Speech And Consequences

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330 Responses

  1. Shane says:

    I have come a long way to see that when Pax nails himself to a cross and starts to denounce those that would condemn him, that this struck me as wrong and anti-speech.

    Thank you Ken White. I am starting to get what free speech really means.

  2. Analee says:

    If you're adult enough to say that sort of thing, you should be adult enough to suck it the hell up and deal with people disagreeing and thinking you're a douchecanoe. Clearly this guy is not, which to me says he's also not mature enough to do his damn job properly. Enjoy minimum wage, douchecanoe!

  3. Albert says:

    I'm just glad this story had a happy ending of equal magnitude to its awfulness for the majority.

  4. Dave Fernig says:

    Most illuminating, as ever.

    A typo:
    "is something to be scorned, to we treat that as something that as"

    should be

    "is something to be scorned, do we treat that as something that as"

  5. jackn says:

    It funny to see someone from Business Insider question another company's business model. They (BI) seems to be a spineless bunch.

    It there an anti tag to standwithpax. How bout watchpaxfall?

  6. Jon H says:

    I like to think that the BI had operated in the market for employees without full and accurate information, and thus handicapped, hired a dud. Twitter merely remedied this situation by providing more BI with information. At that point, BI – being rational actors in a marketplace – reconsidered.

    I'm sure a libertarian capitalist fan of Austrian economics like Pax would appreciate this and see that the outcome was correct, and likely inevitable.

  7. tim says:

    That help explains the awful "reporting" that Business Insider publishes.

  8. eddie says:

    Ken: You're trying too hard to make your point.

    Yes, social consequences aren't the same as government censorship. I don't think that in this particular case Mr. Dickinson has once implied that he is suffering from government censorship.

    But social consequences can still be thuggish, senseless, and the result of group-think. And it's not hypocrisy to decry one's haranguers as being thuggish, sensless, group-thinkers. It's not even indecent.

    In short: there's no reason to condemn him for condemning the people who are condemning him.

  9. Clark says:

    I call Pax a friend (or, at least, an e-friend; we've never met).

    I've got a longish post on this topic, but it'll take a while to pull it together, but I wanted to give the Popehat-is-great-except-for-Clark set an early warning so they can start warming up their flame-throwers.

  10. Darryl says:

    He evidently changed his Twitter profile to no longer reflect his position as CTO. Now he claims to be offering "social media consulting services." What would those be? How to alienate people and lose your job? No thanks.

  11. GuestPoster says:

    You know, I'd just like to comment briefly on the Witch Hunt phenomenon… just when did it become a witch hunt to ridicule a single person? I mean, he IS the witch – he's not being hunted. They know what he did, where he is, who he is… it's not a witch hunt. The term evokes, for instance, McCarthyism, where there was an arbitrarily chosen action that was 'wrong', and far too many people spent far too much time looking for and condemning those engaged in said action.

    Anyways, it's interesting to me that it now gets used so frequently to describe negative pressures upon a single person. I think that the supporters understand that 'witch hunt' is a negative thing, and prop it up to get reaction – but really, shouldn't we just mock them for being unable to understand what the term means in even the slightest degree?

    Maybe they're looking for the term 'witch burning', and just keep getting it mixed up.

  12. SassQueen says:

    I don't post/say lots of things that pop into my head all the time. It's for a lot of reasons, only one of which includes that I don't want it to get back to my job. Is my speech chilled? Hell no; I consider it a normal filter that all civilized, non-bro types have.

  13. Ken White says:

    In short: there's no reason to condemn him for condemning the people who are condemning him.

    Is there a reason to condemn me for condemning him for condemning the people condemning him for condemning various wimmenz?

    I think I may be losing track.

  14. Kevin says:

    So I have two points to make here, both of which are going to sound like I'm defending this douchebag, so let me first say that yes, this guy is obviously a giant douchebag. But:

    -How is his response to criticism, i.e. calling his critics an "Inquisition" and comparing himself to Emanuel Goldstein… how is that not also perfectly valid speech? I mean, he's not calling for government action against his critics, he's just responding to more speech with more-more-speech. Yes, I get that "speech is tyranny" is douchey, but other than that, what's the problem with it?

    -Am I the only one who interpreted the "Passion of the Christ 2" tweet and being intended to make fun of Mel Gibson?

  15. Jesse from Tulsa says:

    Forbes says he was "fired."

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffbercovici/2013/09/10/business-insider-fires-cto-over-offensive-tweets/

    You simply cannot be a person of any note, work for a company that wants to either be respectable or interact with the public, and post statements that are obviously intended to enrage or at least offend a majority of potential customers. It's bad for business. What's bad for business is generally bad for your career.

    In an industry centered in New York (business publishing) with a career path heavily that includes the title "office" and is centered in California (tech) – it would be hard to think of a way to more effectively destroy your career with a hobby than having that hobby be "posting really offensive crap for public consumption under my own name."

  16. Eden says:

    When it comes to the truly revolting "Passion Of The Christ" quote, things may not be as they seem. He may have been doing a piss-poor job of mocking Mel Gibson:

    http://gawker.com/5577713/report-mel-gibson-uses-n+word-threatens-rape-of-wife

  17. Christopher says:

    I'm reasonably on board with the majority of what you're saying. Along with @eddie's point, what I wish you would touch on more is the social consequences of the *response* to speech.

    You dismiss the "witch hunt" argument as holding different kinds of speech to different standards, and I agree that there's probably a lot of that going on. But I think that there's insufficient emphasis that one's response can and will have its own social consequences.

    The mantra of "respond to speech with more speech" does make responsive speech any more sacrosanct than that the original. See also: dongles and forking.

  18. Ken White says:

    @Kevin:

    -How is his response to criticism, i.e. calling his critics an "Inquisition" and comparing himself to Emanuel Goldstein… how is that not also perfectly valid speech? I mean, he's not calling for government action against his critics, he's just responding to more speech with more-more-speech. Yes, I get that "speech is tyranny" is douchey, but other than that, what's the problem with it?

    It's "perfectly valid speech" in the sense that it is a contribution to the marketplace of ideas, subject to rebuttal and social consequences.

    If it is deceitful and stupid, I will say so.

  19. Christopher says:

    Needing an edit button. That should have read: "does *not* make responsive speech more sacrosanct."

  20. eddie says:

    What was deceitful about it?

  21. Ken White says:

    @Christopher

    You dismiss the "witch hunt" argument as holding different kinds of speech to different standards, and I agree that there's probably a lot of that going on. But I think that there's insufficient emphasis that one's response can and will have its own social consequences.

    My criticism of witch hunt is not just that it holds different speech to different consequences. It's also that it's a dishonest rhetorical attempt to equate criticism with violence or government suppression, thus falsely equating it with official censorship.

    The mantra of "respond to speech with more speech" does make responsive speech any more sacrosanct than that the original.

    How? "Respond to speech with more speech" puts speech on equal footing. "Witch hunt" language deceitfully attempts to equate more speech with violence and/or government oppression.

    See also: dongles and forking.

    I specifically referred to that incident as an example of a "more speech" reaction in turn leading to a social consequences backlash.

  22. eddie says:

    Yes, I get that "speech is tyranny" is douchey

    Those are Ken's words, not Mr. Dickinson's.

  23. Ken White says:

    I've got a longish post on this topic, but it'll take a while to pull it together,

    I look forward to it.

    but I wanted to give the Popehat-is-great-except-for-Clark set an early warning so they can start warming up their flame-throwers.

    I think at this point there's plenty who think the opposite.

  24. solaric says:

    @Clark
    FWIW, and regardless of the ultimate content in your upcoming screed:

    Few things are more childish and tedious on the Internet then someone starting, as you have, with some variation of "Well, I know I'll get downvoted/flamed/[FREE SPEECH CONSEQUENCE] for this but…". Oh, you're so brave to be making your post! Such rebel, such a martyr! Those big jerk-face conspiracies will no doubt conspire against you yet again but you're striking forth boldly anyway!

    Retch. It's a shallow, reverse-sympathy play, trying to preempt critics before they even criticize and thus without any reference to their arguments. In a couple of decades I don't think I've ever seen anything of any value follow from somebody who said such a thing. Intellectually honest commentators simply argue their case.

  25. eddie says:

    It's also that it's a dishonest rhetorical attempt to equate criticism with violence or government suppression, thus falsely equating it with official censorship.

    That is your interpretation of Mr. Dickinson's rhetoric. I think your interpretation is incorrect.

    "Witch hunt" language deceitfully attempts to equate more speech with violence and/or government oppression.

    I think you are overlooking the colloquial meaning of "witch hunt", which as often as not has nothing whatsoever to do with government oppression or violence.

  26. eddie says:

    … not to mention that, once again, "witch hunt" is Ken's wording, not Mr. Dickinson's.

  27. Ken White says:

    @solaric: My first inclination at a more-speech response to your more-speech response to Clark is a quote from The Dude.

    But on second thought, you're really not right, so that doesn't suit. I frequently disagree with Clark. But he displays no hesitation to write unpopular things and take the response with humor rather than martyrdom.

  28. eddie says:

    … sorry, it's Michael Anissimov's wording. My apologies, Ken.

  29. Ken White says:

    not to mention that, once again, "witch hunt" is Ken's wording, not Mr. Dickinson's.

    A more careful reading of the post would show where that phrase came from.

    Dickinson is the one who compared himself to a propaganda figure in 1984.

    Edit: sorry, we crossed paths.

  30. SIV says:

    "Witch hunt" language deceitfully attempts to equate more speech with violence and/or government oppression.

