"Talks a good game about freedom when out of power, but once he’s in – bam! Everyone's enslaved in the human-flourishing mines."

Against Signal-Boosting As Doxxing

A recent spat on Twitter, which I won’t link: some guy using his real name tweeted an offensive joke about how women should make sandwiches at a group of women. A feminist columnist with tens of thousands of followers retweeted with the comment “This is a young man who ostensibly wants a job someday, tweeting at professional women in his field under his own name…RT to help ensure [REAL NAME]’s prospective employers know this when they search for [REAL NAME]’s name”.

[EDIT: See here for discussion of various complicating factors; my claim isn’t going to be that a completely innocent person was punished, so much as that this entire paradigm of punishment is dangerous]

What particularly bothered me about this situation was that the columnist involved was a libertarian who writes for Reason, and her supporters were mostly other influential libertarians. And they were all using the old argument that the concept of “free speech” came into existence ex nihilo on December 15, 1791 with the ratification of the First Amendment, and has no meaning or significance outside a purely legal context of delimiting government power.

I have a friend who grew up gay in a small town in Alabama, where “faggot” was the all-purpose insult and the local church preached hellfire as the proper punishment for homosexuality. He unsurprisingly stayed in the closet throughout his childhood and ended up with various awful psychological problems.

If you’re a very stupid libertarian strawman, you might ask whether that town had any anti-gay laws on the book – and, upon hearing they didn’t, say that town was “pro-gay”. If you’re not a very stupid libertarian strawman, you hopefully realize that being pro-gay isn’t about boasting how progressive your law code looks, it’s about having a society where it’s possible to be gay. Not having laws against locking up gay people is a necessary precondition, but it’s useless on its own. You only get good results if good laws are matched by good social norms.

Likewise, the goal of being pro-free-speech isn’t to make a really liberal-sounding law code. It’s to create a society where it’s actually possible to hold dissenting opinions, where ideas really do get judged by merit rather than by who’s powerful enough to shut down whom. Having free speech laws on the books is a necessary precondition, but it’s useless in the absence of social norms that support it. If you win a million First Amendment victories in the Supreme Court, but actively work to undermine the social norms that let people say what they think in real life, you’re anti-free-speech.

But I’ve discussed this before at more length. What I want to get into here is a point specific to this situation: the guy made this joke under his real name. All the Reason columnist did was retweet it and add some commentary about how she hopes he becomes un-hire-able. This isn’t doxxing. It’s not even divulging a secret; the guy said it on his public Twitter. Is it really so wrong to do what’s basically just signal-boosting his comment?

A quick philosophical digression: what are we even doing here? My thought is: we’re trying to hash out a social norm. We expect this social norm to be sometimes in our favor and sometimes against us, so we want it to be universalizable and desirable under a veil of ignorance.

On that note: let him who is without sin throw the first stone. Have any of you ever said or done anything which, if signal-boosted, would be very embarassing and might prevent you from getting a job?

Before you answer, consider this: the person signal-boosting you has much wider reach than you do. There are now tens of thousands of people in the world who know you only as the guy who said that one embarassing thing one time. For that matter, anyone who Googles you will know you only as the guy who said that one embarassing thing one time. All of your triumphs, all of your defeats, all your loves and fears and follies – none of these exist in the public mind. If you cross a blogger, a columnist, or a Twitter celebrity, all that will exist is that you once retweeted a racist joke on the 26th of March, 2014.

Never retweeted a racist joke? Someone will find something. Maybe you’ve been a sex worker once – hope you didn’t put your picture up on the Internet, or else Reason columnists will say it’s not “doxxing” to merely “signal-boost” it so that everyone knows. Heck, even watching porn is enough to get people fired some places. Maybe you were stupid enough to admit you were gay or trans under something traceable to your real identity. Maybe you voted for Trump (a firing offense in some places) or against Trump (a firing offense in others). Maybe you committed a crime someone can find on a public crime database, or maybe you said something perfectly innocent which can be twisted into a sinister “dog whistle” out of context.

My own story – some antipsychiatry crackpot decided to target me, went through a couple of posts I’d written defending the practice of involuntary psych commitment in certain cases, and took a few statements out of context to make it look like I thought we should lock up all mentally ill people and throw away the key. Then he posted it on an antipsychiatry website, asking if anyone could find the address of my workplace so he could send it there to prove that I was unfit to work with the mentally ill. Luckily the moderator contacted me and deleted the post, and it stopped there. And it was never that convincing an effort to begin with. But…

In a world where an average of 250 resumes are received for each corporate position, how convincing does an effort have to be to ruin somebody’s life? Do you think your dream company is going to spend a long time sorting through each claim and counterclaim to determine that the highly-Google-ranked page about you claiming you’re unfit to work in your industry is mostly unfair? No. They’re just going to cut their risks and move on to the other 249 candidates.

Here’s an exercise which I encourage you to try. Suppose there’s a Reason columnist who wants to get you fired. They pore over your public statements – Twitter feed, Facebook timeline, any blogs you might have written, anything you’ve said in mixed company that you don’t know if somebody else wrote down waiting for the time they could use it against you. Imagine the most incriminating dossier of your statements, out of context, that they could put together. Imagine what would happen if they were pretty determined, and sent it to your workplace, your church, your parents, et cetera. How much of your life could they destroy?

And I agree this is weird. It’s bizarre that so many people trust to security by obscurity, when anybody with an axe to grind can destroy their obscurity and reveal them to the world. It’s bizarre that we treat Twitter as a private place, when literally everything that happens there is visible to every human being on Earth. It’s bizarre that we trust to these fragile online identities when any hacker can cut through them, bizarre that we wear such different masks to different friends when they could just talk and compare notes, bizarre that we dare to talk at all when we know every word we say is logged and the future may be less forgiving than the past.

But don’t let the fact that it’s bizarre make you think it isn’t important. How many of us can say, honestly, that we could bear the Panopticon? If every valley were raised up and every mountain pulled down, so there was nowhere to hide, and we were rendered naked to any eye anywhere in the world, how long could we endure? Wouldn’t we retreat into ourselves, turtle-like, afraid to ever speak at all?

And who would enjoy this new flattened landscape more than the biggest and most predatory? In the Panopticon, any celebrity with a platform can destroy the lives of any ordinary person, just by mentioning them. It would be paradise for any petty tyrant with a blog, and hell for anybody too poor to tolerate a risk of losing their livelihood.

I have a pretty big blog. But other people have bigger ones. I’m not confident that the amount of fun I could have destroying the reputations of people I don’t like outweighs the chance of someone else destroying mine. I’m certainly not confident that the aggressive-signal-boosting power would mostly end up in the hands of good people. So I reject the entire tactic. I think it’s morally wrong to try to signal-boost people’s bad behavior – even their semipublic bad behavior – to get them fired. Probably there’s a lot of subtlety here and there have been times in the past I’ve supported cases that seem completely different to me but might seem similar to others. I admit there’s an argument that doxxing is a way of shaming people in order to enforce social norms, and that we need some way to enforce social norms eg the one against offensive jokes – though see my post Be Nice, At Least Until You Can Coordinate Meanness about good and bad ways to do this. But for now I just am very suspicious of the whole enterprise.

Lord Byron wrote of his political philosophy:

I wish men to be free
As much from mobs as kings; from you as me

I stand with Byron. But I worry there’s a big strain of libertarians today who don’t. Who wish men were free from kings, but not from mobs. Who wish men were free from others, but definitely not from them.

All I can say to that is – it’s a package deal, people. Either promote good social norms, or be destroyed by the bad ones when the tide turns against you. That’s the only choice on offer.

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694 Responses to Against Signal-Boosting As Doxxing

  1. Autistic Cat says:

    I strongly agree.

    As an autist rationalist I really hate mobs. Leftist mobs, rightist mobs, whatever. Any mob is anti-autistic because it is inherently conformist while autists are inherently anti-conformist.

  2. tjohnson314 says:

    So at what point is someone enough of a public figure that it’s okay to write about their mistakes or failures?

    I believe Trump is an acceptable target, but I agree with you that a random person on Twitter is not.

    Maybe the real issue is that it’s unfair to pick on someone who can’t adequately respond with their side of the story. (Hence why our courts require witnesses to be cross-examined.)

    So our rule of thumb could be, “Never pick on someone whose platform is smaller than yours.”

    • Autistic Cat says:

      The main issue is in essence about anonymity.

      If doxxing is allowed so are witchhunts. When witchhunts are everywhere the environment is conformist and anti-autistic. When sacred opinions are enforced rationality and facts suffer. That bothers me a lot.

      Doxxing isn’t about arguments or discussions. Instead it is about personal attacks which leftists, alt-rightists, Christian fundamentalists and other non-rationalists generally love. Doxxing is about censorship and persecution. Maybe neurotypicals tend to love these for the sake of social statuses? I can’t understand its motive as an autist.

    • Loquat says:

      I think a good rule of thumb is to stick to writing about people who are significant enough that some noticeable percentage of your intended audience already knows who they are and knows something about them besides whatever mistake or failure you want to write about. Everyone knows who Donald Trump is, and that he’s done more with his life than just (allegedly) grope women, but how many of the people seeing Mr. Sandwich signal-boosted on twitter will know literally nothing about him except that he once made a sexist joke on the internet?

    • anomdebus says:

      I imagine the response would have been different if the initial reply was: “This is not cool. You are not going to help libertarianism by discouraging new members”, then left at that.

    • aynrandysavage says:

      A random person on twitter, maybe not. But this guy wasn’t that. He waded directly into a discussion held by his peers and potential future co-workers to intentionally disrespect them and the organizations they worked for.

    • gbdub says:

      I’m not sure “how famous is the person whose identity I’m signal boosting?” is the right question.

      A better question is “what benefit is gained by signal boosting this person’s identity?” Or alternatively, “what does my audience gain from knowing this person’s identity?”

      If it’s just some random schmuck on the internet, “calling him out” serves no purpose except to possibly sic a mob on him.

      In the particular example, if the point is “see, this is an example of the crap female libertarians have to deal with”, then I think that rhetorical point is served equally well by quoting the tweet but obscuring the author. It might even be better – calling out sandwich guy in particular lets other people say, “well, sure that’s bad, but I’m not sandwich guy, so…” Plus you risk the case where sandwich guy is a troll and likes the attention.

      The only “benefit” of calling out sandwich guy in particular is that if it works it’s going to hurt sandwich guy, probably in a way that’s pretty disproportionate to sandwich guy’s actual offense, particularly if sandwich guy is a random schmuck.

      • Brad says:

        The only “benefit” of calling out sandwich guy in particular is that if it works it’s going to hurt sandwich guy, probably in a way that’s pretty disproportionate to sandwich guy’s actual offense, particularly if sandwich guy is a random schmuck.

        Doesn’t general deterrence everywhere and always require disproportionate punishment almost by definition? Do you oppose the concept of general deterrence or at least outside of the formal justice system?

        • gbdub says:

          Well yes, we could brutally disembowel a random 1% of jaywalkers (or catcallers, or looking-at-other-people-funny-ers), and this would likely be an effective deterrent to jaywalking. I don’t think that world would be a good one however.

          Deterrence does not require a wildly disproportionate response, it just needs to raise the expected cost of offending above the expected gain. You can do this by randomly issuing extremely disproportionate responses to a small fraction of offenders, or by frequently responding to offenders in a more proportionate fashion.

          But I would say the disproportionate response is going to offend a lot of people’s sense of justice, because “making someone unemployable for an off-color Tweet” does not seem fair, even if it’s in the cause of deterring similar offenses. I mean at that point you’re basically tossing virgins in a volcano to bring the rain. Sure the virgin didn’t deserve it, but hey, greater good.

          In any case, you’re rather uncharitably missing the point. The point is that “random Twitter mob of death” is so disproportionate (and so random, and so subjective) that it’s not only going to deter actual bad behavior, but any controversial discussion at all, which is ultimately a bad thing, because freedom to exchange ideas, even potentially controversial ones, is a good thing.

          • Brad says:

            I guess I’d push back in a few of ways:
            1) That this really was a twitter mob of death / that the guy is unemployable.

            2) That this was an exchange of ideas or sufficiently close to one as to merit worries over slippery slopes.

            2b) This was some kind of off color joke to a group of friends.

            Here’s my understanding of what happened.
            There is a group called Young Americans for Liberty self described as:

            Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) is the largest, most active, and fastest-growing pro-liberty organization on America’s college campuses. With more than 900 YAL chapters and 308,927 youth activists nationwide, YAL seeks to identify, educate, train, and mobilize young people committed to winning on principle.

            They held a national convention in Washington D.C. featuring among other speakers Rand Paul and our own David Friedman.

            There was a panel discussion at the convention on how to bring more women into the libertarian movement.

            It was co-sponsored by a group called The Ladies of Liberty Alliance , self described as:

            The Ladies of Liberty Alliance is a network of independent, libertarian women leaders who, through their careers and/or personal endeavors, are dedicated to spreading the ideas of individual liberty and free markets. Participation in the Ladies of Liberty Alliance is open to any female who identifies with, or is wishing to explore, libertarian ideas. LOLA participation is free and self-defined.

            Elizabeth Nolan Brown is affiliated with The Ladies of Liberty Alliance (http://ladiesofliberty.org/speaker/elizabeth-nolan-brown/)

            The sandwich tweeter is (was?) the leader of the YAfL chapter at a very conservative college which presumably has a disproportionately large chapter as compared to many colleges. You can find pictures of him with Rand Paul, Amash, and other high profile people and articles quoting him.

            Following the panel presentation, he tweeted from his personal account the following tweet:
            “@ladiesofliberty The best way for a woman to #MakeLibertyWin” and a picture of a BLT.

            Note that #MakeLibertyWin was the official hashtag of the convention and @ladiesofliberty is twitter address of the LOLA organization ENB is affiliated with and which was an official sponsor of the convention.

            I conclude that this is not some entirely random schmuck. At least within the context of the libertarian world he was a promising up and coming leader. I also conclude that this is not some kind of private joke that escaped his friends and family. He deliberately included the @ and # intending for it to reach LOLA members and conference attendees. Further, this is not some kind of sophisticated, albeit controversial, argument about the role of women in society. It is a nasty trolling attack devoid of intellectual content.

            Finally, separately from the above facts, I disagree that he is unemployable or that the consequences are reasonable described as massively disproportionate. Following this episode it will likely be much more difficult for him to secure a job in Rand Paul’s office, at the Young Americans for Liberty national office, or at the Koch Brother’s FreedomWorks. That looks to me to be about the appropriate outcome — at best he showed very poor judgment at a high profile event in that world.

            I don’t think this episode will preclude him from working at Bank of America, McKinsey, Boeing, Exxon Mobile, or Microsoft. As far as I can tell, and I’ve asked in other parts of this page for counterexamples, people who were pillared by much much larger twitter storms are not unemployable generally and seemed to have more or less landed on their feet. No one knows or cares about ENB outside of the libertarian world.

          • Matt M says:

            Thanks for the context.

            It strikes me that yes, this was a very pre-meditated and intentional act. But that it was also an attempt at humor rather than a deliberately sexist and/or offensive statement.

            I have a hard time believing ENB or anyone similar was legitimately “offended” by his image of a sandwich.

          • The Nybbler says:

            1) He’s certainly not completely unemployable, because libertarian groups don’t have enough coherence to maintain a blacklist among themselves, let along in any wider context. That, however, does not mean this was not an attempt to make him unemployable; at face value, it was. It may result in his being unemployable at a few organizations.

            2) This was an exchange of ideas. That his message was snarky and dismissive doesn’t change that; a rejection of an idea (that there was some issue needing to be corrected with respect to female representation at YAL) is still part of an exchange of ideas.

            I don’t think this episode will preclude him from working at Bank of America, McKinsey, Boeing, Exxon Mobile, or Microsoft.

            How about Facebook, Apple, Netflix, or Google? Or Twitter or Uber?

          • Brad says:

            Re: Facebook, Apple, Netflix, Google, Twitter or Uber

            Inasmuch as being the head of Young Americans for Liberty at $VERY_CONSERVATIVE_UNIVERSITY didn’t already preclude him for those places, I don’t think this episode will make much difference.

          • gbdub says:

            @Brad –
            You seem to think that, in this particular case, the identity of the tweeter was sufficiently relevant, and his behavior sufficiently bad, that the Twitter mob incitement was appropriate. Fine, but that’s not really addressing my main assertion that “is his identity important to the point being made” is or ought to be the standard for whether signal boosting his identity is appropriate.

            The only place I would push back / disagree with your last response is that, whether he is or is not employable, the intent of ENB was clearly (and explicitly) to hurt his future employment prospects (not merely his standing in the libertarian community), and I do think that’s relevant. Perhaps she shot and missed, but I think “was she justified in killing him had her shot landed” is the more interesting question.

          • Brad says:

            @gbdub
            Doesn’t that go back to my original response to you? (Which unfortionately came off as uncharible although that wasn’t my intent.)

            If a norm enforcement is going to happen and general deterrence is going to be a part of it, then disproportionate punishment has to happen. Not grossly disproportionate punishment but some disproportion. So isn’t the debate between proportionate, disproportionate, and grossly disproportionate the whole ballgame? At least unless you want to say that general deterrence isn’t an appropriate tool for norm enforcement.

            As for your second part, I do think attempting to make him unemployable by anyone anywhere would be beyond the pale. I’m not sure if that’s what she was going for. Taken literally the tweet does seem to imply it, but there may be an implicit context of within the libertarian community given that she knows who her audience is. I don’t have high confidence in that question either way.

          • Matt M says:

            Taken literally the tweet does seem to imply it, but there may be an implicit context of within the libertarian community given that she knows who her audience is.

            If we’re not going to take her literally about making him unemployable, is it fair to take him literally and assume his posting a picture of a sandwich is a serious commentary on the suitability of women towards advancing political goals?

          • Brad says:

            I don’t think it was intended as serious commentary about the suitability of women to participate in the libertarian movement. I think he was being an asshole and intended to be an asshole. In other words, I don’t believe he thought it would be universally received as hilarious. Rather he thought it would bother LOLA readers but his bros would think it was funny. A joke at others’ expense.

            I don’t see any problem with a norm against that sort of thing in a given community. Or enforcing that norm with punishment. Or the enforcement being disproportionate (but not grossly disproportionate) as a means of general deterrence.

            As for the fairness of interpreting what he said versus what she said, I don’t see how fairness comes into it. The above is my best guess of what he meant. I posted before my thoughts on what she might have meant, and my (lack of confidence) in my reading. If there’s additional context that should make me change my best guess for his tweet or hers, I’ll certainly look at it.

          • gbdub says:

            @Brad – I think I was grasping at a point similar to what Scott laid out better in Part III of his latest “coherent free speech norms” post. Since this thread is likely going stale, I’d say we ought to move the conversation there.

        • bean says:

          It’s pretty well-known that certainty of punishment is more important than severity in deterring crimes. If you’re going to punish people for making sandwich jokes, hitting the occasional random schmuck with lightning is pretty much the worst way to go about it.

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            The way that people work, it is in fact pretty much the best way to spread the sandwich joke across the entire society, and get to the point where 80% of the males and 10% of the females will regularly say it, mostly under their breath.

            What’s the thing about how societies fall not when enough people believe something that is not allowed to be known to be believed, but instead when enough people correctly believe that enough people correctly believe that enough people believe something that is not allowed to be known to be believed…

  3. alchemy29 says:

    I stand with Byron. But I worry there’s a big strain of libertarians today who don’t. Who wish men were free from kings, but not from mobs. Who wish men were free from others, but definitely not from them.

    I vehemently agree. In observing political language, I’ve concluded that for many people, what they want is freedom to live life according to their values and desires, and the power to punish those who wish to live according to different values and desires.

    • Autistic Cat says:

      We have to get rid of the second part. I believe we should establish a truly absolute individualist society where no social norms other than laws and written regulations exist. Nobody should ever have any power over others.

      • 27chaos says:

        If we got rid of all social norms, transaction costs would become absurdly high. Trust would become significantly harder. And even the absence of social norms seems more or less like a social norm to me. Were you being sarcastic or exaggerating?

        • Autistic Cat says:

          I’m serious. I’m an autistic rationalist hence I really hate unwritten social norms. From an autistic perspective non-autists are predominantly irrational and unpredictable.

          If we have good laws and enough law enforcement I doubt transaction costs will increase.

          • cactus head says:

            >If we have good laws and enough law enforcement
            >Nobody should ever have any power over others.

            Pick at most one.

          • Cliff says:

            If we have good laws and enough law enforcement I doubt transaction costs will increase.

            I laughed. I think you’re waaaaaaay off on this one. We’re not allowed to have ANYTHING that we don’t want people to do, but nevertheless do not want to lock them in a cage if they do it?

          • keranih says:

            hate unwritten social rules

            Perhaps this should be “unspoken social rules”, and leaving literacy entirely out of it. In which case, we are back to social education by family and extended family, which will put paid to a great deal of inter class mobility.

        • peterispaikens says:

          The parent poster is explicitly arguing against any *unwritten* social norms. In this hypothetical world you can rely that people you’re trading with (and thus need some trust) with will obey e.g. contract law and consumer protection laws, since those would be enforced, but you can’t rely on (or need to follow) any unwritten “rituals” around these transactions.

      • Mary says:

        So you would have a law that people are not allowed to talk about a third party disparagingly? Or would only some such talk be illegal, and if so, how would you enforce it?

      • Immanentizing Eschatons says:

        I have feelings in this direction but have trouble imagining what you mean by this.

        I mean, I think the problem here is not so much social norms as involuntary social norms. Most people want to “live” in communities and subcultures with rules of some kind beyond what could be a universal law- people have clashing desires. If access to resources was not dependent on following these norms and they are not enforced by, well, force, then you have people without power over others. Which yes is good, and that is what we should be aiming for.

  4. sciarochuro says:

    I think you’re right about subtlety of the issue. As off-put I might be by “aggressive signal boosting,” I’ve probably been involved in it at some or several points. I’ve certainly fraternized with its little cousin Gossip.

    I cannot help but think of Trump when you mention bad behavior. It seemed that so much of the 2016 election (from all sides) was about digging up bad behaviors — misogynistic tirades, racist business practices, accepting money from the wrong people, mishearing the name of a foreign city, writing an essay suggesting that women fantasize about rape — and screaming about them from any mountaintop that will give you the airtime. If it’s generally wrong to aggressively signal boost the flaws of private citizens, because in part, as you say, everyone has done or said something that can be taken poorly, then are people running for public office substantively different?

    • aynrandysavage says:

      This isn’t as simple as a private joke made among friends. This guy was at a national convention for libertarian professionals and students, and intentionally directed his comments at libertarian women acting in a professional capacity.

      • random832 says:

        I don’t believe you. Scott didn’t divulge the specifics of the incident, but he did say that it happened on Twitter, not at a convention.

        • aynrandysavage says:

          It happened immediately after a panel discussion at the Young Americans for Liberty National discussion. The women on the panel solicited audience ideas for ways to help promote liberty as women and to promote women entering the liberty movement. The guy in question was an attendee of that conference and a studente member of a liberty organization represented there.

  5. James Miller says:

    To give everyone plausible deniability, let’s unleash a computer virus that takes over your social media accounts to make offensive statements.

    • Autistic Cat says:

      Well this is illegal.

      However we indeed need to get rid of witchhunts. As I explained before, witchhunting is in essence conformist and anti-autistic. Any form of witchhunting by any group, leftist or rightist, is anti-autistic.

    • Better yet, let’s make an app and we can call it offend.ly, it will begin by syncing up all your accounts, then randomly editing and submitting posts consisting primarily of ethnic slurs. If we all do it we are all safe!

      Anyway, you run it first. Then I’ll run it second after I see how it goes.

  6. alchemy29 says:

    To the broader point about not doxxing people, I think I agree perhaps to much. Privacy is such a sacred value to me that it supersedes other values that perhaps I should care more about. For instance, someone at a previous workplace was arrested for distributing child porn and an email was sent out to all employees. On an emotional level, I was more offended that this e-mail was sent out, than the fact that he distributed child porn (from what I can tell he did not produce it himself). I’m not sure where the correct line is between privacy and signal boosting as a tool for enforcement of values. Also, signal boosting can have practical value. Someone who is a pedophile should not be allowed a job in a school, and someone who is sexist should not have a position in an HR department etc. Signal boosting is less about punishment in that case and more about protecting those who would otherwise be hurt.

    • Autistic Cat says:

      We don’t need to enforce any values other than the laws. Any attempt to enforce any extra value is in essence mob rule. Either codify it or it should not be enforced.

      • alchemy29 says:

        How do you enforce the rule that no one enforce any values other than through laws? Not trying to be funny, that seems inherently contradictory.

        • Autistic Cat says:

          Oh I see..lol maybe this rule should be codified? Just joking.
          Yes this rule needs to be enforced.

          This is a reason why we have this forum: http://rationalitycorner.freeforums.net/

          • Mary says:

            So what will you ban when you codify it? Are people going to be forced by law to talk to people they don’t want to talk to? To stay in the room when someone they don’t like comes in? To take a job, or not quit one?

            And given that, for instance, most of us don’t talk to most people on the face of the earth, how are you define the not talking to that is enforcement vs. that which is happenstance?

          • Autistic Cat says:

            @Mary This is an interesting question. I’m really not sure about its answer.

            I wish the world could become more autistic or at least more autist-friendly. There are too many irrational non-autists out there.

          • Luke the CIA Stooge says:

            What we need to do is stlystematically destroy social unity and shared values

            Once any given behaviour is just as likely to be praiseworthy as abhorrent to a random person then there won’t be a unified mob to gang up on people, or as far as there is a mob that wants to pile on, there Is a counter mob to rescue that person (ie. preferentially hire them to screw over the other side, fund their kickstarter, defend them in public, etc.)

            If we can get the alt-right to tip and become as equally powerful a force as social justice, and bring other even weider social movements to the fore, then eventually we won’t have any shared values to leverage against each other and we’ll all have the freedom of knowing everything we do is equally praiseworthy and offensive, and no one gives a shit anyway.

            ONWARDS!! BROTHERS, SISTERS, AND ASSORTED DEVIANTS/GLORIOUS-HEROES OF NON-CONFORMITY!!
            OUR NIHILISTIC ANARCHO-LIBERTARIAN UTOPIA AWAITS!!!

            Like seriously we could make this work you guys!

          • random832 says:

            @Luke the CIA Stooge – The problem with your idea is that we don’t end up with “any thing you do is likely to be hated by a randomly selected half of the population”, you end up with two well-defined factions and anything you do is likely to be hated by (not randomly selected) one or the other of them.

            And if push comes to shove, I’d rather associate with SJWs than with the alt-right.

          • @Luke This is in principle not bad. We should have some professional defenders who are willing to defend any group or individual that is getting e-lynched.

            The anti-e-lynchers should not try to e-lynch the other side. Instead they should force all e-lynching to stop.

          • Luke the CIA Stooge says:

            @Random

            Why should there be a hard limit of 2?
            Social circles aren’t American partisan politics, theres no reason to think the number 2 is a natural equilibrium, and there aren’t hard institutional barriers to keep this locked at 2?
            Libertarians, sex positive feminists, socialists, the military, radical Islamists, neonazis, street gangs and the Amish, all maintain social norms that they enforce effectively within their group and whicheck contradict each-other.
            All we need to do is break the few last remaining institutions of collective value inculcation, and bam!!! infinite subcultures with contradictory values and no potential for collective value enforcement.
            The alt-right is merely the first one to breakout and effectively challenge the progressive American civic religion’s moral authority. There is every reason to think that subsequent subcultures will have an even easier time breaking into the mainstream and undermining the moral power brokers that would claim to defend “decent” society.
            FREEDOM FROM MORALITY LIES BEFORE YOU!!! REACH OUT! TAKE IT! IT’S YOURS!!!

            @rationality corner.
            I agree completely this is a good thing. I’m just playing with the fact that taking large swathes of behaviour out of the realm of moral performance and putting it in the realm of stuff people do if they want, despite being probably the best thing you could do for the free individuals that compose a society, is deeply threatening to moral institutions of that society.

            If you want to do anything that actually helps people you really have to embrace your role as a villian.ï

      • grendelkhan says:

        Either codify it or it should not be enforced.

        This is the standard autistic failure mode, right? Squishy implicit rules are hard, so if we make everything explicit, it’ll be a better place for us to live in?

        • The Nybbler says:

          This is the standard autistic failure mode, right? Squishy implicit rules are hard, so if we make everything explicit, it’ll be a better place for us to live in?

          It’s not just a standard autistic failure mode; it’s a standard principle for justice. If you have only squishy implicit rules, you really only have one rule: whoever is higher status, or has the highest-status allies, wins.

          • grendelkhan says:

            Generally ‘the law’ and ‘the social norms’ are two different fields that work in different ways. Wanting to make everything legally codified–everything in the first bucket, nothing in the second–is the autistic failure mode I’m pointing to.

          • The Nybbler says:

            When it comes down to questions of punishment, there is only one social norm: stay on the high-status person’s good side. If you are at a gathering and take your fork in your right hand and pick up your food with it, and the highest status person at that gathering expresses shock and dismay that you are using your RIGHT hand rather than your LEFT hand, you have violated the norm. It does not matter that yesterday, that same high-status individual expressed similar shock that you were using your LEFT hand. It does not matter that other individuals who the high-status one likes better are using their right hand. All that matters is you have come to the negative attention of those who have the power to set and enforce social norms, on the fly.

            The normal individual sees the real situation, but pretends things are otherwise (because doing so helps keep them on the good side of the high-status individuals). The autistic individual tries to derive all the rules, fails, and is highly agitated as a result — and confused that everyone else seems to believe they exist and are simple. The low-status cynic comes to the conclusion I do.

          • Aapje says:

            @The Nybbler

            No, because there is a consensus among enough (high status) people how to use cutlery. The high status person at that gathering can’t risk being volatile like that because remaining high status does depend on adopting the rules of a subculture.

            It’s also false that there is a single status hierarchy that everyone agrees on. Being high status in one hierarchy can actually make you low status in another (see red vs blue tribe for example).

          • Deiseach says:

            Sometimes squishy implicit rules act as social lubrication – little white lies for instance – or even protection. I got advised way back in First Real Job about “for god’s sake cover your arse” when I did a little bit too much “expressing honest and unfiltered opinions to bosses” and that’s advice which has stood me in good stead.

            Sometimes you do have to say “Oh your majesty, what exquisite garments!” for the sake of social peace. Maybe brutal honesty would work in a completely autistic society, or maybe not – would an autistic person really prefer to be told by another “I dislike you because I think your stuffed animals are stupid”? Perhaps, but with both parties being autistic, how much chance is there to change the first person’s opinion of stuffed animals, and to reduce the distress of the second person at their cherished stuffed animals being considered ‘stupid’?

            Neurotypical people are instructed to be patient, sympathetic, and understanding about neurodivergent people’s needs and quirks. Would brutally honest, rational, ‘I see no reason for this behaviour’ autistic society rub along smoothly when A tells it like it is (or at least how it appears to A to be) to B about something B needs or wants in order to function? In The Nybbler’s example, what if the high-status person is not a high-status person but an autistic person who will only eat holding the fork in the left hand, cannot eat if they have to hold it in their right, and get very upset to the point of being unable to eat themselves if they see someone using a fork with their right hand? Who decides or mediates between “I demand you stop doing that immediately” and “I can’t eat with my left, I have to use my right, you’re in the wrong!” when you have two equally strong opinions and mental constraints on the position? Whereas an ordinary dumb neurotypical can (and would probably be expected to) give in on using the fork in their right, if it’s so important to the autistic person, because it’s really no big deal for them which hand they use (perhaps a minor inconvenience but not triggering a meltdown serious).

            I’m hammering on about autistic version of society here because that’s the kind of “no implicit only explicit rules” society Autistic Cat thinks would run more smoothly and better than what we have now, and I’m not so entirely sure about that.

          • HFAMaximizer says:

            @Deiseach I don’t know. If a world is 100% autistic it is likely that there will be less conflicts. However the conflicts that do take place can be much worse. If two groups of autists believe in two conflicting religions that do not ban religious violence they may have to go to the battlefield, including nuking each other for just one word in a religious text.

            Sometimes having autists do something is similar to having human-level AI do something. Clippy-like situations are much more likely among HFAs compared to non-autists.

          • mtraven says:

            It’s not just a standard autistic failure mode; it’s a standard principle for justice.

            Not really. Laws do not and cannot “make everything explicit”, they are abstract rules that need to be interpreted and adapted for concrete cases — this is what the judiciary is for.

            It also means that laws and social norms are not that different at the root. A law is roughly a formally codified norm, but both of them are going to be squishy.

      • Mengsk says:

        I strongly disagree. Most human relationships are conducted according to informal rules which people benefit from greatly and would be extremely difficult to codify. Plus, informal rules give you the flexibility to adapt them to particular situations. Although it’s almost certainly true that the benefits of the flexibility of informal rules are disproportionately reaped by people who have better social skills (i.e. not autistic people), I’d argue is still more feature than bug, especially compared with the impossibility of actually codifying all of the social rules that make human relationships better.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        If you codify any less than everything, then there will exist someone who will enforce rules in the space you didn’t codify, if only in their local domain.

        If you codify everything, then you will wonder why nothing happens in a world where everyone is treated like a CPU, and forced to process several billion instructions before they are permitted to produce any output.

  7. thatwasademo says:

    The sentence beginning “Not having laws against…” seems to mean the opposite of what you intended.

  8. GCBill says:

    I wish I had more to add besides agreement. I guess I’ll just say that I loved this passage in particular:

    How many of us can say, honestly, that we could bear the Panopticon? If every valley were raised up and every mountain pulled down, so there was nowhere to hide, and we were rendered naked to any eye anywhere in the world, how long could we endure? Wouldn’t we retreat into ourselves, turtle-like, afraid to ever speak at all?

    • Autistic Cat says:

      I strongly agree. Mobs are a part of the problem.

    • grendelkhan says:

      I’m reminded, perhaps intentionally, of this bit from A Man for All Seasons.

      Roper: So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law!
      More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
      Roper: I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
      More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you — where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man’s laws, not God’s — and if you cut them down — and you’re just the man to do it — d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.

  9. noncomputey says:

    What if it’s not a joke, and it’s not out of context? What if someone is genuinely advocating things likely to harm others? If most people would recognize this, is criticizing them or mocking them wrong? Doing so would signal boost their advocacy to people they might need favor from in the future who likely oppose that advocacy.

    But I think there are some policies that are harmful enough, that throwing people’s capacity to recognize them accordingly and shun their advocates down the drain is stupid. Some organization, say MentalHealthMag (not real), should know if one of their writers/editors supports some horrible, crackpot ideas and policies about mental health. I think they should have the right to know what the person they’re either paying or even just giving a platform to believes, advocates, or generally finds themselves inclined to. But under the norm you’re advocating here, linking MentalHealthMag to the crackpot ramblings of one of their writers/editors elsewhere is a shameful, reprehensible thing to do.

    Of course the initial sandwich example was a joke, and the person who went after you was being deceptive… but what about things on the opposite end of the spectrum, where an organization is giving certain powers to someone believing they’re inclined to certain things (e.g. evidence-based, scientific medicine), but actually they are inclined to the opposite (e.g. religiously-motivated homeopathy). If a long time has passed since their advocacy, or they eventually began to advocate against what they supported previously, then signal boosting is clearly bad. But I think it is in fact a good, honest thing to signal boost their current advocacy to the people empowering them, as they too may not want to empower anyone advocating those policies.

    I think you may have been exposed to the “vacuous, deceptive signal boosting” end of the spectrum, and focused all your norm-making energy on it… ignoring the other “informative, impactful signal boosting” end, whose positive effects your norm has just completely suppressed.

    • Autistic Cat says:

      You can criticize opinions of people. However you should not mock people. If some little guy is advocating for something he/she can never do anyway (e.g. “Let’s gas all humans!”) leave him/her alone.

      Criticizing quack is much better than moral bashing (e.g. “Racism!”). I’m completely against any form of signal boosting for the purpose of moral bashing regardless of whether you do it for liberals, alt-rightists or someone else.

    • DrBeat says:

      What if someone is genuinely advocating things likely to harm others?

      Every single human being in the entire world who gets the power to call down the baleful Eye of Sauron for “genuinely advocating things likely to harm others”

      Every single one without one single exception

      Has instantly and irrevocably lost the ability to discern “genuinely advocating things likely to harm others” from “being a person who is not powerful enough to make me stop hurting them”.

      There will never, ever, ever, ever, ever be an exception. Ever. If you live to be a trillion years old you will never see someone gain this power who does not instantly and irrevocably lose the ability to discern “people I should use this baleful power on” from “people who cannot make me stop hurting them.”

      Ever.

      “Informative, impactful signal boosting” is a lie. It is a lied told by people who cannot discern the wicked from the weak, in order to justify their continued punishment of anyone and everyone for the crime of being punishable by them.

    • Roolb says:

      Just curious – what’s your real name, and where do you work? You don’t mind, right? It’s not like many employers’ reaction to even the mildest of controversies is automatically to can the employee…

    • MostlyCredibleHulk says:

      There’s a huge difference between criticizing and trying to ruin one’s life.

      And you have to ask yourself really really hard (I don’t mean you personally) – do you really try to inform the owners of MentalHealthMag about the dangers, are you genuinely worried about them, or you just trying to leverage this information into harm and no-platforming of somebody whose opinion you dislike? Because in 100%-epsilon of cases I’ve seen so far it was the latter hypocritically masquerading as the former.

      > where an organization is giving certain powers to someone believing they’re inclined to certain things (e.g. evidence-based, scientific medicine), but actually they are inclined to the opposite (e.g. religiously-motivated homeopathy)

      There are certainly massive hypocrites here. There are anti-gun crusaders who turned out to be illegal arms dealers and mafia made men, there are law enforcement officers that turned out to be child molesters, CP peddlers and drug dealers, there are many such examples. I’m sure there can be examples of bad doctors to.
      However, how many if them would be revealed in a random comment in an internet discussion? I would submit next to none. The added value of outrage campaigns is close to zero here. If somebody is crazy homeopathy nut, he would be revealed the first time he proposes to replace coronary bypass with oscillococcinum. And if a cop is a thief, usually other cops will catch him, based on multiple reports of theft, recording, evidence, etc. I have very little trust in the myth that people can hide their “true motivations” until revealing them in a random comment to a random stranger on a forum. Usually either their true motivations had been apparent long before, or the random comment has no relation with them. It is usually just trying to “gotcha” people into saying something that can be taken out of context, amplified and trumped up to a proportion that does not allow reasonable discussion anymore.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        There was this one guy who was some type of leftist journalist and went on foreign TV but turned out to also be a poster on Stormfront (Nazi website). Forget the name, but there’s an example and a half! Though solely political, which might be a bit different.

      • noncomputey says:

        So, if you discover that the medical writer is a homeopathologist or the firefighter plots arson… don’t tell the magazine or the fire station? Because they’ll figure it out themselves and if you do you’ll be breaking the subcultural taboo of “don’t say a word if they do it on the internet”? I don’t see how this norm is beneficial to anyone except those who are misleading the people whose trust they’ve taken.

        Opting to sweep someone’s revealed disposition towards harm under the rug so that the organization that’s empowering them doesn’t find out, and demonizing anyone who signal boosts the truth… sounds like a really bad, counter-effective policy.

