thought-crime and punishment

189 Responses

  1. Demosthenes says:

    Despite the fact that our worldviews coincide at a number of points (or maybe because of that), I have gone round with Clark before. So I hope people will take me at my full meaning when I say that there is not a single thing in this post that I disagree with. I even compliment Clark on his use of punctuation.

    It's about force and freedom in the public sphere, people. Respecting people as free beings who have the right to make choices and say things, even if they piss you off, is good. Even an attempt at forcing people to conform to a standard of public discourse that you set (or else face the consequences), however, is much more problematic. Children can be treated that way in some instances, because they're still maturing, but I'm hard-pressed to think of a time where adults should be. Even if we may disagree on the application of those ideas to various situations, I hope we can agree on the ideas themselves.

  2. Grifter says:

    Isn't the "marketplace of ideas" inherently "social consequences"?

  3. Chuck says:

    I don't think this person, wrong though I think she is, disbelieves in e marketplace of ideas. The marketplace of ideas is, after all, a marketplace. If a person faces adverse employment action, loses customers, etc., because of his ideas, I think the marketplace of ideas is working perfectly well. I guess this counts as being "punished" for certain ideas, but then, markets punish people and businesses. That's the whole point.

  4. Grenaid says:

    As an INFP that can't help but admire INTJs (it's just one of our characteristics, and one of the reasons I love C.S. Lewis no doubt) thanks for a clear cut post. I sincerely wish there were more people that could engage the public forum like this, and also agree with the whole post.

  5. NI says:

    But is there an outer limit on opinions such that some are so outrageous that the extreme punishments Adrienne suggests would be appropriate? I would prefer, for example, not to share a workspace with someone who believes that the 9/11 hijackers acted appropriately. Even if that person never put that belief into practice, the mere fact that someone could honestly reach the conclusion that hijacking airplanes and flying them into buildings is proper behavior tells me that individual is sufficiently lacking in human decency that I wouldn't want to be around him. Ditto someone who thinks raping children is a good thing. I wouldn't throw either of them in jail; I'm pretty close to a First Amendment absolutist myself.

    Maybe it's easier to say there is no outer limit, and even people with such outrageous beliefs as those should be able to express them without suffering major economic consequences, because if there is an outer limit, determining where it is will be difficult. So, if you think there is no outer limit, maybe upon reflection I'd agree with you. But I wouldn't be happy about it.

  6. Grenaid says:

    @Chuck, depends in part on how the market place is being used. If your employer is huge on free speech, the threat is an empty one. If they are not open to free participation in the marketplace of ideas, then there might be consequences.

    If the content of the speech was such that it interfered with one's ability to perform a job, it might be of concern. Typically though, an employer could figure that out on their own.

    I guess what I am saying, is that usually tattling to an employer only works if they are interested in censorship, and therefore such action with its consequences is not completely in that marketplace.

  7. Grifter says:

    @Grenaid:

    I don't think it's true "censorship" if it's an employer doing it, any more than it was "censorship" for our dear hosts to recently cull the douche-population.

    We can disagree where the line is, but I think most people would agree there's some sort of line beyond which we would not want someone associated with ourselves or our business.

  8. James Pollock says:

    "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."

    Alas, it's NOT an unpopular conclusion, depending on audience.

    I think you've missed the notion that "the marketplace of ideas" is idealized as one without emotional affect, whereas rhetoric in the real world is not the ideal.

    Social pressure can be used to push "unpopular" ideas aside, but it is ultimately effective against emotional arguments rather than factual ones (The shunning of climate scientists won't change the weather in any way. Nor, of course, will NOT shunning them affect the weather.)

    We've had a construct for several thousands of years… people who give offense unintentionally are given an opportunity to apologize, sincere apologies are accepted. Giving offense intentionally and/or treating someone who has sincerely apologized as if they have not and holding a grudge are both dick moves. Human beings are designed as social animals and survive best in packs rather than as individuals. Civilized society usually provides the best opportunities for happiness and individual fulfillment of individual human beings, even though it imposes limits on their behavior. Thus, societal stability is usually a positive for individuals; even if a better society is possible and even achievable, achieving that better society is likely to require sacrifice and suffering by individuals. One of the only effective ways to maintain societies, however, is to exclude those who refuse to abide by its rules (note that I did not say "laws" here). At the hard end of the spectrum of exclusion, you have the exile and incarceration remedies, backed by force, and at the soft end you have social exclusion remedies like shunning ("birds of a feather") and cliques.

    That's just how things work.
    I do not wish you to lose your job/livelihood, but support the rights of people who disagree with you to express their disagreement both "in the marketplace of ideas" and in the real world. If you don't like being treated like a nerd, quit trying to sit at the jock table.

    There is a right way and a wrong way to say something, and a right time and a wrong time to say something, and pushback is entirely reasonable and should be expected if you choose to espouse your ideas in the wrong way or at the wrong time, and the fact that your ideas are objectively correct doesn't change anything at all.

  9. AlphaCentauri says:

    It depends on the opinion, and it depends on the job. If you are a Catholic priest, pretty much anything you say will be perceived as reflecting the position of the Catholic Church, and your bishop or rector will be taking you to task for saying anything that's not consistent with Church teachings. If you are a factory worker, the Confederate flag on your bumper sticker isn't likely to be considered an indication of your employer's politics, and you probably aren't going to lose your job over it.

  10. Nick O'Dell says:

    @Grifter

    The marketplace of ideas refers more to government non-intervention. The point is that good ideas get repeated; bad ideas get called out.

    How are social consequences better than government intervention? Social consequences are applied to offensive speech. Offensive speech is stating unpopular ideas that might be true. For example, nobody gets in trouble for saying that people in Germany are twelve feet tall. Government regulations on speech also apply to unpopular ideas that might be true. For example, look at the Sedition Act of 1918, which was passed during WWI. One of the arrests was against a guy who said, "Germany's not a threat to the United States anymore." Look at the components: 1) an uncommon idea 2) that might be true.

  11. Jonathan says:

    @AC,

    If you are a Catholic priest, pretty much anything you say will be perceived as reflecting the position of the Catholic Church, and your bishop or rector will be taking you to task for saying anything that's not consistent with Church teachings.

    If only you knew how untrue this generally is! lol

  12. Demosthenes says:

    "The marketplace of ideas is, after all, a marketplace."

    Indeed it is, Chuck. But what you then go on to talk about has very little to do with the marketplace of ideas. What you describe as said marketplace "working perfectly well" actually has to do with punishing people who hold opinions you don't like in a sphere that may have nothing at all to do with those opinions. For the marketplace of ideas to work, people have to feel free to say what they think is right, and have to feel free to defend their beliefs against all comers. What you describe is a short-circuiting of that process…the argument of those people who have such a disrespect for an idea that they will attempt to change the mind of the person who holds it, not through argument, but through pressure. They have the right to do such a thing, of course. That doesn't make it right. It amounts to disrespect of the person who holds the idea, and of their freedom to hold it.

    I do not indict anyone in particular. I once believed in that sort of "rough justice" (which is indeed rough but which is quite often unjust), and still struggle from time to time with the worse angels of my nature. And yet, respect for other ideas is not something on which one can compromise halfway. I don't like Joss Whedon's politics in the aggregate, but I still bought tickets to "The Avengers." I did this in spite of the fact that I knew I was giving money to a man who might turn around and use a small portion of that money to support ideas with which I have real problems. I did it because I mostly like how he tells stories, and I wanted to see him tell that one.

  13. McFate says:

    @AlphaCentauri: It should also depend on the forum. Consider the factory worker who: (a) wears a Confederate flag T-shirt to work, (b) has a Confederate flag bumper sticker on a car other than the one he drives to work, (c) has a Confederate flag image in a Flickr account registered to a pseudonym.

    In the case of something in the virtual realm AND not reasonably tied to his actual identity (like (c) above), I would suggest that the "marketplace" it's involved in should remain independent of his employment. Anyone who goes through the effort to tie his pseudonym to a real identity, figure out who he works for, and tries to get him fired, has definitely stepped out of bounds of "marketplace of ideas" (and/or legitimate grievance mechanisms) and into censorship.

  14. Doctor Railgun says:

    Fun Fact of the Day:
    Appearance may be in the eye of the beholder, but the adventurers are in its stomach.

  15. Thad says:

    Say something provocative on the Internet, write a whole other post acting superior when someone overreacts. Seems awfully masturbatory.

    Clark, I get the impression you're a bright guy. So I can only conclude that your consistent use of analogies that are logically poor but carry loads of potential to piss people off is by design. (In the post you're referring to, you compared disagreements on marriage rights to disagreements on pizza toppings. In this one, you go straight to the Nazis. Again.)

    You want to talk about how you're smarter than 99% of civilization? Great. Maybe you are. But if you're really that smart, there should be more that distinguishes your rhetorical devices from a typical YouTube comments thread than just better spelling.

  16. MarkH says:

    There are exactly and precisely zero, one and many Gods (or Goddesses). How you want to deal with each one is up to you. A true God would let you "figure life out" all on your own. Or, have a one-on-one conversation. Or, if you want specialized Gods for specific compartmentalized reasons, that's just ducky too.

    This is something I really do believe, and it makes it easy to agree with everyone. Some people really don't seem to like spiritual flexibility, but then they can't believe in an all powerful God, since an all powerful God can be anything you want, including being nothing at all.

    They may be all the same God, or different Gods, or different aspects of one or many Gods, or no Gods at all (but all the same non-Gods, to be sure).

    So, what were you arguing about?

    :p

  17. GreenKnight says:

    Going along with social norms is how we have things like holocausts and even successful genocides. A horrible idea is spouted by a popular person, other people want to be attached to that popularity so they support it, the idea becomes overwhelmingly popular and and people are afraid to speak against it.

    Our society has a few horrible ideas that I speak out against.

    But I do so judiciously, in forums frequented more by intelligent people than mindless fanatics — they may disagree with me, but I judge that we can trade arguments, that they won't resort to violence or "dirty tricks". And there are mindless fanatics in our society just as there is in other societies.

    And I do so only under a pen name because of web searches and because I don't want my to be fired from my job, have my house burned down, or be denied an entry visa.

    My big worry is that mindless fanatics might use police powers to break down what remains of our privacy on the web.

  18. Demosthenes says:

    Thad, at the end of his post:

    "But if you're really that smart, there should be more that distinguishes your rhetorical devices from a typical YouTube comments thread than just better spelling."

    Thad, at the beginning of his post:

    "Say something provocative on the Internet, write a whole other post acting superior when someone overreacts. Seems awfully masturbatory."

  19. princessartemis says:

    It strikes me that the world is a poorer place because odd and outlandish ideas are more likely to receive social scorn than they are a tilt of the head and a "huh, I never thought of it that way…might not after this either, but for now, let's play with it."

    That's likely my INTPishness speaking though.

  20. AlphaCentauri says:

    @Jonathan: I was thinking of this incident:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Catholic_Statement_on_Pluralism_and_Abortion#Reaction
    where a number of nuns and priests signed a newspaper ad saying that there was diversity of opinion among Catholics about whether any situation might exist in which abortion could be an ethical choice. Those employed by Church entities had to recant or else be dismissed and lose their retirements — something many Catholics thought was outrageous and which many other Catholics thought was a blindingly obvious outcome.

  21. GreenKnight says:

    @Chuck "If a person faces adverse employment action, loses customers, etc., because of his ideas, I think the marketplace of ideas is working perfectly well."

    So the tar and feathering of United Empire Loyalists after 1776 was the market place of ideas working perfectly well?

    Consider that in the early 1970s people were shunned for believe that there was a CIA funded College of the Americas that trained military officers who would lead coups and become future dictators. Consider that people who advertised this fact were shunned for having outlandish ideas (which were later admitted to be true by the CIA).

    Consider that the idea that 9-11 was a US government conspiracy is the majority idea in some places, and that people are shunned for not believing it — is that the market place of ideas working properly?

    And then you get the heavy duty examples of that principle gone wrong:

    The persecution of Christians by the Romans, the persecution of polytheists by the Christians, and so on.

    The popular view is often wrong because it is dragged down by the fact that most people either lack the full facts and lack the intelligence to deduce the facts from available half-truths.

    In the legal world consider how often the courts of justice come up with a different verdict than the courts of public opinion.

    In the scientific world, consider how long we clung to alchemy.

  22. Noah Callaway says:

    @Demosthenes

    Children can be treated that way in some instances, because they're still maturing, but I'm hard-pressed to think of a time where adults should be.

    I find this statement funny (as in "haha", as opposed to "fishy") coming from Demosthenes. I shouldn't have re-read Ender's Game this weekend.

  23. Jonathan says:

    @AC,

    I was mostly joking with you. You're correct that, at least while in an 'officially official' capacity, priests have to stick to the party line as it were. Of course, that doesn't mean they all do.

  24. Demosthenes says:

    Why, Noah?

  25. eddie says:

    I'll bite. Because I already bit in the previous thread.

    You want me to be punished for expressing ideas that I have reached honestly.

    I want you to be punished for having those ideas. I don't care if you express them or not.

    But I'll admit that I'm a bit unclear, even with myself, as to what the punishment should be. Let me see if I can work through it here.

    The bottom line is that I think less of you (hypothetically) because you believe certain things. Things like, say, "kittens are cute". Because they're NOT cute. They're cats-in-waiting, and cats are foul beasts. All right-thinking people know that. So when I see your Hang In There Baby poster I know you're one of THOSE people. I don't like you.

    I want you to change your beliefs. Even more importantly, I want to keep others from adopting your beliefs. I want them to adopt mine.

    I could kill all the kitten-lovers, but that doesn't seem right. I'm okay with killing murderers and violent aggressors, but kittenism doesn't seem like it's wrong in the same way that murder is wrong. Even imprisonment is out. Murder and theft seem like one kind of wrongness, kittenism seems like something else. It doesn't seem like a crime that should be punished with force and violence.

    I could do nothing, and let the marketplace of ideas sort it out. I could make my best case and let you make yours, and we'll see who is persuaded. As a libertarian that sure sounds like the right thing to do… but there's something more here, I think. Yours is not simply an intellectual mistake, it's a moral mistake. It's not just that your belief is incorrect… holding that belief is itself a moral mistake. There should be consequences for your immorality, consequences that go beyond the ones that would arise naturally (although one could argue that having to live with a cat is surely punishment enough). Consequences that are imposed by the keepers of the moral authority that you have transgressed against.

    I think human societies have (many times) discovered an appropriate punishment for immoral beliefs which even a libertarian can accept: social pressure. Condemnation. Shunning. Excommunication. You are a kittenist. Kittenism is vile. You are vile. I do not like you. We do not like you. We will have nothing to do with you.

    But even at that, there are still levels. I could wish that all mankind would turn its back on you, leaving you with no one to trade with, no one to work for, no sustenance, no welcome, no refuge, eventually to die of starvation in a public street. But kittenism, vile as it is, probably doesn't warrant that. Perhaps instead I might wish you fewer friends, fewer kind words, fewer receptive ears for your voice, eyes for your writing, minds for your thoughts.

    Ultimately, though, it still returns to the marketplace of ideas. No matter what level of social ostracism I might wish you to receive, I have no way to get my wish. The marketplace will punish you to the degree that the marketplace views your beliefs as worthy of punishment.

    And THAT seems right to me.

  26. eddie says:

    This part above should have been in blockquote, as I'm quoting Clark:

    You want me to be punished for expressing ideas that I have reached honestly.

  27. Allen says:

    I believe in free speech. "Fire his ass for speech."

    Now that is some funny stuff.

  28. Noah Callaway says:

    @Demosthenes

    Mostly because (in Ender's Game; not the actual Demosthenes) was a child. And I reread Ender's Game more recently than I've studied the actual works of Demosthenes so that was more on the top of my head. In that context of Ender's Game, the statement made me laugh.

  29. James Pollock says:

    "I believe in free speech. "Fire his ass for speech."

    Now that is some funny stuff."

    Depends on whether you think "free speech" means "speech that is free from government oppression" or "speech that has no consequences of any kind". A good many people think the Constitution guarantees the latter but it only attempts to provide the former.

  30. Noah Callaway says:

    @Allen

    What if, as a spokesman for XYZ Corp, you went on twitter and bashed the living hell out of XYZ Corp? Almost certainly (for most values of XYZ) you will be fired for your speech.

    In a country with free speech, there may still be social consequences for your actions. I would support your right to speak those words against XYZ Corp (and, thereby support free speech), and I would also support XYZ Corp's ability to fire you for that speech.

  31. James Pollock says:

    Social opprobation and shunning are forms of boycott. The interesting thing about boycotts is that they can and sometimes do provoke counter-boycotts and anti-boycotts.

    Take, for example, the flap over Chick-fil-A and gay persons. Gay persons and their supporters boycotted Chick-fil-A restaurants because of their owner's words and deeds, which provoked an anti-boycott as supporters increased purchases from Chick-fil-A restaurants.

    I still maintain that, had gay persons actually wanted to impose economic sanctions on Chick-fil-A's restaurant operations, the right way to do it would have been to publicly announce an effort to put at least one gay person into the stores at all time, so that anti-gay supporters would be faced with the prospect of encountering at least one actual gay person every time they visited. Of course, that would have taken organization comparable to the civil rights movement's lunch counter sit-ins, and it took them years to get organized.