    More speech is good, so long as it isn't a deceitful metaphor.

  31. TM says:

    Maybe they're looking for the term 'witch burning', and just keep getting it mixed up.

    I suspect this would be a much more appropriate term. Especially when one of the modern reactions to disliked speech does seem to be a "burn their lives down" thing. Maybe it's always been this way, but it seems to me that more and more I see the reaction to stupid speech being using the power of the internet to mobilize large groups across borders to get the speaker fired and metaphorically run out of town on a rail for what might previously have been settled with a "Not cool" and a removal of that person from their immediate position. See for example, the whole kerfluffle over the dongle jokers at PyCon.

    That isn't to say speech doesn't or shouldn't have consequences (including firing), but that it seems like overall we've lost our capability for measured responses.

  32. Anonymous Coward says:

    @Clark,

    The way I see it, it's your flame-thrower that we have to worry about.

    /warming up fire extinguisher

  33. Clark says:

    @solaric

    Few things are more childish and tedious on the Internet then someone starting, as you have, with some variation of "Well, I know I'll get downvoted/flamed/[FREE SPEECH CONSEQUENCE] for this but…". Oh, you're so brave to be making your post! Such rebel, such a martyr! Those big jerk-face conspiracies will no doubt conspire against you yet again but you're striking forth boldly anyway!

    I agree that "I know I'll get downvoted for it" is childish, but come on. Have you read the Internet? There's tons of stuff that's more childish than that.

    Retch. It's a shallow, reverse-sympathy play

    I certainly wasn't trying to get a reverse sympathy play going; I was trying to stick an IOU in the ground in the top couple of comments so that people would see it, and perhaps ask some questions that I could address later.

    …and I was trying have a bit of fun.

    Trust me, if I wanted to strike the "I'm so brave" pose, I'd use my real name, and I'd post about something really controversal.

    The fact that I do neither is proof that I'm moderately cowardly.

  34. Clark says:

    @Anonymous Coward

    @Clark,

    The way I see it, it's your flame-thrower that we have to worry about.

    /warming up fire extinguisher

    LOL! Nice one.

  35. Mike says:

    I do think it's a bit odd the way a bunch of people who have never heard of nor cared about Business Insider will gang up to get someone fired.

    I'm not sure I'm encouraged by the norm of feeling that companies shouldn't employ people who express unpopular opinions in their spare time. But it does seem to be the way things currently work, so it was pretty dumb for him to share them.

  36. eddie says:

    Goldstein and the Two Minute Hate is a very common trope, and not at all reserved for implications of government action. For example, one might use it to comment on the treatment by the press and general public of someone widely disliked. For example.

    If you think Mr. Dickinson is indulging "speech is tyranny" and "save me from the consequences of my words" (which I know is one of your pet peeves), well, I doubt I can persuade you otherwise. But I think your assessment is off base. I don't read his recent tweets that way at all. And I think that if you were slightly more inclined to be charitable to him, you wouldn't read them that way either.

  37. rmv says:

    Anyone else want the really controversial Clark post?

  38. Matthew Cline says:

    But does Pax Dickinson weigh less than a duck?

    Pax Dickinson turned me into a newt!

  39. Ken White says:

    @Eddie:

    I understand the reference. I read the tweet in the context of his other tweets, including too many to be repeated here. The "inquisition" tweet is of a piece with it.

  40. Analee says:

    @Clark

    I may not always agree with your posts, but I do look forward to them because I always end up learning something, whether I like it or not.

  41. Sinij says:

    I see the right to speak idiotic things as a very fundamental aspect of free society. Should this right be only practically available to the independently wealthy individuals?

    Functioning of our society changed in the past 10 years in very fundamental ways. Not only we now communicate over "never forgets" medium, we also no longer have any control over our intended audiences. How could this not stifle above-mentioned right?

  42. Chad Miller says:

    eddie, I'm positive that Dickinson used the exact words "It's a free country" which is the hallmark of the attitude you insist he wasn't displaying.

  43. Sam says:

    @Analee

    I may not always agree with your posts, but I do look forward to them because I always end up learning something, whether I like it or not.

    My sentiments exactly. Plus, @Clark's really interesting to argue with and there's the high comedy of people taking his responses personally. Who needs TV?

  44. Clark says:

    @Analee:

    @Clark, I may not always agree with your posts, but I do look forward

    Many thanks, Analee! I take this as the best possible praise, far better than the diametric opposite "I always agree with your post, but don't ever learn from them"; i.e. communicating with those who disagree is far better than preaching to sycophants.

  45. Anonymous Coward says:

    I haven't been following any of this stuff on Twitter. It's news to me. But hasn't anyone pointed out that this Pax guy is just an ass who is so impulsive that he didn't stop to realize what he almost certainly would have known to be true: there will be an immediate, public backlash to such a shockingly offensive post.

    If he didn't have a high profile job nobody would care. He'd just be Pax the typical Internet jackass.

  46. RomanCandle says:

    What's wrong with saying that, no his First Amendment rights haven't been violated, but it's really lame to try to get someone fired for silly tweets?

    And simply defending yourself against criticism is not "nailing yourself to a cross". The Emmanuel Goldstein line? It's called hyperbole. The guy is owning every thing he said, even now.

    But hey, looks like he's already getting tweeted new job offers. I have a feeling you'll have to start another witch hunt (again, me using this term is hyperbole. It's quite common in political discourse and very easy to recognize if you don't have Asperger's Syndrome) against this guy and his new employer soon.

    Or, you know, you could be an adult and not waste your time getting a stranger fired for having contrary opinions. Your choice!

  47. Reality disconnect! Insightful blog post from a guy named "Pope Hat." Does not compute…

  48. xtmar says:

    @Ken

    You point out that employment is at will except for discrimination limited by law. But, does that discrimination law unduly influence the right of company officers to excercise their free speech? i.e. if a hypothetical company officer, say the CEO or owner of a company, decided that marching around in a white robe and burning crosses was his preferred weekend activity, but scrupulously avoided anything remotely related to race during his time at work, could an employee bring a discrimination or harassment suit against him, even if he never did anything racially tinged at work? I realize that most people are unable to maintain a strict work-personal life divide, but hypothetically such a situation would basically mean that engaging in certain types of protected speech also means that you're unable to be employed in certain positions of responsibility, which means that the your free speech right is hypothetical, since the government is enforcing costs on you (loss of employment) for engaging in protected speech. Or am I missing something?

  49. Sinij says:

    @Anonymous Coward

    If he didn't have a high profile job, he could still get a lynch mob after him, just not as likely. Social Consequences Ken talking about are highly arbitrary in both proportionality of response and likelihood of happening. This is not unlike car videos, you could make hundreds nearly identical but only one would go viral.

    Consider this question – what would happen to the economy if every internet jackass were to face "social consequences" like Pax?

  50. Anonymous Coward says:

    @xtmar

    A law suit can be brought against someone at any time. They don't need proof just to bring the suit. During that time, the person's activities as a klansman would come up and be very troublesome for the company. Would YOU believe that he was objective and unbiased at work? I wouldn't

  51. Anonymous Coward says:

    @Sinij
    I think they do, they just don't make the news. If I used my real name and said something like that, I would probably risk my job.

  52. eddie says:

    I read the tweet in the context of his other tweets, including too many to be repeated here. The "inquisition" tweet is of a piece with it.

    And in all those tweets, how many of them called for government action against those he disagrees with? That is, I believe, the standard you have promulgated for the "speech is tyranny" fallacy:

    Yet too many people seem to think that free speech includes not only a right to be free of consequences imposed by the state, but a right to be free of consequences imposed by other people. Therefore they attempt to portray criticism as a violation of their rights. This, of course, finds no support in the law, and is patently unsustainable as a philosophy besides — it nonsensically elevates the rights of the first person to talk over the rights of the second person to talk.

    This noxious concept is now sufficiently widespread to warrant its own tag here: Speech is Tyranny! Often the argument involves portraying speech as violence, as when thin-skinned speakers complain that criticism of their speech is "terrorism" or "abuse", or claim that it is "chilling," thus misappropriating a term used to describe the effect of government restrictions on speech.

    What has Mr. Dickinson said – EVER – that rises to that standard?

  53. Analee says:

    @Sam

    OK, first, my inner small child has to say that your avatar is awesome and all hail Gizmo.

    Second of all, let us not forget the twists that sometime occur in the comments of @Clark's posts. SOMEONE CHANGES THEIR MIND AND SUPPORTS HIM! SOMEONE CHANGES THEIR MIND AND DISSENTS! You never know what you're going to see.

    @Clark: One of the things my parents did right was teach me that it's always good to know, and if I don't, ask until I do, which I did in the thread about the photographer. Not only did I understand your point of view, I actually came around to your side of it. So woohoo, I learned!

  54. Jon H says:

    RomanCandle wrote: "What's wrong with saying that, no his First Amendment rights haven't been violated, but it's really lame to try to get someone fired for silly tweets?"

    1. It's not clear how much effort was put into actually getting him fired, as opposed to simple public mockery on Twitter, with the side effect of putting light on his objectionable Tweets.

    2. It's no longer just a silly tweet when someone involved with the hiring process dismisses talented women in IT as "unicorns": non-existent mythical creatures. Women who didn't get hired by BI would naturally wonder if it was because of their ability, or because of the bias exhibited by Dickinson.

  55. Jon H says:

    eddie wrote: "And in all those tweets, how many of them called for government action against those he disagrees with? "

    He has repeatedly expressed support for people suffering the consequences of their behavior, good and hard. Not government action, but consequences all the same.

