good-faith disagreement without dire professional consequences.

And that gives away the ballgame: “we want to present bad ideas without losing our readers or our jobs.” That’s just not how it works. These people have spent their lives protected in ivory towers, and are now facing real free speech from people who are outside of their privileged bubble, and are freaking the fuck out about it.

If we won?t defend the very thing on which our work depends, we shouldn?t expect the public or the state to defend it for us.

Sure, but stop pretending consequences and counterspeech are anti-speech. You’re not actually the brave truth tellers you want to be. You’re coming off as privileged elitists who are being challenged on ideas for the first time. The signatories are so quick to clutch pearls about people actually calling out bad ideas as bad, and saying that maybe institutions who have editorial discretion should be a bit more discretionary, that they seem to think facing consequences for speech is somehow anti-free speech. It’s not.

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Comments on “Harper's Gives Prestigious Platform To Famous Writers So They Can Whine About Being Silenced”

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413 Comments
Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Read the letter…

Chomsky is a bit of a weird bird – he gets a few things very, VERY right, and others very VERY wrong. A Karl Marx of modern times who had 20-20 vision in analyzing modern economics but then chose to get high on something really hefty before he sat down to write what ought to be done about the less desirable effects of said economics.

You get those every now and then. People who demonstrate bursts of sheer genius and equally staggering bursts of outright moronic ineptitude in more or less equal measure.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Read the letter…

There’s a lot of people like that out there – geniuses on one specific subject but clueless elsewhere. Ben Carson springs to mind as another example – apparently a hugely talented brain surgeon but an utter moron on everything he’s said in his political career.

The trick is to understand where a particular person has their expertise and ignore them elsewhere. If you give "experts" credence in an areas where they do not hold expertise just because they are an expert elsewhere, that’s how you get anti-vaxxers and climate change deniers.

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hij (profile) says:

Shut up and listen to me

This is the same kind of attitude as those who believe the free market should be left alone to meet the demands of the public, but then turn around and complain that organized boycotts are too manipulative.

Also, is this the same Harper’s that seems to think that unpaid internships are great? This is an incredible barrier for people to get experience who have not had the opportunity to be given food and rent from rich parents.

Unpaid Internships at Harper’s

It is not surprising to see them lifting the voices privileged blowhards who cannot believe the temerity of the common folk who might question their brilliance.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Shut up and listen to me

"This is the same kind of attitude as those who believe the free market should be left alone to meet the demands of the public, but then turn around and complain that organized boycotts are too manipulative."

When they say "free market", they mean free for them. Once they have something to be sold, they’re fine with competitors being locked out.

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Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Another avenue

If these clowns had only decided to make their position:

"We believe that the negative consequences of speech others don’t like should be conversational speech in return, rather than more dire consequences to employment, etc."

Then maybe I could have gotten on board. After all, the counterspeech Mike points out isn’t "wrong", but it could be argued to be suboptimal. A call for conversation wouldn’t have been received as harshly as a call for a lack of any consequences…because that call is stupid.

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Bloof (profile) says:

‘I wish to return to the days where I had a platform from which I could issue proclamations to the plebs and receive zero pushback for being a bigot because I’m completely insulated from the wider world and the consequences of the racism, misogyny and homophobia I espouse. In the good old days, the only people I met who’d discuss my work are friends, colleagues and carefully selected critics who believe I fart pure rainbows into my haemorrhoid pillow as I type my latest diatribe on why the Bell Curve might have been right after all.’

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Trails (profile) says:

Blech

Let’s posit a scenario:

Famous author G.C. Paddleling, known for publishing the wildly successful "Fuzzy Paner" series, publishes a tweet along the lines of:

Everyone with brown eyes should have their left arm gnawed off by rabid dogs because [REASONS]

Are we supposed to just nod and say "Interesting?". It’s an outrageous statement and the societal consequences of making such a statement are how individuals and private entities choose to respond to those statements. Those responses are themselves open to debate, but this argument is pretty weak.

I do think some of the debates can get a little… intense, but a lot of the stuff triggering this seems pretty objectionable to me, and worthy of some intensity in the response. Threats and violence aren’t ok in these debates, so that certainly needs to be a line, but that’s not what this letter is complaining about.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

I do think some of the debates can get a little… intense

When the debates center on the basic humanity/the civil rights of historically marginalized peoples, they should be intense — because their humanity/civil rights shouldn’t be up for debate.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"…because their humanity/civil rights shouldn’t be up for debate."

And yet all too many people who ought to know better are falling for the "both sides have merit" argument which is, all too often, an attempt to make humanity and civil rights the subject of debate.

In no small measure assisted, of course, by the possibly most harmful thing to spring from Trump’s mouth, ever; "There are very fine people on both sides" – about the KKK and the neo-nazis getting it on with civil rights protestors in Charlottesville.

When the president of a nation calls actual Nazis and white supremacists Very Fine People then that essentially provides equal credibility to white supremacy philosophy as it does to civil rights, in the mouth and stated opinion of the highest office in the land. Nixon was, by all the confidential records, as racist an asshole as Trump but even he knew better than to hold the damn KKK up as an example of a model citizen.

Hugo S Cunningham (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Trump's "fine people" Was: Re:

SDM wrote:

the possibly most harmful thing to spring from Trump’s mouth, ever; "There are >very fine people on both sides" – about the KKK and the neo-nazis getting it on >with civil rights protestors in Charlottesville.

Trump’s Presidency has been a disaster for the country. Nevertheless, his "fine people" statement was not about neo-Nazis (whom he specifically condemned at the same press conference), but rather about moderate statue-preservationists (and moderate statue opponents).

https://www.politifact.com/article/2019/apr/26/context-trumps-very-fine-people-both-sides-remarks/

In the last few weeks, national opinion against Confederate statues has hardened, but Trump’s "both sides" view was not radical when he expressed it last year (2009 April).

As another illustration of how quickly views can change, the following Trump remark at the same press conference was dismissed as hyperbole:

"So this week it’s Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?"

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Trump's "fine people" Was: Re:

"but rather about moderate statue-preservationists (and moderate statue opponents)."

The link you presented shows Trump waffling incoherently for about fifteen minutes, going out on every tangent possible. In that 2019 interview he does indeed say himself that he strongly condemned bigotry, neo-nazis, etc.

And that’d be fine if it ended on that point but Donald being Donald he just had to backtrack.

Let’s try these on for size;

Trump: "…But you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists. Okay? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly."

Think – for one second, if you please – what sort of person willingly joins a protest train alongside the visible and audible neo-nazis and the damn KKK? That’s the problem right there. You don’t get to march with genuine bona fide nazis and then claim you were being unfairly treated by the press.
There was, in reality, nothing "moderate" about that "other" group of "moderate statue preservationists".

After which Trump then went on at length trying to say there were "bad people" in the anti-statue demonstrators. A comparison more than just implying that a genuine nazi march isn’t that much worse than a peaceful demonstration with the usual handful of provocateurs snuck in.

His "both sides" view was as radical then as it is today. It’s just that it’s been 7 years of more of the same and people have – f_cking FINALLY – started saying "no, we’re not cutting him any more slack because he never does change for the better or learns". If anything it’s just that his method of continually delivering new nonsense for people to be shocked at so they’ll forget what he said last week has at long damn last stopped working that well.

And his entire interview is just more trying to weasel out of the fact that apparently he spent 48 friggin hours figuring out that a demonstration called "Unite the right" led by David friggin’ Duke, marching through the streets swinging the bloody swastika banner, confederate flags, and in some cases actually wearing the classic full KKK ceremonial robes…might in fact, not be defensible in any way, shape or form.

A more reasonable defense at that point would be "Sorry people, I was channeling Neville Chamberlain that week and all I came up with was ‘Mister Hitler wants peace!’. I thought it sounded great!". Which still wouldn’t be good but a damn sight better than taking 48 hours and telling everyone it took THAT long to figure out that yes, the factual evidence is that one side was composed of nazis, the KKK and their sympathizers and not much else.

So no, his "both sides" argument is still one of the worst things ever to come out of his mouth because it provided solid bedrock to place the argument that racism – denying other people equal worth based on <whatever> – is a valid point of contention.

It put the US, in other words, right back to the state of philosophy of the 18th century when human "rights" were a controversial issue.

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Thad (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Trump's "fine people" Was: Re:

Trump’s Presidency has been a disaster for the country. Nevertheless, his "fine people" statement was not about neo-Nazis (whom he specifically condemned at the same press conference), but rather about moderate statue-preservationists (and moderate statue opponents).

Even if we take that statement at face value and assume that it’s true and he wasn’t defending nazis, only "moderates", that still means he was drawing equivalence between people who are defending statues of treasonous slavers erected to intimidate black people and people who are opposed to same.

Suggesting those two sides are morally equivalent is fucking grotesque, no matter how many hairs you split about the difference between white supremacists and "moderates" who merely support the preservation of white supremacist monuments.

Thad (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Trump's "fine people" Was: Re:

Don’t forget that it wasn’t just the monuments.

I wasn’t forgetting it, merely setting it aside for the moment to point out that even if this "he was just defending the people who didn’t want the statues torn down" defense were true, it’s still heinous.

But yes, these were people deliberately attending a rally organized by white supremacists. First paragraph of the Wikipedia entry (links omitted):

The Unite the Right rally[4] was a white supremacist and neo-Nazi[5][6][7][8] rally that was conducted in Charlottesville, Virginia, from August 11 to 12, 2017.[9][10] Protesters were members of the far-right and included self-identified members of the alt-right,[11] neo-Confederates,[12] neo-fascists,[13] white nationalists,[14] neo-Nazis,[15] Klansmen,[16] and various right-wing militias.[17] The marchers chanted racist and antisemitic slogans, carried weapons, Nazi and neo-Nazi symbols, the Valknut, Confederate battle flags, Deus Vult crosses, flags and other symbols of various past and present anti-Muslim and antisemitic groups.[8][9][18][19][20][21][22] The organizers’ stated goals included unifying the American white nationalist movement[11] and opposing proposed removal of the statue of General Robert E. Lee from Charlottesville’s former Lee Park.[21][23]

There aren’t "very fine people on both sides" of a white supremacist rally. There’s one side whose membership completely precludes being a very fine person. It’s the one with the swastikas.

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Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Blech

"Threats and violence aren’t ok in these debates, so that certainly needs to be a line…"

Neither are other real world consequences (like losing ones job) for mere speech that is not in the name of ones employer. If this one gets by no one will be ‘allowed’ to have private opinions, or at least not be able to express them whether one is on the clock or not. If one is speaking for their employer and is insulting to whomever then one deserves the consequence. But if one is at home and speaking on social media (for example) there should be no work related consequence. If it is known where that person works, and the haters go after that employer because of what some employee did on their own time, the employer should tell them where to get off, in no uncertain terms.

Now that might have some real world consequences for that employer, boycotts or whatever, but if employers don’t stand up to the vocal minority in a big way, they will all become controlled by that vocal minority. That will not turn out well for any, and in the long run all employers.

As to the speaker who says something someone else does not like, there is the more speech argument. More speech is fine, but bringing harm to ones livelihood (which has a tendency to impact more than just the speaker) should be a no brainer NOT OK.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re:

bringing harm to ones livelihood (which has a tendency to impact more than just the speaker) should be a no brainer NOT OK

I can’t think of a good reason why the law should force a business to keep employing a person whose speech will ultimately hurt that business. Can you?

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I didn’t say anything about law, I am talking about sensibility. If I don’t express some unpopular opinion (and here I am not talking about racist, or misogynistic, or homophobic but possibly a political opinion that is not the same as someone else’s, or quoting some historical literature that was less than ‘woke’ at the time it was written but quoting it accurately) at work, but do so in my own time, what business is it of my employer?

That some yahoo’s associate me and my employer and claim that my employer endorses my private opinion is another thing entirely. They probably don’t, which means those claims are false, but then they still need defend themselves? That is crazy. That I have to be concerned about what my employer might think of opinions that I express entirely on my own time and away from work. That is also crazy.

Come after me, with more speech, like is happening here, fine. But going after my employer (too late, I’m retired) is crazy.

This will lead to employers (which may or may not be businesses) bending to the will of, well let’s call them the vocal minority (as apposed to the many pejorative names) rather than the marketplace (however that marketplace is defined for non-businesses) which is how things should work.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

That some yahoo’s associate me and my employer and claim that my employer endorses my private opinion is another thing entirely.

If you’re working an assembly line, sure.

However, the people above are "writers, artists, and journalists." Their employers are the same people who publish their work.

The concept that the ideas of a person don’t reflect on the company that publishes that person’s ideas doesn’t scan to me.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

The publisher has the opportunity to read what the writer wrote and then decide whether to publish it or not. The teacher would have to rely on references, and the new employer might actually contact the previous employer to find out what the issues were. The new school might not want the same treatment the previous school got preventing the re-employment.

So yeah, they are different. Besides, these days self publishing is an option, though one then has to provide their own editing and marketing. The teacher doesn’t have that opportunity.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

The publisher has the opportunity to read what the writer wrote and then decide whether to publish it or not.

Uh… huh. Do you know how many unsolicited manuscripts a publisher gets? I don’t, either, but it’s a lot, of which a tiny fraction are even looked at. There’s an old paradox that it’s impossible to get published without an agent, and impossible to get an agent without having first been published.

The teacher would have to rely on references, and the new employer might actually contact the previous employer to find out what the issues were. The new school might not want the same treatment the previous school got preventing the re-employment.

…How is that different for the publisher? Is there something preventing the new publisher from contacting the old publisher? Is there some reason why "the same treatment" would follow a person to a new school but not a new publisher?

Also, if it does boil down to them getting fired for "quoting literature accurately," and no school is willing to stand up for the teacher in that circumstance, there’s a problem with the culture of the schools (much like not wanting to re-hire Colin Kaepernick is a problem with the culture of NFL teams).

Besides, these days self publishing is an option, though one then has to provide their own editing and marketing. The teacher doesn’t have that opportunity.

Exactly the same opportunity? No. However, a teacher could go into tutoring, or making educational YouTube videos, or traveling around to give lectures, which are similar forms of self-employed teaching.

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Glenn Fleishman (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Blech

Right, my question here is: what is the relief "blech" poster wants? If you want to have freedom to speak without freedom of career-related consequences, that is not a thing in the U.S., and it nearly always affects liberal and progressive people who are fired by conservative or right-wing employers or publications, or adjunct professors let go or not renewed by universities, which are typically very conservative (not politically, but organizationally) in nature.

So if the statement is: you shouldn’t lose your job if you say something that is antithetical to you continuing it in the eyes of your employer (or, your book shouldn’t be canceled because your publisher disliked something you said in private or public), what is the policy proposal?

New law that prevents any firing for anything outside of work that meets a first amendment test, thus extending the first amendment’s freedom of speech protections to override commercial judgments? Sort of like a tenured professor at a state college cannot typically be fired for even extreme, but legal/constitutionally defensible speech?

Or is it just more speech: telling employers to NOT fire someone or re-hire them? In which case, isn’t more speech the answer here?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Blech

New law that prevents any firing for anything outside of work that meets a first amendment test, thus extending the first amendment’s freedom of speech protections to override commercial judgments?

The solution would be a law that prevents firing people for any reason except poor performance at work or redundancy, but most of the people who want a law like that (abolishing at-will employment) participate in cancel culture, while the people who are complaining about cancel culture support at-will employment when it happens to anyone else.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Blech

"Neither are other real world consequences (like losing ones job) for mere speech that is not in the name of ones employer."

Seriously?

Almost every company has a "code of conduct" which places certain demands on the employees. And for most of the time it works. You can have and utter political opinion. You are often encouraged to partake in political discourse on your own time.

But no one should be forced to continue employing a person who undermines the human value of people, some of whom may be other employees.

In other words, feel free to have an opinion against gays, but at work or outside of it if what you say actually harms another employee or has no other other aspect than intolerance to it, feel free to get employed in a place where such views are encouraged rather than in conflict with the stated ethical goals of the company.

"If this one gets by no one will be ‘allowed’ to have private opinions, or at least not be able to express them whether one is on the clock or not."

Bullshit. Every corporation in the world has an ethics clause or code of conduct. If your opinion falls into direct conflict with actual human rights then that company is already one you won’t be happy working in.

"If it is known where that person works, and the haters go after that employer because of what some employee did on their own time…"

In other words when the employee of company X gets caught marching in a KKK rally and people start taking their business elsewhere because company X still retains that employee then the company will have to effectively have the back of the white supremacist employee all the way?

"Now that might have some real world consequences for that employer, boycotts or whatever, but if employers don’t stand up to the vocal minority in a big way…"

Again, Bullshit. Employers regularly stand up to the vocal minority – hell, they have no problem with that because the vocal minority tends to be the unpopular opinion.

Your argument only holds water if what you really mean is that the employer needs to have his employees back against the vocal majority.

"More speech is fine, but bringing harm to ones livelihood (which has a tendency to impact more than just the speaker) should be a no brainer NOT OK."

Except if you have, for instance, an editor who failed to do his job as editor and actually read the piece he chose to publish?
Or a CEO who finds one of his executives marching in a Klan rally?

Here’s the thing about free speech and consequences. No one is beholden to employ you if employing you harms the livelihood of the business in general. It’s that simple. As an individual if your opinions are so unpopular the majority of the citizenry doesn’t want you near them then they do not owe you their ears.
If your opinion is that black people, gays, lesbians, transgendered, lefties, liberals, senior citizens or people named "Bert" aren’t, in fact, real people then you have no call to complain if the owners of the property you write your opinion piece on decide you are no longer welcome.

Speech and action has consequence. If your habit on your days off are to stand on the dance floor of your local pub and quote the communist manifesto through a bullhorn then expect the bar owner to ban your ass from the premises. It’s that simple.

Freedom of speech means no one can keep you from bringing your own soapbox to your own yard. It doesn’t mean people should be forced to let you use their soapbox in their own yards.

How can you not understand what a five year old can be brought to realize for him/herself?

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Blech

"No one is beholden to employ you if employing you harms the livelihood of the business in general"

This is all that matters. Companies are bound to treat their employees in a certain way, but this doesn’t hold water if merely employing a person leads to losses. If Rowling’s fans are saying they will not only refuse to buy Rowling’s next book, but also boycott every book by the publisher, they should be listening and able to take action they feel appropriate.

This is doubly problematic in the case of someone like Rowling, because she’s not a mere employee – she’s also the product being sold. Damn right a company should be able to stop offering a product that’s proven to be unsellable at the levels that were originally expected.