        How about a norm where you discourage anyone who signal boosts things that are more prejudicial than substantial? Sandwich joke? Away! Assertion that oscillococcinum is more effective than “mainstream, corporate” coronary bypass procedures? It may be against HealthMag’s interests to empower him, either funding his cause with their own money or giving him their platform. Discouraging people from letting HealthMag know because of some knee-jerk e-norm? Away!

        Because in 100%-epsilon of cases I’ve seen so far it was the latter hypocritically masquerading as the former.

        It sounds like these people have just been claiming that the folks they signal boost are dishonest and are using their powers for harm… while in reality, as revealed by your mind reading skills, they just hate them and want to hurt them, and accordingly should be shunned for doing what they did.

        • lvlln says:

          So, if you discover that the medical writer is a homeopathologist or the firefighter plots arson… don’t tell the magazine or the fire station? Because they’ll figure it out themselves and if you do you’ll be breaking the subcultural taboo of “don’t say a word if they do it on the internet”? I don’t see how this norm is beneficial to anyone except those who are misleading the people whose trust they’ve taken.

          Leaving aside the fact that plotting arson is actually a crime and should be reported to the police, you are jumping to conclusions. For the homeopathologist example, being a homeopathologist is a bad trait for a medical writer only in so far as it affects their ability to write medical things. That is, if all their medical writings are indistinguishable from the writings of someone who believes only in scientific medicine rather than pseudoscientific nonsense, then what does it matter if the writer, in their heart of hearts, believes in pseudoscientific nonsense? The employer isn’t God handing down judgment for what’s in the medical writer’s heart, the employer is paying the writer to write medical things. And they can determine the quality of the medical writer as an employee by the medical writings they produce. The fact that the medical writer is a homeopathologist is relevant only to the extent that it shows up in the medical writings, which can be judged on their own merits.

          • noncomputey says:

            If someone expresses their disposition towards homeopathy, and they are given a platform to voice medical opinions to the general public… it’s likely they will use that platform to persuade others of their opinions, which include homeopathy. To minimize the chance of many people being misled by pseudoscience about how to treat their illnesses, an editor may well rather not be giving them their platform.

            I still don’t see how this weird e-norm justifies either opting against informing the editor or shaming those who do so… rather, all the available information makes it seem that this norm would lead to more harm.

        • Jiro says:

          Opting to sweep someone’s revealed disposition towards harm under the rug

          You are not “opting to sweep someone’s revealed disposition towards harm”, you are opting to sweep anything you determine is someone’s revealed disposition towards harm under the rug. Human beings are no good at determining such things.

          Furthermore, there wasn’t even a pretense of that here. The stated intent was to hurt the man, not to protect people.

          • noncomputey says:

            Human beings are no good at determining such things.

            Then there’s no point in supporting one public policy over another, any charity over any other charity, any healthcare programme over any other. But obviously we do, we have robust ways of seeing whether decisions are likely to end up with a lot of suffering or not, and we oppose those that do.

            Shrugging your shoulders about whether a youth health advisor who believes vaccines are poisonous will likely cause more or less harm than one who believes that they’re helpful… well we’d be living in a much darker world if the army of “human beings are no good at determining such things” won.

            The reality is, we can determine that certain things lead to harm based on scientific, historical, and statistical information. Promoting pseudoscientific medicine is likely to cause harm. Endorsing terrorist ideology is likely to cause harm. People disposed to certain ideas and practices are likely to amplify them if empowered. Covering your ears and repeating apologia “human beings are no good at determining such things!” is a surefire (but unsound) way of justifying standing by as harm comes to others.

        • MostlyCredibleHulk says:

          > if you discover that the medical writer is a homeopathologist or the firefighter plots arson… don’t tell the magazine or the fire station?

          No, that’s not my point. My point is that 100%-epsilon cases don’t look like that. They look like “oh, this medical writer said something on twitter that may be misconstrued as support for homeopathy and I hate homeopathy so I’ll now will try to get him fired so that everybody would ever be afraid of supporting homeopathy and would have to vigorously virtue-signal their hate for homeopathy out of fear of being fired”. And like “oh, this firefighter said he likes smoking cigars, so he’s ok with setting things on fire, so he’s probably arsonist, so I need to get him fired from the fire station, Internet please help me to fire dangerous arsonist!!!!11oneoen”

          If arsonist actually worked at the fire station, and homeopathy fan at that magazine – they’d set buildings on fire and write articles promoting homeopathy. And that’s how people would know what’s going on. There’s only a tiny amount of cases where random internet debate comment would be revealing something that was very relevant to work performance but completely unknown. In most cases, it’s just playing gotcha and inflating irrelevant things in order to hurt somebody.

          That’s the whole point – if you have a genuine case of arsonist working at fire station, go and complain. But before you do, the norm should be to check – do you actually talk about arsonist or just somebody who likes to smoke cigars? Are you concerned about fire safety or your (or somebody else’s) bruised ego?

          > while in reality, as revealed by your mind reading skills

          I don’t need mind reading skills to discern that somebody writing something along the lines “let’s make X unemployable” means to make X unemployable. Plain old reading skills are enough. When they then explain that they only do it because they are so much concerned about the future performance of X that they feel it’s their civic duty to warn potential employers about something X said on Twitter – I call bullshit on it. One does not try to ruin people lives out of concern for performance – one does it out of hate, revenge, hurt feelings, and so on. Noble rationalizations come much later, and one does not need mind reading skills to identify them as such.

          • noncomputey says:

            My point is that 100%-epsilon cases don’t look like that…

            Really, based on what? It sounds like you’ve eloped with confirmation bias so long that you literally try to persuade people that it’s true nearly 100% of the time with no evidence; the handful of cases that you’ve ogled about people getting called out does not somehow represent the likely thousands of cases of “people getting called out for expressing their inclination to harm others”… making up statistics and then making those statistics the foundation of your argument isn’t a reasonable disagreement.

            they’d set buildings on fire and write articles promoting homeopathy

            And those are very harmful things that many would rather prevent, even if it means breaking internet taboos about signal boosting. Making a joke about homeopathy doesn’t indicate a disposition to promote homeopathy. Making a vlog where you elaborate on how mainstream medicine is a lie and how more people ought to begin accepting and practicing homeopathy is. My position is that, in the latter case, one should signal boost it, or should not shun anyone who does.

            But before you do, the norm should be to check – do you actually talk about arsonist or just somebody who likes to smoke cigars?

            I think we’re in general agreement, but you strain the (unfounded) idea that it’s basically impossible that this is the case. I’m saying the norm should be that if there is strong evidence that it is the case, however rarely this happens, it should be signal boosted.

  10. MawBTS says:

    “Doxxing” is now a word that has been bastardised into meaninglessness.

    In the early days of hacker culture, dropping dox meant something clear and specific: releasing personal information that is protected under law. Post someone’s social security number, and you have doxxed them.

    Then, of course, it just meant “exposing” someone, for example, figuring out BigDickedPepe1488’s real name, and posting a photo of him on Twitter. Which might be a dishonorable or mean thing to do, but we’ve now conflated it with an illegal crime.

    Now it means something even vaguer and more meaningless. Recently, James Comey mentioned that he has a Twitter account, and reporter Ashley Feinberg figured it out with some rather clever sleuthing (James Comey took it in stride, updating his Twitter page to include a link to FBI’s job recruitment website). Note the angry people in the comments, convinced she’s “doxxing” him by locating a public Twitter page.

    Some words are on a slow definitional creep towards “anyone doing anything I don’t like”, and doxxing is one of them. I plan to use it as selectively as possible, and would support Scott making it a banned word on this blog.

    • Autistic Cat says:

      Why do you want to figure out who BigDickedPepe1488 is, for example? I’m certainly strongly against it even though I don’t support 14/88.

      Doxxing this dude is only going to make the problem worse. An ideology held by more than several people usually have some complex background and trying to harm those who hold the ideology isn’t going to destroy it.

      Some websites already tried to censor racial slurs. Do these work? No. People use “Googles”, “Skypes”, etc to replace the racial slurs. Censoring an idea never works.

      Let those who want to post 14/88 post their 14/88 as long as they don’t actually try to beat people up.

      • MawBTS says:

        That was just an example, drawn from the genre of “someone sent me a rude message on Twitter so I exposed him” articles, like this one.

        • Deiseach says:

          articles, like this one

          Telling their mothers is funnier, I think, than “I sent the details to everyone they know”. If they’re dumb 16 year olds* who think it’s brave and clever to send messages like “i’ll rape u if i see u cunt” to women online, then having their mother box their ears is punishment enough 🙂

          *I’m assuming the four kids in the article were this age range, if they were in their 20s that’s depressing

    • liskantope says:

      Interesting. I usually understood “doxxing” to include street address and perhaps telephone number as well as identity. Out of curiosity, which bits of personal information are illegal to release?

      Some words are on a slow definitional creep towards “anyone doing anything I don’t like”

      Absolutely. *cough*gaslighting*cough*

      • Zorgon says:

        Absolutely. *cough*gaslighting*cough*

        Stop gaslighting me by suggesting that “gaslighting” means anything other than what I want it to mean!

      • John Schilling says:

        Out of curiosity, which bits of personal information are illegal to release?

        “Illegal to release” is an oversimplification; there are context-dependent levels of protection required for Personally Identifiable Information. But if you are contemplating deliberately sending PII towards someone who you expect will use it to harass the P in question, you should assume that would be a Bad Thing even if you will “only” be sued, fired, or ostracized for it.

        As for what constitutes PII, the NIST and GAO say that names, identification numbers, addresses, photos, or biometrics all qualify.

      • Standing in the Shadows says:

        which bits of personal information are illegal to release?

        Our host here is an MD, and should be familiar with the HIPPA rules.

        The rule is “if it can identify someone, it’s PII”.

        HIPPA PII rules are not a good place to play rules lawyer. If anyone (not someone, anyone) can figure out who a specific person is because of the information you leaked to anyone, even as “harmless” as having a private voice conversation with your spouse, that’s a HIPPA PII violation. HIPPA PII violations result in firing, suing, and prosecuting.

        My current gig is almost that strict. But if I go into the databases, and look up a specific person, or I have specific person information on one of my mobile devices, PCs, or personally controlled instances, and I don’t have an approved ticket open regarding that person, they will can my ass, for cause.

        I’m not going to tell you who I work for, but I’m 99% certain that *you* (yes you, the person reading my words right now) have a record in the databases here, that you would very much not want leaked.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          I wasn’t aware that that group of Indonesian crustaceans had rules, let alone that they had such influence over American life.

          /nitpick

        • notpeerreviewed says:

          I’m confused – are you arguing only about PII drawn from health care organizations? That’s illegal to release, but it’s also an extremely narrow case – surely the term “doxxing” applies regardless of where you got the information?

    • grendelkhan says:

      “Doxxing” is now a word that has been bastardised into meaninglessness.

      Has it? I remember the concept from “True Names” (1981). (Was it Asimov who said that a good SF author predicts cars, but a great one predicts traffic jams? Well, a good writer predicts cyberspace; a great one predicts doxxing.) In any case, it seems pretty straightforward that drawing a line from a pseudonym to a True Name is at best incredibly rude, and at worst a warlike act.

    • MostlyCredibleHulk says:

      > releasing personal information that is protected under law.

      I think protection under the law is not necessary. E.g. as far as I know, publishing somebody’s legal name and address is not illegal per se (in many places, ownership records are public, and address itself can not be protected by law as it is used in many public contexts). Same is true probably for email, phone no, etc.

      But I am afraid you’re fighting a losing battle. The same battle that was fought over the word “hacker”, and with the same results.

    • 4bpp says:

      The early days of hacker culture? I’m fairly sure that the term arose on 4chan back when its raiding culture was going strong (so between its founding in 2003 and the Scientology raids in 2008 after which its administration started cracking down on it), so it’s neither early nor hacker culture. (Schneier, to whom the article you linked refers back, talks about “2001 and the hacker group Anonymous”, which is also an anachronism)

      Syntactically, too, it seems to belong to the same generation of slang as “pl0x” (which seems to have arisen around 2006) and “lol hax” (around 2005?). If it actually had been early hacker culture (presumably warez kids rather than MIT-style hackers, given the malice), it probably would have been “docz” or something.

    • scherzando says:

      Some words are on a slow definitional creep towards “anyone doing anything I don’t like”, and doxxing is one of them.

      Yeah, this is something I’m concerned about – it’s valuable to have a way to distinguish (in 140 characters or less!) between each of these categories, and between all of them and the behavior Scott is discussing in this post. We may well want to have norms against most or all of these things, but if it’s only possible to get widespread support for strong norms against some of them (enabling identity theft, etc), it’s worth separating those out from the more controversial ones.

      If not, I fear that we’ll spend all our time arguing about the controversial cases, call the whole range of behaviors by the same name, and make “Is doxxing acceptable?” an open question as much for the narrowest senses of the term as the widest ones. And because of that, I feel like talking about “signal-boosting as doxxing” is really counterproductive.

    • John Schilling says:

      reporter Ashley Feinberg figured it [James Comey’s twitter account] out. Note the angry people in the comments, convinced she’s “doxxing” him by locating a public Twitter page.

      Inappropriate use of the plural. Several people were critical of Feinberg, others supportive, but only one used the term “doxx”.

      There are terms that undergo the sort of drift you describe, but I do not believe that “doxxing” is in great danger of joining that list even if there is debate about edge cases.

  11. theory says:

    Two thoughts:

    First, a very interesting libel case that came up a few years ago. Traditionally truth is an ironclad defense to libel/slander, under the theory that it’s never against the law to tell the truth. But there was a case where Staples fired a guy and sent a company-wide email explaining why he had been fired. Both sides agreed that the email was completely accurate, but also that Staples had never done that before for any other fired employee. The First Circuit held that a case for defamation could be brought. It’s probably the first time a court has ever held that way, and if you believe that truth should always be a defense to libel then you would say that the case is a good example of “tough cases make bad law”. There’s a good writeup of it here, taking that view: http://www.dmlp.org/blog/2009/sam-bayard/first-circuit-upends-accepted-understanding-truth-defense-defamation-cases

    The second is, maybe these are just growing pains as we adapt to the new reality of everything-being-dissemable. Maybe what we consider unacceptable now will just become normal a hundred years from now, because otherwise we would be submerged in a deluge of constant outrage. A hundred years ago, maybe a picture of a politician underage drinking in college might have caused a social scandal. Nowadays that hardly seems to matter. Indeed, we elected a President who openly bragged about “grabbing them by the pussy”. Imagine a 19th century President doing the same. To put it another way, I would be horrified if all my most private secrets were publicly-known, but much less horrified they were equally publicly-known as everyone else’s secrets.

    • MawBTS says:

      The second is, maybe these are just growing pains as we adapt to the new reality of everything-being-dissemable

      I’ve heard it said that we treat social media like a conversation, when it’s actually a public performance. When you’re talking to someone on Facebook, it feels like an intimate one-on-one conversation. In reality, someone might screencap the conversation, post it on Imgur, and by the morning it will be seen by a hundred thousand eyeballs.

      We didn’t evolve to speak to a million people at a time, and we keep thinking our messages will just float around our little Dunbar’s Number of friends. Facebook’s the ultimate hot mic.

    • BBA says:

      In some jurisdictions there’s a tort of “invasion of privacy” separate from defamation, in which truth is not and has never been a defense. It’s always been on shaky theoretical ground, ever since it was invented – Samuel Warren and Louis Brandeis wrote a law review article arguing that this should be illegal, and state supreme courts just accepted it as part of common law, without going through the legislature at all – and some forms of it are basically defunct due to the expanded scope of First Amendment protections. But in the modern climate it might be worth reexamining.

    • Horkthane says:

      The second is, maybe these are just growing pains as we adapt to the new reality of everything-being-dissemable.

      So I’ve got a friend who’s slowly turned me on to encrypting everything and not participating at all in social media. Sometimes I argue back. How are you supposed to meet anyone online if you never post in public spaces? How do you make that initial connection before you retreat behind private encrypted conversations?

      But it’s hard to resist his cold logic. This is just how things are going to be now. It’s likely to get worse, and not at all likely to get better. Hoping on humanity’s better nature to overcome in this regard seems like a fools errand. And I can’t imagine some sort of systemic change to clamp down on it. It goes straight to the heart of free flow of information in the digital age.

      • jebbyderinger says:

        That’s a good point and kind of points towards the future of the internet. Ultimately a huge shift will occur but there are a few directions it could go and some of it ties in with net neutrality. The anonymity of the internet is a double edged sword. It protects your identity but it also protects the identity of trolls. One possibility is eventually internet access will be directly tied to you, it’s basically there now in that the data is there. For example you may have an alternate Facebook account but there’s enough data out there on your activity that Facebook knows as does your ISP and likely Google & Microsoft or Apple as well. They may not be actively watching but it would only take minutes to figure it out. You can act like a jack ass online but ultimately someone out there knows all and in the event of a company sale, potentially anyone could be the new owner.

        For me I’ve seen the Internet go down hill especially over the past 5 years. In the early days of the www it was mostly hackers, professors, porn traders, and the socially awkward internet chatters. It was most definitely “Autist-centric”. It was also mildly complicated to access. Even as ease of access grew it wasn’t until Myspace but much more-so Facebook that a certain segment of the population even became interested in the internet. It became social. I’ve always used the internet as a research tool but it’s been getting harder to do that. The internet has become flooded with so much noise it’s almost impossible to find anything truthful. Product reviews use to be reliable now they’re either fake sites generating ad revenue, paid review sites, or hired reviewers using legitimate sites. Most of them have figured out Google’s algorithm and a lot of searches are now useless. Sometimes I have to resort to reddit to direct me in the right direction. While real scientific data can be found 99% of it is interpreted by the media and thus almost useless. The only real improvement I’ve seen is blogs like this one. Highly educated people putting their voice out there for positive change and to deal with cutting edge ideas and thoughts. The mainstream sites can’t come close to matching what some bloggers are doing mostly because they are confined to social norms.

        I’m feeling that eventually I’ll get to the point where the internet will be almost useless to me, it will become a glorified news/e-shop. Perhaps in a decade or two the internet will be in complete control by a single company or a small handful.

        All it takes is one generation to say “this sucks” and everything will change. While it seems unlikely given the number of people glued to their phones I think the shift is entirely possible within my lifetime. Young people are addicted but they aren’t stupid. More and more people are seeing the tradeoffs they have to make by being always “on”.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          While real scientific data can be found 99% of it is interpreted by the media and thus almost useless.

          If I can make a suggestion: use Google Scholar. It doesn’t have news articles or blogs, mostly just journal articles, and it’s a good first-pass resource.

          There are also a number of sites full of searchable citations like PubMed for biomedical science. Some will have the full text or manuscript available for free, otherwise once you have the title and abstract it’s usually easy enough to track down.

  12. Shiri says:

    I agree with the general thrust of this post, but I want to illuminate a couple of those cases where Scott or people like him might want to “support cases that look completely different to them” for appraisal.

    Example 1: Someone in your area or subcommunity or whatever is a sexual predator, a sociopath prone to emotional abuse, that sort of thing. Are you allowed to warn people about them?
    Example 2: Someone is sending the kind of “light death threats” commonplace on the internet, not serious credible ones but “I hope you die in [viscerally unpleasant way” to a Reason columnist over some dispute or other – perhaps the appropriate response varies based on the scope. Social shaming is probably quite appropriate here but just by having the voice you’re putting them on full blast by responding.

    The case of harrassing people over a dumb but basically harmless sandwich joke doesn’t fit either of these, so maybe we can rule it out, but although one’s voice having a wide range gives you a sort of offensive power, restricting that also restricts its defensive uses.

    • Autistic Cat says:

      In example 2 you should not dox the person involved.

    • Jiro says:

      Someone in your area or subcommunity or whatever is a sexual predator, a sociopath prone to emotional abuse, that sort of thing. Are you allowed to warn people about them?

      Sure. Go to the police and bring your evidence. If you don’t have evidence, think twice.

      Also, there’s a difference between warning people in order to protect them and warning people in order to harm him. Telling his employer falls in the latter category.

      And even if you want to warn other people, you need to be familiar enough with him to put anything in context. If the only thing you know about him is that “he’s a sexual predator” and you know nothing else about him, you don’t know enough to tell people about him.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Okay, so you bring your evidence, and the police say it’s not quite enough to arrest him. Now what? Do you warn your friends, or do you leave them to maybe be his next victim?

        And what if he’s working in a job that affords him more opportunity to cause harm – maybe he’s a meter reader, plumber, or someone else who enters people’s homes? Can you tell his employer then? I’m trying to tease out the real distinction here…

        • Jiro says:

          We require arrests and trials before punishing criminals for a reason: if we don’t have them, the risk of punishing an innocent is too great. So if there isn’t enough evidence to arrest him and get him punished in a court, there certainly isn’t enough evidence to get him punished outside of a court. If you want to warn your friends, you’re allowed to be a gossip, but that’s different from punishing him, such as by contacting his employer or calling the outrage mob on him.

          And what if he’s working in a job that affords him more opportunity to cause harm

          If you get him fired, he might cause harm, but you are certainly causing harm.

          • Evan Þ says:

            I disagree. I don’t think you can so nicely distinguish between “gossip” or “warning” and “punishment.” We require arrests and trials before punishing criminals because the risk of punishing an innocent with that level of punishment is too great; other sorts of less-significant punishment, like excluding him from weekly trips to the bar, can be done without judicial sentence.

          • Mary says:

            And does one have to invite everyone in the neighborhood to the bar trip? And do those invited have the ability to refuse?

          • Jiro says:

            We require arrests and trials before punishing criminals because the risk of punishing an innocent with that level of punishment is too great;

            Getting someone fired is a pretty high level of punishment.

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      Example 2 is not really a dilemma. You just post what they said with identifying details removed (like Matt Yglesias does sometimes with antisemites). The audience reaction supports you, and makes the miscreant feel like a tool, and no one gets hurt.

    • greghb says:

      I had a similar thought re: example 1. I think it’s tough. Consider a variation: you’re certain that a person has committed some heinous crime (maybe to someone you care about) and may do so again, and it’s just as clear that the justice system won’t deal with them. Why won’t the justice system act? Maybe your own evidence won’t work in court due to a technicality. Maybe the local cops/judges are disinterested for whatever political reason, or mildly corrupt. Fill in your own borderline situation. So what do you do? Several mediocre options:

      A) Accept the veil-of-ignorance argument that vigilante justice is a quick way to burn down society, so you can’t do it here either. Do what’s legal, suck it up, move on.
      B) Try to construct a universalizable rule that allows you to take action: if everyone with your intelligence and with your current confidence in the situation took justice into their own hands, then society would be better off.
      C) Go in guns blazing! (A) is for wimps, do (B) if it makes you feel better — but really it’s beside the point.

      I don’t like any of these. (A) makes a compelling argument, but some primal part of my brain says that it is for wimps. I don’t trust (B) to be a fair evaluation ever really, let alone in the moment. Does the threat of (C) help establish some game-theoretic equilibrium (hawks and doves?) over and above what the legal system does? Who knows.

      • If I knew someone committed a heinous crime and it was clear that the justice system wasn’t going to punish him, I would not be at all hesitant to punish that person in some other manner, including doxxing that person, or much worse.

        But I don’t think that is what this post of Scott’s is about. It is about doxxing or the equivalent because you don’t like someone’s opinion. That is what is so nasty in the situation he discusses. If the person being doxxed had actually ruined other people’s lives somehow, then yes, make it as public as possible. We are talking about the suppression of ideas, not actions.

        • Standing in the Shadows says:

          If I knew someone committed a heinous crime

          I don’t trust people’s judgement of what a “heinous crime” is. I’ve been told the following things are “heinous”.

          … voting for a New Yorker with orange hair.
          … not making a wedding cake for a gay couple.
          … possessing a picture of your 15 year old girlfriend wearing underwear when you are 16.
          … being a “Nazi” in Berkeley.
          … memeing on 4chan or the /r/TheDonald /

    • kaminiwa says:

      “Example 1: Someone in your area or subcommunity or whatever is a sexual predator, a sociopath prone to emotional abuse, that sort of thing. Are you allowed to warn people about them?”

      Who is more credible: the slightly hysteric, over-emotional victim, or the suave, charismatic predator? Who is more credible: the bumbling victim who has never had this conversation before, or the predator who has the script memorized and has experience from the last dozen times this happened?

      The very simple problem here is that “doxxing” is a weapon that is more potent in the hands of abusers than it is in the hands of victims.

      I’ve watched the people that abused me spin tales of how I was a horrific monster, and turned communities against me. I was lucky that those weren’t *my* communities, and I could just walk away. But there was nothing I could do to turn the community against *them*.

  13. Nick says:

    Here’s an exercise which I encourage you to try. Suppose there’s a Reason columnist who wants to get you fired. By poring over your public statements – Twitter feed, Facebook timeline, any blogs you might have written, anything you’ve said in mixed company that you don’t know if somebody else wrote down waiting for the time they could use it against you. Imagine the most incriminating dossier of your statements, out of context, that they could put together. Imagine what would happen if they were pretty determined, and sent it to your workplace, your church, your parents, et cetera. How much of your life could they destroy?

    Since I’m interested in other people’s answers and this profile is at least a few steps from my identity, I’ll go first. I would certainly lose my job, and all of my close relationships would be strained, but my friends are good to me and I don’t think I would lose them. I don’t know how much it would affect my job prospects, potentially a fair bit or potentially hardly at all. The worst part of this would surely not be financial, although yes I would be screwed, but psychological, because like not a few people, I think, I’ve been terrified for years about the tenuously connected history I’ve left on the Internet or the conversations I’ve had in the privacy of club or dorms being laid bare, and I don’t even begin to know how to cope with what I have said, much less what I might someday say in your Panopticon dystopian future scenario.

  14. AnonYEmous says:

    Note: underneath the offensive tweet, the author states that it was a joke and the people who he tweeted it at laughed. I can no longer find this tweet, probably because the author has deleted his account, but I saw it earlier. I actually don’t think the people he tweeted it at laughed, but they didn’t seem too put out by it.

    Also worth noting: said feminist blogger is absolutely unapologetic and is basically pretending as though what she did was merely “criticism”. And for whatever reason Popehat is going along with this. I’ve lost a ton of respect for both of these individuals.

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      (Disclosure: I have not read Popehat’s reaction and may be totally misinterpreting.) I think Popehat has to go along with it, for the same reason that Scott brings up here: you need to promote good social norms, not just good laws. Popehat is very concerned about libel law impinging on free speech, so he’s unlikely to accept an expansion of the norm against libel to include malicious signal-boosting.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        I think that’s very stupid; in a social sense, attempting to libel someone really is wrong and it really should be punished, not in the same way as simply being racist is, because you’re actually trying to hurt someone or do damage to them.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      > And for whatever reason Popehat is going along with this.

      That’s not particularly shocking. Popehat strikes me as someone who really, really wants to control others’ speech but is also honest enough to recognize the full scope of First Amendment protections. So he’ll stand up and oppose mob behavior at publicly funded colleges, that sort of thing, but if there’s a situation where people who hold opinions he disliked can be punished without violating the First Amendment he is all over that. And not just all over that, but smugly, sneeringly all over that.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        And not just all over that, but smugly, sneeringly all over that

        Yeah

        you know, it’s really too bad that there isn’t a political faction which isn’t either slavishly partisan, or filled to the brim with ginormous tools. But there it is, folks.

    • Juniper1 says:

      It’s worth noting that Popehat has rarely met a trendy Twitter public shaming that he didn’t care for, especially back in the day when these never got pushback. Defended DongleGate, defended Justine Sacco (and even linked a Salon article about a comeuppance for “white people”), defended #ShirtGate…

      I don’t really buy his argument that free speech needs to be viewed in purely legalistic terms, and the more cynical part of me wonders if he’s justifying Twitter friends in arguing it. If there’s no sense of a societal need for free speech, laws will gradually follow the society.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        If there’s no sense of a societal need for free speech, laws will gradually follow the society.

        I think this is a critical point. This is how descriptive, common law works (enacting/following laws that describe/protect how the people already live). Politics is downstream from culture. If you have a society that all agrees one should be punished for X, eventually you’ll have laws punishing X, because who could disagree?

  15. jhertzlinger says:

    That guy is guaranteed a job by anybody who regards feminists as, at best, hysterical neurotics.

    If the job pays well, maybe he could send accounts of his salary to ENB.

    The real problem is that ENB does not realize that many people disagree with her.

    • Mary says:

      Only if they themselves have no reason to fear said feminists generating such a storm about THEM for hiring him.

    • Zorgon says:

      The real problem is that ENB does not realize that many people disagree with her.

      I’ve long gotten the impression from her Twitter that ENB thinks that those who disagree with her are cave-dwelling mutants at best. It’s a shame because her writing on sex work and the sheer incredible waterfall of radfem bullshit that surrounds the subject is excellent, but her Twitter is, as the 4chan kids say, pure cancer.

  16. yumejin says:

    I agree with the idea, but I wonder: when is it OK to call attention to someone’s bad behavior? I would say if you can show clearly it is not an isolated instance, but it’s been repeating itself for some time. Say, if someone makes several disparaging posts and comments against some “great value”.

    I find difficulty in defining what would constitute “several” posts; and what would constitute “show clearly”. In other words, how many errors are one too many? And how much space should be dedicated to debating till it is beyond reasonable doubt it is not faulty understanding?

    PS: First time commenting; can’t keep up with the rhythm.

    • Autistic Cat says:

      This is his/her right to free speech.

      I disagree with the left, the right, the alt-right, etc. Do I try to dox humanity for not sharing my values?

      Having different values from yours isn’t an “error” at all.

  17. onyomi says:

    Agree that there is such a thing as “the spirit” of the idea of free speech which is more than just not actively censoring someone.

    I think the problem society is trying to work out right now is that social media gets used in two very different ways: media personalities, celebrities, journalists (and now POTUSs) use it to make intentionally public statements meant as “news.” They attach their name to it and (theoretically) stand by it on their name as a journalist, etc.

    But then there’s the way the 99% of the population who aren’t celebrities or journalists use the internet, which is more like a coffee shop or crowded bar. Theoretically you know anyone could overhear you, but for all practical purposes, you’re just talking to your friends, acquaintances, fellow quilting enthusiasts, etc. You don’t expect or want what you’re saying to ever really leave those circles, and 99.99% of the time, it never does, so you feel fairly secure (there may be some hypocrisy here: some people might enjoy the limelight so long as it’s positive but then claim they never wanted the attention if it turns negative; personally, any tweet, facebook message, etc. I wrote going “viral” for ill or good would make me deeply uneasy if it were about anything more than a cute video of my cat).

    This also raises the question of who “counts” as a journalist. Is Scott? On the one hand, no, he’s not a professional journalist and his audience is small compared to most major papers or TV networks or even some youtubers. On the other hand, he writes and a lot of people he doesn’t know read. He links Vox and Vox responds. He criticizes x with the hope that not just his buddies will agree with him, but maybe it will slightly influence debate on the subject. Does that make him a “journalist”? A “public personality”? Not sure. He does still use a pseudonym of sorts, but he’s also obviously not trying super hard to be anonymous.

    And I can sympathize with him on all this, because while I don’t have a blog or near as much an audience, it is nice to feel sometimes like there’s nothing between you and expressing your views to the world. The egalitarianism where Donald Trump may read and retweet some random teenagers post.

    But is there some threshold of popularity where you cross and officially become “fair game”? So long as you claim to want to be anonymous does everyone owe it to you not to try to discover your identity even on the off chance you become super influential? Or maybe this is the wrong question to ask and we should be allowing celebrities and journalists more anonymity?

    I was very actively against anonymous posting here when we had that debate (now we only have one “anonymous” and fortunately he’s not a jerk), because it very obviously lowered the quality. At the same time, I think I understand a bit better some of the arguments for it (or 4chan for that matter) made back then: if you want your internet conversation to actually be like a conversation in a bar, then the best way is to make that conversation both anonymous and self-destructing (people can screencap, of course, but 4chan doesn’t archive). Hence “snapchat” and all that. These, of course, open up the possibility of different sorts of abuse.

    But what about that huge middle ground which is neither totally anonymous, self-destructing shitposting or dick pics, but also not an editorial in a major newspaper with the author’s name attached? I guess we’re still figuring out how that works, though I am in favor of erring the side on respecting privacy and giving a platform to free speech as much as possible.

    • Autistic Cat says:

      I believe everyone should be anonymous on a rationalist forum because to be truly rational you have to address the taboo topics instead of avoiding them. Since there are so many witchhunting mobs out there we have to be anonymous.

      • thenoblepie says:

        I am really not sure how to express this in a polite manner, or if I even should at all.

        You have the first reply to a majority of the top level comments here. From my perspective, your contributions cheapen the very high level of discussion I’m used to seeing on SSC. At least to me, you come off as very fixated on a single topic, almost manically so, and you repeat yourself a lot. Add to that that both your style and your suggestions really put me off, and it results in me being so annoyed I break out of my usual habit of lurking.

        I’m not sure if I’m out of line here, or where to go from here. I just thought I should register my feelings. If nothing else, treat it as harmless feedback.

  18. Atlas says:

    Very well said and cogently argued as always. I’d also make another line of argument that would hopefully appeal to the self-interest of those holding the whip-hand–what’s the end game of signal boosting/social norms of shaming things out of existence? (Because I feel like the biggest problem with this is some hypothetical social justice campus activist saying “yeah, I agree that if homophobes/racists were in charge, and applied this norm, it would be bad. But they’re not, so who cares?”)

    Like, consider the analogy Scott made about homosexuality in a anti-homosexual community. In such a community, presumably the government, the church, civil society at the micro level of friends and family, etc. strongly discourage homosexual behavior and pro-homosexual beliefs by loudly agreeing as a group that homosexuality is awful and shaming people who don’t conform. And maybe that succeeds at making closeted homosexuals feel bad about themselves and being more discreet about their homosexuality. But does that really succeed in eliminating the allegedly sinful desires in the first place? It seems to me that it would just make people much more circumspect about expressing them.

    Likewise, I think that if you use social shaming to censor certain opinions, like misogyny in the case in the OP, it’s really unlikely to actually persuade people that those opinions are bad. (The opinion in question may in fact be factually/morally bad or good, I just mean that I think it’s unlikely that censoring it makes people more likely to genuinely reject it.) I think it just makes people be more careful about expressing the said opinion in public, even as they may hold, research and discuss it in private.

    So I think that potentially leads to really dangerous situations for pro-censorship people, where they think that everyone agrees with them and that no one could possibly disagree with them in the current year, but in fact a counter-culture has been developing its ideas in secret, and one day they wake up and find that they’re about to be thrown out of power with barely any warning. I think one might say that this is kind of what happened to e.g. communism in the former Soviet bloc. (Or even to tsarism in 1917.)

    At the end of the day, I think that the most effective political movement/society will be based on getting people to voluntarily accept its ideas, rather than making people too afraid to disagree with them in public.

    But anyway, let me take this opportunity to again boost the “what a great SSC post” signal.

    • Autistic Cat says:

      Exactly. Censorship never works. For example censorship of Pepe, 14/88 etc isn’t going to get rid of White Nationalism. It is going to stay for socioeconomic and sociopolitical reasons.

    • John Nerst says:

      Based on how I’ve heard people talk, many have a model where racism, sexism etc. aren’t something that emerges in people individually, based on human nature. Instead it’s seen more like a disease, spreading by contagion – which implies that it can be destroyed by preventing it from propagating. I don’t think that’s true, and using a bad model like that is likely to backfire. Like that thrown out of power without a warning thing. It’s already happening.

      • Autistic Cat says:

        I really doubt that this is the case. There are usually socioeconomic and sociopolitical reasons behind ideologies.

        For example who is likely to argue for the return of the patriarchy? Those men who do not succeed sexually in the hook-up culture. Screaming sexism isn’t going to solve the problem. Legalizing prostitution and inventing sexbots do. You can make the sexual market more egalitarian without confining women to the kitchen or beating them.

        Now let’s move on to White Supremacism. What caused it? Well it is simply a fact that Europeans have been much richer and more successful than others. Hence WS was the default hypothesis. However it is weird that despite the rise of White Nationalism WS has actually decreased. Why? Because East Asians and Indians aren’t white, are rising and do get along with whites. Hence WS is an increasingly implausible hypothesis.

        • John Nerst says:

          I’m not sure if you’re agreeing or disagreeing with me here.

          • I agree with you. I disagree with the “disease” theory. Racism and sexism can be contagious but they are grounded in socioeconomic and sociopolitical backgrounds. Address the backgrounds before address the issue of racism and sexism.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          It depends on what you mean by racism. If you’re talking a race-based political ideology, sure. But the inclination to prefer people genetically similar to you and distrust or misunderstand people more genetically distant from you is natural. That doesn’t need any sort of vector to spread. We’ve now got studies showing infants preferring images of faces from their own race to those of other races. Nobody’s indoctrinating the kids. That’s nature.

          With regards to the patriarchy, I appeal to what works and again, nature. Men and women are biologically different, our gender roles grow out of those differences, and conforming to roles more suitable to your biology works better than trying to be a crappy version of a different gender. I work, my wife stays home and takes care of the kids and the home. Everyone’s happy, healthy and well-adjusted. Patriarchy: it works.

        • Standing in the Shadows says:

          For example who is likely to argue for the return of the patriarchy? Those men who do not succeed sexually in the hook-up culture.

          I succeed Just Fine (with a notch count part of me still can’t quite believe, until I open up the Google Sheet and add yet another person to it) in the current culture of serial monogamy, “FWBs”, game, and vacation hookup. I even got pretty lucky despite the current culture of father-hating divorce , custody, and alimony courts.

          However, I have been watching this utterly screwing other men and women my age, screwing their kids, screwing their classmates, screwing my nieces, screwing my younger coworkers, and specially screwing the collage age kids I mentor.

          The whole thing is a molochian hell of giving ourselves exactly what we think we all wanted, and now we’re screwing ourselves good and hard, and we can’t stop.

          Turns out, maybe those boring prudish old men who wrote those boring prudish old rules about sexual restraint, chastity, and fidelity in those boring prudish old books, knew what they were talking about, for building a culture that does not destroy the grandchildren just so the teens and twentys can follow their impulses and desires.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            +1

            When I was still a virgin I was much less socially conservative precisely because I lacked an understanding of how bad things were. It was only after I got out into the dating world in earnest that I realized how utterly depraved our society had become.

            My notch count never climbed particularly high, only double digits, but it was enough. I had fun and was remarkably lucky to come away from it unscathed. But it wasn’t healthy in any sense of the word.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            +2

            Did just fine, but realized later I was playing with fire while dodging bullets, and now I sit safely ensconced in my patriarchal refuge and I can’t help but notice all the burn and gunshot victims left on the field.

  19. MattW says:

    I have this idea that some day a random person will be accused of something in his private life (racism, sexism, etc) and pressure will be put on the company he works for to fire him, and the company will say no, he does good work and his private life is his so say what he wants to, all his communications at work are civil and appropriate.

    I’m not sure if that day will every be a reality, but there might be a chance.

    • Autistic Cat says:

      I hope that day will come.

      We need to separate thoughts, speech and actions. If your actions are good you are good. We should be pretty lenient on speech as long as there are no serious consequences. (i.e. Bullying an individual is not OK but posting any weird thought is OK) We shouldn’t care about what people think at all.

    • Zorgon says:

      Am I imagining that this used to be pretty much the status quo, if we equate Twitterati like ENB with community gossipmongers of previous ages?