  56. jackn says:

    @xtmar

    Or am I missing something?

    Imagine his white robe had his employers name on it.

  57. xtmar says:

    To be more concrete, imagine somebody who owns and manages a fast food restaurant on his own, with only hourly employees. Because the restaurant has only one manage, there are no promotions to be handed out, and everyone works the same hours, so you can't really claim favoritism. The owner is scrupulously fair with his employees during working hours.

    However, outside of work, he is an ardent advocate of sterlizing poor people and black people, just because that's the right thing, to say nothing of how useless women are for anything, in addition to his hobby of burning crosses, and is a well known for his positions.

    In other words, does his speech, which has no demonstrable effect on his work, make him an unfit manager, and one subject to sanctions? If so, does he really have free speech rights?

  58. xtmar says:

    @anonymous coward

    But then you're basically saying that Klansmen can't be managers because the government will punish them, which means they have only limited free speech rights. It would be one thing, and perfectly acceptable, for people to start a campaign against the Klansman, or call for his ouster, or what have you, but the government shouldn't enforce a punishment on him just for his beliefs, however misguided they may be.

  59. jackn says:

    @xtmar

    Keep trying, the owner of a private company doesn't need to worry about being fired.

    At any rate, yes, like the article says, he has free speech, but might face social consequences. If one were to loose their job, they still are free.

  60. Jon H says:

    "The owner is scrupulously fair with his employees during working hours."

    Customers don't matter? Employees never leave/are never fired? New employees are never hired?

  61. RomanCandle says:

    @Jon H

    Well by that standard, anyone in a corporate or small business hierarchy who expresses an opinion on anything other than non-mythical creatures could force rejected employees to wonder if their "bias" was the reason they didn't get the job.

    That's just absurdly broad and, therefore, totally meaningless.

  62. damon says:

    See this is why I keep my douchebag comments and behavior OFF the interweb!

    God, what possesses people to use Twitter and "Social Media" to post inane comments and douche-y comments I'll never know. Shesh, even after DOZENS if not hundreds of examples, people still do this. Darwin's law?

  63. xtmar says:

    @jackn

    True, he can't be fired, since he owns the company, but he can have a judgement slapped on him for his free speech, offensive though it may be.

  64. Resolute says:

    @Sinij – You are certainly correct that the consequences of our speech are far reaching these days and that the internet never forgets. It is easy to forgive a teenager who says stupid things online, but one would think that the Chief Technology Officer of a company would understand this. Moreover, one would think that an officer of a company would understand that even their not-company-related speech will carry consequences that relate to their corporate lives.

  65. eddie says:

    He has repeatedly expressed support for people suffering the consequences of their behavior, good and hard. Not government action, but consequences all the same.

    Ken's stated views are focused on government action, which is why I was particular about that point.

  66. Jon H says:

    "Well by that standard, anyone in a corporate or small business hierarchy who expresses an opinion on anything other than non-mythical creatures could force rejected employees to wonder if their "bias" was the reason they didn't get the job"

    Um, the point wasn't the mythical creatures. The point was that he stated, essentially, that he doesn't believe there is such a thing as talented women in technology.

    Yes, if you're involved in hiring, it's a very bad idea to be on the record saying "such-and-such broad category of human being can't do technology".

    People like Dickinson can talk about orcs all they want, in all kinds of contexts.

  67. Ken White says:

    @xtmar:

    But, does that discrimination law unduly influence the right of company officers to excercise their free speech? i.e. if a hypothetical company officer, say the CEO or owner of a company, decided that marching around in a white robe and burning crosses was his preferred weekend activity, but scrupulously avoided anything remotely related to race during his time at work, could an employee bring a discrimination or harassment suit against him, even if he never did anything racially tinged at work? I realize that most people are unable to maintain a strict work-personal life divide, but hypothetically such a situation would basically mean that engaging in certain types of protected speech also means that you're unable to be employed in certain positions of responsibility, which means that the your free speech right is hypothetical, since the government is enforcing costs on you (loss of employment) for engaging in protected speech. Or am I missing something?

    That's a good question.

    If the employer did nothing wrong at work, then I believe — based on my grasp of anti-discrimination law — that the employer's purely out-of-work activities can't constitute a violation of anti-discrimination law.

    However, to the extent that an employee claims that the employer did anything, then the employer's outside-of-word activities may be evidence of the employer's intent. That would be subject to a judge's evaluation of relevance, and of whether the inflammatory nature of the evidence outweighed its relevance. Example: a plaintiff claims that a mid-level employee racially harassed him, and that the company did not train employees on avoiding harassment. There's no evidence the company president knew about the harassment. Under those circumstances, most courts would probably exclude the company president's outside activities as being more inflammatory (the term, somewhat confusingly, is prejudicial) than probative. Contrast that with a case where there is evidence that the president knew of the harassment and didn't do anything about it.

    But then you're basically saying that Klansmen can't be managers because the government will punish them, which means they have only limited free speech rights. It would be one thing, and perfectly acceptable, for people to start a campaign against the Klansman, or call for his ouster, or what have you, but the government shouldn't enforce a punishment on him just for his beliefs, however misguided they may be.

    That's not right, for the reasons I explained above.

  68. RomanCandle says:

    @damon

    Well your douchey comments are someone else's iconoclastic satire.

    I've followed Pax for awhile and chuckled and most of his quips. I guess the issue I have is that I don't see him playing the victim at all, which is what most people here seem to think.

    I always got the feeling that he knew something like this could, and probably would, happen one day. Yet he still kept at it.

    So you can call him an asshole, but it seems incorrect to suggest that he's a hypocrite.

  69. James Pollock says:

    "I agree that "I know I'll get downvoted for it" is childish, but come on. Have you read the Internet? There's tons of stuff that's more childish than that. "

    "Other people do worse stuff!", a variation of "they do it, too!", is NOT an excuse for wrongdoing.

    "Trust me, if I wanted to strike the "I'm so brave" pose, I'd use my real name, and I'd post about something really controversal."
    It's not for everybody.

  70. eddie says:

    Ken started off this post this way:

    Speech has consequences. It ought to. In America, we have an elaborate set of laws strictly limiting the government's ability to inflict those consequences. [..] Private consequences are something else. [..]

    Yet people often confuse these categories. It's one of the fundamental errors of free speech analysis that I like to write about the most.

    Ken likes to write about this error so much that today, in his zeal, he has picked a target that has in fact not confused these categories in the slightest degree.

    Being an asshole is not the same thing as being a crypto-statist.

  71. Lizard says:

    @xtmar: Sanctions by whom?

    To the limited extent I understand employment law, an employee would need to show mistreatment/disparity, and the defense would usually be that such treatment was not racially motivated. The fact the manager cavorted in a KKK robe off duty would certainly be considered when evaluating the often-subjective nature of such cases, but unless there's some actual evidence of discrimination on the job to form the basis of a suit, I don't see under what grounds he could even be brought into court.

    Now, of course, people might decide to boycott the restaurant because they don't want to enrich a manager who is in the KKK. If it's a franchise where the franchise holder can fire the manager, they may do so freely, because he is an embarrassment to the company, and they are not firing him due to religion, gender, ethnicity, or any other "protected' trait, but due to his freely-chose action and speech.

    Your argument seems to be "If the social consequences are so severe most people will shut up rather than face them, then there's no free speech." I disagree. On every level from the personal to the public, there's many things we might all wish to say, but never, ever, do, because of the social consequences. This is not just true of our society, but of all societies; it is almost axiomatic that part of how a society defines itself is by its social taboos. One of the strengths of free speech in the legal sense is that it allows social taboos to be challenged without fear of being jailed or executed, merely shunned. Most people consider the benefits of challenging taboos to be less than the cost of doing so, and so, remain silent. I daresay no one reading this, self included, has not once held their tongue and nodded politely because they didn't feel a particular windmill was worth tilting at. We call standing against the howling mob courageous because it is an action with consequences — remove the consequences, and no courage is required. (Of course, there are times when I'm on the side of the howling mob… sometimes, ideas are taboo and not acceptable to espouse because they are, in fact, really stupid and evil ideas, and the people who believe them are stupid and evil, and deserve to be called that. And sometimes, I'll think an idea is stupid and evil, but after hearing it espoused enough times, I might just begin to reconsider it… or, alternatively, to eventually conclude that anyone espousing such an idea is so immoral that they can be deemed to have no redeeming features worth considering, and ignored forever.)

  72. jackn says:

    @xtmar

    Judgement for what?

    starting a fire on someone's property?

  73. RomanCandle says:

    "The point was that he stated, essentially, that he doesn't believe there is such a thing as talented women in technology."*

    I reject that completely.

    To me, it's clear he's mocking some sort of quota system, or the idea that companies should go out of their way to hire women.

    Considering he has been responsible for the hiring of several women at BI, I'd say I have a lot more evidence for my interpretation than you do for yours.

    Listen, the guy got fired for offending people's delicate sensibilities.

    And just because I find that unjustified morally does not mean that I don't find it unjustified legally. I guess that is my big point.

    * – (sorry, I'm new here and I'm not 100% sure which HTML keys quote your comment. I should hire a CTO to help me…)

  74. James Pollock says:

    "if a hypothetical company officer, say the CEO or owner of a company, decided that marching around in a white robe and burning crosses was his preferred weekend activity, but scrupulously avoided anything remotely related to race during his time at work, could an employee bring a discrimination or harassment suit against him, even if he never did anything racially tinged at work?"