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Sasha76 says:

Re: Re: Re: Blech

"If your opinion is that black people, gays, lesbians, transgendered, lefties, liberals, senior citizens or people named "Bert" aren’t, in fact, real people then you have no call to complain if the owners of the property you write your opinion piece on decide you are no longer welcome."
I wholeheartedly agree. However, I would add the unborn babies to your list. They are real people too.

"Speech and action has consequence."
People keep repeating this here. While remaining anonymous. People who signed the letter are not. But I agree with the statement about the consequences as well. When you systematically ruin people’s lives by calling them out or cancelling them for voicing their opinion, there are consequences too. People then tend to elect crazy MFs to represent them. How do you like YOUR president, you self-righteous moral police lynch mob?

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Blech

"However, I would add the unborn babies to your list. They are real people too."

I’d argue that at some point it’s a person, yes. Before that, however, what you have is something which is a part of the woman it is growing in and it’ll be up to her to decide whether that encysted conglomerate of cells will develop into a person or not.

I fully realize that you may have tossed that false equivalence into the ring to make some sort of point but that doesn’t bring it much relevance out of context.

"People keep repeating this here. While remaining anonymous."

Yes? Quite obviously if you are aware that no matter what you say there will be someone somewhere willing to harm you for it – even if what you were discussing is something as harmless as knitting I guarantee there’ll be a hate group willing to step up and harrass you over it. Hence anonymity is, as it always has been a necessary aspect of free speech.

It’s why no one here has insisted to have a mandatory login requirement for these forums despite the fact that there’s at least one troll who likes to bring out death and rape threats to all the "leftie liberals" he keeps finding here.

"When you systematically ruin people’s lives by calling them out or cancelling them for voicing their opinion, there are consequences too."

Well, good news for you then. If your opinion happens to be one which most people do not consider inflammatory or outright insane then it’ll still be a job and a half for the vocal minority to ruin your life over it.
Which is why a post complaining about how police officers can get away with actual murder may attract some hatred but the post applauding, say, white supremacy will be consistently drowned in it.

This is how free speech works. If you say something out loud and everyone boos you that means everyone has made use of free speech the proper way. The speaker to deliver their view and the audience their vocal response.

If the speaker can present their view using common sense, observable fact and actual logic then debate may happen and the booing dies down. If all they have is "black and white people ain’t equal" then there simply is no debate to be had and never will be, in any society which knows its history.

And if you happen to be the employee or poster child of a corporation and proceed to go on record as supporting, say, conversion therapy which by extension means relegating the whole LGBTQ-crowd into the "insane, to be treated" bin then it should come as no surprise that the consumers may cease to support said corporation unless they switch their poster child to someone who the consumers actually want to see on a poster.

It shouldn’t be rocket science that "Don’t be a dick in public and people won’t condemn you for it" is still true and always will be. And yet, a certain minority of people still can’t get over the fact that the majority still won’t reward attempts to strip human rights from human beings with cheerful applause.

"How do you like YOUR president, you self-righteous moral police lynch mob?"

I’m afraid you can’t pull the reversed guilt rhetoric trick quite as casually as Trump does it. We certainly didn’t vote for Trump. Except possibly for that one aforementioned troll around here.

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Sasha76 says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Blech

"I’d argue that at some point it’s a person, yes."

I brought this up to show that you don’t walk the talk of human rights. You have persons on the unwanted list that you pursue an agenda to get rid of based on your preferences of sex without consequences and depopulation (more happiness for us, the conspicuously compassionate virtue signallers, yabadabadoo!).

Could you really say to an abortion survivor that his/her mother and her accomplicees didn’t try to kill him/her personally? Or that his/her conseqeuntial disability is just a stroke of bad luck? Could you really really tell this to his/her face?

"Hence anonymity is, as it always has been a necessary aspect of free speech."

It’s necessary only where the consequences are too dire to keep your social status that enables one to practice free speech in the first place. Never in history did we have so much anonymous opinions. And anonymous opinions are an equivalent if writings on the toilet wall. I am ashamed to post these anonymous opinions but once I get retired or financially independent, I will quit sharing them anonymously.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Blech

You have persons on the unwanted list that you pursue an agenda to get rid of

I’m not going to argue that there aren’t eugenicists and Malthusians, and other fringe people who are explicitly pro-abortion.

Most pro-choice people, however, are not pro-choice because of an agenda of "getting rid of unwanted persons." They would be perfectly happy for every one of those embryos to be born, live a happy healthy, life, and die.

based on your preferences of sex without consequences and depopulation

Again, while I’m sure that there are some scattered people out there who are pro-abortion for that reason, painting all (or most, or even very many) pro-choice people with that brush is neither fair nor accurate.

Could you really say to an abortion survivor that his/her mother and her accomplicees didn’t try to kill him/her personally?

In the vast majority of cases of abortion after the point of viability (which, themselves, are vanishingly rare), the decision is only made because the life of the mother is at risk, and/or it’s been determined that the child will be stillborn anyway. In neither the case of "I thought I had the choice of saving the baby’s life or mine, and I chose mine," nor "I thought the baby was already dead," would I say to such a person that the mother was trying to kill the baby, much less not "personally."

Never in history did we have so much anonymous opinions.

Sure we have. They just weren’t expressed. Would you feel better in a world where you can say what you truly believe, but have to say it anonymously, or one where you can’t say it at all, and have to keep it locked up inside?

That’s what’s changed: that we now have the opportunity to express opinions that we couldn’t before, because we can do it with less risk of encountering consequence, not that there has been a sudden shift to there being consequences to free speech, which has led to people seeking anonymity for expressing their opinions.

I mean, heck, have you heard about the "fighting words" exception to the First Amendment? It used to be considered so normal to respond with violence to people saying certain things that it was ruled that saying those things could be made illegal. Being made to face violent consequences for what you say used to be so normal that it’s baked into the jurisprudence of the United States. If that’s how things used to be in terms of consequences to free speech, it’s frankly ridiculous to think that people are now speaking anonymously because people have suddenly started imposing consequences for that speech, rather than that people are now speaking anonymously because that is now more of an option than it was before, and they can therefore say what would previously have been unspeakable.

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Sasha76 says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Blech

Seriously, these here are just writings on the public toilet walls. They are an illusion of free speech. They are meaningless in that sense.

When someone like Sir Roger Scrutton is unpersonned for his opinions, that’s an attack on free speech. Likeminded people want that Scrutton’s opinion is protected first. Their writings on the wall don’t need protection.

And you’re giving me the "fighting words" argument to that… That exception is aimed at protecting people from mindless name-calling. That’s even below ad hominem attacks (see Paul Graham’s hierarchy of disagreement).

"They would be perfectly happy for every one of those 50 MILLION BABIES to be born, live a happy healthy, life, and die."

Here. I’ve corrected your quote. Now you can add a troll face at the end. You liberals are champions of euphemisms. You even have a euphemism for euphemisms: political correctness.

Christianity has given you the freedom to advocate your opinions and all you could think of now that you have the upper hand is to shut discerning voices down.

Strong men create good times, good times create weak men… You know the rest. You have created bad times again. The storm is coming. Again. Time for strong men.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Blech

Seriously, these here are just writings on the public toilet walls. They are an illusion of free speech. They are meaningless in that sense.

And yet you keep writing.

When someone like Sir Roger Scrutton is unpersonned for his opinions, that’s an attack on free speech.

I’m pretty sure the thing that unpersonned Scruton was cancer. And if cancer cares about someone’s opinion, it’s news to me.

Likeminded people want that Scrutton’s opinion is protected first.

Why should the opinion of a millionaire author with a devoted audience be protected first?

Their writings on the wall don’t need protection.

Why do famous people’s opinions need protection more than our "writings on the wall?"

And you’re giving me the "fighting words" argument to that… That exception is aimed at protecting people from mindless name-calling.

Not just any mindless name-calling; only words "that by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace."

That’s the idea that I’m talking about: even in 1942, the idea was there that saying things would necessarily provoke consequences. Was the need for anonymity for such words any less back then? Or was it just harder to say things anonymously? My guess is the latter.

"They would be perfectly happy for every one of those 50 MILLION BABIES to be born, live a happy healthy, life, and die."

That’d only raise the US population by about 15%, and the world’s by less than 1%. I can’t see even Malthusians being particularly outraged about the population being increased by what is about the world birth rate of for 4.5 months, especially if it were spread over 50 years.

You even have a euphemism for euphemisms: political correctness.

No, that’s our euphemism for "not resorting to mindless name-calling."

Christianity has given you the freedom to advocate your opinions

When did that happen? Christianity, as a whole, can’t agree about anything, not even about Christ.

and all you could think of now that you have the upper hand is to shut discerning voices down.

What upper hand? As you put it, we’re writing in the toilet walls, and the people supposedly getting cancelled are, to use your example, millionaire Knights with fifty published works under their belt. In what world does an anonymous commenter like me have the upper hand over sometime like Scruton?

Strong men create good times, good times create weak men… You know the rest. You have created bad times again. The storm is coming. Again. Time for strong men.

There’s a strongman in power right now; so far as I can tell, he’s just making the bad times worse.

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Sasha76 says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Blech

"And yet you keep writing."

We all make mistakes. Some people even admit them.

I don’t have time for this so:

  • google Scrutton affair journalist
  • study "fighting words" more
  • 50m babies are first persons missing then statistics
  • free speech as we know it that brought liberal ideas appeared in Christian countries, anywhere else it was imported and ir doesn’t flourish as much. In principle, Christianity = freedom
  • Trump is not a strong man, hard times are not really yet here, he’s one of you weak creating the hard times, something like communists and national socialists the last time around
That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Blech

free speech as we know it that brought liberal ideas appeared in Christian countries, anywhere else it was imported and ir doesn’t flourish as much. In principle, Christianity = freedom

The religion that supports slavery, denigrates women, is wildly against freedom of religion, supports the idea of thoughtcrime and holding children to blame for the sins of their parents(sometimes many times removed)? That source of ‘freedom’?

Trump is not a strong man, hard times are not really yet here, he’s one of you weak creating the hard times, something like communists and national socialists the last time around

And yet, among his greatest supporters both in the first election and even now are… the religious, so nice try pulling a ‘not ours’ but if he isn’t religious those that are certainly backing him.

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Sasha76 says:

Re: Re: Re:9 Blech

"The religion that supports slavery, denigrates women, is wildly against freedom of religion, supports the idea of thoughtcrime and holding children to blame for the sins of their parents(sometimes many times removed)? That source of ‘freedom’?"

These are all lies. You either know that or you need to get informed about Christian ideology and saints. We don’t glorify anyone who did any of that.

About Trump, people didn’t elect him for a saint but to do a specific job. And the choice of people is very limited. The person needs to be crazy enough to stand up against the deep state, the media and the academia.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:10 Blech

These are all lies. You either know that or you need to get informed about Christian ideology and saints. We don’t glorify anyone who did any of that.

You are asking us to attribute freedom as basic principle of Christianity based on the rise of democracy since the Enlightenment. For one thing, that asks us to ignore about three-quarters of the period that Christianity has existed, along with the evils of mass chattel slavery that has happened in predominantly Christian countries since then. Christianity has only been unanimous about how great freedom is for, what, 150 years? Less?

For another thing, it could just as easily be argued that the concept has taken root in countries that trace their heritage, in one way or another, to Ancient Greece, the originating culture for both the concept and the word itself.

We don’t glorify anyone who did any of that.

Jefferson?

About Trump, people didn’t elect him for a saint but to do a specific job.

What job is that?

The person needs to be crazy enough to stand up against the deep state, the media and the academia.

So, basically, to anyone who can keep him honest?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:10 Blech

These are all lies. You either know that or you need to get informed about Christian ideology and saints. We don’t glorify anyone who did any of that.

Oh dear, have you not actually read your own ‘holy’ book, or have you only read the ‘happy’ feel-good parts? Because if you really want I can dig in and throw out some of the passages(if I tried to post all of them even in short-form I’d be posting a wall of text) for all of those. As for ‘not glorifying anyone who did any of that’, so… you don’t glorify your god? Certainly a strange version of christianity if that’s the case.

About Trump, people didn’t elect him for a saint but to do a specific job. And the choice of people is very limited. The person needs to be crazy enough to stand up against the deep state, the media and the academia.

Gotta love the classic excuses, ‘we didn’t elect a coir-boy’, I’m sure many people will remember that one the next time a democrat president is in office and republicans start objecting to anything they do.

Yeah, see that’s the thing, that’s not even remotely an excuse, as at best it shows that you consider his actions and character to be a worthwhile ‘cost’ if it gets you what you want(and uh, what is that again?), but less generously to not be a problem at all, and when you’re talking about chrisitans that rather shoots their supposed values right in the back.

Hard to say you value honesty when you support someone who lies with the ease most people breathe. Hard to say you support kindness and generosity when you support someone for whom those are foreign concepts. Hard to say you value ‘the sanctity of marriage’ when you support someone who cheated on his wife and paid off the woman he cheated on in an attempt to keep her silent.

If I claimed to support pacifism as an example but also supported someone with a history of walking around and punching random people my claim would be on thin ice, and the best excuse I could make at that point is that while I support pacifism I’m willing to set that aside as I consider other things that that person does to be more important.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Blech

"In principle, Christianity = freedom"

So it wasn’t because christian nations were so big on fire and sword any dissenting voice was extinguished? I refer to you the Inquisition – today still the one and only truly international terrorist group with the sole purview to go wherever people said something the church didn’t agree with – and torture the living sanity out of the sinners until they recanted and could be burned at the stake so they’d go to heaven rather than risk relapsing. Alternative views being forever tainting and all that.

Under protestantism this intolerance of dissenting views became much, MUCH worse – which is why so very many people originally emigrating to america did so bnecause of direct religious persecution.

And then, even in the US, almost every law about what can be said or shown has been lobbied in for…directly religious reason.
TODAY religion is struggling to remain an unavoidable staple in the US debate and schools but that’s mainly because most of the nation got fed up with the pseudo-christian fanatics persistently telling everyone what to say and how to think.

Every religion is, at the core, the utter bane of freedom. The abrahamic ones more so than most no matter the particular denomination.

You either have a very weird and twisted definition of "freedom" or you are utterly ignorant of factual religious history.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Blech

"I brought this up to show that you don’t walk the talk of human rights."

More like, you brought it up to show that you don’t consider a woman to have human rights once she’s been impregnated.

"Could you really say to an abortion survivor that his/her mother and her accomplicees didn’t try to kill him/her personally"

Could you really tell a rape victim, the mother of a baby with severe birth defects, a still birth or a woman with medical complications that will kill her during child birth that you didn’t try to kill her personally?

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Sasha76 says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Blech

"More like, you brought it up to show that you don’t consider a woman to have human rights once she’s been impregnated."

How is that any different than "once she gave birth"? Is it just because the baby is in the womb? Would it make any difference if he/she was in an egg outside of her body from the get go? Do mothers have a problem with someone occupying her body or having the baby? Why is this "it’s my body" argument so important to all of you? It is an excuse, not a reason.

"Could you really tell a rape victim, the mother of a baby with severe birth defects, a still birth or a woman with medical complications that will kill her during child birth that you didn’t try to kill her personally?"

Another equally frequent and weak argument. Most pro-life people even agree that such rare cases are complex and worth questioning what is the right thing to do. And again, you use these fringe cases as an excuse for general green light on abortion. Some even push the crazy idea of abortion being a human right.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Blech

Why is this "it’s my body" argument so important to all of you?

Among other things, because pregnancy, especially in the United States, carries a significant risk of death. Even if you’re a neonatal nurse.

It is an excuse, not a reason.

Kindly don’t try to read other people’s minds. You’re not good at it.

And again, you use these fringe cases as an excuse for general green light on abortion.

Are abortions due to rapes, still births, medical complications, etc., more or less common than "abortion survivors?"

If abortion survivors are less common, as I’m certain they’d have to be as they would pretty much only occur due to a late term abortion (which are almost exclusively done for anticipated still births or medical complications), then why is it okay for you to use abortion survivors, which are even more of a fringe case, as a general red light on abortion? What’s the distinction, other than that you are in favour of a red light but not a green light?

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Sasha76 says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Blech

"Among other things, because pregnancy, especially in the United States, carries a significant risk of death."

So then, are you again saying that these 50m people were killed to save the mothers’ lives? This was their most important motivation? Fear of dying during pregnancy? Really, Sherlock?

"Kindly don’t try to read other people’s minds. You’re not good at it."

That was an evaluation of your argumentation, not mindreading. I can do that as well but I am not a snitch. 😉 If you argue that abortion is allowed due to dangers to women’s health, then that should be a reason for all cases of abortion.

About abortion survivors, they are not about abortion efficiency. Even if there were no survivors, that would still be a valid argument. It only proves that what you do to an embryo, stays.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Blech

So then, are you again saying that these 50m people were killed to save the mothers’ lives?

I’m saying that, even if you concede that a cluster of cells that cannot think nor feel nor live without external life support is a living person (which I don’t, any more than I think a brain-dead human on a respirator is, anymore), no one should be forced to risk their own life for another’s sake. If they want to, that’s a laudable goal, but the choice should not be forced upon them.

The maternal mortality rate in the United States is about 1 in 4,000, which are not much better than the odds that a soldier would die in the Gulf War (1 in 3,192). If I can’t say that sometime should be made to risk their life (and physical health, and mental health, and economic future, and so on, and so forth) for their country, why should I be willing to say that they should for usually one not-a-person-yet?

That was an evaluation of your argumentation, not mindreading

The difference between "excuse" and "reason" is whether someone reached their conclusion through the arguments they present, or if the arguments are being generated to support a conclusion they’ve already reached. When you say that the "It’s my body" is "so important to all of you" but that it’s an "excuse and not a reason," you are accusing people making that argument of not sincerely representing their motivations behind that argument.

If you want to accuse one person who makes that argument based on an "evaluation of [their] argumentation," fine, if you can support it. But when you can’t even remember who you made that accusation against (a group of people who make a certain argument in favour of abortion, not me, and not even in response to one of my comments; it was a response to PaulT), I can’t possibly believe it was based on any sort of evaluation at all.

Feel free to present the facts underlying that "evaluation," if you want me to take it seriously. I’m honestly interested in seeing how you reached that conclusion, and then mistakenly directed it at a whole group of people, while replying to someone else entirely.