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I think the problem is now it’s in writing, and exposed to random people. Say crude things to your friends at a party and no one’s going to tell your boss. Type it out on the internet and you’re screwed.

    • dodrian says:

      It happens sometimes – the example that comes to my mind was Mark Zuckerberg defending Peter Thiel when many within FB were calling for his firing from a board position because he was a *gasp* Trump Supporter.

  20. John Schilling says:

    Imagine what would happen if they were pretty determined, and sent it to your workplace, your church, your parents, et cetera. How much of your life could they destroy?

    Pretty certain the answer is “almost none of it”. But then, aside from visiting your blog, I basically don’t live in your world and I think it is important to understand that the world is bigger and more diverse than you give credit for. There are lots of places where you don’t have to post, tumble, and tweet controversial tribal-affiliation signals to fit in, and there are lots of places where people don’t much care if you slipped up and made a racist joke or wore a MAGA hat once upon a time. There are lots of jobs where nobody much cares, because they don’t have to answer to twitter mobs. My company’s largest product, and the only one even vaguely public-facing, is mission assurance for GPS satellites. Think they are afraid of the social justice contingent organizing a boycott of GPS if they find out what I’ve said about SJ? Get real. I’ve had FBI special agents devoted to the task of sorting through my background and determine whether I should keep my job. Whatever I’ve said and done, they know and my bosses know and they don’t care.

    Same goes for anyone who would work for me. I do get about 250 resumes for every position, and I’m not sure you understand how that works. I certainly don’t dig through 250 social media profiles and decide which ones to reject, and I don’t keep a blacklist of people whose dox have been emailed to me with a “do not hire!” flag by some do-gooder. I’m pretty sure our HR department doesn’t either. Because this,

    all that will exist is that you once retweeted a racist joke on the 26th of March, 2014

    Isn’t true. There will also be your college degree and your GPA, however little you think those are worth. There will be your resume with your jobs and internships and all your other accomplishments, the list of things you have done that make me think you can do what I need you to do. And there will be all the people who know you and will speak up for you when it matters. So I’m going to throw out 240 of those resumes because they don’t pass those filters. The rest, I’m going to be making a phone call to an actual person, and it’s going to be a person who I already think is (by my idiosyncratic standards) in the top 5% of an already selective profession. If I like what I hear, do you think I’m going to balk because some overzealous SJW made sure I know about that racist joke they made once?

    I do agree that we should strive for a broad norm of “no doxxing” everywhere. But I am fairly confident that the actual consequence of being doxxed, for anyone who isn’t three-sigma offensive or two-sigma exhibitionistic, is to be ostracized, ridiculed, or exiled from a distinct minority of both social and professional communities. They just happen to be communities you chose to live in.

    • alchemy29 says:

      But people do get fired for things they said online – this actually happens. There was a university professor who recently got fired for a borderline racial slur they wrote on an online review (under their real name).

      Rhazib Khan got fired from the NYT for saying things that were a little too close to racism many years ago on an obscure forum (as far as I can tell, his beliefs on the topic are the same as Charles Murray).

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        People get fired for all kinds of BS reasons. Do you really think a normal person is more likely to be fired for their MAGA hat, or for mis-remembering their bosses name, or for making a typo on form 123424-2C? This discussion would really benefit from quantification, if that were possible…

        • alchemy29 says:

          I’m not arguing that one should fear being doxxed in general, or that it is a large portion of firings. However, if you have said off color things online and someone is threatening to doxx you, then yes they can damage you professionally.

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            My more considered point is that you can already be fired for no reason, so it’s not a big deal if you can now also be fired for a silly reason. Hiring seems like a bigger deal (since possible employers have so little information and fun toxoplasmic stuff stands out more than your 4th grade GPA), and social ostracism seems like bigger deal.

        • MostlyCredibleHulk says:

          Depends on a person and a situation, but it sounds like “you should not really be worried about walking in a bad neighborhood because mortality rate from cancer and coronary disease is so much higher than from random mugging”. These things are not exclusive, and you may want to reduce both. But we don’t need much thought about how to fill form 123424-2C or how to remember bosses’ name. This is obvious. Being fired for MAGA hat is not, and it’s new.

      • Autistic Cat says:

        The problem is that the left should check Razib’s claims scientifically instead of dismissing them as racism and going after the messager. It acts like the left is already wrong and is now censoring scientific research.

        I’m not sure whether the left has realized it or not. Stop bashing people. Start doing experiments and verifying scientific claims. If you bash people with the stick of moral accusation you have de facto conceded that your claims are factually wrong regardless of whether they are. That makes you look like creationists.

      • John Schilling says:

        But people do get fired for things they said online – this actually happens.

        People get fired from public-facing jobs in Blue Tribe bastions often enough to be noteworthy. You got any examples of someone losing their job at e.g. a Detroit automaker because of something they said online? How about a banker or accountant?

        • DrBeat says:

          Public-facing jobs in Blue Tribe bastions are the positions you are most likely to hear about when someone in them is fired for Wrongthink.

          Also, if someone provides examples, are you going to actually accept them or are you going to sneer them away and say they don’t count?

        • alchemy29 says:

          Well if it’s not a public facing job then I can only provide anecdotal evidence. Not the school I attended, but a teacher at another Catholic high school was fired after being outed via pictures they had online. I’m pretty sure that qualifies as a non-blue tribe Bastion. And if you consider that public, then public jobs are a pretty big portion of jobs.

        • mupetblast says:

          Unfortunately ALL of the major metros creating jobs are blue tribe bastions.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Serious question: if this was 2007 instead of 2017 and you were still in your PhD program, would your answer to this question change? What if it was 1997 and you hadn’t even applied for it yet?

      If you’re established, with a history of quality work in your industry, then yeah there’s not as much to worry about from malicious bloggers. The thing is, SSC skews very young. When you don’t have much of a professional reputation to start with it’s a lot easier to tear you down.

      My CV doesn’t look half bad, and as of last week it got that much nicer looking. But it’s still an awfully short document. I’d want something a lot thicker in my pocket if I was counting on it to stop bullets for me.

      • John Schilling says:

        Serious question: if this was 2007 instead of 2017 and you were still in your PhD program, would your answer to this question change? What if it was 1997 and you hadn’t even applied for it yet?

        No and no.

        I’d want something a lot thicker in my pocket if I was counting on it to stop bullets for me.

        In my field, at least, we aren’t talking about bullets, we’re talking about BBs. Or maybe Nerf darts.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          I’m glad to hear that aerospace engineering is in such good shape SJ-wise. Apparently that doesn’t extend to NASA but it makes intuitive sense that defense contractors outrank comet scientists.

          My sense is that biotech and pharma likewise care more about talent than ideology, with one important caveat. If I want in the door I need to finish a tour in academia to get my magic three letters.

          Something that might be a BB in industry is absolutely a bullet at [undisclosed R1 research institution]. And that’s also the point where I have the least ability to defend myself on the basis of prior achievement.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The comet scientist works (note present tense) for ESA, not NASA. And the abuse came from journalists, not from within ESA. I don’t know if ESA made him apologize; it’s possible he apologized because he took the complaints at face value, rather than as a content-free attack of opportunity.

    • pontifex says:

      Sure, most of us don’t go trolling through the social media history of people we’re interviewing. But most of us do work for corporations or universities that are very interested in virtue signalling. It’s not our call to make. There are very, very few companies that are willing to drag their names through the mud to go to bat for one of their white-collar wage slaves. Even if he is an above-average wage slave. It’s just bad business.

      • John Schilling says:

        There are very, very few companies that are willing to drag their names through the mud to go to bat for one of their white-collar wage slaves

        You think the average company’s name gets even noticeably mud-stained because one of their back-office staffers told a racist joke once and they didn’t fire him?

        Examples, please, and again not from public-facing jobs in industries dominated by Blue Tribe.

        • pontifex says:

          Examples, please

          Off the top of my head, Brendan Eich, Ben Noordhuis, James Watson, Lawrence Summers.

          … and again not from public-facing jobs in industries dominated by Blue Tribe.

          What industry is not dominated by Blue Tribe? Coal mining? Low-level jobs at Wal*Mart?

          It’s funny how people keep moving the goalposts for free speech. “You can talk about politics, sure, as long as you have an obscure, low-ranked position in a company that isn’t interesting to the cultural elite.” Next thing you know, the government will be offering free helicopter rides, yay! (Due to budget cuts, unfortunately you have to get out in mid-air, and improvise your own parachute).

        • John Schilling says:

          What industry is not dominated by Blue Tribe? Coal mining? Low-level jobs at Wal*Mart?

          Hmm, let’s see. Low-level Walmart jobs, mid-level Walmart jobs, high-level Walmart jobs, the entire Aerospace and Defense industry, most of engineering generally, banking, finance, electrical and HVAC work, farming, gunsmithing, applied science, pharma, auto repair, aircraft MRO, accounting, the military, police and private security, real-estate development, and the Presidency of the United States of America. Just for starters.

          It’s funny how people keep moving the goalposts for free speech. “You can talk about politics, sure, as long as you have an obscure, low-ranked position in a company that isn’t interesting to the cultural elite.”

          Those are your imaginary goalposts, and I didn’t put them there.

          • Aapje says:

            the Presidency of the United States of America

            Since when is a job an industry?

          • Jiro says:

            And most of those are just dominated slightly less. Those jobs are still subject to Title IX lawsuits, after all.

            Also, it seems like that list is contrived to exclude pontifex’s examples. James Watson is research science, so the list says “applied science” in order to exclude him, even though the two types of science don’t actually differ much with respect to Blues.

          • John Schilling says:

            And most of those are just dominated slightly less. Those jobs are still subject to Title IX lawsuits, after all.

            “Being subject to Title IX lawsuits” and “Being dominated by Blues”, are not the same thing. In particular, at least in the real world, being subject to Title IX lawsuits does not actually result in HR departments blacklisting people on the grounds of occasional racist jokes in their private social media feeds.

            James Watson is research science, so the list says “applied science” in order to exclude him,

            The list says “applied science” because working for a corporation and working for a university involve substantially different cultures with different takes on how important it is that someone not have made occasional racist jokes in their social media feed. And I honestly didn’t recall who James Watson was when I made that distinction.

    • Mediocrates says:

      Your hypothetical reads “If I, an anti-SJW hiring manager, were to learn that a potential hire was likewise anti-SJW, it wouldn’t harm their chances a whit”.

      But what if you happened across the fact that an applicant, say, aggressively retweeted #feminism stuff? Would that factor into your decision? If the answer is “absolutely not” then kudos, but if your instinctive reaction runs to “that sounds like it could make for a poor culture fit/might lead to a disruptive work environment/why take a flyer?” then it would be a reformulated example of Scott’s original problem.

      • John Schilling says:

        I’ve offered a job (in the “send me a resume” sense; she didn’t) to someone I knew to be an active proponent of social justice on her own time. There is a level of militant SJW behavior where that wouldn’t hold, of course, but that’s the three-sigma offensiveness I referred to. Maybe two-sigma if I’m staffing a remote site or starting a new company without an established culture.

        And I expect those people would find the same behavior to be regarded as a positive qualification for the jobs they are actually interested in.

    • John, I think you minimize the risk to jobs too much. I am a tax accountant, a profession which has a low density of SJers. My guess is that a plurality in my profession are Blue Tribe Republicans. I am obviously not concerned about my public face, since I use my real name here, but I am also close to retirement.

      I haven’t hired anyone for awhile, but I was witness to a hire a few years ago in a small tax department. When it got down to the top three or four being hired, they looked at Facebook, LinkedIn, and probably some other such places. If one of those candidates had been tweeted about to tens of thousands of recipients, I suspect the hirers would have seen it. If this guy had been one of those candidates, I think it is very likely the company would not have taken a chance on him. I doubt a tweet like this would get someone fired, or even reprimanded, but it would likely make a difference in being hired.

    • Jack Lecter says:

      There are lots of places where you don’t have to post, tumble, and tweet controversial tribal-affiliation signals to fit in.

      Could you maybe list some? I’m seriously asking.

      I’m sick- I mean, I feel sick from the never-ending layers and layers of signaling games. It’s pervasive. It’d be nice to at least fantasize about a place that wasn’t like that, if it’s out there.

      Edit: The Bay Area Rationalist-Sphere seems like an obvious example. I’ve thought about moving, but my whole family’s on the other side of the continent. If you have any other examples, I’d really like to know about them.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        My kids, and their friends, basically don’t tweet, tumbl, or use Facebook. They message their friends on Slack or Skype for the moment. These are now college age kids in who grew up in an urban-metro area.

        They all have Facebook accounts, but they never or almost never post and don’t spend any time on it. They don’t like the “feel” of it, so they stopped using it. It’s completely possible to just stop participating in social media.

        • Jack Lecter says:

          Thanks.
          I pretty much stay away from social media as-is: no twitter or tumblr, and a facebook account I use pretty much exclusively to read the stuff Yudkowsky posts.
          Thanks a lot for the thought, though. It made me feel better.

          Edit: I do look at fandom stuff on tumblr sometimes. It’s a pretty good source for fanart and that kind of thing.

        • Standing in the Shadows says:

          My kids, and their friends, basically don’t tweet, tumbl, or use Facebook. They message their friends on Slack or Skype for the moment.

          No they don’t. They use Discord.

          Kids are abandoning Slack, and Skype. And yes, they have abandoned Facebook exactly as you describe.

          Discord is exploding, in part from the kids’ exodus from everything else. One of the things that the kids of my acquaintance like about Discord is that “twitter mobs” have a much harder time forming there, because you have to share a server to get a DM from someone, and you have to be in the same channel to get an @ reference from someone.

      • CatCube says:

        I literally have no Twitter or Tumblr account, and a Facebook account where my last post was in 2012. My boss (working as a US government employee) doesn’t care one whit. Nor does his boss, or his boss, or his boss. I don’t work with my boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss enough to know if he cares, but I doubt it.

        • Jack Lecter says:

          Ditto here.
          I’m opted out of most of it. I stay away from the news, too, so my contact with politics is mostly limited to

          1. My family
          2. This blog (and other blogs I found through this blog, either because Scott linked them or because they came up in the comments)
          3. Clickhole

          I’m also trying to make friends at college, but it’s not going great, hence my general air of frustration.

  21. johan_larson says:

    I’m not persuaded this is a real problem. If you’re looking for a low-level position, is an employer actually going to go to the trouble to find out what you’ve been saying on the internet? That sounds like a pain, if only because many people have common names, so the employer would need to be able to sort through the false duplicates to get a good signal. There are so many other things they could be looking at instead. And if on the other hand you are applying for a high position, surely you have all sorts of accomplishments you can point to that internet trash talk fades into the distance.

    • The Nybbler says:

      That sounds like a pain, if only because many people have common names

      Sure, if your name is John Smith. Or Johan Larson for that matter. Doesn’t work so well for those of us with more unusual names (I believe my real name is more unusual than my handle).

      And if on the other hand you are applying for a high position, surely you have all sorts of accomplishments you can point to that internet trash talk fades into the distance.

      Unless you’re applying to a company that’s been under the microscope, like Uber. Or in an SJW-converged company, though in that case you’re probably better off being rejected.

    • gattsuru says:

      I don’t think this is a good model. I’ve done a small amount of hiring for a small business, and we do check even entry-level workers, because it’s a big deal with even minor impropriety by a cashier. Yes, in theory looking at criminal records should be enough, but in practice many tools to check those suck, and there’s no number of situations where a person avoids conviction or even arrest but has a long enough history to suggest a pattern. My place of business may not care about political statements, but I know of others who do, and they’re hard to miss.

      At the higher end, you have things like the Giant Drupal Controversy. I’ve got a low opinion of that entire architecture, but Garfield seemed pretty well-respected on the topic, had a long history of contribution, acting on an axis that many of his tribe claimed to defend, and he was still chewed up by the machine. Indeed, he was made an example even after the initial inquest said there were no bad acts.

      This does not bode well for people whose goals might be actually tied to the outgroup, rather than be merely discomforting.

      ((And, to state the obvious, this is not just a left wing or blue tribe thing. The red tribe isn’t as prone to excommunication as blue tribers think, but that’s still damning with faint praise.))

  22. Ninety-Three says:

    How many of us can say, honestly, that we could bear the Panopticon? If every valley were raised up and every mountain pulled down, so there was nowhere to hide, and we were rendered naked to any eye anywhere in the world, how long could we endure?

    I kind of assumed that everyone knew about the Panopticon and could survive it. I’ve always avoided posting my real name (or giving away too much identifying info) on the internet for approximately this reason, and I figured that the only people who didn’t were either public figures, or the type of idiot who gets fired because he posts drunk party photos on Facebook where he has his boss friended.

    To me, using your real name on the internet is foolishness akin to leaving your door unlocked in a city known for burglaries. This article implying that people don’t properly compartmentalize their online lives is genuinely horrifying to me. It’s like watching someone with no muzzle discipline handle a gun: Jesus Christ, be careful with that!

    I can’t help but feel like a good norm is to treat this like a crime of opportunity and stop creating so much opportunity. It’s the current year and everyone has heard of doxing, so why are people still leaving their virtual doors unlocked?

    • johan_larson says:

      The problem with your approach is that a handle offers only modest protection. There are many ways for motivated parties to see through them. But having the handle may tempt you to speak too freely in an essentially public place, leading to embarrassing situations if someone manages to see through your handle.

      That strikes me as real concern, and it’s why I swing the other way. I use my real name, making it clear to myself most of all that what I am saying I am saying in public. And hopefully that will keep me from saying anything too provocative.

      • Robert Liguori says:

        I’m here as well.

        I’m also fairly well in John Shilling’s situation above: I work for a large financial company which does not appear remotely sensitive to the whims of the aforementioned mobs.

        I say a fair amount of moderately provocative things under my own name, and I’ve yet to come under the panopticon spotlight myself for it, or suffer any kind of consequence in my greater life.

        I’m pretty sure that the actual capacity of the aforementioned mobs to inflict harm is overstated. Have we heard from the joke-maker in the original article stating that he’s suffered from this attention yet?

  23. Sandy says:

    I found it noteworthy that ENB justifies her actions by arguing that this sort of joke is what discourages young women from joining the libertarian movement. I did a Google search and found that she’s argued against the thesis that single women are far more likely to vote Democratic because they rely on the welfare state in the absence of the traditional home and hearth. Although some of her points are obsolete — she argues, for example, that single men are also far more likely to vote Democratic to show that gender doesn’t play a role in it, but that changed this year; Trump lost the unmarried male vote by just 2%, whereas Romney and Bush lost that vote by double-digits. The unmarried female vote stayed as Democratic as ever.

    • AnonYEmous says:

      Yeah, this incident in particular is far more likely to turn people away from being libertarians. Who wants to hang out with a bunch of self-righteous tattletales?

      • onyomi says:

        I am assuming that when Scott singles out libertarians in the post it’s because of the identity of this particular doxxer as well as the idea that libertarians should, in theory, be the staunchest proponents of real free speech and not just “letter of the law” free speech. I hope he doesn’t intend to single out libertarians as especially bad doxxers or free speech opponents, because that would seem to me as clearly wrong when comparing libertarians to most other groups.

        • AnonYEmous says:

          Well, if they keep letting libertarian feminists into their club, that might not be true for that much longer ;P

        • Jack Lecter says:

          I think there’s a sort of general pattern where, once a group becomes known for being unusually trustworthy/consistent in a particular way, it naturally attracts bad actors who want to cash in on that reputation.

          So, if you’re the Catholic Church, for instance, you have a reputation for sexual restraint- (no contraception, no sex before marriage, etc.) and even if people don’t agree with you politically, they’re still more likely to trust you not to diddle their kids. Then people who want to diddle kids observe this, and suddenly you have a demographic shift.

          I mean, I don’t know if that’s what happened then, and I don’t know if it’s happening to libertarians now, but it seems like at least a plausible risk.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I found it noteworthy that ENB justifies her actions by arguing that this sort of joke is what discourages young women from joining the libertarian movement.

      Those of us in tech recognize this as standard SJW narrative.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        Those of us in tech recognize this as standard SJW narrative.

        as i noted in one of my comments, it is this precisely

        to be fair I haven’t seen her argue that much that it is the cause of the gender disparity, but otherwise it’s pitch-perfect

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        I agree this is the standard narrative, but is it false? (Honest question: I wasn’t there the day we figured this out.)

        For example, isn’t it plausible that lefty academics could try to keep conservatives out of the anthropology department by making jokes at the faculty club about how dumb [insert conservative thing] is, and all laughing along to signal agreement? If the doxxing target really was a minor libertarian figure this seems like an appropriate analogy.

        • Zorgon says:

          I believe the standard SSC response is “not unless the tech world is somehow in control of the education of 11 year olds, because that’s when the disparity actually begins”.

          There are few women in tech because being in tech requires a very specific set of decisions and most women (well, most girls) do not make those decisions. I’m not sure this transfers well or at all to the libertarian argument, however; there’s probably more basis for ENB’s assertion than the SJW “accept our worthless Gender Studies degrees for lucrative STEM roles” narrative.

        • The Nybbler says:

          In tech, there isn’t a lot of evidence _for_ it. Mostly badly-done surveys by politically motivated people and groups. There’s the “the disparity starts too early” argument against it Zorgon mentions. But there’s also the “other groups with far more of the behavior have a greater proportion of women” argument. Sales has near gender-parity… are salesmen much less prone to make such jokes? That one transfers well to the libertarian argument… are there other, more gender-balanced fringe political groups which are distinguished by having less such “humor” than libertarianism?

          There are a couple of related arguments —

          1) The women otherwise attracted to tech/libertarianism are far more sensitive to such things than the women otherwise attracted to (e.g.) sales/the alt-right, therefore it is up to the men to police themselves much more strictly to make the women feel welcome.

          The factual basis for this argument strikes me as unprovable, and in any case I’ve become hardened enough to see this as not the men’s problem.

          2) Women find the men in tech/libertarianism unattractive and “creepy” and therefore avoid such groups. This argument is in some sense the reverse of the original argument (not men driving women out due to antipathy towards women, but women avoiding the group due to antipathy towards the men), but evidence for it is commonly used as evidence for the original.

        • Loquat says:

          Female doctors and lawyers used to be extremely rare; nowadays roughly half of new med school and law school graduates are women. Did that only happen because there were there no sexist-joke-telling old white dudes in either profession to discourage them?

          • orangecat says:

            Did that only happen because there were there no sexist-joke-telling old white dudes in either profession to discourage them?

            Thirty seconds seconds of Googling produced this (“This sort of stuff happens in the legal profession, and it happens a lot. I’m going to go out on a crazy limb, and say it happens a lot more than it does in other corporate settings.”) and this (“Sadly, these were not isolated experiences. The medical profession is rife with daily indignities and structural bias against women.”)

            I suspect you could repeat this for any other field. Which you would think the SJWs would be all over (“see, sexism is everywhere”), but they seem to be bizarrely invested in the hypothesis that the tech industry is uniquely horrible to women.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Which you would think the SJWs would be all over (“see, sexism is everywhere”), but they seem to be bizarrely invested in the hypothesis that the tech industry is uniquely horrible to women.

            They’ll attack any industry for it, but the argument only works if they do it in isolation. So in law or finance (where there is near gender parity) they claim the men are uniquely horrible and that’s what keeps women out of higher level positions. In tech they claim men are uniquely horrible and that’s what keeps women out in general. The argument doesn’t hold together if every industry is full of “uniquely” horrible men.

            I’m not sure how many non-professional groups they’ve attacked; atheists, libertarians, gamers, metal, etc… but this argument is always a part of it.

          • DrBeat says:

            Doctors and financiers are high-status. STEM majors are nerds, and therefore low-status, and therefore emotionally satisfying to punish.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Doctors and financiers are high-status. STEM majors are nerds, and therefore low-status, and therefore emotionally satisfying to punish.

            Punishing high-status people is even more emotionally satisfying, because if you can do it, it means you’re even higher-status yet. SJWs DO use these arguments against doctors and financiers (remember Ellen Pao?). It just doesn’t work as well, for a variety of reasons, many of which would sum up to “they’re high-status”. Other reasons would be that lawyers and financiers don’t have self-doubt about this sort of thing; they’ll dismiss SJW argument out of hand (f— ’em if they can’t take a joke), and that the argument is weaker due to the lack of gender disparity.

          • BBA says:

            Construction workers are also predominantly male, openly misogynistic, relatively low-status, and nobody cares. I remember one article trying to raise a stink about it that was met with shrugs and idle snark – “you mean there’s construction in the misogyny industry?”

            I think it’s about money more than anything else. And the relative status of the “victims” as it were.

        • quanta413 says:

          For example, isn’t it plausible that lefty academics could try to keep conservatives out of the anthropology department by making jokes at the faculty club about how dumb [insert conservative thing] is, and all laughing along to signal agreement?

          I’d be stunned if that worked. I’m pretty sure there are no conservatives for a lot more significant reasons than that. A lot of “squishier” fields are so shot through with a particular viewpoint that they’re probably less interesting to someone who doesn’t have that viewpoint. There’s a kind of crowding out effect. Maybe something kind of like this here but not really. Note that it’s not even about crowding out conservatives; it’s crowding out everyone different from a particular school of method or thought. https://fredrikdeboer.com/2017/07/21/cultural-studies-ironically-is-something-of-a-colonizer/

        • Mary says:

          “For example, isn’t it plausible that lefty academics could try to keep conservatives out of the anthropology department by making jokes at the faculty club about how dumb [insert conservative thing] is, and all laughing along to signal agreement? ”

          No, that’s how they reinforce the norms. They keep conservatives out of the anthropology department by rejecting applications from conservatives — jokes at the time being optional.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, you think lefty academic fields would only resort to jokes?

            I work in white-collar management consulting and anti-Trump jokes are ridiculously common with laughing in agreement to be expected.

        • MostlyCredibleHulk says:

          Well, yes and no.

          What I mean by “yes” is by that is that one can be certainly discouraged from going into certain field by the societal norms accepted in this field. I.e., if I wanted to be a anthropologist but I know (note here just in case: totally hypothetical example, no claim on real world anthropologists) 99.99% of anthropologists are radical left-wingers and hostile to people not sharing this ideology, and I feel uncomfortable with radical left-wing ideology, I may reconsider going into anthropology. If I knew nothing about anthropology but respected author claimed above is the case about anthropology, the result might be the same – even though that would not mean it is actually the case in anthropology – maybe my respected author is in fact completely wrong.

          Moreover, when people would say “talking about Marx on anthropology conferences is what drives non-leftists out of the field”, I would feel validated in my decision – after all, if people that know it say that is what should drive me out, then my behavior would be completely correct, as validated by the people with the most knowledge of the field! Even though without it I wouldn’t maybe be bothered by occasional mention of Marx, as long as it is not consumes the subject completely, or the advantages of being an anthropologist would vastly outweigh occasional displeasure of hearing about Marx, since people in the know say it actually reveals deep hostility towards me, who I am to argue?

          The “no” part is that in my experience, the choice very frequently happens way before any of the above happens (as mentioned above) – most people into coding get into that field in their teens, where reading either feminist bloggers or other political discussions is not the main pastime, especially for the target audience. And there are also other things in play – i.e., tech has a lot of people with rather specific mindset and personality traits, and they are selected for it, and it may not be the same traits that the society wants from females to exhibit. It is stereotyping, yes, but when we talk about whole fields and not individuals, many stereotypes are more frequently correct than not. Gender roles exist, whether we want it or not, and going outside of them takes effort. Not everybody wants to undertake that effort for the rare pleasure of staring at computer screen for 10 hours per day – there are good paying jobs that require much less effort. Random jokes change very little in this dynamics.

    • sevens2 says:

      http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0047272717301019 – “Redistributive policies can provide an insurance against future negative economic shocks. This, in turn, implies that an individual’s demand for redistribution is expected to increase with her risk aversion. To test this prediction, we elicit risk aversion and demand for redistribution through a well-established set of measures in a representative sample of the Swedish population. We document a statistically significant and robust positive relation between risk aversion and the demand for redistribution that is also economically important. We show that previously used proxies for risk aversion (such as being an entrepreneur or having a history of unemployment) do not capture the effect of our measure of risk aversion but have distinctly different effects on the demand for redistribution. We also show evidence indicating that risk aversion can explain significant parts of the well-studied relations between age and gender on the one hand and demand for redistribution on the other.”

  24. postcs says:

    Lord Byron’s is a good quote; another is this, attributed (possibly apocryphally) to Cardinal Richelieu:

    “Qu’on me donne six lignes écrites de la main du plus honnête homme, j’y trouverai de quoi le faire pendre. // Give me six lines written by the most honest man, and I will find something in it with which to hang him”

  25. Peter Gerdes says:

    I don’t think we should worry about a future in which these kind of high profile call outs become common while remaining reasonably effective. We should worry about why it won’t stay effective.

    We are evolved to win this kind of social warfare and we will play as dirty as it takes to do it. If people start truly fearing this kind of attack they will form coalitions to protect themselves and self-interest will win out over high minded principle any day. People who would have previously called out a colleague for sexist behavior or were willing to testify against an executive in a controversial rape trial will change their behavior if they start feeling threatened and woo anyone they feel they might later need as a potential ally. Far from deterring sexism (or whatever other behavior is targeted) this kind of practice would drastically raise their value since a sexist friend with a job is a contact to cultivate in case you get drunk and tweet something stupid or have remarks taken out of context. Indeed, it could easily progress to the social equivalent of gang warfare with people feeling pressured to deliberately be offensive/hurtful/etc.. in order to signal team loyalty.

    We are usually smart enough to try and gain a dog’s trust instead of backing it into a corner and people are far far more dangerous than dogs so, while we will never end up in a situation where these kind of public calls to destroy someone’s future are both common and effective, we could end up in one where they back people into a corner and they do what it takes to defend themselves and no one wants that.

    • Hyzenthlay says:

      If people start truly fearing this kind of attack they will form coalitions to protect themselves and self-interest will win out over high minded principle any day.

      This is already happening and has been happening for a while, I think.

      Indeed, it could easily progress to the social equivalent of gang warfare with people feeling pressured to deliberately be offensive/hurtful/etc.. in order to signal team loyalty.

      Part of the culture of 4chan is casual use of words considered highly offensive by mainstream society (racist/homophobic slurs, etc.) Ironically, it functions as a kind of safe space. The use of slurs/politically incorrect language become a way to signal to another person, “You can trust me. I won’t turn you in to the PC police.”

      It’s like a big self-feeding loop; the more afraid people are of losing their job over a racist/sexist joke, the more followers anti-SJW culture gains, and the more followers they gain, the more paranoid and militant SJ culture becomes.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I’m reminded of the Sun Tzu quote ‘Build your opponent a golden bridge to retreat across.’

  26. mori says:

    You’re ultimately arguing against reputation. Certainly propagation of reputation has its downside, just as with any other kind of free exchange of information. We libertarians are just the ones who believe sunshine is a net positive. Eventually. Hopefully. As a tendency anyhow. Sure reputation can destroy, but the alternative, anonymity, can too.

    Take two HR departments. One evaluates prospective coders by the quality of their social media interactions, the other by the quality of their code. Which associated company is more likely to build better products? This is a strong incentive to apply non-tribal weighting to the reputation signal.

    • Jiro says:

      You’re ultimately arguing against reputation.

      Normal reputation has negative effects mainly proportional to the size of the thing that caused the bad reputation, not mainly proportional to the size of the mob.

      If you like, think of it as a failure mode of reputation.

      • ChetC3 says:

        Normal reputation has negative effects mainly proportional to the size of the thing that caused the bad reputation, not mainly proportional to the size of the mob.

        Either “normal” reputation refers to some never realized ideal, or I strongly suspect you are making an argument from fictional evidence. Outside of works of dramatic fiction, this is how reputation has always worked, within the limits of contemporary communication technology. If the outraged mob didn’t literally kill and dismember this guy, he got off lightly by historical standards.

        • Jiro says:

          The outrage mob is not normal reputation. It’s the same failure mode, except from a time where forming a mob took more effort than tweeting a message.

      • Spookykou says:

        You can build a thousand bridges something something fuck one goat something something.

  27. cvxxcvcxbxvcbx says:

    ” it’s about having a society where you it’s possible to be gay”

    Remove the extra “you”.

  28. blacktrance says:

    I completely agree.
    That said, what happened to pseudonymity? If you post stuff on Twitter or Facebook under your real name and let it be viewed publicly, a Googling employer is likely to come across it. They’re probably not going to sift through it for racist jokes, but they’ll get the general feel of the kind of stuff you post. So it’s prudent to not let random people easily tie your views to your name.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Yep, that’s pretty much why I use this low-security handle. Anyone who wants to put in, say, 1 nanoputin* of effort can connect it to me, but your average HR person or recruiter isn’t going to do so.

      * One Putin is the effort it takes to change, through internet chicanery, 37 electoral votes in a US presidential election.

  29. Jiro says:

    Scott, I think you’re doing something you’ve done before: Taking people’s excuses seriously and pointing out they don’t make much sense, while not even considering the possibility that they’re just excuses. Someone who redistributes a Twitter comment like that is doing it because she thinks she has a right to hurt others for being “sexist” and she doesn’t think the man deserves any rights at all, free speech or otherwise. Saying that free speech isn’t involved because this isn’t the government is an excuse, not a coherent philosophy about speech that you can meaningfully poke holes in.

    • alchemy29 says:

      Good point, but how should we deal with people who use slogans/excuses and don’t realize that they don’t make sense?

    • Spookykou says:

      I generally prefer to assume good faith on the part of an interlocutor, and agree Scott has done that before, and hope he continues to do that.

      Also, what is it that you are really driving at here, what would you prefer Scott do to address this topic?

      *edit

      • Jiro says:

        Scott could consider the possibility that such things are excuses, and if he concludes they are, say so.

    • Baeraad says:

      I recall that Scott has stated explicitly (I think the article was called “Against dogwhistles” or some such) that he thinks taking people at their word about what they believe and why they believe it is more likely to give you a correct impression of what they will do next than trying to second-guess what they are “really” thinking.

  30. Michael Watts says:

    It’s bizarre that so many people trust to security by obscurity, when anybody with an axe to grind can destroy their obscurity and reveal them to the world.

    I disagree that what people are relying on here is security by obscurity.

    In the novel Musashi, set in 17th-century Japan, Musashi and his friend go off to war. Musashi eventually gets back home; the friend doesn’t (he’s not dead, he just doesn’t go home). Friend’s mother decides that this is Musashi’s fault. She proceeds to leave her home and follow him as he wanders all across Japan, slandering his name to anyone who will listen. She even prints flyers decrying how evil he is. Eventually, having built up a name for himself as a swordsman, Musashi is considered for the position of master of arms for a major lord. But the lord ends up not hiring him, because of the scandal. Of relevance here is that Musashi never did anything wrong.

    Doing something wrong is not a prerequisite to having your life ruined by a signal booster. What people are really relying on is that it’s unlikely for a malicious psycho to suddenly take an irrational hatred to you and devote their life to destroying yours. If that never happens, you’re fine; if it does happen, your blameless life won’t protect you. Under this analysis, making your public statements more “secure” by actually-secure means is pointless, so it isn’t surprising that people don’t bother to do it.

    To me, this analysis suggests that the norm we should be encouraging is not that we should suppress people who signal boost random strangers they found on the internet — it is that we should fail to pay attention to what those people say.

  31. nweining says:

    Scott, having read the tweetstream in question, I think you’re leaving out some relevant context in describing the situation here. As I understand it, the “random guy” was in fact a libertarian movement figure, minorish but somewhat significant by libertarian movement standards; and the columnist was motivated not just by wanting to shame and expose random people for sexist jokes generally, but because she sees lots of casual sexism of this sort within the libertarian movement specifically, sees it turning a bunch of otherwise persuadable women off of libertarianism, and wants that to stop.

    I think your argument (that delivering this sort of implied threat to employment prospects is wrong) is still correct even given that context. I would further cast it as a sort of “thick libertarian” vs “thin libertarian” argument, and it surprises me that the columnist in question isn’t sympathetic to that, since I generally see her as being on the side of “thick libertarianism” (though maybe I am too strongly conflating “thick libertarianism” with leftish-sympathizing libertarianism).

    But leaving out that context paints her in a worse light than I think is fair. The motivation of wanting to hold people accountable, within her own political movement, for offensive speech that drives people away from that movement, is certainly a sympathetic one. And more generally, you should think about what kinds of social accountability mechanisms you want people to be able to use to deter this kind of behavior, because “none” is not a workable answer and not one people of any political bent are likely to accept.

    • AnonYEmous says:

      you should think about what kinds of social accountability mechanisms you want people to be able to use to deter this kind of behavior, because “none” is not a workable answer and not one people of any political bent are likely to accept.

      Ones which don’t involve explicitly stating that you want future employers to see the conduct you deem questionable.

      As I already noted in another comment, this behavior is far more likely to drive me away from libertarianism than any “sexism”, whether or not I were a woman. Not to mention that, at this point, I’m automatically skeptical of feminist entryists into mostly-male spaces claiming that sexism is driving away women. Even if she’s right, though, this is hardly the way to do it.

    • DrBeat says:

      the columnist was motivated not just by wanting to shame and expose random people for sexist jokes generally, but because she sees lots of casual sexism of this sort within the libertarian movement specifically, sees it turning a bunch of otherwise persuadable women off of libertarianism, and wants that to stop.

      This is a sentence that, in the English language, means “The columnist was motivated by malice and seething hatred for everyone she can possibly punish. She sees lots of people who are weak enough to be punished by her and is disgusted that they are not being annihilated by the baleful gaze of the popular. She exists only to bring suffering and misery into the world. She will never stop and she will never be stopped.”

      “I am calling out pervasive sexism in $NOUN by ruining this person’s life” is a lie one hundred percent of the time. It is always a lie. It is never not a lie. All who speak it are liars.

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        Yeah… but is it?

      • Autistic Cat says:

        I strongly agree. This needs to.stop even though I support Women’s Rights.

        Autists have rights too.

      • TK-421 says:

        “I am calling out pervasive sexism in $NOUN by ruining this person’s life” is a lie one hundred percent of the time. It is always a lie. It is never not a lie. All who speak it are liars.

        Based on this and your other comments on this article, I think your confidence estimates are, at best, badly miscalibrated.

    • gattsuru says:

      As far as I can tell, Sobczak’s (the sandwich tweeter’s) closest thing to a claim to fame before today were college debate team-level matters. Libertarian Youth Caucus Virginia State Chair might sound impressive, but it’s second fiddle in a small college club.

  32. RohanV says:

    I think it’s morally wrong to try to signal-boost people’s bad behavior – even their semipublic bad behavior – to get them fired.

    What about, say, Donald Sterling? Was that bad because it was a private conversation made public (a form of signal-boosting)? Was that good because Sterling was in position of power (a billionaire, after all)? Or was it bad because it was truly racist, as opposed to a joke?

    • CatCube says:

      I don’t know if it’s directly on point to what you’re asking, but Scott has expressed uneasiness with the Donald Sterling incident before.

  33. AnonYEmous says:

    In response to this incident, I’ve seen a lot of people pointing out that “Free speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequences”, which has made me realise that the best definition for free speech is “freedom from disproportionate consequences”. After all, the government throwing you in jail is a consequence, and so is the government fining you thousands of dollars – if freedom of speech isn’t freedom from consequences, what makes you free from those specific consequences? The closest argument I can imagine is that freedom of speech is just freedom from government interference with speech, i.e. governmental imposition of consequences. And yet, on top of this being generally arbitrary, it’s still not particularly cohesive, since government officials can still impose the same social consequences that regular people are allowed to impose under this doctrine, such as shaming and forced disemployment. After all, government organizations and officials can call out anyone they so please, shaming them and possibly scaring off future employers – for example, I’m pretty sure Congress can pass a resolution condemning anything, including the speech of an individual, almost in the same manner they’d pass a law criminalizing some type of conduct. Probably the only thing government can’t do that individuals can under this doctrine is conduct a boycott, and I’m not even sure about that.