    Could they bring the suit? Yes. Would they win? No.
    The law doesn't forbid anyone from being a racist ass (or any other kind of -ist ass) It forbids specific actions in specific places.
    Mr. Robe-wearing Crossburner can't be sued by his employee because he is a racist ass, he can be sued for doing racist things in the workplace and actions outside of work can be used as evidence that such things A) happened, and B) were for reasons of racism (if there were two possible reasons for whatever they did AT WORK, and one of them is not racist and the other one is racist, then evidence of racism during off-hours is evidence in favor of the racist explanation.)

    However, if employment is at-will and there is no contract, off-hours activities that put the company in a bad light ARE justification for being fired. At-will means "good reason, bad reason, no reason at all – unless it's one of the reasons explicitly forbidden."
    Put another way, a person who is a racist ass should probably not be supervising others in the workplace not because we are against racism, but because racism displays poor judgment and people with poor judgment shouldn't be supervising others in the workplace.

  75. Ken White says:

    @eddie: Seriously?

    An inquisition is run by a state authority (well, church authority, but in historical context the same thing).

    The two-minute hate is run by a state authority.

    The rhetorical use of these types of tropes is calculated to muddle the difference between government censorship and private criticism.

    Also: more inquisition.

    And: "political correctness enforced on the SV tech startup community would destroy it. extinction level threat."

  76. Clark says:

    @James Pollock

    "I agree that "I know I'll get downvoted for it" is childish, but come on. Have you read the Internet? There's tons of stuff that's more childish than that. "

    "Other people do worse stuff!", a variation of "they do it, too!", is NOT an excuse for wrongdoing.

    Are you aware that you're taking a rubber-chicken of a joke statement, letting all of the air out of it, and then criticizing it for being a poor piece of poultry…or are you not aware that that's what you're doing?

  77. JWH says:

    I wanted to give the Popehat-is-great-except-for-Clark set an early warning so they can start warming up their flame-throwers.

    My cousin Lex sent me some Kryptonite-powered flamethrowers.

  78. Clark says:

    @RomanCandle

    "The point was that he stated, essentially, that he doesn't believe there is such a thing as talented women in technology."*

    I reject that completely.

    To me, it's clear he's mocking some sort of quota system, or the idea that companies should go out of their way to hire women.

    I entirely agree with you, RC.

    Listen, the guy got fired for offending people's delicate sensibilities.

    And just because I find that unjustified morally does not mean that I don't find it unjustified legally. I guess that is my big point.

    We're on the same page.

    I'm new here

    Welcome!

  79. Clark says:

    @JWH:

    Kryptonite-powered flamethrowers.

    Blue, I hope!

  80. Jay says:

    I'm not so sure I agree with your analysis of the Unicorn joke. Another way to read it is Pax is suggesting tech managers apply gender blind hiring methods rather than taking measures that are intended to increase the odds of hire for only one gender.
    That said, I'm apt to agree with the consequences he has faced. Even giving him the benefit of the doubt on the other statements (including a poor mockery of Mr. Gibson), his manner of speech is then far too open to misinterpretation. As he works in the communications industry, where words are the stock in trade, he makes for a poor representative of his employer.

  81. Jon H says:

    "To me, it's clear he's mocking some sort of quota system, or the idea that companies should go out of their way to hire women."

    That interpretation is far more charitable than Pax tends to be. It's a stretch.

    He wrote: "Tech managers spend as much time worrying about how to hire talented female developers as they do worrying about how to hire a unicorn."

    That says to me that they don't worry about it, and don't try, because such developers don't exist.

    If he meant that they don't worry about it because such women are so plentiful there's no need for concern, he ought to have said something like "… as they do worrying about how to keep the office supplied with oxygen."

    Maybe he meant that tech managers don't care about hiring women. In the light of his other tweets about women, I see no reason for a woman to think this is favorable to her prospects of being hired.

    "Considering he has been responsible for the hiring of several women at BI, I'd say I have a lot more evidence for my interpretation than you do for yours."

    Name two.

  82. AliceH says:

    – You can try to find a coherent or principled way to reconcile that, but you will fail.–

    I think a coherent argument could be made, however it requires allowing for people's frequent and self-serving use of lies, obfuscation, deflection, and stupidity.

    A principled argument might be too high a bar.

  83. Matthew Cline says:

    Regarding Pax Dickinson losing his job over this: 1) how many social media tweets/posts/etc said that his workplace should either restrict what he said online or fire him, and 2) did anyone actually contact his workplace saying he should be fired?

    About, in general, trying to get people in trouble at work for things they've said, I think that should be avoided in general. If while doing their job they say something, or give act as if they're acting in their capacity as the XYZ, then pointing this out to their employer is fine. But otherwise…

    As an example, David Gorski a breast cancer surgeon who does cancer research who blogs a lot about various science/medicine stuff, particularly anti-vaccine groups and those who claim that vaccines and autism are related. When the anti-vax Age of Autism blog made a post alleging he had a conflict of interest, one commenter left a comment with Gorski's work address and email adress, while another left a comment with the contact information for the board of directors of the university at which he does his research; commenters said he needed to be shut up "by any means necessary". His university received a lot of email trying to get him fired.

    Something like that shouldn't be a part of the marketplace of ideas.

  84. R R Clark says:

    @Clark

    Your posts are great, although sometimes I wish you'd be a bit less evasive in answering direct challenges!

  85. RomanCandle says:

    @Jon H

    I'm not the least bit involved in the tech industry, and even if I was, I wouldn't specifically name private individuals.

    But you're obviously entitled to some evidence. I was referencing a tweet from Michael B Dougherty sent last night. He formerly worked with Pax at BI, and he repeatedly stated that Pax hired women.

    I'll happy retract if he is lying, but I don't think I'll have to.

  86. JWH says:

    @Clark:

    I'm going with Periwinkle.

  87. Clark says:

    @R R Clark

    @Clark

    Your posts are great

    Many thanks! …although I hasten to add that I wasn't remotely trolling for affirmation.

    although sometimes I wish you'd be a bit less evasive in answering direct challenges!

    I spend a fair bit of time in the comments and I try to respond to all questions.

    If you think I've avoiding some direction questions, please post links (sure – in this comment thread) to questions you'd like to see answered.

  88. Darryl says:

    Ken,

    Actually, anti-discrimination law is a two-fold test: 1. Was the discriminatory act performed by a manager or someone in authority? If so, strict liability for the company. 2. Was the act performed by someone not a manager or in authority? Company is liable only if it failed to take remedial action. If the action was taken by a manager based on input from non-manager, you can always argue that the manager was the cat's paw and therefore the Company is liable.

  89. Lizard says:

    On the unicorn thing… I can't see how this is interpreted as condemning quota systems. Admittedly, tweets are limited in their depth and subtlety, making them an excellent medium for the shallow and crude (Why, yes, I *do* think I am ever so witty, thanks for you asking), but the implication seems to be quite clear: Tech managers don't worry about encountering talented women for the same reason they don't worry about encountering unicorns. Interpreting that as a slam against "quotas" is only possible if you take it to mean "A 'quota' of even 0.001% female hires is impossible, because 0% of females are qualified! Stupid quota!"

    There's "giving someone the benefit of the doubt" and then there's "Yeah, right. Pull ye the othere one, fore it hath bellse ypon itte."

  90. R R Clark says:

    @Matthew Cline

    As long as no threats are made it's protected speech, however uncouth it may be. It's a fine line between allowing everyone a pulpit and watching your forum crumble into a riot, but the Romans managed it for hundreds of years and the Greeks for millennia prior. We have a distinct challenge in the anonymity of the internet meaning it can be difficult to assign an initial level of trust to someone, but I think we're up to the task. I think more serious internet forums will continue to evolve to face the challenge of the overwhelming torrent of garbage that the fringe elements spew forth. Google hangouts, for instance, work very hard to attach real names and faces to conversants, which makes interactions a lot more civil by default. It's a lot harder to be an a**hole to someone whose reactions you can see in near-real time. We're programmed not to like seeing those reactions, after all.

  91. Darryl says:

    I think the important question is "Why would I want to do business with a company that has such a jackass as an officer?" That is the "social consequences" Ken preaches about here at Popehat. Clearly the government cannot do anything about it (and rightly so), but the marketplace of ideas can reward or punish him (and his company). If you think what he was saying/doing was not a problem, have at it-exercise your right to do business with them, hire him to advise you on social media strategy, etc. But don't complain when others utilize the same freedom to shun them, tell others how (in their opinion) the company and Pax are contemptible, etc.

  92. xtmar says:

    @Lizard

    My argument was more along the lines of, "By making employers liable for anti-discrimination suits, can people who say outrageous things outside of work be held liable via the courts (i.e. government) for their actions, even if they don't do anything wrong at work?"

    In other words, if the burger stand owner didn't show any discrimination or otherwise indulge in his racist tendencies at work, would the mere fact that he is in the Klan create a discriminatory environment or something similar that would expose him to liability for his free speech activities.

    Ken's answer, and some of the other commentators, seems to be a qualified no, in that the discriminated party needs to show that his actions were racist, but on the other hand his behavior outside of work can be used as evidence that his actions were likely motivated by racism.

    As I said above, it's obviously within the rights of his employer to fire him for being an embarassment, or customers to boycott him, or whatever, but I don't think that he should be subject to government sanction just for being a racist. So, it seems like I'm in limited agreement with the law.

  93. Matthew Cline says:

    @R R Clark:

    As long as no threats are made it's protected speech, however uncouth it may be.