  32. Bill says:

    @Clark: Being another member of your fan club I mean no offense, but why does IQ play into it? Why does it follow that b/c you have an IQ above 99% of everyone else that those with a lower IQ would find your views assholish? Every single day I spend much of my day working on algorithms written by people who probably had an IQ higher than mine. 2+2 = 4 to people with IQ's of 145 and 135, 125, 105 and even a bunch with 65. On subjective issues, like, is Jennifer Anniston still hot, IQ has no bearing really. Using the Nazi example, if I knew Hitler had an IQ of 160, or one right below mine, I'd dislike his ideas just the same. I think people that abuse animals are pretty awful for instance, but that has nothing to do with my IQ (unless it does and I just didn't realize it). Similarly I don't think one's IQ matters much in what they believe is right or wrong with Gay Marriage or any other moral issue. Were you making the point just for illustrative purposes, or were you saying that it's actually the likely cause others might disagree with you? Either way, your posts are lulzy as hell and I'd personally rather see more people with your views and less with Adrienne's but that just might be my IQ talking ;-)

    @Adrienne: If Clark's ideas are so terrible and wrong, why not just show him up? Reading through the thread, looks like you got schooled and are now banging your plastic spoon on the high chair.

  33. Chuck says:

    @Demosthenes:

    I know that what I speak of as a "marketplace of ideas" has little to do with the "of ideas" part. But once you open it up to a marketplace, you have to accept that the market behaves how the market behaves, regardless of what you believe the market should trade in. For example, I would not patronize a business that denies access to black people. (I should stress that I am ABSOLUTELY NOT comparing Clark's beliefs to that; this is just an example.) Someone who won't sell products to black people is free to promote his beliefs in the marketplace of ideas, and I, as a participant in a market, am free to not patronize his place of business because of the ideas he holds.

  34. Erwin says:

    Well…
    …legal consequences for speech are highly problematic.
    …as, in my opinion, are employment consequences – unless the speech is clearly related to the employment. I would have a problem with your name being published and you being fired as a result. That sort of blanket policy already has a significantly chilling effect on free speech. Even in cases related to employment, I'd favor employers who tolerated honest speech about their business.

    …I'm not as sure about social shunning. People are human, and shunning is part of our nature, so expecting to not be shunned if you come up with something unpopular and correct…is unrealistic.

    …that said…the tenure system was invented for a reason. It is still far too easy to suppress unpopular, but correct ideas – and the costs are high…drug war, military, nuclear power, cost-effectiveness testing for medicine…

    …and well…regarding the 2 towers…and our military's murder of large numbers of innocent civilians using drones…I doubt that the US military can claim moral superiority. The primary difference is that Osama succeeded in involving the US in several draining wars…and probably weakened us enough to pave the way for the Arab Spring. So, a hundred years from now…I suspect he may end up being described as a victorious hero who paved the way for the fall of the American hegemony. Mind you…I prefer policies that result in him failing…but that's a long diatribe.

    Now, there are some views I simply won't listen to anymore – as I've made my decision and don't plan to waste further time on them. Or they're just distasteful enough…Westboro… So, people who insist on talking about those views may see me walking away from them. But, I'm not going to organize a mob. Or probably even avoid them when they're not maundering on about XYZ.

    On the other hand, while I wouldn't shun someone, I might call them out if they made comments that are likely to encourage idiots to kill random innocent strangers. (…eg…after 9/11, a local Sikh was murdered…that's like having an Irish terrorist blow up a bar and shooting a random Englishman…)

    And, well, Clark, indicating that Muslims might be demon worshippers…probably won't have that effect. But, I don't consider it entirely responsible either. I may not care about the opinions of the 99%, but I'm pretty cynical about the responsibility level of the bottom 10%. So, I personally won't make that assertion in an English-speaking blog -even tongue-in-cheek. I might be tempted to wonder which monotheistic cult involved ritual cannibalism, which has always seemed a bit off – because I believe that adverse action is much less likely to result.

    Yes. I'm giving in to the crazies a bit. But, eg, it is perfectly possible to express disagreement with Muslim theology without invoking demon worship…and probably a better habit. Because, rather like the poor, the insane will always be with us.

    –Erwin

  35. Adrienne says:

    It would be nice if you'd update the post with the remark from my follow-up comment clarifying my statement to someone who asked more or less the same thing ("so you wish he would get fired?"):

    No; my consequences were deliberately arranged in descending order of my okayness with them. So: I WISH he would be shunned by his friends. I would be fine with him being publicly named and shamed (but, by implication, would be unlikely to do so myself). And I wouldn't object to him being fired.

    By and large, I wish people didn't get fired for non-work-related shit; I think it's fairly appalling, because people's employers already have so much power over them. But I think a hypothetical Muslim coworker of Clark's would be quite justified in going to HR and saying, "I have to work with this guy who thinks I worship Satan and says so in public. Does that constitute a hostile environment?"

    (In case it's not 100% clear, that's me blockquoting myself.)

    I say again: I do not wish you to lose your job. But I would not object to your employer firing you. Your employer and your coworkers have freedom of speech and of association, as much as you do, although (as also noted in a follow-up comment on the other thread) there are never bright lines in this sort of thing. Power relationships complicate everything.

    "Freedom of speech" does not mean "freedom from the consequences of that speech". It does not, and it should not, because human beings are social creatures, and social approbation and social opprobrium are both important tools in the ongoing struggle to live together in large groups. I advocate social consequences for socially unacceptable statements despite the fact that I also have ideas that are several standard deviations from the mean, and that such consequences could be used against me and have been used against people like me, because I am very aware that the alternatives are mostly worse.

    I also note in passing that I read a lot of books, watch very little television, and am in your 0.2%, although g is a myth.

  36. Adrienne says:

    @Bill,

    No, what I did was realize that outside factors were complicating my ability to argue (I have clinical depression and a sleep disorder, and even with medication they combine in unpleasant ways sometimes), and state that I was going to stop arguing until I fixed that. It is my position that if more people were willing to say, "Wait, I'm crazy/overtired/not in any shape to continue this conversation right now, and I'm going to stop arguing and go take a nap now," we might have better discourse overall.

  37. mchauber says:

    Thanks for the read. I enjoyed the thought process very much.

    @Bill:

    IQ matters:

    Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too." — Voltaire, Essay on Tolerance

    If people can't/won't think for themselves (in or outside the scope of society), then chances are probably good that they won't see much of a reason to suffer others the privilege, either. In fact, offense would become an everyday thing if anyone thought outside the box of social programming… Oh wait, that's already happening! :)

    "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." — Evelyn Beatrice Hall, The Friends of Voltaire

    I don't debate much (I've neither the tactful articulation or patience required) so most of the time, I ignore people unless I'm interested in what they're expressing. I will also admit to sometimes pausing long enough to enjoy the insanity that surrounds me. :)

  38. G Thompson says:

    I additionally believe that certain statements are irresponsible to make on a widely-read and well-respected blog such as Popehat

    Being an ENTJ (Yes Yes I know… and I'm sorry you think that but I don't give a flying whatsit) this statement has got to be the dumbest (and that's saying a lot) I have ever read by an intelligent (supposedly) human talking about a forum that is renowned and respected on it's push for freedom of expression and other basic human conditions. No matter what the standard 'moral minorities' or whatever 'they' are called think is 'politically correct'

  39. Michael Chandra says:

    I read a blog on videogames where recently their behaviour seemed like attention-whoring to me. Guess what I did, how I expressed my disagreement with the behaviour of a personal website without any duties towards its readers? That's simple. I stopped reading.

  40. Adrienne says:

    @Michael Chandra: I've got no interest in ceasing to read Popehat, though; I think Ken White and Patrick Non-White are honest-to-god heroes, as well as having some of the best and funniest writing about law and politics I've ever read even when I completely disagree with it.

    I will certainly stop reading posts by Clark, though, at least when they're not about me. He has good ideas sometimes, certainly, and while we disagree about almost everything else we concur on the need to (ultimately) dismantle the apparatus of the state; but I can read about and discuss those ideas elsewhere.

  41. James Pollock says:

    "Being an ENTJ (Yes Yes I know… and I'm sorry you think that but I don't give a flying whatsit) this statement has got to be the dumbest (and that's saying a lot) I have ever read by an intelligent (supposedly) human talking about a forum that is renowned and respected on it's push for freedom of expression and other basic human conditions."

    Pfeh. The converse of freedom is responsibility. The freedom to own as many guns as you want is tempered by a responsibility to control the access of people who shouldn't handle them unsupervised; the freedom to drive on public roadways is tempered by the responsibility to do so safely. The freedom to speak freely is tempered by the responsibility to carefully consider the effect of the words, and to take into account the time, place and manner of speaking. To argue where the line is (or should be) is one thing, but to argue the existence of the line entirely? Just wrong. Absolute freedom of speech exists only in places where there are < 2 people within earshot.

  42. John says:

    Clark, this post reads as though you believe that the act of trying to disseminate an opinion has no moral weight – that it's neither right nor wrong, and it has no consequences in the real world. And that's crazy. If someone is trying to disseminate an opinion, they're trying to change the world to fit that opinion, and other inhabitants of the world absolutely have a right to judge them for it.

    Let's take an example. I'm gay. When someone argues – as many do – that gay people are inherently evil, they are actively trying to harm me through social means. As a general rule, they would like to see my friends desert me for being gay, to see me fired for being gay, and possibly even to see me in jail (or in compulsory "treatment") for being gay. Even for the few who wouldn't, if their views become widely accepted then these will be the results. Why is it acceptable for them to attack me, but not for me to retaliate in the same fashion?

    If you think this is still unacceptable, what about gay people in Uganda? A sizable proportion of the population there wants gays to be executed, and they've come very close to passing a law to that effect. Is social shaming still going too far as a tactic for gay people when their opponents are literally trying to kill them?

    As an aside, you also seem to believe that since most of the population is stupid and you (presumably) have an IQ of over 145, you are automatically right whenever you and the rest of the world disagree. Sometimes it's best to remember that while they laughed at Gallileo and they laughed at Einstein, they also laughed at Bozo the Clown. Obviously a strong majority of people disagreeing with you doesn't make you wrong, but it's definitely Bayesian evidence that you're wrong and it shouldn't be dismissed too lightly. (My own Internet penis IQ is over 150, by the way.)

  43. Clark says:

    @Bill:

    Why does it follow that b/c you have an IQ above 99% of everyone else that those with a lower IQ would find your views assholish?

    I may have phrased that poorly; I didn't mean to state that I had an IQ above 99% of others. I meant to state that most people don't think or argue particularly well. Personally, I don't think my IQ is as high as many, but that I get more use out of what I have by trying hard to be rational.

  44. Clark says:

    @Grifter:

    Isn't the "marketplace of ideas" inherently "social consequences"?

    First, let me say that I don't mind social consequences. I'm not saying that we should all strive to create an environment where someone can take to a public forum and say "Jews are descendants of apes and pigs" and have no negative consequences.

    If someone said that to me I'd have no more to do with them. In fact, I've blocked people on twitter when they say anti-semitic things.

    The key point, I think, is that I block them because I don't want to hear such things, and because I think less of people who say such things. I find them boorish and unpleasant.

    I do not

    * shun them to punish them for thinking or saying such thoughts
    * encourage others to shun them

    Second, I disagree that the marketplace of ideas (hereafter "MoI") is inherently about social consequences. While it may have them and in practice it does have them, I think that the MoI functions perfectly well with out them.

    To make an analogy, the marketplace of products works with out social consequences. If I buy a brand X thermos and like it and you buy a brand Y thermos and dislike it, and if we each write reviews of it and tell friends, the result may be that there is a cascade of people buying and liking X, and fewer and fewer people buying Y.

    Over time, the initial division of the marketplace (50/50) shifts to one where the superior brand X dominates and has 99.9% of the sales.

    All of this happens with out either brand Y consumers or brand Y manufacturers being shunned.

    Similarly, in the MoI if opinion is split between X and Y on supply side economics / fracking / immigration amnesty, and the issue is debated in the press and in blogs, and side X tends to win the arguments, over time the division of adherence to the ideas may shit.

    …again, all of this can happen with out adherents of either idea being shunned.

    I know that it doesn't always work that way, but my point is that it can work that way.

  45. Adrienne says:

    @Clark, note that I have a reply to you that's currently in the moderation queue, presumably for too many links?

  46. Clark says:

    @ John:

    As an aside, you also seem to believe that since most of the population is stupid and you (presumably) have an IQ of over 145

    I didn't mean to say that; I don't have IQ test results in hand and wouldn't share them or argue based on them if I did. As multiple people have read this sentence this way I have to conclude that I phrased it poorly.

    I should have said "most people aren't that bright". Forgive me, the post was written around 1am, and I am a morning person who usually rises around 6am.

    you are automatically right whenever you and the rest of the world disagree.

    I certainly do not believe that, either specifically or generally.

    I do think that all things being equal, a more intelligent person is more likely to be correct than a less intelligent person, just as a more well read person is more likely to be correct than a less intelligent person, but I can come up with hundreds of examples of where IQ and reading lead one astray. I love the phrase "an idea so stupid only an intellectual could believe it".

    Obviously a strong majority of people disagreeing with you doesn't make you wrong, but it's definitely Bayesian evidence that you're wrong and it shouldn't be dismissed too lightly.

    Well, we're both in agreement that Bayesian reasoning is the way to go, and we both agree that additional evidence from the opinions of others should modify our weightings of our own certainty.

    That said, if Nozick agrees with me and can spend a full book explaining why (or, rather, if I agree with Nozick), and 1,000 people who don't read books but watch Cops on TV every night disagree with me, while as a good Bayesian I should give the opinions of those 1,000 some weight, I need not give it much weight. And I don't.

  47. Clark says:

    Adrienne:

    @Clark, note that I have a reply to you that's currently in the moderation queue, presumably for too many links?

    Woof! Lots of stuff caught in the trap. Going at it now.

  48. pillsy says:

    I really don't see how you can reject the idea that expressing certain ideas is reckless without rejecting the idea that believing things can have consequences. If you don't believe that your ideas can have consequences, why try to convince others that they're true in the first place?

    It looks like the version of the marketplace of ideas you describe is one that's best suited to a world where ideas have no real impact. You can trade them around with your friends, or pick them up and examine them closely, or play little games with them, but at the end of the day it's just a hobby with no broader impact than collecting Magic cards.

    Now, I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that you don't believe ideas have no consequence, and can have no impact. So what step in your argument am I missing?

  49. John says:

    @Clark: I think we're in agreement on the correct way to weight other people's views, then. Please could you engage with the rest of my original post?

  50. Votre says:

    Hmm…accepting something as objectively true with no rational basis for doing so,
    In literature it's called "the willing suspension of disbelief" and is considered the key factor that makes fiction possible.
    In religion, it's called "faith" and is considered a key element in attaining "salvation."
    In psychology it's called "self-delusion" or "magical thinking" and is considered a very bad thing to allow your brain to indulge in.
    If the Three Wisemen happened to be made up of an author, a priest and a shrink, I wonder how differently the Nativity story might have turned out.

    Clark here. I have moved this comment to the theology thread. Please do not post about theology in this thread.

  51. Clark says:

    @NI:

    I would prefer, for example, not to share a workspace with someone who believes that the 9/11 hijackers acted appropriately.

    As would I.

    Ideally, though, you'd never know, as discussing politics at work is unnecessary. Indeed, discussing anything extraneous to work and trivialities at the office is unnecessary.

    Maybe it's easier to say there is no outer limit, and even people with such outrageous beliefs as those should be able to express them without suffering major economic consequences

    Left libertarians differ from right libertarians in that the former propose "deep freedom". Freedom, that is, not just to have the government not do X and Y and Z, but to have society not do X and Y and Z.

    I mostly disagree with them, but let me expand that:

    * I disagree with left libertarians that government force should be used to expand social freedoms. I'd rather have a small government than have a large government that did good things. For example, as an American-of-girth I suffer social consequences. I'd rather continue to suffer them than have a government that's "on my side" and either passing anti-discrimination laws or funding propaganda against discrimination.
    * I do agree that – all things being equal – a more tolerant society is a better one. I can simultaneously think that sex outside of marriage is wrong while praising Dan Savage for his "it gets better" initiative which is designed to help LGBQT teens by encouraging them and by making others more tolerant of them.

    So, to address your quoted point above: I fully expect that any belief outside the tight center of the bellcurve will have social and economic consequences. That arises inevitable from human nature. My point is that I don't cheer that phenomena on.

  52. Votre says:

    Apologies for the above. But the point I am trying to make is how does one have a rational discussion about something, or attempt to expand awareness or raise questions when dealing with a topic that is fundamentally irrational – and where a good percentage of the participants accept such irrationality as a given truth – and actively resent any attempt to introduce an element of doubt. Even if it was only done in hopes of seeking clarification or starting a dialog?
    It's a great idea. But it's not really workable.
    Science and philosophy seek truth. Theology dispenses it. Pretty hard to have a meaningful discussion whenever religion rears it's head and points to the halo over it.