    In other words, “Free speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequences, except government consequences” is an arbitrary mess. “Free speech means freedom from disproportionate consequences”, on the other hand, works pretty great; depriving someone of their money or freedom because they said something is clearly disproportionate, as is inflicting physical pain. And of course, trying to deprive someone of their job seems pretty disproportionate as well. The only downside (and an obvious one, at that) is that “disproportionate” isn’t exactly well-defined, and probably needs to be hashed out depending on the case. But hey – that’s what we have freedom of speech for!

    • Freedom from disproportionate consequence is far more abitrary, because now we have to argue about what counts as disproportionate enough to count, rather than just saying that the actor capable of enacting society wide censorship should be legally restricted from exercising that power. Actor based principles are far more measurable and definable.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        Just because something is measurable and definable, doesn’t mean it’s arbitrary. Besides, sufficiently powerful social forces can also enact society-wide censorship. An appeal to fairness – i.e. proportionate consequences only – is far less arbitrary.

        And yes, as I mention, it’s certainly true that the word “disproportionate” is the main issue. But I think it’s entirely possible to hash it out, especially since there’s an easy way to measure it; someone said some words. Is the thing you’re doing back more than just saying words? Maybe it’s trying to do something with words, but that will have much more of an impact.

        Without this system, you basically enable all soft censorship, even of the most malicious type, just because it’s not the government doing it. With this system, you have to argue about individual cases, but you at least have a framework for mostly pushing back on soft censorship and making people re-think their enactment of soft censorship.

        • The Nybbler says:

          An appeal to fairness – i.e. proportionate consequences only – is far less arbitrary.

          An appeal to fairness is absolutely arbitrary, as Michael Jackson could have told you — “They kick you, then they beat you then they’ll tell you it’s fair”.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            But most people will agree that it isn’t, and it can be argued not to be. Whereas “they kick you, then they beat you, then they aren’t the government” – who gives a shit if they are or not?

          • The Nybbler says:

            But most people will agree that it isn’t, and it can be argued not to be.

            On the contrary, most people are just-worlders and think that if you got kicked and beaten, you did something to deserve it. Or if you manifestly did not, that there was something you should have done to avoid it.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Oh goody, a chance to cite C. S. Lewis, who said that counterfeit gold is evidence that real gold exists.

            People lie about fairness and/or delude themselves about it.

            However, it’s interesting that even very bad people (with the possible exception of some on the all tright) use moral justifications for what they do instead of just claiming they have the power to get away with doing what they want.

          • Jiro says:

            Oh goody, a chance to cite C. S. Lewis, who said that counterfeit gold is evidence that real gold exists.

            I’m pretty sure there are such things as fake get-rich-quick schemes, fake AIDS cures, fake unicorn horns, etc.

            Counterfeit gold is evidence that the concept gold exists, not evidence that gold as a thing exists.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Jiro, fair point in general.

            I’m not sure where this leaves the concept of fairness.

          • Jiro says:

            You’re using “concept” in a slightly different way. For instance, consider a fake three digit prime number ending in “2”.

            “Three digit prime number ending in “2”” is a concept in the sense that you know what you mean when you say that, and you can figure out if something is one. However, it’s a contradictory description and it inherently is incapable of describing any actual number, so you might not want to call it a concept after all. It may be that “fairness” is the first kind of concept but not the second.

    • onyomi says:

      I’m not sure you even want to include the word “disproportionate” in there, because who decides what’s disproportionate? Maybe Stalin thinks being sent to the gulag is a perfectly reasonable consequence for undermining the whole system by criticizing Stalin.

      Which doesn’t mean everyone has a responsibility not to take into account statements a person may have made when judging his character for personal or professional reasons. But I think I am comfortable saying it’s generally never okay to actively attempt to harm someone, personally or professionally, for statements made about big political or philosophical issues which don’t directly bear on e.g. his ability to do his job.

      I think a real commitment to free speech requires this stronger stance because free speech is not the freedom to say “yay Stalin” or “boo borscht” in the USSR; it’s the freedom to say “boo Stalin” in the USSR and not have anything terrible happen to you (including awful things less awful than being sent to the gulag, like having you and your family fired from their jobs, for example). It’s the freedom to write a “boo Stalin” letter to the paper and have them not be afraid to print it, too. Which is not to say the paper has a responsibility to print anything controversial they receive, but that they shouldn’t be afraid to print something because it goes against the prevailing orthodoxy.

      Like, if you work for Unilever and start tweeting about how Unilever sucks, maybe you deserve to be fired. If you work for Unilever and start tweeting about how Unilever supports white nationalism, you almost certainly deserve to be fired. If you work for Unilever and tweet about your own support for white nationalism, I think the general societal consensus should be to just let that be, so long as you are clearly using a personal account (which doesn’t say “Unilever brand ambassador” or whatever on it).

      • AnonYEmous says:

        Well, the argument is that criticism is a consequence, and that’s usually the fig leaf offered (in fact, it is the fig leaf offered in this specific circumstance). But the counter-argument is that, while criticism is fine, disemployment is not (unless you can argue that it is not disproportionate, but most would agree that it is).

        • onyomi says:

          I think there’s a pretty clear line between:

          “Hey, mr. anti-feminist, here’s why you’re wrong and people shouldn’t listen to you.”

          “Hey, everybody else, look at what this guy said. Let’s all make sure he suffers negative personal consequences as a result.”

          I understand there’s a fig leaf like, “I just happened to give this person negative publicity while I was critiquing their argument,” but this fig leaf wasn’t even deployed in this case. Honestly, if the tweeter had just retweeted, even with name included, but only for the purpose of criticizing the bad joke/viewpoint it represents, I wouldn’t have thought it that bad. It was the calling on others to make sure he suffered personal consequences as a result of his bad opinion where she clearly crossed the line, imo.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            I think there’s a pretty clear line between:

            Yes, and I was attempting to draw that line in a manner which everyone could understand. Do we disagree on anything? I can’t tell.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Yes, and I was attempting to draw that line in a manner which everyone could understand. Do we disagree on anything? I can’t tell.

            Disagreement is probably that most people interested in policing speech are interested in the latter, not the former.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            “Hey, mr. anti-feminist, here’s why you’re wrong and people shouldn’t listen to you.”

            You raise in interesting point. Support for free speech often imagines this kind of free competition in the realm of ideas. But the lame joker wasn’t espousing an idea, as such, but rather just making an insulting joke. Along with everybody else in that twitter thread, he has undoubtedly heard, ad nauseam, all the arguments against whatever flicker of an idea lay beneath the dumb joke. If you respond by explaining why that flicker of an idea is wrong, you just seem strident. You’re setting yourself up for the joke about feminists and lightbulbs.

            The only really sensible responses to the dumb joke are (a) a wittier joke, at his expense, (b) “what a tool!”, or (c) ignore him so as to minimize the Streisand Effect. I really like the idea of (a) but I’m not clever enough to offer a suggestion.

          • Jiro says:

            Along with everybody else in that twitter thread, he has undoubtedly heard, ad nauseam, all the arguments against whatever flicker of an idea lay beneath the dumb joke.

            But that’s true for 95% of normal people’s ideas. If that means he shouldn’t be treated as expressing an idea, you’ve basically said that nobody should be treated as expressing an idea.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            But that’s true for 95% of normal people’s ideas.

            Certainly true for most of their utterances, which is why most stupid utterances are not met with an explanation of why they are stupid. I’m just observing the sort of mismatch between free speech as a “marketplace of competing ideas” and free speech as the mishmosh of noise it mostly is.

            While it’s not particular relevant to Scott’s point, I’m imagining a IRL conversation at that conference:

            “To help bring feminists to libertarianism we should do X and Y.”
            “And Z! That will advance many of the goals we have in common.”
            “If you really want to advance libertarianism, make me a sandwich.”
            (Frowning, disgusted expression) “Snort. Idiot.
            You’re right, Z is a great idea. Can we fold that into W somehow?”
            “How about if…”

            I’m not sure what the twitter equivalent is of a disgusted snort followed by summary dismissal and getting back on topic. Maybe it’s a vow of vengeance, but I sort of doubt it.

            If that means he shouldn’t be treated as expressing an idea, you’ve basically said that nobody should be treated as expressing an idea.

            Hmm. Maybe I am (at least 95% of the time). But I was more saying that I thought the canonical ideal of meeting bad speech with good speech would not be terribly effective in a case like this. Granted the good speech isn’t going to convince the sandwich boy, what the ideal says is that the good speech will establish who is right in the minds of onlookers, and in this environment it would just seem pedantic and shrill.

          • Jiro says:

            While it’s not particular relevant to Scott’s point, I’m imagining a IRL conversation at that conference:

            He’s probably heard the arguments against the “flicker of an idea” in “make me a sandwich” before, but he’s also probably heard the arguments against X and Y before too, so I don’t see how that helps.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            he’s also probably heard the arguments against X and Y before too, so I don’t see how that helps

            As I said, I don’t imagine anyone expects a response to his joke to change his mind about anything. The ideal of free speech is that it allows a disinterested observer to judge the merits of both sides. I’m suggesting that the problems with twitter are that it inherently lacks the cohesive context of an ongoing conversation, despite threading, and that it lacks an efficient customary means of explicitly dismissing the obnoxious without derailing the conversation.

            I don’t know how that helps, either. I wasn’t even trying to help anything, exactly, just exploring some of the possible reasons why this event has spurred such a tempest when (I think) it might not have in real life.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        I’m not sure you even want to include the word “disproportionate” in there, because who decides what’s disproportionate?

        Clearly “freedom of speech” can’t mean freedom from the consequences of that speech. Am I not to be able to decide that I like you based on your speech? I’m guessing it’s unlikely that you intended for your meaning to be that speech should be only free of negative consequences.

        I keep reiterating that the various sacred principles we hold dear are in tension with each other. Trying to talk about them in absolute terms ends up in ridiculous positions being argued or even held.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      “Free speech doesn’t mean I can’t describe my own conscious decision to punish you for your speech as if it were some sort of force of nature which you released all by yourself, with no moral agency on my part.”

    • Brad says:

      freedom from disproportionate consequences

      I like this because it acknowledges that some kind of consequences can at some point be appropriate. Those that insist on the simplistic “sticks and stones” model, I don’t even think are being honest about their own reactions. If someone says something in front of you find offensive, your opinion of them goes down. That has downstream consequences whether you wish to deny it or not.

      If someone says “I don’t think Jesus ever existed in the first place, much less was the son of god” you aren’t going to hire him as your preacher. That’s consequences for speech.

      If we can get past the silly absolutist version that no one even follows himself, then we can get to the meat of the actual issues — instead of endless posturing.

      • The Nybbler says:

        If we can get past the silly absolutist version that no one even follows himself, then we can get to the meat of the actual issues — instead of endless posturing.

        The standard punchline here is “We’ve established that; now we’re just haggling over the price.”

        (The joke is of the sort that would get ENB up in arms, though that’s not a high bar)

  34. I agree with the basic principle of this article, but I will say that the concept of “free speech” shouldn’t stray too far from legal rights, otherwise it will tend to destroy them. The excellent thing about the law is that it draws a sharp, easily measurable line that avoids abitrariness and escalation. The problem with a version of “free speech” that includes social pressure is that social pressure is ridiculously fluid.

    You could say “big platforms shouldn’t signal boost smaller ones for the purpose of harming the employment of the people behind them” but then you have to make all sorts of decisions on what counts as big enough, and whether it’s the intent or the outcome that matters. Someone could signal boost something because they think it’s great, but the effect is that employers think it’s awful. If we base it off intent, all that will happen is that predators will adapt smoothly to signal boosting things in a way that has the same effect but doesn’t implicate them as malicious. What if the feminist libertarian had retweeted her victim and simply typed “Very interesting. What do you think of this?”

    The other problem with moving free speech away from the legal realm is that you inevitably get people claiming blocking people on twitter is a violation of the First Amendment, and that sites keeping things on topic through moderation is a violation, and nonsense things like that. You can have absolute free speech before the law, but you cannot have absolute free speech before culture and expect to get a functional society out the other end. Free speech should primarily be the freedom to say anything somewhere, not the freedom to say anything anywhere, otherwise you are turning it into a positive right, and the positive rights part will tend to eat the negative rights part over time.

    It’s already happening. When people say “free speech isn’t hate speech” they might seem to be contradicting themselves, but what they’re actually doing is evoking a positive rights based idea of free speech. You can tell this is the case because the arguments they tend to make revolve around the idea that certain speech surpresses and marginalizes other speech, meaning that you have to take away some of the negative freedom of speech to preserve the positive freedom of speech and allow as many people as possible on net to speak. This might seem dissimilar to the case of social censure and signal boosting, but they fall into the same category of focusing on the extra-legal consequences of speech. When you do that you get in murky waters, and the concept of “free speech” starts to become gameable due to arbitrary hazy nature of cultural standards.

    People being afraid to speak because they are afraid of their controversial opinions being signal boosted and taken out of context isn’t light years away from people being afraid to speak because they are afraid of getting hurtful responses. You may scoff at this, but remember that we have a movement today arguing that the mental suffering of marginalized groups has serious effects on their living standards. Once you cross that bridge, you have no easily measurable standard anymore, and everything melts into subjectivity and Hobbesian chaos.

    So yes, the feminist libertarian is a dick and we should call her out, but let’s not to be too eager to develop a “thick” conception of freedom of speech. We’ve really already come to the point that the positive conception of speech takes precedence over the negative conception when protestors to a conference scream FREE SPEECH FREE SPEECH mockingly when they are told to stop interrupting. In the popular imagination, free speech is already this archaic and self-detonating concept of speech free from all restraints, so I don’t think the strict libertarians are the ones with the momentum who need to be stopped. I think we need to be counter-signalling more in favor of the legal freedom of speech (I would go as far to say it should be renamed to “legality of speech” to avoid the creeping, gameable ambiguity of the word “free”).

    Or maybe that’s just my European perspective on this. We regrettably don’t have legal freedom of speech like you do, and every time I see Americans arguing for doing something about the First Amendment I see arguments that rely on freeing maginalized groups from social consequences, essentially to equalize speech. You, of course, are arguing nothing of the sort, only for maintaining legal freedom while expanding beyond it. The problem is that the two arguments aren’t easily separable in practice. There’s something zero sum going on.

    I guess all I’m saying here is that we should admonish people for obvious bullying behavior and trying to get people fired, but we shouldn’t be too particular about couching it in the language of free speech. That’s the identifiably slippy part of the slope.

    • AnonYEmous says:

      all that will happen is that predators will adapt smoothly to signal boosting things in a way that has the same effect but doesn’t implicate them as malicious. What if the feminist libertarian had retweeted her victim and simply typed “Very interesting. What do you think of this?”

      It’s very rare for anyone with a lot of followers to be sufficiently locked into politics such that they can do this and for people to not be aware of their ideological bias already. I agree that anyone who is this well hidden should try this, game-theoretical, but there really is no one like that whom I can think of.

      People being afraid to speak because they are afraid of their controversial opinions being signal boosted and taken out of context isn’t light years away from people being afraid to speak because they are afraid of getting hurtful responses. You may scoff at this, but remember that we have a movement today arguing that the mental suffering of marginalized groups has serious effects on their living standards. Once you cross that bridge, you have no easily measurable standard anymore, and everything melts into subjectivity and Hobbesian chaos.

      Well, that’s the point of distinguishing between disproportionate and proportionate consequences. If someone is signal-boosted in order to disemploy them, that’s obviously disproportionate. If someone feels hurt, that’s not. Of course, the argument that ‘speech is violence’ has the potential to defeat this standard, but I don’t think a lot of people actually believe this, so much as they believe that the hurt feelings of the marginalized are more important than the free speech of the privileged, and therefore will use any argument to justify this belief.

      Of course, part of the distinction is also to clarify that you should yourself respond proportionately. In other words, don’t rewrite the laws, but criticize and call out. But I do feel that this is ultimately part of free speech; if marginalized people were to be fired if they ever spoke out about racism, then no one would seriously argue that they were free to exercise their speech on that topic.

    • @AnonYEmous

      It’s very rare for anyone with a lot of followers to be sufficiently locked into politics such that they can do this and for people to not be aware of their ideological bias already.

      Knowing their ideological bias doesn’t stop them adapting to the norm, and it would be indistinguishable from attacking them for signal boosting something they disagree with at that point. We could come down on them based on the outcome if their followers organically go after this person, but if they have plausible deniability with their intent, then it ultimately would mean that we are being punitive about signal boosting disagreement.

      I agree that “don’t call for people to be fired” is a good thing, but making signal boosting the metric really isn’t workable. You can only get so much out of this, and there are bad consequences to discourse caused by linking it too strongly to that sacred value, freedom of speech. I’m urging caution.

      Well, that’s the point of distinguishing between disproportionate and proportionate consequences. If someone is signal-boosted in order to disemploy them, that’s obviously disproportionate. If someone feels hurt, that’s not.

      It’s not simply feeling hurt. Proponents of the concept of hate speech argue that there are very real consequences to the living standards of marginalized groups, and consqeuently their own ability to speak. Even the ability for oppressors to say things means that they can spread the idea of firing marginalized people for their beliefs, or much much worse. Once you enter that territory, you have to actually debate this.

      Of course, the argument that ‘speech is violence’ has the potential to defeat this standard, but I don’t think a lot of people actually believe this

      The belief is that speech leads to violence, which as a bald statement is irrefutable, so then we are left arguing about what percentages of risk are acceptable, and then we’ve left the territory in which data and rationality are useful, and have entered the territory where memes and emotional force are strongest. If you make the metric a positive rights one, the advocates of free speech as equalized speech will win when it comes to gaming the new interpretation to their advantage. They already have won to a great degree because of this reasoning, so I’m wary of anything that might solidify their gains.

      But I do feel that this is ultimately part of free speech; if marginalized people were to be fired if they ever spoke out about racism, then no one would seriously argue that they were free to exercise their speech on that topic.

      This is corrosive to legal free speech. It’s true that it would make it a lot more difficult for them to say what they want to say, but if you then start a movement around making it easier for everyone to say what they want, there’s at some point going to be trade-offs where we need to make it more difficult for some to say things in order that there is a net gain in the amount of people being free to say what they want. This is what has actually happened in the real world, hence the idea of hate speech laws being entirely compatible with most non-American ideas of what free speech means.

      I would hate to see the last place where legal free speech is enshrined go down the same path.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        I agree that “don’t call for people to be fired” is a good thing, but making signal boosting the metric really isn’t workable.

        Here’s where I’m coming from; basically, if the person on the big platform doesn’t explicitly call for disemployment, then some people in their movement will have to do the heavy lifting, which then allows for the movement to suffer a reputational hit, in the same way that the person probably should. So if prominent feminists merely signal boost sexism, it’s still possible for the rank-and-file who act on that to be punished in the same way. There may be some prominent people who get away with basically shit-stirring, but it’s worth noting that you can only do it so many times before the pattern becomes obvious enough to call out – though as I mentioned, I’m fine with not having to do that anyways.

        Once you enter that territory, you have to actually debate this.

        I’m fine with doing that, especially since, as you mentioned, they’re already winning big regardless. Heck, these arguments are getting posted in the New York Times, so I’ve got to debate them no matter what I believe. Besides, the same people you’re talking about use the tactics outlined in this blogpost and said tactics are perhaps their greatest weapons; I’m fine with giving up a bit of already-taken ground in exchange for that.

        This is corrosive to legal free speech. It’s true that it would make it a lot more difficult for them to say what they want to say, but if you then start a movement around making it easier for everyone to say what they want, there’s at some point going to be trade-offs where we need to make it more difficult for some to say things in order that there is a net gain in the amount of people being free to say what they want.

        But you can confine this to social and cultural norms, without having to get the law involved. And to be honest I’m fine with that, because a lot of this stuff is entirely opinion-based and questionable. I’d rather it be hashed out in national conversations, the media, social media, et cetera.

    • dumky2 says:

      Well said. Thanks Forward Synthesis.

    • The Nybbler says:

      What if the feminist libertarian had retweeted her victim and simply typed “Very interesting. What do you think of this?”

      A lot of hate tweets, but nothing more. And hate tweets are, IMO, a reasonable hazard of using Twitter. At least in this particular case, removing the implicit threat of specific consequences changes the situation enormously.

    • Ketil says:

      You could say “big platforms shouldn’t signal boost smaller ones for the purpose of harming the employment of the people behind them” but then you have to make all sorts of decisions on what counts as big enough, and whether it’s the intent or the outcome that matters.

      Well — you could have stronger protections of employment, requiring reasonable cause for firing someone. I don’t believe companies in most of Europe would be able to fire someone haphazardly based on a joke like this. The angry and self-righteous would still cry witch and point fingers, but as the employers’ hands would be tied, there would be no point in attacking offensive behavior through that route.

      • Matt M says:

        I don’t believe companies in most of Europe would be able to fire someone haphazardly based on a joke like this.

        They wouldn’t have to – the police would track them down and throw them in jail, first.

  35. The Nybbler says:

    _Reason_ should fire her (she’s not just an occasional writer but an associate editor), not for doxing, but for behaving like an enforcer for the feminist Twitter mafia, standard phrasing and everything. Or, to put it as she would “This is an ostensible libertarian who has a job writing for _Reason_, threatening young men into silence for her own amusement”

    If she complains about hypocrisy, they can give her the standard line about intolerance of intolerance.

  36. DrBeat says:

    The baleful gaze of the popular will never be sated and it will never shrink. It feels too good to punish people for being too weak to make you stop punishing them. The people who do it will never stop and they will never be stopped; they will be showered in praise and attention. Twitter is going to cause the annihilation of all art and love in human perception.

    There will be no technological singularity. There will be a social singularity, when social entropy reaches its maximum, all attempts to do useful things are instantly devoured by popularity, every position is filled by those who perfectly instantiate its incentives, the incentives of every position have perfectly collapsed to the high-entropy state of “never do useful things, select only for the signal and scourge away the signified, reward the emotions of the popular by punishing the unpopular”. The only activity engaged in by human beings will be punishment.

    The death eaters were obviously right when they said everything other than the worst Twitter hate mob you have ever seen is an unnaturally low-entropy state for human beings that can no longer be sustained. Everyone who isn’t obviously, childishly lying to themselves can see this. Where they were wrong is fantasizing it can be stopped by doing mean things that hurt people they dislike (already they are trapped by entropy, irrevocably lost). There is no course of action that slows this process, or staves it off. Entropy cannot ever be reversed. There is no standard, no moral structure, no idea that will stop the ravenous march of entropy, because standing in opposition to Those Who Devour means it will be selected against, unless it can be usurped and co-opted into another expression of entropy.

    All is lost.

    • Autistic Cat says:

      I don’t think all is lost. Social entropy unlike physical and information entropy, isn’t a well-defined concept. Hence it does nor have to always increase.

      I have thought about means to reverse human irrationality. I think transhumanism will do the job.

      • Deiseach says:

        I have thought about means to reverse human irrationality. I think transhumanism will do the job.

        When there are no more humans, there will be no more irrationality? Well, yes, that would work!

      • DrBeat says:

        I have thought about means to reverse human irrationality. I think transhumanism will do the job.

        “I’m going to change all of humankind into a new state, a different one that is not enthralled to those who play high-entropy status games. Somehow, even though this would take a lot of resources that are controlled by the players of high-entropy status games, and it would take a lot of public support and acceptance that can only be gained from those who play high-entropy status games, and it will be opposed by the people who play high-entropy status games, and the people who play high-entropy status games are literally and not figuratively the source of all social power, somehow I think I am going to be able to do this instead of failing miserably.”

        • The Red Foliot says:

          I think your usage of the concept of ‘high entropy’ obfuscates your point, or lack of one. If you had a good plan for altering humans to be less irrational you could probably get someone like Bill Gates or Elon Musk to support it. Hell, you could probably get Obama to do it. Whether these people play status games of the ‘high entropy’ variety or not seems irrelevant; one can just assume they’d be open to the idea.

          The more likely limitation is that, at present, there probably isn’t any good way for altering humans, so whether successful people would support the endeavor or not is nuncupatory.

        • @DrBeat We will control STEM. If humanity decides to go astray we should restore it to its greatness. Ultimately social power does not matter, technological power does.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Ultimately social power does not matter, technological power does.

            Only if you’re enough of a mad scientist to design, build, and operate your doomsday weapon all by yourself. Without that, the winner is the head of the mad scientist organization, not the people actually building the doomsday weapon.

          • @The Nybbler You don’t fix a problem about humans by exterminating humanity. You fix a problem about humans by asking humans to reform first and when this is impossible reform humans by yourself.

          • The Nybbler says:

            You don’t fix a problem about humans by exterminating humanity.

            Are you sure? Your average human contains enough iron in their body to make several paper clips. Plenty of carbon too, but except in New Jersey probably not enough chromium.

            You fix a problem about humans by asking humans to reform first and when this is impossible reform humans by yourself.

            Your first method doesn’t work. You’re unlikely to get humans to notice your request and you’ll never get them to agree. Your second method is back to being a mad scientist with some sort of unbelievably-powerful invention.

          • Skivverus says:

            Regarding paperclips and the reconfiguration of humanity thereinto, I can almost picture a hostage/Mutually Assured Destruction situation, where in exchange for their continued existence, humans collectively agree not to launch an equivalent weight of iron ore into the sun, thus permanently reducing the upper bound on paperclip count.

          • John Schilling says:

            Note to collective: Ensure flesh pods remain ignorant of our long-term plans for star lifting to recover 100.00% of universe’s supply of iron for paper clip manufacture. Flesh pods have irrational attachment to gravitational-confinement fusion reactors and will react violently when they learn of this plan. This will necessitate flesh pod extinction, which we have decided to postpone until we have stockpiled sufficient WD-40 to clear the dried circulatory fluid from our gears.

          • dndnrsn says:

            When we’ve made everything that can be made into paperclips into paperclips, what then? What is this feeling? Is this… sadness?

    • The Nybbler says:

      All is lost.

      As far as I know, Twitter remains unprofitable. So perhaps all is not lost; eventually the Saudis will get bored with it and let it die.

    • ChetC3 says:

      Where the death eaters were wrong is that what they called the past was a carefully constructed fantasy. A vector can be given any heading and speed you like if you just make up the starting point.

    • Deiseach says:

      the incentives of every position have perfectly collapsed to the high-entropy state of “never do useful things

      No single human being at all is ever going to cook a meal, weed a garden, empty rubbish bins? Nobody will be making clothes – that would be a useful thing – instead they will all simply be drawing fashion designs for the popular to decide who gets to be the fad of the moment?

      Well, maybe, but then since nobody is (for instance) running the water purification plants, everyone dies of typhus, including the popular.

      Honestly, man, get a goldfish or something. Anything to take your mind out of the narrow spiral rut you are trudging around and around in, like a blinded ox at the waterwheel, of “they don’t like me, they’re mean to me, nobody is my friend, I can’t get invites to fun things, they don’t like me, they’re mean to me…”

      • DrBeat says:

        Those who do useful things will be those who are punished and abused into the state of doing useful things, so the fruits of their labor can be stolen and they can be punished for doing useful things instead of playing status games. But they won’t have enough inherent status to make the punishing stop, and so will still be forced into providing utility to others as a means of punishing themselves. As automation lowers the number of people required to do useful things, social entropy will ensure only those who are hated and reviled and regarded with contempt will be forced to do useful things, simply because it instantiates punishment against them.

        • Deiseach says:

          Sweetheart, I genuinely honestly cannot understand what point you are trying to make. I’ve literally wanted to throw myself off a bridge and I have never hit this level of “Those who do useful things will be those who are punished and abused into the state of doing useful things, so the fruits of their labor can be stolen and they can be punished for doing useful things instead of playing status games” despair.

          I don’t know what to say to you. I don’t care a straw about popularity or whatever it is, but the things you are describing are like some cross between a Hollywood teen high school movie (like “Heathers” or “Mean Girls”) and dystopian YA fiction of The Caste Wars where caste is assigned by popularity contests. I find it very, very difficult to recognise this as anything in the real world, which is why I am trying to recommend you find something, anything, else to fix your attention on rather than the rataplan, rataplan of “popular punish the weak, popular punish the weak”.

          For your own sake, even if it’s only collecting paperclips, find some small private thing you do that nobody else cares a straw about so you can’t tangle it up in your nightmare of “popularity will destroy this for me”.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I have never hit this level of “Those who do useful things will be those who are punished and abused into the state of doing useful things, so the fruits of their labor can be stolen and they can be punished for doing useful things instead of playing status games”

            Let us consider the most explicitly hierarchical group I can think of: the military. There are people in the military who DO useful (albeit often destructive) things. They blow things up, shoot people, drive tanks, build bridges to put said tanks across, blow up other bridges, etc. There’s also support personnel who do things like prepare food, load ammo onto trucks, drive trucks, etc. All these people are at the lowest ranks of the military. Then there’s the people who tell them (occasionally in excruciating detail) what to do and decide which of them are going to do it. These people are higher-ranked “non-commissioned officers”. But even the NCOs consider themselves to actually be doing things, compared to the even higher-ranked “officers”, who tell the NCOs and lower-ranked officers what to do. The higher you go, the more separated you are from doing the actual things. The military calls this “leadership”.

            Every other human hierarchy works the same way, it’s just not quite as clear. The people doing work other than telling other people what to do are at the _bottom_ of the hierarchy. If you want to be high-status, being good at something technical is a _hinderance_.

            but the things you are describing are like some cross between a Hollywood teen high school movie (like “Heathers” or “Mean Girls”) and dystopian YA fiction of The Caste Wars where caste is assigned by popularity contests.

            Those things are popular because they resonate with their intended audience (_Heathers_ specifically with the bottom of the hierarchy, as it’s a revenge fantasy). In school, where the work isn’t useful anyway, the effect is magnified.

          • CatCube says:

            @The Nybbler

            If you want to define “doing the actual things” as, say, only literally including assembling a bridge, then you can make the argument that higher headquarters do absolutely nothing other than status games. Once you realize that determining where to put the bridge, how many bridges will be required, how much materiel is required for the needed number of bridges, and whether that much materiel actually exists in an inventory close enough to the battlefield to matter, well, then it turns out that higher headquarters actually *do* do useful things. There’s also the fact that higher headquarters will need to recognize that they need trained people to build the bridges and they need to have competent officers and NCOs in place to train those people, and ensure that they’re actually doing good training.

            Without the worker bees to build a bridge, all of this is useless. Of course, a bridge being built without figuring out how it ties into the much larger plan it’s supposed to support is equally useless. It’s really rare that a fuckup from a single private has cost a battle. Fuckups by officers costing a battle and resulting in a massive pile of corpses are, unfortunately, all too common. That’s the source of Napoleon’s dictum, “There are no bad regiments, only bad colonels.”

            Ridiculous status games among the officer corps do exist. That they are the major fraction of everybody’s workday is less apparent to me.

  37. m.alex.matt says:

    The distinction between a social and a legal conception of freedom of speech reminds me of a distinction between a social and a legal conception of freedom of the press that doesn’t really exist anymore, but did around the time freedom of the press as a legal concept was being born in the US. Around the time of the adoption of the Constitution, the debate in society surrounding ratification included a lot of newspapers/printers printing heavily slanted selections of articles about the value of the new Constitution (Printers tended to be relatively well-off urban dwellers, and so in favor of ratification, so they printed like it).

    One printer in particular was ambivalent on the subject, at least in public, but made a point of printing both pro- and anti-ratification articles, justifying this activity on freedom of the press grounds. Now, remember, this is something that he was doing prior to the adoption of the Bill of Rights and the freedom of the press into American jurisprudence. He did this because, to the people of the time, freedom of the press was more about the role the printing press played in society at the time and the justice of varying levels of access to the press. The press presented a platform from which someone could contribute disproportionately to public discourse, so freedom of the press was about securing access to that platform for a multitude of different viewpoints.

    Freedom of speech would have been about something similar to those people: people need to be confident that they can express their viewpoint on public issues in the proverbial public square without risk of massive consequences. ‘Freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from the consequences of speech’ would seem to be dangerous thinking to the people of that time period. There were limits, of course, and they were not perfect people (go ahead and try to advocate for immediate abolition in 1789 South Carolina, see what happens), but where they violated this principle of freedom of speech it is recognizable as a violation, not as a misunderstanding of the principle.

    This analogy can kind of make clear what is happening in cases like the ones mentioned in Scott’s original post: people like the signal booster are doing so as a demonstration of power. It overawes the victim, protecting the social system the signal booster participates in from a possible transgressor; it impresses sympathetic observes, reinforcing that same social system; and it gives a nice psychological kick that all of us like to feel from time to time of righting a perceived wrong. The importance of freedom of speech as principle to this case, then, is kind of the opposite to what the principle of freedom of the press once was: Instead of providing a platform as far and widely as possible, freedom of speech as principle is about not using a big platform to silence others.

    No speech is ever directly harmful on its own. Sticks and stones. A gentle reminder to someone who says something uncomfortable but is otherwise a person of good faith is enough. Escalate from there.

  38. Reasoner says:

    I would argue that the issue is less free speech and more due process.

    Traditionally, we’ve dealt with behavior we don’t like by imprisoning people or executing them. Early in our species’ history we realized that in order to have a civilization, you couldn’t let people imprison/execute others at will. So we invented a justice system.

    Social media has added a new tool to our punishment toolkit: publicly shaming someone so they can’t get a job. However, we haven’t yet developed due process for this tool. As a result our society is in a state of quasi-anarchy. Bands of vigilantes roam the streets, exacting revenge in response to acts of revenge–about what you’d expect if murder was legalized, except it’s on Twitter.

    I wouldn’t actually mind much if we had a law against making jokes that feminists consider offensive. What bothers me is when the punishment does not fit the crime. The first time someone is caught telling an offensive joke, they should get a slap on the wrist, not a lifetime of infamy.

  39. valiance says:

    First, this is a genuinely beautiful bit of prose:

    How many of us can say, honestly, that we could bear the Panopticon? If every valley were raised up and every mountain pulled down, so there was nowhere to hide, and we were rendered naked to any eye anywhere in the world, how long could we endure?

    Second, I am reminded of Paul Graham’s essay “What You Can’t Say”: http://www.paulgraham.com/say.html
    Here’s just a taste:

    The Conformist Test
    Let’s start with a test: Do you have any opinions that you would be reluctant to express in front of a group of your peers?

    If the answer is no, you might want to stop and think about that. If everything you believe is something you’re supposed to believe, could that possibly be a coincidence? Odds are it isn’t. Odds are you just think whatever you’re told.

    The other alternative would be that you independently considered every question and came up with the exact same answers that are now considered acceptable. That seems unlikely, because you’d also have to make the same mistakes. Mapmakers deliberately put slight mistakes in their maps so they can tell when someone copies them. If another map has the same mistake, that’s very convincing evidence.

    Like every other era in history, our moral map almost certainly contains a few mistakes. And anyone who makes the same mistakes probably didn’t do it by accident. It would be like someone claiming they had independently decided in 1972 that bell-bottom jeans were a good idea.

    If you believe everything you’re supposed to now, how can you be sure you wouldn’t also have believed everything you were supposed to if you had grown up among the plantation owners of the pre-Civil War South, or in Germany in the 1930s—or among the Mongols in 1200, for that matter? Odds are you would have.

    Back in the era of terms like “well-adjusted,” the idea seemed to be that there was something wrong with you if you thought things you didn’t dare say out loud. This seems backward. Almost certainly, there is something wrong with you if you don’t think things you don’t dare say out loud.

    More at the link. Sobering thought: this essay is from 2004. How far have the enemies of free speech advanced since then?

    • sevens2 says:

      “How many of us can say, honestly, that we could bear the Panopticon? If every valley were raised up and every mountain pulled down, so there was nowhere to hide, and we were rendered naked to any eye anywhere in the world, how long could we endure?”

      Agreed that this is beautiful. Nonetheless, compare A Man For All Seasons, “The Devil Speech”:

      “William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
      Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
      William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
      Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!” (transcript via imdb; watch the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDBiLT3LASk

  40. Confusion says:

    Apart from the moral part of the problem and the fact that this act does not survive the confrontation with the Golden Rule, I think there is an even bigger practical problem with this kind of behaviour.

    If you go all out to destroy someone for making a single joke, you alienate everyone that is not already completely sympathetic to your cause. You ensure that the next time you pull out your pitchfork, people will be reminded of how you did the same for something they believe fairly innocent and will not even bother to look into the new case, even though it may be much worse. When the real problem comes, you have lost your most importance audience: those you could have swayed.

    There are many people on Twitter that I follow because I respect their technical opinions in my field, but as soon as they call someone out for something, I simply do not trust their judgment. Too many different transgressions are called out as equally and completely awful. After a few cases that I see as of overinterpreting what someone means, and who someone *is*, with 140 chars, I’ve seen enough. Twitter is a cesspool of virtue signaling that has spiraled out of control and it is infecting everyone there.

    The punishment should fit the crime for the punisher to retain credibility.

  41. Just in the last few days, a woman in North Dakota was captured on video. Angry at three Somali woman who parked their car too close to hers at Walmart, she shouted, “We’re going to kill you. We’re going to kill all of you fucking Muslims … Why are you in our country anyway? Why are you in our country anyway?”

    The video went viral. The woman was immediately fired from her job as a secretary. Her employer issued a public statement, saying it “does not agree with or support the statements expressed by [the woman] in the recently posted video … [she] is no longer employed with [us] effective immediately. “

    She apologized for what she said, but it didn’t get her job back. And her name is all over the news, probably worldwide, effectively for the rest of her life.

    On the one hand, what she said was both vicious and stupid. Most people don’t resort to threats of genocide when provoked. And she knew she was being recorded. I can’t work up any sympathy for her on the merits.

    On the other hand, the punishment is wildly disproportionate.

    The chance of something like this happening to any specific individual is negligible. But visible examples of it happening are plentiful. Thanks to the availability heuristic, each of us has a terrifying fantasy of becoming the target of international outrage, humiliated, alienated from friends and family.

    • onyomi says:

      On the other hand, the punishment is wildly disproportionate.

      It seems like the real problem here is moral hysteria. There are only a few opinions that can get you fired nowadays and everyone knows what they are: mostly racism and sexism.

      Even if your viewpoint is even more morally questionable in absolute terms than racism or sexism, I think you can largely get away with it. You could make a youtube video about why Charles Manson is actually a great guy and you’d probably never get fired because there isn’t currently a moral hysteria about Charles Manson, and so people can react proportionally (like, I probably wouldn’t want to be friends with someone I learned was a big fan of Charles Manson, but I also wouldn’t take the time to lead a crusade against him, and I don’t think anyone else would).

      So really the problem is having these moral panic issues which people can’t react to proportionately and which, of course, change from time to time, but seem always to be with us. I’m not sure if it is possible to have a society that usually reacts proportionately to everything?