    Yes, it's protected speech. Me saying that it's wrong and people ought to not do it doesn't mean I think the government should do anything to stop it.

  94. R R Clark says:

    @ Clark

    If I see it again, I will. I mention it only because it is jarring to see a non-response to something I consider an eloquent rebuttal, particularly from someone like you who is perfectly capable of mincing most of us in a game of wits.

  95. Jack says:

    @romancandle or @Clark, could you elaborate on how you interpret the unicorn remark? Several commenters have explained how the statement leads rather easily a "talented female developers do not exist" interpretation by noting the non-existance of unicorns and the context of hiring. How is it you logically progress from his words towards a critique of hiring quota systems? And do you really believe that this is "clear" rather than a very charitable interpretation, or does your personal knowledge of Pax give you some additional context for reading his tweet?
    Seems like a lot of mimimization of his actions going on here, what with the "delicate sensibilites" comment when people criticized him for publically tweeting about niggers raping Jesus and what not.

  96. Lizard says:

    "Something like that shouldn't be a part of the marketplace of ideas."

    I assume you're talking about Orac, author of a blog I link to nearly as often as I do this one? (And for reasons of "Yo, read this, this guy is right on!", as opposed to "My god, do you see what this asshat is saying?", to be clear.)

    I don't see how you can remove "calling the guy's boss and giving him an earful" from the marketplace of ideas. "This guy said mean things, you should fire him!" is an idea. It only becomes a free speech issue when the government, or quasi-government agencies, such as the AMA, become involved.

    Since Orac is employed by a company that does actual scientific research, using actual science, and the complainers are complaining that Orac doesn't respect their (the complainers) ignorance of science, they are basically telling Orac's employer "That guy you hired keeps doing his job and telling the truth! He's making public statements totally in line with your company's purpose and mission! Further, he keeps backing up his statements with peer-reviewed data and rigorous, detailed, analysis!"

    The people Orac offends aren't customers of his employers; they consider anyone who does actual science to be in league with Satan, or possibly worse than Satan. His employers have nothing to gain by appeasing them, and plenty to lose. BI, however, is in the business of selling information and analysis. If one of their employees makes statements indicating his ability to process facts and draw conclusions is seriously impaired, or, even if his job doesn't involve such matters, embarrasses the boss by publicly stating things the corporation opposes, well, their choice is obvious.

    If Orac were posting anti-vaxx nonsense, while working for a business that performed and promoted science-based medicine, would it be wrong to ask why this business is supporting someone who doesn't believe the work he's doing is valid? Would it be wrong for people who support science to refuse to support a company that paid the salary of someone who was anti-science? (A boycott against any scientific institution by anti-vaxxers is about as effective as a boycott against McDonalds by vegans.)

    (Counting down for someone in the fringe where World Net Daily rightists meets Natural News leftists to start whining about "big pharma shillls wharrrgrabl chemtrails wharrgarbl flouride wharrgarble our precious bodily fluids")

  97. eddie says:

    @Ken – Yes, seriously. I think you're hanging far too much on three words ("inquisition" and "Emmanuel Goldstein") and one overly-literal interpretation of them. Both of those tropes are used very, very commonly to describe non-government, non-forceful action. I think even a slightly charitable reading of Mr. Dickinson's tweets and intentions here would show that he was speaking metaphorically, and that he does not think that the reaction against him is either governmental or forceful.

    More importantly, his tweets don't in the slightest suggest that government action should be used to protect him from his antagonists or from the consequences of his own speech. THAT is your standard for "speech is tyranny". John Rocker asserted his "right" to be free from scorn and ridicule, and he used the word "right". Karen Bass called political advocacy "terrorism". The Prop8 supporters conflated speech with "violence and intimidation". Implicit in all of these is that the opponent's speech is the kind of horrible thing that government force ought to be used to stop.

    Pax Dickinson's tweets contain nothing of the sort.

    Look – When it comes to free speech, Pax is one of the good guys. He's libertarian(ish). He's for individual rights. He's against government interventions. Using him as a poster boy for "speech is tyranny" is not only misguided, it's diluting and confusing the very message you're trying to send.

  98. Ken White says:

    Ken's answer, and some of the other commentators, seems to be a qualified no, in that the discriminated party needs to show that his actions were racist, but on the other hand his behavior outside of work can be used as evidence that his actions were likely motivated by racism.

    Right. And the point of my nose-punching analogy is that this phenomenon is not limited to the anti-discrimination context.

    A certain megafirm was once hosed in an overbilling litigation when it was discovered that associates wore t-shirts saying BORN TO BILL. That was their free speech right. Their humiliation, and the fact that the shirts were used of evidence of overbilling, no doubt chilled others from wearing BORN TO BILL t-shirts. But their free speech rights were not impaired.

  99. Raymond says:

    I don't understand what a constitutes a witch hunt in this vein, or how it differs from "an overwhelming and almost universally condemnatory response." What exactly is wrong with that? Mobs are prone to incitement. Those who dabble should know that the incitement can often go in unwelcome directions.

  100. Mike C says:

    It's also that it's a dishonest rhetorical attempt to equate criticism with violence or government suppression, thus falsely equating it with official censorship.

    Ken, you note that Pax's tweets could be used against him in an employment discrimination cases. If an employer terminates an employee to avoid having outside-of-the-office conduct be used against the employee in a lawsuit, then isn't that de facto censorship?

    In other words, Pax's speech is most certainly limited by the government – specifically, case law and regulations determining what is discriminatory. If Pax hadn't said anything that could have been used against BI in a lawsuit, then there'd be no official censorship. But since, as you note, his words "could be used against him in a court of law," then the government has regulated what Pax can say on Twitter.

    You're also ignoring some longstanding Internet norms (that are now changing, of course).

    For years, only the most wretched people would track you down and find your real address and "out" you online. Most message boards had norms against revealing a person's personal information. That was a recognition that a person's online activities should not spill over into his real life.

    (There are other norms, too. Most people believe that family is off limits. So even though it's within everyone's free speech rights to find pics of your spouse and children and mock them, that's really slimy and there are strong mores against that. You just don't do that kind of stuff.)

    Here it's different, since Pax wasn't anonymous and he wasn't being outed. But the same principle applies.

    If you don't like what a guy is saying, argue with the guy on Twitter. Exchange emails. Blog about him. Don't call his employer, though.

    Rather than debate or shame Pax, the mob went after his employer.

    Hey, that was the mob's right. But that doesn't mean it wasn't bullshit and that it wasn't demonstrably different from having online debates/Twitter wars.

  101. Clark says:

    @eddie

    @Ken – Yes, seriously…

    More importantly, his tweets don't in the slightest suggest that government action should be used to protect him from his antagonists or from the consequences of his own speech.

    I agree entirely with Eddie on this.

    Look – When it comes to free speech, Pax is one of the good guys. He's libertarian(ish). He's for individual rights. He's against government interventions. Using him as a poster boy for "speech is tyranny" is not only misguided, it's diluting and confusing the very message you're trying to send.

    Indeed.

  102. Clark says:

    R R Clark

    @ Clark

    If I see it again, I will. I mention it only because it is jarring to see a non-response to something I consider an eloquent rebuttal, particularly from someone like you who is perfectly capable of mincing most of us in a game of wits.

    Days are short, and my responsibilites are long. It's fairly typical for me to wake up at 6, work on a personal project for four hours, work the day job from 10am to 8pm, cook a semi-gourmet dinner that lands on the table at 10pm, then crash at midnight.

    Some days (like today) I am shirking my work responsibilities by being active in Popehat comments; other days I ignore Popehat.

  103. C. S. P. Schofield says:

    The thing to remember about the "Witch Hunt" phrase and meme is that it is currently assumed to mean that there are, in fact, no witches. That, in effect, BECAUSE it is a Witch Hunt all its targets are, ipso facto, innocent.

    And theist is critical because the modern incident(s) most commonly invoked by the use of the "Witch Hunt" meme were the "Anti-Communist Witch Hunts" of the cold-war era. And there there decidedly WERE witches. Possibly none of them actually targeted by McCarthy; the man was a bully and an ass. But the Rosenbergs were guilty, and so was Alger Hiss; we now have the Soviet records of their controllers. So when somebody shouts "Witch Hunt" I always ask "Is this person trying to imply that there are no witches, when there are? Or is he simply saying that this is an instance of hysteria?"

  104. Lizard says:

    In other words, if the burger stand owner didn't show any discrimination or otherwise indulge in his racist tendencies at work, would the mere fact that he is in the Klan create a discriminatory environment or something similar that would expose him to liability for his free speech activities.

    It would be an extremely dangerous precedent and would be very hard to get past the courts without other mitigating factors. "I can't work next to him because I know he's in the Klan" is very, very, close to "I can't work next to him because he's Mormon" or "I can't work next to him because he eats meat." The boundaries of a "hostile work environment" are fuzzy, and in my personal opinion, sometimes tilt to far towards the aggrieved, but finding the balance point is something done by a long process of social consensus and legal precedent. A lot depends on how blatant the KKK guy is at work. Does he keep a Klan calendar (kalendar?) in his cubicle? Does his car in the parking lot have a pro-lynching bumper sticker? Does he loudly and regularly converse about his activities while at work, in way other employees might find disturbing? These are things juries might consider, based on my mostly-anecdotal readings of such cases, and the precedents often involve extreme hair-splitting and readings of the ever-changing mood of the "reasonable man".