About abortion survivors, they are not about abortion efficiency. Even if there were no survivors, that would still be a valid argument. It only proves that what you do to an embryo, stays.

Nice deflection. I’ll make use of it, right back at you.

Even if there were no take victims or people with medical complications getting abortions, that would still be a valid argument. It only proves that the life-changing effects of pregnancy on a mother’s health are permanent.

The deflection out of the way, again, you’re perfectly willing to use fringe cases to illustrate your point. Why is that okay for you and not for people arguing against you?

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Blech

"How is that any different than "once she gave birth"?"

Because after she’s given birth there are now 2 human beings alive in the world. Before that, you have one human being and a fetus that has the potential to become a human being at some point. So, human rights only fully apply to one prior to birth. Your sickening alternative is that the mother is no longer treated as a human being as soon as someone gets her pregnant, no matter the circumstances.

"Why is this "it’s my body" argument so important to all of you?"

Because it is her body, even though she may have another potential life sharing it with her. A woman risks many medical complications, up to and including death, as well as long-term permanent damage during a pregnancy and she should be treated as a human being with autonomy when needing to make the decisions that affect her. That’s even without considering the many things that can go wrong during the pregnancy with the baby itself. Biology being what it is, it’s vastly imperfect and intervention is sometimes required.

"Most pro-life people even agree that such rare cases are complex and worth questioning what is the right thing to do"

Yet, you wish to remove her ability to choose when such cases happen and/or insert horrific and punishingly unnecessary barriers between her and that choice. It’s already difficult, yet you want to insert politics into a medical decision.

"Some even push the crazy idea of abortion being a human right."

Including the Bible, weirdly, which even gives instructions on how to perform certain types of abortion. Whereas you nutters believe that a woman should have no human rights once she gets knocked up, even if she had no choice in the action that led to that.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Blech

"I brought this up to show that you don’t walk the talk of human rights."

A wart of undifferentiated tissue has no human rights. If it did then the same would apply to your foreskin, or that mole you had surgically removed.

"Could you really say to an abortion survivor…"

No such thing.
Do you spend every night on your knees apologizing to every sperm you’ve ejaculated for not giving them a proper chance? Do you condemn women for having a period which results in the rejection of an unfertilized egg?
With over nine out of ten fertilized eggs spontaneously aborting before the first trimester or failing to fertilize do you hold an unending wake for all the dead people who outnumber the actually born ones by orders of magnitude? An "abortion" is to do with human hands what nature does very, VERY often of itself.

For a start there’s no such thing as an "abortion survivor". There have been cases where women without access to abortion have tried to miscarry out of desperation – long after an actual fetus has been developed. But that’s hardly an abortion more than an actual birth is.

"…based on your preferences of sex without consequences and depopulation…"

So your side of the argument is entirely based on 18th-century moral philosophy? Why should we adopt a thoroughly failed model?

"It’s necessary only where the consequences are too dire to keep your social status that enables one to practice free speech in the first place."

The same way "air" is only necessary if you use oxygen as an electron mediator. There is not one single time or place in recorded human history where speech did not have direct consequences on your social status. Ever. Even in the US, land of "freedom and liberty", as McCarthy and Hoover demonstrated so splendidly.
And that is why through all of recorded human history anonymous speech has been a very large mechanism of progress.

"anonymous opinions are an equivalent if writings on the toilet wall."

So if you read something you find to hold truth or meaning you’ll discard it based on the medium it’s written on rather than out of the veracity of what it claims? That’s just…beyond stupid.
Also dangerous because you’ll reject actual truth as long as it’s first spoken by someone you normally disagree with.

" I am ashamed to post these anonymous opinions but once I get retired or financially independent, I will quit sharing them anonymously."

Ah, the old "I’m not a hypocrite because…<weaselwords>, which is why I’ll keep right on doing what i condemn everyone else for doing!".

So far you’re five out of five for shit rhetoric; false assumption, false equivalence, strawman argumentation, moving the goalposts and red herring.
All of it backed by what appears to be 18th-century morality and pseudo-religious tribalist beliefs.

I can only – with all my heart – advice that you start reading factual literature rather than quoting pseudo-christian bible belt dogma, especially in any question which moves out of the purely philosophical.

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Glenn Fleishman (profile) says:

Harper’s fired its editor over speech among other issues

I agree almost entirely with what you wrote, Mike, and I’ve tweeted far too excessively about it.

But two points worth adding.

First, many of the people who have signed this letter (a letter to whom, by the way?) have engaged in actual chilling speech, punching down people less powerful, including trying to get freelancers fired from gigs, staff writers removed, and professors censured or fired or contracts not renewed. I am hoping someone creates a definitive list, because it’s rather long, and particularly among people who are centrist or right-of-center against liberal and progressive speakers, as well as in particular against anyone who speaks in favor of Palestinians or an independent Palestinian state.

Second, Harper’s fired James Marcus in 2018 for what he alleges (and, having known James years ago and heard stuff around the edges of this, I believe) is being fired when he objected to the assignment of a story effectively trying to cancel “cancel culture” to Katie Roiphe, which ultimately ran in the publication. It was assigned over his protests and then he was fired. There’s a lot more detail about the story, the author (long a contrarian/problematic one of the David Brooks/Bari Weiss school), and the fallout.

One other point on amplification. Mike notes:

Then comes the list of examples — none linked, none with details.

This is one of the key problems with the essay. Read quickly, it’s rather bland, not well written, and has an unclear audience. Who should take action? It’s a pretty anodyne poor expression of urging more free speech, but not really, as Mike analyzed. At least two signers have already said they regret signing or that they didn’t sign what was published (Boylan this morning).

However, if you analyze the short list provided, each corresponds to specific well-known incidents, or sometimes covers multiple ones. Buruma and Bennet, for instance, are both editors who were fired—because of their job performance, even though Buruma made it out to be a political hit job. (He ran a cover story that was a non-fact-checked essay by Jian Ghomeshi, who faced several credible accusations of sexual assault over decades, some of which were not upheld in court.) But the owners of the publication, the New York Review of Books, reportedly fired him because of how he managed assigning and running the story over staff objections, and he admitted to Isaac Chotiner later that he really didn’t know much about Ghomeshi at all, confirming the judgment. Bennet was fired because he didn’t do his job: he reportedly told the NYT publisher he hadn’t read (at least the final version) of the Tom Cotton Op-Ed, even as he publicly defended it as if he had.

The inclusion of transphobic writers who have faced public backlash, with the notable top of marquee billionaire JK Rowling, also muddies what precisely is the speech that they want no consequences for.

I’d argue if the letter included specific examples, a majority of signers wouldn’t have signed it. Malcolm Gladwell very glibly tweeted today that he signed because he disagreed with the opinions of many other signatories. Great reasoning, dude.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

None of the people who signed that letter have any real expectation of being “cancelled”, in the sense that they will be “silenced”. They have too much wealth and sociopolitical sway to face such a consequence. The people who signed that letter interpret criticism — of any kind — as censorship and attach it to the recent “cancel culture” catchphrase so they can take jabs at leftists.

But “cancel culture” isn’t about rich celebrities and powerful politicians. True “cancel culture” is about the marginalized voices who end up shut out of jobs, opportunities, and even online culture because of harassment. It’s not about J.K. Rowling; it’s about a trans person forced to quit Twitter because of harassment they received over the faintest criticism of Rowling and her transphobia. When the people who signed that letter worry more about the silencing of those voices and less about receiving criticism, I’ll care more about what they have to say vis-á-vis censorship and “cancel culture”.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Are you Karl Marx? He had pretty much the same argument, right? The oppressed people rising together to overcome those greedy few who actually contribute to the world, that’s it, right? Remember when the Russian Revolution executed all the farmers who actually owned their own house and knew how to farm? How did that go? Six million Ukrainians starved to death, remember that?

Advocating too much for the rights of the oppressed at the expense of the competent is a recipe for hundreds of millions dead. It’s happened before and it can happen again.

You’re an idiot with no historical perspective of anything.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re:

And with this now-hidden comment, we have an example of how “more speech” does not always equal “better speech”, since the person who wrote this comment clearly has no fucking clue what they’re talking about. ????

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

And there came Baghdad Bob, right on cue, bringing nothing but a straw man he then promptly set on fire himself.

If you’re going to bring off-topic and out-of-context history as an argument how about using history relevant to the topic at hand and if you can’t swing even that, at least make your historic portrayal accurate.

What’s next on your list of arguments? How Gandhi favored tyranny and racism? Mandelas support for Apartheid? How Jim Crow was an empowering boon for black people? How Hitler had to be a nice guy because he loved dogs?

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radix (profile) says:

This is just another angle on the same complaint traditional news media has been making against social media and "the internet."

The Old Guard doesn’t really want free speech, they want to remain the gatekeepers of Truth™ like they were a scant 30 years ago, and how dare anybody question that. True freedom of expression has leveled the playing field to the point where they are no longer elevated above us lowly laypeople to the same degree, and losing that power is not comfortable for any institution.

Technology has enabled news, publishing, and expressive arts in general to be much closer to the meritocracy they have always claimed it to be. They are losing the mindshare because they have not evolved, and now they are lashing out at the tech and culture that has made that possible.

It’s true that a completely level field (to stretch the analogy probably too far) makes hearing people on the other side more difficult than if there were pedestals from which leaders can monologue, and that leads to small bubbles in which people can congregate and amplify one another’s bad speech. On balance, though, I’d rather live in a world without preordained speakers and listeners, but in one where everybody is both.

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Jeremy Lyman (profile) says:

Fame is a bitch.

When you benefit disproportionately from public persona and hyper-amplified influence, so too the consequences of losing said power and influence will seem disproportionate. If you’ve created an empire dependent on people admiring you, don’t say shit that pisses everyone off.

Pretty much seems like the loudest voices are upset that the rest of us learned to scream back in unison.

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Panda_Kahn says:

Can we shout this louder for the people in the back?

Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from the consequences of that speech.

Feel free to say anything you want, you have that 1st amendment right. If you think you can say anything and I will still support your business, buy your books or be involved with anything you do then you are going to be in for a large surprise.

Say what ever you want. Shout it from the roof tops! But, don’t ever think that your speech is consequence free.

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Koby (profile) says:

Where It's Headed

Fascism is commonly held to be a right wing extreme position, or perhaps something born out of rascism. It is not.

Fascism is the concept that noone is allowed to disagree with the fascist. If someone does disagree with the fascist, then the fascist demands PUNISHMENT. This is the core concept of the idea that makes it terrifying. Fascism looks not to convince others; it seeks to destroy those with an opposing message.

If the disagreer is a kid in school, then the fascist wants the kid kicked out of school and publicly humiliated.

If the disagreer is an ordinary working adult, then the fascist wants the that person fired from their job, and ruined financially.

If the person is rich and cannot be fired, perhaps because the person is the owner of a business, then the fascist wants the business boycotted, and the person ruined financially and thrown in jail.

Fascism, if left unchecked, will devolve into mob rule, guaranteed. This type of behavior used to be rare in the United States, but it is becoming more and more common. It ought never happen at all. The Mccarthyism that we denounced back decades ago is now returning, only on a larger scale. The book 1984 is becoming a reality, with people becoming un-personed. Political disagreement ought NEVER result in punishment. To support cancel culture is to support the destruction of the basic foundation of our society: that we may disagree, but we will tolerate one-another, regardless. The signatories of the publication can see the path on which the outrage mob is headed.

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Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Where It's Headed

This is a uselessly vague and abstract definition of fascism that allows you to apply the label to virtually anything you want.

Any attempt to describe fascism in a way that is completely divorced from any consideration of structures of power and coercion is, frankly, nonsense.

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JB says:

Re: Re: Where It's Headed

Maybe "fascism" wasn’t the right word for Koby to use when describing his viewpoint. I question whether that word rightly applies.

I do, however, believe his larger point is extremely relevant and valid in today’s climate. A response that seeks to shut someone down in order to punish them for their political beliefs or to prevent those beliefs from spreading is not a healthy response in a liberal society. It is the response of a righteous ideologue who indignantly refuses to engage with issues in an open and honest manner.

This "toe the line or suffer the consequences" environment may not be censorship per se, but it has the effect of stifling political conversation by bullying well-meaning and thoughtful people into silence simply because they disagree. And it seems to me that this kind of environment is becoming ever more prevalent.

Shutting down the conversation will not bring consensus. It will bring only intolerance, resentment, and ugliness. EVERYONE needs to be open to hearing what others think about the important issues of our time and be willing to engage in fair and honest consideration of those differing viewpoints. Once you have decided that your position is exempt from challenge, that it justifies harming the dignity of others, that opposition is an affront; however you may have come to that conclusion, you have become an evil to our society and a danger to us all.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

We can disagree on the best way to stimulate an economy or whether the government should go forward with certain infrastructure projects. We can’t disagree on whether marginalized people deserve to have their humanity respected. Racism, homophobia, transphobia, and other such prejudices have no proper place in a pluralistic society. Anyone who expresses such ideas should face all the social consequences for doing so.

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JB says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I 100% agree with you in principle.

However, I have problems with much of what is happening in this arena today. There seems to be a crisis of definition definition over the meaning of words like "racism" and "transphobia". What exactly constitutes these things? To be sure, there are certain overt behaviors that the majority of us would agree are not acceptable. But these concepts are not exactly clearcut. This leads to confusion, disagreement, and too frequently, unfortunate retributive actions.

For example:

Is it transphobia to state that "trans women" is not a simple subset of the category "women?" Biology would seem to support this viewpoint, but outrage over such sentiment is nonetheless common.

Is it racist to reject the notion of "white privilege?" Or to call into question the legitimacy of an organization like "Black Lives Matter?" Or to simply put your head down and pray the mob looks the other way? Personally I do not believe that these things are in themselves racist, but I observe a taboo around even discussing these issues openly, with nuanced viewpoints often facing pushback far beyond what is reasonable.

I believe that the vast majority of Americans agree on the big picture here: as a society we do not find racism, sexism, and other bigoted attitudes to be acceptable. But we all need to calm down and listen to each other rather than clinging to righteous outrage over where we believe the lines should be drawn.

From where I am standing, the social justice morality mob look to be the most bigoted people in the room, refusing to engage with any form of opposition in good faith. This is where the front lines of intolerance and resentment are growing fast, on both sides. And it isn’t good for any of us. We need to regain the ability to have respectful discourse on these issues.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3

we all need to calm down and listen to each other

I’ll be glad to listen — so long as other people don’t call into question whether trans people have the right to exist as trans people or whether black lives should matter in a country that has long demonstrated that it doesn’t care about black lives. I do not, and will not, tolerate disagreement focused on respect for someone’s basic humanity and right to exist.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Is it transphobia to state that "trans women" is not a simple subset of the category "women?" Biology would seem to support this viewpoint, but outrage over such sentiment is nonetheless common.

The problem with that kind of discussion, as far as I can tell, isn’t that part of it. Gender and sex are complicated topics, and hard to reproduce down to simple discussions. If someone came out and said, "I don’t think it’s that simple," and then otherwise acted as if it were that simple, they probably wouldn’t face that much hate. I’m not going to say no hate, because every subject has its rage addicts, but I would wager quite a bit that most trans people don’t care what’s going on in your head: they care about how they’re treated.

And that’s where the transphobia comes in. It’s where the statement becomes: "’Trans women’ is not a simple subset of the category ‘women,’ and therefore…" followed by some statement about how it gives you some right to treat a person differently based on a part of their body that is almost certainly not visible to you. Or "…and therefore…" followed by a demand that they explain, or debate, or listen to a rant, or…

If you treat trans women as if you have no way of knowing what’s between their legs (and you probably don’t, as most places have nudity laws), then there probably won’t be a problem. And if you’re willing to do that, I don’t know why you’d even bother posting your opinion about simple subsets in the first place.

Is it racist to reject the notion of "white privilege?"

In theory? Yes, I think a case can be made that that’s not racist in itself. In practice, though, I think it would require such willful ignorance of both historical exploitation and current events that there’s probably at least something subconscious going on there.

Or to call into question the legitimacy of an organization like "Black Lives Matter?"

Again, practically speaking, I think it would take a lot of willful ignorance to suggest that the complaints BLM has about police violence aren’t legitimate, if you’ve been paying attention to the police violence against peaceful protesters at any point in the past six weeks.

Seriously, all the cops had to do was charge the cop who killed George Floyd (which they eventually did), and then not shoot journalists’ eyes out (e.g.), and this protest would have gone away with minimal fuss in a few days, like every other protest making the same point had. Instead, it’s dragged on six weeks and counting, because the police keep letting themselves demonstrating the protesters’ point for them.

From where I am standing, the social justice morality mob look to be the most bigoted people in the room, refusing to engage with any form of opposition in good faith.

To be fair, as you said, there’s a lot of that going around on both sides; you’ll probably have to demonstrate good faith in less controversial discussions before they take you for anything but exactly the kind of bad-faith opposite partisan that you see them as. Generally, people who drop into a discussion and immediately start taking up a controversial position aren’t there because they want to have a discussion in good faith.

So, if you don’t want them dismiss you as exactly the kind of bad-faith troll that they have to deal with, it’s probably a good idea to distinguish yourself by letting them get them to know you and like you before you start bringing up controversial topics. Otherwise, it’d be like someone coming to Techdirt and attacking the idea that any speech should be free; they’d rightly diagnose you with a case of being a troll, and flag you into oblivion.

JB says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

As someone who feels largely disaffected by both major parties in the US, I am arguing here only within the context of Koby’s post above, where he asserted (among other related things):

This type of behavior used to be rare in the United States, but it is becoming more and more common.

To support cancel culture is to support the destruction of the basic foundation of our society

And this is the kernel that I am attempting to illuminate. Several other posters responded and wrote him off with criticisms of his use of the word "fascism" without addressing his message.

I see people on one side of the social justice fence asking questions and trying to grapple with the issues rationally, while people on the other side respond with disparaging accusations of racism and sexism and privilege. And in recent times it has begun to escalate to doxing and personally degrading attacks on life and liberty. To me it looks like those attacks are coming from one side of this "debate," if we can even call it that.

Someone is flirting with unorthodox ideas? Burn them! If not literally, then certainly in spirit. And this is a discouraging if not frightening trend.
Dehumanizing those with dissenting viewpoints has the real potential to lead us straight to hell.