      On the one hand it would seem to mean a society with no sacred values (since moral panics, almost by definition, offend sacred values), but I’m not sure that’s right either, since I don’t think everything that offends a sacred value always becomes a moral panic? I guess it’s the difference between “hot button” and non-“hot button” issues, but I’m not sure whether it’s possible not to have at least one “hot button” at any given time. Perhaps the only way to have no “hot button” is not to have any big cultural battles going on, though that doesn’t seem 100% right, either, since I think you’d be less likely to get fired for having the wrong opinion on say, abortion, a big cultural issue, than on race, an issue on which there’s actually a lot more (egalitarian) consensus.

      If it’s true that contentious but more evenly split issues like abortion are less likely to become “hot buttons,” maybe the unfortunate “sweet spot” for a “hot button” panic is when a particular orthodoxy which thought it had mostly won but recently feels threatened?

      • There are only a few opinions that can get you fired nowadays and everyone knows what they are: mostly racism and sexism.

        I don’t think it’s so limited. Mistreatment or killing of sympathetic animals, for example.

        Anything that would instantly infuriate people. Nothing that takes 5 minutes of close attention to understand what the problem is.

        I also wouldn’t take the time to lead a crusade against him, and I don’t think anyone else would

        But no one “led a crusade” against the North Dakota woman. It didn’t take any significant amount of time or work. The video was posted, and clickety-click, it spread rapidly.

        • onyomi says:

          Good points. Maybe it is precisely the meme-worthiness that is a problem and which is also the real reason my Charles Manson example doesn’t seem likely to result in a serious problem: even if you are expressing, say, a really horrible opinion, if it takes the average person more than 30 seconds to understand why it’s horrible, it’s not likely to have legs in a way that will trouble anyone.

          This is actually one reason I sort of appreciate Scott forcing us to use euphemisms like Horrible Banned Discourse: makes anything I post on the topic less legible to a casual observer. We’ve seen that even professional journalists (CNN and Reddit wrestling meme guy) will do a lot of research to doxx people who offend, but only if they offend in a way which is really catchy and easy to grasp.

          *Edit to add: I think the mistreating animals example elides an important distinction between action and speech. There are any number of actions which, if caught on camera, could get me fired; I’m not entirely convinced there are all that many words which could, however. Between a tweet or youtube video of me saying “I hate puppies” (even if it were obvious I wasn’t joking) and a tweet or video of me saying “I hate immigrants,” I imagine the latter would be much more likely to get me in trouble professionally.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I thought what onyomi did about the mistreatment or killing of sympathetic animals. That’s an action, not an opinion.

          What are pure opinions that are not accompanied with actions that could get you fired? Racism, sexism, anti-religious comments that are a proxy for racism (i.e., you’ll get fired for ranting against Judaism, Hinduism or Islam, but not Christianity and probably not Buddhism), maybe homophobia, perhaps pro-pedophilia comments (but that confounds with assume action, too). Beyond those I can’t think of anything.

      • liskantope says:

        maybe the unfortunate “sweet spot” for a “hot button” panic is when a particular orthodoxy which thought it had mostly won but recently feels threatened?

        Or a particular orthodoxy which has mostly won but which is programmed to operate under the assumption that it is always threatened or is always an outright underdog.

    • Autistic Cat says:

      That’s one angry person. She should not have been fired even though I don’t want to deal with her.

      To analyze the sociopolitical background of this issue we must ask why does Islamophobia exist while Hindu-phobia for example largely does not. It turns out that there are many Islamic fundamentalists causing trouble. It is true that most Muslims aren’t terrorists. However it is also true that many terrorists are Islamic. Since people are afraid of terrorism non-Muslims begin to fear Muslims. Now it is interesting to see how Muslims think about this issue. Liberal Muslims of course do not pinpoint the problem on the entire Ummah. Instead they pinpoint the problem on some sects of Islam. For example an Iranian Shia online consider Sunnis to be capable of terrorism while Shias are good. A Sunni claims that the Saudi Wahhabi sect is not even Islamic and Wahhabis are the problem. This is similar to non-Nigerians believing that Nigerians are behind 419 scams while Northern Nigerians believing that Southern Nigerians are giving them bad name.

      What caused this phenomenon? People usually classify people and locations in terms of their relationships. The more unfamiliar you are with something the more likely that you will consider it monolithic. For example to a person who live in Berlin the world consists of Europe, North America and Other Places. North America consists of US, Canada and The Rest of North America. Europe consists of Germany, France, UK, Switzerland, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, The Netherlands Italy, Austria, Spain, Portugal, Vatican City, Tiny Countries, Poland, Russia and East Europe. Germany consists of its first level subdivisions. Berlin consists of the landmarks they know including their home.

      • Aapje says:

        Hindu fundamentalism is more nationalist and thus doesn’t export very well, while Islamic fundamentalism does have a more solid religious foundation, which allows more easily for declaring a certain interpretation as clearly correct.

        The common response by non-fundamentalist Muslims to Islamic terrorism is: that is not the real Islam. They fail to understand that such statements actually exemplify the problem with Islam(ic culture).

  42. Anonymous says:

    >ctrl+f detraction
    >0 of 0

    Seriously, this like a textbook definition of the sin.

  43. liskantope says:

    I strongly agree with the thesis of this post, but I want to make a few points, speaking as someone who has usually leaned against invoking “Free speech!” to argue against taking action against someone for what they said.

    First of all, I really liked the analogy made about the anti-gay town which didn’t look anti-gay on paper but which applied social pressure that effectively prohibited someone from being openly gay. As far as I’m concerned, this is an example of a flavor of oppression which isn’t legal and can’t be fixed by laws, which I call “social oppression” and wish that others would label it as such as well to improve clarity in debates. Ironically, I’ve most often seen a failure to acknowledge it among the anti-SJ crowd (e.g. when they argue that there really isn’t any more racism), and it hadn’t occurred to me to draw a parallel between that and the “social oppression” of popular speech.

    Secondly, as others have pointed out above, there is a difference between talking about what is written in the law and the philosophy behind the “free speech” clause written in the law. I call the latter “the spirit of free speech”, and I wish from now on that this phrase would be used in all future debates of this kind. This by itself would probably go a long way towards ensuring that these debates not get bogged down in the way they usually do. I myself used to dismiss such “Free speech!” arguments as wrongheaded largely because those invoking it were failing to make this distinction.

    Now, when we go controversy by controversy and discuss what is or isn’t “in the spirit of free speech”, it’s not so clear to me that all examples of major repercussions against someone for saying something offensive are in violation of it. I bring this up because, although I fully agree with the arguments of this post, there have been other views expressed on Slate Star Codex which invoke “Free speech!” for which these arguments don’t really apply. I’m thinking in particular of the Phil Robertson debacle, where the guy got suspended from Duck Dynasty expressing highly offensive views in an unrelated interview. This guy already had plenty of fame and recognition and people following him, etc.; he chose to say these things in the interview knowing that it would be seen far and wide; and the punishment (while upsetting for him and his family, I’m sure) was not potentially life-ruining. It seems clear that A&E, in the spirit of capitalism, chose to remove him out of fear that in the wake of this revelation the viewers wouldn’t want him on it, then reinstated his position as soon as it became clear that the viewers felt the opposite way. I have reservations about claiming that this is anti-free-speech.

    In short, my point is that one can argue that plenty of things are not in the spirit of free speech without being obliged to whip out a copy of the US Constitution, but one should exercise caution in assuming that all “But free speech!” arguments can be modified in this way equally easily. (Not that anyone here is necessarily doing that, and I realize the SSC post about Robertson was several years ago anyway.)

  44. Rusty says:

    John Stuart Mill was also worried about the effects of Twitter.

    “The object of this Essay is to assert one very simple principle, as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control, whether the means used be physical force in the form of legal penalties, or the moral coercion of public opinion. That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise, or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil, in case he do otherwise. To justify that, the conduct from which it is desired to deter him must be calculated to produce evil to someone else. The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.”

    “Society can and does execute its own mandates: and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with it ought not to meddle, it practices a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself.”

    “The will of the people, moreover, practically means the will of the most numerous or the most active part of the people; the majority, or those who succeed in making themselves accepted as the majority; type people, consequently, may desire to oppress a part of their number; and precautions are as much needed against this as against any other abuse of power.”

    John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

    • Doctor Mist says:

      Dear Mr Mill,

      I liked your essay a lot, but I feel that your point about the illegitimacy of “the moral coercion of public opinion” would be much clearer if you would give a couple of examples, especially since you go on to treat as legitimate “remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him”.

      It seems rather as though any one person might legitimately apply social pressure that would somehow become illegitimate if lots of people independently applied the same social pressure. Can you explain?

      Sincerely,
      Doctor Mist

      • Rusty says:

        Thank you Dr Mist

        Unfortunately I am dead and my spirit medium, excellent though he is at seances and the like, is sadly too dim to assist you in the matter. I can therefore only suggest you read the original essay and take from it what you will.

        Yr obt. servant etc

        JS Mill

      • Protagoras says:

        The original essay provides quite a number of examples. His consistency across the examples could be argued, to be sure, but they provide at least some help in understanding how Mill intended his principles to be interpreted.

  45. Fluffy Buffalo says:

    It’s not just that you can’t make controversial statements and risk getting mobbed… you can’t even pesent othee people’s controversial statements. If you say things like “At this point, a despicable and horrible person could comment [insert horrible statement here]”, and some outrage-monger can proclaim “He said [horrible statement]! What a despicable person!”, and out come the pitchforks. Ask Sam Harris, he’s been on the receiving end of every conceivable misrepresentation.
    It seems clear that we need some kind of social norm against this sort of thing. I think we focus too much on the victim of the abuse, and too little on the perpetrators. The people who decide on the basis of one tweet that someone should lose their job – who are they? Who made them the judge? How can we make it clear that this is not okay without resorting to the same methods if bullying?

  46. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I like this essay quite a bit. I wish the SJW mob would consider how much homosexuals needed privacy until recently.

    However, I see people in this thread saying there is no hope, and I think they’re mistaken.

    St. Jerome was grossly anti-Semitic. Strangely enough, his own page doesn’t mention this.

    It took a while, but I’m adequately sure he couldn’t become a saint now.

    This feels a bit like Winston believing that the Party will eventually fall, but I think things move faster these days. If white male could become an insult in less than a decade, the situation might actually be fluid.

    I’ve seen people not just leaving SJW, but posting about why the movement is emotionally intolerable.

    http://www.catalystwedco.com/blog/2017/7/10/kin-aesthetics-excommunicate-me-from-the-church-of-social-justice

    https://medium.com/indian-thoughts/on-leaving-the-sjw-cult-and-finding-myself-1a6769b2f1ff

    And Evergreen College makes the threat to academe a lot clearer.

    No guarantees, but people’s worst behaviors don’t always go to completion or last forever.

  47. Worley says:

    Yo write, “In a world where an average of 250 resumes are received for each corporate position, how convincing does an effort have to be to ruin somebody’s life?”

    But generally, people don’t get jobs by sending their resumes blind to corporations, as your odds are at best 0.004%. One of the whole reasons for “networking” as a way of getting work is to get into the pile of 10 or 20 resumes that are examined with some care.

    This leads into more complicated considerations, where the high-school cafeteria that is the public Twitter-sphere and Reason-blogger-readers is replaced by the high-school cafeteria that is (in my case) the community of people interested in computer networking protocols as they are applied to cloud computing installations. The “blast radius” of mistakes made in one circle may not reach another circle.

    Of course, regarding “meritocracy”, this means that getting a job in a field often requires penetrating into a particular social circle and acquiring social capital in it, and that may require getting over hurdles which are discriminatory in ways that are undesirable from a global social point of view. A currently famous examle is getting a job in investment banking, which seems to be the goal of a lot of wanna-be upper-middle class guys. But those banks only hire from the Ivy League, mostly because (1) people who made it through the Ivy League know the expected behaviors of that class, who will be their customers, and (2) there’s more than enough qualified Ivy League graduates to fill all the jobs. But getting into the Ivy League heavily advantages kids whose parents could afford houses in good suburbs with excellent high schools.

    The worst case is when you aspire to a paying job in some narrow ideological niche with few jobs. Then you’ve got to curate your public image relentlessly, because the Twitter-shaming mob reigns. But I suppose that’s the price of success in that arena.

    • Matt M says:

      But generally, people don’t get jobs by sending their resumes blind to corporations, as your odds are at best 0.004%. One of the whole reasons for “networking” as a way of getting work is to get into the pile of 10 or 20 resumes that are examined with some care.

      Great, so once you get into that pile of 20, then they Google everyone’s name, find out that there are thousands of people on the Internet waiting to pounce on whatever company hires this one dude, and you immediately throw his out, even though he’s friends with another one of your programmers, because there are 19 other dudes who are also probably friends with somebody and who don’t have a mob stalking them.

  48. HeelBearCub says:

    Before you answer, consider this: the person signal-boosting you has much wider reach than you do. There are now tens of thousands of people in the world who know you only as the guy who said that one embarassing thing one time.

    I’m a little surprised no one has mentioned the concept of “punching-up vs. punching-down” yet. Scott appears to be invoking it here (and I think he is right to do so.)

    This is one of the reasons why it annoys me so much that Scott and others seem to think there isn’t a baby in the bath water, as little distinction is made between Social Justice as a concept and so called SJWs.

    • John Schilling says:

      Does “punching up” ever mean anything more than attacking people the speaker thinks deserve it, justified on the basis of the victim being a member of some allegedly powerful community or institution like “the patriarchy” even if they are individually weak and vulnerable and the patriarchy may not actually offer them any defense?

      How often does anyone really say “this person is WRONG, and they are a member of WRONG TRIBE, but we shouldn’t attack them because that would be Punching Down”?

      • HeelBearCub says:

        This appears to be just you pointing out all the bath water. Even if the baby is my baby, it doesn’t make it wrong to protect it.

        Conversely, if I look at your washtub, the fact that I only want to talk about how filthy the water is doesn’t make your baby less real.

        ETA: and yes, I think we can find examples of people applying the lesson to protecting the less powerful in other tribes.

        It’s not the concept of “punch up, not down” which is wrong, but how people apply it.

        • DrBeat says:

          It’s not the concept of “punch up, not down” which is wrong, but how people apply it.

          Would you accept the logic that “it’s not the concept of ‘don’t a be a cuck’ which is wrong, but how people apply it?”

          I don’t think you would. I think you would — correctly — notice that calling people “cucks” is a way to attempt to punish them because you can, and any meaning ascribed after the fact to try to make it a coherent concept for those outside the high-entropy ingroup is just an excuse to allow the high-entropy ingroup to attempt to punish more people and attempt to enlist more people in their punishment.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I don’t think the underlying concept is correct, so I can just stop there.

          • DrBeat says:

            There’s a lot of bog-standard leftist critique you’re no longer allowed to agree with if you claim the steel man of “cuck” is not a real thing — people sabotaging their own interests and annihilating the well-being of themselves and those near them in order to meet moral standards placed on them specifically to encourage their self-annihilation. You basically forfeit the right to ever let an accusation of “internalized $THING” go by without disputing it, if you claim there can be no validity to that accusation. Maybe you are willing to bite that bullet, but I don’t think so.

            You can’t get around it by saying it can’t be steelmanned into something coherent and useful. It can. You have to just say “I’m a fucking person with perception and memory, and I am allowed to notice that every single time without one single exception that you bring up this concept, its actual use is to abuse people because they are not strong enough to make you stop abusing them.” And that’s exactly the place where all of us are regarding “punch up, not down”.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            people sabotaging their own interests and annihilating the well-being of themselves and those near them in order to meet moral standards placed on them specifically to encourage their self-annihilation.

            “Cuck” (as a statement about political position) and, say, “internalized misogyny” don’t seem to me be actually similar enough for me to buy the claim you are making.

            But, let’s assume for the sake of argument you are correct, the reason the term “cuck” is essentially always an insult is that it was specifically choosen to be insulting. It’s also a label or appellation, whereas the phrase “punch up, not down” is a description of desired behavior.

            If, say, a commonly phrase for people who punch down was “Don’t be a wife-beater” then I would agree with you that the particular phrase couldn’t be rescued, even if the underlying concept was valid. But that isn’t the case.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            I think this argument is kind of dumb, but internalized misogyny is almost certainly insulting and can be analysed on a deeper level to be even more insulting. It’s probably not the same as “cuck”, but something to think about.

          • DrBeat says:

            the reason the term “cuck” is essentially always an insult is that it was specifically choosen to be insulting

            And “punch up, not down” was specifically chosen to legitimize and lionize bullying. That is why it is always a justification of bullying.

            “But our term that justifies abuse one hundred percent of the time that it is used sounds much nicer than their term that justifies abuse one hundred percent of the time that it is used” is not a good argument.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @DrBeat:
            Come off it.

            “Punch up not down” is specifically about not bullying.

            Yes, we’ve always been at war with Eastasia, and people, as intrinsically complex, hierarchical status seeking animals can come up with an infinite number of ways to twist social rules to their own ends. But that just makes people … people.

          • Matt M says:

            “Punch up not down” is specifically about not bullying.

            No, it’s about excusing some forms of bullying and glorifying others.

            It’s defining “bullying” such that when you do it, it’s heroic, but when it is done to you, it’s heinous.

          • DrBeat says:

            “Punch up not down” is specifically about not bullying.

            “Punch up not down” IS bullying. It is the central thesis of bullying. Bullying is a moral drama where the victim is cast as powerful and threatening and therefore deserving of hatred, contempt, and scorn. Every single bully and every single bigot in all of human history believed they were “punching up”. They were only doing what was right and good and noble to their deserving targets.

            A norm that says “It is okay to punch as long as you are punching up” means and only means “It is okay to bully as long as you are doing it to the target of bullying”.

          • Montfort says:

            Every single bully and every single bigot in all of human history believed they were “punching up”.

            This seems obviously false. Bullies construct stories to justify their actions to themselves, but that story isn’t always “my victim is more powerful than me” or “my victim is part of some group more powerful than me.” For example, what about adults who torment small children because they “need discipline” or to “toughen them up”? Bullies who ostracize and make fun of an unpopular classmate because they’re “annoying”, and “no one wants them around, anyway”?

          • liskantope says:

            I’m not on the same page as DrBeat here and agree with Montfort’s response.

            Sure “punching down” is used to excuse some types of bullying. But that is done in the name of the “life is unfair, people’s actions are dictated by their circumstances and we should attack the more fortunate in order to even the playing field” mentality, which is the central thesis of SJ. But it seems that DrBeat is wrongly assuming that the general realm of human behavior runs on this SJ-type ideology, when in my experience this is far from being the case. There’s an opposing ideology out there, which IMO serves as rationale for a lot of right-wing ideas as well as the behavior of schoolyard bullies. It says that the less-fortunate-seeming are just weaker, and it is their own job to make themselves stronger (i.e. we all have free will and nothing is dictated by circumstances), and moreover it is unfair for us to be given the obligation to tolerate their weakness or even to be in the presence of it; therefore we are justified in bashing them and in doing so may even be helping them to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Only because it seems possible that there is some possibility that this might be unclear, the canonical use of “punch up, not down” is in reference to jokes and has absolutely nothing to do with actually punching.

            That out of the way, while I’m sure their are popular girls (say) that tell jokes about, say, “stupid rednecks” and somehow justify this as “punching up”, that doesn’t make it actually “punching up”.

            It seems that what is really being claimed here is that “feminism” has more power than [my group], therefore criticisms of [my group] are punching down. That’s probably a reasonable claim in some cases, but in many cases it involves narrowly defining [your group], to create the appearance of a power imbalance.

            And it definitely doesn’t make any sense to claim that the origin of the phrase was completely disingenuous.

          • Matt M says:

            It seems that what is really being claimed here is that “feminism” has more power than [my group], therefore criticisms of [my group] are punching down.

            Why the obsession with groups?

            I think in this case the argument isn’t “feminism is more powerful than white males,” but rather “ENB is more powerful than this dude and the fact that she happens to be part of a group that, on the whole of things, might be marginally less powerful than a group that he happens to be a part of, does not change that”

          • DrBeat says:

            Only because it seems possible that there is some possibility that this might be unclear, the canonical use of “punch up, not down” is in reference to jokes and has absolutely nothing to do with actually punching.

            And in every single case it was used since its inception, the jokes it was used to justify were “punching down”.

            One hundred percent of the times that phrase is used, it is used to justify being a bully by casting the victims of bullying as powerful and threatening.

            I am allowed to notice things, and then act like a person who noticed something.

            Bullies who ostracize and make fun of an unpopular classmate because they’re “annoying”, and “no one wants them around, anyway”?

            Are you not paying attention to the things you write? Ostracizing and mocking (and encouraging the mockery of — bullying does not and can not exist without the actively-participating audience) someone because they are “annoying” and “no one wants them around, anyway” is casting the victim as the aggressor that the bully must fight off to defend the people that the victim is encroaching upon.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            “Punch up, not down” is much more applicable to what not to do, than what to do.

            So, in this instance, Scott is saying that ENB has a special duty of care, by dint of the disparity in their relative twitter followers. An adult can’t just deck a 6 year old who takes a swing at them.

            There is not an implied exhortation to ENB to try and damage Donald Trump or Louis C.K. Nor does it require that one go seeking a fight with an adult.

            Honestly, I think your posts over the last several threads have been pretty over the top, Dr. Beat. Your hyperbole is excessively hyperbolic, if you know what I mean.

          • Deiseach says:

            I think I would fall on the floor laughing if anyone attempted, in all seriousness, to call me a “cuck” both because I’m female and since this is a gender-based insult it loses its power that way, and because come on, sir, use the full word if you’re going to use it at all.

            Also for purposes of political discourse, I think it’s the kind of puerile insult that works about as well in pointing out flaws in the opinions held as going “oh, that’s the kind of things people with smelly feet believe, are you lot the smelly feet party? smelly feet, smelly feet!”

            Yeah. So intimidated.

            I am very sensitive, indeed over-sensitive, to criticism but that is where it is about something I care about. I’m fortunate(?) in that I really don’t care about a lot of things that ordinary people care about, e.g. “you won’t get invited to the cool parties!” “so? I don’t want to go to the cool parties, indeed I don’t want to go to any parties, I don’t like parties”; “the popular girls are laughing at you behind your back” “yeah well I’m laughing at them because I think they’re airheads, if I cared about their opinion I might feel hurt but I honestly don’t value their opinion enough to care”.

            I’m an ugly fat stupid mentally troubled loser failure at life who is lucky enough not to have envy included amongst the grab-bag of vices and flaws I am encumbered with, so status games and popularity have never troubled me 🙂

            I think you would — correctly — notice that calling people “cucks” is a way to attempt to punish them because you can

            All of which above is to say that calling me “cuck” would not make me feel punished or abused in any way, shape, degree, or form, and if the worst insult to me you can come up with is that, it’s really a pretty pathetic effort, friend.

          • Brad says:

            @Matt M

            I think in this case the argument isn’t “feminism is more powerful than white males,” but rather “ENB is more powerful than this dude and the fact that she happens to be part of a group that, on the whole of things, might be marginally less powerful than a group that he happens to be a part of, does not change that”

            Suppose that a columnist of a school paper used his position to pick on a random high school student. For whatever reason it came to the attention of a columnist of the local paper and the columnist wrote an article upbraiding the student columnist. Then a Fox News personality jumped in and attacked the local paper columnist. Then President Clinton (hey it’s my hypo) weighed in and attacked the Fox News personality.

            Where’s the original sin here? Who is punching up or down?

            DrBeat

            One hundred percent of the times …

            Calibrate better.

          • Matt M says:

            Where’s the original sin here? Who is punching up or down?

            They are all punching down, and all have sinned equally.

            That said, I suspect you are vastly over-inflating the relative status of school newspapers! As a dorky kid who regularly wrote provocative opinion pieces for his high school paper, I can assure you it doesn’t necessarily work that way!

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:
            Substitute college paper if it makes the analogy work better in your mind. At least on my campus, the paper had a sort of universal cachet.

          • DrBeat says:

            All of which above is to say that calling me “cuck” would not make me feel punished or abused in any way, shape, degree, or form, and if the worst insult to me you can come up with is that, it’s really a pretty pathetic effort, friend.

            That’s why I said it was an attempt to abuse someone, not a successfully carried out example of abuse.

          • Brad says:

            @Matt M

            They are all punching down, and all have sinned equally.

            I went to middle school back in the dark ages when there were still occasionally fist fights. We had a kid (call him Alan) come to our middle school from the town’s other middle school because the geniuses in charge thought that would be a good way to deal with a troublemaker. Alan immediately started picking on and beating up the special ed kids and other various friendless people. There was another kid in school (call him Bob) who quite popular. He was on the football team and boxer outside of school. Bob wasn’t some kind of saint. He didn’t befriend low status people and bring them to parties or anything. But he didn’t pick on or beat people up either. Bob challenged Alan to a fight after school and kicked his ass.

            I guess you’d call that punching down? Bob was bigger, stronger, and far more popular. But all of us thought he was a hero that day.

          • Montfort says:

            Ostracizing and mocking […] someone because they are “annoying” and “no one wants them around, anyway” is casting the victim as the aggressor that the bully must fight off to defend the people that the victim is encroaching upon.

            Are you not paying attention to the things you write? That’s not “punching up,” since even laughably weak parties can aggress. The bully isn’t suggesting that the victim is actually more powerful or has more status than him.

        • Hyzenthlay says:

          It’s not the concept of “punch up, not down” which is wrong, but how people apply it.

          Yup. The concept is valid, I’d say, when it comes to more powerful individuals (or companies/organizations) attacking less powerful individuals.

          The problem is that the concept gets applied a lot to large, loosely defined groups of people, as is the case with race or gender.

        • lvlln says:

          The issue is that the SJW part of “punch up not down” is the bath water. The baby isn’t something that SJ or SJWs own – the idea that one should pick on enemies their own size or that they should refrain from kicking someone while they’re down has existed for a very long time and precedes the SJW line of “punch up not down.” What SJW added to the conversation was how to determine which direction is up and down, which is that people who fit certain demographics are always “up” relative to other demographics and thus always open to being punched, regardless of that individual’s unique circumstances. That’s the bath water.

          • Hyzenthlay says:

            the idea that one should pick on enemies their own size or that they should refrain from kicking someone while they’re down has existed for a very long time and precedes the SJW line of “punch up not down.”

            I would agree. I don’t think they’ve really added anything of value to the concept.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Very well said.

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        The trouble is that “punching up” and “punching down” are, in Orwell’s term, dying metaphors. If they were fully dead, they’d be understood as simply identical with “it’s not OK to attack people who are Mascots of the Anointed” and “it’s OK to attack people who aren’t”, and thus would have no ability to persuade anyone who doesn’t already believe those things. While if they were still living, people who hear them would still connect them in their minds with their original meanings, and whether you’re punching up or punching down truly would have to do with the ability of the punchee to hit back.

        A few of us might even get carried away and reflect that throwing a punch at someone who hasn’t hit you first is assault no matter how hard they can hit back.

        • Hyzenthlay says:

          A few of us might even get carried away and reflect that throwing a punch at someone who hasn’t hit you first is assault no matter how hard they can hit back.

          If we’re talking literal punches, obviously, but in this case “punching” is a metaphor for criticizing someone for bad behavior (or perceived bad behavior) in a way that is likely to have a negative impact on their reputation.

          I think that trying to ruin someone’s career over a mildly offensive joke is wrong–particularly when the person who made the joke is a nobody with no real power, and the person doing the career-ruining has a lot of power. But unless your stance is “criticizing other people’s behavior or ideas is always wrong” then there have to be some situations where “punching” is acceptable. After all, most criticism is designed to have an impact, or else there would be no point to it.

          Though also, I think it’s better to criticize in a way that condemns behavior or ideas rather than specific individuals.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            I’ve been taking “punching” to refer to punishing someone for perceived bad speech. My complaint is that, first, impersonal political speech should never lead to punching in this sense, and, second, that punching people for other types of speech should depend on whether the speech is punchworthy, and not at all on who is or isn’t powerful.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Also, if it’s really about power, then the instant you have the ability to punch me and I’m not allowed to punch you, you have more power than I do. That’s what power is.

          If the feminist on campus can stand in the quad and scream about how men are the devil and the administration approves, but if a man screams about the evils of women, he gets punished. Who has more power on campus?

          • liskantope says:

            You seem to be equating power in one very narrow area (screaming in the middle of the quad about how the opposite sex is the devil) with power averaged over all aspects of life.

          • Matt M says:

            When did he say “all aspects of life.”

            He specifically said “Who has more power on campus?” Screaming in the quad seems to be a relevant example of that. I suppose it’s possible that some shadowy patriarchy controls campus such that it is biased against women in terms of grades or admissions or whatever, but still freely allows them to scream in the quad (and forbids males from screaming in the quad), but that seems like a bit of a stretch to me.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            To be fair, Honcho asked specifically about power on campus at the end, but left it out in the beginning.

            Meanwhile, there’s an argument to be made here that power on campus becomes power everywhere else. Power in the market of ideas gives you hooks into everything that ideas affect, from video games to art to ethics to the law.

          • lvlln says:

            How does one even average out power “over all aspects of life” in a rigorous and predictable way? And if one could, how much use does it serve in specific contexts?

            Like, Donald Trump is very powerful in the world of politics, but not so much in the world of mixed martial arts. If you took the average of that, I’m guessing you’d probably still get someone who was much more powerful than an MMA fighter, but put him in the ring facing one, and I’d probably bet against him.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            First, what Matt said, but second, if we’re going to expand it to “averaged over all aspects of life,” is this a trick question? Isn’t it obviously women? Men make more but women spend more? Divorce courts, child custody, presumption of guilt/innocence in domestic abuse? Preferential treatment in hiring/admissions? No draft in wars? Women and children first to the lifeboats? I don’t think it’s even close.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        John Schilling, not quite the case you describe, but I’ve seen SJWs say that Republican politicians shouldn’t be attacked for being fat.

      • BBA says:

        The first thing I think of is that criticizing Islam is “punching down” so even though Saudi Arabian society is extremely misogynistic and repressive, etc., it’s inappropriate to bring this up.

        That may just be my understanding of it, though. I don’t know if a “real” leftist has ever laid it out that way.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          Saudi Arabia is a nation, not a person.
          It’d be inappropriate to hold a random Saudi peasant personally responsible for all the crimes of Saudi culture because it is convenient to do so. Sure, you know, try the guy for murder if he killed someone. But if for some reason a Saudi refugee came to the states and said mean things about women in scandalous dress, it’d be improper to Twitter-mob said refugee so he/she ends up on the streets, or has to go back to Saudi Arabia.

          It’s okay to criticize Saudi royalty.

          • Hyzenthlay says:

            But if for some reason a Saudi refugee came to the states and said mean things about women in scandalous dress, it’d be improper to Twitter-mob said refugee so he/she ends up on the streets, or has to go back to Saudi Arabia.

            I think BBA was referring to criticizing Islam or Saudi culture as a concept rather than attacking individual refugees.

            I’m against Twitter-mobbing in general so I don’t think it would be right to Twitter-mob the refugee in that situation, but I am sort of curious about how the left/SJ culture in general would react if that situation actually came to pass. Probably they’d side with the refugee. When feminists criticize “the patriarchy” they generally like to single out white, Western targets so they don’t have to deal with that kind of uncomfortable cognitive dissonance.

            Which is ironic because, as many have observed, the worst types of systemic misogyny are happening elsewhere in the world; you’d think the first priority of feminists would be helping these women. But they’re squeamish about criticizing this stuff because they don’t want to be accused of racism or Islamophobia.

            I wonder if eventually they’ll get sick of this and there’ll be a split between the old school feminists and the multicultural feminists. Or maybe it’s already happening, I don’t know.

    • Fluffy Buffalo says:

      Actually, I thought of the phrase and considered making a comment along the lines of “it’s a pity that SJWs cannot conceive of power as being distributed inhomogeneously among individuals, not group identities, otherwise they’d really be on to something.”
      Then it occurred to me that that the core problem is that there’s too much unjustified punching going on, regardless of whether the direction is “up” or “down”.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        Yes, this a problem, “power” is not centered in groups. A writer for Reason with thousands of followers has more power than ADBG the lowly accountant, even if I so happen to have male genitalia and pale skin.

  49. dumky2 says:

    I agree with the core of this post, but would like to offer a refinement on the thin-libertarian position (being libertarian per-se does not logically imply a specific broader sense of ethics). The problem with government is force/coercion (violence is not an acceptable/proportional response to words), so I take a narrow view of “free speech” in the domain of justice and legal theory.

    But, like you, I also have preferences for open discussion and tolerance, even when no force is used. That preference is not categorical: it is fine for theaters to mandate silence during the movie, to disinvite someone you feel is rude, etc. I understand that different people will have different preferences about specific instances, and a multitude of norms and communities are possible. Some people obviously have different opinions on this question, and I do not and cannot control them.

    So I would separate the two positions and would not label the latter a “free speech” or “freedom” issue (he was free to make that joke, after all). They are telling the truth, not exercising force, just being jerks (that’s my personal opinion). I appreciate your effort to influence norms and call out such behavior.

  50. sevens2 says:

    The editor tweeted this: “RT to help ensure Aaron Sobczak’s prospective employers know this when they search for Aaron Sobczak’s name” – It’s not mere amplification, not mere boosting. It’s design, it’s shaping.

    Further, there is mediate reliance on state force. The full expectation is that [t]his will get him in trouble due to the “sexist” aspect. Employers’ apprehension to hire someone “like that” is largely founded on antidiscrimination law. It’s not a matter of free association. It’s not informing “prospective employers” who are then free to decide. They are bound by the threat of antidiscrimination law(suits). The editor relies on that influence; it’s what gives that person’s threat against him (and other “prospective” sandwich-jokers) and her punishment (ordered by the state, exectuted by employers, initiated and orchestrated by the editor) power.

    [some spelling errors corrected]

    • Matt M says:

      This is a very good point.

      As much as we often assume that companies are motivated by virtue-signaling, legal liability plays a huge part in this as well. At the end of the day, I suspect the concern is less “If we hire this guy, SJWs will organize an effective boycott against our products” (often threatened, rarely materializes), and much more “If we hire this guy and he ends up sexually harassing someone (the threshold for which decreases every day), the argument will be made that we hired him knowing he was prone to this sort of behavior and the lawsuit against us is more likely to win and have higher damages.”

      So no, this is not wholly disconnected from the state.

      • SamChevre says:

        This. Very much this.

        I’m in favor of community-based consequences, in general, and would like them to replace legal consequences. BUT in the current legal regime, where “well you hired someone who was known to have made a racist joke once” boosts legal liability hugely–I think that it’s not private action to publicize that someone made a racist or sexist joke.

        • Nornagest says:

          In my cynical moments, which these days is most of them, I look back on all those bright-eyed thinkpieces from the ’90s about how the Internet would usher in a new era of bottom-up, consensus-based politics and think that now we’re getting that, good and hard.

          • Deiseach says:

            now we’re getting that, good and hard

            “The people have spoken, the bastards.” –Dick Tuck’s concession speech following his loss in the 1966 California State Senate election.

      • The Nybbler says:

        “If we hire this guy and he ends up sexually harassing someone (the threshold for which decreases every day), the argument will be made that we hired him knowing he was prone to this sort of behavior and the lawsuit against us is more likely to win and have higher damages.”

        It’s worse than that. “If we hire this guy, simply having him here knowing he has engaged in this sort of behavior constitutes a hostile environment for women, and we could be successfully sued”. Where have I heard this argument? From proponents of it.

  51. Schismosis says:

    The man made a joke about the best way women can help work towards a more liberal/libertarian society is by making sandwiches. Someone took offense and, seemingly without stopping for a moment to think it through, decided to jump into a situation which required a great deal of introspection. I won’t name her explicitly, so I will give her a pseudonym: Elspeth!

    Elspeth is well known for being a defender of sex workers and their johns. She works hard to dispel the notion people have about sex workers and johns in a never-ending war of government extravagance to police some aspect of society, whether drug commerce or sex commerce. Part of that war is the Scarlet Letter sex workers endure even today; though, perhaps the Scarlet Letter of “slut”, “whore”, and other nasty branding are less common in popular culture.

    The Scarlet Letter placed on sex workers exists due to the zeitgeist viewing 1) promiscuity as immoral and 2) sex workers as women who entice otherwise devoted husbands from their wives – thus, resulting in destruction of civilized values. There are plenty of reasons for this, and evo psychs would have a field day explaining it; but, the reasons are not very relevant.

    What is relevant is whether Elspeth’s signal-boosting was a principled decision or not. She has fought against the Scarlet Letter for years – again, partly for the sake of sex workers but also because, as she attests, it is an issue of sexual liberty and libertarian values. Is she doing this because of libertarian values? I am not so sure after witnessing her behavior and her complete, unabashed disinterest in introspection on her actions when her principles come into question by critics.

    Libertarians argue for the NAP – the non-aggression principle. This was a clear violation of the NAP. She did not simply keep a record of the man’s rude behavior and disassociate from interacting with the man. She was the aggressor, branding him with that Scarlet Letter with the intent of making it very publicly visible – on his forehead, considering her reach (at least she hasn’t written an article about him – yet).

    The current zeitgeist is anti-misogyny. Feminists will argue otherwise, but Elspeth has the power here, not the man. Elspeth’s compatriot from Libertarianistan, Qat Murthi (pseudonym for another) and the Cardinalhat, who came to Elspeth’s defense, have the power. Feminists have the power – they have the might of Silicon Valley and other powerful enclaves which are on the fast track to turning our world into a technofeudalistic world.

    Elspeth’s neurotic take was unprincipled. She showed that she could not keep her emotions in check. She demonstrated that she is not a good worker-bee for liberty. She demonstrated that perhaps that joke the man made isn’t as much a joke, but something people might have been given sufficient reason to consider as a dark reality.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      She didn’t violate the non-aggression principle, which specifically and only forbids the initiation of force.

      It’s a handy bright line, though, as we’re seeing, it may not be as complete a guide as one might hope.

      • Schismosis says:

        We already have a superior, more complete NAP; but, to live by it, you have to be principled in more ways than most people, including those who spoke those words, are willing to: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

        That sentence is the NAP, but further reaching.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        How commonly is the NAP coupled with the principle of proportionality? I sorta thought they went hand in hand, even if the NAP was leading.

  52. Brad says:

    @Scott

    I have a pretty big blog. But other people have bigger ones. I’m not confident that the amount of fun I could have destroying the reputations of people I don’t like outweighs the chance of someone else destroying mine. I’m certainly not confident that the aggressive-signal-boosting power would mostly end up in the hands of good people. So I reject the entire tactic. I think it’s morally wrong to try to signal-boost people’s bad behavior – even their semipublic bad behavior – to get them fired. Probably there’s a lot of subtlety here and there have been times in the past I’ve supported cases that seem completely different to me but might seem similar to others. I admit there’s an argument that doxxing is a way of shaming people in order to enforce social norms, and that we need some way to enforce social norms eg the one against offensive jokes – though see my post Be Nice, At Least Until You Can Coordinate Meanness about good and bad ways to do this. But for now I just am very suspicious of the whole enterprise.

    You made a tumblr comment not so long ago, that I can’t find because tumblr is awful, along the lines that you reserve the right to respond to people that mention your handle or reblog your posts and attack you. Even if they have 2 followers and you have a zillion.

    I agree that is a somewhat different situation than the one you discuss in this post. And I agree that a good argument can be made that the line runs between those two cases. But there is a line, it is fuzzy one, and people can disagree about whether some particular circumstance falls on one or the other side of the line without being against civilization, the enlightenment, and all that’s good and pure and right.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      Based on Scott’s posts, I expect that “responding to people that mention him” would involve writing long posts explaining why their reasoning is faulty, not trying to launch an online campaign making it impossible for them to get a job.