    In terms of the relationship between free speech and employment, one must also consider that criticizing someone else's speech might brand you a troublemaker, a complainer, someone looking to be offended, oversensitive, not capable of working in a diverse environment, etc. Sometimes, those accusations are true. Sometimes, they're false. But, again — speech has consequences. The social contract is a living document, and what's "acceptable" and what's "offensive" changes rapidly and often arbitrarily. It was not very long ago that marching in a Gay Pride parade would be far worse for you career prospects than marching in a Klan rally.

  105. James Pollock says:

    "'The point was that he stated, essentially, that he doesn't believe there is such a thing as talented women in technology.'
    I reject that completely."

    Then you're wrong.
    If you want to make a comment about how a quota system that requires everyone to have one of (whatever it is you're against quotas for), you don't compare them to things that do not exist You compare them to things that DO exist, but it's stupid to make everybody have one of.

    Compare:
    "Trying to hire a talented woman developer is like trying to hire a unicorn"
    and
    "Making everybody look for and hire women developers is like making everybody look for and hire left-handed developers."

    See the difference?

  106. Ken White says:

    Ken, you note that Pax's tweets could be used against him in an employment discrimination cases. If an employer terminates an employee to avoid having outside-of-the-office conduct be used against the employee in a lawsuit, then isn't that de facto censorship?

    In other words, Pax's speech is most certainly limited by the government – specifically, case law and regulations determining what is discriminatory. If Pax hadn't said anything that could have been used against BI in a lawsuit, then there'd be no official censorship. But since, as you note, his words "could be used against him in a court of law," then the government has regulated what Pax can say on Twitter.

    I see what you are saying.

    But let's take it to its logical conclusion.

    Let's say I drive a truck for UPS. I run over a dog.

    My twitter feed is full of things like "lol running over dogs is hilarious."

    The dog's owners sue UPS, asserting that their employee deliberately ran over their dog. They cite my tweets as evidence. A judge decides that they are relevant. Say that the law provides that I can be held liable for this act by me.

    Is the government censoring me? Is the government censoring me if UPS sees the tweet and fires me, knowing that it's going to be held liable if I run over a dog?

    In other words, people are eager to make this about anti-discrimination or political correctness or mean liberals or something. But the observation that out-of-work speech can be used as evidence of at-work intent (or negligence, or recklessness, or knowledge) is obvious and even trivial, and not restricted to the anti-discrimination context. So: if the government is censoring, then it is censoring by every single tort law, regulation, anti-discrimination law, and rule of evidence. That makes a mockery of the concept of censorship.

    Let's take another example. Employers can have liability when their employees assault customers, if the employer knew or should have known that the employee was dangerous. I'm a security guard. My employer learns that I post a lot of things about how Group X deserves to get the shit kicked out of them. Employer has customers of Group X. Employer, thinking what will happen if I kick the shit out of a customer, fires me.

    Did the government censor me? Only if you think that free speech means that you should be protected from having your words used as evidence against you. But clearly that's not the case. If I assault a federal officer, and claim self-defense, then my history of posts saying I'd love to assault a federal officer are probably admissible as evidence. That doesn't violate my free speech rights.

  107. Clark says:

    @Darryl

    He evidently changed his Twitter profile to no longer reflect his position as CTO. Now he claims to be offering "social media consulting services." What would those be?

    I took his class once.

    The first two days was spent teaching us to understand sarcasm.

  108. rmd says:

    @Clark

    It's fairly typical for me to wake up at 6, work on a personal project for four hours, work the day job from 10am to 8pm, cook a semi-gourmet dinner that lands on the table at 10pm, then crash at midnight.

    Do you have a sister?

  109. Ken White says:

    @eddie:

    More importantly, his tweets don't in the slightest suggest that government action should be used to protect him from his antagonists or from the consequences of his own speech. THAT is your standard for "speech is tyranny". John Rocker asserted his "right" to be free from scorn and ridicule, and he used the word "right". Karen Bass called political advocacy "terrorism". The Prop8 supporters conflated speech with "violence and intimidation". Implicit in all of these is that the opponent's speech is the kind of horrible thing that government force ought to be used to stop.

    I disagree, and think that you and Clark are reading Pax's words too charitably. Put another way: I don't think you can logically challenge my characterization here without equally challenging my characterization in almost all, if not all, of my "speech is tyranny" posts. If the people in those posts were implicitly calling for government action, then so was Pax. I think examination of those posts would the reveal that people were not literally, explicitly claiming that they were experiencing government oppression. Rather, I've constantly said that adopting the tropes of government oppression is a dishonest rhetorical trick that intentionally or recklessly blurs the line between censorship and speech. I don't restrict the "speech is tyranny" label to people who demand government intervention when they are criticized.

    I understand that you disagree with me about the 1984 reference. But I find the Goldstein reference to be either ignorant or deliberately deceitful. I don't care if other people using it are ignorant or deliberately deceitful as well. 1984 is a book about all-encompassing state power, and Goldstein is a figure used by the state to control people, and a symbol of government manipulation. Free speech lets you misuse the allusion. But saying "he was implying something completely different than the context of the allusion suggests" is silly.

  110. James Pollock says:

    "If you think I've avoiding some direction questions, please post links (sure – in this comment thread) to questions you'd like to see answered."

    In the magnet case thread, you said piercing the corporate veil was unconstitutional. (whether it was in that case specifically or generally was not clear) Why?

  111. Clark says:

    Someone above asked me for my take on Pax's unicorn tweet.

    I can't find the actual text; does anyone have a pointer?

  112. Ken White says:

    Clark, it's the last picture in this post.

  113. damon says:

    @Romancandle

    "Well your douchey comments are someone else's iconoclastic satire. "
    That's generally why when I read stuff like what he posted, I roll my eyes and think "yeah whatever" and don't give it another though.

    It was never my intention to suggest he's an asshole. I don't see why anyone, given todays environment, would make public comments like those. That's just my opinion. However, if he knowingly made those comments, recognizing that the result could get him fired, so be it. Now, if he starts bitching about the UNFAIRNESS OF IT ALL after being fired, I'll chuckle.

  114. James Pollock says:

    "I don't understand what a constitutes a witch hunt in this vein, or how it differs from "an overwhelming and almost universally condemnatory response." What exactly is wrong with that?"

    The people pursued, tried, and convicted of being witches were not actually guilty of witchcraft. In a "witch hunt", what one is accused of is more important than whether or not the accusation is true.

    Thus, when one is righteously hounding the indisputably guilty, one objects to the pursuit being labeled as a "witch hunt".

  115. Matthew Cline says:

    @Lizard:

    Interesting points.

    About the "witch hunt" thing: I'd always thought that a "witch hunt" meant:

    1) anyone might be one of Them.

    2) if one of Them is identified, they're pressured into revealing the names of more of Them.

    But the way lots of people use it, I'm not sure what's meant by the term. That people automatically believe certain types of accusations? That people are being accused of X to support the idea that X is more common than it actually is?

  116. James Pollock says:

    "But I find the Goldstein reference to be either ignorant or deliberately deceitful."
    Of course, "Emmanuel Goldstein" has been used as a symbolic name a good many times since 1984 was published. For example, the publisher of 2600 magazine.

    An extremely charitable reading might suggest it as a referent to one of those other "Emmanual Goldstein"s. Considering that most people haven't read 1984 since high-school. (I don't advance this as the most likely case, merely as a possible case.)

  117. eddie says:

    @Ken – Good points, and well made. I suppose the crux here, then, is this:

    Rather, I've constantly said that adopting the tropes of government oppression is a dishonest rhetorical trick that intentionally or recklessly blurs the line between censorship and speech.

    I think Pax's intentions were clear, and clearly not trying to blur the line (I'd even say "as he'd be the first to tell you" except that he tends not to say anything at all without wrapping it in snark and sarcasm). So I'd rule out "intentionally". And I think you might rule it out as well, even if his intentions weren't as clear to you as they were to me.

    That leaves "recklessly". IMHO, his post doesn't blur that line at all, let alone recklessly. But I think we're deep into subjective-interpretation-land, where I'm happy to grant that someone else – especially someone not well-versed in Mr. Dickinson's own peculiar mix of political opinions, political incorrectness, and style – could quite reasonably draw a different conclusion.

    In an attempt to share my own perspective (to perhaps inform your own): my take on "inquisition" and "two minute hate" minimizes the aspects of violence, force, and government action, and considers as most salient the aspects of group-think and isolation of / retribution against the suspected heretic or outsider. Viewed in that light, "inquisition" and "two minute hate" rhetoric is not the sort that blurs the line between censorship and speech; rather, it gets right to the heart of social consequences.

    As I see it, Pax's woes here are a perfect case study for how things are supposed to work in your view, rather than yet another instance of doing it wrong.

  118. AliceH says:

    FWIW, my initial reading of the unicorn comment was that devoting resources to finding/hiring women techs was as wasteful as hunting something non-existent, because the value of the particular sex of an applicant is irrelevant to the job to be filled.

    I say this as a (now retired) female who worked in technology for 25+ years (as peon and manager). I note, though, my sexism-bias-meter is not very sensitive because I tended to see generalized jerkitudity as the more likely explanation for those instances that were pointed out to me as examples of misogyny.

  119. jdh says:

    As a hypothetical example: Time tech managers spend trying to hire a unicorn = 0 (no time at all). Time tech managers spend trying to hire talented female developers? Could well be zero also. Time tech mangers spend trying to hire talented (male OR female) developers? Could equal 100%. A manger who is doing his job should be looking to hire the best and brightest, regardless of gender.