Usually I agree with Mike’s opinion pieces, but I think he has this one wrong. Liberal society only works if if ideas can exist independent of speakers and be examined on the merits of the ideas alone. And that is what I think the authors of the letter are trying to point out. Once personal retribution for ideological dissent becomes acceptable, liberal society will be dead and totalitarianism is right around the corner.

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Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

To me it looks like those attacks are coming from one side of this "debate," if we can even call it that.

Nonsense. If you genuinely think only "one side" engages in attacks and attempts to deplatform, you definitely have not been paying attention or even trying to pay attention.

Burn them! If not literally, then certainly in spirit.

Every time you invoke literal, forcible punishment then attempt to bridge the gap between that and simple counterspeech and public opinion – then from that point on proceed to discuss the two as if they are roughly the same – you expose the core of why this whole thing is utter crap. If your analysis involves lumping those two things together, it’s worthless.

Liberal society only works if if ideas can exist independent of speakers

Explain. Because that sounds obviously false. Only a fool defaults to presuming every idea is always offered in good faith; only a fool refuses to analyze a person’s motives and true intent and meaning by applying broader context to their words. Probably the NUMBER ONE thing undermining "liberal society" right now is people credulously seriously engaging with bad faith ideas – that’s the attitude that leads people to suddenly praise (reservedly, but praise nevertheless) Donald Trump as "presidential" because he kept his shit together for five minutes; that’s the attitude that allows people to rehabilitate George W. Bush or Mitt Romney; that’s the attitude that led to a year of everyone acting like Michael Avenatti was a super awesome liberal hero because he was opposing Trump, even as plenty of people could see he was a grifter who would probably end up in jail; that’s the attitude that leads to mainstream media fawning over alt-right nazis as trendy fashionable provocateurs; that’s the attitude that led the New York Times to publish Tom Cotton calling for troops to come in and brutally suppress American citizens.

Stop. Being. So. Easily. Grifted.

People like Jesse Singal who signed that letter are laughing at you. Hell, they’re even laughing at me for continuing to talk about this. They won, because we keep letting them win, because some people insist on treating them as good faith interlopers with ideas that command serious consideration. Just like Tom Cotton openly laughing and mocking the NYT for losing subscribers after it published his column – he trolled them, successfully; they took the bait, and he thinks it’s hilarious that they are such rubes.

And that is what I think the authors of the letter are trying to point out

This specific letter exists, right now, on the pages of the prestigious Harper’s, for exactly one reason and one reason alone: because the exceedingly wealthy and famous J. K. Rowling is upset about about the current backlash over her transphobia.

You know it. I know it. Everyone knows it. You know damn well that if that wasn’t big news in the past couple weeks, this particular letter wouldn’t even exist, and we wouldn’t be talking about it. Stop letting people who are obviously operating in self-serving bad faith manipulate your liberalism and turn it into naivety.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

Nonsense. If you genuinely think only "one side" engages in attacks and attempts to deplatform, you definitely have not been paying attention or even trying to pay attention.

I admit it is possible I am unaware of the other side of this based on the sources I read and the places I frequent. But, in truth, all of the high profile mob retribution events I can recall in the past couple of months have come from one side.

Every time you invoke literal, forcible punishment then attempt to bridge the gap between that and simple counterspeech and public opinion – then from that point on proceed to discuss the two as if they are roughly the same – you expose the core of why this whole thing is utter crap. If your analysis involves lumping those two things together, it’s worthless.

That was simply colorful language, a little hyperbole and a reference to witch hunts. That remark should not be seen as crucial to my argument.

Explain. Because that sounds obviously false.

I believe the presumption that ideas can be judged separately from the individuals who propose them is actually a central pillar in our modern conception of liberal society. The democratization of knowledge production was one of the great products of the European Enlightenment. Truth was no longer handed down by divine authority or political might. Knowledge became something that could be proposed, tested, and invalidated meritocratically, no matter the source. Upon this principle we have built much of our society.

Prior to that revolution, truth from authority was the norm. I don’t think it would be wise for us to return to that model.

This specific letter exists, right now, on the pages of the prestigious Harper’s, for exactly one reason and one reason alone: because the exceedingly wealthy and famous J. K. Rowling is upset about about the current backlash over her transphobia.

You know it. I know it. Everyone knows it. You know damn well that if that wasn’t big news in the past couple weeks, this particular letter wouldn’t even exist, and we wouldn’t be talking about it. Stop letting people who are obviously operating in self-serving bad faith manipulate your liberalism and turn it into naivety.

Actually, I don’t know anything about Harper’s or how that letter came to be beyond what I read in the letter itself. I’m not certain how you would expect me to conclude that the letter was a direct result of JK Rowling’s personal feelings. It was signed by dozens of people.

However, even if what you say in that regard is true, the liberal response would be to evaluate the ideas on their merits, not throw them out because of the identity of the speaker. What exactly in the letter indicates to you that the signatories are arguing in bad faith? Why do you think their points are purely self-serving? Their logic seems pretty sound to me. Would you want an angry mob to come after you because you said something the mob found disagreeable? I imagine nobody would want that.

It hardly seems difficult to imagine that retribution would lead to fear, and fear to the the suppression of free expression. You would reject this notion because the person who is pointing it out is someone with some amount of prestige? Or because it came from the hand of someone you disagree with? That just seems to me a bit like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

I don’t know about you, but I am starting to become concerned that recent history may have produced a faction of authoritarians who have no respect for the liberal ideals that built our society.

Are you one of them?

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

Let me ask you a simple question I raised with someone else earlier today on Twitter, with regards to your notion about ideas existing independently, to be interpreted only based on their self-contained meaning with no consideration given to the context of who is saying them and what their motives might be. It’s quite a simple question.

How do you feel about the phrase "all lives matter"?

JB says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Re:

It comes down to the idea of reciprocity, or substatutability. At least, that’s how I imagine the Enlightenment thinkers conceived of it. What would you think about those same ideas if someone else had presented them to you?

Of course trolls and assholes and provocateurs exist and we should not always waste our brain cycles worrying about their thoughts.

But for a letter containing such reasonable observations (again, admittedly by my own estimation) you have not yet explained what in the letter indicated to you the author’s bad faith or self-servitude. It seems clear to me that they were writing in the service of all of humanity.

Do you seriously think that the letter is attempting to infect you with some kind of mind virus that will somehow trick you into doing the author’s bidding? Seriously, I just don’t understand a flat rejection without analysis or refutation.

I rather have more faith in people than that. Though, sadly, I am beginning to lose faith in you.

How do you feel about the phrase "all lives matter"?
It makes me nervous. Because I know that as self-evident as its literal sentiment is, some might come after me for saying it.

And that’s one of the reasons I agree with the authors of the letter. In a healthy society, truth should not inspire fear.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:9

you have not yet explained what in the letter indicated to you the author’s bad faith or self-servitude

The letter is signed by people who condemn “cancel culture” but are unlikely to be “cancelled” — and are, in fact, more likely to help “cancel” others — thanks to their cultural/sociopolitical clout. J.K. Rowling, for example, has little to fear from trans people calling her a TERF. But those trans people have plenty to fear from Rowling, who can instigate a campaign of harassment against those trans people (regardless of whether she wants to do that) only by tagging them in a tweet.

JB says:

Re: Re: Re:10 Re:

Is it not good then that they don’t support "cancel culture?"

I think a big part of my disconnect with your (and Leigh’s) thinking is that it focuses so much on who said the words. Are you saying you disagree with the words? Or just that you doubt their sincerity?

I could understand agreeing with the words but doubting their sincerity.

I don’t understand disagreement with the sentiment of the letter.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:11

Is it [bad] that they don’t support "cancel culture?"

They don’t support “cancel culture”, but that doesn’t mean they can’t/don’t take part in it, even if they don’t intend to do that. Rowling can spark a legion of fans around the world to harass a trans critic into silence without once having to think about how she’s done exactly that by, say, tagging that critic in a tweet.

Are you saying you disagree with the words? Or just that you doubt their sincerity?

Yes.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:11 Re:

"Is it not good then that they don’t support "cancel culture?""

Let me rephrase your question and send it right back;

Is it not good that the people who have historically been the sole gatekeepers of the debate and narrative and have frequently employed this are now up in arms as the same privilege they have held so far is now in the hands of…everyone else?

Cancel culture may be toxic but we do us all a great disservice if we leap to the support of the people whose disingenious wordwall full of false equivalence and broken logic implies that we should all settle back to the status quo where they remain the sole holders of the power to shut the dissenters up, and own the narrative on who is wrong.

Any calls for "good faith", uttered against the background of Harper’s wall of newspeak, makes me hold my face like Charles Babbage who, upon presenting his calculating machine to parliament, received the question "But if the wrong numbers go in, will not still the good numbers come out?"

I’d go one step further and state that the US lost the liberal debate in 1968 when large parts of the nation joined Martin Luther King in peaceful assemblies, and all they had to show for that was the advocate of peace catching a bullet with his face.

Actual change only came when the peaceful assemblies turned into full-blown riots. If the american way is to change only at the point of a torch and a gun, why would anyone be dumb enough to persist in the way which so obviously does not work?

And that goes double when, right after George Floyd, people online start insisting that rather than argue the best way to reform police and society, the debate should be about whether there is a problem.

I think I’m not alone in claiming that a single look at US statistics of fatalities at the hands of police scares me, because it exceeds the per capita murder rate laid at the feet of actual organized crime in many other nations in the G20.

Similarly claiming that racism is not a massive and systematic problem is similar denial of facts so observable they rank right up there with the empirical evidence backing the theory of f_cking gravity.

So let me dial you down to a more common sense approximation of current affairs; There is not and will not be a liberal debate to be had or carried in the US as long as the state of affairs in the US is what you’d expect shortly before a second civil war.

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Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:9 Re:

*It seems clear to me that they were writing in the service of all of humanity.

Do you seriously think that the letter is attempting to infect you with some kind of mind virus that will somehow trick you into doing the author’s bidding?*

Well I dunno, but it’s injected you with a mind-virus that makes you grandiosely describe the world’s richest and most widely-published author whining about people’s criticism of her stubborn transphobia by arrogantly and transparently pretending it’s civilization-threatening censorship as "writing in the service of all of humanity"

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Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:11 Re:

If the viewpoints in the letter were understood and applied widely to all of society, would they not represent a good for all?

That’s a very abstract question, applying abstract viewpoints to the abstract concept of "society"

So if you mean, like, the real point of the letter – J. K. Rowling whining about the backlash to her multiple tweets and blog posts about trans people – and your suggestion is that, instead of people getting mad at her, they just shut up and didn’t criticize it and nobody got angry, and nobody fought loudly and vocally for the humanity of trans people, or asked her to apologize and step back and learn more before continuing to make harmful statements… then no, I do not think that would be "good for all".

JB says:

Re: Re: Re:12 Re:

No. I just meant that the words in the letter encode concepts that I believe to be true for general good.

That is, a society tolerant of differing viewpoints is good for Rowling, good for the other signatories, and good for everyone else in the world.

I think I understand your specific objections now. You have a problem with the speaker, and not necessarily with the speech.

I see the kind of narrowing mentioned in the letter around me in my own life, so I understand how the signatories feel, though my empire is very much smaller than theirs.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:13

a society tolerant of differing viewpoints is good for Rowling, good for the other signatories, and good for everyone else in the world

Yes or no: If the viewpoints being tolerated (e.g., transphobia) lead to people being hurt (e.g., anti-trans violence), should we still tolerate those viewpoints?

JB says:

Re: Re: Re:14 Re:

This is tricky because, again, as I said above, "Transphobia" is not at the moment a universally understood term.

We should be allowed to discuss it in public so we can collectively figure out what it means and where the lines should be drawn. And "cancelling" people for doing so does us no service in pursuit of that goal.

There will be disagreements. Rowling seems to think that women are harmed with one of the proposed line placements. She is not the first to think so.

Incitements to violence should absolutely be ruled out. But explorations of fact should probably be tolerated.

JB says:

Re: Re: Re:16 Re:

Nuance is a thing.

Rowling’s claim was that women were harmed by aspects of the trans movement. I am not prepared to evaluate those claims. But, if they are true, then someone is harmed either way.

So, which viewpoint should then be tolerated? The one that harms women, or the one that harms trans women?

This is not an easy question, and in my mind more evidence in favor of leniency for ideological tolerance.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:17

We can have nuanced discussions about the intersection of trans people’s experiences and how they might theoretically affect the lives of cis people. But Rowling has crossed the line into “being trans is another form of conversion therapy for gay people” territory (and I mean that literally). That kind of rhetoric can have dire consequences for trans people.

I can tolerate dissenting ideologies if they’re not rooted in denigrating the humanity of others or calling into question their right to exist. Transphobia, especially the kind currently espoused by J.K. Rowling, is not something I can tolerate. Trans people have every right to exist and they deserve to have their basic human dignity respected. If I can’t criticize anyone who says otherwise, or if I must be forced to tolerate the views of anyone who says otherwise, I would consider that a direct attack on my rights and liberties. And nobody, including you, gets to do that without me calling that bullshit for what it is.

JB says:

Re: Re: Re:18 Re:

I gotta read about what Rowling actually said, I peripherally saw some reports and recalled what I remembered above.

but I would of course support your right to criticize who you want. I just think contacting their boss and trying to get someone forced out of their job or get them socially lynched is going too far. everyone makes mistakes and deserves the opportunity to learn from them without being outcast

that goes too far

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:19

I just think contacting their boss and trying to get someone forced out of their job or get them socially lynched is going too far.

Yes or no: If an employee of a given business says something racist in public that might cause said business to suffer financial losses, should that business continue to employee the racist?

everyone makes mistakes and deserves the opportunity to learn from them without being outcast

No, they deserve only the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. If people don’t want to associate with someone who said racist bullshit in public, nothing should force them to associate with said racist — including the idea that people somehow “deserve” not to be made social pariahs for saying noxious bullshit.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:19 Re:

"I gotta read about what Rowling actually said"

Yes, that would be the normal position, rather than rabidly defending something you haven’t looked at yet.

" I just think contacting their boss and trying to get someone forced out of their job or get them socially lynched is going too far"

Rowling is a public figure who got a lot of shit when she revealed that Dumbledore was gay. Were you in there whining about the bigots who attacked her then, or are you just doing it now because the position you assume she hold is comparable to your own views?

Her audience have a right to a voice, nobody can or should be able to stop her fans from voicing their opinion and her publisher has every right to either ignore the people complaining, or to listen to the people who would actually be buying her next book. If she doesn’t like that, she can fuck off and retire on the massive fortune she already earned, or self publish if she wishes.

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jilocasin (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:14 Re:

Yes or no: If the viewpoints being tolerated (e.g., transphobia) lead to people being hurt (e.g., anti-trans violence), should we still tolerate those viewpoints?

The question isn’t one of tolerating viewpoints, it’s about the reaction to them. You seem to be advancing the theory that it’s O.K. to inflict actual violence on someone who has a viewpoint that you believe might lead to violence (and before you get pedantic, by actual violence I am including, physical, financial, and psychological) . Since you are anti-anti-trans, I imagine that puts you on the left (or at least not on the right), so I find your stance rather hypocritical. You are aligning yourself with methods of the KKK and those that believed in such viewpoints as non-white Americans weren’t property or that only people of the same race and opposite gender should be allowed to be married.

It’s not O.K. for someone to get fired, or killed for saying that non-white Americans should be allowed to sit anywhere on the bus, but it is O.K. to do the same for holding an anti-trans viewpoint?

In the end, as I may have previously mentioned, your response is ultimately self defeating. In the midst of the cancel culture there’s a climate of fear that leads people to self censor. It is’t the big names (such as the signatories) but the everyday person, the mom, the factory worker, the teacher that has the most to fear. Instead of leading to an environment where you can discuss and hopefully convince people that they might be wrong, that their ideas are hurtful and hurting real people, they huddle in groups of people whom they are sure share their views. They resent the mob, and by extension the views they espouse. Tribalism rears it’s ugly head and we end up with a president like Donald Trump elected on a platform of being politically incorrect.

There is no nuance, no subtlety, just orthodoxy. Agree with the mob, agree with our definitions, or else. First there was harassment and the mobs went after people identified as harassers (with or without evidence). Now even that isn’t enough for the mob. inappropriate humor, is out, micro-aggressions are a thing, claims of cultural appropriation are policed. Actors and actresses are railed against for doing their jobs (for some reason, it’s now wrong for a cis actor to play a non-cis role, but it’s just fine for a non-cis actor to play a cis role etc.).

This mentality didn’t work for the french revolutionaries and in the end I fear will prove just as counter productive in the digital age.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:15

The question isn’t one of tolerating viewpoints, it’s about the reaction to them.

You can say that, but that doesn’t make it true.

You seem to be advancing the theory that it’s O.K. to inflict actual violence on someone who has a viewpoint that you believe might lead to violence

I have not once advocated for violence against anyone, regardless of their views. When I say “tolerance is a peace treaty”, I mean that in a metaphorical sense.

Instead of leading to an environment where you can discuss and hopefully convince people that they might be wrong, that their ideas are hurtful and hurting real people, they huddle in groups of people whom they are sure share their views.

Huh. People want to be in groups where they won’t be attacked for being who they are. Imagine that~.

There is no nuance, no subtlety, just orthodoxy. Agree with the mob, agree with our definitions, or else.

When the so-called mob is a sizeable group of marginalized people and what they’re doing is both pointing out how opinions that marginalize those people are hurtful and criticizing those who espouse those opinions? I don’t see the problem. And “or else” doesn’t mean “violence” by default; it can also mean (and often does mean) “boycotts” or “protests”.

Actors and actresses are railed against for doing their jobs (for some reason, it’s now wrong for a cis actor to play a non-cis role, but it’s just fine for a non-cis actor to play a cis role etc.)

I have a question in this regard, and I want you to answer it: For what reason should cisgender people tell the stories of transgender people when transgender people can also act and write and direct? And if you still don’t get the idea, replace “cisgender” with “white” and “transgender” with “black”. It’s not a 1:1 parallel, but it’s close damn enough.

And I’ll say to you what I’ve said to others: When you’re more worried about marginalized people being “cancelled” by the rich and powerful (and their sycophants) than you are about the rich and powerful being criticized by marginalized people, I’ll be glad to have a discussion about “cancel culture”. Until then? Nah, fam, we good.