    Clark here. I have replied to this to the theology thread. Please: no more theology here. The white zone is for loading and unloading only.

  53. Clark says:

    @John

    @Clark: I think we're in agreement on the correct way to weight other people's views

    Great!

    Please could you engage with the rest of my original post?

    Sure.

    Clark, this post reads as though you believe that the act of trying to
    disseminate an opinion has no moral weight – that it's neither right
    nor wrong, and it has no consequences in the real world. And that's
    crazy. If someone is trying to disseminate an opinion, they're trying
    to change the world to fit that opinion, and other inhabitants of the
    world absolutely have a right to judge them for it.

    Hmm. That's an interesting point. I think that I disagree with you most of the time, but there are clearly examples where you're correct.

    Let's take an example. I'm gay. When someone argues – as many do – that gay people are inherently evil

    Just to clarify: in the theology thread I was arguing that all humans have drives that lead them to sin, but that no person is inherently good or bad. I have never known a church to argue otherwise, but I accept your premise that some do.

    …but on to the meat of your argument:

    they are actively trying to harm me through social means. As a general rule, they would like to see my friends desert me for being gay, to see me fired for being gay, and possibly even to see me in jail (or in compulsory "treatment") for being gay. Even for the few who wouldn't, if their views become widely accepted then these will be the results. Why is it acceptable for them to attack me, but not for me to retaliate in the same fashion?

    First, I don't think that it is acceptable to jail or harm people for their identities (gay, Jew, whatever).

    Second, I think that arguing in favor of using force against people to achieve social ends is reprehensible. This is why I don't find myself spending much time with Democrats or Republicans.

    Third, even though there are some people who argue in favor of using force against you, I don't think it's desirable for you to argue the converse because it lowers you to their level.

    Fourth…

    If you think this is still unacceptable, what about gay people in Uganda? A sizable proportion of the population there wants gays to be executed, and they've come very close to passing a law to that effect. Is social shaming still going too far as a tactic for gay people when their opponents are literally trying to kill them?

    Fourth, I think that the fighting words framework is a reasonable one, even if I disagree with the specifics of Chaplinsky v. New_Hampshire. If someone says "homosexual actions are a sin", we should engage him in debate. If someone says "gays should be killed" in the US in 2013, we should engage him in debate (and hold his ideas up to ridicule). If someone says "gays should be killed, and we start on Tuesday" over the radio I'll honest-to-God help you mix up the ANFO and take out the broadcasting tower.

  54. Demosthenes says:

    @ Noah: Oh, I see. I suppose I should confess, then, that Valentine Wiggin was the whole reason I adopted my nom de toile. That should really put a smile on your face.

    @ Chuck:

    "But once you open it up to a marketplace, you have to accept that the market behaves how the market behaves, regardless of what you believe the market should trade in."

    Agreed. As I said in my initial response to you, I concede that people have the right to do such things. But I also said that their actions are not therefore right. I'm sure you understand the distinction. Since you do, though, I'm sure you also understand why your response is totally beside the point.

    "Someone who won't sell products to black people is free to promote his beliefs in the marketplace of ideas, and I, as a participant in a market, am free to not patronize his place of business because of the ideas he holds."

    Of course you are. But again, this case has very little to do with the marketplace of ideas. By not selling to black people, your hypothetical proprietor would have moved into the marketplace of actions (illegal actions, at that). There, I have no problem with boycotts. I would happily join your boycott in this case.

    To extend my earlier example, I disagree with many things Joss Whedon says, but I won't boycott his films just because he says things with which I disagree. I also disagree with many things Roman Polanski says, and I boycott his films — but that's because I don't believe in giving any of my money to support an unrepentant child molester, or the organizations that decide to employ him.

    @ John:

    "When someone argues – as many do – that gay people are inherently evil…"

    I live in the middle of the Bible Belt. Many of the people with whom I associate are fervent evangelicals. Many of those people are very vocal about their belief that homosexuality is a sin. None of them, however, has ever argued (to my knowledge) that "gay people are inherently evil." If I don't already know of even one of these people where I live, I doubt seriously that there can be "many" of them anywhere in the United States.

  55. a_random_guy says:

    As the saying goes, "everyone is somebody else's weirdo". We all – every single one of us – hold opinions that someone finds offensive. Every poster here on Popehat has expressed opinions that would land them in jail (or worse) in many countries throughout the world. Conversely, activities in those countries would be unlawful in the countries where most of us live.

    The UN human rights declaration gets it exactly right in Article 19: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." Notably, actual application of this rule is rather lacking. For example, Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights limits freedom of expression with a long list of restrictions ranging from "public order" to "protection of morals". The US is only marginally better, and worsening steadily with "hate speech" laws, etc.

    Freedom of expression is black-and-white: either you have it, or you don't. It can – indeed must – be legal to shout "fire" in a crowded movie theater. You may be subject to claims of damage from people you caused to be trampled – speech may have consequences – but the speech itself can and must be legal.

    The interesting question that Ken raises is this: If I believe that your speech is wrong, am I entitled to inflict some of those consequences on you, or to call for others to do so? The answer is surely "yes".

    For example, another article from the UN declaration states "Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association." Employment is a form of association (contrary to what governments and social do-gooders may believe). Poster "NI" doesn't want to work with someone who believes that 9/11 was justified, fair enough. Ken only wants to work with people who believe in the horrible menace of ponies, fine.

    If Adrienne wants to call on Ken's employer to review his postings and reconsider his employment, that is absolutely her right. The reason her post seems dissonant is this: If she is unwilling to encounter and consider beliefs different from her own, why is she participating in this forum? Her call for consequences is unexpected, and utterly out of place on a forum like Popehat.

  56. James Pollock says:

    I think it's astonishing (nigh shitty) to suggest someone be fired for a shitty reason

    Then don't do it. Problem solved.

    "the statement that you would be "OK" with Clark being fired for this reason means that you find it morally acceptable"

    OK so far, because it would be none of my business, morally speaking.

    "that you're cool with it"

    As above.

    "that you support it."

    Oops. Overreach.
    I support the right of the employer to make his or her own employment decisions, "shitty" or not.

    "Otherwise you're just casually mentioning that, you know, it's possible to be fired for this reason just like any other reason, and it really has nothing to do with anything"

    Um, yeah. One more time… the employer is within his or her rights, and I have no say (legal or moral) in the matter. Now, there are some employment decisions I do have a say in (whistleblower for safety problems, for example, or fired for not giving in to the employer's sexual demands) but this is not one of them.

    "This clearly wasn't the case, as it was outlined in a list of potential punishments for Clark."

    Not by me. Again, on record saying the opposite. Don't let that spoil your moral outrage, though.

  57. Demosthenes says:

    @ a_random_guy:

    "The interesting question that Ken raises is this: If I believe that your speech is wrong, am I entitled to inflict some of those consequences on you, or to call for others to do so? The answer is surely 'yes'."

    My reaction to this statement depends on whether you are talking about entitlements in a legal or a moral sense. In the first case, it's actually not an interesting question. You have the right to freedom of speech; therefore, you obviously have the right to speak out and try to get somebody fired. There's nothing interesting about that.

    In a moral sense, I admit the question is more interesting — the way you phrase it. Again, though, it doesn't seem like a very interesting question to me, since stripped of its case-specific content and boiled down to its essentials, the question is: "Is it moral for you to attempt to use force, rather than argument, in order to pressure someone with different ideas into changing them?" As far as I'm concerned, the answer is obviously "no."

    And if you disagree, I'll get you fired. :::rimshot:::

  58. John says:

    @Clark: To be honest I'd forgotten that gay rights were the reason the original thread kicked off – my example wasn't intended as a dig at you.

    I wasn't advocating the use of force in response to the expression of anti-gay views, except possibly in a Uganda-like situation. I was advocating the use of social shaming, boycotts, and other "soft power". When someone argues that gay relationships are morally wrong, they are arguing that such soft power should be used against me in the same way it is used against every activity society considers morally wrong. Unlike the largely powerless (in the west) minority of full-on "kill the gays"-style homophobes, there is a genuine danger that their argument will prevail. Why should I be unable to defend myself in kind?

    And while in another thread I would be more than happy to debate about the motivations of the majority of anti-gay people, I think it's largely irrelevant to the question at hand. (Although as an aside, I think @Demosthenes might find The Cross in the Closet an extremely interesting read. It's a book by a straight evangelical Christian who spent a year pretending to be gay to see whether homophobia was really a serious problem.) The important point is that if the belief that gay relationships are evil becomes mainstream, I and other gay people will suffer greatly.

    @a_random_guy: As should be obvious, it is possible to strongly disapprove of a viewpoint and yet also want to talk other people out of holding it.

  59. Clark says:

    Thad@

    I can only conclude your consistent use of analogies that are logically poor but carry
    loads of potential to piss people off is by design.

    There's another possibility that you're not considering.

    In the post you're referring to, you compared disagreements on marriage rights to disagreements on pizza toppings.

    There is a term of rhetoric for this technique, which – despite ten minutes of googling – I can not put my finger on. Specifically, the technique is to list two or three serious items followed by one so much smaller or larger in scope or seriousness as to creative a bit of cognitive dissonance and – hopefully – humor.

    I see it failed here.

    N.B. I was first pointed to this technique in the context of twitter bios. A somewhat noticeable portion of women, it seems, are crazy for this formula; bios of the form "Software development. Infrastructure. World domination." and "Motherhood. Cooking. Vodka." are quite common.

  60. pillsy says:

    @Clark:

    If someone says "gays should be killed" in the US in 2013, we should engage him in debate (and hold his ideas up to ridicule).

    OK, but why shouldn't we also exercise our right to say, "You shouldn't be friends with this person and you shouldn't employ this person?" And why shouldn't we exercise our right not to hire this person and not to be friends with this person?

    If there is no reason not to exercise those rights, then what's the difference between your position and adrienne's position? Because you disagree over the threshold for saying that somebody should be shunned? Because if so, that seems like pretty thin justification for accuser her of not believing in the marketplace of ideas.

    And OK, maybe you don't think that's justification for shunning, but in that case I have to wonder if you think anything's justification for shunning, and if not, I'm kinda surprised that your sense of justice goes from Zero to Blowing Shit Up in one fell swoop.

  61. Mordecai says:

    I'm rather disappointed that the people who run Popehat would allow their site to be associated with someone who condemns the world's one billion plus Muslims as devil worshippers. The free speech argument is a red herring, as Clark has no such rights here. The Christian theology is one thing, as much as I disagree with it – that comment crosses the line into hatred and should have been excised, and the poster along with it.

    Clark should do it himself, actually. Otherwise, he's providing rich ammunition to Ken's many enemies online. It's an obvious way to try and discredit him, since we all know the internet thrives on guilt by association. That would be a sad day.

  62. Red Tonic says:

    I think it has been brought up before, but perhaps this notion deserves its own setting aside.

    Many of us do not see the marketplace of ideas/speech as separate from the "marketplace of actions"/the rest of daily living. Having a belief which the holder never acts upon is functionally the same as not believing it. Authenticity requires living out your beliefs.

    (First post ahoy?)

  63. Clark says:

    @Red Tonic:

    Many of us do not see the marketplace of ideas/speech as separate from the "marketplace of actions"/the rest of daily living.

    I'm not 100% certain exactly what you're saying, but to the degree that I understand it, I agree with it.

    For example, I believe that almost all government is nothing but an exercise in coercion, theft, and forced redistribution from the politically powerless to the politically powerful.

    Thus, I strive to avoid almost all optional interactions with government. I refuse to take contracting gigs with government clients, I refuse to work for firms that are primarilly government sub-contractors, etc.

    Having a belief which the holder never acts upon is functionally the same as not believing it.

    This is a bit poetic for me, and I'm not sure I entirely understand or agree.

    Authenticity requires living out your beliefs.

    I agree fully.

    Is there anything I missed in your comment, or any area where you think that we disagree?

  64. a_random_guy says:

    @Demosthenes: What makes the discussion potentially interesting is this: A simple exercise of rights is not always so simple. Two examples:

    - Business owners are not allowed to discriminate against their employees or even against their customers. Examples range from the obvious (not hiring due to race, or gender, or handicap) to the bizarre (the religious wedding-cake bakery that didn't want a gay couple as customers).

    - Private individuals can go to jail for expressing pure opinions. For example, in much of Europe it is illegal to question the consensus view on the Holocaust. You don't need to deny that it happened – it suffices to say that you want a fresh, objective investigation into the details because you question what the victors wrote into the history books.

    I'm a naive guy, and I believe that rights are pretty much black-and-white. If we can't fire someone for being gay, or handicapped, or just plain ugly – then we don't have "freedom of association", because the government forces us to associate with someone. If there is a single "hate speech" law on the books, then we don't actually have "freedom of speech", because there is something the government does not allow us to say.

    That said, my real answer to Ken's question "how a society deals with three-, four- and five-deviation-from-the-mean opinions" is this:

    "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" Evelyn Beatrice Hall

    This, to me, should be the hallmark of modern civilization. We should even tolerate people who disagree with it ;-)

  65. Sam says:

    The most amusing part of this thread to me is Clark's implicit assumption that people with IQs around 145 don't watch Cops and do read books. Now there's some social reductionism.

  66. Clark says:

    @Mordecai

    I'm rather disappointed that the people who run Popehat would allow
    their site to be associated with someone who condemns the world's one
    billion plus Muslims as devil worshippers.

    You're twisting my words a bit. I said "I do think that Baptists, Jews, and others are worshipping the same God that Catholics. I'm less sure about Muslims."

    Being "less sure" that they're worshipping the same God is not the same thing as "condemn[ing] the world's one billion plus Muslims as devil worshippers."

    the free speech argument is
    a red herring, as Clark has no such rights here.

    Who said "free speech" ? This post is very explicitly not about government regulation of speech, but about social shunning and private reactions to speech.

    The Christian theology is one thing, as much as I disagree with it – that comment crosses the line into hatred and should have been excised, and the poster along with it.

    Explain to me this line between "theology" on the one hand and "hatred" on the other.

    Let us posit that some guy in the West Texas in 2013 creates a new religion and declares that "Jews are pigs and apes. This isn't my opinion – God thinks so!".

    Would it be proper for me to condemn him? Would it be proper for me to say that if his God really told him that, then I'm not sure that his God and my God are the same? Would it be proper for me to say that his followers believe something stupid and wrong?

    Now let us posit some guy in the the Middle East in 620 A.D. creates a new religion and declares that "Jews are pigs and apes. This isn't my opinion – God thinks so!".

    Would it be proper for me to condemn him? Would it be proper for me to say that if his God really told him that, then I'm not sure that his God and my God are the same? Would it be proper for me to say that his followers believe something stupid and wrong?

    Amusingly, your tolerant stance is causing you to attack the guy (me) who's attacking some other guy for intolerance.

    Clark should do it himself, actually. Otherwise, he's providing rich ammunition to Ken's many enemies online. It's an obvious way to try and discredit him, since we all know the internet thrives on guilt by association.

    So Popehat should shut down free inquiry within our salon because to tolerate free inquiry might let others conclude that we're intolerant?

  67. a_random_guy says:

    Missed this. Mordecai writes: "I'm rather disappointed that the people who run Popehat would allow their site to be associated with someone who condemns the world's one billion plus Muslims as devil worshippers."

    Masterful, just masterful!

    …or was he being serious? Dear, oh dear, now someone else is trying to get Clark fired…

  68. pillsy says:

    @Clark:

    I have to say it's pretty perverse to use historical anti-semitism to justify insinuating that members of a religious minority worship Satan.

  69. Mordecai says:

    @Clark – saying you're "less sure" about who Muslims worship while linking to a biblical passage about the devil's temptation of Christ is a tad suggestive, wouldn't you agree? Even a cynical atheist like me finds that offensive, because I know some devout Muslims who would find it a hurtful and cruel idea. I agree with the general Popehat theme that offensive makes for bad law, but I also agree with calling it out when it's done.

    Clark note: the above has been moved to the theology thread.

    As for Popehat.com – taken in isolation I'd agree with you, in an ideal world all such views would be freely expressed no matter how repugnant. We don't live in an ideal world though, and given the public association of this site with various free speech causes your expressed beliefs will undermine that fight. If I was a scam artist being targeted by Ken White, I'd be overjoyed to slime him with reference to the guy who posts on his site about Muslims worshipping Satan.

  70. Clark says:

    @pillsy

    it's pretty perverse to use historical anti-semitism to justify insinuating that members of a religious minority worship Satan.

    Historical?

    I am talking about the doctrine of one of the current world religions.

    I suggest that this has some relevance to the current day. Jan 14 2013: Egyptian President Calls Jews 'Sons of Apes and Pigs'; World Yawns

  71. Ken White says:

    This post deals with a thorny issue we talk about all the time at Popehat. It goes by man names, among them "Speech is Tyranny!"" The fundamental issue is this: how, as supporters of free speech, do we treat expression that has as its aim socially punishing speech we don't like?