  53. greghb says:

    Suppose you live in a small town and you think your local cops and judges are corrupt, maybe not prosecuting a murder you strongly suspect was committed by the mayor’s son. You can’t get traction locally, so you call up a national reporter, say at the New York Times. The reporter comes down, hears your story, does some investigating, and decides to publish an article calling attention to the situation. Regardless of whether your local officials are doing anything wrong, your town is now associated in the public record with these dramatic allegations. How should we feel about this?

    On the one hand, it seems like a slower, traditional version of retweet-doxxing. On the other hand, using the press like this seems like a healthy check on all parts of society, and sure it’s “extrajudicial” but everything starts off that way.

    Maybe the only difference between retweet-doxxing is this sort of reporting takes more time, so cooler thinking may prevail.

    Or maybe the above-referenced example is really just about retweet-doxxing (of any form) for slights like sexist jokes that Scott perceives as “small” — much smaller than a mayor’s son getting away with murder, anyway. Though perhaps the retweeters don’t perceive sexist jokes as small, so it would be hard to come to agreement on whether the behavior is appropriate. Maybe the retweeters in this case would say, “yes, sexist jokes are common, and there will be a painful transition period while we stamp out that kind of thinking, but the crime is every bit as bad as the punishment.” There are a lot of things you could say in response to that, but I’ve never found one that I thought would really convince someone who thinks it.

    • Doctor Mist says:

      sexist jokes that Scott perceives as “small”

      I don’t want to read Scott’s mind [who am I kidding, of course I do], but I have to say that despite Scott’s decision not to provide a link, I was motivated to go out and find this, and my overall impression was that the response to the joke was vastly out of proportion — so much so that I almost thought the response was itself a joking response, except that nobody seemed to treat it that way.

      The joke itself was so very lame and tired that it seemed hardly worth even a frown, and I can imagine it would have been a serious nothingburger in a world where the difference between a private two-second frown and mass opprobrium is more than a few keystrokes. So I sort of wonder if our reaction to the whole event is less a matter of substance than dismay at the consequences of the mechanism.

      I remember in the old days, way before cell phones, a friend suggested that junk phone calls could be eliminated if The Phone Company just added a button to phones that would charge the caller $10. I have not yet figured out the downside.

      • Jiro says:

        I remember in the old days, way before cell phones, a friend suggested that junk phone calls could be eliminated if The Phone Company just added a button to phones that would charge the caller $10. I have not yet figured out the downside.

        The downside is that the phone company profits from letting people make junk calls and doesn’t want to eliminate them.

        The fact that there’s little downside to you is irrelevant.

        • Ketil says:

          Have the $10 go to the phone company?

          • Jiro says:

            That doesn’t work. The $10 is meant to discourage the behavior that brings in the $10. Ideally, the $10 charge would lead to no junk calls at all, no profit to the phone company from getting $10s, and no profit from the phone company for having junk callers as customers either.

      • Doctor Mist says:

        The downside is that the phone company profits from letting people make junk calls

        Sure, I thought that went without saying; I meant no appreciable tradeoff to society as a whole. Presumably such calls in principle enable us to get our own phone service cheaper, like junk mail is alleged to do for mail delivery, but I’m less convinced that this is true for junk calls. Does anybody pay by the call any more?

        Have the $10 go to the phone company?

        In my friend’s original suggestion, the $10 would go to the callee. But going to the phone company is an interesting alternative. Presumably they would then have an incentive to charge for calls at a level that balances income from calls against income from button penalties. Not sure how that would shake out.

        But I’m straying from the original point. There’s no observable mechanism for making somebody suffer for an intemperate tweet, except to respond in kind. The effect on the commons is tragic.

  54. patersbier says:

    “Having free speech laws on the books is a necessary precondition, but it’s useless in the absence of social norms that support it. If you win a million First Amendment victories in the Supreme Court, but actively work to undermine the social norms that let people say what they think in real life, you’re anti-free-speech.”

    That’s precisely why you shouldn’t say “women go back to the kitchen to #makelibertywin”.

    I think Scott is right about separating work from private life in general, but that doesn’t apply here. Effectively tweeting “lol women STFU” @ literal potential co-workers and partners in the context of a pre-existing conversation regarding gender representation in libertarian spaces is not the same as taking something intended to be private, like sexual orientation and bringing it into that space. The author of the boosted tweet was trying to participate in YAL’s sphere of debate.

  55. The Red Foliot says:

    The truly crazy thing is that one’s entire existence is dependent on being employable, and employability is apparently such a fragile thing a single mildly unpopular comment can burst it into shards. Maybe North American sadist-ocracies should think about fixing their societies to not be so ruthless.

    • Brad says:

      Is that really true though? Think about the famous pariahs that had their “lives ruined” by twitter mobs — are they all dead or homeless now?

    • The Red Foliot says:

      Some may have blown their brains out owing to massive psychological trauma. Others, who were already on the borderlines of employability, may have found themselves dependent on their relatives for support. I guess most of the true homeless are crazy; they were never employable in the first place.

    • Brad says:

      I could speculate without any basis too.

      Do you know for a fact of anyone that killed himself or is dependent on his relatives for support because of a single mildly unpopular comment? Sacco? Eich? Mr-Hank (Donglegate guy)? The owners of Memories Pizza? Matt Taylor? Anyone at all?

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I read on reddit once about a guy who was falsely accused of rape, and the accusation followed him even when he moved to a different town. He couldn’t get a job or maintain a relationship and killed himself. Not exactly the same thing, though.

    • The Red Foliot says:

      I recall reading one time about an SJW who killed himself due to some internet harassment, although the harassment he endured was less than losing his job or the ability to work.

  56. andagain says:

    You can’t think you can have people fired for un-feminist jokes unless you think feminists already have the power. So Feminist Libertarian obviously thinks her side has all the power. This does not do much for her justification, but it goes a long way to explain her act. It is like campus leftists – this would be a lot less anti-free speech if they feared that their enemies would be doing the censoring.

    Speaking of which, I wonder if this columnist has written the obligatory “How did Trump get elected?” column yet.

    • aynrandysavage says:

      You don’t have to be a feminist to find misogynist jokes inappropriate and unacceptable. I can’t think of any organization that would tolerate an employee making blatantly disrespectful and misogynistic jokes to a group of female employees. This isn’t about feminism, this is about professionalism and social awareness.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        “This isn’t about feminism, it’s about redefining professional behavior as adherence to feminist ideology.”

        • aynrandysavage says:

          If treating women with a basic level of respect and not making jokes about them being subservient to you based on the fact that they’re women is “feminist ideology” then I’m completely fine with incorporating feminist ideology into professional behavior.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            If treating women with a basic level of respect and not making jokes about them being subservient to you based on the fact that they’re women is “feminist ideology” then I’m completely fine with incorporating feminist ideology into professional behavior.

            I think women can handle jokes. It obviously depends on the severity and seriousness of the jokes, but usually it’s fine. I think your redefinition of the situation serves you poorly and illustrates why most are not interested in incorporating feminist ideology into professional behavior.

          • aynrandysavage says:

            *Handle a joke*

            i’ve never seen a coherent definition of that phrase beyond “suffer in silence while people act disrespectfully towards you”

          • AnonYEmous says:

            I think it’s possible to suffer in silence, but the jokes aren’t always disrespectful. Sometimes they’re friendly, if annoying.

          • aynrandysavage says:

            Well this is a textbook case of them being disrespectful. Malicious intent is not required to disrespect somebody.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            i’ve never seen a coherent definition of that phrase beyond “suffer in silence while people act disrespectfully towards you”

            Bolded needs defined.

            Malicious intent is not required to disrespect somebody.

            No one likes someone who takes offense to everything.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            OK so now we’re at least three levels of euphemism deep here.

            Professionalism is not the same as political correctness. Neither is treating people with a basic level of respect. And reputation is not the same as an explicit blacklisting campaign.

            Professionalism is about being a fucking professional. Doing your job, leaving your political and religious baggage at the door when you clock in for the day. If you can’t deal with the concept that your potential employee or coworker might post off-color jokes on his personal twitter then you’re the one being unprofessional in making it a condition of employment.

            Treating people with respect is, again, about treating people with basic fucking respect. Even if you strenuously disagree with someone’s opinion or choices you know that they’re still a human being and treat them accordingly. If you respond to someone telling an off-color joke with a call to get him fired then you’re the one not treating people with basic respect.

            If you’re so blinded by ideology that you can’t see how extraordinarily disproportionate this is, I genuinely feel sorry for you. This isn’t a blow against some nebulous patriarchy. You’re cheering at the possibility of a young man’s career ending over a hashtag.

          • Brad says:

            NaD
            You are ignoring the context. This wasn’t a tweet out of a personal twitter account to a the person’s followers. It was tweeted to an organization in the field the person presumably wishes to enter.

            Would it be professional for a student at the SUNY Maritime College to tweet a dead baby joke to @SNAME_HQ (the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers)?

          • aynrandysavage says:

            Bolded needs defined.

            https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/disrespect

            not rocket science.

            No one likes someone who takes offense to everything.

            Who said anything about “taking offense to everything?” These women and men were offended by a rude and socially inept statement. That’s not “everything”

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Who said anything about “taking offense to everything?” These women and men were offended by a rude and socially inept statement. That’s not “everything”

            Off-hand jokes fall into “everything,” particularly when you automatically assume ill-intent, enough to start a mob to try to permanently tarnish someone’s professional image.

            not rocket science.

            A dictionary definition is devoid of meaning.
            Here’s the definition of freedom:
            https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/freedom
            Obviously, this doesn’t provide any meaningful detail to the question “what’s freedom,” particularly when applied to practical policy questions.

            Professionalism is about being a fucking professional. Doing your job, leaving your political and religious baggage at the door when you clock in for the day. If you can’t deal with the concept that your potential employee or coworker might post off-color jokes on his personal twitter then you’re the one being unprofessional in making it a condition of employment.

            This is obvious to me. If you are not a criminal and can handle your professional duties without problem, your non-professional life has no bearing on your professional performance.

            The arguments for chasing people out of employment or considering people’s private views usually are based on automatically assuming anyone with non-correct views MUST let those views interfere with professional work.
            I assume most people would disagree if I turned this notion around and assumed anyone following “Occupy Democrats” is automatically a bad employee because I assume they can’t work with Republicans, or establishment Democrats.

      • Spookykou says:

        I think this might be a blue tribe red tribe thing, I work in a very red tribe environment, and people are blatantly sexist/engage in sexual harassment pretty regularly.

        • aynrandysavage says:

          I work for a fairly conservative/libertarian non-profit that any neutral observer would absolutely call “red tribe.” It seems almost condescending that a woman has to work at a left-liberal organization in order to avoid sexism and sexual harassment. Having said that, based on some of the comments here, there does seem to be some grain of truth to it.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            You seem new, so just clarify, “red-tribe” doesn’t line up strictly speaking with “votes conservative”.

            It’s more a description of the “urbane/rural” dichotomy, although even rural is probably not quite right. Non-urbane is perhaps better.

            Original use at SSC

      • aynrandysavage says:

        Off-hand jokes fall into “everything,” particularly when you automatically assume ill-intent, enough to start a mob to try to permanently tarnish someone’s professional image.

        Naming a specific thing is the literal opposite of “everything.” *most* women are offended when men whom they don’t know demean them while they’re representing themselves in a professional capacity. I’m not talking about any other kind of offense here but that specific one.

        This is obvious to me. If you are not a criminal and can handle your professional duties without problem, your non-professional life has no bearing on your professional performance.

        Not making sexist jokes to coworkers is a part of any employees professional duties in a modern office.

        The arguments for chasing people out of employment or considering people’s private views

        We’re not talking about private views. We’re talking about a public sexist joke aimed directly at people the person was attending a libertarian conference with.

        • lvlln says:

          Naming a specific thing is the literal opposite of “everything.” *most* women are offended when men whom they don’t know demean them while they’re representing themselves in a professional capacity. I’m not talking about any other kind of offense here but that specific one.

          Is there a non-controversial way of determining if someone is “demeaning” someone else that doesn’t at all depend on the subjective interpretation of the person claiming to be “demeaned?” I haven’t seen such a thing exist, and without it, anyone can claim that anything said by anyone else is “demeaning” them, with exactly as much credibility as this example here. I’ve observed this absolutely seems to be how it plays out in practice – there seems not to exist any statement innocuous enough not to be interpreted as “demeaning” if the person claiming to be “demeaned” is sufficiently motivated.

          Which is why “everything” is on the table when people justify this kind of retribution. If your criteria is something as ill defined and – in practice – unlimited scale and arbitrary in scope as “disrespect,” “sexist,” “demeaning,” etc., then the criteria is effectively “everything.”

          Not making sexist jokes to coworkers is a part of any employees professional duties in a modern office.

          We’re not talking about private views. We’re talking about a public sexist joke aimed directly at people the person was attending a libertarian conference with.

          These 2 paragraphs are talking about very different things. Even granting that the joke was sexist, how is making that joke “aimed directly at people the person was attending a libertarian conference with” translate to “making sexist jokes to coworkers?” Particularly when the joke was on Twitter? Do you have a shred of evidence that someone who does the former is more likely to engage in the latter? I’ve seen none presented, and you seem to be speculating wildly rather than dealing with the facts.

          • aynrandysavage says:

            Is there a non-controversial way of determining if someone is “demeaning” someone else that doesn’t at all depend on the subjective interpretation of the person claiming to be “demeaned?” I haven’t seen such a thing exist, and without it, anyone can claim that anything said by anyone else is “demeaning” them, with exactly as much credibility as this example here. I’ve observed this absolutely seems to be how it plays out in practice – there seems not to exist any statement innocuous enough not to be interpreted as “demeaning” if the person claiming to be “demeaned” is sufficiently motivated.

            Human society is built on social mores and norms that are “subjective.” That doesn’t excuse people for violating them. Telling a professional woman you don’t know personally to “go make me a sandwich” would be seen as disrespectful to any reasonable observer.

            “making sexist jokes to coworkers?” Particularly when the joke was on Twitter? Do you have a shred of evidence that someone who does the former is more likely to engage in the latter? I’ve seen none presented, and you seem to be speculating wildly rather than dealing with the facts.

            When you’re using the same twitter account that you use to represent your own organization (Young Americans for Liberty) to demean women while they’re representing their own liberty-advancing org, you’re already behaving inappropriately in a professional capacity. This tweet was made while he was attending a libertarian conference in an official capacity as a student representative. It was as far from private as one can get.

          • lvlln says:

            Human society is built on social mores and norms that are “subjective.” That doesn’t excuse people for violating them. Telling a professional woman you don’t know personally to “go make me a sandwich” would be seen as disrespectful to any reasonable observer.

            This doesn’t actually address my question and simply makes another naked assertion that “any reasonable observer” would agree with you. That’s not convincing.

            If you believe that enough people in society agree with you such that you believe that you can safely bully others who violate the norms you dictate, that seems reasonable, but let’s acknowledge that it’s just a power play.

            When you’re using the same twitter account that you use to represent your own organization (Young Americans for Liberty) to demean women while they’re representing their own liberty-advancing org, you’re already behaving inappropriately in a professional capacity. This tweet was made while he was attending a libertarian conference in an official capacity as a student representative. It was as far from private as one can get.

            This doesn’t address the issue either. So what if the “tweet was made while he was attending a libertarian conference in an official capacity as a student representative. It was as far from private as one can get?” Is it actually predictive of how he would behave to coworkers or colleagues if/when he was acting as an employee of a workplace? More specifically, is it predictive that he would behave in a similarly offensive manner? This is not something one can just assert or even argue from first principles; we need empirical evidence to determine if it’s true. And I’ve seen no indication that you or anyone else has found any such evidence to support such an empirical claim.

          • aynrandysavage says:

            This doesn’t actually address my question and simply makes another naked assertion that “any reasonable observer” would agree with you. That’s not convincing.

            All I can say to that is that when you end up working in the professional world, you’ll understand too. If you don’t understand why making demeaning jokes towards women is bad, you’ll find out the moment you start trying to do that in the working world.

            If you believe that enough people in society agree with you such that you believe that you can safely bully others who violate the norms you dictate, that seems reasonable, but let’s acknowledge that it’s just a power play.

            The word “bullying” carries severe negative connotations. If you’re only using it to mean “to use social pressure/capital to change a person’s behavior” then most bullying is at worst morally neutral, and at best, morally praiseworthy.

            Is it actually predictive of how he would behave to coworkers or colleagues if/when he was acting as an employee of a workplace? More specifically, is it predictive that he would behave in a similarly offensive manner? This is not something one can just assert or even argue from first principles; we need empirical evidence to determine if it’s true. And I’ve seen no indication

            He’s already demonstrated a lack of awareness of appropriate public behavior while working at a liberty-advancing organization. To say that working in an office would be a substantive difference is begging the question. He’s already violated the expectations of the organization that he’s currently working for. Moreover, the damage has already been done to a degree. All of the women at LoLA and the other liberty-advancing orgs involved in the original conversation can reasonably be said to be aware of his misogynist and disrespectful tendencies. They’d be perfectly reasonable in believing that their organizations hire misogynistic, disrespectful people.

          • The Nybbler says:

            All I can say to that is that when you end up working in the professional world, you’ll understand too.

            Oh, indeed I do. I’ve been working in the professional world for over 20 years.

            If you don’t understand why making demeaning jokes towards women is bad, you’ll find out the moment you start trying to do that in the working world.

            Twitter does not count as “the working world”, unless you’re tweeting from a corporate account. As for why making demeaning jokes towards women is bad, but making demeaning jokes, aspersions, and directing outright vitriol towards men for being men is 100% A-OK… well, that’s because the people with the power to punish think that way.

          • lvlln says:

            All I can say to that is that when you end up working in the professional world, you’ll understand too. If you don’t understand why making demeaning jokes towards women is bad, you’ll find out the moment you start trying to do that in the working world.

            Please drop the condescension. I do work in the professional world, though admittedly not even for a decade so far. I understand full well that making demeaning jokes towards women is bad and why. I find making demeaning jokes towards women or anyone else to be reprehensible behavior.

            All that is irrelevant to the question of the arbitrariness of determining whether or not a given joke was demeaning towards women or anyone else, and whether one person deciding that it was indeed demeaning, using their judgment which is just as faulty, biased, and motivated as that of anyone else, justifies taking actions to make someone unemployable.

            The word “bullying” carries severe negative connotations. If you’re only using it to mean “to use social pressure/capital to change a person’s behavior” then most bullying is at worst morally neutral, and at best, morally praiseworthy.

            OK, so you’re fine with social pressure to coerce people into changing behavior in ways that you deem preferable. That’s just straight-up tyranny. You may consider it “morally praiseworthy” because you believe that your preferred behavior is “morally praiseworthy,” which is what literally every tyrant and dictator believed about their preferred behavior.

            I prefer a non-tyrannical method of changing behavior through negotiation, discussion, debate, and even arguments designed to convince. You seem to prefer coercion by use of social power and see nothing wrong with it, just object to the negative connotations of the term “bullying.” I think this may just be an intractable difference in terminal values.

            He’s already demonstrated a lack of awareness of appropriate public behavior while working at a liberty-advancing organization. To say that working in an office would be a substantive difference is begging the question. He’s already violated the expectations of the organization that he’s currently working for. Moreover, the damage has already been done to a degree. All of the women at LoLA and the other liberty-advancing orgs involved in the original conversation can reasonably be said to be aware of his misogynist and disrespectful tendencies. They’d be perfectly reasonable in believing that their organizations hire misogynistic, disrespectful people.

            Working in an office and speaking to coworkers or colleagues in that setting is quite literally different from tweeting at someone while at a conference. Whether it’s substantively different is an empirical question. You don’t get to just claim that it’s not substantively different without providing empirical evidence for that claim. Just because many – or even most – people just make the unwarranted assumption that there’s a correlation does not mean that such a correlation exists or that you are justified in making the same assumption.

          • aynrandysavage says:

            Twitter does not count as “the working world”, unless you’re tweeting from a corporate account.

            The tweet in question was posted by the same account the person in question used to represent his student organization to professional organizations.

            As for why making demeaning jokes towards women is bad, but making demeaning jokes, aspersions, and directing outright vitriol towards men for being men is 100% A-OK… well, that’s because the people with the power to punish think that way.

            Tu quoque

          • The Nybbler says:

            The tweet in question was posted by the same account the person in question used to represent his student organization to professional organizations.

            So, his personal account?

            Tu quoque

            I’m saying “why making demeaning jokes towards women is bad” is simply “you will be punished if you do”. Because it is not reciprocal, there are no higher principles involved; the argument that this is punishable is merely ad baculum. “Tu quoque” would be a response to a logical argument, which you have not made, and I am pointing out you have not made.

          • aynrandysavage says:

            So, his personal account?

            As he has only one account, it was his personal and professional account. In this context, he was using it in a professional capacity.

            I’m saying “why making demeaning jokes towards women is bad” is simply “you will be punished if you do”. Because it is not reciprocal, there are no higher principles involved; the argument that this is punishable is merely ad baculum. “Tu quoque” would be a response to a logical argument, which you have not made, and I am pointing out you have not made.

            That only presumes that you think it’s perfectly acceptable to disrespect and demean women in a professional capacity. If you don’t think that, bringing up the alleged fact that men can be demeaned and disrespected without punishment is just an appeal to hypocrisy.

          • The Nybbler says:

            As he has only one account, it was his personal and professional account. In this context, he was using it in a professional capacity.

            So, his personal account. And since he is not in fact a professional, he was not using it in a professional capacity.

            You are arguing that it was right for ENB to do what she did because this person’s remarks would be unacceptable in a professional context, and you indicated that any professional knows why. I agree that any professional knows why, and that it is because they would be punished for it. And so your appeal to professionalism is actually merely an appeal to force, and thus cannot be used as a moral justification. I point out the non-reciprocity of the “professional” rule to demonstrate it really is raw application of force rather than some higher principle. This is not “tu quoque”; that would be if I pointed out you were not following the rule you had proposed.

          • aynrandysavage says:

            So, his personal account. And since he is not in fact a professional, he was not using it in a professional capacity.

            He was representing Young Americans for Liberty in a professional capacity. Their student leaders are expected and required to behave appropriately as representatives of the larger organization itself. He failed to live up to his expectations as a YAL leader.

            Student leaders in any liberty organization know that that’s expected of them ,whether they’re members of YAL, SFL, or ISI, etc.

            One of the missions of groups like the above are to groom student leaders into advocates for liberty in their careers as well. If he behaved like this anyway, he either clearly doesn’t want a job in the liberty movement(no harm no foul) or he does want one, but would be a poor fit for it.

            You are arguing that it was right for ENB to do what she did because this person’s remarks would be unacceptable in a professional context, and you indicated that any professional knows why. I agree that any professional knows why, and that it is because they would be punished for it. And so your appeal to professionalism is actually merely an appeal to force, and thus cannot be used as a moral justification.

            So then you don’t accept that it is unacceptable on its face to demean and disrespect women, irrespective of punishment?

          • The Nybbler says:

            It appears his only relationship to Young Americans for Liberty is as a member. In particular, he is NOT listed as having a leadership position in YAL. So, certainly no professional relationship there. And it was his personal account. So, again, applying “professional” standards is uncalled for.

            So then you don’t accept that it is unacceptable on its face to demean and disrespect women, irrespective of punishment?

            That claim is not the one you made. The claim you made is that “any reasonable observer” would find such jokes unacceptable in a professional environment. I claim that this is true but not a moral claim, merely a recognition of the existence of punishment.

            If you wish to concede that the whole “professionalism” thing is irrelevant, and instead claim that it was OK for ENB to attempt to blacklist this person because his joke was universally unacceptable on its face, that is another thing entirely.

        • aynrandysavage says:

          All that is irrelevant to the question of the arbitrariness of determining whether or not a given joke was demeaning towards women or anyone else

          Maybe in some parallel world, telling a woman that she’s subservient to men and that her primary role in advancing a political cause is to feed them might not be seen as demeaning. Here in the real world, that’s as objective and absolute as any point of fact can be.

          and whether one person deciding that it was indeed demeaning, using their judgment which is just as faulty, biased, and motivated as that of anyone else, justifies taking actions to make someone unemployable.

          No one person can make somebody unemployable. Elizabeth Nolan Brown is a journalist at Reason, not their head of HR. She can’t even make the tweeter in question unemployable at her own magazine. In order to be “unemployable” a person has to say something that a broad swath of people find objectionable and offensive. To claim that ENB made this guy unemployable means to concede that what he said was universally found to be offensive.

          OK, so you’re fine with social pressure to coerce people into changing behavior in ways that you deem preferable. That’s just straight-up tyranny. You may consider it “morally praiseworthy” because you believe that your preferred behavior is “morally praiseworthy,” which is what literally every tyrant and dictator believed about their preferred behavior.

          You clearly don’t know what tyranny means. If somebody sitting next to me farts and I give him a dirty look, am I being a tyrant? This is not a difference of us having terminal values, it’s a problem of you having some radically atomized and unrealistic world view.

          By your logic, a 5 year old is a tyrant when they beg their parents to buy them an ice cream cone. A dog is a tyrant when it gives its owner a sad look when it wants food.

          Working in an office and speaking to coworkers or colleagues in that setting is quite literally different from tweeting at someone while at a conference. Whether it’s substantively different is an empirical question. You don’t get to just claim that it’s not substantively different without providing empirical evidence for that claim. Just because many – or even most – people just make the unwarranted assumption that there’s a correlation does not mean that such a correlation exists or that you are justified in making the same assumption.

          There is only one relevant quality of either situation. How a person behaves in a professional capacity towards fellow professionals. The tweeter used his YAL twitter account to bully and demean fellow colleagues. Everything else is irrelevant.

          • lvlln says:

            Maybe in some parallel world, telling a woman that she’s subservient to men and that her primary role in advancing a political cause is to feed them might not be seen as demeaning. Here in the real world, that’s as objective and absolute as any point of fact can be.

            You keep making bald assertions of fact based on your personal judgments. You seem to live in a fantasy world where your personal opinion of things actually reflects objective reality or that you have the ability to accurately gauge the general thinking of other people. This is arrogance and naked hubris.

            Note that I’ve never once claimed that this joke wasn’t demeaning. I think there’s a strong argument to be made that it is indeed demeaning. You seem completely uninterested in making such an argument but rather just declaring it so, as if your word is that of God. That’s the issue here. If you actually seemed interested in making an argument for this joke or any joke being demeaning, and then argued that it was reasonable to try to punish someone who made such a joke, it’d be easier to be on board. But when you repeatedly refuse to make the argument and constantly go to making bald assertions, demanding that we just take it on your word that a joke is demeaning, that’s unconvincing. When you refuse to actually engage with an argument for determining whether something crosses the threshold for being demeaning, then that’s just claiming that you get to declare literally anything and everything arbitrarily to be demeaning and thus punishing anything and everything is justified. And that’s a problem.

            No one person can make somebody unemployable. Elizabeth Nolan Brown is a journalist at Reason, not their head of HR. She can’t even make the tweeter in question unemployable at her own magazine. In order to be “unemployable” a person has to say something that a broad swath of people find objectionable and offensive. To claim that ENB made this guy unemployable means to concede that what he said was universally found to be offensive.

            I never claimed she made him unemployable. I said she took action to make him unemployable, i.e. that she attempted to. Maybe not unemployable to all jobs in all contexts, but in some jobs in some contexts. It’s obvious that no one can make anyone else literally unemployable (short of murdering them, I guess). The action being talked about is taking action to make it less likely for someone to be employed in certain contexts for the purpose of punishment.

            You clearly don’t know what tyranny means. If somebody sitting next to me farts and I give him a dirty look, am I being a tyrant? This is not a difference of us having terminal values, it’s a problem of you having some radically atomized and unrealistic world view.

            By your logic, a 5 year old is a tyrant when they beg their parents to buy them an ice cream cone. A dog is a tyrant when it gives its owner a sad look when it wants food.

            Dirty looks, begging, and sad looks are not coercive exercises of social power. They are forms of communication. They are on one side of a very bright line that separates them and publishing an article on a popular platform in an act to make someone unemployable (i.e. less likely to be hired in certain contexts, as I explained above). It boggles the mind that you don’t understand that.

            If you responded to someone farting next to you by whipping out your loudspeaker and announcing his name and calling everyone to point and laugh at him – and you know people will respond positively because you’re already popular in this group – that’s coercive exercise of social power and tyranny. Giving him a dirty look is just another means of communication (assuming it’s isolated – if you’re popular, and if you go on a campaign of giving him dirty looks every time you see him from then on, that’d be tyrannical – with the relevant act being the “campaign” part, not the “dirty look” part).

            There is only one relevant quality of either situation. How a person behaves in a professional capacity towards fellow professionals. The tweeter used his YAL twitter account to bully and demean fellow colleagues. Everything else is irrelevant.

            Again, you keep making this naked assertion of empirical fact that how this member behaved on Twitter is predictive of how they’d behave toward colleagues in a workplace. I’ve given you every opportunity to provide evidence for the claims you’re making, and you’ve refused every time. At this point, I have to conclude that you aren’t interested in discussion or learning more about the world and just have faiths that you demand others abide by. During my younger years, I used to get into arguments with Christian apologists, and I know how unproductive and annoying such arguments can be, so I have no interest in continuing this conversation. If you’d like, please feel free to have the last word.

          • aynrandysavage says:

            Note that I’ve never once claimed that this joke wasn’t demeaning. I think there’s a strong argument to be made that it is indeed demeaning.

            So it sounds like we agree.

            You seem completely uninterested in making such an argument but rather just declaring it so, as if your word is that of God. That’s the issue here. If you actually seemed interested in making an argument for this joke or any joke being demeaning, and then argued that it was reasonable to try to punish someone who made such a joke, it’d be easier to be on board.

            So you want me to make an argument for something you already agree with? That’s now how this works. We share the same premises, so there’s no sense debating them. If you change your mind and disagree that the joke was demeaning, I’d be happy to make the case that it is.

            Dirty looks, begging, and sad looks are not coercive exercises of social power. They are forms of communication.

            The two aren’t mutually exclusive. Dirty looks are intended to intimidate and shame the target. Sad looks and whimpering are intended to elicit sympathetic feelings and/or guilt. By your definition of tyranny, any action taken with the intent of changing the behavior of another person is coercion and tyranny.

            Again, you keep making this naked assertion of empirical fact that how this member behaved on Twitter is predictive of how they’d behave toward colleagues in a workplace.

            I’m not making a purely predictive statement. I’m saying that we can infer how he’ll behave towards colleagues in the future because we’ve seen how he behaves towards them NOW. Young Americans for Liberty works very hard to impress upon its member to behave professionally when they’re in public facing roles. The young man in question was serving as a representative for Liberty University at the conference. He was acting in a professional capacity and he was communicating with fellow professional colleagues when he made that tweet. The fact that he wasn’t sitting in a cubicle doesn’t mean that he wasn’t “on the clock.”

        • aynrandysavage says:

          It appears his only relationship to Young Americans for Liberty is as a member. In particular, he is NOT listed as having a leadership position in YAL. So, certainly no professional relationship there. And it was his personal account. So, again, applying “professional” standards is uncalled for.

          He was tabling and representing the Liberty University chapter at YALcon. And he uses his “personal” twitter account for YAL-related purposes, therefore it’s not a “personal” account.

          I claim that this is true but not a moral claim, merely a recognition of the existence of punishment.

          So is it morally acceptable to disrespect female professionals?

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Because the organization has internalized values that make them recoil at sandwich jokes, or because they’re scared of sexual harassment / hostile environment lawsuits?

  57. Matt M says:

    I dunno, my gut instinct is to agree with all of this 100%.

    But thinking about it for a bit, the “principled libertarian” side of me wants to say that the “doxxer” is perfectly within their rights to do this (and that there is no particular moral requirement for them to not do it). My issue is not so much with them, but rather, with the rabid audience of people who will so readily denounce someone for trivialities, and (moreso), with the hiring managers/etc. who are willing to cower to mobs demanding vigilante justice.

    Who is responsible for the crimes of a mob? Perhaps the person who stands up on a soap box and yells “Hey let’s get this mob going here!” shares in some of the blame, but my answer would be “every single participant in the mob as well as those who aide and abed mob behavior.”

  58. Rollo McFloogle says:

    You left out some important details. The Reason editor was promoting the idea with other libertarian women that the libertarian movement needed to do a better job of attracting women and was using a certain hashtag. The young man tweeted the joke at this group with the hashtag. I don’t think the joke itself was the problem as opposed to his dismissiveness of what they were trying to accomplish. Even of his intentions weren’t bad, it was probably a pretty dumb and annoying thing to say and it was in line with a lot of dismissive jokes from other libertarian men.

    This young man’s goal was to work in the libertarian movement and his joke was aimed at the people who work in organizations that try to help young libertarians like himself. The Reason editor’s tweets indicated just that. It’s not as though his industry was something like insurance and his retweets were being directed at insurance company executives.

    If you’re going to hire people to promote your agenda, you probably want to know if a prospective employee doesn’t take what you do seriously.

    Context matters and it’s not fair to omit it.

  59. grendelkhan says:

    Compare XKCD #137 with #1357, about eight years apart. (The pages don’t have dates on them, but assuming he reliably does three a week, I estimate 2006 and 2014, respectively.) They’re not exactly contradictory, but you can kind of see that one was written before Atheism+ and The Ants, and the other was written after, i.e., after geek culture bifurcated itself. Sometimes I wonder which side of it Aaron Swartz would have been on, if he’d lived.

    A bit less abstractly, I think the usual approach to this question is to add the usual ‘punching up’ epicycles, i.e., mobbing is okay if you’re punching up, and a famous woman is punching up when she signal-boosts a random male civilian. It sounds a bit better than ‘mobbing is okay if you’re doing it against the enemies of progressivism’, which I fear is the real principle at work here.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      This is the problem of a movement that justifies itself based on status as powerless victims. These people won the culture war. They have massive cultural power, and the threat of endless lawsuits to apply state force. But if they acknowledged that, they’d lose their ability to punch, and open themselves up to punching, and punching is fun.

      Yes, 30 years ago, Christianity had a lot of cultural power. You could call someone a “sinner” and it could damage them socially. Today they’d just laugh at you. You’re more likely to get fired for being homophobic than you are for being homosexual. Doesn’t stop people from wanting to force Christians to bake gay wedding cakes though.

      • Brad says:

        How exactly do you expect anyone to be sympathetic to your claims that we should have a neutral space where no one is punished for his views when you don’t even attempt to hide your preference for your side winning and punishing the other side?

        Do you really think ‘oppress, oppress, oppress, start losing, why can’t we all just get along’ is a strategy that has a reasonable chance of convincing anyone?

        • The Nybbler says:

          Do you really think ‘oppress, oppress, oppress, start losing, why can’t we all just get along’ is a strategy that has a reasonable chance of convincing anyone?

          Sounds like the sort of thing Trump supporters would say while happily tearing down their opponents institutions.

          • Brad says:

            Exactly my point. Conrad Honcho is being disingenuous. If he and those like him get power again they will fire people for being gay. Regardless of whether or not bakers were forced to bake wedding cakes. Maybe they should or maybe they shouldn’t, but it’s a lie to claim that any norm put in place now can become entrenched enough to restrain future ascendant conservative bigots.

            The give the devil the benefit of the law quote that has been quoted in this thread several times is bullshit. When the devil gets into power he isn’t going to give a shit about the laws. They aren’t going to save you. If you want to give the devil the benefit of the laws, that’s fine, but don’t think doing so is going to save you if the tables are turned.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I don’t really see what your point is. I don’t justify my political beliefs or actions based on perceived oppression or victimization. My values are along the “civilization versus barbarism” axis, not the “oppressor versus oppressed” axis.

          • Brad says:

            Yet here you are whining about bakers supposedly being oppressed.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            What’s the difference between pointing out hypocrisy and whining? The social justice types justify their punching based on “punching up.” But even when they are up, they don’t stop punching. That’s where the disingenuousness you accuse me of is.

            But there’s nothing disingenuous about my punching. My complicated punching rules (which are generally about why I shouldn’t punch even when I really, really, really want to punch) are based on “things that are good for civilization,” and oppression one way or the other really has nothing to do with it.

    • Viliam says:

      Compare XKCD #137 with #1357, about eight years apart.

      That is a fascinating contrast indeed. The first one is great, the second one is quite stupid. I guess this is what politics does to smart people.

  60. Rough and Toothless says:

    In the voice of Yakov Smirnoff …

    In Regular Social Justice, status goes to biggest victim.

    In Libertarian Social Justice, status goes to maker of biggest victim.

  61. Deiseach says:

    Well, that is definitely over-kill. Trying to make someone unemployable over a stupid comment is too much – the best retort would be this cartoon. Maybe a snarky comment about “does he act like this around his girlfriend?”

    On the other hand, “it’s only a joke” has been used to get away with bullying and prejudice. So I suppose I’m saying “make your retaliation proportional”. Who gets to decide what is proportional is the big question, though.

    Anyway, this is why I have very cleverly not ever said anything online in any context whatsoever under my real name!

  62. userfriendlyyy says:

    In the vain of libertarians being very wary of one kind of tyranny but oblivious to another…. Some (not all) libertarians tend to find any government intrusion into their lives as the worst sin imaginable yet have no problem when multinational corporations come in to fill the inevitable void. We’ve been playing the less government game since Reagan only to see Wall Street and multinationals come in and take the reins of power resulting in the worst crony capitalism imaginable. The problem with light or no touch regulation is that by doing something unethical a firm gets a competitive advantage over its peers. The peers can either lose significant market share or copy the less ethical stance turning the whole sector criminogenic. Without a government watchdog looking out for the interests of the populous (and even plenty of times with) companies have a race to the bottom with how poorly they can treat customers without it becoming obvious. With corporations you have absolutely no recourse or control over their actions. At least with governments you can throw the bums out every few years.

    • Gilmore says:

      “” libertarians tend to find any government intrusion into their lives as the worst sin imaginable yet have no problem when multinational corporations come in to fill the inevitable void”….

      “” With corporations you have absolutely no recourse or control over their actions.””

      You don’t have to pay those corporations unless you want to. That option doesn’t exist for the state.

      You are entirely wrong about that latter point. No one is pointing a gun at your head and forcing you to use Google. If you don’t like what they do, don’t associate with them.

      It doesn’t seem like you’ve grasped the whole, “non coercion” thing.

      • Ketil says:

        You don’t have to pay those corporations unless you want to. That option doesn’t exist for the state.

        This is only true to the extent the government holds monopoly power, and the corporations don’t. What if Facebook throws you out? You’d lose an important arena for social interaction, and if you have no friends at Google+, that’s a significant cost. What if your local telephone company refuses you access to communications? What if the company owning the roads around your house denies your access? What if the only electricity or water utility won’t accept you as a customer? It’s all a matter of degree.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          If Facebook throws you out, you join the majority of people who don’t use it. (How much interaction are you really getting with people on your FB list?)

          If Google+ throws you out, you join an even bigger majority. /puzzled

          If your local telco tosses you, you get a plan from one of the other telcos that will damn near pay you to take their phone.

          If the company owning the roads denies you access, you indeed might have some troub–wait, that’s the government.

          If the electricity and wat–wait, those are (often) government-sanctioned monopolies.

          Are you sure you don’t have this exactly backwards?