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jilocasin (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:16 Re:

For what reason should cisgender people tell the stories of transgender people when transgender people can also act and write and direct

That one’s easy. It’s called acting the literal definition is the ability to convincingly portray a role, emotion, or set of experiences that the actor hasn’t personally experienced. Are you suggesting that we can no longer make movies concerning WWI as there aren’t any real WWI vets around to play those roles? According to your logic, only someone who has experienced WWI should be able to do that.

I notice that you also conveniently ignored the the flip side of your argument:

For what reason should transgender people tell the stories of cisgender people when cisgender people can also act and write and direct?

Since there are lots more cisgendered acting parts than transgendered ones, your way of thinking would put the majority of non-cisgendered actors out of work.

Also, people with actual experience in the roles rarely make good actors in those roles. See "The 15:17 to Paris". They cast the actual soldiers as themselves to disastrous effect.

Finally I am more concerned with the everyday person; the school teacher, the mom, the factory worker, being cancelled regardless of their race, gender, etc. I don’t really care what the elite do among themselves as that air is too rarefied for me.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:17 Re:

This is what you’re replying to:

For what reason should cisgender people tell the stories of transgender people when transgender people can also act and write and direct

And this is your reply:

Are you suggesting that we can no longer make movies concerning WWI as there aren’t any real WWI vets around to play those roles?

Let’s highlight that last part you’re replying to again:

For what reason should cisgender people tell the stories of transgender people when transgender people can also act and write and direct

I certainly don’t know any WWI vets who can (still) act or write or direct, therefore, I assume that the person you’re replying to would be fine with finding non-WWI vets to fill those roles.

Since there are lots more cisgendered acting parts than transgendered ones, your way of thinking would put the majority of non-cisgendered actors out of work.

Funny enough, a lot of them are already out of work. The unemployment rate of trans people is 3 times the national average – and 4 times for trans people of color. They’re already being discriminated against for jobs where they’re qualified; why shouldn’t they want to be represented in a job that they’re uniquely qualified for?

Also, people with actual experience in the roles rarely make good actors in those roles. See "The 15:17 to Paris". They cast the actual soldiers as themselves to disastrous effect.

That sounds like a better argument for "when you’re casting a role, hire an actor" and not "when you’re casting a role, hire someone who has never been through the same experience that the character has." Do you have a better example of "people with actual experience in the roles rarely make good actors in those roles" where the actors in question are actually trained, experienced actors?

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jilocasin (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:18 Re:

Apparently your reading comprehension has failed you somewhat in this instance. The original comment I was referring to was the author’s belief that only transgendered people were capable of or should be allowed to tell stories of trangender people when there are transgendered people who can act, write, and direct.

I responded that is the very definition of acting (and it is).

My analogy was that the authors statement was equivalent to assuming you had to have personal experience in the role/story in order to act in it or write it. Using WWI was taking it to it’s ridiculous conclusion to make a point. I could have instead opted for the more frequent casting of gay men as romantic cis leads and or cis leads playing gay roles. Much like with trans actors, there is a greater call for only gay actors to be allowed to play these roles as only gay actors can know what it’s like to be gay.

As for an example, sure, Ruby Rose was cast as Batwoman some say because she was a lesbian, while others that she wasn’t lesbian enough. Of course the mob got out it’s pitchforks because (wait for it) the character is Jewish and the actress wasn’t (hmm, kind of like my WWI analogy above). The CW even went so far as to come out after Ruby’s departure and insist that they would only hire an LGBTQ+ actress for the part, regardless of whether or not they could actually act.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:19 Re:

The original comment I was referring to was the author’s belief that only transgendered people were capable of or should be allowed to tell stories of trangender people when there are transgendered people who can act, write, and direct.

I don’t see the words "capable" or "allowed" anywhere in the comment you’re replying to; do you mind pointing them out?

I responded that is the very definition of acting (and it is).

You said that this is the definition of acting: "the ability to convincingly portray a role, emotion, or set of experiences that the actor hasn’t personally experienced"

Why is "that the actor hasn’t personally experienced" a necessary part of that definition? By that definition, no one who has ever experienced love should be cast in a romantic film. By that definition, Charlie Sheen wasn’t an actor for the years he played Charlie Harper, a character based largely on himself.

assuming you had to have personal experience in the role/story in order to act in it or write it

Aside from you, I don’t see anyone making that assertion. An assertion that the role should go to someone with personal experience over one who doesn’t, perhaps, but not that such experience is necessary.

As for an example, sure, Ruby Rose was cast as Batwoman some say because she was a lesbian, while others that she wasn’t lesbian enough. Of course the mob got out it’s pitchforks because (wait for it) the character is Jewish and the actress wasn’t (hmm, kind of like my WWI analogy above). The CW even went so far as to come out after Ruby’s departure and insist that they would only hire an LGBTQ+ actress for the part, regardless of whether or not they could actually act.

You offer "an example" As a reminder of what I asked for an example of, I’ll quote your assertion again: "people with actual experience in the roles rarely make good actors in those roles." There is nothing in your example about the quality of Ruby Rose’s performance as Batwoman, so how is that an example of someone with actual experience not making a good actor in a role?

As for the part about Rose’s successor as Batwoman, someone who hasn’t actually been in a role obviously can’t provide an example of being either good or bad in that role. And, since I explicitly specified "qualified actors," someone who can’t actually act wouldn’t apply as an appropriate example anyway; you’d be making the same argument for "when you’re casting a role, hire an actor" again. Still, I’m curious: can you provide a citation for the claim that the CW has stated their willingness to hire someone who can’t act for the role of Batwoman? Or, since they’ve hired someone for the role, some proof that Javicia Leslie cannot act?

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:19

the author’s belief that only transgendered people were capable of or should be allowed to tell stories of trangender people when there are transgendered people who can act, write, and direct

Pay attention. I’m going to make my stance crystal motherfucking clear for you, since you seem to perversely enjoy shoving words into my mouth that didn’t first come from it.

I have not, nor will I ever, call for cisgender people to be barred forever and a day from telling stories about trans people. (Partly for honest-to-God free speech reasons, partly for “that’s stupid” reasons.) But if Hollywood wants to tell stories about trans people, trans people should rightfully get the first opportunity to tell those stories. Writers, directors, actors — in an ideal world, all those positions would go to trans people if the story is about trans people. In this world, I’d settle for at least the position of lead actor going to a trans person.

Acting is a job — a thing some people do. Being transgender is something people are. Treating the two as the same thing — i.e., that trans people are “acting” instead of, y’know, being transgender — leads to people believing transphobic bullshit like “cis men will just pretend to be trans so they can go into women’s restrooms and rape women”. So if ever catch yourself wondering why a not-zero number of people think cis people playing trans roles is “problematic”, remember that.

Now, feel free to discuss the point I actually made. But if you’re going to continue otherwording me (e.g., “So you’re saying cis people shouldn’t get to play trans roles!”) or say I made an argument I didn’t make, kindly fuck all the way off and stay there.

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jilocasin (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:20 Re:

I seem to have ruffled some feathers…

I disagree with your premise. I never said that transgender people were acting. I said that actors could act a transgender part. That’s what they do. If they can’t do so convincingly then they are not good actors.

I also disagree with your opinion that Hollywood should favor trans writers, directors, or actors even for trans scripts and roles. As you wrote (and I’ll quote you so you won’t accuse me of putting words in your mouth):

Acting is a job — a thing some people do. Being transgender is something people are.

Just because someone is or isn’t trans has no bearing on whether they can act, write, or direct. You are advocating that jobs be given to people, not on the basis of their ability, but strictly on their gender. You then bring up the straw man of actors contributing to "transphobic bullshit" and of cis men "going into restrooms".

Let me ask you this. Is there any difference, in appearance at least, between a naturally born woman and a trans woman? Is there any difference between a naturally born man and a trans man? If you say, yes, then aren’t you yourself guilty of that same phobia you are accusing others of? If not, then there should be no problem with a natural born woman actress playing a trans woman role, nor of a natural born male actor playing a trans male role.

Do those points meet with your approval?

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:21 Re:

I said that actors could act a transgender part. That’s what they do. If they can’t do so convincingly then they are not good actors.

Yes, they can, and have. All things being equal, though, if there’s an equally competent trans actor available for a trans role, why wouldn’t you give it to them? You have asserted that "people with actual experience in the roles rarely make good actors in those roles," but you haven’t given an example of that phenomenon aside from people who weren’t even actors.

Is there any difference, in appearance at least, between a naturally born woman and a trans woman? Is there any difference between a naturally born man and a trans man?

I’m going to ignore what I am going to assume is intentionally offensive nonstandard terminology and just answer the questions. The answer being that you’re assuming all transgender people of a given gender look a certain way, and that all cisgender people of a given gender look a certain way. There are trans people who can "pass" and those who can’t, and those who can but with a lot more effort.

In short, your questions paint a false dichotomy. Yes, there is a difference in appearance between that trans man and that cis man, but there’s also a difference in appearance between (almost) any two trans men, and (almost) any two cis men, and the same is true for women. Or, at least, I’ve never been mistaken for Arnold Schwarzenegger so far; although maybe it’s just the accent.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:21

Do those points meet with your approval?

No. No, they do not.

While not a 1:1 parallel, take the sentence “trans people shouldn’t be favored for roles in telling a story about trans people” and replace “trans” with “black”. Doesn’t sound so good, does it? What you’re advocating for, regardless of whether you realize it, is the idea that cis people — who have absolutely no experience with being trans — should have the privilege of the first opportunity to tell stories about trans people.

Yes, a trans person being trans doesn’t mean they know how to act/write/direct. But if you think there aren’t trans people who can do those things — and do them well! — you’re marginalizing their voices because of some misguided belief about whether trans people are really the right people to tell trans stories. Maybe turn that belief into an idea and rethink it, hmm?

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:15 Re:

"It’s not O.K. for someone to get fired, or killed for saying that non-white Americans should be allowed to sit anywhere on the bus, but it is O.K. to do the same for holding an anti-trans viewpoint?"

False equivalence. And fallacy on top of it.

Let me translate that for you:

"It is not OK for someone to get fired or killed for saying that all humans should have equal rights, but it is OK to do the same for holding the viewpoint that not all humans have equal rights"

The answer to that question is yes, and several wars have already been fought about it. Or, to summarize, it is indeed legitimate to defend human rights with force of arms, as has been amply demonstrated through history, including one US civil war and a rather large european one.

"Now even that isn’t enough for the mob. inappropriate humor, is out, micro-aggressions are a thing, claims of cultural appropriation are policed. Actors and actresses are railed against for doing their jobs (for some reason, it’s now wrong for a cis actor to play a non-cis role, but it’s just fine for a non-cis actor to play a cis role etc.)."

It is predictable that a number of minorities have become hypersensitized about it – and you know who is to blame for that? We the silent majority, that’s who. The reasonable ones who kept failing for so damn long to vote into office people who had human rights on the agenda rather than an extra 100$ worth of tax deduction, the ones who grew up with elderly relatives giving good life advice and reading fairy tales to us rather than, as is the case of a black person, at some point holding The Talk.

It shouldn’t have been the minorities who had to fight for their rights for centuries, it should have been the ones of us who had no skin to lose in that game. But we didn’t.

And now we are, apparently, bleating "How did it come to this?" like concussed lemmings when there are riots in the street and a massive wave of frustrated anger swamps our social networks and media.

"This mentality didn’t work for the french revolutionaries…"

So maybe, just maybe it’s time for the hitherto silent majority of didntgivemuchofashits to get off their asses and stop naívely reminding the peons that if there’s no bread surely they can eat cake instead.

I was similarly blind until at some point I was shown and told exactly what life looked like as one of the disadvantaged – you know, the butt of all those harmless jokes which just happen to be the exact ones genuine bigots hurl at these minorities for real – and i was told to check my privilege because as a white cis-gendered male I was born holding cards other people had to spend a lifetime fighting for.

Yeah. You could say there is just some degree of hypersensitivity and overreaction. I’d be surprised if there wasn’t, because your point about the french revolution is well chosen, even if it isn’t providing the point you wanted it to.

It’s not new either. The one and only change is that today we have the internet which has managed to tell every little clique of different that no, they’re not alone. The result being big explosions as they start standing up and demanding, rather than continuing to ask politely, that they receive the same rights and respect the majority possesses without having to claim it.

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jilocasin (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:16 Re:

I am glad that you can write; "…as a white cis-gendered male I was born holding cards other people had to spend a lifetime fighting for."

Not all white folks were so lucky. A lot of white folks live in fear of their interactions with law enforcement. White people are also beaten and killed needlessly (just maybe not your kind of white people). They don’t have enough to eat, or warm cloths to wear. Telling a white person to "check their privilege" is racist. You don’t know what kind of life he had to go through, what troubles, trials, you are judging them solely on the color of their skin.

I’ll leave you with the very relevant White Trash Anthem by Blood for Blood

"I never had enough money or enough privilege to be white,
I’m white trash and society better learn to recognize the difference."

"If your offended by this song, well I’m fucking offended by the way I had to grow up so who’s really been slighted?"

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:17 Re:

Not all white folks were so lucky. A lot of white folks live in fear of their interactions with law enforcement. White people are also beaten and killed needlessly (just maybe not your kind of white people). They don’t have enough to eat, or warm cloths to wear.

The argument that white privilege doesn’t exist because some white folks are poor, or beaten by cops, or have been through some other bad shit, is arguing against the existence of a strawman definition of "white privilege" that literally no one is saying exists. Congratulations on winning that argument against no one.

Again, no one is arguing that some white people don’t have it bad. No one is even arguing against the idea that white people exist in America whose experiences are worse than even the average Black person.

The argument is that, no matter how bad circumstances are for these white folks, things would be even worse for them if they had to deal with the unpleasantness that society heaps upon Black people, on top of everything else those white folks had to deal with.

If you want to argue against that point, by all means, argue against it. Otherwise, we don’t need to hear your arguments against a point that no one is making.

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jilocasin (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:18 Re:

Sure, I would bet that the white kid forced to sell his body in the projects of Chicago would be suffering more with all of the unpleasantness that society heaps upon Black people.

Kanye West, Oprah Winfrey, Beyoncé, or Gen. Colin Powell are truly suffering under all of the unpleasantness that society heaps upon Black people.

Some people in society are racists, some institutions are racist, practically all are classist.

"White privilege" is the mistaken belief that every white person somehow has it better than other races in this country based simply on the color of their skin. The call from predominantly black people or virtue signalling white people to "check your privilege" is a racist statement. The person making that statement is telling the white person to stop thinking that you can get away with something, or doing something just because your white. That white person, had no control over the color of the skin they were born with. That white person may not even have any advantage in this particular situation. It’s just a politically correct way to racially slander a group based on a characteristic without facing societal consequences.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:19 Re:

"White privilege" is the mistaken belief that every white person somehow has it better than other races in this country based simply on the color of their skin.

No, it isn’t. Since I’ve already explained this in the post you’re replying to, and you’re not willing to engage with the term based on what people actually mean when they say it, there’s no point in discussing further. Once again, congratulations on winning your argument against thin air, by proving that "Some white people have it bad, too!" to the zero people who are arguing against that.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:19 Re:

""White privilege" is the mistaken belief that every white person somehow has it better than other races in this country based simply on the color of their skin."

No. And doubling down on that straw man won’t magically make it any truer.

"White privilege" simply means that if you have a white person and a black person in the exact same situation then there is still a discrepancy in treatment.

If you are trying to tell us that poor people are generally disadvantaged in the US and that many white people are suffering discrepancy out of poverty or the perception of being lower class, etc…then that’s a fair argument and one which similarly belongs to the generic discussion about social inequality.

Yes, poor people often get treated like trash. This is true all over the world but especially so in the US. But as statistics still display the white poor person has a lot better odds of not dying compared to the black person in the same grade of poverty – or even the black person who is a lot better off fiscally, for that matter.

Saying the poor white guy has "white privilege" may sound outrageous to that poor white guy because aside from breathing he doesn’t see much privilege. The black guy in the exact same situation, being twice as likely as the white guy to get killed by police for no reason, begs to differ.

Neither of them are well of or treated well. This is true.
One of them is less likely to actually get killed by police due to skin color. This is also true.

I’d argue that both of them are more likely to die to exposure, disease, general violence, starvation, etc than they are likely to even blip on the statistics of random police encounters so the "privilege" is often insignificant. But it does exist.

That said, no sane person will haul "white privilege" out and toss it into the face of someone who is already buried under the foot of the social totem pole. The term is primarily used to indicate what I just referred you to, above. White, middle-class men who simply fail to realize that what to them is walking down main street and nodding at the passing police cruiser is, to a black person a hazardous gauntlet which has, in many cases, ended with someone just like him getting shot for no real reason.

"That white person, had no control over the color of the skin they were born with. "

That is correct, and for the nth time you are missing the point.
The white person has no control over the color of his skin. He’s not being told anything about that.
He – or she – is being told to remember that his/her risk of getting shot and killed for no reason is vastly smaller than if they were black.

"That white person may not even have any advantage in this particular situation."

True enough. Like any other factual statement it is often used out of context and abused as a rhetoric lever in bad faith. It is equally true that when malcolm X spoke about being more afraid of the ignorant but well-intentioned liberal than he was about the openly malicious Klan member what he talked about was that a lot of middle-class white people with very little to fear and very few true issues dealing with banks and brokers, keep failing to even see that what to them is a matter of easy routine is to a black man in the same fiscal class far more difficult, gets met with often open suspicion, and presents actual lethal danger.

Classism is an important matter, yes. But it does not explain away the concept of white privilege – because if it did then you wouldn’t be seeing twice as many dead people of ethnicity X than there are of ethnicity Y at the hands of police.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:20 Re:

"The black guy in the exact same situation, being twice as likely as the white guy to get killed by police for no reason, begs to differ."

Then, the difference get even more stark when the situations really are different. Philando Castille got killed because he was obeying an officer’s command while informing him that there was a gun present. Charles Kinsey got shot while laid down on the ground with his hands up, obeying officers’ orders while unarmed. John Crawford died because he had a BB gun in his hands, that was on sale in the store he was still inside.

Meanwhile, Dylann Roof was taken in unharmed after murdering a bunch of people in a church. Jared Leigh Loughner was taken in alive after killing 6 people including Gabby Giffords. James Holmes killed 12 people in Aurora and was taken in alive.

These are extreme cases for sure, but there’s a stark contrast between black people obeying the law being treated badly, while white mass murderers are taken in unharmed unless they decide to kill themselves first.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:11

If the viewpoints in the letter were understood and applied widely to all of society, would they not represent a good for all?