    As the tag shows, I'm a strong advocate for using accurate and non-overblown terms to describe social consequences in the marketplace of ideas. Official consequences are "censorship" and "tyranny." Social consequences can only inaccurately and misleadingly be described that way, because social consequences are part of the free expression rights of someone else. If you are committed to the freedom to say offensive and morally objectionable things, it makes no logical sense to be opposed to the freedom to react to speech in an offensive and morally objectionable way; that irrationally elevates the rights of the first speaker over the second. The remedy for objectionable reactions is the same as the remedy for objectionable speech: more speech.

    Hence:

    1. Ken has freedom to say things that offend people, including irrational things (leaving aside the very small zone of First Amendment exceptions).

    2. Ken faces social consequences from his speech. Those may include condemnation, ridicule, shunning by social and business acquaintances, etc.

    3. Ken's audience has the freedom to react in offensive or irrational ways to Ken's speech.

    4. Ken's audience faces social consequences for their reactions. If someone in Ken's audience posts a list of his clients and urges that everyone call them to get them to fire Ken, that person will likely be shunned and ridiculed.

    The audience's reaction to Ken may be disproportionate. But the audience is not legally bound to be proportionate any more than Ken is bound to be proportionate in his initial speech. If Ken is sufficiently offensive, people will band together to inflict social consequences on him. If Ken's critics are sufficiently offensive and disproportionate, ditto.

    To me, it's essential to make the distinction between official sanctions and social sanctions; failing to do so is incoherent. Moreover, failing to do so — overusing terms like "tyranny" to describe social sanctions — tends to advance the notion that people have a right not to be offended, which the do not.

    (I was toying with a post about this in the context of of a millionaire athlete complaining that political correctness is tyranny).

    In this case: I wrote a post with some language that could be interpreted as being snide and dismissive of many religious people. Clark used it as a jumping-off point to discuss many important issues, including the question of whether popular opinion is a good gauge of what is right or wrong, and the conflict between religious beliefs and popular opinion. I responded, disagreed where I disagreed, and agreed that some of my words could be taken as unnecessarily offensive. (By which I mean to refer to Wilde's definition of "gentleman.") In that context, on a private blog, Clark discussed and explored some religious views. I disagree with those views on the issue of gays. I have spent considerable time and energy opposing related views out in the real world, in a number of contexts. Moreover, I think Clark's comment about Muslims is a somewhat silly rhetorical flourish. I get what he's trying to say — that there are some extremely disturbing tenets of Islam, and that Islam is used as a justification for extremely disturbing things — but I think the presentation is distractingly provocative and ignores terrible things done and said in the name of other religions. (That, in turn, leads us down a pointless road of "oh, but who does it more often and more badly NOW?") However, given the context, I would feel extreme distaste and suspicion for people trying to impose consequences like termination of employment on Clark. I would recognize (and defend) their right to do so, but I wouldn't want to be around them — if for no other reason that I think it inevitable that I will eventually say something that will enrage them and set them on me.

  72. Jay says:

    Isn't there a difference between society demanding that a person be ostracized and lose their job for voicing an unpopular opinion and those things happening (or not happening) on their own?

    If somebody says something I don't like and they do end up losing their job and/or some friends because of it, so be it. The employer and friends are simply exercising their own right to freedom of association.

    At the same time, I just don't understand why on earth I would have the right to demand that they lose their job and all their friends. What right do I have to demand how someone else exercises their right to freedom of association?

    If a friend or employee of mine says something with which I disagree, then it's up to me to decide how how to exercise my own freedom of association. Others who don't know me or this individual on a personal level can bugger off with their opinions about how I should proceed. Everyone can put the pitchforks down and let the people who are close to the situation handle it how they see fit.

    All that being said, I imagine that I disagree with Clark on the majority of substantive issues he's discussed on this blog.

  73. J says:

    @Clark: "You're twisting my words a bit. I said "I do think that Baptists, Jews, and others are worshipping the same God that Catholics. I'm less sure about Muslims."

    Being "less sure" that they're worshipping the same God is not the same thing as "condemn[ing] the world's one billion plus Muslims as devil worshippers.""

    That's not the entire truth though. You linked to a bible part which has led most people to the conclusion that you think they could be worshiping what Christianity considers the Devil, which you later confirmed with this post:

    "Yes. It seriously occurs to me that the entity that Muslims worship very well have more in common with the Christian Devil than the Christian God."

    While I think that's offensive, it's of course your right to believe and say so. I myself have had some beliefs about religion that offend quite a few people (I'm not as dedicated to proving atheist stereotypes right anymore though), so I'll gladly defend your right to have an opinion without getting fired for it. I do however think that this response wasn't honest when there was no harm in standing for your views. I think you should either stand firm or revise your statement, but this response sounds to me like you are pretending it didn't happen (at least during this occasion).

  74. Clark says:

    @jay:

    Isn't there a difference between society demanding that a person be ostracized and lose their job for voicing an unpopular opinion and those things happening (or not happening) on their own?

    Yes! This is the point I'm making!

    I disagree with Clark on the majority of substantive issues he's discussed on this blog.

    I welcome your disagreement; perhaps I am in error and future debates will correct me.

  75. Adrienne says:

    @Mordecai: Thank you for saying very clearly what I was apparently much less successful at conveying.

    Also, to all and sundry: I did not "call for Clark to get fired". I do not want Clark to get fired. What I said in my first comment to him was that I would not be opposed to his firing. My attempt to clarify has been overlooked by basically everyone as far as I can tell, so here, again, is an expansion of what I meant: While i actually really do wish we lived in a world where people didn't get fired for stupid non-work bullshit, since we live in a world where people do get fired for stupid non-work bullshit, I could certainly see someone deciding to fire Clark over saying that Muslims worship Satan, and I would not actually think that was a terrible decision.

    My position is very similar to @John's in the first paragraph of his @3:48 am comment: disseminating an opinion publicly is an action that has moral, ethical, and social weight. Because of that, I am not okay with people saying hateful and hurtful things about members of already-persecuted racial/ethnic/religious groups. Clark clearly disagrees with that position. And that's okay, because we live in a country where we do have free speech! But I find his statement disgusting and reprehensible, and yeah, I wish enough people agreed with me that there were actual social consequences for that sort of remark.

  76. David says:

    Shorter Clark: "Don't bother me with your petty judgments; I'm busy basking in my IQ."

  77. Rhonda Lea Kirk Fries says:

    @Clark

    "There is a term of rhetoric for this technique, which – despite ten minutes of googling – I can not put my finger on. Specifically, the technique is to list two or three serious items followed by one so much smaller or larger in scope or seriousness as to creative a bit of cognitive dissonance and – hopefully – humor."

    "Tricolon* diminuens" is what you were looking for. (*Or tetracolon or more, depending on how far you want to extend it.)

    I, too, am INTJ. Rhetorical devices are messy. Documented research and logic are safer (for those of our ilk).

  78. David says:

    If Adrienne wants to call on Ken's employer to review his postings and reconsider his employment, that is absolutely her right.

    I definitely think this should happen.

  79. J says:

    @Clark: "I suggest that this has some relevance to the current day. Jan 14 2013: Egyptian President Calls Jews 'Sons of Apes and Pigs'; World Yawns"

    That's like saying atheists of the past have been in favor of Stalin's actions and speeches, because Stalin was atheist and leader of the USSR.

    Morsi is a political figure, not a religious. There are also a lot of religious figures that have said outrageous things, but I don't judge Catholics for the words of your previous pope, who in my opinion, was an enemy of humanity (not just Jews). Atheists have also made enough arguments that Christians (our favorite target as it seems) can only be worshiping Satan, yet I do not subscribe to those arguments either. I've developed of the opinion that assholes are assholes and it's not their faith that's an asshole.

  80. John Kindley says:

    @Mordecai said "I'm rather disappointed that the people who run Popehat would allow their site to be associated with someone who" blah blah blah.

    So who does run Popehat? Ken? Ken and Patrick? Or Ken and Patrick and Clark and all the others listed as contributors? I personally think it's kind of pathetic that @Mordecai is quite obviously intentionally trying to promote dissension among them. I'm confident that if any of the principals had a serious problem with what one of them wrote they'd let him or her (oops, not her) know without input from the likes of @Mordecai.

    On the question of what gods the various religions worship and whether they're the same, I think Aldous Huxley's The Perennial Philosophy is instructive, among whose highest exponents are the Sufis of Islam. I myself though haven't bothered yet to read the Sufis because I've been too busy with Eckhart and Shankara.

  81. Ken White says:

    Yeah, bear in mind you're attempting to shame someone whose biggest traffic spike resulted from coining the phrase "snort my taint."

  82. Adrienne says:

    Also, I respectfully suggest that if Clark is actually opposed to public shaming of his ideological opponents, then he might consider not engaging in it himself?

    There is a substantial power differential between me, on the one hand, and a co-owner of an A-List law blog, on the other. Clark's online voice is loud enough to drown out anything I can possibly say. And so a great many people are likely to believe, now, that I called for Clark to be fired (which I did not), and that I am a reprehensible person who does not believe in a marketplace of ideas.

    So my speech has had social consequences for me, even if they are at the moment distanced from my "real" life. (They might not remain that way; I am making no particular effort to hide my real identity, and I am certain the numerous folks I've pointed at Popehat in the last year are very clear on "Adrienne" being the same as the Adrienne they know. I'm not known for my tact in my offline life, either.)

    And that's okay; I did say several comments back that I am very aware that the tools of social opprobrium can be used against me and people like me. I said what I said, and I stand behind it, and I will deal with what comes my way from it.

    But make no mistake: I'm exhausted and hurting from this. I feel physically and emotionally awful. (This is, of course, what public shaming is supposed to do.) I'm not ashamed of what I said, but I have been made a public spectacle, and I sure as hell feel self-conscious and keenly aware of a great weight of disapproval.

    I do not say this as a plea for sympathy; I say it in explanation for why I'm stepping away from this thread, at least for the moment. I really am in no shape to continue the discussion, and unfortunately I don't think a nap is enough to fix it this time.

    I do wish you all well, even my "ideological opponents".

  83. Ken White says:

    This reminds me that I've been working on a teal deer post about why attempts to make Muslims into The Other threaten everybody. I need to get back to it.

  84. pillsy says:

    @Clark:

    The fact that you're discussing contemporary anti-semitism helps a little, and frankly, implying members of a despised religious minority (in the US, I think Muslims definitely qualify right now) worship Satan in the name of religious tolerance is fundamentally counter-productive to your stated goals.

  85. Ken White says:

    Also — and I apologize if this is a bit of a derail, Clark, and feel free to move it if it is –

    I find the rhetorical device about Muslims difficult to reconcile with your rebuke to me in the thread in question:

    First, let me say that I'd like to ban the word "ilk" from debate by fair minded people. Technically, it merely means "type" or "group", but the connotation is clear – we never talk about "our wonderful mother and others of her ilk".

    I cringe when I hear the word – especially from people that I agree with. Arguing for or against Obamacare / abortion / guns / pepperoni pizza is fine. Let's have a rational debate or three. But demonizing opponents shuts down the cerebellum processors and spurs the lizard hind-brain to action.

  86. Clark says:

    @Mordecai:

    @Clark – saying you're "less sure" about who Muslims worship while linking to a biblical passage about the devil's temptation of Christ is a tad suggestive, wouldn't you agree?

    Suggestive? Sure. I've not reached a conclusion on the question, because I think the question itself is poorly defined. What does it mean for two different people to worship the same God? A different one? When photons of 650 nanometers strike my retina do I see the same blue that you see?

    Even a cynical atheist like me finds that offensive

    Why? If a Trot and a Maoist tell me that each has the Communist manifesto entirely wrong it neither picks my pocket nor breaks my bones. I think that they're both fools, but I laugh it off. I don't get offended.

    because I know some devout
    Muslims who would find it a hurtful and cruel idea.

    If they are devout then they think that my Trinitarian beliefs are blasphemous.

    Should I find their allegations that I'm a blasphemer to be "hurtful and cruel"? Why or why not?

    As for Popehat.com – taken in isolation I'd agree with you, in an
    ideal world all such views would be freely expressed no matter how
    repugnant. We don't live in an ideal world though

    Free speech is nice in an ideal world. It is crucial in the actual world.

    and given the public association of this site with various free speech causes your expressed beliefs will undermine that fight. If I was a scam artist being targeted by Ken White, I'd be overjoyed to slime him with reference to the guy who posts on his site about Muslims worshipping Satan.

    In the Cold War, how did the US act as a beacon of freedom? By suppressing unpopular beliefs such as Communism, Bircherism, and so on? Or by tolerating them and showing the world that an open free society is so strong that it has nothing to fear from petty stupidities?

    The latter.

    Ken is free to disinvite me from Popehat whenever he chooses to. If some day he asks me to leave, I'll tip my hat, thank him for the honor of having me, and depart.

    Until that day, I think that Ken's commitment to free speech is demonstrated most deeply by his current policy:

    * allowing me to state weird opinions politely and rationally
    * stating whether he agrees or disagrees with me
    * encouraging hundreds of other people to weigh in and either agree or disagree with me

    The best way for parents to teach their children virtues is to model those virtues themselves.

    I think that Ken is doing an amazing job of preaching the virtues of an open society and free speech by the way he runs this blog. There is dissent, disagreement, sometimes hurt feelings – but always freedom and respect.

  87. Clark says:

    @ken:

    I find the rhetorical device about Muslims difficult to reconcile with your rebuke to me in the thread in question:

    First, let me say that I'd like to ban the word "ilk" from debate by fair minded people. Technically, it merely means "type" or "group", but the connotation is clear – we never talk about "our wonderful mother and others of her ilk".

    I cringe when I hear the word – especially from people that I agree with. Arguing for or against Obamacare / abortion / guns / pepperoni pizza is fine. Let's have a rational debate or three. But demonizing opponents shuts down the cerebellum processors and spurs the lizard hind-brain to action.

    Interesting point.

    I'll think on it.

  88. Rhonda Lea Kirk Fries says:

    I would like to add: "right to swing stops at end of nose."

    I don't care what you think as long as you don't impose your thought on me (as actions, I mean–venting stupidity is what humans do best, so I see no good reason to deny us an important outlet).

    Where I play (usenet, still–call me an idiot), insane and offensive ideas are the work of the day. I may stomp the ideas (and their authors, in the ad hom sense), but I would not like to see even the kookiest of them subjected to dire real-life consequences merely because they offend my sensibilities.

    (I was sued by someone who did not agree with this–he felt I should help him to identify certain of these people, so when I refused, he added me as a defendant. I add this only to underline how strongly I feel about the subject.)

  89. David says:

    This post and the discussion thread disappoints me.

    It's not that the individuals participating in the thread disappoint me. Rather, it's that I have some fuzzy ideal vision of the sorts of content that we'll shovel hereabouts, and that this post and discussion not only fall outside that vision but work against it.

    I'm not deeply disturbed by this, because I'm a relaxed, non-committal, minimally-invested, laissez-faire kinda guy. But I'm disappointed. The discussion of important, occasionally difficult, issues intrigues me. However, the exhibitionism I find off-putting.

    I've known a number of people who fit (among others) a profile that involves certain elements: verbal intelligence, a rationally prosaic demeanor, and taking delight in reactions prompted by the exploration or embrace of provocative positions on controversial issues.

    Some of those I've known who fit this profile would probably be reckoned members of the extreme right, and some the extreme left. (Many, thus reckoned, would deny the validity of those terms of classification.) Some have sought and found, or locally created, cult-like hubs of ideological purity and social control. Others have rambled. Most were fascinating; many were creepy. In common, all of these held the mentioned traits (wit, self-control, and ideological exhibitionism) and the tendency to pollute (by volume) the discursive pool with self-indulgence in displaying them.

    I'm trying to decide how to interpret Clark in relation to that set of provocateurs. I haven't yet typed him. The jury is out. But this turn toward discussion of issues of social condemnation already smacks of who-offended-whom (an ugly game of social shaming and mild abuse), and it risks becoming a mask or pretext for minimally valuable self-indulgence and ideological/intellectual exhibitionism.

    That's not really how I want things to go at Popehat. It's an increase in quantity and intensity — greater volume — but seems to consist of more noise than signal.

  90. Rusty says:

    Ken said: "Yeah, bear in mind you're attempting to shame someone whose biggest traffic spike resulted from coining the phrase 'snort my taint.'"

    Well played, sir, well played.

  91. Clark says:

    @Adrienne:

    if Clark is actually opposed to public shaming of his ideological opponents, then he might consider not engaging in it himself?

    I am opposed to actions where the end goal is to create shame. I am not opposed to free and honest debate which may have the effect of one person feeling shamed.

    There is a substantial power differential between me, on the one
    hand, and a co-owner of an A-List law blog, on the other.

    First, let me say that I take your point. I was once scorned by someone with 100 times the audience I now have, and it stung. So I'm not dismissing the point you're raising.

    Clark's online voice is loud enough to drown out anything I can possibly say.

    OK, now we are in complete disagreement.

    You are welcome to write anything here you want. Your comments have never been censored or edited. They have not been taken out of context, or displayed without links to the original thread.

    People have weighed in on both sides of the issue, and as many people have attacked my stance as have attacked yours.

    The font and pixel size of my characters on the screen is the same as yours.

    In real life a loud voice can drown out another in that the second voice literally can not be heard.