    In the above context, the unicorn tweet is not sexist – it is sarcastically gender-neutral.

  120. Noah Callaway says:

    @James Pollock

    An extremely charitable reading might suggest it as a referent to one of those other "Emmanual Goldstein"s. Considering that most people haven't read 1984 since high-school. (I don't advance this as the most likely case, merely as a possible case.)

    I think this would be an extraordinarily charitable interpretation given the context.

  121. Luke says:

    My take on the unicorns tweet is that when you are looking for a developer you could care less about any of their external features. You don't worry about hiring "talented female developers", just "talented developers."

    The quote made me think of this image which has been making the rounds lately that my friends and I got a big laugh because of how true it is: http://pigroll.com/img/web_developer_with_a_job.jpg
    Appearance, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, etc has a lot less bearing in the development community (particularly startups) than the simple concept of: can you do this job?

  122. Clark says:

    @eddie:

    Viewed in that light, "inquisition" and "two minute hate" rhetoric is not the sort that blurs the line between censorship and speech; rather, it gets right to the heart of social consequences.

    This is exactly the way that I used the phrase "Emmanuel Goldstein" in the previous post, before the Dickinson thing had even blown up.

    Which is to say, here's another user-of-the-English-language who uses those terms from 1984 in exactly the way that Eddie is asserting Pax used them.

  123. Clark says:

    @Ken White

    Clark, it's the last picture in this post.

    Ah. Picture. I'd thought it was quoted in this post, but a Control-F failed to find it.

    Anyway, my take is exactly like that of Luke, Eddie, jdh, and AliceH:

    People in startups don't tend to buy into the quota theories of social justice and hire the best damn people they can. If a dog can write a compiler, the dog gets hired. Startups tend to be more race / color / gender / etc blind than mainstream society…but the problem is that mainstream society doesn't want attribute-blindness; it wants very specific outcomes.

  124. notsont says:

    In the above context, the unicorn tweet is not sexist – it is sarcastically gender-neutral.

    Of course there is also the context of all his other tweets on gender issues, which may leave a person not feeling particularly charitable when reading what seem to be fairly sexist or racist tweets…

  125. eddie says:

    In all fairness, if the dog can write a compiler, I'm probably hiring him FIRST.

  126. jackn says:

    In all fairness, if the dog can write a compiler, I'm probably hiring HER first.

  127. AliceH says:

    @eddie

    Woof! (just don't call me a bitch, heh)

  128. Jack says:

    @Clark, if that was indeed Pax' implication, then why pick an imaginary, nonexistant creature and not some characteristic that exists but would be useless in determing competence?

  129. Ryan C says:

    Ken,

    I liked this post and found it informative, but I still feel a little uneasy. It's easy to side against Pax on this issue because all the stuff that he's saying is awful. But what if, for example, a large religious organization decided to target me and harangue and verbally attack me if I were to make comments about how I didn't believe in a god? Or what if a large cohort of Internet users attempted to torment me because I came out as gay?

    What I'm wondering is, what makes the distinction between "social consequences" and harassment? Does cyber-bullying exist, and if so, how do we determine when that line has been crossed?

    Obviously, I want the freedom to ridicule someone online if they say something that I find reprehensible. But at the same time, I don't want to find myself facing down a mob-spewing vitriol at me. There have been prominent women essentially forced offline by for making entirely reasonable pro-feminist statements. They have had to face down a tide of furious misogyny and eventually have not been able to stand against it anymore. Isn't that a social consequence, too? Or is it something more? Maybe it's legal, but it sure as hell doesn't seem just.

    Thanks very much for your comments.

    –Ryan

  130. James Pollock says:

    "I think this would be an extraordinarily charitable interpretation given the context."

    OK. Offered because I had to stop and think who the hell "Emmanual Goldstein" is, it took a while, and 1984 wasn't the first answer I pulled. Admittedly, not being a first-amendment lawyer, I probably don't run into NEARLY as many Goldstein references as Ken does day-to-day. I think it's possible that Ken reads FAR more into a Goldstein reference than most people would/do, and possible (although somewhat less) that he reads more into it than was intended by the author.

  131. azazel1024 says:

    My opinion on free speech is opposite of Mark Twains.

    Quoth the man "It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt."

    Personally I'd rather people open their mouth and share their opinions, that way I know which ones are fools and which ones are not. I don't prefer to float blithly through life pretending all of my fellow man (and woman) are as introspective, intelligent, thoughtful, etc as I. I'd rather know the ones that are idiots so I can steer clear or point them out to my kids and say, "see that one. You don't want to grow up to be like him."

  132. EAB says:

    Female programmer here, commenting on the unicorn/quota issue:

    I would argue that female developers tend to be a couple points more skilled on average than males, just because you don't stick it out in this industry unless you're good enough to get past the "fake geek girl" crap in the early years. A tech company which actively pursues female developers will raise the general quality of their talent pool, and increasing their percentage of female employees makes them more attractive to other higher-quality female hires. All other things being equal, women prefer working in environments where they aren't the only woman on the dev team — I know I do. Such hiring policies also increase the numbers of younger women who go into development, which is good for the industry as a whole.

    If you think technical ability is the only thing that matters in hiring developers, you might want to consider the world of classical music, in which hiring of female musicians skyrocketed after the introduction of blind auditions. I suspect most of those directors really thought they were not gender-biased and made their decisions based strictly on musical prowess, yet they were 50% likelier to hire women when they literally did not know the gender of auditioners.

    I would actually argue that unconscious bias is a much larger problem in the development world, because it's really really really hard to tell from an interview if someone's going to be a good developer. It's just too short to get a meaningful sense of their work product, beyond weeding out the openly bad developers. The difference between "s/he seems smart enough but maybe not the best fit for us" and "s/he seems like a rock star, let's hire her!" is entirely intangible and generally not based on raw technical skill. That's just unconscious bias waiting to happen, doubly so in IT culture where a large percentage of employees and hiring prospects fall somewhere on the south end of the social-skills bell-curve.

    I have seen unconscious bias happen way way too many times to actual female employees, including myself, to buy that the hiring process conducted by these same people is some sort of magical equality utopia.

  133. Luke says:

    @Jack – that is one of the problems with being glib. You see a comparison between female developers and an imaginary, nonexistant creature. I question why a tech manager would worry about hiring a unicorn.

    Not that I couldn't think of reasons :)

  134. mud man says:

    Once the food fight starts, better to go rake the yard.

  135. E. Robertson says:

    Hey, Pax… U mad, bro? :-D

  136. Lizard says:

    What I'm wondering is, what makes the distinction between "social consequences" and harassment?

    First: IANAL, so this is a quasi-informed opinion. We'll see what the actual lawyers think later, I'm guessing.

    Second: Legally, except in extreme cases, there is none. Ken's written pretty extensively about the high legal bar required for "true threats". "Harassment", as I understand it, requires a specific individual continually target you in ways you've explicitly told them not to, and which they involves directing communications *at* you, not merely *about* you. One person sending you a thousand messages, against your wishes, is harassment. A thousand people sending you one message each, again as I understand it, probably isn't.

    Morally/ethically, the difference between "social consequences" and "harassment" is much simpler.

    If you agree that the target is a bad monkey, and deserves to have the tribe fling poo at them, it's social consequences.

    If you think the target is a good monkey, and the tribe should not fling poo at them, it's harassment.

    Anyone trying to find an *objective* difference is wasting their time. I know what my personal moral values are; I know what actions mark someone, to me, as a good monkey or a bad monkey. I will fling poo, or not fling poo, as I see fit. Because I am an *evolved* monkey, I recognize that the seven billion other monkeys on this planet with me might have some different ideas, and I grant them the right to fling all the poo they wish — even at me — as long as no one gets kicked out of the tree and down to where the hungry tiger is waiting. (IOW, in this painfully extended metaphor, as long as no one uses violence and limits themselves to words, however stinky or sticky.)

  137. notsont says:

    I liked this post and found it informative, but I still feel a little uneasy. It's easy to side against Pax on this issue because all the stuff that he's saying is awful. But what if, for example, a large religious organization decided to target me and harangue and verbally attack me if I were to make comments about how I didn't believe in a god? Or what if a large cohort of Internet users attempted to torment me because I came out as gay?

    You mean like the stuff that happens pretty much daily in this world but your privilege allows you to not see it?

  138. Luke says:

    @EAB – This is entirely anecdotal but in my experience both when looking for jobs and in helping screen candidates for smaller companies there has been more of an emphasis on work samples and testing with less of a focus on the actual resume. Oddly, whenever I have applied and worked with larger companies the reverse is true.

  139. James Pollock says:

    " making entirely reasonable pro-feminist statements."

    To Do
    9/10/2013

    1) Make oxymoron joke
    2) Duck
    3) Run away.

  140. ZarroTsu says:

    As someone who has been trying to hire a unicorn for a long time now, I feel deeply offended.

    Let's ask Dickinson what he thinks, and maybe we can reach a snarky conclusion together.

  141. James Pollock says:

    "Oddly, whenever I have applied and worked with larger companies the reverse is true."

    That's not odd at all. Evaluating work samples is hard work. Large companies get LOTS of resumes. Therefore, draw resumes, discard 95% on the first pass, trim the list down to finalists, THEN look at work.
    It's the same dynamic that says that smaller classes are more likely to have essay and short-answer type exams, and larger classes are more likely to have multiple-choice exams.

  142. James Pollock says:

    "A thousand people sending you one message each, again as I understand it, probably isn't."
    If you can find a ringleader directing the thousand people, all bets are off. This is the tiny grain of reasonableness in Charles Carreon's "distributed Internet defamation" sandcastle.