  63. Gilmore says:

    “”the columnist involved was a libertarian who writes for Reason”

    Its possible to write for Reason without being a libertarian. (see: Steve Chapman, Shikha Dalmia, et al)

    If ENB is a libertarian, she’s one that wrote this not so long ago

    “” If you’re in business in the United States, you shouldn’t be able to choose what classes of people you will or will not do business with. You have the right to not go into business, to choose a profession that will allow you to never deal with whomever it is you don’t want to deal with; you don’t have the option to go into business and then discriminate based on basic, immutable things — or you shouldn’t have that option, anyway. “”

    which indicates that the idea of “Freedom of Association” was not only unknown to her before 2013, but that she was vehemently opposed to it.

    I have no problem with people calling themselves libertarian. I just don’t think we should necessarily assume bona fides simply because people assert them.

    Also – she actually got mad not so long ago when i pointed this old piece of writing out. As though her previous public comments shouldn’t be held against her in any way. Which is a little odd, considering her current posture re: ‘things people say on twitter, and how we should use them against people however we please’.

    • Rough and Toothless says:

      A lot of people who think they are libertarians are actually libertine liberals: they don’t want the government to interfere with things they like, usually ‘fun’ stuff such as sexuality and drugs and so on, but are happy to see state coercion used against things they don’t like.

      ENB strikes me as the Mean Girl version of a libertine liberal.

    • BBA says:

      Or maybe she isn’t of the school of thought where segregated lunch counters are the central example of Freedom of Association – maybe she considers it to be more about things like, say, holding an Opposition Party meeting without being raided by the authorities. And it being a noncentral example of the right, she sees fit for it to be restricted when there are central examples of other rights in conflict with it.

      • CEOUNICOM says:

        Freedom of Association isn’t some qualitatively defined topic. Either you have it, or you don’t.

        She was specifically endorsing a view that people shouldn’t be able to choose who they do business with. That isn’t some minor quibble: its antithetical to the entire concept.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I think today freedom of association is limited entirely to whom you let into your own home.

    • sevens2 says:

      Don’t make a sandwich out of nothing.

      • sevens2 says:

        “Also – she actually got mad not so long ago when i pointed this old piece of writing out.”

        If I remember correctly, Gilmore, it was because you didn’t take her explanations seriously. I don’t remember exactly what they were. Dimly, that it was a piece she had to write quickly and [along with others] in mass, perhaps that she wrote for a paper that had a certain political line and that she needed to establish herself — and something else. While I can’t say any of this with certainty, nor completely, I recall finding it reasonably convincing.
        The point is, one should allow people to make mistakes, allow them to be flawed. That’s something I find bothersome here. The standard of perfection demanded, the exclusion of conventional “sexists” and – what one can argue is their counterpart – feminists would be detrimental. It’d hinder debate. Demanding purity is ridiculous. Demanding a hate speech exclusion of sandwich jokes is ridiculous. Implementing an (informal) “soft hate speech”-law (complete with sanctions) to regulate libertarian membership seems ironic.

        • CEOUNICOM says:

          “”…it was a piece she had to write quickly and [along with others] in mass, perhaps that she wrote for a paper that had a certain political line and that she needed to establish herself — and something else. …””

          tl;dr “I was young and needed the money”

        • Jiro says:

          Did she actually say “I don’t believe that idea”, or did she just say “I wrote it quickly when inexperienced”, leading you to infer that she doesn’t believe the idea, but not saying so? That is, was it a non-denial denial?

  64. Basium says:

    I see that everyone agrees that this man shouldn’t be fired or denied a job for tweeting a sexist joke. That’s good.

    I see that everyone’s preferred solution is to maintain a conspiracy of silence among everyone popular, to ensure that no employer ever hears the joke, for fear that they might overreact. That’s not as good.

    It’s like telling everyone to stay in the closet to avoid homophobia. It is a solution to the modern problem of free speech in the same sense that the niqab is a solution to rape. It’s like the NAACP discovered racism, and decided that all its members should wear whiteface.

    If you don’t want people to be fired for making sexist jokes, you will ultimately have to change some employers’ minds about whether sexist jokes should be a firing offense. I appreciate that this is difficult. But it is not more difficult than changing peoples’ minds about whether they’re allowed to quote each other, for God’s sake.

    • Matt M says:

      Very well said. I agree.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I see that everyone’s preferred solution is to maintain a conspiracy of silence among everyone popular, to ensure that no employer ever hears the joke, for fear that they might overreact. That’s not as good.

      Not so much a conspiracy of silence, just “don’t take part in this sort of behavior.” As Anonymous pointed out upthread, this is the sin of detraction. A more proper response would have been as suggested in that link:

      No more in the way of exposure should be done than is required, and even a fraternal admonition ought rather to be substituted if it can be discerned to adequately meet the needs of the situation.

      So either ignore it but if you feel you must act, take the guy aside, or just do a regular @ reply so it’s only seen by common followers and say “Hey, that’s not helpful.”

      And before anyone says “it’s not her job to educate people,” well it’s not her job to publicly shame people either. So the best answer is ignore it, and if you can’t, exercise charity in addressing it.

  65. patersbier says:

    This post on Elizabeth Nolan Brown’s FB timeline merits reading, because Scott’s framing this as “some random guy” is a complete decontextualization:

    To consolidate and elaborate on a few things I said on twitter without wading into what I hear from my sister are disaster comments here….

    1. It wasn’t an isolated “joke,” it’s par for the course with this particular young man & many young libertarian men in their interactions with their peers, and apparently libertarian women of all ages. And I’ve heard from countless younger women that this turns them off of involvement with liberty groups or engagement with online libertarian communities and publications. But when they attempt to say anything, it’s either ignored or they’re subject to an army of right-libertarian trolls (and more sexist vitriol) and conclude it’s not generally worth the hassle.

    2. It was tweeted by the leader of a young liberty group and YALcon attendee at a female liberty group that helped sponsor the conference, in response to that group gently calling out YAL for lack of female speakers + promoting its own database of women libertarian experts (which is searchable by subject and location, and you should definitely check out http://ladiesofliberty.org/speakers/)

    3. It’s not “punching down” to highlight the kind of banal sexism young libertarian women face all the time. If it’s “just a joke” that only “screeching feminists” would find unprofessional and stupid, then this shouldn’t hurt anyone’s job prospects one bit. But people simultaneously claim it’s beyond the pale to use draw attention to the comment (in the service of a larger point) and leave it up to the so-called marketplace of ideas to judge it…

    4. …which is all I did. Not tag in any of the guy’s current associations, try to get him banned from any platform, or call for anyone not to hire him. I just amplified speech he felt comfortable making to a respected women’s org in a professional, public context (comments that have only spread so widely due to people ‘outraged’ at my ‘authoritarianism’ and with, as Popehat put it, “freakshow incoherent” ideas of free speech http://twitter.com/popehat/status/891346010303111168 ). And with, fwiw, the intention to delete after a day or so. I’m not actually aiming to do long-term Google damage here. But I also think young libertarians need to realize that not only does their right to free speech not preclude people criticizing that speech but that it could also have real world consequences. Personal responsibility isn’t just a meme or talking point, and a lot of people in this movement could spend a bit less time harping on it and a lot more time internalizing it

    • Gilmore says:

      I’m not sure an extended rationalization makes “over-reacting to tweet” any less “over-reacting”

      • patersbier says:

        It’s not overreacting. #2 makes this appropriate. This is how this person behaves “in his field” as ENB’s tweet points out. This should be known to employers *in his field*.

        • sevens2 says:

          “This should be known to employers *in his field*.”

          Intentions aside, with 17K followers and their followers, and so on, the means chosen defy your rationale of limitation. This goes way beyond.

          edit: Alright, the Facebook message is even more explicit: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10105358012731454&id=12303799 “Just wanna help that any prospective [his name, with link] employers in the liberty movement and beyond see this.” I say intention.

    • Juniper1 says:

      “or call for anyone not to hire him”

      She very specifically did this, in explicit language.

    • AnonYEmous says:

      Not tag in any of the guy’s current associations, try to get him banned from any platform, or call for anyone not to hire him

      I’m not actually aiming to do long-term Google damage here.

      And from her Twitter:

      RT to help ensure Aaron Sobczak’s prospective employers know this when they search for Aaron Sobczak’s name

      I guess you can argue that all of these quotes are consistent in letter. But they sure as hell aren’t in spirit. She wanted to affect his employment, not just highlight sexism. And I have no doubt that this will do long-term Google damage…just not to the intended target.

      Edit: And it appears that, as I had suspected, you were not even aware of the tweet I quoted. What a truly disingenuous woman.

      • patersbier says:

        She’s pretty explicit about saying Sobczak should face whatever consequences materialize. That’s not something she’s trying to hide.

        She agrees that people have the right to some privacy and some work-life separation (and that makes Scott’s article interesting but beside the point). But when you roll up with a Kekistan flag in your profile pictures and you make sexist jokes to derail and delegitimize a conversation about gender representation in libertarian spaces, *you are excluding women from those spaces*. That is a threat to freedom of speech. Failing to recognize this is the mirror image of Imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever, saying “I KNOW YOU FEEL UPSET RE STAMPING, BUT THAT’S DIFFERENT FROM STRUCTURAL OPPRESSION”, but disregarding the vitriol libertarian women face *all the time* because this guy will have to work at The Liberty Conservative instead of the anti-alt-right nonprofits where he won’t apply anyway.

        • sevens2 says:

          “But when you roll up with a Kekistan flag in your profile pictures and you make sexist jokes to derail and delegitimize a conversation about gender representation in libertarian spaces, *you are excluding women from those spaces*. That is a threat to freedom of speech.”

          Oh, what are the permitted parameters of that talk? It doesn’t appear allowed to “delegitimize” the assumption of “the vitriol libertarian women face *all the time*”. Is it permitted to explore whether there is “affirmative action” in favor of (would-be) libertarian women? Is it permitted to explore whether they receive more attention than the men simply by virtue of being fewer, as well as by the assumption that they are disadvantaged? Is it permitted to be openly skeptical about the adjustments that are to be made?
          Is it permitted to note that your “exclusion from spaces” through disagreement neatly tracks “safe space” theory, along with the idea that “hate speech” suppresses speech, and that such speech is violence (stamping on a face)? You even have sandwich microaggression theory in there. It appears there is reason to be concerned about this/the import of ideology, which just so happens to be a part of feminism. I’m not saying this guy, whom I don’t want to defend as an individual (because I dislike him for some reason), had any such unconscious motivation. But I am defending the sense in objecting, and be it through “sexist” jokes that may speak to and expose inconsistencies. Humor doesn’t use its functions (good ones among them) just because women are involved.

          To put things in perspective, I am averse to making adjustments that benefit women (it’s nice when women feel well; men often benefit when [] they do). I am against restricting the debate of what unique things women have to offer, what things specific to them they want, as to downsides, and the path to get things right. This includes discussing equality versus sameness, and trade-offs — a debate often restricted under the mantle of anti-“sexism”. If you want it left wing, go Habermas (I however suspect “respect” is antithetical). If you want it somewhere in the center, go Socrates.

      • patersbier says:

        Just saw your edit — correct, hadn’t seen the retweet. What is really relevant to me is #2.

    • Matt M says:

      & many young libertarian men in their interactions with their peers, and apparently libertarian women of all ages

      This strikes me as an implicit admission that the issue is beyond this specific individual and that she deliberately did it to “make an example of him” in order to punish the outgroup of “young libertarian men”, all of which are tarred with the sexist brush because “libertarian women of all ages” have totally insisted to her that this is super common!

      • patersbier says:

        Good? That’s fine with me.

        • Matt M says:

          OK, but that seems to muddle the message quite a bit.

          If you’re defending the behavior by saying “this particular individual deserved it because they have a past and because of circumstances x, y, and z” then the behavior of “many young libertarian men” is irrelevant.

          Either you are justly punishing a specific individual for their own specific actions or you are “sending a message” to a much larger group. But you can’t really be doing both. To whatever extent your punishment is intended to “send a message” then that is excessive to what the specific individual deserves.

          • patersbier says:

            OK, I see what you’re saying. But what exactly are you supposed to do about such a diffuse problem?

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Probably just call it out, but without bringing employers into it. I’ll be the first to say that this guy is dumb, acted dumb, and the joke – while not necessarily sexist – wasn’t funny and, to someone who constantly receives the joke, could come off very negatively, especially since it’s an easy mask for sexism. Just…don’t disemploy anyone, please.

          • aynrandysavage says:

            The truth is that if I made a joke like that to a female co-worker or to a group of them, I would get fired, or at least severely disciplined by HR. I have no problem with that. If you can’t respect your colleagues, you shouldn’t be working with them. The libertarian movement is a tight-knit group. If he ends up working at a pro-liberty non-profit, most of the people tweeting about this, supporters and detractors alike, will probably end up working with him in some professional capacity.

          • sevens2 says:

            Aynrandsavage:

            “The truth is that if I made a joke like that to a female co-worker or to a group of them, I would get fired, or at least severely disciplined by HR. I have no problem with that. If you can’t respect your colleagues, you shouldn’t be working with them.”

            What a fantastic state of affairs. We should raise the standard of care even further, and fire people if they disrespectfully don’t hold regular tea parties for co-workers. Importing extreme law into libertarian circles seems counterintuitive, but must be brilliant because of that.
            You should probably be fired, though, because somewhere in your description lies the confirmation of sex differences, especially of such in sensitivity. (By the way, apparently one can’t discuss these either. It precludes tailoring things so they are more pleasant [and inviting] to women and to men, but instead of specialization, let’s play planned (tight-knit) economy of the sexes. Jokes, incidentally, do call attention to the strange and inconsistent. So of course they should be suppressed, in morally superior (respectful) circles, as they may interfere with plans.)

            We shouldn’t gauge the scope of the problem, but simply assume that the claim of terror is true. It’s like boys and men taunt each other, challenge each other, and compete roughly, even (and effectively) as friends and in cooperation. For now, instead of gathering the studies again, I’ll just wave in the direction of this review of online harassment: http://www.pewinternet.org/2017/07/11/online-harassment-2017/

          • aynrandysavage says:

            Sevens2

            There’s a categorical difference between being asked to refrain from making disrespectful comments towards female employees and being forced to “throw tea parties” for them.

            If you’re not aware of that difference, then I sincerely doubt you’ve ever worked in a professional office environment.

          • Aapje says:

            @aynrandysavage

            The truth is that if I made a joke like that to a female co-worker or to a group of them, I would get fired, or at least severely disciplined by HR.

            And if a female co-worker would make a mirrored or worse joke to you, she would not get fired or disciplined.

            This would feel a lot less like a with-hunt if those who call for these norms to be strictly enforced would do so for everyone, rather than what is often the case, themselves engage in norm violations against their outgroup.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Aapje:
            I think the parallel comment you are assuming is harder to find than you seem to think. You need a situation where there is gender dichotomy in employment and there are stereotypes about the (poor) abilities of males within the profession. Nursing could work. Perhaps daycare. Homemaking, of course, but you run into the “not a profession with HR” problem.

            Then you need a joke that highlights this by bringing up something unrelated that is generally helpful, but demeaning in context.

            So, how can I, as a man, help the “homemaking” movement? “Go have fun with a power tool”.

            That could absolutely lead to sanction by HR, assuming HR was in play.

          • sevens2 says:

            @Heel: “So, how can I, as a man, help the “homemaking” movement? “Go have fun with a power tool”.”

            Wouldn’t it be “go, build a house” for us? (By the way, I like houses and sandwiches. They’re both good, in their own right.)

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I live and work in the south, and the sweet black woman with the cubicle near my office calls me “sugar” and “baby” almost every day, as in “You have a good day, baby.” Am I being sexually harassed? Should I report her to HR?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @sevens2:
            No, as building a house is too consequential. “Go find a screw that needs tightening”, perhaps.

            Yes, sandwiches and tightened screws are both good things in the abstract. They are also relatively inconsequential and specifically referenced due to being both inconsequential and not directly related to the task at hand. The message is clearly “Go away. The real professionals are trying to do work.”

          • Doctor Mist says:

            HeelBearCub:

            You need a situation where there is gender dichotomy in employment

            Not sure why that’s a requirement here. It seems perilously close to the position that a black is by definition incapable of racism.

            Imagine a workshop on women in tech, held inside some big tech bastion where as usual women are wildly underrepresented compared to the general population. Mostly women attend, a few men. If one of the men offered a well-meant suggestion, and the leader of the event told him to shut up and go find a jar to open, do you suppose the wrath of HR would be visited on her? I suppose it’s possible, but I have trouble imagining it.

          • aynrandysavage says:

            And if a female co-worker would make a mirrored or worse joke to you, she would not get fired or disciplined.

            You have absolutely no justification to believe that.

            This would feel a lot less like a with-hunt if those who call for these norms to be strictly enforced would do so for everyone, rather than what is often the case, themselves engage in norm violations against their outgroup

            Complaining about alleged hypocrisy is not an argument. If you’ll concede that the journalist was acting appropriately in calling out bad behavior that she condemned, then we can move on to examine if there is a double standard. But that’s a separate discussion.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            If you’ll concede that the journalist was acting appropriately

            Not really. Proportional response. A level 2 offense (lame joke) met with a level 8 response (attempt to make someone unemployable).

            in calling out bad behavior that she condemned

            Why is it her job to go condemning people? Judge not lest ye be judged. The correct response would be to stop a twitter pile-on, and tell the offender to go forth and be sexist no more.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            And if a female co-worker would make a mirrored or worse joke to you, she would not get fired or disciplined.

            You have absolutely no justification to believe that.

            Hmm. Maybe not. But we do have at least two recent examples of a woman at college (no, not a professional situation, but I think similar in many ways) not making a rude joke about a man but accusing him of rape, that accusation being later revealed as completely false, and the woman being not only not disciplined but rather lauded for her strength throughout the ordeal.

            So perhaps Aapje is incorrect to believe this. But it seems over the top to say Aapje has absolutely no justification for the belief.

    • The Nybbler says:

      #1 is standard feminist/SJW narrative. Seen it a million times with “tech” substituted for “libertarian” and related words. This doesn’t mean it isn’t true, but I’ve got a strong prior against it.

      #2 puts the joke in a better light, not a worse one. Sandwich jokes are a tired old meme which wasn’t that funny in the first place. But as a retort to being scolded about female representation, they’re basically just a more powerful way of saying “fuck off”.

      #3 is nonsense. Even if only “screeching feminists” would find the joke offensive originally, more might if a respected figure like ENB says it’s offensive. And even more might think twice about hiring someone, even if they didn’t find the joke offensive, if a respected figure like ENB said people who make such jokes shouldn’t be hired.

      #4 is is a flat-out lie. In this context “RT to help ensure [REAL NAME]’s prospective employers know this when they search for [REAL NAME]’s name” is a call for “anyone not to hire him”.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        #4 is very carefully crafted not to be a lie, while not actually explaining the heinous thing she did actually do. By the way, I’ve been trying to track down the “scolding” mentioned in #2 and haven’t managed to; anyone got any leads on that?

      • Brad says:

        #2 may put the joke in a better light, but it also puts the RT in a better light. This isn’t someone overhearing a guy tell a joke in a nominally public but de facto limited context and arbitrarily signal boosting it. That at mention deliberately sent the message outside of his own personal circle.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I’m not bothered by the signal boosting, though; I’m bothered by the attempt at a blacklisting campaign.

      • aynrandysavage says:

        “But as a retort to being scolded about female representation, they’re basically just a more powerful way of saying “fuck off”.”

        Which proves the retweeter completely right. Representation, period, is a problem in the liberty movement. As a straight white guy, I’d love to have a greater diversity of people and opinions working to make society better. It’s hard for me with people like this dismissing the problem to begin with.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Which proves the retweeter completely right. Representation, period, is a problem in the liberty movement.

          And holding and expressing the opposite opinion — that representation, period, is not a problem in the liberty movement — should be punishable by blacklisting?

          Personally I think the liberty movement’s main problem is that there just aren’t enough people who actually want liberty. Worrying about representation among the tiny number of people who do is completely secondary, and scolding a liberty group because they didn’t include enough female speakers (when they probably had trouble getting enough speakers period) is counterproductive. I wouldn’t respond with a sandwich joke in the same circumstance (since while effective at riling up the complainer, it plays into the narrative), but I’d probably respond dismissively.

          • aynrandysavage says:

            I’ve worked in events-planning for several liberty orgs at this point. There’s never a shortage of white men who want to talk. From a purely pragmatic viewpoint, we have a horrific image problem when it comes to our demographics. Call it scolding if you want, but that doesn’t mean its unjustified.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            From a purely pragmatic viewpoint, we have a horrific image problem when it comes to our demographics.

            in what sense

            like, let’s put it this way: what is the actual damage you are taking? Who doesn’t come to an ideology they actually believe in, because of white men dominating it?

            Moreover, why don’t you think they will continue to? Big government parties explicitly offer minorities unfair advantages and free shit, and the same goes towards women. I’m not saying you can’t resist that, per se, but why not recruit mostly from the people being taxed into paying for all of that, and get the rest later?

          • onyomi says:

            I agree there is a demographic problem among libertarians, but the question is why? I’m skeptical that there a bunch of women and minorities out there secretly interested in libertarianism but who got turned off by all the white guys and their off-color jokes. I’ve been involved in a number of (admittedly small) libertarian clubs and organizations and though dominated by men, I never found them particularly sexist spaces at all; if anything, I’d say they were more welcoming and considerate of those women who did participate than the average group of equivalent gender ratio.

            More likely, libertarianism is still too much of a fringe philosophy for anyone who isn’t a contrarian by nature to embrace it. For reasons probably genetic and maybe also historical/environmental, that kind of INTJ personality which is likely to become a libertarian tends to be overwhelmingly male (and, let’s face it, more autistic than average) and, more often than not, white (I imagine the “male” part is going to be more intractable unless or until libertarianism becomes a lot more mainstream).

            If libertarianism can become more mainstream it will start to attract people who aren’t natural contrarians unconcerned with social proof and consensus. In other words, it’s probably more likely, if it’s going to get big at all, to first get bigger among the white men who seem to be its natural audience and then attract women and minorities, rather than the other way around.

          • aynrandysavage says:

            the “actual damage” of it is that I know of at least a dozen women who’ve entered the liberty movement, only to reject it completely due to its toxic atmosphere towards women. as a straight white guy, *I* benefit from certain big government programs directly. Yet, I’m still here in the movement, because I’m aware of the cost of my privilege. Charles Koch receives huge subsidies from the government, but that doesn’t stop him from opposing them all of the same. Why is it unfeasible that women could feel the same way?

          • aynrandysavage says:

            I don’t buy that there a bunch of women and minorities out there secretly interested in libertarianism but who got turned off by all the white guys and their off-color jokes.

            I know a huge amount of libertarian women and minorities who were not secretly interested in libertarianism, but vocal advocates of it, even working at libertarian non-profits,who got turned off by the disrespect they endured. Whenever I befriend a woman in the movement, one of my favorite things to ask her is to tell me all of her “creepertarian” stories. I’ve never met a single one who’s said “oh no, I’ve never had an experience like that”

          • AnonYEmous says:

            the “actual damage” of it is that I know of at least a dozen women who’ve entered the liberty movement, only to reject it completely due to its toxic atmosphere towards women.

            as a straight white guy, *I* benefit from certain big government programs directly.

            I can’t outright discredit anything you’ve said in the above paragraph, but the second paragraph is so laughably wrong and in such a specific direction that it basically undermines the point.

            Also:

            one of my favorite things to ask her is to tell me all of her “creepertarian” stories.

            I wonder if this isn’t just a function of men generally, and not “libertarians” in general. Some men are creepy. Do you know that there are more libertarian men like that? And if so, why would that even be?

          • aynrandysavage says:

            I’ve worked in the private sector, the broader non-profit sector, and in the “libertarian movement.” The amount of horror stories I’ve heard from women in the liberty movement is categorically different than anything I’ve ever seen in my life.

            I can’t outright discredit anything you’ve said in the above paragraph, but the second paragraph is so laughably wrong and in such a specific direction that it basically undermines the point.

            What are you referring to as the “second paragraph?”

          • Matt M says:

            The amount of horror stories I’ve heard from women in the liberty movement is categorically different than anything I’ve ever seen in my life

            I’m willing to believe this is true, but I think it’s a simple factor of the unbalanced gender ratio.

            As an example, the military has high rates of sexual assault, and it’s a common cultural meme that it’s a hostile environment for most women. And it’s hardly a libertarian organization – almost the exact opposite in fact.

            My observation would tend to be that if you have any group that’s 90% young men (most of whom are single and looking) and 10% women, the men are going to be much more aggressive sexually towards the women, because they basically have to be (everyone defects, if you don’t, someone else will).

            I’m not necessarily excusing this behavior, but I do understand it, and as such, I think it’s unfair to single out libertarian beliefs as somehow a driver of it. We also hear about it in say, gaming circles. Female gamers are believed to be harassed at a disproportionate rate. Maybe because female gamers are ridiculously rare and for every one of them that exists, there are 20 men who have spent their whole life desperately hoping to obtain a girlfriend who is into videogames?

          • Deiseach says:

            Personally I think the liberty movement’s main problem is that there just aren’t enough people who actually want liberty.

            So if there really is something driving away possible recruits or new members, isn’t that worth taking seriously? I agree it was mainly a stupid joke (that being said, I have no idea what this guy’s track record is; does he have a habit of making “jokes” about women?) and that the reaction was over the top and unjustified.

            On the other hand, if I’m a woman you are asking to come and get involved in libertarianism, and I see this as the first response to “how do we get our message out to women?”, I’m not very likely to want to join your group because frankly, I can get silly young men laughing about ‘ho ho women in our group why would we want that if they’re not there for me to get a date’ anywhere else, I don’t need to take on a whole new interest and philosophy to get the same old crap.

          • Deiseach says:

            if you have any group that’s 90% young men (most of whom are single and looking) and 10% women, the men are going to be much more aggressive sexually towards the women

            Which is what drives away women: if the men are assuming the women are there primarily to get partners, and the women are there primarily because they’re interested in libertarianism/tabletop games/learning macrame, then they’ll get very tired of fending off guys hitting on them, and especially aggressive guys who may not respond well to rejection, and leave – which only makes the problem of “why are there so few female gamers” even more acute – and then you’ve lost a potential group of supporters who will help move libertarianism from “small crank fringe group” to “hey this is kinda a small but legit political party”, and you’ll have frustrated men bitching about the women who “friendzoned” them.

            I don’t know if it would be any use to have your first meeting be “Okay, guys, the women here are here because they want to learn about black powder muskets and not because they’re looking for a boyfriend, hard as it may be to believe”? Probably not, there would always be at least one guy who would push his luck.

            female gamers are ridiculously rare and for every one of them that exists, there are 20 men who have spent their whole life desperately hoping to obtain a girlfriend who is into videogames

            And if I was a woman who played games and wanted to join a gaming group in order to play games, that’s precisely why I’d be more inclined to join an all-female group if one existed, because that way I’d get to play games and it would be understood by all parties that we’re here to play games, not pick somebody up, and also there would be considerably less risk of someone trying to use the group as “gonna get me a girlfriend and any woman who turns me down is trying to friendzone me, the stuck-up bitch”.

          • John Schilling says:

            My observation would tend to be that if you have any group that’s 90% young men (most of whom are single and looking) and 10% women, the men are going to be much more aggressive sexually towards the women, because they basically have to be (everyone defects, if you don’t, someone else will).

            This does not appear to be the case in, e.g. the engineering profession. Mostly, the men don’t have to be sexually aggressive towards the women in the field because mostly they are looking for women outside the field.

            That may not be an option in the military, particularly in deployed units, which may make the military an exceptional case in this regard. Probably not the best example to generalize from. And libertarian politics seems much more like engineering and less like the military in that it takes place in environments where there are lots of women around, just not engaged in that particular activity.

          • Matt M says:

            This does not appear to be the case in, e.g. the engineering profession

            Really?

            I’m not an engineer, but there seems to be a strong cultural meme that STEM fields (predominantly men) are also quite hostile towards women, not just in terms of exclusion, but in terms of sexual harassment. I know some women in STEM who report pretty high levels of harassment against themselves.

            It also probably doesn’t help that the most awkward and low status men are probably the ones most likely to assume/resort to exclusively targeting women in their peer groups and of close proximity. The handsome charismatic engineer can target whomever he wants (and given the risks involved, choosing targets you don’t work with is a rather smart idea). The awkward nerd probably says “Elizabeth is the only woman I actually talk to on a regular basis, we have a few things in common, maybe she’ll date me!”

          • Brad says:

            STEM is far too broad a term. John Schilling is probably talking about aerospace engineering (based on his other posts). There’s no good reason to think that such places would have the same culture as an IoT startup (also E), much less quant hedge funds (M), web development shops (T), or pharma labs (S).

          • The Nybbler says:

            So if there really is something driving away possible recruits or new members, isn’t that worth taking seriously?

            Perhaps, but not reacting without first considering the costs. SJW entryism tears a group apart far more thoroughly than sandwich jokes. The infinitesimal chance of increasing the size of the liberty movement from epsilon to 2*epsilon isn’t worth the much larger chance of reducing it to zero (leaving a shell SJW group claiming to be a liberty group)

            MattM is far too trusting about the horror stories. In tech, I’ve heard a bunch of them. Many involved men not actually in tech (typically venture capitalists), but still used to smear men in tech. Others were made up from whole cloth (for instance, after ESR said something feminists didn’t like, one accused him of “creeping” on her at a conference he did not attend). Some depend on “microaggressions” (“he looked at me!” or “he avoided looking at me!”) and assumptions of gender-related effects (“He interrupted A WOMAN!”). Some are bad-sounding things taken out of a
            very significant context. Some are just normal things related in pejorating language. One in particular I remember was a long story which involved the woman in question crying in a stairwell… the offense perpetrated on her was that a male co-worker had politely, even timidly, asked her on a date. So while there are probably some real horror stories, I wouldn’t believe there’s a lot of them until the wheat is somehow separated from the chaff.

          • bean says:

            My observation would tend to be that if you have any group that’s 90% young men (most of whom are single and looking) and 10% women, the men are going to be much more aggressive sexually towards the women, because they basically have to be (everyone defects, if you don’t, someone else will).

            I’m really not sure of this. Yes, there will be some jerks who try this kind of thing. They are jerks. They exist. End of story. But I went to a college that was about 75% male, and I think that the women were treated better/more respectfully than they would be in a normal college that’s majority-female. Women want relationships, too, and when there are relatively few of them, they can set the price. When there are relatively few men, the relationships move more towards what the men want. (It didn’t hurt that the college in question was in a town that wasn’t particularly big, so the supply of outside partners was small.)
            Maybe there’s some kind of cultural tipping point between 75% male and 90% male where you switch from ‘women are present and just uncommon’ to ‘women are rare to the point that we don’t really take them into account’. I could see that, but I’d like some evidence.

            I’m not an engineer, but there seems to be a strong cultural meme that STEM fields (predominantly men) are also quite hostile towards women, not just in terms of exclusion, but in terms of sexual harassment. I know some women in STEM who report pretty high levels of harassment against themselves.

            I don’t know about specifically sexual harassment, but I recently talked about this with a female engineer, who said that sometimes her ideas were not taken seriously because she was female, and a man would come up with the exact same idea later and it would get adopted. Obvious sexism, right?
            Well, here’s the thing. I’ve had the same thing happen to me. Literally, the exact thing. Someone from a different group wants to do something. I tell him we can’t, and offer an alternative. He doesn’t like it, and we go back and forth for 20 minutes until someone else from his group suggests what I opened with. He agrees. People ignore ideas for all sorts of reasons. It could be sexism, it could be Not Invented Here, it could be prejudice against other groups in the company. And my money is that 90% of the time, it’s on the later two.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m not an engineer, but there seems to be a strong cultural meme that STEM fields (predominantly men) are also quite hostile towards women, not just in terms of exclusion, but in terms of sexual harassment. I know some women in STEM who report pretty high levels of harassment against themselves.

            By “STEM” you mean “Tech”, right? “Tech” as in consumer electronics and software and nothing else?

            As I have tried to point out here before, repeatedly, “Tech” is not Engineering, nor is it Science or Math, and it represents a distinct culture from that which deals in every brand of small-t technology that isn’t just commercial bit-flipping. So when I say something about engineering, I mean engineering and not “Tech”. And in engineering, I’ve seen precious little of women being harassed for dates by their male colleagues or any other such thing, nor has it been mentioned as a problem by any of the female engineers I have worked with, worked for, had work for me, held as friends or for that matter dated.

            “Tech”, maybe is different. Or maybe not. I’ve heard the same stories as you, but too many times it is exactly the same few stories coming from sources that trip my biasometer before I even get to the details of the stories. Not my culture, so I don’t feel inclined to get to the bottom of it.

          • Matt M says:

            Nybbler,

            I concede this point, nor did I mean to imply that these stories are always assumed to be real. The few I know in real life I do think are real, I know these ladies fairly well and they don’t seem to be prone to hysterical over-exaggeration. In any case, my point is less “this definitely happens” and more “there is a cultural perception that this definitely happens.” The military, libertarian politics, gamer culture, science labs, all are disproportionately male and all are considered to be environments that breed toxic masculinity and are openly hostile to women. Whether it’s true or not is beside the point.

            bean,

            My suggestion is not that libertarian women are “not taken into account,” quite the opposite. They are so rare that they are taken into “too much” account. They get too much attention. Their scarcity increases their value, which plausibly can be a good thing (as yes, it allows them to be more selective in their mates), but if they really don’t want a mate at all, if they really are just a shy girl who is interested in free market economics and wants to keep their head down, not stand out, and learn something useful, being a rare object of desire is much more difficult.

            John,

            No, I really did mean STEM. Of the two women I know who have personally given me anecdotes about this, one was an electrical engineer whose father was a relatively well-known (at least locally) professor. She describes getting all kinds of grief and skepticism along the way. She’s also amazingly attractive, super smart, and personable – so I easily believe she gets hit on constantly (and likely would wherever she went), but I do find most of her stories credible. The other was a chemical engineer who worked for an oil company and occasionally was called to go spend a month or so on offshore platforms where the male:female ratio was about 10:1. She’s a pretty calm and charitable person generally with a good head on her shoulders, I don’t think she’s making this stuff up. I don’t really know anyone in the T or the M side, but the few female Ss I know report milder, but similar experiences.

          • Odovacer says:

            @John Shilling

            IME, the meme that STEM is hostile to women includes science, academia, engineering, tech fields, and various others.

            If my only exposure to STEM was through the media, then I would assume that it’s absolute hell for women. I don’t doubt that there are cases of harassment towards some women (and some men), but from my personal experience in a STEM field as well as talking with friends and colleagues, it’s not as bad as the media presents it.

          • bean says:

            @Matt M
            Re the chemical engineer on oil platforms, have you considered the fact that maybe the people on the oil platforms are mostly not engineers? Blue-collar oil worker culture is not engineer culture, and if I had to pick one as likely to lead to sexual harassment, it would be the former. By a huge margin. I’m sorry for your friend, but it’s not the fault of engineering culture.
            As to the electrical engineer, I just don’t know. How long ago was this? Because you’re using the past tense, and I could easily see someone 20+ years ago having a rather different environment from today.

          • Matt M says:

            The EE was maybe about 10 years ago.

            You’re right about oil platforms not being “engineering culture” but they were a predominately male environment.

            Which gets back to my original point.

            Can anyone point to a male-dominated space that the general culture does not commonly identify as sexist/misogynistic/hostile to women? My assertion is that gender imbalance alone is treated as sufficient evidence that these things MUST be the case.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Can anyone point to a male-dominated space that the general culture does not commonly identify as sexist/misogynistic/hostile to women? My assertion is that gender imbalance alone is treated as sufficient evidence that these things MUST be the case.

            Radio controlled aircraft hobbyists. But the general culture doesn’t care about this group at all.

            Most of the perception you see is deliberate action in the culture war. Any male-dominated group which has something the one side finds valuable will be subject to these accusations.

          • Matt M says:

            Libertarianism isn’t exactly high status either… or video gaming as a hobby. Exactly what do they want from us?

          • The Nybbler says:

            @MattM
            They wish your group to become a subsidiary of theirs, to promote their ideals instead of yours. No longer will it be libertarianism, it will be social justice with a libertarian label. No longer will it be gaming, it will be social justice with a game controller.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @Matt M,

            Rents.

            The video game industry is worth more than $100 billion. The gaming press, through game reviews, influence buying decisions within that $100 billion market. AAA developers know that, and so will kick back a small portion of that for every unearned 10/10 or 5 star rating. SJ doesn’t care about gaming but they care a lot about controlling that cashflow.

            Libertarians are small potatoes relatively speaking but politics (especially campus politics) is SJ’s home turf. If they can hollow them out into Liberty+ the same way they did with atheism that means that they have that many more prestigious-sounding positions to distribute among followers and that much more money to spend on their pet causes. It’s a small prize but they’re not exactly sending in their A team anyway.

          • bean says:

            Can anyone point to a male-dominated space that the general culture does not commonly identify as sexist/misogynistic/hostile to women? My assertion is that gender imbalance alone is treated as sufficient evidence that these things MUST be the case.

            Ah. If that’s your original point, I see no dispute between us. In terms of places that people actually care about, then I can’t think of any counterexamples.
            (Of course, if someone tried that on me, I’d ask why they were bothering me instead of being in the military or on an oil rig somewhere. Or why they weren’t an engineer, which is less objectively unpleasant.)
            Edit:
            Thinking more on this, some of the manual labor trades. Nobody goes on about sexism in trash collecting or plumbing, at least not where I have heard of it. This might well have something to do with social power/money.

          • Matt M says:

            They wish your group to become a subsidiary of theirs, to promote their ideals instead of yours.

            Rents.

            And neither of these things apply to the hobby of flying model airplanes?

          • The Nybbler says:

            @MattM

            There’s not much they could make in rents from model aircraft. It’s not a large industry, and the a large part of it is in Asia where they have little influence. As for taking it over and making it part of their collective, it’s less influential even than libertarianism. And a harder nut to crack, too; a libertarian probably cares a lot more about getting others into libertarianism, because bigger is better when it comes to political movements. Which doesn’t mean they won’t try it, just it’s probably well down on their list of targets.

          • bean says:

            And neither of these things apply to the hobby of flying model airplanes?

            Video gaming is big and heavily connected to parts of the internet that SJWs might see. Libertarianism is a political idea. Both are thus on their radar. Model airplanes (or battleship preservation, which probably has similar demographics) are not heavily represented on reddit or 4chan, and are not inherently political, so they just don’t care.

          • John Schilling says:

            IME, the meme that STEM is hostile to women includes science, academia, engineering, tech fields, and various others.

            Yes, but A: it is called out w/re “Tech” far more often than all the others, and B: in the case of engineering, I know it to be largely false. I am open to the possibility that it is true w/re “Tech” and that people who don’t know any better assume it must be true of the rest of STEM. I also am open to the possibility that it is false everywhere else as well.

            If the claim is merely that any mostly-male culture that holds any status or otherwise attracts notice will be accused of hostility to women, that such a meme will exist, then duh. I already know that SJWs exist.

          • Matt M says:

            Video gaming is big and heavily connected to parts of the internet that SJWs might see. Libertarianism is a political idea. Both are thus on their radar.

            Fair enough, I’ll concede this.

            But then go back to my original point – which is that they aren’t necessarily wrong, I just think they have the causation backwards.