    Here there is certainly some social weight attached to a top-level post as opposed to a comment, but everyone is free to (and does) read through the comments and take them at face value.

    so a great many people are likely to believe, now, that I called for Clark to be fired (which I did not), and that I am a reprehensible person who does not believe in a marketplace of ideas.

    I find this both false and overly dramatic.

    Scroll up to the top of the thread. The very first quote of yours I displayed was

    >

    I absolutely do not believe that the law should prohibit basically any sort of speech… I think hate speech laws, in particular, are horrifying.

    and I responded to it

    Excellent, glad to hear it.

    I then went on and quoted two more areas where we agree. The point of all of this was to present you as a sane person with whom I am mostly in agreement.

    So my speech has had social consequences for me, even if they are at the moment distanced from my "real" life.

    Yes, the "@adrienne" persona is accruing a history of statement, rebuttal, and debate.

    …as is the "@clark" persona.

    But make no mistake: I'm exhausted and hurting from this. I feel physically and emotionally awful.

    I am, in all seriousness, quite sorry about that. Like many of us here, I was picked-on as a kid, and I think that mainstream society (mostly composed of extroverts and "normal" types) have no idea how bad
    social exclusion can feel.

    That having been said, I really don't think you're being socially excluded here. Large numbers of commenters are backing your stance.

    (This is, of course, what public shaming is supposed to do.) I'm not ashamed of what I said, but I have been made a public spectacle, and I sure as hell feel self-conscious and keenly aware of a great weight of disapproval.

    While it was certainly not my intention to do that, I do want to use this as an opportunity to ask a serious question:

    Your perception of shunning didn't change your mind about anything, but now you feel anger at those who disapprove of you. Would you say that anything good has come from social shunning?

    My take on it is that the (inadvertant) shaming aspect was a bad and destructive thing. It hurt your feelings. It did not change your opinions. It has, to some degree, silenced you. By silencing you, it has also damaged the rest of us: we now lose out on your voice and your contnrary opinions.

    To my mind this is actually further evidence that shaming of those who hold unpopular viewpoints is a bad thing.

    I do not say this as a plea for sympathy; I say it in explanation for why I'm stepping away from this thread, at least for the moment. I really am in no shape to continue the discussion, and unfortunately I don't think a nap is enough to fix it this time.

    I do wish you all well, even my "ideological opponents".

    Same here, @adrienne. Stay well, and I hope to see you back here soon. When you do come back, if you want a top-level post (so as to even the rhetorical advantage) shoot me an email at "clark@…"

  92. Clark says:

    @John Kindley:

    So who does run Popehat? Ken? Ken and Patrick?

    As the cypherpunks used to say in the early 1990s: identity is control of the private keys.

    Ken pays the hosting bill and has the master passwords. We're all here at his sufferance.

    That said, my view from behind the scenes is that

    * Ken and Patrick are the proprietors
    * whenever I say "Ken and Patrick are the proprietors" they get very cross with me and insist that we're all equals

    Aldous Huxley's The Perennial Philosophy

    Added to the list; thank you!

  93. > modified Newtonian dynamics

    Ok… this makes me really curious. How do you modify Newtonian dynamics, and what evidence convinced you that the modification is correct?

  94. Clark says:

    @Rolf Andreassen:

    Ok… this makes me really curious. How do you modify Newtonian dynamics

    http://bit.ly/YsmEUa

    and what evidence convinced you that the modification is correct?

    Sadly I'm leaving the house in 15 minutes and won't be back for a few days.

    More (perhaps) later.

  95. Sami says:

    I'd just like to note that your introduction is rather unfair to Germany and Germans.

    A foetus six months after conception is not considered to be inhuman and something that "can be exterminated without moral qualm" in Germany or anywhere else that I'm aware of. In Germany, as in many places, abortion is only legal after the first trimester in cases of medical necessity.

    Inside the first trimester it is legal on condition of mandatory counselling and with a three-day waiting period. Your implication that modern Germany is a nation of thoughtless baby-murderers is uncalled-for.

    (I characterise your implication as such because even pro-choice advocates will generally concur that six months after conception is too late for elective abortion. That far into pregnancy, elective abortion is generally illegal, and for good reason. (It's also just a really bad idea, medically speaking as well as morally.) Medically necessary abortion late in pregnancy is heartbreaking and tragic; spontaneous abortion is likely to be a lifelong emotional trauma for the mother, at least, and probably a number of other family members.)

    (To pre-empt any anti-choice explosions of misunderstanding: Abortion is, technically, the term for any early termination of pregnancy. Spontaneous abortion is also known as miscarriage, and the conflation of spontaneous abortions with induced abortions is the source of most of the ridiculously bullshit statistics offered on the topic – the ones that aren't outright lies.)

  96. Grifter says:

    @Nick O'Dell:

    That was my point…

    @Clark:

    You are shunning them for thinking such thoughts. You find them boorish and unpleasant because they think such thoughts.

    As regards to the MoI not being inherently social consequences…if more people are buying X than Y because Y is full of douchenozzles who sue their customers, that's a social consequence, isn't it?

    I think you're taking issue with a question of degree, not kind.

  97. Caleb says:

    By what valid mechanism does one draw offense from another person's rationally stated beliefs?

    A person's belief is either 1) valid, 2) invalid, or 3) too indistinctly defined to have any objective meaning. (Or some combination thereof.) If 2) or 3), then rational debate should lead the person holding the either incorrect of indistinct belief to either correct or clarify. If they do so, then all is well. If they fail to do so, why bother to credit their ideas to the level where you derive offense? If 1), then why draw offense at all?

    Clark's belief re: Muslim theological proclivity is either right, wrong, indistinct, or some combination thereof. (I would argue in large part the latter, to the degree it states a proposition about anything outside of his own mind.) If he's wrong or indistinct, then prove him so (in the theology thread.) If he's right, then why derive offense?

    Ultimately, by what principle is offense even relevant to the discussion?

  98. John Kindley says:

    Aha! So Popehat IS a benevolent dictatorship. Just as I suspected :)

    Clark, you're welcome for the cite to The Perennial Philosophy. I think it's a great book, and it has led me to other fruitful reading.

  99. Sami says:

    I will also note that judging people on IQ is generally a bad idea. IQ is no guarantee of cleverness. It's a primary reason why I don't maintain a Mensa membership; a great many Mensa members are, in real terms, completely fucking retarded, but oh so proud of their skill at taking IQ tests. (How do you know if someone you meet is a member of Mensa? Don't worry, they'll fucking tell you.)

  100. Clark says:

    @Grifter:

    @Clark:

    You are shunning them for thinking such thoughts. You find them boorish and unpleasant because they think such thoughts.

    Indeed.

    I have no problem with people making choices as to who they associate with. I am not a prescriptivist who says that we each have a duty to make others feel welcome, even if we dislike them.

    I am merely arguing against the hard-line stance that shunning is an active good and is useful tool. It's an emergent phenomena, not a great way to build an open society.

  101. Clark says:

    @Sami:

    I will also note that judging people on IQ is generally a bad idea. IQ is no guarantee of cleverness.

    I stated my point poorly (I've already apologized for this once or twice).

    My point is merely that when is surrounded by non-crisp thinkers, the consensus opinion is not deeply indicative of crisp thinking.

    That said, IQ may not be a guarantee of cleverness, but you tend to get better thinking from smarter people. Sort of definitionaly.

  102. Clark says:

    @Caleb:

    By what valid mechanism does one draw offense from another person's rationally stated beliefs?

    A person's belief is either 1) valid, 2) invalid, or 3) too indistinctly defined to have any objective meaning.

    My favorite formulation for #3 is "not even wrong". ;-)

    Clark's belief re: Muslim theological proclivity is either right, wrong, indistinct, or some combination thereof. (I would argue in large part the latter, to the degree it states a proposition about anything outside of his own mind.)

    I entirely agree; I have already said that it's ill-defined and made reference to the old "is my blue the same as your blue?" question.

    If he's wrong or indistinct, then prove him so (in the theology thread.) If he's right, then why derive offense?

    Ultimately, by what principle is offense even relevant to the discussion?

    Caleb, as one somewhat-autistic uber-rationalist to another, I tip my hat.

    Thanks for your crisp formulation.

  103. Grifter says:

    @Clark:

    So your problem is with shaming as retributive action vs. natural consequence? I don't see a great deal of difference between the two, nor between the motives, except with certain turns of phrase. It seems:

    In one case, because someone says X, you say "You have said X, I will now shun you because you deserve it for thinking X (which is a thing I don't like)";

    In the other, "You have said X, therefore I will now shun you because I don't like X"

    ?

  104. Demosthenes says:

    @ Red Tonic:

    "Many of us do not see the marketplace of ideas/speech as separate from the 'marketplace of actions'/the rest of daily living. Having a belief which the holder never acts upon is functionally the same as not believing it. Authenticity requires living out your beliefs."

    I agree they're not easily separable. But they can be separated to a degree. I will shop at the stores and visit the homes of people who consider my political views pig-ignorant and harmful to society, if I like their products and their company…at least, I will so long as they're willing to sell to me and have me over.

    Now, if you would like to frame the story a little differently — that I am really not separating the marketplaces of ideas and actions, but am merely choosing associations with people whose sum total of ideas do not require them to perform actions with respect to me that would cause me to disassociate with them, even if some of their ideas would be deal-breakers for association under other circumstances — if that's the way you would frame my particular perspective, then I'm fine with that. Whatever way it works.

  105. Demosthenes says:

    @ Caleb

    "A person's belief is either 1) valid, 2) invalid, or 3) too indistinctly defined to have any objective meaning."

    Wrong. Arguments can be valid or invalid; beliefs cannot. Beliefs are not the kind of things that can be classified in terms of validity.

    Beliefs can, however, be true or false. If you replace terms appropriately, then I love your comment.

  106. John Kindley says:

    Clark has my everlasting gratitude for his post about left-libertarianism. And I think he's written some other good and provocative stuff too.

  107. Wayne Borean says:

    2) Anyone who wants to can leave a comment questioning my facts, my sanity, or my rationality.

    Of course your sanity is questionable. You blog.

    Wayne

  108. Jay says:

    @Grifter:

    I believe (perhaps wrongly) that Clark's basic point is that we are all free to act (and indeed should act) out our own social consequences to others' speech, but there's less justification for demanding that others follow suit.

    It's the difference between (1) stating that you disagree with someone and perhaps choosing not to associate with them any longer and (2) stating that you disagree with someone and then trying to form a mob of people to dole out social consequences.

    Social consequences are best delivered by those who are in close social proximity to the person in question.

  109. pillsy says:

    @caleb, @Clark:

    I think asking for a rational defense of an emotional reaction is something of a fool's errand. I also think that you shouldn't say things that needlessly cause other people to feel bad. Politeness is a virtue.

    Of course, there are myriad situations where other concerns outweigh that of politeness. Being rude is frequently justified. All else being equal, though, it's better to be nice.

    Furthermore, the whole post Clark put up there is devoted to the idea that the majority of people believe things that are incorrect and very possibly incoherent. The fact that something is refutable, even easily refutable, does virtually nothing to ensure that large numbers of people won't wind up believing it anyway.

    It can actually be dangerous to have large numbers of people believing certain things. That doesn't mean those ideas should be subjected to censorship and people don't have a right to espouse them, because if you only have rights to the extent that they're perfectly safe, you really don't have rights that are worth a damn. But this also means that it can be unethical to say many things that you have every right to say.

    I think stating that a religious minority worships Satan qualifies as one of those things that it's unethical to say, based on the long and ugly historical record of people being subjected to both private and state-sanctioned violence for just that reason. I don't think the argument makes a lick of sense, but when has that ever stopped anyone?

  110. Caleb says:

    @ Demosthenes

    I'm aware of the distinction. I actually meant 'valid.'

    The reason is that I conceive of beliefs as containing not only truth-statements, but inherent argument. If you deconstruct what most people term their "beliefs," you will see they are actually a combination of objective truth propositions, subjective propositions, and implicit argumentation. The ultimate truth-value of such "beliefs" is very difficult, or logically impossible, to derive.

    Thus, when I encounter someone who, for example, "believes" that Marxism is the best form of socio-economic ordering, I do not argue with them about the "truth" of their proposition. It is too complicated, and likely contains too many divergent subjective preferences. Rather, I argue with the validity of their "belief's" constituent propositions. This is usually sufficient.

  111. Brian says:

    Clark,

    I've been lurking around here for a long time, and the first several posts of yours that I read… it gave me the feeling that you were overly opinionated and egocentric. I'm glad I read this article, because (And just seeing that you're an INTJ, I can totally understand your approach as I'm an ENTJ and we tend to think similarly) I have a different respect for your logic. Now that I've successfully stroked your ego a little… to the actual things.

    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.

    So, you backed this statement up by talking about statistics surrounding IQ tests. I don't buy it – I don't buy that ones IQ score is always a strong indicator of a person's intelligence. According to my IQ test, I could be considered legally retarded. That's probably because I think IQ tests are a waste of time and just used my scantron sheet to draw an amusing shape. Does that make me unintelligent? No. Does it make me immature? Perhaps. This is just a gripe… I hate IQ tests.

    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.

    This is an interesting statement. I recall watching the presidential and vice presidential debates a few months back and thinking "This is all Argumentum ad Hominem." We've reverted from a driven, logical, and ethical defense of policy in political discourse – traditionally Socratic forms of argumentation – to this trite, vapid, sophist mudslinging. It's like watching a McCarthy telethon.

    One thought outside a prescribed and accepted world view in America is like an immediate cast-out from society. I could sit here and describe the banality of our political system, but what I want to poke your brain about is… do you think there's a solution? Is there a way to fix this sudden, sophist decadence that has raped our reasoning? Will we ever come to a place where people can even tolerate "deviation from the mean" again?

  112. Caleb says:

    @ pillsy

    I think stating that a religious minority worships Satan qualifies as one of those things that it's unethical to say, based on the long and ugly historical record of people being subjected to both private and state-sanctioned violence for just that reason.

    Assume, arguendo, that Clark's 'assertion' (he didn't really assert this, but we'll go with it) is correct. Does your principle still hold? Is it unethical to assert potentially 'harmful' propositions even if they are true?

  113. Muphrid says:

    @Clark:

    There is a term of rhetoric for this technique, which – despite ten minutes of googling – I can not put my finger on. Specifically, the technique is to list two or three serious items followed by one so much smaller or larger in scope or seriousness as to creative a bit of cognitive dissonance and – hopefully – humor.

    I see it failed here.

    N.B. I was first pointed to this technique in the context of twitter bios. A somewhat noticeable portion of women, it seems, are crazy for this formula; bios of the form "Software development. Infrastructure. World domination." and "Motherhood. Cooking. Vodka." are quite common.

    On tvtropes this is called Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking. The main page for this trope is a bit scarce because it happens a lot, so all the examples are pretty split up by medium.

  114. John Kindley says:

    I think Satanism gets a bad rap, and we should re-think our knee-jerk dismissal of it. Non Serviam is not a bad philosophy.

    And yes, my mind is so open that my brains have fallen out.

  115. pillsy says:

    @caleb:

    I don't think it's an idea that's well-defined enough to even be correct. That's actually one of the reasons I feel so comfortable condemning it.

    Now, if he implied[1] a group of self-described Satanists worship Satan, well, you've got to shrug your shoulders and let people define their own identity as they will.

    [1] I was trying to be clear up thread that he has stopped short of an assertion, for what that's worth.

  116. Erwin says:

    I'd argue that, when possible, it is better/more ethical to assert potentially 'harmful' propositions in a way that reduces the risk of violence when it is possible.

    So, rather than invoking demon worship (unless you're genuinely worried about…), it might be better to describe things in terms of issues with the theology of the religion in question both to avoid violence and to further a more productive exchange of ideas.

    In the case of Clark's mildly humorous comment, I believe that it:
    (a) was very mildly irresponsible – in that large numbers of similar comments may tend to result in large groups of people dehumanizing members of that group
    and
    (b) could easily have been stated differently – and more effectively.

    –Erwin

  117. Caleb says:

    @pillsy

    I don't think it's an idea that's well-defined enough to even be correct.

    Yes, and Clark acknowledged that much. You're missing the point of my question. Assume whatever factual detail needed to make the assertion definite enough to contain a truth value. Assume that value is 'true.' The question stands.

    That's actually one of the reasons I feel so comfortable condemning it.

    Are all assertions which lack definiteness then potentially ethically condemnable? On what principle?

    Now, if he implied a group of self-described Satanists worship Satan, well, you've got to shrug your shoulders and let people define their own identity as they will.

    So is it ethically condemnable to make assertions as to the practices (as distinguished from identity) of a group which contradicts their own assertions concerning the subject? Again, on what principle?

  118. John Farrier says:

    I have nothing to contribute to the debate that has not been argued more effectively by other commenters.

    But I would like to affirm that I have been enjoying Popehat even more since Clark became an active author. He offers different points of view and argues them clearly and politely. *brohoof*

  119. Ross says:

    Let's get clear: Every seriously religious person believes something absolutely ludicrous to someone outside of their particular brand of faith. Should we really fire or otherwise ostracize people for their personal beliefs and expressing their opinions? Why don't we let people believe as they like, and discuss things like adults. If you truly believe that your version of "God" is the one actual version that matters than it would follow that other versions are false representations at best. Most Christians believe that non-Christians will be and should be tortured forever in a hellish fire, which I find to be a morally and intellectually reprehensible belief, but I am not about to call for the mass firing of all devout worshipers simply based on their opinions.

