thought-crime and punishment
Over in the insanely long religious thread (
362 391 comments and counting!) @Adrienne and I had a bit of a back and forth.
Now, a quick note: I really don't want to clutter up this thread with theology. I'm not the theology blogger here, Popehat is not – despite the name! – a theology blog, most people don't care about theology. So, for the love of (cough) God, please don't use this thread to talk theology; keep it in the other thread!
What I do want to discuss here is how a society deals with three-, four- and five-deviation-from-the-mean opinions.
I quote @Adrienne's most recent comment:
I absolutely do not believe that the law should prohibit basically any sort of speech… I think hate speech laws, in particular, are horrifying.
Excellent, glad to hear it.
However, many things that are (and should remain) "okay" in a legal sense are "not okay" in a social sense, an ethical sense, or both.
Certain thoughts and ideas and statements by and large make their possessor or speaker appear to be a complete asshole.
Yes, I agree.
However I note three things:
1) appear – verb – 3: to have an outward aspect
2) appearance is in the eye of the beholder, and beholders vary widely.
Saying that Jews are non-human and can be exterminated without moral qualm would not raise an eyebrow in Germany c. 1941, but saying it in 2013 would exclude you from polite society.
Saying that fetuses six months after conception are non-human and can be exterminated without moral qualm would not raise an eyebrow in Germany c. 2013, but saying it in 1941 would exclude you from polite society.
3) Most people don't read any books in a given year. Most people watch four hours of TV per day. Half the populace has an IQ under 100, and 99.8% of it has an IQ under 145.
What I take away from all of this is that I really don't care if my ideas – reasonably well-thought out, somewhat researched – make me appear to be an a-hole to 99% of people.
I'm not going to speak what I consider lies or refrain from speaking what I consider truth because the masses are bad at thinking and rarely experience any idea outside of of the comfortable bubble of two-major-parties / late-night-TV-comedy / approved US history.
I additionally believe that certain statements are irresponsible to make on a widely-read and well-respected blog such as Popehat
I strongly disagree.
I don't think that the marketplace of ideas is good in theory but bad in practice – I think it's good in theory and good in practice.
Here's how I engage in the marketplace of ideas :
1) I say things that may or may not make me appear to be an a-hole.
2) Anyone who wants to can leave a comment questioning my facts, my sanity, or my rationality.
3) I will engage with those people, striving to calmly respond to each and every one of them.
At the end of the day I may end up changing my opinion, one or more of them may end up changing their opinions, or no one will be swayed, but we will all be better off for having explored each other's premises and logic.
I would be enthusiastically in favor of your being socially shunned because of your statement.
I have been socially shunned for my opinions, and I've survived. The fact that I'm an nerdy INTJ who's extremely (perhaps pathologically) capable of sticking to his opinions even in the face of social opprobrium that has allowed me to explore lots of ideas, argue about them out loud, and change my mind dozens of times, so the causality implied by the previous sentence is backwards: it's not that I'm tough that has allowed me to survive the shunning, it's that I knew up front that I could survive the shunning that allowed me to explore ideas and embrace fairly crazy ideas like voluntaryism, transhumanism, modified Newtonian dynamics and Catholicism.
I would be totally okay with the New York Times printing your statement, your real name, and your photo on page one.
Interesting example. In fact, the New York Times has quoted me (under my real name) saying things that are outrageous to conventional prejudices. Twice. Neither, sadly, made page one. Both resulted in dozens of emails from people who went to the work of tracking me down and telling me that I'm terrible.
I think what you said is detestable and that you should face social consequences for it
I would not oppose your being fired from your day job (whatever your day job is) because of it.
I note that you don't merely say that it's OK if I face social consequences – you chose the word "should". You want me to be punished for expressing ideas that I have reached honestly.
That being the case, you don't really believe in a marketplace of ideas, do you? You want people to be punished for saying non-conformist things, you just want to keep your hands clean (or, rather, to claim that your hands are clean. You want your intellectual enemies to go hungry, but you want to be able to say that you didn't do it to them).
The goal here is – what? To raise the cost of speaking non-conformist ideas, so as to lower the total quantity of non-conformist ideas produced? I personally like the idea of an open society with intellectual ferment, but it seems like you do not.
Further, you're in favor of pretty extreme punishments: you'd like to see my lose my income, and because of that, inevitably, my house and my ability to support my family. You'd like to see that happen, and all because I dared to reach and then say out say out-loud an unpopular conclusion.
I consider that to be a shameful stance on your part.
However, I note that I don't want you to lose your job or your house, or go hungry because of your opinion. I'm glad you said it out loud, because it lets me see what you think.
What I want is to engage you, change your mind, and change the minds of anyone who might agree with you.