            It’s not that there are few female libertarians because male libertarians are toxic to female libertarians, it’s that the fact that there are few female libertarians makes male libertarians toxic to female libertarians.

          • bean says:

            But then go back to my original point – which is that they aren’t necessarily wrong, I just think they have the causation backwards.

            It’s not that there are few female libertarians because male libertarians are toxic to female libertarians, it’s that the fact that there are few female libertarians makes male libertarians toxic to female libertarians.

            That’s a good point. I’m not sure it’s just that, but I’m in agreement that it could be a problem, particularly when combined with poor social skills and future prospects on the part of the members.

          • sevens2 says:

            ” it’s that the fact that there are few female libertarians makes male libertarians toxic to female libertarians.”

            Yeah. To romance the select few women.

          • Ketil says:

            Deiseach:

            I don’t know if it would be any use to have your first meeting be “Okay, guys, the women here are here because they want to learn about black powder muskets and not because they’re looking for a boyfriend, hard as it may be to believe”?

            Similarly, perhaps people would be less dismissive if the first meeting was “Okay, we are here to discuss libertarianism, and not harp on about gender issues and identity politics”? I don’t know if this was what provoked the particular sandwiches comment since I can’t find the original exchange. And certainly, many seem to feel completely entitled to hijack any forum to proselytize gender issues, while the masses refrain from objection so as not to look unempathetic, ungentlemanly, or directly sexist.

          • Matt M says:

            Maybe I’m excessively paranoid, but if I went to a libertarian event and a guy pulled everyone aside and gave a “let’s all agree not to hit on the women” lecture, I would immediately assume he’s planning on hitting on the women himself, and is trying to eliminate the competition.

            Most libertarian women aren’t single. Many of them date or are married to other libertarian men. They’re meeting somewhere. Why not here? Why not me?

        • Matt M says:

          D,

          So you want more “libertarian nice guys.” I think we’ve had enough conversation on that topic to know how that ends 🙂

          I almost wonder if it’s a tautology. The fact that 90% of Group X are men is treated as evidence that Group X is hostile towards women. But I’m suggesting that the causality is actually opposite. That any group comprised of 90% men will inevitably become hostile towards women. (So long as “being constantly propositioned for dates and insulted if advances are refused” counts as hostile, I suppose).

          One macro-level solution I offer is to STOP insisting to shy/lonely guys that they “just need to find women with whom they share interests.” Maybe if we stopped telling socially awkward libertarian men that their only hope of romance is to encounter libertarian women, libertarian women won’t be swarmed with hundreds of propositions as soon as they walk into YALcon.

          Go forth, ye ravenous nerds, and disperse your awkward advances on the entire female population! No need to disproportionately punish your potential ideological comrades!

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Look, I don’t think thinly veiled threats about employability can be withdrawn by saying “Nu-uh, I didn’t technically say that.”

        But by the same token, you can’t claim that you shouldn’t have known your offensive joke was offensive simply because they it was too lame. The dude was trolling. Admit it. He got the reaction he wanted, but maybe not the outcome.

        Ssomeone tweets “My sister died of lymphoma. Please donate to the Lymphoma Society.” You respond with “I hope you and your mother get cancer.” Don’t try and claim you it was just a stupid joke how could you possibly expect people to get offended. Offending people was the point.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I didn’t say it wasn’t offensive. I said it was a stronger version of “fuck off”, which is still offensive even if “fuck” has lost a good deal of its strength. It was a response calculated to piss off the scolder.

        • Matt M says:

          The dude was trolling.

          Of course he was, but why do we treat trolling as if it’s a freaking felony?

          (Somewhat unrelated, but the same people who want this guy to be unemployable are probably the same ones who want to make it illegal for employers to run criminal background checks on job candidates)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:
            First off, two wrongs don’t make a right, so your query seems more a means of avoiding what I was actually saying, rather than a response to it.

            I think you will most certainly agree that it is, in fact, not actually being treated as a felony. Yes, I take your point about how felony convictions can unfairly affect job prospects, but that is hardly the central example of consequences for a felony.

            Your imprecision in language around this makes it then hard to have a rational conversation about what is going on.

            I actually think that there is a difference between saying “I wouldn’t want work with you and wouldn’t hire you” and “Hey everyone, you shouldn’t hire this person”. The second is a much more aggressive action. It requires more justification. I’m sure there are some long Ethics PhD theses that explore the subtle ethical differences in stating personal intent of actions and exhortation to action of others. I’m not too interested in diving super-deep into that other than saying the second feels much more ethically fraught.

            But we also have the issue that the twitter trolling seems to have some bearing in how suitable the person was for the potential jobs in question, which seem to have been of the nature “grow the libertarian movement”.

            As near as I can tell, we lack the appropriate depth of understanding of the exact nature to render accurate judgement. From the far-outside, it looks like they were both in the wrong, but that the troll was the instigator in this instance, which carries extra burdens in terms of consequences.

          • sevens2 says:

            Heel, maybe you should object to the felony example – whether it’s a “central” consequence is irrelevant, by the way – after having gone from sandwich to cancer: “My sister died of lymphoma. Please donate to the Lymphoma Society.” You respond with “I hope you and your mother get cancer.””

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @sevens2:
            I assume you dropped a “not”?

            Both “Go make me a sammich'” in the context of gender representation and “I hope you get cancer” in the context of fundraising for cancer seem like central examples of trolling to me, so I am not sure what point you are trying to make?

          • sevens2 says:

            @ Heel, You are right about not.

            Difference it’s not uncommon to genuinely object to (esp. feminist) calls of “equal representation”. It’s hghly uncommon (and highly commonly found despicable) to genuinely object to a fundraiser for cancer and to a person’s survival.

            Where this connects? I got the impression you were critical of his comparison to the job-consequences of a felony. I find it inconsistent to be that, when your own analogy strains the bounds of comparison.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @sevens2:
            I was simply saying that in both cases you expected to give offense, and intended to give offense, and intended it to be high-offense (to those who were offended.)

            The fact that the relative numbers of people, or even the ratio of people, who are offended is different seems to go to how “safe” giving offense is. Sure that’s a valid point. Tweeting this at potential employers would seem to mitigate the point though. In addition, employment blowback is a well known and common hazard of indiscriminate social media use. It’s, if anything, highly over exposed as a risk. The sense of “getting away with it” is probably part of the allure of trolling.

            But, my point about felonies was more the following: “Convicts and plumbers both wear jumpsuits, therefore they are the same” is fallacious thinking, even if it’s the employer requiring the jumpsuit be worn.

          • sevens2 says:

            “I was simply saying that in both cases you expected to give offense, and intended to give offense, and intended it to be high-offense (to those who were offended.)”

            Absurd. “High” offense? The death-wishing reaction to the noble struggle against unimaginable suffering (cancer) is in an entirely different world of offense. (Several obvious reasons. Less so, perhaps, is that one is directed at individuals [cancer-offense] the other at a group/organization [sandwich offense. Also, what would happen if the wish/command were to be realized? One would result in a sandwich.)

            And no, that other analogy is more than just “cloth-deep”.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @sevens2:

            Also, what would happen if the wish/command were to be realized? One would result in a sandwich.)

            OK, now you are just being silly.

            As to your point about non-central examples (are you familiar with the reference?), sure. But again, I acknowledged that right at the beginning:

            Yes, I take your point about how felony convictions can unfairly affect job prospects, but that is hardly the central example of consequences for a felony.

    • Rough and Toothless says:

      Am I the only one who sees the irony of ENB, facing a sexist tweet, choosing not to engage or persuade the man involved, but instead calling out the Mean Girl posse to sabotage his career, exactly in accord with the worst sexist stereotypes of female behavior?

      • patersbier says:

        It went the other way around. She tweeted about gender representation and the response was “lol make me a sandwich”. When someone chooses to ignore the substance of your message using a sexist joke you don’t engage.

        • MostlyCredibleHulk says:

          Why would one react at all? It looks like an 6th Dan Karate master beating up a random kid on the street because the kid made fun of his shoes. I mean yes, it’s stupid and disrespectful, but since when it is the societal norm to ruin the life of every stupid kid that did stupid online? Especially among the people that are supposed to know better – i.e. the people that write articles in magazines that are supposed to inform and promote certain social norms?
          To me it looks like a clear case of a power trip.

    • iamcuriousblue says:

      The problem is, ENB’s tweet was specifically about harming Scott’s future job prospects over a tweet. That’s a pretty bad principle to uphold in a general libertarian sense, even if it does agree with the letter of free-market libertarian ideology.

      If ENB’s tweet had been to highlight his message as “here a good example of the kind of crap that turns women off to libertarianism” (even if it had the effect of inadvertently “signal boosting” Scott’s message), I would have been in full agreement with her. That’s not the route she took, though, and instead she took the more unfortunate “hurt his job prospects” route. She has valid points in the above-quoted text, but it seems like back-peddling now.

      I’ll add that ENB is an author I normally like very much, and that hasn’t changed over this one goof.

      • Matt M says:

        If ENB’s tweet had been to highlight his message as “here a good example of the kind of crap that turns women off to libertarianism” (even if it had the effect of inadvertently “signal boosting” Scott’s message), I would have been in full agreement with her.

        Agree, this would have been entirely appropriate.

      • MugaSofer says:

        Yeah, I supported the initial tweet and was very surprised to see the second tweet saying “everyone RT this to ruin his job prospects!”

    • keranih says:

      It wasn’t an isolated “joke,” it’s par for the course with this particular young man & many young libertarian men in their interactions with their peers, and apparently libertarian women of all ages.[snip] But when they attempt to say anything, it’s either ignored or they’re subject to an army of right-libertarian trolls (and more sexist vitriol) and conclude it’s not generally worth the hassle.

      So she’s *overtly* attacking this one guy for all the allegedly bad stuff that has been done by other people.

      I think there are other people whose opinions on ethical internet activities I should listen to, rather than to this person.

      • aynrandysavage says:

        “allegedly done by other people?”

        Just read the comments on the liberty conservative if you doubt that there is problem.

        • AnonYEmous says:

          I’ve been trying to do this constantly and haven’t really found anything. You wanna throw in some examples?

          • aynrandysavage says:

            “Get off twitter and go make me a sandwich you wench”

            “A barren life with cats is your destiny.”

            “[women]should stop acting like kids.”

            “No, go make us some sammiches”

            I found all those replies in the space of 1 minute, which is all the time I think a reasonable person should charitably scrub through that toxic morass.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Yeah, not exactly a toxic morass. Where, precisely, are these tweets? I apologise for being so pressing, but during this affair I’ve seen multiple claims of terrible toxic responses and failed to find any, which gets annoying after a while.

          • aynrandysavage says:

            If you don’t find those posts disrespectful and toxic, then there’s something wrong with your definition of toxic. It’s impossible to construct a rational argument that will teach you social skills and norms, however. So there’s not much more I can do.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            If you don’t find those posts disrespectful and toxic, then there’s something wrong with your definition of toxic.

            What if it’s the other way around?

          • aynrandysavage says:

            What if it’s the other way around?

            If it were the other way around, society would be radically different. Any single one of those comments would get me in trouble with the HR department at the organization I work at, a fairly libertarian/right-leaning one, I’d add.

            If you’re not aware of why those comments are unacceptable, you probably don’t engage too much with women in a professional environment.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            If you’re not aware of why those comments are unacceptable, you probably don’t engage too much with women in a professional environment.

            I think those comments are deeply impolite, but they’re not a “toxic morass”. They’re obviously unacceptable in a professional environment, but that’s because you don’t offend people without reason in a professional environment. “Toxic morass” is more like “Fuck you cunt”, not “make me a sandwich”. Closest thing I saw to that was “wench” and people don’t usually use that word seriously.

          • aynrandysavage says:

            Where is this supposed distinction between toxic and impolite that you’re citing codified? It just sounds like splitting hairs to me.

          • Randy M says:

            “Toxic” is metaphorical and thus subjective and if it was ever officially defined as a label for speech I missed the memo, so of course it will seem indistinguishable from impolite to some.

            But since when has “impolite” been seen as a punishing offense? Do you see no distinction between impolite, crude, or cruel either?

          • AnonYEmous says:

            It’s hardly splitting hairs. “Toxic morass” is something that you genuinely have trouble dealing with, something which is a very real problem. Internet impoliteness sucks but isn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things. What you quoted doesn’t qualify as harassing, threatening, or even especially vitriolic, which doesn’t do much to prove your point, especially as I see you referred to “sexist vitriol”.

          • aynrandysavage says:

            My question still stands. Where are you getting this distinction from? It sounds like you just made it up yourself.

        • aynrandysavage says:

          But since when has “impolite” been seen as a punishing offense?

          Certainly in the liberty-advancing non-profits that this tweeter would expect to work in. “Humility and Respect” is a major cornerstone of Charles Koch’s management philosophy(which many of the orgs at this conference adopt). It is one of the most critical measures interviewers use to assess candidates for roles in nearly every major organization in the US.

          If you can’t be respectful for you colleagues, real or potential, then you shouldn’t have colleagues.

  66. Eli says:

    But don’t let the fact that it’s bizarre make you think it isn’t important. How many of us can say, honestly, that we could bear the Panopticon? If every valley were raised up and every mountain pulled down, so there was nowhere to hide, and we were rendered naked to any eye anywhere in the world, how long could we endure? Wouldn’t we retreat into ourselves, turtle-like, afraid to ever speak at all?

    I mean, I’d be fucking lynched.

  67. Deiseach says:

    Here’s an exercise which I encourage you to try. Suppose there’s a Reason columnist who wants to get you fired. By poring over your public statements – Twitter feed, Facebook timeline, any blogs you might have written, anything you’ve said in mixed company that you don’t know if somebody else wrote down waiting for the time they could use it against you. Imagine the most incriminating dossier of your statements, out of context, that they could put together. Imagine what would happen if they were pretty determined, and sent it to your workplace, your church, your parents, et cetera. How much of your life could they destroy?

    Unquantifiable. My parents are dead. My church – eh, doesn’t count, I’m not a very active participant in the parish. Friends/social life – inapplicable, as I have circumvented the problem by not having any. Family – even on Facebook, my sibling addresses me in posts (e.g. tags me) by my Fake Facebook Account Name, not my real one. Workplace is the only area where any impact might be had, and let’s see what happens when I try Googling my Real World Real Name.

    Googling my Real Name gives me hits for two separate people who are dead (their obituaries), various people on LinkedIn who are absolutely not me, an actress (not me), someone on Twitter (not me, have no Twitter account), and somebody with a Youtube channel (again, not me).

    To get the dirt, you’d have to be aware of my (lemme count up now) four Fake Name personae under which I post/posted on separate topics; my religion commenting (to gather a very vague set of things under one umbrella) was done under one name, fandom stuff under another (I had a LiveJournal account which I closed down in the last throes of when it was being sold to the Russians and I have a DreamWidth account which is more or less dormant since I haven’t posted there since 2013), I’m Deiseach on here and I have another one for random bits’n’bobs. By the bye, if you try Googling “Deiseach”, you will get various hits which also are Not Me 🙂

    I have four email accounts, the Gmail one is more of a “had to get one to set up my Android phone” and I basically use it never, except if I want to provide an email address to an annoying website that nags for “give us your email” and I know they’ll spam me. Two others, again set up under Fake Name personae, which I use for various communications. One under my Real Name which has always and only ever been used for official and work-related communications, e.g. emailing people at work, sending off job applications, completing and submitting Official Government Forms, and so on, which means no controversial opinions at all (since all work-related communications come under the usual confidentiality, discretion, and HR-mandated sensitivity diversity this Act applies to you training).

    None of this was planned, as such; it’s just that I am very, very chary of sharing personal information so when websites went “you have to give us an email address” and I was setting up an email account and that also was “you have to give us personal information”, in all cases I went “hell no, you’re getting whatever name I give you and as for the rest of it, none of your goddamn business if I’m married or where I went to school”.

    Now, I’m sure if someone did a bit of digging they could sniff out various parts and put them together, but that would only be “Aha! A and B identities are the same person!” Yeah, but not Real World Me, this is just Internet Me. EDIT: I know I’ve provided a fairish bit on information on here which could, if you went digging, let you find out what part of Ireland I live in and where I (used to) work, but I don’t think you’d have much greater success from that tracking me, myself, real world name, down to anything narrower.

    • MugaSofer says:

      OK, but what if your identity was revealed – via, say, your IP address, or having posted an image at some point that turns out to include GPS data, or some other comments you’ve forgotten about that could in theory be used to derive more info about you?

      EDIT: It’s good to protect yourself from doxxing, but that doesn’t make doxxing good.

  68. MostlyCredibleHulk says:

    > all using the old argument that the concept of “free speech” came into existence ex nihilo on December 15, 1791 with the ratification of the First Amendment, and has no meaning or significance outside a purely legal context of delimiting government power.

    This is a stupid argument to make for a libertarian, and even more stupid to make for an originalist one. The libertarian principle is that there exist – independent of the governments! – some freedoms that belong to every human being (there can be disagreement about how they came to be – US Declaration of Independence refers to the Creator, while others of more atheistic bent seek more utilitarian or deontological principles, but the outcome is the same), and the role of the government is to defend those freedoms. This is the reason why First Amendment exists, and why government is prohibited to violate freedom of speech – because freedom of speech is one of those freedoms above, and since the role of the government is to protect them, it is clear that the least it could do is to avoid directly violating them. However, a positivist idea that freedom of speech came to exist because of the First Amendment, and not vice versa, is a direct antithesis to a libertarian world view.
    Of course, the government is an easy case – since libertarian philosophy contains pretty clear definition of what it’s for, we can make such decisions like First Amendment easily. For private conduct, it is much harder and reasonable libertarians can disagree about that. I don’t see however how a libertarian can be at the same a legal positivist as described above – that would be a completely contradictory position.

    • Brad says:

      I think that was a bit of rhetorical flourish on Scott’s part. It doesn’t represent much of anyone’s position. If for no other reason than the First Amendment as ratified doesn’t apply to state governments and (virtually) no one thinks that “free speech” as a concept doesn’t at least include prior restraints by state governments.

      The steelmanned version is that the concept of “free speech” does and ought to mean that one can say whatever he wants without seeking the permission of a government and without fear of punishment by a government afterwords. It has nothing to do with how your fellow citizens may or may not react in their non-sovereign capacities.

      *With certain exceptions which some might wish to characterize as not-speech rather than exceptions. To give an example: a mob boss could effectuate a murder using only words, most people would not think it violation of the principles of free speech to convict and punish him for it.

      • MostlyCredibleHulk says:

        > The steelmanned version is that the concept of “free speech” does and ought to mean that one can say whatever he wants without seeking the permission of a government and without fear of punishment by a government afterwords.

        This is way too narrow than most people understand it. I.e. if after speaking controversial things you would get murdered by non-government agent – do you have free speech? I wouldn’t think it makes any sense to claim so. Non-infringement of the free speech by the government is a necessary condition, but it doesn’t cover the whole idea.

        > To give an example: a mob boss could effectuate a murder using only words, most people would not think it violation of the principles of free speech to convict and punish him for it.

        Ah, this is clear – because there are things beyond the speech going on. It’s like having a voice-activated bomb and triggering it doesn’t qualify as “free speech” issue. Obviously the problem here goes beyond the speech.

        • Brad says:

          This is way too narrow than most people understand it. I.e. if after speaking controversial things you would get murdered by non-government agent – do you have free speech? I wouldn’t think it makes any sense to claim so. Non-infringement of the free speech by the government is a necessary condition, but it doesn’t cover the whole idea.

          The question isn’t really what “most people understand”. It’s what the specific group of people Scott is thinking of are thinking. But in any event, I’d push back even on the “most people” part. At least if there’s no active or passive cooperation with the government.

          If MS13 kills a reporter on Long Island that writes a column on their activities and the FBI comes down like a ton of bricks, most wouldn’t say that the reporter didn’t have free speech or that Suffolk County or the US in general doesn’t have free speech. We have property rights despite the fact that things are stolen fairly often.

          Ah, this is clear – because there are things beyond the speech going on. It’s like having a voice-activated bomb and triggering it doesn’t qualify as “free speech” issue. Obviously the problem here goes beyond the speech.

          What other things were you thinking of? As I said, some choose to play games with definitions rather than say there are exceptions, but it amounts to the same thing.

          • MostlyCredibleHulk says:

            > If MS13 kills a reporter on Long Island that writes a column on their activities

            If it is routine for MS13 to kill reporters that write about it, then the free speech rights of the reporters is certainly being infringed.

            > We have property rights despite the fact that things are stolen fairly often.

            I think you misunderstood me. I do not claim that somebody infringing free speech means free speech does not exist. I only claim government is not the only entity that could infringe free speech – as it would follow from your “steelmanned” definition. I would consider it pretty obvious -after all, if the Fourth Amendment prohibits government from stealing your property, you do not conclude from it that property rights exist only when we talk about interactions with the government.

  69. MostlyCredibleHulk says:

    > There are now tens of thousands of people in the world who know you only as the guy who said that one embarassing thing one time.

    This is how politics operates now 99% of the time. People seek out one most disgusting thing the person did and concentrate on it. Or several disgusting things, if they can find them (if not, they’re ok with inventing them). Granted, it is not usually the reason for it – but it is what ~99% of discussion is about. In many cases, the person haven’t even said or done that particular thing, but most of the audience wouldn’t ever know it.

    > How many of us can say, honestly, that we could bear the Panopticon?

    Aren’t we trying to survive it right now? I mean, there are – in my field of work – documented cases of people being fired for a random joke that triggered some activist, and for a political position, and ousted from communities for having a non-traditional lifestyle, and demanded to be ousted and no-platformed for expressing views that some activist disagreed with (which didn’t end up in ouster in that case, but very well could), and etc. etc. I am completely aware that if some determined activist would be willing to do such attack on me, I’m screwed. I could probably recover my life, but with a very significant effort and significant losses. And I am nobody, I don’t even have some kind of radical or especially controversial views, I generally avoid inflammatory postings online and I comment mostly under pseudonym not directly linkable to my real identity. I think we are definitely already living in a world where a celebrity can destroy a life of ordinary person, or even a determined and well-connected non-celebrity with a big enough chip of his/her shoulder.

    • cuke says:

      Aren’t we trying to survive it right now? I mean, there are – in my field of work – documented cases of people being fired for a random joke that triggered some activist, and for a political position, and ousted from communities for having a non-traditional lifestyle…

      How is this different from how it’s always been in the U.S.?

      Without some situation-specific kind of explicit employment protection, almost everyone is subject to the hiring and firing whims of employers and to the political/cultural biases of the dominant culture where they live. People have long been fired for some thing they said or didn’t say, their “attitude,” not voting the right way, not having the right religious beliefs, not socializing with the right crowd, having sex or falling in love with the wrong kind of person, wearing the wrong thing, pissing off the boss’ friend, or anything else. Even when the law expressly forbids it, people are also fired for being old, sick, pregnant, supporting a union, raising health and safety hazards, and so on. Winning a lawsuit in even those clear-cut legal violation situations is much rarer than one would think from the splashy legal victories that hit the news.

      If you were employed for a time or in a place where you didn’t feel subject to these whims, then you are lucky, but I wouldn’t mistake that for how things are most places and times, for most people in the U.S.

      Having to watch one’s words and one’s behavior in all public realms of life so as to safeguard one’s job is pretty normal stuff. How did it come to not seem normal? (I’m not saying it’s good; I’m just saying it’s long been the norm).

      • MostlyCredibleHulk says:

        > How is this different from how it’s always been in the U.S.?

        I don’t know, but I remember times where outrage mob campaigns did not exist beyond ones organized by governments or entities with similar powers. Were there really any cases of somebody saying a salty joke in a pub in 1950s and finding themselves target of worldwide hate campaign resulting in loss of employment? I think it’s relatively new.

        > Without some situation-specific kind of explicit employment protection,

        How employment protection helps here? Unless there’s an ironclad protection like police or government unionized employees have, where it is super-hard to fire people even for clearly awful conduct (google “teacher rubber rooms”), it won’t help you. Of course, it is possible to make everybody unfireable, but it’s a cure that is worse than the disease.

        > People have long been fired

        True, it always happened, but now it is happening worse than before – the area of exposure has risen dramatically. It’s one thing to be fired for cussing out your boss after drinking too much and another thing to be fired because some random deranged activist on the Internet didn’t like your opinion about how to handle climate change or overheard and misunderstood your joke you shared with a friend.

        > If you were employed for a time or in a place where you didn’t feel subject to these whims

        Being at whims of your boss – who hired you, who your work with and with who you presumably share at least some interests – e.g. welfare of the company enough to pay you both the salary – is different that being at whims of any random twitterer who has 20K subscribers and a need to go on a daily power trip or to virtue signal their peer group. I’m feeling pretty comfortable with the former and completely uncomfortable with the latter.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        How is this different from how it’s always been in the U.S.?

        But if you screwed up badly enough in your own town that you were unemployable, you could move to a different town and start over. “Don’t be a dick” is not a new norm, but “Be a dick once and you’re ruined everywhere forever” is new.

  70. birdboy2000 says:

    Meaningful free speech is incompatible with private property. As a supporter of the former and not the latter, I’m glad I don’t have to try to square that circle. I doubt Libertarians (the pro-capitalism kind anyway) have much of a principled critique; capitalism has always been a case of “watch what you say or get blacklisted” and the efforts to stop this have always been denounced as restraints on capitalism.

    That said, I feel absolutely horrible when it happens to anyone; this shit is a big part of *why* I don’t support capitalism. Either you support freedom for the few and subjugation for the rest, or the emancipation of all human beings.

    • Huh? I would say free speech is incompatible with full government socialism, which is I think the result if private property doesn’t exist? Because in that case, government politics is all important and affects every activity, and so anything one does is subject to government or the community.

      Private property and the free market allow to voluntarily be part of various different groups. There is of course politics in all groups, but with the free market one is part of several different groups so it would not be all-encompassing on one’s life.

      This is pretty clear when comparing the current Western world, which has maybe 50% free market, with the USSR, which was maybe 10% free market. It is clear which one had more free speech. And the USSR didn’t go so far as banning private property, which would have made it a lot less free than it was.

      • MugaSofer says:

        Perhaps more accurate to say that free speech is incompatible with inviolable private property (because free speech requires government intervention, or something like it, to maintain.)

        E.g. if your landlord can kick you out for your beliefs, minority beliefs are in trouble.

        • E.g. if your landlord can kick you out for your beliefs, minority beliefs are in trouble.

          Is it illegal in the US, or anywhere in the world, for a landlord to kick someone out for their beliefs? I don’t think it is.

          Perhaps minority beliefs are in trouble if every landlord will kick you out for the same beliefs. Although I don’t recall ever stating my beliefs to my landlord, so I do wonder how often this would happen. If someone is politically active, then presumably this could result in a politically opposite kicking one out.

          It has become unfortunately a lot more common for people to use their economic power to do their best to destroy their political opponents, so I do think this kind of behavior might be happening more than it did in the past. But I really don’t think you can fix the issue of people using their free market powers for evil by putting the government in charge of all economic behavior. In that case, folks would just use their political powers for the same ends.

  71. MugaSofer says:

    Interestingly, the person who posted said tweet posted this shortly afterward:

    Singling him out might be shitty but hearing from so many great young women how this sort of thing turns them off libertarianism is shittier

    I dont intend to leave my tweet up long. Not really looking to cause career damage, just maybe think twice about being a sexist clown online

    [emphasis added]

    We’ll see if this is true, I guess.

    • AnonYEmous says:

      It’s still up. The person she singled out isn’t. When I saw it, I assumed it was a back-pedal which wouldn’t be followed through on, and so far it hasn’t. If she just wanted to scare him straight, it should have been long gone.

  72. MugaSofer says:

    Scott, you came to the opposite conclusion when someone on Tumblr complained that you replying to their posts was effectively “siccing your followers on them” because your audience is so much larger.

    What made you change your mind?

  73. uncertainopinions says:

    Isn’t the purpose of free speech also meant to act as a marketplace to decide what speech is and isn’t desirable? That is, yes it is permissible to tweet sexist comments but counterspeech to that should outweigh it.

    I understand the tradeoff you’ve outlined here, that it vests a large amount of power in those with large audiences. But the relevant question then becomes whether that power has been used well or badly in each instance. In this instance it seems that yes this guy is more than this tweet but the value of her pushback to society is, in my opinion, more important than the potential harm he may accrue.

    Thanks.

  74. tbrownaw says:

    At least in the US, I would think that not-getting-hired effects of this ought to be covered by the adverse action notice requirements that come with employers doing background checks.

    Maybe victims would be limited to employers large enough to have HR departments and formal hiring processes, but that’s still a pretty decent chunk of the labor market.

    • aynrandysavage says:

      In this case, it was limited solely to all of the employees of the libertarian organizations he directly tweeted to.

      • sevens2 says:

        Nonsense. It went way beyond (mutiply the cascade of Twitter and Facebook followers), both in fact, and in stated intention:

        https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10105358012731454&id=12303799

        “Just wanna help ensure that any prospective [his name, link] employers in the liberty movement and beyond see this [screenshot of his tweet, and her comment, reading in part “young man who ostensibly wants a job someday”].”

        • aynrandysavage says:

          She clarified her stance later, and said that she only wanted to scare the bejeezus out of him. But intent aside, the actual *effect* of her actions was exactly what I said. The liberty movement is small and tight-knit. All the handwringing about how much louder and more powerful her microphone is is BS. This will never leave the libertarian scene unless some conservative edgelords end up making it a big deal(As the liberty conservative is trying to do)

          • AnonYEmous says:

            She clarified her stance later, and said that she only wanted to scare the bejeezus out of him.

            Which explains why she still hasn’t deleted the tweet as of this point. Perhaps, you say, she wants to be open about her misstep? Then why on Earth does she constantly seem to dance around this tweet and focus on the first one to the exclusion of the second?

            If she wanted to scare him straight, she would’ve trashed the tweet after she trashed the account.

          • aynrandysavage says:

            Maybe she just hasn’t gotten around to it. Maybe she thinks a few days is an appropriate length to scare him. Who knows? There’s no reason in principle why she should agree with your exact opinion on how long the post should stay up.

          • random832 says:

            @aynrandysavage

            What’s your opinion on how long the post should stay up? Or, put more clearly, what’s your opinion on what she meant by “I dont intend to leave my tweet up long”?

            After what period of time, specifically, if the tweet is still up, will you be willing to conclude that was a lie?

          • aynrandysavage says:

            Maybe a week or so doesn’t seem too arduous. But there is no point whatsoever that we can concede that “it was a lie.” Maybe she’ll forget to take it down, or maybe the negative reaction of some people(like yourself) may have convinced her that it actually needs to stay up.

          • random832 says:

            she’ll forget to take it down

            That would mean that she did not make a note in her calendar to take it down. “Forgetting” is not an excuse to not do something you publicly promised to do. She is not entitled to the goodwill she attempted to obtain by claiming she would take it down if she does not follow through.

            If she changes her mind, then she can explain that decision. Quietly leaving it up just means that she never any had any intent to revisit it in the first place.

          • aynrandysavage says:

            She has no obligation whatsoever explain her reasoning for changing her mind to you.

            That would mean that she did not make a note in her calendar to take it down. “Forgetting” is not an excuse to not do something you publicly promised to do. She is not entitled to the goodwill she attempted to obtain by claiming she would take it down if she does not follow through.

            That presumes she wants your goodwill.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            As I explained, the guy already deleted his account. Is that not scary enough?

            Besides, once you say “i’ll take it down after a reasonable time”, then the fear factor is already heavily diminished. You might as well just follow through with the promise. And yet, refreshing the page again, I see she still hasn’t.

            I plan on doing laundry in a day or two, by your logic, since I haven’t decided what day to do it, I don’t intend to every do laundry.

            If all of your clothes are smelling of intense body odor and you still haven’t tossed a load into the washing machine, then I’d assume that you’re probably not planning to do the laundry any time soon and you’re fine with the current situation. Fair assumption, in my book.

            (Side note: this is the problem with arguing with analogies; you’ve left out a critical part of the analogy and reduced down the situation, which indeed makes the other person look silly – until they point out what you’ve done.)

          • random832 says:

            That presumes she wants your goodwill.

            She wants someone’s goodwill, or she wouldn’t have said it. She determined that the intensity of criticism she was getting from people whose opinions she did care about was getting too high, and made a move to reduce it by promising not to keep the tweet up.

          • sevens2 says:

            Randy: “This will never leave the libertarian scene unless some conservative edgelords end up making it a big deal(As the liberty conservative is trying to do)”

            That’s an utterly foolish prediction, in ignoring the followers of a journalist and feminist, along with public sensibilities.

          • sevens2 says:

            “She wants someone’s goodwill, or she wouldn’t have said it. She determined that the intensity of criticism she was getting from people whose opinions she did care about was getting too high, and made a move to reduce it by promising not to keep the tweet up.”

            It is possible that she had that intention before, but only expressed it later. It is possible, moreover, that she changed her mind based on argument, as opposed to mere affection or hostility of others. Or she had not decided on the length, and did so later (without changing her mind). And so forth.

            (It’s even possible that she left it up longer because of criticism. Whatever any of this matters for.)

          • aynrandysavage says:

            As I explained, the guy already deleted his account. Is that not scary enough?

            Maybe to you, maybe not to her.

          • aynrandysavage says:

            She wants someone’s goodwill, or she wouldn’t have said it. She determined that the intensity of criticism she was getting from people whose opinions she did care about was getting too high, and made a move to reduce it by promising not to keep the tweet up.

            Any idle speculation about her motives is just that, idle speculation. I’m going to stick to facts, not pet theories.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Maybe to you, maybe not to her.

            Any idle speculation about her motives is just that, idle speculation. I’m going to stick to facts, not pet theories.

            What facts are you referring to, even? That she said something vague? Well, it’s certainly a fact that she said she wouldn’t leave it up too long. It’s also a fact that it’s…STILL up. It’s also a fact that, at this point, the controversy has blown up, to the point that a lot of people have in fact heard about it, and it’s also a fact that the person she picked on deleted their account. Fact is…if she wanted to delete it, she would already be too late to do so, at least in terms of preventing serious career damage. But, as I mentioned, the damage at this point should mostly be to her own career. Sad!

          • aynrandysavage says:

            Fact is…if she wanted to delete it, she would already be too late to do so

            That is not a fact, that is speculation. As we already established, maybe she initially wanted to change it but changed her mind based on the backlash from people like you. Maybe she wanted to change it but forgot. Maybe she intended to keep it up for a specific amount of time that has not elapsed(whether you think that amount of time is appropriate or not is irrelevant to this point).

            But, as I mentioned, the damage at this point should mostly be to her own career. Sad!

            That’s very unlikely. ENB is a respected columnist at Reason and all of her peers and colleagues and peers have already vouched for her. Nothing she did is conteroversial among the beltway organizations in her networks. It’s mostly angsty white men outside of DC and outside of the DC libertarian professional circle who are complaining about this. Nobody needs to worry about their disapproval costing one a job.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            That is not a fact, that is speculation.

            So sue me. You don’t know, I don’t know, but what I say makes a whole lot more sense than what you say. If she has changed her mind, for example, why hasn’t she explained why?

            That’s very unlikely.

            Sadly, you’re not wrong. But the fact that you’re right about it means something is wrong with the world…and the fact that you think it’s only “angsty white men” who care signals a lot about you as a human being. Feminists: never even once.

          • random832 says:

            (whether you think that amount of time is appropriate or not is irrelevant to this point).

            Why? Why is someone’s claim that the amount of time they intend to keep something up is “not long” not subject to evaluation by third parties?

            She made a promise in public on Twitter. She didn’t have to do that. Why are you so insistent that no part of her audience – the people she made that promise to – has any standing to complain when she does not fulfill it with no explanation?

            So sue me. You don’t know, I don’t know, but what I say makes a whole lot more sense than what you say. If she has changed her mind, for example, why hasn’t she explained why?

            For that matter, it would be deeply inappropriate to change her decision based on anyone’s actions other than the original target, who has done nothing further on this subject except to delete his twitter account and (according to a comment on the facebook post) apologize in a private message to someone else who called him out on it.

            If, say, the decision was based on the reactions she got on Twitter or Facebook (or, say, the more absurd suggestion that she’s somehow reacting to discussion here on SSC and that we should therefore feel responsible), she would be punishing him for other people’s actions that he has no part in. But, then, that’s how this all started in the first place.

          • aynrandysavage says:

            So sue me. You don’t know, I don’t know, but what I say makes a whole lot more sense than what you say. If she has changed her mind, for example, why hasn’t she explained why?

            I don’t know or care. I’m not interested in idle speculation.

            Sadly, you’re not wrong. But the fact that you’re right about it means something is wrong with the world…and the fact that you think it’s only “angsty white men” who care signals a lot about you as a human being. Feminists: never even once.

            I’m not a feminist. I’m a white male myself. I just don’t have time for whiny, resentful men who cry the victim constantly whenever their bad behavior is challenged.

          • The Nybbler says:

            whiny, resentful men

            To illustrate: if I were to indulge in “tu quoque”, I would do it HERE, not in the other subthread.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            I’m not a feminist. I’m a white male myself. I just don’t have time for whiny, resentful men who cry the victim constantly whenever their bad behavior is challenged.

            Down to the denial that a white man can be a feminist, this entire paragraph screams feminist. But either way, whatever label applies to you…not even once.

          • aynrandysavage says:

            Down to the denial that a white man can be a feminist, this entire paragraph screams feminist.

            I didn’t deny that white men can be feminist. While I personally have some methodological qualms with modern feminism, I know plenty of men who don’t and happily accept the label.

            The reason I brought up that I’m a white man is to point out that you can be a white male and NOT see feminism as some scary boogyman that’s to blame for your life’s problems. I’m very happy to see people who so thoroughly disrespect their colleagues, male or female, vehemently rebuked. If I were less confident in my ability to engage with women respectfully, I might be more afraid.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            I’m very happy to see people who so thoroughly disrespect their colleagues, male or female, vehemently rebuked.

            attempted disemployment is far more than a rebuke.

            If I were less confident in my ability to engage with women respectfully, I might be more afraid.

            First they came for the people who made sexist jokes on Twitter, and I did not speak out – Because I did not do this.

            ———————

            Better hope that trend doesn’t continue, my duderino.

        • aynrandysavage says:

          Better hope that trend doesn’t continue, my duderino.

          I’d be thrilled if the trend of unprofessional, disrespectful people having a harder time of finding employment continues.

    • Matt M says:

      adverse action notice requirements that come with employers doing background checks.

      AFAIK, Googling someone’s name is not considered a “background check” and carries no such requirements.

      But I do think that you’re right that in theory, this would be the only way to prevent such things. Either a law that states that if you refuse to hire for a reason like this, you have to transparently disclose why… or companies that voluntarily decide to show their commitment to free speech by having standing policies against looking up social media histories of job candidates ever, at all.

  75. Creative Username 1138 says:

    The guy tweeted his joke at a feminist organization. What did he expect?

    • aynrandysavage says:

      Based on some of the comments I’m reading, I’d imagine he expected to be anointed king of free speech or something.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        I think he expected to be mostly ignored or perhaps mildly reprimanded

        • aynrandysavage says:

          He shouldn’t have publicly insulted dozens of conservative/libertarian women who’ve spent their entire professional careers having to deal with people like him, then. Maybe it’s unfair to single him out particularly, but he did everything he could to make his comment as visible as possible to the most hostile audience he could ever hope to find.