Theoretically? Yes. But in practice, it would require people to tolerate horrendous views for the sake of “refusing to participate in ‘cancel culture’ ” or whatever you want to call it. We can’t have unlimited tolerance of other people’s views, no matter how lovely that idea sounds. (Google “the paradox of tolerance” for further reading.)

Rowling and the other signatories to that letter have endorsed, in some form, the idea that we can’t criticize others for espousing heinous views — e.g., Rowling’s transphobia. I cannot and will not abide such bullshit.

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Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:9 Re:

How do you feel about the phrase "all lives matter"?
It makes me nervous. Because I know that as self-evident as its literal sentiment is, some might come after me for saying it.

So like, if a person shows up to counter-protest a BLM rally with a big sign saying "All Lives Matter" you are saying that’s just a self-evident literal statement whose meaning and intent cannot and should not be judged in any other way? Or does context start to matter at that point?

JB says:

Re: Re: Re:10 Re:

There are trolls and assholes. I acknowledge that.

But if someone is at a BLM rally with that sign, why not assume it is a statement of support? It seems to me an asshole on either side could make an incident out of that. Though, today, you’d have to be pretty out of touch not to expect trouble if you do something like that.

Still, I don’t know if I would dare say that phrase among strangers. Certainly I will not in my workplace.

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:11 Re:

But if someone is at a BLM rally with that sign, why not assume it is a statement of support?

Hahahahahhahahahahahaha JB, dude, are you realy, really still not getting my point about naively allowing yourself to be grifted and manipulated? C’mon man. I’m going to bed. Sleep on it, especially that sentence you just apparently sincerely typed.

JB says:

Re: Re: Re:12 Re:

🙂 Take it in context my friend. Obviously you’d have to be out of touch to do that and not expect a backlash.

My point though is that the BLM movement might get some extra mileage by disarming the opposition if they would just adopt the phrase as part of their movement and use it interchangeably with the other one. Then all the assholes trolling with the "all lives matter" signs would actually be supporting their movement by waving those signs.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:17 Re:

"I don’t understand how adopting that phrase in addition would at all hurt or invalidate their movement."

Because, apparently, you are neither a black person in america nor have you managed to read your way to understanding what would be self-evident to someone who has grown up with a higher proportion of melanophores.

FYI – that failure to understand is part of what is known as "white privilege" – and why Malcolm X said in exasperation that he was more afraid of the well-intentioned but ignorant liberal than he was of the openly malicious Klan member.

Black people have tried the "all lives matter" approach. It’s what Martin Luther King went with in his "I have a dream" – the all-inclusive ideal that no one should be oppressed by anyone.

And he is venerated today by just about everyone as an idealist and advocate of peaceful change. But here’s something I haven’t heard a single white person say, ever, but black people know to their cost. Martin Luther King Jr. failed. His all-inclusive dream was as much worth as Orwells "All animals are equal" rule. MLK’s blood wasn’t even cold before the "…but some animals are more equal than others" was added.

The call for being included has failed, failed, and failed again. For four centuries. Douglass. MLK. Every black statesman through history.

"Black Lives Matter" means something much more specific, namely Stop Killing Us!!.

THAT is the context you and so many ignorant white people keep failing to address. I’m sure that in your childhood some elderly relative talked to you about the rules of life, morals, decency, fairytales for kids, that sort of thing?
Black people also have elderly relatives and get, instead of fairytales, The Talk. (wiki entry; The talk (racism in the US))

You can go read the wiki – i suggest you do – but suffice to say that for generations what many black children are taught is, instead, how to spot and avoid racists, how to de-escalate when targeted by police, how, bluntly put, not get murdered.

This generates a pre-understanding which, to paraphrase my Popper, generates a certain bias and context coloring the statement visavi the topic at hand.

White people who grow up learning about trusting the police simply can’t properly appreciate what it’s like for black people who grew up having to learn how to instead not get killed by that same police. There’s one big part of "white privilege" so very many well-intentioned liberals deny having simply because they don’t realize just how much hate you attract in america by just having black skin.

Black people aren’t saying "All lives matter" because frankly, that completely misses the point where "all lives" simply aren’t at risk. It’s like walking up to a jew in a 1940 third reich concentration camp and telling him he’d raise more awareness for his plight by holding up an all-inclusive sign of universal brotherhood than he would by screaming "jews are being murdered!".

Per capita twice as many blacks are killed by police than whites. number of arrests follow similar patterns. "All lives matter" may be true but also, held as a slogan, implies that all lives are equally at risk. They’re not.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:18 Re:

I’ve said this before, but the support or opposition to the phrase "Black Lives Matter" really just depends on which word you mentally insert there. I’ve always assumed the one that’s intended – "also". "Black Lives Also Matter" is hardly a controversial statement in response to them being treated as if they don’t.

The people who object seem to be assuming that the intended qualifier is "only". Which may be a Rorschach-like indiction of what your prejudices are. If you then double down by saying "All Lives Matter", it not only indicates you missed the point, but may indicate that you’re scared of black people being equals for some reason.

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jilocasin (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:18 Re:

I get it, I do, but you have to be aware of your own overgeneralization and bias (I’d go so far to say racism) concerning all white people. There is no such thing as white privilege that applies equally to all ‘white’ people. Have black people faced systemic discrimination in this country? Of course, only an idiot would deny it. But they are not the only group and I would argue aren’t even the largest group, they are just the most easily identifiable. I would argue that the largest group facing systemic discrimination in this country are the poor. But they are a rather diverse group (and mostly ‘white’, so I guess they don’t count).

I support Dr. Martin Luther King’s vision of all races being treated "…not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." and I agree that this country has failed. Failed people of color, failed immigrants, failed non-cis persons, and failed the poor and downtrodden most of all.

Blacks are less than 15% of the US population that is similar to the percentage of people in the US living in poverty The vast majority of those living in poverty are not black. They might be per capita but since they are such a small portion of the population in total numbers, not so much.

This doesn’t in anyway diminish the severity of suffering that black people have suffered or continue to suffer in our society, especially under our laws and law enforcement personnel. I believe part of the groundswell stems not only from the egregiousness of George Floyd’s death and the subsequent recording and broadcast of it, but of people’s personal experience with law enforcement, whether they are black, Hispanic, and yes even white. All lives must matter, or none truly do. If that begins with reminding people that Black Lives Matter, so be it.

I would caution you with painting all white people with the same privilege you feel you were denied. To do so would be a shame as it would authenticate those who would claim that the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement is anti white.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:19 Re:

"White privilege" doesn’t mean "all white people are doing better than all black people."

It means that if a white person and a black person are in the same bad financial, educational, legal, etc. position, the white person will still have an easier time of it, because they won’t have to overcome the racism inherent in the system on top of everything else.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:20 Re:

And the words "check your privilege" also simply means that you probably haven’t realized you just suggested something which to you is the matter of a phone call or a brief conversation but for someone not sharing your particular shade of pale would mean, at best, several hours of hassle and suspicion.

"Check your privilege" is what you tell Marie Anoinette when she naívely suggests that if the starving peons are short of bread why don’t they just eat cake instead.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:22 Re:

"That would be classist not racist. Your Marie Antoinette reference was one of class not race."

Not when Marie Antoinette in this case is a white middle-class male confusedly asking why black people getting harrassed by police just don’t file a complaihnt – because when he himself did it the chief of police was quick to come out and apologize.

The black guy who tried that, meanwhile, encountered Mack, John and Vinnie from the local precinct in a dark alley where they presented their argument about how they were very upset.

"Thank you for making my point."

Only if what you were after was to ignore just about everything people have said here.

Classism certainly exists. So does racism. and where both coincide they add to one another, they don’t overwrite. Your tasteless straw man above about the poor white guy selling himself casually ignores the tacit fact that the black guy in the same situation is worse off, even if not by much.

Even in the US it’s possible, in theory, that the poor white guy can get out of poverty to become middle class. The poor black guy may be able to get out of poverty as well but he’ll never stop being black.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:19 Re:

"There is no such thing as white privilege that applies equally to all ‘white’ people."

Erm, yes there is. If you don’t understand that, I’d suggest looking into what that term actually means. Hint: it doesn’t mean that all white people are equally privileged, it just means that, for example, a white guy can drive down a stretch of road in a nice car and never get pulled over but a black guy gets pulled every time he makes the trip for no other reason than he’s not white.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:21 Re:

"A poor white guy with piercings and tattoos is more likely to get pulled over for driving a nice car than a well off black doctor or lawyer doing the same."

Statistics prove you wrong there. Again.

You do realize, I hope, that there are plenty of doctors and lawyers who have been beaten, abused, or killed by police without any reason given? In fact not rarely the stated reason provided by the police was that they were suspicious that the victim in question looked "out of place" for the wealthy neighborhood. I.e. he was a brown man in an upper-class area.

Part of white privilege is that a well-dressed white man in the same neighborhood actually has to act suspiciously before the police decide to approach him with the assumption that he is a hostile and violent felon.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:19

There is no such thing as white privilege that applies equally to all ‘white’ people.

Certain aspects of white privilege don’t apply equally to all white people, but the concept in general does apply to all white people. American society — which was built by actual white supremacists, considering how they owned slaves and made the Three-Fifths Compromise and all — favors white people. To say white privilege doesn’t exist is to lie. To say certain aspects of white privilege don’t apply to all white people in all situations is to be far more honest with yourself.

I would argue that the largest group facing systemic discrimination in this country are the poor.

For bonus intersectionality points, try and guess which racial group faces more poverty — and more obstacles to overcoming poverty — than others.

I would caution you with painting all white people with the same privilege you feel you were denied. To do so would be a shame as it would authenticate those who would claim that the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement is anti white.

“Nice movement you got here. It’d be a shame if someone were to come along and misrepresent it in an attempt to discredit its message and the people delivering it…”

Next time you want to make a point, try not sounding like a kneebreaker for the mob.

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jilocasin (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:20 Re:

By total number or per capita?

By total number of people, sorry to burst your bubble, that would be white.
Per capita, that would be native American/native Alaskan.

So black people are not the poorest group by either measure. Good try though.

Certain white people have certain privileges with some people based on the color of their skin. In the same way not all black people face discrimination in all things by all white people. To say otherwise is not only racist but denies reality.

At the time, lots of societies owned slaves. Sadly, in some parts of the world they still do. While the majority, almost exclusively, of the slaves owned in the what would become America were of African descent, that wasn’t the case worldwide. Even the native Americans owned slaves. So to base your assumption that America was founded by white supremacists because they owned slaves would be wrong. John Adams, Samuel Adams, and Thomas Paine never owned slaves. Even George Washington was deeply troubled by the institution and freed his slaves in his will. By the time of the Revolution many northern states had already outlawed the practice. So no, America wasn’t founded on or by white supremacists. It was founded by a group of people who believed in a better nation with freedom for all and were deeply divided, and sometimes failed, in their attempt at accomplishing it.

It would be truer to say that the southern states were founded by white supremacists. Heck they fought a civil war to try and keep their slaves. It was a shame that we were so lenient with the south. Perhaps we should have moved all the white confederate folks up north, or out west and gave their lands to their former slaves.

Then as now, there are a large number of white people that are demonstrably worse off than their black neighbors. Then as now, there are a somewhat larger number of white people who aren’t racist against black people or any other race. What seems to have become popular though are black racists and white people who feel that they must walk about scourging their backs and crying out "forgive me for the sin of being born white, of being born male, of being born cis, oh whoa is me…"

When we confront racism, sexism, or any other -ism based on characteristics a person is born with we rightly say that it is wrong. That it’s against their civil rights and should be opposed. Some here even with violence. So if that’s the case:
If I shouldn’t discriminate against someone who just happens to have been born:

  • black
  • Hispanic
  • Asian
  • native American
    then why is it O.K. to discriminate against someone who was born white? The white person didn’t choose the color of their skin.

If I shouldn’t discriminate against someone who just happens to have been born:

  • female
  • trans
    then why is it O.K. to discriminate against someone who was born male? The male person didn’t choose their gender.

If I shouldn’t discriminate against someone who just happens to have been born:

  • gay
  • bi
  • pan
    then why is it O.K. to discriminate against someone who was born cis? The cis person didn’t choose who they love.

If the only way you can rise up is to stand on the heads of others, you’re doing it wrong.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:21

black people are not the poorest group by either measure

But they face far more obstacles to overcoming poverty, precisely because the U.S. perpetuates systems of racism (e.g., redlining) that have existed since black people were brought to the American colonies in chains. Black people have a harder time building generational wealth — which includes land ownership, by the by — precisely because they’ve been oppressed for generations.

lots of societies owned slaves

So what?

to base your assumption that America was founded by white supremacists because they owned slaves would be wrong

Yes, I would be wrong to base my assumption on that notion…on its own. But I base my assumption on the fact that, at the time of the founding of the country, the only people who had any kind of sociopolitical power were straight white cisgender males. Black people had no real rights; white women had some rights, but not equal rights. (If the Founders had anything to say about queer people, I can’t imagine it would be good.) So the underlying assumption here is that the United States was founded by a group of white men who viewed their “race” as superior to all others — most notably members of the black “race” (a not-zero number of whom the Founding Fathers held as slaves, including Thomas “I raped an enslaved black woman and forced her to bear my children” Jefferson) and the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

George Washington was deeply troubled by the institution and freed his slaves in his will

To be clear: George Washington was “troubled” by slavery, but not enough to free the people he enslaved within his own lifetime. That isn’t exactly the redemptive story you think it is, champ.

Then as now, there are a large number of white people that are demonstrably worse off than their black neighbors. Then as now, there are a somewhat larger number of white people who aren’t racist against black people or any other race.

As was said elsewhere: White privilege is not out-and-out racism. It is the subtle, imperceptible, almost invisible benefits granted to white people as a racial group by virtue of the history of this country from its founding to the present day. A white person doesn’t have to be racist for their job application to receive more consideration than a black person’s application because the white guy was named Jake and the black person was named Jamal.

White privilege is also not an admission that all white people lead privileged lives. As someone whose family is literally one financial emergency away from being in seriously deep shit, I know that for a fact. But I’m not going to say that I don’t benefit from white privilege. I know that if I’m stopped by the police for some reason, as an example, I have a greater likelihood of walking away with my life because of my skin color. I take that for granted—and that is white privilege.

What seems to have become popular though are … white people who feel that they must walk about scourging their backs and crying out "forgive me for the sin of being born white, of being born male, of being born cis, oh whoa is me…"

No, what you have are white people coming to terms with and (re-)examining their privilege. No one alive today had anything to do with the institution of slavery — but plenty of people still uphold other racist institutions and traditions and whatnot, even if they don’t mean to. Nobody (except maybe a few extremist assholes) wants white people to get down on their knees, beg forgiveness, and feel guilty for the rest of their lives about the entire history of America’s treatment of black people. The proper thing to want, at any rate, is for white people to examine their language and their actions in ways that might expose their unconscious racial biases so that they can learn to be better about that in the future.

why is it O.K. to discriminate against someone who was born white/male/[straight]¹?

It isn’t. (I bet you expected me to say otherwise. Sorry to disappoint~.) But you have to understand a simple fact: white people, men, and cisgender people don’t face nearly the same level of discrimination, in either numbers or the nature thereof, as people of color/women/queer people. And laws that protect against discrimination based on those factors protect the privileged as much as they protected the marginalized.

If the only way you can rise up is to stand on the heads of others, you’re doing it wrong.

By the same token: If the only way you think people can rise up is by picking themselves up by their own bootstraps, you’re only helping them stay where they are. You can proclaim “Black Lives Matter” without ending white lives; you can support LGBT pride without throwing bricks at straight people; you can support women’s rights without stomping men’s balls. Whatever made you think movements for equality and social justice for marginalized people requires any kind of harm of non-marginalized people has you all kinds of fucked up.


¹ — You probably meant to use “straight” where you used “cis”.

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jilocasin (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:22 Re:

Let me start be writing, as to you footnote: you are probably correct, thanks.

When you wrote:

the only people who had any kind of sociopolitical power were straight white cisgender males.

I think you forgot land holding or prosperous. Poor white folks didn’t get the right to vote until much later. It wasn’t until the 1820’s that the non land holding white men could vote in New York for example.

I am glad that:

I know that if I’m stopped by the police for some reason, as an example, I have a greater likelihood of walking away with my life because of my skin color. I take that for granted—and that is white privilege.

My experiences have lead me to fear interactions with the police. To know that I might be abused or killed for no reason, just because they can get away with it, and police have gotten away with it. I know that my skin color is no shield (and yes I am well, olive). So perhaps that colors my perception of white privilege somewhat. The US also has an unsavory history of it’s mistreatment of immigrants (which is continuing even now), religious minorities, and others. I have been detained at airports, solely on my appearance multiple times as a suspicious person. When I was younger, I was stopped by store security because my ragamuffin looks were deemed suspicious, my apparent race provided no shield, no privilege while other black people were ignored.

At least we seem to agree that:

You can proclaim “Black Lives Matter” without ending white lives; you can support LGBT pride without throwing bricks at straight people; you can support women’s rights without stomping men’s balls.

As for:

Whatever made you think movements for equality and social justice for marginalized people requires any kind of harm of non-marginalized people has you all kinds of fucked up.

As a personal matter, I don’t. I am a firm believer in all people deserving respect, regardless of their race, sex, gender, religion, or any other characteristic. Individuals can always be less deserving (though not given), on an individual basis, but that’s the exception not the rule.

As for what would make me feel that way. That would be experience. That would be black people telling white people to "check their privilege" pulling into parking spaces. That would be LGBT people trying to force religions to perform marriages against their religious beliefs. That would be radical feminists proclaiming that men are inferior, that all sex is rape, that any unwanted interaction initiated by a man (no matter how innocent) constitutes harassment.

The problem I see with the cancel culture (you know the original topic of this thread ;)) is that it is being co-opted by those people you claim are "all kinds of fucked up".

And finally, no, I believe everyone could use a helping hand from time to time to get back on their feet.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:23

I was mostly with you up until this…

That would be LGBT people trying to force religions to perform marriages against their religious beliefs.

…which is where you fucked up.

Show me — through a source that has credibility; i.e., not Breitbart, OAN, Fox News, or a religious news service that has a vested interest in being anti-queer — where anyone has ever tried to legally force anyone of any religion to perform a wedding ceremony for same-sex couples within the boundaries of the United States. (ProTip: You can’t and you won’t. The First Amendment guarantees the right of any cleric from any religion to refuse participation in any ceremony that contradicts the beliefs of their religion.) Until and unless you can do that, don’t make that argument again; it represents a bad faith belief (likely created by anti-LGBT propaganda) that you might want to reëxamine.