  120. Grifter says:

    @Ross:

    It's not so much that you should do such a thing, but rather are you a bad person if you do.

  121. John Kindley says:

    I confess that before commenting on this post I hadn't read the "theological" post by Clark that started this whole thing. Having now read it my opinion of Clark and his writing here has gone up significantly. (His post on left-libertarianism sticks out in my mind but authorship of the generally excellent posts here blurs somewhat in my recollection.) I was a Lefebrist for many years because it seemed to me that's where the integrity of the Catholic Church was found. I was subsequently associated with the Legion of Christ, before its founder, the pernicious Marcial Maciel, a favorite of JPII, was exposed as an arch-hypocrite. I eventually left the Church because I slowly realized that I no longer believed in its authority, and I continued to believe as I had when I was a Lefebrist that a Catholic is defined by his belief in that authority. But I continue to be grateful for people like Chris Broussard, even though I may not agree with them, and do not want to see their point of view marginalized as ridiculous. Kudos to Clark for politely and intelligently taking on Ken on this point in a post here at Popehat. I hadn't realized that's what this was all about. I thought it was about some off-hand comment by Clark about Islam.

  122. Bill says:

    @Adrienne:

    Ok, I stand corrected. In fact I not only agree with, I respect and admire what you did as stated. I thought as stated originally, it was a little petty and spiteful, but tired and depressed puts a lot of context around things. If you only think he should be ostracized and would be ok with an employer backlash – that's fair. I'd add that I'd only be ok with it if Clark did something that violated the terms of employment but it sounds like that's your position too. Anyway, you did end up showing a lot of class here, well done and here's to hoping more follow your lead

  123. Xenocles says:

    It seems to me there's a difference between "worshipping Satan" and worshipping something that Satan is disguised as. The latter is my sense of where Clark was going.

  124. Bill says:

    @mchauber – if you're saying IQ matters b/c it correlates with thinking for yourself, I'm a little skeptical of the causal link.

    From earlier tests i had a pretty decent score but i find that while I usually agree with 'smart people' on things like, anything empirical, I find a lot more commonality with people that are simple and sincere. My wife for instance, was a reading tutor to an older guy who never learned to read. He was hard working, honest and i doubt ever said a bad word about another person (I never heard him).Every time I talked to the guy I learned something from him. It doesn't take intelligence to see things that are in front of your face. I also believe there are many things so stupid only an intellectual can believe them. I can see how a Physicist with a off the wall IQ might 'see' theories that others find stupid and as such take a "I dont' care if you dumbasses agree or not" approach. I can't however see how IQ has any bearing on say, my belief of whether or not kicking puppies or raping people is ok .

    So with all due respect on this one – I agree with the spirit of what you said there, but I think you're implying a causal relationship where one doesn't exist. From what I recall (was just a wee lad back then), when the first shuttle blew up, it was a bunch of rocket scientists suffering from groupthink that the problem was attributed to. I'm pretty sure all those cats had hella high IQs. But there was nothing out of the box in their thinking and everyone wanted to be a team player. How much out of the box thinking goes on in say, the womens' studies department of Wellesley? That's a lot of high iq folks, how many are running around claiming being a housewife is a legitimate option for women? Take any issue that's poltically trendy today and show me any group of high iQ people that have divergent opinions about it. Sorry bro, I'm not seeing it.

  125. Ae Viescas says:

    So I'm not gonna read all the comments on this one, but…

    Remind me why a libertarian blogger is whining about the idea that "someone might lose their job how terrible?"

    Guess what? Freedom of association means you suffer reputation damage because of who you associate with, and means you can end the association any time. That's what freedom is.

    Not only that, but in many cases labor markets are LITERAL MARKETPLACES OF IDEAS. (Education, media, IT and representation jobs just to name a few). You're not making it some fucking "thought crime" to demand a little accountability

    Sure it sucks to lose your job but A) it's a result of what you did, and B) that's what unemployment insurance (or actually saving money) is for.

  126. John Kindley says:

    Sorry if this comment and my previous one really belongs in Clark's "theological" post, but I've finally read Ken's response to that post and was not surprised to find it entirely reasonable. So I was not taking sides between these two eminences in my previous comment but rather continuing to react to the suggestions up thread that Clark is a bad fit for Popehat, or that he's provocative for the sake of being provocative. I do wonder though whether Catholics like Stephen Colbert and Ken experience any cognitive dissonance. To be fair, though, it seems to me that the Church has taken some entirely unreasonable political positions. If I'm not mistaken, the Church's official position demands that Catholic politicians be "pro-life." Admittedly, your typical "pro-choice" Catholic Democrat politician is among the lowest life-forms on this planet, but the official Catholic position seems to ignore that the laws it demands Catholic politicians try to enact have to do with imprisoning women who have abortions, and that there is room for a difference of opinion on that even among those who have no doubt that abortion is immoral.

  127. Ken White says:

    I do wonder though whether Catholics like Stephen Colbert and Ken experience any cognitive dissonance.

    I was raised Catholic, but currently attend a Presbyterian church.

  128. eddie says:

    I am opposed to actions where the end goal is to create shame. I am not opposed to free and honest debate which may have the effect of one person feeling shamed.

    Eloquently stated.

    Let me say that I am not opposed to actions where the end goal is to create shame. There are shameful things. They should be shamed. Actively.

    However:

    My take on it is that the (inadvertant) shaming aspect was a bad and destructive thing. It hurt your feelings. It did not change your opinions. It has, to some degree, silenced you. By silencing you, it has also damaged the rest of us: we now lose out on your voice and your contnrary opinions.

    To my mind this is actually further evidence that shaming of those who hold unpopular viewpoints is a bad thing.

    This argument gives me pause to reconsider my position.

  129. Dictatortot says:

    I'm pretty sure that neither I nor Clark believe that public statements should be at all protected from their natural social consequences. However, the social consequences that certain sorts of statements reap may say far worse things about the society than about the speaker. Society at large, associates, and employers would all be perfectly within their rights to shun or even disassociate themselves from Clark for such opinions as he's published. In my judgment, however, a society that did so would be a cesspool of useless prigs, knaves, and asses, whose enmity would be positively creditable to any decent man. In other words: one can be foursquare in favor of letting societal fallout have its way, and in utter contempt of anyone who imagines that the societal fallout Adrienne & others envision would be condign, or ought to come about in the future.

  130. Shane says:

    OMG @Clark, you are an INTJ. Ewwwww arguing with those is like smashing your junk against a rock hoping to break it.

  131. pillsy says:

    @caleb:

    I had a long post where I replied to you point by point, and it vanished into the ether due to technical difficulties, and when I started to reconstruct it, I started to think it may have been for the best. I think I've been making my argument in a way that's probably very confusing for everybody that isn't me. I may have even confused myself a little.

    I don't know of some clear principle that would lead me to conclude that suggesting that members of a religious minority worship the Devil is particularly dangerous and destructive. All I know is that when large numbers of people take such suggestions to heart, they often act in very negative ways towards members of that religious minority. I can maybe do some armchair sociology about why it's so dangerous, but I don't know that it would be enlightening or even remotely interesting.

    This is why I was so resistant to you're, "What if it were true?" question–if the idea were changed in such a way to be true, or even well-defined, it would be sufficiently different that I would no longer feel comfortable condemning it, because that would mean I would no longer have the negative history that leads me to think that this idea is so terrible.

  132. Ross says:

    @Pillsy Great points. I am hostile to the actual (not advertised) tenets of most religions, but to demonize or stereotype followers of such beliefs is a potentially dangerous path.

    @Grifter Could you clarify? I am not sure what you are saying.
    If it helps here is some my reasoning that went into the above comment.

    Premise 1: God is the ultimate moral authority.
    Premise 2: God either created hell or allows it to exist.
    Premise 3: All non-believers will be sent to hell because God says so.

    If you accept these 3 premises (granted not all Christians do), then you must agree that non-believers not only will be sent to hell but should be sent there for eternal torture, for believing the wrong things. That's a hell of a conclusion, eh? If that makes someone's conscience twist in confusion, then great. Thought crimes indeed.

    In my experience most hardcore "believers" don't really understand what they profess to believe or the consequences of their belief system. Cognitive dissonance flourishes.

  133. Tarrou says:

    Pillsy, every major religion contains a sizeable population who think that every other religion (and the less-devout members of their own sect) are going to hell, or worship a different god, or some such nonsense. To take offense at any one of them is to grant their foolishness more credence than it is worth. The proof is in the pudding, as they say. If anyone actually did believe that other people worshiped the fount of all evil in the world, they would rise as one, and slay us all, or attempt to. The thing you have to remember about religious people is that no matter how devout, the incredibly vast majority know that no other religious people really believe any more than they do. It's the only way we can all live in relative peace. If christians actually believed what they say they believe, there would be unending calls for a new Crusade, to colonize and convert the world. Just like you hear today in parts of the muslim world. Muslims aren't evil, they are just sufficiently backward that a fair number still actually believe what they say they do. In modern society, we call that "barbarism".

  134. Fritz says:

    Alright you Primitive Screwheads, listen up! You see this? This… is my boomstick!

    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 civilised 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 some one 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.

    That's obviously not good enough, and not even an argument on my part, but you really ought to read it. Mill delivers the goods as forcefully as anyone I've ever read.

  135. Demosthenes says:

    @ Caleb

    "I'm aware of the distinction. I actually meant 'valid.' The reason is that I conceive of beliefs as containing not only truth-statements, but inherent argument."

    Ah, I see. Well, then, you're wrong, but this was very prettily stated. If I subscribed to your conception of belief, I imagine there would be very little daylight between us on epistemological matters. Also, I sincerely admire your clarity of thought and economy of expression.

  136. Demosthenes says:

    "If christians actually believed what they say they believe, there would be unending calls for a new Crusade, to colonize and convert the world."

    What a preposterous statement.

  137. Nasser says:

    @ Clark: As a long-time lurker with a background in Islamic law, I can't resist jumping in. Your speculation that Muslims' perception of God is more akin to the Christian devil is offensive, but it's a credit to Popehat that offensive speech can be posted and discussed. Nevertheless, I question how much you really know about Islam. Last I checked, only one major religion says that their god offered them land in exchange for worship, it it isn't the one with the squiggly script.

    It's been said in this thread, but Morsi is not a religious figure. His statements about Jews find no support in the Quran, hadith, or other valid Muslim sources. Rather, Islam has traditionally afforded a great deal of respect and tolerance to "ahli al-kitab," or "People of the Book," which Jews and Christians are generally considered to be.

    Finally, I'm not sure what your definition of "devout" is, but exceedingly few Muslims would consider Christian belief to be a form of blasphemy. I don't even know what you mean by that – "blasphemy," per se, isn't defined in the Quran or hadith. Jurists of various schools of law have created the crime, but their opinions are not spiritually binding on Muslims; you could make an argument that a truly devout Muslim would not consider it a crime. Regardless, given that Christians can live freely in any country I know of where anti-Muslim blasphemy is a crime, it seems fairly clear that most Muslims would not consider your "Trinitarianism" to be blasphemous.

    In sum, your points about free expression are well-taken, but your statements about Islam don't do your credibility any favors.

  138. AlphaCentauri says:

    I think that what got a lot of people concerned about Adrienne's post was not the idea that people should be prepared to suffer social consequences for expressing their opinions, but that someone would be justified in calling someone's else's employer to try to get that person fired. That's creepy.

    But why? How is it different from Ken triggering the Streisand effect by posting about bad behavior here?

    I'm reminded about the old saying about great minds talking about ideas, mediocre minds talking about events, and small minds talking about people. If you hear about a person or event and turn it into a discussion of ideas, you're moving things in a civilized direction. If you hear about a repugnant idea and try to create personal consequences for the person who espoused it, you're moving in the opposite direction. Sometimes you may be justified in doing so, but you should take a moment and think about it. Would it not be better to speak out about the repugnant idea so loudly and engagingly that you make more people agree with your opinion? Isn't it better to make the target of derision the idea, not the person — even if it causes the person who was promoting the idea to grumble about "political correctness" and shut up.

  139. Ken White says:

    But why? How is it different from Ken triggering the Streisand effect by posting about bad behavior here?

    Are you asking what's the difference between (1) calling someone's employer to report something they said in a political argument on the internet, and (2) writing a post about a public lawsuit, or a threat to file one?

  140. Xenocles says:

    I don't know, Nasser- don't you think a typical Muslim would consider the statement "Jesus is God" to be a touch blasphemous? I'll confess to a limited understanding of the religion.

  141. LJU3 says:

    @John Kindley • May 3, 2013 @12:34 pm

    ". . . but the official Catholic position seems to ignore that the laws it demands Catholic politicians try to enact have to do with imprisoning women who have abortions, and that there is room for a difference of opinion on that even among those who have no doubt that abortion is immoral."

    I'm not sure I've ever heard of a lawmaker (or anyone else) calling for such a legal regime. Actually, I'm certain I haven't. Where have people called for such a thing? (If such a place exists, my money is on South Carolina.)

  142. Sami says:

    Clark, I note you still haven't addressed my primary point: it is disconcertingly unreasonable to suggest that "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".

    I would request that you provide some kind of evidence for this assertion, or retract it, because it's distinctly offensive and not supported by fact in any way as far as I can see.

  143. Xenocles says:

    NB: I do seem to recall that Christianity was well-regarded in Mohammed's opinion, so perhaps it isn't as serious an offense as it sounds.

  144. tern says:

    May I respectfully comment, in reply to Mr. Pollock's statement "if you don't like being treated like a nerd, quit trying to sit at the jock table," that my first reaction is fuck you. Also my second. And my third. This isn't high school.

    Well, it shouldn't be, at least.

    I don't mind the social consequences of speaking my mind, but I think that we lose as a society when society imposes severe financial consequences on people who express unpopular opinions. Yes, I agree that society can, but it shouldn't.

    I know lots of people patting themselves on the back because they've got the now socially correct opinion that teh gey is all fine, and totally assuring themselves that they would have felt the same way seventy years ago. Of course you would.

    But in the event that you would have felt that way, would you glibly accept that it was cool if society drove you out of any respectful jobs because of your then un-popular opinion? Yes, yes, I know it happened. It was wrong then, and it's wrong now. And the people back then who said, hey, I disagree with them, but let them have their say – they were the good guys. And if it wasn't for them, then society certainly wouldn't have changed as quickly as it should.

    Also, if your idea of tolerance involves other people losing their livelihood because they don't agree with you, you aren't tolerant.

    What makes something morally right is being morally right. What society thinks about it is at best irrelevant.

  145. AlphaCentauri says:

    @Ken, it was a rhetorical question.

  146. Caleb says:

    @ pillsy

    Ouch. I absolutely sympathize. One of the most frustrating things that can happen in an online discussion :(

    All I know is that when large numbers of people take such suggestions to heart, they often act in very negative ways towards members of that religious minority.

    Without my conceding the point, let's stipulate to that assertion. My further argument is two-fold:

    1) The range of ideas which could promote said 'negative social reaction' potentially extends to all religious sentiments (and other fundamental human beliefs), regardless of the validity of those ideas. I'll call these 'socially repressive ideas.' Let's accept the premise that there are certain beliefs within this range which ought to be socially condemned. Without a substantive guidestar principle which evaluates content, we risk running in a circle. The very act of using social pressure on oppressive viewpoints is oppressive. On the converse side, lacking a substance-positive evaluation principle means that any and all viewpoints which lead to socially oppressive results should be considered unethical. An absurd result! Obviously, we need a separate and distinct principle that does not hang its hat solely on social harm.

    2) You conflate the morality of the belief with the morality of action. I may concede both the immorality of of the actions you identify and the connection you assert between belief and action and yet deny the moral impetus flowing in reverse that you assert. The reason, in short, is free will. Even if I believe (for example, not that I do) that Muslims worship an entity identified as the devil in the Christian tradition does not compel me to act in a morally reprehensible way to them. The choice of belief and the choice of action are distinct, and different moral qualia may be assigned to them. If you want to assert their connection, you need to espouse an argument of proximate causation, which I have yet to encounter.

    …because that would mean I would no longer have the negative history that leads me to think that this idea is so terrible.

    This is an interesting assumption. I would think that if the assertion were true, there would be more negative history against Muslims than there currently is. I would think that, in general, a minority group which suffers from the consequence of ugly lies would suffer doubly from the consequence of ugly truths. If your 'harm' principle is the only one that has purchase here, then truths which leads to social oppression should be more suppressed than lies.

  147. George William Herbert says:

    Is it not general knowledge here as to who the prior prophets are in Islam, before Muhammed?

    It is a "religion of the book"…

  148. Caleb says:

    @ Demosthenes

    Well, then, you're wrong…

    Technically, yes. But so are the vast majority of people who use the term "belief." Consider my use a concession to the colloquial.