That would be radical feminists proclaiming that men are inferior, that all sex is rape, that any unwanted interaction initiated by a man (no matter how innocent) constitutes harassment.

And if you’ve cared to notice, nobody really listens to them, since their extremist thinking hasn’t taken hold in American culture. While all men would do well to learn more about respecting boundaries and consent vis-á-vis sexual encounters (“ ‘no’ does not mean convince me” would be a good starting place), treating everything men do as rape/sexual assault is not something you’re gonna see happen.

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jilocasin (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:24 Re:

Sorry to burst your bubble, but as I mentioned in my previous post all of the examples cited were not news stories or articles, but things I have personally witnessed espoused.

As for what would make me feel that way. That would be experience.

I listened to LGBTQ+ people back during the gatherings and debates in my state about legalizing same sex marriages call for all religious institutions, including Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim to be forced to perform same sex weddings. Of course as you mentioned that should have been illegal, and in fact the laws that have since been passed, first in my state and then nationwide carved out a religious exception. That didn’t stop them from calling for it (or still complaining that it didn’t happen).

Remember you opined:

Whatever made you think movements for equality and social justice for marginalized people requires any kind of harm of non-marginalized people has you all kinds of fucked up.

I think it’s rather hypocritical for you to then write:

…which is where you fucked up.

When I try and explain (as I thought I did rather clearly) that all of the examples presented were things I had personally experienced.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:19 Re:

"There is no such thing as white privilege that applies equally to all ‘white’ people. "

I’d argue there is, at least in the US. As a white poor person you’re often SOL with the police. As a black person, poor or not, you are twice as likely to get shot – or slowly asphyxiated with a knee to your throat, as it were.

You are right that there is also systemic disadvantage in being poor, especially in the US, but honestly, that’s suddenly no longer a race but a class issue (which is equally infected and invites the whole debate on how socialized a system ought to be).

Being born white, however, means you were not born with a form of social condition which through your whole life will ensure you get treated worse by far. You have the privilege simply by being white. Like it or not that’s the core of the current and persistent issue of systemic racism. Be aware that where you move doors will open by themselves which others have to hammer open with all they have.

"…and failed the poor and downtrodden most of all."

Don’t even get me started. A first world nation where the infrastructure falls apart, 3000 communities are all basically drinking the Flint river, and a broken leg might break you for life without a health plan?

"All lives must matter, or none truly do. If that begins with reminding people that Black Lives Matter, so be it."

Actually it begins with reminding people that racism in general is bad. The same situation we can see in the US today is the exact equivalent of antisemitism in medieval russia or ww2-era poland and germany – or whatever other minority is the historical scapegoat for the nation in question. The US has the added historical burden of the minority being almost completely the result of slavery.

"I would caution you with painting all white people with the same privilege you feel you were denied. "

Ah, in this you’d be mistaken. I am personally a white cis-gendered heterosexual middle class male. And european.
I check every box when it comes to being privileged and for about the first 30 years of my life I never understood just how many good things come to me automatically which, as it turns out, those who didn’t check one or more of those boxes had to strive and fight for extensively.

Hell, I also didn’t understand what american poor people went through much either, given that although being poor here in sweden (which most postgrad student knows well) is no cakewalk it’s certainly f_cking paradise compared to what it looks like to be poor in the US.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:11 Re:

"But if someone is at a BLM rally with that sign, why not assume it is a statement of support?"

Because the only people who use that phrase are the ones who have misunderstood the original phrase so much that they had to invent another phrase not to be offended by it. Actual supporters don’t need to change the original, but scared bigots do

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Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

By the way, you’re even doing it right now with Koby. You’re defending him, even going out of your way to correct his wording and offer up a new version of what he said in order to turn it into a serious thing that we must discuss. Go have a look at his past comments. He conned you, buddy – he’s not appreciative or respectful of your attempt to engage with him in good faith, he’s laughing at you for falling for his grift and being so easily trolled.

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Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

Might it be that I just happen to agree with his point?

"His point" was to use the word fascism/fascist ten times in a short comment, and your "agreement" was to immediately suggest that it’s unfair to focus on that or treat it as a primary component of his point, and that the reasonable thing to do is ignore that and engage with the point as though it was a completely different point.

That’s what I mean about falling for a grift, and letting yourself be manipulated into doing heavy lifting to legitimize someone’s argument and respond to it in good faith even though they did nothing to deserve that.

JB says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Re:

Haha I’m too clever to fall for the "shout fascism ten times" trick. I would have made a similar post with a similar point at the root level if it had not already been mentioned. I took the author of that post to have been mistaken in his definition of fascism. But if he is a known troll, then I was mistaken.

But I sincerely do believe that the point raised was necessary and good, otherwise I would not have put so much effort into expounding on it.

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Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:9 Re:

But I sincerely do believe that the point raised was necessary and good

Honestly, JB, I think it’s absurd and just plain bizarre that you are trying to separate "the point raised" from fascism.

It was a comment in which the primary point was about fascism. It said it repeatedly, under the title "Where it’s headed". It was a comment explicitly and entirely about accusing others of fascism. That was its thesis. That was its theme. That was the beginning and the end of the point being made.

And your followup is "well if you ignore the fascism part…"

Baffling.

JB says:

Re: Re: Re:10 Re:

The point Koby was talking about was really about authoritarianism, which is not totally unrelated to fascism. But Koby was not using that word fascism appropriately.

The jist of his original post (it seemed to me) was that silencing dissenting voices is a threat to a liberal society, which is the point that I continue to argue.

It seems baffling to me that you are confused about that given what we discussed.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:11

silencing dissenting voices is a threat to a liberal society

Given how the signatories of that letter are under no real threat of being silenced — even if they think criticism is an attempt to silence them — “liberal society” is not under the threat Koby and others like him want you to believe it is.

JB says:

Re: Re: Re:12 Re:

I would be relieved in the certitude that there was not an air of inquisition about the current political climate. But I’m not so certain that it’s only an imagined threat.

Even if the signatories of the letter may not be in real danger of being silenced, silencing dissenting voices is still a threat in principle and maintaining vigilance against it is still a worthy cause. No?

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7

So

otherwording (or in-other-wordsing) — noun — summarizing a point of argument in a way that distorts the point into saying something it does not and attributes the false interpretation to the person who raised the original point; a blatant attempt to make winning an argument easier for someone who is out of their depth in said argument

Example: You will often find the phrases “in other words” or “so you’re saying” at the beginning of an instance of otherwording.

See also: strawman; your post

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

I see people on one side of the social justice fence asking questions and trying to grapple with the issues rationally, while people on the other side respond with disparaging accusations of racism and sexism and privilege.

I guarantee you that the other side sees it as "people on one side of the social justice fence asking questions and trying to grapple with the issues rationally, while people on the other side respond with attempts to deprive them of basic rights to life and liberty."

If the only side of the debate that makes sense is your own, you’re not making a good-faith attempt of understanding the opposing point of view, which is a good indicator of why you might be getting accused of arguing in bad faith.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5

I see people on one side of the social justice fence asking questions and trying to grapple with the issues rationally, while people on the other side respond with disparaging accusations of racism and sexism and privilege.

For the record: “Just asking questions” is a shitty debate tactic, and so is trying to defend people saying shitty things by using that particular backsies defense.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

Stephen, not respecting other people’s opinion is also a very poor debate tactic, as is foul language. It adds no weight or credence to your argument, and is usually a sign of intellectual surrender regarding the issue at hand. Juvenile. Less than one would expect from a competent adult of either sex.

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Roger says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

I think it is actually that simple, at least as far as what constitutes transphobia. Is it transphobic to propose and discuss circumstances where trans women might be treated differently than women? Two possible examples.

I’ve read that male to female transition surgery leaves the prostate intact, because the gland is then innocuous unless it becomes diseased and surgically removing a healthy prostate is disproportionately risky in comparison. But, doesn’t that mean that trans women, unlike (other?) women, should have prostate exams starting in their fifties? What is the relative frequency of prostrate disease in trans women compared to men? Is it lower? More to the point of this issue, is it transphobic to discuss prostate disease in that population? It is nonsensical to discuss prostate disease in women, excepting trans women.

Of broader societal interest is the participation of trans women in female sports. Is it transphobic to discuss the issue? Society writ large has chosen to allow women to compete in some sports independently of men, mostly it would seem for perceived differences in the physical biology (musculature) of the two groups. My sense without any specific research is that trans women are steadily consuming the performance records across female individual sports (track, cycling?) It doesn’t seem completely farfetched that unless the question of how trans women athletes might be treated differently from women athletes can be considered, many female sports will eventually be populated exclusively by trans women at the top competition levels, because women who are not trans will not be competitive against the rest of the field. Is it transphobic to consider the likelihood or general societal desirability of that possible future?

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

It is nonsensical to discuss prostate disease in women, excepting trans women.

I doubt anyone is arguing that a trans person’s doctor shouldn’t treat them based on their specific health needs, as they would with any patient.

If you’re not a doctor treating a trans person: why should you treat this person any differently based on whether or not they have a prostate? If you’re not treating them differently, why should you care whether they have a prostate? If you’re not researching prostate cancer and aren’t a member of that population, why are you discussing prostate disease in trans women?

Again, it’s one of those things that yes, maybe there’s an argument to be made that someone can have this kind of discussion in good faith, but, in practice, why would this be a subject under discussion in the first place, unless it were a disingenuous attempt to loop the subject back around to "…and that’s why I should be allowed to treat trans women as if they were men."

My sense without any specific research is that trans women are steadily consuming the performance records across female individual sports (track, cycling?)

Well, at least you acknowledge that you don’t have any data to back up your point. Go look into that, and if it’s true, come back and make your point based on data. If it’s not true, ask yourself why you believed it without evidence.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

"Is it transphobia to state that "trans women" is not a simple subset of the category "women?" Biology would seem to support this viewpoint, but outrage over such sentiment is nonetheless common."

Thankfully the line is often more clearcut than you’d think.

In your above example, for instance, I have yet to see one single argument brought which didn’t have as an end goal to have transgendered people somehow declared "unnatural" and used out-of-context pseudoscience as a wedge towards that conclusion.

How, for instance, would you categorize – biologically – a woman with an XY chromosome pair? Or a man with an XX chromosome pair? Yes, that genetically female person was born with dong and balls.

If pure genetics can’t supply a definitive answer then what about secondary sexual characteristics? Even worse as there’s no shortage of common hormonal conditions furthering or inhibiting such.

So no, biology does not, in fact, offer a definitive answer about what a "man" or "woman" is at the hardest levels we can observe. Anyone who claims it does is being untruthful and/or ignorant.

"Is it racist to reject the notion of "white privilege?""

Either that or ignorant. There will come a point where you have to observe objective fact and choose to reject or accept those facts. Rejecting observable fact means you are deluded and will be facing the consequences of said delusion.
Refusing to observe the facts – saying "I don’t want to know this" may not mean you are a racist but it certainly means you are OK with or at least don’t care about racism existing in general.

Saying "I don’t see any ‘white privilege’" isn’t racist.
Flatly denying it exists either means you don’t know but refuse to accept the possibility it exists, or are flat-out lying.

"Or to call into question the legitimacy of an organization like "Black Lives Matter?" "

You mean the movement, right?

And yes, questioning the legitimacy of any movement formed in response to four centuries worth of systemic racism is indeed racist – because it means you support those four centuries of racism and think it should continue. You could also have completely ignored the history of those four centuries worth of observable fact – see my argument regarding delusion, above.
It also means you question the authority of the right of assembly and the right to engage in political discourse but that’s another can of worms entirely.

"Or to simply put your head down and pray the mob looks the other way?"

No. If you are facing a large mob of what appears to be angry people who are rioting then putting your head down is the wiser response. That’s true no matter the color of their skin. One reason racism and bigotry is everyones problem is because when the social contract is broken for ANY minority then the effects harm everyone.

"I believe that the vast majority of Americans agree on the big picture here: as a society we do not find racism, sexism, and other bigoted attitudes to be acceptable."

If that was true then this shit would have been over and done with fifty years ago. The problem is that to most americans racism simply isn’t important enough to give a shit about – because a white person won’t give a rat’s ass that his neighbor can’t get a loan or a good job to save his life entirely due to his skin color. That white person may, if informed, find that reprehensible, but;

Has probably never given the prevalence of police brutality targeting minorities a single thought when the time came to vote for DA, Mayor or Governor.
Has probably never stood up to say "not in my name".
Has, in fact, stood by at most shaking their head in disgust at the pictures of George Floyd and…
…is now shocked and outraged that the people who are regularly treated as second-class citizens at best are now rioting through the streets.

It may not strictly speaking be the responsibility of the uninvolved to make sure their society is just – but they had better choose to shoulder that burden anyway because they will be paying the price when the unacceptable situation causes the collapse. This is as true for the majority of the americans who’ve chosen to keep their peace as it was for the confused germans who found themselves saddled with Hitler, even if more than 80% of them didn’t really agree with what he said.

Democracy is very unforgiving about people simply saying "Not my business" because in the end, it is.

"…the social justice morality mob look to be the most bigoted people in the room, refusing to engage with any form of opposition in good faith."

Yep. That’s what happens when the social contracts breaks down. When a minority is marginalized for long enough there are two guilty parties – those who actively persecuted that minority and those who just stood by and let it happen. The minority in question has, quite naturally, no reason at all to ascribe either the perpetrators or the silent didntgiveashits with "good faith".

Those who refused for so long to acknowledge that there even was a problem have no credibility in the debate. How can they be ascribed good faith? Why should they be met with any? Why is it up to the victims who finally had enough to be the saints here? To whom do they do owe to shut up and be good when being good means 8 bullets in the back or a knee on your throat for no reason – by the police entrusted to protect them?

"We need to regain the ability to have respectful discourse on these issues."

Respect is something you earn, not something you can expect for having sat around and refused to realize or act on an increasingly obvious problem. And the problem in the US is that "Fuck you, I got mine" and "Am I my brother’s Keeper?" has been a running theme for a long time rather than "We’re all in this together".

If I can see the massive problem the US has mired itself in, as a white person from europe, then americans themselves, who have lived with this have very little reason to be surprised that they’re finding themselves at the border of a civil war with drawn battle lines and no room for compromise on either side.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

People criticizing J.K. Rowling for her transphobic beliefs is not fascism (as much as she’d probably like to claim otherwise). People boycotting her books/her publisher is not fascism (if anything, it’s that “free market” all the capitalists always talk about). Fascism is when a government tries to disappear people for dissent, jail people for peaceful protests, and turn law-abiding citizens into law-breaking criminals based on who they are. If you really think someone calling J.K. Rowling a TERF is the same thing as a government punishing queer people for being queer in public (hi, Russia!), you misunderstand the entire fucking concept of fascism.

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Koby (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

People boycotting her books/her publisher is not fascism (if anything, it’s that “free market” all the capitalists always talk about)

It is not a boycott. Disagreers are demanding that no additional books be published. They are demanding that existing books become unavailable, and that editors quit working for her on future ones. It is a modern day book burning. Mere boycott would be insufficient. Disagreers demand unavailability.

Very similar to the capitalist vs. crony capitalist argument. Crony capitalism isn’t a free market at all.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Disagreers are demanding that no additional books be published. They are demanding that existing books become unavailable, and that editors quit working for her on future ones.

Do you have a source for this? I see that some people working for her publisher have stated they are uncomfortable working on her novels, but I don’t see any reports of them saying that was due to outside pressure rather than their own personal choice.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Disagreers are demanding that no additional books be published.

People have every right to say that future association between Rowling and her publisher (e.g., putting out new books) will result in boycotts and other such demonstrations. If the publisher wants to move forward anyway, they can. They have no obligation to meet those “demands”.

They are demanding that existing books become unavailable

I’ve seen no such “demands”, and as I pointed out above, anyone can frame such “demands” as an “association” issue (and have those demands ignored anyway).

and that editors quit working for her on future ones.

Third verse, pretty much same as the first.

It is a modern day book burning. Mere boycott would be insufficient. Disagreers demand unavailability.

Three things.

  1. I take seriously any comparisons or references to book burnings. You might want to do the same.
  2. Even if this demand for unavailability were real and serious, no publisher would give in to it without a really goddamn good reason because…well, money. Rowling being a TERF is not enough of a reason for publishers to stop putting out copies of her best-selling books.
  3. Even if physical copies were to suddenly disappear from the shelves, digital copies still exist. And last I checked, Library Genesis is still up and running. ????‍☠️
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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"Disagreers are demanding that no additional books be published"

…and the author and publisher can both still publish all they want regardless. Then, if enough people oppose their decision, they won’t sell.

This is the free market, numb nuts. I’m sorry that the hateful bigots you roll with might lose money due to their hate, but that’s life.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Where It's Headed

"Fascism is commonly held to be a right wing extreme position"

Yeah, facts tend to be rather predictable like that.

"Political disagreement ought NEVER result in punishment"

Bullshit. Government punishment, no, but if your racist ass wants to work for my company you’d better keep it quiet for find other employment. When my business stands to suffer because you love your KKK rallies at the weekend, your ass is gone.

kapsar (profile) says:

Missed Opportunity

I think this is a significant missed opportunity. With 153 signatories, Harpers could have led the start of the uncancelled conversation. How do people that have had dire career consequences become uncancelled. It’s a conversation that we will need to have as there’s a lot of people that have had Bad Ideas that should lose their jobs. However, should they before forever relegated to a jobless future? No, I think even the person with some of the worst ideas might be salvageable in some regard in the future.

Of course, this would have been greeted with its own ridicule because some of the people on the list have recently been cancelled. It may have been viewed as being self serving and it would be to some extent. I think that’s OK, because we could equally say "Yes, that person was cancelled should be cancelled and if they did some of those things, maybe I’d consider listening to them again."

Obviously, some people may never allow a given person back into their writers of trust. That’s fine. J.K. Rowling probably will never be trusted by the Trans community again – rightly so. However, there could be some action that she takes that may make that would make her palatable to other readers.

We will need to have this conversation at some point.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

How do people that have had dire career consequences become uncancelled.

They go back to doing what they were doing before they were cancelled. Look at Louis CK: His career spiraled into Hell after all the allegations against him dropped, but he still gets bookings at stand-up shows because of who he is.

Powerful people don’t get truly “cancelled” because they have a buffer between themselves and ultimate ruin. If you want to talk about “uncancelling” people who’ve been cancelled, how about we talk about uncancelling all the people who could’ve contributed their work to the world if not for the powerful people who kept them down and harassed/assaulted them out of their respective fields—especially if the people we’re talking about are part of historically marginalized groups (e.g., queer people). You wanna talk about that? I’m down for it. But if you want to talk about uncancelling J.K. Rowling, please find somewhere else to do it.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Refusing to shout cedes the argument to those who will

In any discussion, you have to acknowledge the difference between a theoretical solution and a practical solution. There are some ideas that work perfectly well in theory, but fall apart upon exposure to the real world; there are other ideas that can’t possibly work by any known theory, but somehow, they do work. And, for most things, you have to make a compromise between the theoretical ideal and the practical necessities that prevent that ideal from being a reality.

There may be an ideal world, somewhere in our future, where we can all sit down and discuss things as rational adults. In such a world, getting outraged about ideas won’t be necessary, and, in a "free market of ideas," the good, just, logical ideas will always win.

We do not live in such a world.

In the world we live in, a person can be reasoned with, given time, effort, and separation from the mob, but people are, well, dumb, panicky, dangerous animals. They respond better to emotional arguments and tribalism than they do to proper analysis; they don’t have the critical thinking skills to tear down an argument and find out whether it is justified by the facts and reasoning supporting it, and they certainly don’t have the capacity to do it in the heat of the moment. And, more than that, the shame of being wrong hurts, and people will reflexively recoil from anything that will make them feel that pain.

And, in a world where people respond better to emotional arguments calibrated to hit them right in the tribalism than they do to rational arguments that would force them to open their mind, outrage isn’t just a weapon, it’s the weapon. In a world where a few hundred people make decisions affecting the lives of millions, a single voice just won’t get heard, and outrage is just about the only amplifier available that will convince enough people to make enough noise to have a message heard.

And that’s a shame. Because a world where logic and facts won arguments would be a better world. And, in such a world, the letter above would be absolutely right. In a world where the best arguments always won, people should be encouraged to make their arguments in a civil manner, because there’s no reason not to. A person wouldn’t need to be thrown out of a job for spreading harmful ideas, because the harmful ideas could effectively be countered by better ones, without shame and tribalism prevailing over logic.

That’s not the world we live in, though. That’s not our culture; it may not even be within our species’ capabilities to create such a culture. What we have, instead, is a world where outrage is the best and most effective weapon against power. And here, we have a bunch of people with power asking those without power to surrender that weapon.

And, I’m sure that each of those people has a target group that they’d like to do the surrendering: Chomsky would love for people to stay outraged about war, and Rowling would love for people to stay outraged about transgenderism. I don’t know most of the names above, but I’m sure that each of the authors above have harnessed outrage towards one cause or another; they just want outrage directed towards them and their own tribe to stop. But any group unilaterally surrendering the power of outrage would leave their opponents in charge, and, as power structures stand now, a mass "outrage disarmament" would cede the battle to the status quo. A status quo which, not coincidentally, is well represented in the signatories to this letter.

So, what can we do? The theoretical ideal is either impossible, or tantamount to complete surrender to the status quo. The current situation is one where people can face threats to their lives or livelihoods for misinterpretations. The best solution I have to offer is this: education. Teach people, especially children, critical thinking skills. Allow people to retreat from being wrong without shaming them for it, and then show them how to turn their critical thinking skills on their own beliefs. Allow that "free marketplace of ideas" to become a truth, rather than an ideal thouroughly unrepresentative of reality, so that ideas gain acceptance based on how true they are, rather than how they resonate with one tribe or another.

And, for the love of all that’s good in the world, shove some humility up the asses of people like this, who think that because their name is famous, their opinion has a better chance of being right, or is more worthy of being heard, than yours or mine. If they didn’t have all the power, we wouldn’t need all the outrage.

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jilocasin (profile) says:

I expected more of you MIke.

Sadly I can see where people are coming from when they speak of a cancel culture. You wax on about the semantics of the word censorship and speech vs. consequences, but refuse to believe that these consequences can be disproportionate and lead to less speech being generated. Which is what most people think about when they talk about being censored.

Unfortunately I believe these new platforms (twitter, facebook, etc.) have allowed people to indulge in their worse mob mentalities. I fear we have already succumbed to group think at both ends of the political spectrum. If one were to state the simple fact that we humans are a (insert some incontrovertible fact here) I can imagine the masses getting their digital pitchforks and torches out. If people responded to your speech with more speech, I don’t think most people would be so upset. I don’t even think people would be upset if there were clear bright lines; sexual harassment, racism, religious intolerance, etc. and then the mobs descended. Unfortunately there isn’t. If you express an opinion, no matter how banal that isn’t in vogue, there is a very real possibility that your life will be threatened, that of your family, that people will call for you to be fired, or in the very least harass your place of employment to the extent where it’s easier to simply fire you than put up with the mob, regardless of your offense or their justification. Since you seem to like links, remember your story on the accounting professor who was removed from her teaching role for using a Hitler Downfall parody meme ( https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20200108/17310643703/professor-removed-teaching-sharing-downfall-parody-video.shtml ).

So yes, while there should be consequences for your speech, I believe that they should be proportionate. At the moment the consequences bear little relation to the speech itself and everything on how closely it adheres to the current orthodoxy. The end result being people live in fear and self censor. This is how the cancel culture suppresses speech and diminishes the marketplace of ideas.

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Thad (profile) says:

Re: I expected more of you MIke.

You wax on about the semantics of the word censorship and speech vs. consequences, but refuse to believe that these consequences can be disproportionate and lead to less speech being generated.

Perhaps that’s because people keep going on about how it’s happening but can’t seem to provide many examples. Your wall of text has produced exactly one, and it’s…from this site.

This is how the cancel culture suppresses speech and diminishes the marketplace of ideas.

No, this is the marketplace of ideas in action. People considering whether they want to sell something, and then deciding "No, people aren’t going to want to buy this, and if I try to sell it it’s going to end badly for me," is exactly how marketplaces work.

I’ve noticed a lot of Internet Lawyers like to throw around the phrases "marketplace of ideas" and "more speech" but don’t actually seem to understand what those phrases mean. "Get out of my house" is more speech. Boycotts are an integral part of markets.

If you examine the context of phrases like "the marketplace of ideas" and "more speech, not enforced silence", you’ll find that they invariably say that the government should not be allowed to sanction people for disfavored speech, and that it should be up to private individuals to decide how to handle it.

Guess what: this is private individuals deciding how to handle it. Don’t like it? Well, I don’t always agree with what the market decides either.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: I expected more of you MIke.

Right, this is not a market issue. This is an issue of personal liberty. Consider that if everyone were to try to anticipate the reaction of everyone else to any words that put forth, it would be an impossible dilemma. If you begin your analysis without any regards for the liberty of OTHERS, then you cannot expect any liberty for yourself. To remain safe, you must remain silent, that is the logical conclusion of unlimited consequences for your speech. Silence is safety. That is the culture of Tyranny, of Marxism, of Communist Russia, of Communist China. Really, it is, no kidding. Not a good culture.

To preserve your own right to free speech, you MUST defend the rights of others, ESPECIALLY speech you disagree with.

The two tie together. You, Thad, are willing to give up your right to free speech, I am not. That leaves me defending your speech, and you condemning my speech. That’s OK. In America, that’s OK. We’re all OK with that.

These companies that are firing people, they’re not actually American companies, they for the most part work for China. They sell shoes in China, they sell movies in China, they sell iPhones in China, lots of things, that’s their priority.

America has lit the way for the world for over two centuries now, and will soon reaffirm her greatness, her heritage, and her unmatched opportunity for Liberty and Justice For All in the next election.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Consider that if everyone were to try to anticipate the reaction of everyone else to any words that put forth, it would be an impossible dilemma.

Which is why people tend to anticipate the most reasonable and predictable reactions, then handle any other reactions on an individual basis.

To remain safe, you must remain silent, that is the logical conclusion of unlimited consequences for your speech. Silence is safety.

Well…yeah. You can only prevent criticism of anything you say by saying nothing at all.

That is the culture of Tyranny, of Marxism, of Communist Russia, of Communist China.

You can keep saying this, but until you provide some sort of example that directly correlates to a racist asshole being fired for saying racist bullshit or people criticizing J.K. Rowling’s transphobia, your comparison has no merit or substance.

To preserve your own right to free speech, you MUST defend the rights of others, ESPECIALLY speech you disagree with.

I will defend the right of a racist asshole to say racist bullshit. What I won’t defend is their “right” to avoid consequences for their speech, or their “right” to have others listen, or their “right” to force someone else into hosting that speech.

America has lit the way for the world for over two centuries now, and will soon reaffirm her greatness

130,000-plus people won’t get to see that. Because they’re dead. Because Trump and his administration are too busy grifting gullible people to do a goddamn thing about the coronavirus.

her heritage

I hope you realize that the “heritage” of the United States includes the oppression of black and indigenous peoples at the hands of imperialist colonizers who believed themselves superior to other groups of people based only on skin color. You, uh…you really wanna celebrate that? Because that would mean celebrating — among other things — Thomas Jefferson repeatedly raping Sally Hemmings.

her unmatched opportunity for Liberty and Justice For All

George Floyd was murdered by the police over a $20 bill, but go ahead and say something about “liberty and justice for all” again.

decius (profile) says:

The consequences are not always appropriate.

What do we do when someone says something we object to? I think we can draw a bright line between responding with our own speech and telling them why we think they are wrong, vs taking things to another level and going after the speaker personally – attempting to impose "consequences" upon their life, such as getting them fired from their job.

There is a legitimate conversation to be had about whether or not we think those kinds of consequences are appropriate, and when.

We can decide that we want a social norm that says that those kinds of consequences should be imposed in a broad set of circumstances. That, increasingly, appears to be where we are heading. And there is a cost to it. That social norm will have a corresponding chilling effect on the kinds of things that people feel comfortable expressing.

Alternatively, we can say that we want a social norm that says those kinds of consequences should rarely, if ever, be imposed. If we see people expressing views that we disagree with, we should engage with them in dialog. We should keep it in the realm of ideas. If, as an employer, I get a complaint about something my employee said online, I should ignore it, because what happens online ought to stay there. This social norm is going to afford for the greatest scope of online dialog. People will feel more comfortable expressing views that challenge popular sentiments.

What kind of environment do we want? One side believes that the harm caused by certain kinds of speech is being underestimated, whereas the other side feels that the benefit of being exposed to challenging perspectives is being underestimated.

The people who object strongly to this letter seem to be saying that there is no room for the later side of the debate. Thats wrong.

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decius (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I totally agree with you – a racial slur is an example of a context where consequences are completely appropriate, but its also something of a straw man example in the context of this discussion.

One of Matt Yglesias’s coworkers complained to their management about the fact he signed THIS LETTER. This letter is not a slur. Lots of reasonable people disagree with the argument it makes, but its something else entirely to take the position that it is not OK to even present such an argument and anyone who does should be hounded out of their place of work.

Another example is the recent controversy over David Shor’s tweeting of Omar Wasow’s research on the political effects of violent vs. non-violent protest movements.

Unfortunately, I feel that a lot of people in this thread are looking to "win at the Internet" rather than grapple meaningfully with the issue that has been raised here. "Thad" responded to a previous set of examples I posted by dismissing them, and then argued in another reply that the naked emperor effect that I’m suggesting these examples can produce is a "feature, not bug" of the very thing he dismissed as not being real. You can’t have it both ways.

There is a continuum of consequences for speech, from government fines and imprisonment, to facing violent retaliation from individuals, to facing civil lawsuits and DMCA takedowns (which I have personally experienced), to getting hounded out of your job. All these kinds of consequences can create a situation where people are afraid to point out that the emperor is naked.

The question is what kind of intellectual environment do we want to have? We agree that in some cases those consequences are worth the cost, and I suspect we also agree that in some cases they are not. There is a significant disagreement about where the line ought to be drawn.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3

what kind of intellectual environment do we want to have?

One where people can feel free to criticize powerful people without fear of having their own lives cancelled by supporters of those people — i.e., an environment where people can criticize J.K. Rowling and not get hounded off the Internet for it by Rowling’s devoted fanbase.

Powerful people rarely feel the sting of so-called cancel culture that the marginalized often feel because of those powerful people. Rowling’s transphobia gives her transphobic fans license to tear into trans people, even if (and this one is a longshot) Rowling herself wouldn’t/doesn’t approve of that shit. Anyone with a decently sufficient public profile that criticizes her for signing that letter now faces a similar backlash, regardless of whether said critic is trans. The abuse and harassment that targets already-marginalized people and robs them of a chance to have their voice heard on subjects such as their own existence — that is “cancel culture”. Rowling will never have to worry about that “culture” silencing her. Neither you nor I can say the same for the next trans person who dares criticize her.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

"The question is what kind of intellectual environment do we want to have? We agree that in some cases those consequences are worth the cost, and I suspect we also agree that in some cases they are not. There is a significant disagreement about where the line ought to be drawn."

It’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg argument of circular logic.

You see, it’s almost impossible to come up with a well thought-out set of guidelines around how a good argument should be pursued about certain inflammatory topics at the same time when those inflammatory topics have the whole country on fire as if it were the days before the decidedly uncivil war.

It’s similarly impossible to reduce the inflammatory tension without having an actual debate going on which is rooted in something other than hatred.

Breaking that vicious circle is also just that much harder when you consider that one particular side of the argument contains people who want the civil war or whose entire reson d’etre is blind and unrelenting hatred for the other side. And who thus keep pouring gasoline on the rising flames.

It’s not going to be easy for the black people (or, for that matter, many white people) who just saw george floyd’s murder to hold a reasoned and well though-out debate about the Minnesota police.

Similarly it’s not going to be easy for most of the LGBTQ-community to come up with a reasonable response to the evidence that yet another celebrity is so unable to recognize an equality standard she can’t stop herself from doubling down and defending the concept of transgenderism as a sort of treatable disease, with the added whopper of adding friggin’ gay conversion "therapy" as her example of an analogous treatment.

The kind of intellectual environment we should be having is one where, quite naturally, intellectual debate is carried out without language being deployed as a war hammer or dagger.

Sadly that’s not going to happen when on one side of the debate you have people who define themselves primarily by their hatred for the other and that other being a long-standing victim of the former. The debate is going to become inflamed.

It’s time we started debating, first of all, Popper’s Paradox Of Tolerance. We’ve known, through most of human history, that the one thing society can not tolerate is intolerant people.
I wouldn’t advocate hate speech law – it’s inherently self-defeating since all it does is force bigots and racists to invent a new jargon for the same concept while not changing any of their views – but it’s certainly within the purview of government to persistently run awareness campaigns in schools and reward sterling examples of equal rights defenders.

Having the holder of the public office in the land condemning, strongly and swiftly, racism and bigotry rather than implying that there are Very Fine People on both sides of a neo-nazi march and the counterdemonstration might help.

The problem right now is that from one of the sides in the current inflamed arguments, there is not a single shred of good faith to be shown. Naturally the debate goes down the drain fast.

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Anonymous Coward says:

It’s only "cancel culture" when the behavior is exercised by someone other than the status quo and/or the privileged. Otherwise, it is simply unnoticed business as usual.

We are already paying the price in greater risk aversion among writers, artists, and journalists who fear for their livelihoods if they depart from the consensus, or even lack sufficient zeal in agreement.

I’m sorry, were you stopped near a border a few times for literally being a known writer or journalist, your papers and devices seized and searched, your freedom revoked for a few hours or days?

Oh. No? Then my speech to you is shut the fuck up until you get on the clue train and ride in the truth car. Of course, you are free to not shut the fuck up. It’s still my advice.

Anonymous Coward says:

So, firing somebody is now an act of speech?

If I shoot somebody for saying something, is that also just a "consequence"? I mean, what if I carefully wait until they finish talking. Then I haven’t shut them down, right? They were free to say it, it’s just that they suffered consequences. No free speech problem there.

Try again with something that holds up to 5 minutes of thought. For extra credit, try 5 minutes of thought that doesn’t assume property rights are abosulute and holy and above all other things, and doesn’t assume idiotic counterfactuals like the idea that a corporation or other organization should get the same consideration as a real human.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

So, firing somebody is now an act of speech?

Your blatant otherwording aside, I’ll give you an answer.

The First Amendment covers the right of association. Refusing to associate with a racist—which can include firing them—is an expression of opinion (e.g., “we don’t agree with what that douchenozzle said about black people”). No business should be forced to associate with people who will tarnish its reputation. That should also include employees.

If I shoot somebody for saying something, is that also just a "consequence"?

No, it’s assault with a deadly weapon. Depending on whether they die and the circumstances surrounding the shooting, it could also be manslaughter or premeditated homicide.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yes, you have a legal basis for your fascist view, Stephen. The rest of us just don’t think fascism is a good idea. The larger the government, the smaller the individual liberty. The less tolerance the more tyranny.

The way to retain your liberty, in large part, depends upon your defending the liberty of others. Judging others or hating others does nothing to protect your own liberty. Tolerating others, accepting others, respecting others begets the same benefits to you.

Yes we all understand you have a twisted personality and are very demanding of how everyone else speaks and expresses themselves. But maybe it would be good for you to try a more open minded approach. You might feel better, and I’m sure everyone around you would feel better too.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The way to retain your liberty, in large part, depends upon your defending the liberty of others.

I defend the liberty of a business owner to choose who can associate themselves with that business. If a business owner doesn’t want to keep a racist employee on the payroll, I see no reason to violate the right of association for the sake of protecting a racist’s supposed “right” to work at that business.

Tolerating others, accepting others, respecting others begets the same benefits to you.

As I’ve said elsewhere in this comments section: Tolerance is a peace treaty, not a moral precept. I don’t tolerate people who can’t tolerate the existence of queer people, for example.

maybe it would be good for you to try a more open minded approach

No thanks. I would prefer not to let my brain leak out of my ears for the sake of tolerating bullshit because someone wants me to think I have to tolerate bullshit or else I’m somehow the next Hitler.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

So, firing somebody is now an act of speech?

No, calling for someone to be fired is exercising freedom of speech.

Firing someone, unless there’s a contract or law in place to prevent someone from being fired without cause, is exercising freedom of association.

Don’t like it, support your local union and get contracts/laws in place to prevent people from being fired without cause.