  149. Steven H. says:

    George Herbert:
    "Is it not general knowledge here as to who the prior prophets are in Islam, before Muhammed?"

    Probably not. It's not the sort of thing that's part of general background knowledge in Christian cultures.

    I know that Jesus is a Prophet in Islam (whose followers went astray from his message as I understand it).
    It's also fairly safe to guess any Old Testament Prophet counts under Islam.

    But I admit I'd never have picked John the Baptist as an Islamic Prophet if I'd not specifically looked for a list of such and saw his name on it….

  150. Ross says:

    @Clark
    Here's some food for thought: You could claim that "The Advesary" as he appears in the bible is a more ethical character than YHWH. Compare the death toll, YHWH kills or orders killed an estimated 24 million, while his gambling buddy kills maybe a dozen. So if Muslims are really worshipping the less murderous power maybe that's a good thing.

    Source: http://drunkwithblood.com/dwb-table-of-Gods-killings.html

    Blasphemy is no laughing matter, as there are people in prison for this "crime" around the world. Others have been victims of holy vigilantes, to the point of being stalked and murdered. After all, if you really believe that your God wants certain kinds of people dead, you might act on it. Those that wish "death to the infidels" are very interested in who is blaspheming.

  151. Nasser says:

    @ Xenocles: I honestly don't know – I'd be uncomfortable saying what the "typical Muslim" would believe. I know that technically, the Quran doesn't recognize blasphemy, and you're very correct that Mohammed spoke well of Christians. In terms of real practice, I think there's a significant regional factor: I can't imagine that a typical US Muslim would have a problem with a Christian saying "Jesus is God," but I can't confidently say that (for example) a typical Pakistani Muslim would respond the same way. Still, the fact that Christians live peacefully even in areas that have Muslim anti-blasphemy laws suggests that such a statement would be tolerated.

  152. Xenocles says:

    @Nasser- Fair enough, and I was imprecise. I should have said that one might expect it to be significantly counter to Islamic dogma, to the extent that there is such a thing. But of course you're right that how that is acted on could be expected to vary widely for a lot of reasons.

  153. John Kindley says:

    LJU3: I did extrapolate by saying pro-life laws would involve sending women to prison. In fact, as I understand it pro-life laws prior to Roe v. Wade involved sending the doctors but not the women to prison, and modern pro-lifers advocate a return to such a regime to keep it palatable. This has always struck me as illogical, which is all the more reason for the Church not to demand that as a matter of morals politicians be "pro-life," as it's not really clear what that requires. But if I'm not mistaken I think pro-choice politicians have sometimes been denied communion by their priests or bishops. Not that I've ever cared about that, as most such politicians have never struck me as principled at all.

  154. Rhonda Lea Kirk Fries says:

    I don't mind the social consequences of speaking my mind, but I think that we lose as a society when society imposes severe financial consequences on people who express unpopular opinions. Yes, I agree that society can, but it shouldn't.

    Not only financial consequences. You'd think the lessons learned on usenet would have carried over to the web, but it seems cat-gazing holds greater allure than discussion of right and wrong.

    Here's a single example of what happens when people go real life over words on the screen:

    http://www.myths.com/~dpm/vms/carl.html

    Admittedly, Carl was an imperviously insensitive asshole, but the price extracted from him seems to me to be a tad too high. Whenever I find myself tempted to retaliatory action for wrong words, I think of him. It reminds me of what I do not want on my conscience.

  155. Noah Callaway says:

    @Caleb

    Without my conceding the point, let's stipulate to that assertion.

    I learned the other day that there is a handy fancy latin term for this. To assume something arguendo is to assume something for the sake of argument without conceding the point.

  156. George William Herbert says:

    Rhonda – I vaguely remember that incident. However…

    There's an old Usenet meme that "it's just words on the screen".

    That stopped being true some time ago. Arguably before Carl passed.

    It was nice when it could be considered something separate and different; now, it's how schoolkids "talk to each other" much of the time. The net, writ large, is life. Not all-inclusively, but the conceptual separation isn't.

    Nobody should be held to employment-affecting account for net / blog posts moreso than letters to the editor, comments at a party, etc. But those other things do have those consequences at times.

  157. Grifter says:

    @tern:

    No one has a right to their livelihood beyond what they can convince others to give them in exchange for value. If they can no longer do so, they no longer have a livelihood. Whether if that's because they provide poor value, or are an asshole, is immaterial.

    @Ross:

    My comment was in regards to you saying you were "not about to call for the mass firing of all devout worshipers simply based on their opinions."

    I was saying that this debate, in general, seems more to focus not on whether one should do such a thing, but on whether one is in the wrong if one chooses to.

    To be clear, though, I do think that Clark has done nothing to warrant any overarching shamery. My opinion is in the hypothetical, and with the understanding that everyone has a different line.

  158. Caleb says:

    @ Noah Callaway

    I had already used that term earlier (@9:40 am), and I'm not sure my point was understood. I figured that was enough fancy latin for today. :)

  159. ross says:

    I think Clark is out to lunch… maybe saving the world from supervillains with his massive IQ.

    "…whether one should do such a thing, but on whether one is in the wrong if one chooses to."

    I don't see a logical distinction, the syntax is different but these are both "ought" type of statements… unless you want to divide it into should vs should not, prohibition vs. requirement. Is a requirement to do something fundamentally different from a requirement to not do something? We could think of an example like saving a life in peril vs. not murdering, but these kinds of examples are so often loaded and would likely lead into distractions from that question.

  160. Kat says:

    @Clark:

    That said, IQ may not be a guarantee of cleverness, but you tend to get better thinking from smarter people. Sort of definitionaly.

    I'm not trying to pick on you, particularly when you are AFK for a while. But this statement is an indication of the halo effect. The IQ test aims to quantify certain subsets of 'better thinking'–specifically mathematical, spatial, language, and memory abilities. There's a lot of debate about whether the tests adequately measure fluid intelligence, or abstract thinking/problem-solving ability; this is what most people think of when they think 'intelligent'. (The other component of intelligence covered in this theory is crystallized intelligence, which is basically what you've learned in your life and are able to recall.) So I would tend to be really careful not to fall into the halo effect when you're thinking and talking about IQ.

    It applies to those areas for certain. It might apply to other areas, but it's far more likely that the tests are inadequate–they haven't been updated since the 1950s, and the experimental method in psychology has greatly improved with the introduction of tests that measure blood volume in areas of the brain, imaging techniques that show neurons firing, etc. It's also important to keep in mind that most of psychology is based on qualitative research and extremely limited quantitative research (more on that later). It's true that the IQ test is useful for some purposes, but evidence suggests that the things it measures are incomplete when it comes to a full picture of intelligence.

    I have another point that I think you'll find interesting. Think about this: if you have a high IQ, you benefit from the IQ test being over-applied in situations that measure intelligence, socially speaking. It's interesting to think of the subject-expectancy effect in this context. The subject-expectancy effect happens when a test subject expects a result and unconsciously causes that result to happen–a self-fulfilling prophecy, in other words. In order to eliminate error from this source, experimental tests use double-blind methodology; otherwise a pronounced placebo or nocebo effect happens. It's safe to say that the observer-expectancy effect could also apply here, because real life doesn't use double-blind methodology.

    I point this out because this increases the temptation to think of IQ as being more than it is, even if a little bit, and that your anecdotal observations will tend to confirm the legitimacy of this view via the subject- and observer-expectancy effects more than is necessarily right.

    IQ hasn't been tested directly in the laboratory. That's because empirical psychological testing is in its infancy at the moment. There are very few tests developed that directly measure the brain and correlate it to behavior and cognition. Nearly every other field of science has been able to use the 'gold standard' of empirical tests; psychologists have needed to make do with things like observational studies and other qualitative testing, with the few empirical exceptions having been carved out without reference to actual brain activity. This doesn't mean that everything psychologists cherish about current psychological theory will go out the window. It does mean that one should exercise some care when referring to topics that haven't been adequately empirically tested (IMO).

    Correlation does not imply causation, and right now the only validity we can lend to IQ theory is correlation with desired outcomes. That's valuable up to a point, but trying to extrapolate more than the test indicates is more likely to give a high rate of error in light of this. That's why I advocate being careful when talking about IQ. I think you're likely the type of person who wants to avoid cognitive bias, so I think you'll take this in the spirit it was given and think about it.

    Side note: I'm also an INTJ, but with only a statistically insignificant preference for thinking over feeling (1%). Also a slight preference for intuition over sensing (12%). I took the formal (technician-administered) test as part of my psychology program–I have a lower-level degree in psychology. I'm probably the only person who find this remotely interesting, but what can I say, I'm a psych geek. :p

    I also find the "I can think outside of the majority and others can't" difficult to get past. All it's indicative of is a propensity to think of oneself as 'above the masses.' Clark, chances are good that you are subject to the same cognitive effects that cause these problems as other people are. You list the two-party majority, approved US history,
    and late-night TV as things that you avoid. It's interesting to me that you pick those, because they tend to indicate membership in a particular group of people who think the same way. These subjects have been hashed out enough in other places that they aren't truly novel; you can drop them into the conversation without having to explain them at all. In contrast, how many places do you see others ruminating about the subject- and observer-expectancy effects and their implications for social situations? Yet despite knowing that I'm able to think outside the box, I don't consider myself above the risk of groupthink. This means that I have a greater chance of resisting it when I am in a situation that I'm likely to fall prey to it. I'm concerned because you seem to have put yourself in a class to where you believe you don't have to think about these problems anymore, but chances are good that you are not in that class–particularly because you don't think about it. In Asch's conformity experiment, only 25% of people never gave a wrong answer, and this was on something that can empirically be measured to be correct or incorrect. The same effect was observed when all participants were anonymous and not subject to perceived social consequences during testing.

    Research on groupthink tends to indicate that people who engage in groupthink tend to make an 'other' to which they then direct irrational/dehumanizing actions towards. There are statements in your post that seem to indicate that you are engaging in this phenomenon. Think about it: you have put yourself in a group of people, which you have labelled as being the top 1%, who share a propensity for rejecting certain very specific ideas (watching late-night TV, identifying as Democrat/Republican, subscribing to approved US history) that don't necessarily have a correlation to intelligence. You use this categorization of yourself to justify basic rudeness at best–a relatively innocuous ill, to be sure. But it provides a real barrier to agreeing with and honestly debating your ideas.

    @David

    It's not that the individuals participating in the thread disappoint me. Rather, it's that I have some fuzzy ideal vision of the sorts of content that we'll shovel hereabouts, and that this post and discussion not only fall outside that vision but work against it.

    However, the exhibitionism I find off-putting.

    @Clark: It's really hard to give an idea a fair shake when it contains a Nazi analogy and implicitly claims that a majority of people are all for murdering babies who are at six month's gestation. That's part of the reason why I haven't engaged in any of your actual ideas and have instead focused on very specific criticisms of your base reasoning and rhetoric; it's because I'm strongly demotivated to participate in the actual discussion because it is repugnant on the face of it and just . . . it's not something that I am likely to want to spend time on in the future. It's gotten to the point where if I see a post by Clark, I'm more likely to just say, "I'm not in the mood for dealing with Clark today, I think I'll just skip this one." If you think of me as someone intelligent with interesting ideas that you would like to engage with occasionally, then you might want to look at not driving me away from discussions such as this.

    (But if not, then please feel free to keep on going. I don't consider pleasing me to be the most important factor under consideration here. I'm just saying, if you like conversing with people like me, then don't engage in tactics that tend to send people like me running and screaming away from the conversation.)

    Just to warn, I'm likely not to come back and look at this post–it's finals week.

  161. Ross says:

    Kat interesting post.

    I don't trust the Meyer's Briggs classes too far.

    I took the test twice, both times getting similar results, but here's what stuck out the second time. I was awarded an E arbitrarily. I checked my results, and my scores on the Extroverted/Introverted spectrum came out exactly even. I looked at the test and I had 1 point in the E category. I challenged the researcher on this and they said that the test automatically adds a point to one of the scales in the case of a tie. Meyer's Briggs does not account for 4 categories then, people that score at the center of the scales.

    MB has some predictive power but this is overshadowing by what all models of personality do: cramp and shape your thinking more than is warranted. Your models will make you have biases and think in narrower terms. Practitioners of the low IQ / high IQ model can fall into this type of trap too. Hypothetically, if I wanted to train a stranger to code software I would want a high IQ person every time; if I was asked who to trust to pick up my cat from the vet IQ would not enter into my judgement nearly as much as other factors.

  162. Grifter says:

    @Ross:

    Yes. I was differentiating between prohibited vs. required.

  163. Marzipan says:

    Kat, if your psychology coursework has taught you that "[IQ tests] haven't been updated since the 1950s", "that most of psychology is based on qualitative research and extremely limited quantitative research", and that the Myers-Briggs typology is of scientific interest, then I would argue that such coursework is of limited value.

    The most recent revision to the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (they're up to the WAIS-IV now) was published in 2008. Though it has some similarity to the original WAIS, which was indeed published in 1955, there have been substantial advances in measurement theory employed since then. In particular, the fluid-crystallized split has been significantly added to and amplified, and interpretation now proceeds from a four-factor model of intelligence.

    Nevertheless, the WAIS-IV doesn't have the best assessment of the most current Cattell-Horn-Carroll (CHC) theory of intelligence. Nor is the WAIS-IV the only measure of intelligence. You might find this chapter on CHC theory of interest. This theory puts to bed the canard that g is nothing more than a statistical artifact while simultaneously showing the multifaceted nature of cognitive processing.

    Indeed, one of the problems of the article regarding the apparent falsity of g mentioned earlier is that the author artificially constrained his "random" correlation matrices to have values between 0 and 1. However, the correlation can range from -1 to 1, and the positive manifold he assumed is by no means an empirical certainty! Now, that quibble has less to do with the factor structure that might be obtained and more to do with the interpretation of the loadings, but part of the interest in g is precisely the fact that there's a positive manifold of correlations among measures of mental ability when there needn't be such. Additionally, this g factor is quite heritable when assessing a complex genetic phenotype above and beyond simple behavioral genetic studies or analyses of single genes/polymorphisms (see Plomin's study in the April issue of Psychological Science). Thus, though I find the points about the halo effect interesting and worthy of further consideration, I also think there's something to the mental efficiency and facility that a high level of g would provide in forming arguments.

    To the extent that you have been taught that most psychology research is qualitative in nature rather than quantitative, I would ask you to search scholarly databases on any topic of psychological interest and count the number of qualitative vs. quantitative studies. You will find that the vast majority are quantitative in their approach, using (usually) well-developed scales, behavioral assessments, or physiological measurements to go about the research enterprise.

    Perhaps you're operating from a different definition of "qualitative" vs. "quantitative" than I am, at which point we may just be talking past each other. I propose the following: Qualitative research is that which occurs on the nominal scale of measurement; quantitative research occurs on the interval and ratio scales. This leaves the ordinal scale open to interpretation, and I think leaving it there symbolizes the fuzzy boundary between the two.

    As far as the Myers-Briggs goes, that test makes the false assumption of typologies that are unstable for around 50% of examinees over as little time as 5 weeks.. Personality dimensions are fundamentally…well, dimensional. Taxometric investigations of personality rarely find specific types of people. Furthermore, the MTBI dimensions have reasonably large standard errors of measurement, suggesting they are not nearly as precise at classifying people into target groups as proponents suggest. I applaud your recognition that the "preferences" you cited are not statistically significant, but I would have hoped that would cause a rethinking of the MTBI typing enterprise.

    I think some of the speculations you raise are intriguing regarding groupthink and expectancy effects as they relate to argumentation style and substance. In particular, there's much to be said in praise of recognizing the possibilities for overestimating IQ's predictive power for any given criterion variable. I also believe there is reason to suspect that countercultural thinking may have associations with certain personality processes, some of which might fall under the dimensions of alienation and antagonism. However, with such difficulties as those noted above surrounding the understanding of the epistemology and the research findings of your chosen field, it's hard to believe the arguments you're wanting to make.

  164. Bryan Alexander says:

    My take on it is that the (inadvertant) shaming aspect was a bad and destructive thing. It hurt your feelings. It did not change your opinions. It has, to some degree, silenced you. By silencing you, it has also damaged the rest of us: we now lose out on your voice and your contnrary opinions.

    To my mind this is actually further evidence that shaming of those who hold unpopular viewpoints is a bad thing.

    Exactly this.

    I'll throw in my unasked-for $.02 worth, because this is something I very much care about. (Even though much of what I have to say has been more ably said further up the thread.)

    Shaming and ostracizing people for their beliefs is only productively done as a means of pressuring those people to change their beliefs. The alternative is to attempt to argue them into a different way of thinking. Argument has the benefits of being enlightening to the spectators, as well as to the person in question (and, indeed, to the person making the argument), and of being able to actually change someone's mind. Force, pressure, what have you, are not only unenlightening all around, but they're much more likely to cause the person to simply insincerely voice more acceptable opinions, at least in specific company. Not only is the person's thinking not changed, but you don't know it; it's extremely difficult to change the mind of someone who won't admit to disagreeing with you. Pressure is the better tool for creating people who say the right things. Argument is the better tool for creating people who think the right things.

    Shaming and ostracizing–as in this thread–sometimes happen as side-effects of other actions–like an attempt to spotlight and discuss an issue. It should be mitigated to the extent that's possible, but it is an unfortunate cost of some discussions. But using shaming and ostracizing as forms of revenge or tools of force against people with unpopular opinions is unproductive at best, and counterproductive at worst. It's not a thing I'm OK with.

  165. James Pollock says:

    Bryan, I'm afraid I disagree with you 100%. There are unpopular ideas whose arguments have all been made, and there is no point in arguing those points to people who continue to hold the beliefs that, say, spamming is an entirely reasonable use of Internet resources, that adults should have sex with children, or that "racial purity" is a desired goal. People who continue to hold forth the unpopular opinions, and continue to make arguments/demands in support of them, deserve the mockery they receive as a direct result.
    It's fair to point out that some arguments are not entirely settled, and that in a long-enough time frame, public opinion as a whole may shift, changing which side of the argument is the "unpopular" side, but these do not change the fact that the arguments for both sides are well-known and need not be repeated.
    What about when the unpopular opinion is the better one? Well, what about it? Take, as an example, the wild and crazy unpopular notion that black people should be treated as human beings. This notion was very unpopular at the start of the civil-rights movement, and the people who seriously advanced it were shamed, ostracized and attacked (both figuratively and literally) for holding this opinion. It was, at least in part, the willingness of people who held this opinion to accept the "shaming" with dignity and patience which earned the movement the support it needed to succeed.

    The real problem is that there are some people who will cling to their beliefs even when those beliefs rely on "facts" which turn out to not be true. How does your "address them with arguments" approach deal with that?

  166. Bryan Alexander says:

    The real problem is that there are some people who will cling to their beliefs even when those beliefs rely on "facts" which turn out to not be true. How does your "address them with arguments" approach deal with that?

    It doesn't. Intentionally. If people want to be willfully ignorant, there's nothing that can be done to stop them from being so. Of course, shaming doesn't work either. It may shut them up effectively, but it won't change their minds.

    Note that I'm not saying this applies to behavior (nor, I think, are any of the other people on my side of the argument saying so). Using social pressure to stop people from engaging in unacceptable behavior is a perfectly reasonable course of action. If someone wants to make the argument that spamming is a reasonable use of Internet resources, I may argue against them or I may ignore them (for precisely the reasons you cited). If the same person is actually sending spam to people, my argument (and the suggested prohibitions that go along with it) doesn't apply. Feel free to shame, ostracize, call for the firing of, or do pretty much anything else legal against that person to apply pressure.

    Some people consider that distinction a fine and nitpicky one. I don't.

  167. James Pollock says:

    Sending spam is free speech. This is case of "speech is behavior" where speaking is behavior, and it's probably the hardest area for free-speech advocates to support. (I note you had no objection to lumping the spammers with the pedophiles and the racists.)
    I don't necessarily want to change their mind(s)… I want them to give up the idea that they're going to change anyone else's. I contend that there ARE debates where pretty much everyone's mind is made up already and nobody's changing anyone else's mind no matter how intellectually awesome, how carefully crafted, how wonderfully presented their arguments are. Not all of the arguments are settled with a high majority on one side, either… anti-abortion activists will not be convinced that choice is appropriate. Social conservatives in general will not be convinced that President Obama is a reasonable, nice guy who's doing the best he can to solve the problems facing Americans (and America) today. These are widely-held opinions… but the people who hold them (and the people who hold conflicting opinions) are not going to change their minds because all of the arguments have already been had, multiple times. I realize that it's a position partly antithetical to a forum that favors free speech, but there are some people arguing some topics that I wish would just shut up. I don't want them to be forced to shut up (that would be bad (duh)) but I'm not against people giving hints that "hey, you're wasting your time with that, and you're just talking (shouting) to hear the sound of your own voice… you aren't accomplishing anything.) Note that in these frozen debates where the distribution is close to 50/50, the tendency is to mischaracterize the opposite side's actual position… thus the words "gun control" comes to mean "take away everybody's guns" to one side, and "responsible gun ownership" comes to mean "no restrictions on gun ownership of any kind, even ones that are clearly targeted at reducing access only those people who really, truly shouldn't have access to guns because they just aren't responsible enough."

  168. kritikk says:

    I am a new poster to this blog, and my position in what I'm about to post doesn't necessarily reflect my beliefs, but is just for the sake of argument.

    If complaining to an employer is not condoned or finding for someone to have their employment terminated based on their beliefs to be inappropriate, or harsh or shameful, because he/she would:

    …lose my income, and because of that, inevitably, my house and my ability to support my family.

    How is that different from boycotting (and calling for the boycotting) of a business whose owner has such an unpopular opinion? Wouldn't this also cause the business owner to:

    …lose my income, and because of that, inevitably, my house and my ability to support my family.

    Is this any less shameful a position to hold?

    Also, doesn't finding the first inappropriate imply a belief in a protected "right to employment"? (not in the sense of protected by the State, but by societal convention, which sometimes is more forceful than the State)

    On another point, concerning @Caleb's statement on beliefs, isn't there
    a 4th possibility, unprovable beliefs, or beliefs not subject to argumentation, i.e. "which color is better, blue or yellow" (personal preference), "does God exist" (while you may have reasons to believe so, this is inherently unprovable, see the evolution of Natural Theology: i.e. D. Hume, J.S. Mill, etc.)

    And I do find disturbing the implication that, especially, a theological belief is "right, wrong, or indistinct". How about distinct but indeterminate as to right or wrong, or as to true or false?

  169. kritikk says:

    Argghh! Again messed it up, but at least didn't lose the text I wanted to quote. (if someone would be kind enough to fix this last post for me as well).

    And I apologize to everyone for the mess!

    (I've totally forgotten how to use html tags (haven't used html in the last 10 years literally), even if this is seems totally strange in this day and age, and I should have looked it up before messing up my second post, so sorry everyone again!)

  170. David says:

    @kritikk
    What you've been doing is <blockquote cite=""</cite>

    What you should be doing is <blockquote>Quoted material here…</blockquote>

  171. kritikk says:

    @David,

    thank you very much for both the corrections and the help!

  172. Clark says:

    @kritikk

    I am a new poster to this blog

    Welcome! The more the merrier.

    and my position in what I'm about to post doesn't necessarily reflect my beliefs, but is just for the sake of argument.

    You're already fitting in perfectly. ;-)

    If complaining to an employer is not condoned or finding for someone to have their employment terminated based on their beliefs to be inappropriate…how is that different from boycotting

    An excellent question.

    My take on the matter:

    * it is reasonable and just to want to change actions. If slave hunters are getting donations from corporation X, and I dislike slave hunting and therefore I want to minimize slave hunting, then I should take actions to make it harder to hunt slaves. Thus I can tell corporation X "if you support that, you lose my cash". The goal here is not to change the minds of the owners, CEO, or board of corporation X, but merely to change their behavior.

    * if person Z says "I support slavery", I may very well choose not to do business with him, but it's a bad idea to convey the message "saying those words in public is bad; I want you to hide your true feelings."

    Also, doesn't finding the first inappropriate imply a belief in a protected "right to employment"?

    I am all for the right of employees to end an employment situation at any time, for any reason, including the hugely unpopular reasons like the politics, race, and gender of the boss.

    I am all for the right of employers to and an employment situation at any time, for any reason, including the hugely unpopular reasons like the politics, race, and gender of the employee.

    On another point, concerning @Caleb's statement on beliefs, isn't there a 4th possibility, unprovable beliefs, or beliefs not subject to argumentation, i.e. "which color is better, blue or yellow" (personal preference), "does God exist" (while you may have reasons to believe so, this is inherently unprovable, see the evolution of Natural Theology: i.e. D. Hume, J.S. Mill, etc.)

    You forgot "parallel lines never converge". By which I mean to say, even strictly intellectual realms are based on unprovable axioms.

    That aside, to your core point: I certainly think so!

    And I do find disturbing the implication that, especially, a theological belief is "right, wrong, or indistinct". How about distinct but indeterminate as to right or wrong, or as to true or false?

    What I meant to say was that there is a category "poorly formed statement".

    Yes, I think a more full enumeration would have:

    * provably true
    * provably false
    * unprovably true
    * unprovably false
    * ill defined

    Regarding the first four, see also Godel's first incompleteness theorem.

  173. Ross says:

    James wrote:
    "…there is no point in arguing those points to people who continue to hold the beliefs that, say, spamming is an entirely reasonable use of Internet resources…"

    Followed by:
    "Sending spam is free speech."

    The other two examples you used were moral "no-brainers" in modern day society, so why are you muddying your argument here?

    James wrote:
    "I note you had no objection to lumping the spammers with the pedophiles and the racists."

    You lumped them together deliberately, and then are bothered that someone didn't object to your tactic?

  174. James Pollock says:

    ""Sending spam is free speech."
    The other two examples you used were moral "no-brainers" in modern day society, so why are you muddying your argument here?"

    It's a typo. Should be just "sending spam is speech". That whole paragraph is riddled with uncorrected editing errors due to being composed right before bedtime.

    "You lumped them together deliberately, and then are bothered that someone didn't object to your tactic?"
    Yes, this is a fairly straightforward rhetorical tactic. You've never seen it before?

  175. AlphaCentauri says:

    @James Pollock Spam isn't protected speech because it steals other people's resources. You can use the internet to express your right to free speech if you host your own website or pay for your own banner ads. If you send email spam to other people, it costs the recipients and their ISPs money to have the additional hosting capacity so their mailboxes don't go over quota.

    Also, "free speech" only works if the rules apply to everyone. If you feel you should be allowed to spam, then every other business person or political advocate has to have the same right. Every email address would be receiving millions of emails daily, each sender hoping some small percentage of his own mails will actually get read. The result would be the IP blocks of email marketing service providers would all be blacklisted. And then illegal spammers would use malware-infected computers to send deceptively labeled spam from illegally controlled non-blacklisted computers, which is pretty much what we have now.

    /off-topic rant

  176. Ross says:

    @James: I try to debate in good faith. Trying to set people up for "gotcha" moments when they don't take your bait seems disingenuous. This seems akin to "Haha, you didn't spot the fallacy I deliberately included in my reasoning, I win." If you were doing this to prove a point I missed the point. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

    @Clark I really hope that you address at least one of the many points I made on this thread.

  177. Adrienne says:

    @Clark: I sent an email a couple days ago — dunno if you've gotten it. It's from adrienne.(mylastname)@gmail.com, you should be able to find it from that if it's in spam.

  178. kritikk says:

    I know my whole point is actually an aside to the main discussion, but I do think it also has applicability to the religious discussion which I was following before coming to this thread:

    Regarding the first four, see also Godel's first incompleteness theorem.

    There is one more case, according to Godel, a superset of which is the one I was actually arguing for in my post:

    The liar paradox is the sentence "This sentence is false." An analysis of the liar sentence shows that it cannot be true (for then, as it asserts, it is false), nor can it be false (for then, it is true)… [Wikipedia entry: Godel's Incompleteness Theorem]

    This is not ill-defined, nor is it false, but just undefinable as to true or false (neither unprovably true, nor unprovably false, according to Godel), or at least in my understanding of it (correct me if I understand it wrong) in simple terms, the dichotomy "true-false" is not applicable to this statement.

    As to your answer to the first part of my post, if a person is empowered (financially for example) via their employment to act out their beliefs (with which you disagree), isn't it equivalent to boycotting a business to alert their employer as to their beliefs and actions, so as to prevent the person from being able to perform such disagreeable actions? (he/she would no longer be financially capable of acting on his/her beliefs, or would find it more difficult). Is this then acceptable, considering you are changing actions and not beliefs?

  179. kritikk says:

    hmm, accidentally left an extra blockquote tag in there somewhere, but I'm slooowwly getting better at this, :-p

  180. James Pollock says:

    Alpha, your rant is misplaced.
    The point isn't that "spam is free speech" (Because it isn't… it's a trespass to chattels, as I noted)

    Rather, it is speech, in the same sense that burning a flag or wearing a t-shirt with a message written on it is speech. To separate behavior from speech and say "it's ok to regulate behavior, but not speech" through whatever means are under discussion, must take into account those behaviors that are speech… and that distinction has never been easy (possible?) to delineate. So… racists can say racist things (because that's freedom at work) freely, but they can't do racist things (because that's necessary for an ordered society)… fine. But finding the line is trouble, and spamming is (probably) on both sides of the line. Is spamming like shouting in the night? Like jamming handbills into mailboxes? Spray-painting slogans on walls? All of these can be legal or illegal, depending on circumstances.

  181. James Pollock says:

    Ross, taking note of something is "seems akin to "Haha, you didn't spot the fallacy I deliberately included in my reasoning, I win."?

    As it is all too frequently used, the rhetorical point is to combine two things together that are dissimilar logically but similar emotionally, with the hopes that feelings and emotions related to one will be transferred to the other; It is usually used for negative associations (this is the point of every application of Godwin's Law, for example) but can be used for positive associations, as well (mom, apple pie, and Chevrolet). Of course, this technique is rather shallow and loses all or nearly all effectiveness once spotted.

    The contra use of this technique is to combine things that should be obviously different with the intent of the response being "Hey! Logically these things are different! Emotional responses that apply to that one may or may not apply to this one" and a failure to find that conclusion typically indicates a person who is thinking emotionally rather than logically who therefore sees no logical mismatch. This doesn't necessarily indicate "ha ha I win" but it does give an indication of how you're thinking about the topic at hand.
    Take, for example, the trilogy of IRA, al Qaeda, Earth First! All have been implicated in bombings, but they are not all alike. Should the government use drone strikes to eliminate Earth First! operatives and interrupt their activities with pre-emptive deadly force? There's an entire generation of Brits who'd say yes to the first, a majority of Americans (probably a strong one) who'd say yes to the second, and a lot of timber and mining company executives who'd say yes to the last.
    So… depending on which (if any) of these members you object to being included in the group provides information about how you think about these (and possibly other) topics. That's all.

  182. Ross says:

    James, thanks for expanding on your point for clarity. Of course emotions play into our moral reasoning, otherwise there would be little if any persuasive power attached to our conclusions. If one takes an absolutely principled stand (i.e., no one can murder anyone) than we can't say killing Bin Laden is moral even if the consequences of killing him are good for the world. I don't think absolute stands are very helpful, and consequently this area of debate gets muddy real fast. Exceptions have to be made sometimes, even if only one time in am million. This is a bit complex to unravel. While I am very sympathetic to EF's goals, somewhat sympathetic to the IRA's goals, and not at all sympathetic to Al Qaeda's goals, none of them have the right to explode buildings, and anyone who tries should be arrested for our collective safety. While I cheered for Bin Laden's murder I would not cheer for some nameless EF terrorist's murder, partly because of fame due to the media, partly because of the scale of the evil deeds, and partly because of their very different goals. I still maintain we can say, "Murder is almost always wrong," and have the full force of conviction behind it even with our rare exceptions. On the other hand, both conventional and guerilla wars kill combatant and civilian alike, and do not merit an exemption to "murder is wrong" from my point of view, except in the most dire of circumstances (WW2 for example). Even if you have moral permission or the moral requirement to engage in war, you do not have the right to punitively firebomb Dresden, launch nukes at Japan, or starve a country to death to punish its leadership. We have to weigh each case on its merits and draw as clear as lines as we can despite the complexity of these issues, without resorting to all or nothing thinking.

  183. Stessy says:

    I describe myself as a "Born again Zen Pagan Extentialist" when I want to confuse people. Otherwise just extentialist (or possibly — I think it's moot, I'm waiting to see.) Try being a religious liberal in Oklahoma. I dare you. (PS: My mother, father, and mother's husband are all ministers and my siblings are 2 athiests, 1 athiest/agnostic, and one who go to Sunday School but not church.) Freedom of religion and free speech rocks. (OK, maybe a little too literally in Oklahoma (not that I want to upset the locals. – there are some nice people here.) But I do believe my free speech/religion stops at your nose.

  184. Wayne Borean says:

    It is possible that "Thought Crime and Punishment" has now passed the "Insanely Long Religious Thread" for number of comments.

    What this says about the typical Popehat commenter, I'll leave to your imagination…

    Wayne

  185. Clark says:

    @Wayne Borean

    It is possible that "Thought Crime and Punishment" has now passed the "Insanely Long Religious Thread" for number of comments.

    Not even close:

    * religion thread: 433 comments
    * This thread (thought crime and punishment): 184 comments.

    What this says about the typical Popehat commenter, I'll leave to your imagination

    Perhaps it says more about my ability to rant on divisive topics…

  186. Wayne Borean says:

    @Clark,

    I stand (or sit in this case) corrected.

    Still, that's a lot of comments!

    Wayne

  187. Adrienne says:

    @Clark: I note that you never did answer my email. If you didn't get it, let me know and I can resend it.

  188. Clark says:

    Adrienne

    @Clark: I note that you never did answer my email. If you didn't get it, let me know and I can resend it.

    I didn't get it, but before you resend let me check something. (Asking Ken and Patrick if that email is getting forwarded to my "real" account or not, and if not, how to read it).

  1. May 3, 2013

    [...] Thought Crime and Punishment – Clark, Popehat [...]