  143. Ryan C says:

    "You mean like the stuff that happens pretty much daily in this world but your privilege allows you to not see it?"

    The sheer extremity of the haughty assumptions made in this response is staggering — and kind of impressive. I really wish people wouldn't throw around the word "privilege" with such cavalier abandon, because overuse of it makes it a lot harder to explain to people what privilege actually is and how it works. It's turning into a buzzword.

  144. Robert says:

    I have two Twitter accounts. My real name is strictly professional. My fake name will have some "inappropriate" jokes. (But nothing too awful!)

    However, "Business Insider" isn't a legit publication anyway. It's a content aggregation for splogs.

  145. bblackmoor says:

    This is a brilliant opinion piece, and I enjoyed it a great deal. I have only one complaint: did you really need to besmirch millions of perfectly reasonable libertarians by repeatedly associating them (despite the weasel words) with this raging ass-hat?

  146. Lizard says:

    If you can find a ringleader directing the thousand people, all bets are off.

    And the difference between a "ringleader" and an "activist", other than if you agree/disagree with them, is…. ?

    Since you're invoking the law (harassment), you need an objective standard that applies no matter how much you support or oppose either the accused or the plaintiff. If I have a huge audience, and I write a post saying "Hey, that guy, he's a dickwad. Look at all this dickwad stuff he does.", it hardly stretches the bounds of credibility to claim a "reasonable man" would know that at least some portion of my audience will take it upon themselves to tell the dickwad in question what they think of his dickwaddery. If this is being "a ringleader", then, any statement of criticism made by anyone with more than a trivial audience (i.e, me, with my 20 twitter followers) is "harassment".

    I'd say that the line might be revelation of specific orders given not in the form of public statements, but in private or semi-private directives. If I have a thousand people on a private, invite-only, mailing list, and I tell them all, "Hey, next week, we're taking on this guy. Do what you gotta do, peeps.", I *might* be crossing the line (let me note, again, IANAL), but it's shaky. Organization of protests via private communication is hardly illegal — and making it so would be a Very Bad Thing.

    Even if it's publicly, or privately, stated that a goal is to silence someone or force them to withdraw from communication — as long as such does not involve force/threats — you're still on very shaky grounds. That is, after all, one of the points of any organized or spontaneous movement targeting a person or organization: To compel change. People contacting Pax's employers had, as a goal, creating social consequences. People do not want someone like Pax wielding power or having public authority. They want him to be reviled, and they want people to disassociate themselves from him. The intent is very clearly to chill the speech of those who would agree with him, by using him as an example. This is also the intent of those who pick more sympathetic targets — and while I am likely to say they're wrong to pick those targets, I am hard pressed to find a test I would use to split "those people who target people I feel do not deserve to be targeted" from "those people who target people I feel DO deserve to be targeted" in a way that would make good law, keeping in mind how both political administrations and public sentiment can shift rapidly, and this week's in-group is next week's out group; this week's acceptable target is next week's "How DARE you?"

  147. James Pollock says:

    The general consensus of the STEM education community isn't that female developers are rare because they can't do it, it's that they're rare because they don't want to do it. Thus, STEM outreach tends to focus on convincing young girls that they want to do it, not convincing them that they can.
    Girls (as a class) statistically outperform boys (as a class) in STM coursework all through school up to about tenth grade. Then the girls' performance plateaus, while the boys keep going, pass up the girls, and continue on into undergraduate and graduate school, where the girls have historically been dramatically under-represented, and now the gap is narrowing.
    I taught IT courses for about ten years, and the breakdown was anywhere from 4:1 to 1:0 male:female. In only one class in all that time did the females outnumber the males. Of the most impressive students during that time, the breakdown is 50:50. And the single most impressive STEM student I've ever seen in my life (not my student, nor even a student in my school) was a girl.
    It's not like the women haven't been there all along, there just haven't been many of them. But the ones who were there carried their weight (see, e.g., Adm. Hopper).

    I haven't worked in development for a couple of decades now. I'm curious if the alleged advantages that come with internal plumbing affect development projects (i.e., more team-oriented, less competitive and more cooperative, ) or whether the nature of development shapes the people who do it pretty much regardless of genitalia and related differences does.

  148. Lizard says:

    It's turning into a buzzword.

    Check your tenses.

  149. Ken White says:

    Ryan C:

    The response may, indeed, have been less than kind and not particularly productive. I think what it was getting to, though, is that some people to experience organized religious shaming.

    To answer your question:

    What I'm wondering is, what makes the distinction between "social consequences" and harassment? Does cyber-bullying exist, and if so, how do we determine when that line has been crossed?

    First of all, "cyber-bullying" is a media term, not really a legal one. There are many attempts to outlaw something that gets labeled "cyber-bullying," and many of those attempts are unconstitutional.

    What would be constitutional? A prohibition on true threats (discussed, for instance, here), and a somewhat vaguer category of "harassment" that involves targeted (directed to a person), repeated (not a one-off), unwelcome, and objectively offensive speech. It's difficult to classify, but the closer you come to repeated unwelcome phone calls, the closer you come to something that can be classified as harassment and prohibited and punished. So: a thousand people writing mean things about you? Not harassment. A thousand people calling you at home and work? Very likely harassment. A thousand people writing you emails or sending you tweets? Probably depends on the circumstances, and not likely to be treated as harassment if it happens, for example, over a day or two.

  150. Cat G says:

    I believe that, had Pax Dickinson aimed all of his tweets at ponies, this would never be an issue. (The social stigma to be incurred by the righteous dudebro (or dudebro parody, depending on your reading of his intent) from bronies and hasbro would be less than the sharp negative backlash of the much larger groups his words had the potential to offend.)

    With regards to speech, you have the right to say something offensive. I have the right to be offended. The government, with limited exceptions, does not have the right to limit your speech because of my taking offense. I however, have the right to be offensive towards you. It then becomes a battle in the marketplace of ideas to determine what, if any, compromise, learning, or victory can be had.

    In a theoretical world, both actors would be rational, capable of strong discourse, and would learn from each other before coming to a mutual understanding which enables them to deal with the offense as gentlemen. In the real world, there's a reason that the Code Duello was written.

  151. Mike C says:

    So: if the government is censoring, then it is censoring by every single tort law, regulation, anti-discrimination law, and rule of evidence. That makes a mockery of the concept of censorship.

    If there weren't more criminal laws than anyone can count and if the government weren't micromanaging people, you'd have a point.

    But the government is everywhere. Lawsuits are easy to file.

    When people have to watch their words lest they be used against them, that makes a mockery of the government and not of the usage of the word censorship.

  152. Clark says:

    @James Pollock

    The general consensus of the STEM education community isn't that female developers are rare because they can't do it, it's that they're rare because they don't want to do it.

    This seems to be a cultural belief rather than anything based on evidence.

    I think that preferences mostly explains it, but it's politically correct to jump to this assertion with out, for example, considering Larry Summers / Camille Paglia type explanations (that the median IQ is the same in men and women but the standard deviation may differ).

    Thus, STEM outreach tends to focus on convincing young girls that they want to do it, not convincing them that they can.

    Because the preferences of young girls are less important than the preferences of gender activists?

  153. James Pollock says:

    "And the difference between a "ringleader" and an "activist", other than if you agree/disagree with them, is…. ?"

    A question for the jury.

    "Since you're invoking the law (harassment), you need an objective standard that applies no matter how much you support or oppose either the accused or the plaintiff."
    The principles of agency law are deep and broad. People can be held accountable for the actions of their agents. Whether such an agency exists is sometimes a question of law, and sometimes a question of fact.

  154. Cat G says:

    @Clark

    "Because the preferences of young girls are less important than the preferences of gender activists?"

    It's difficult to accurately judge that young girls are fully informed and basing their preferences on facts, rather than being pursuaded or swayed by immersive cultural bias or parental opinion.

    But that's a rabbit hole I really don't want to go into, because all I come to at the end is a giant sign reading "…and humans as a group tend to suck."

    (Note – Before anyone decides to go after me about cultural bias, note R. A. Heinlein's argument regarding the misconception that an aversion to cannabalism is an instinct, rather than a learned behavior.)

  155. notsont says:

    I liked this post and found it informative, but I still feel a little uneasy. It's easy to side against Pax on this issue because all the stuff that he's saying is awful. But what if, for example, a large religious organization decided to target me and harangue and verbally attack me if I were to make comments about how I didn't believe in a god? Or what if a large cohort of Internet users attempted to torment me because I came out as gay?

    I will be more clear. This happens every single day, and it usually goes unopposed. People are tormented to the point of suicide for coming out as gay people lose their children because they come out as atheists and there is less of an outcry than there is here because some idiot lost his job, not because of "free speech" it had nothing to do with what he said it had to do with where and how he said it. He lost his job because his bosses realized he was too fucking stupid to keep it. But oh noes! The injustice of the "witch hunt"! There was no witch hunt.

    This story could be boiled down to "stupid person makes sure his bosses realize he is stupid and loses job"

  156. James Pollock says:

    "Because the preferences of young girls are less important than the preferences of gender activists?"

    I don't understand your objection, largely because I don't understand your reference. What gender activists?
    STEM outreach is about getting more people to consider/choose/pursue careers in STEM. The effort starts in middle school, peaks in high school, and includes undergraduate college, primarily freshmen (obviously, it's not very effective to convice a senior in something to choose STEM instead, as they'd have start over).

  157. EAB says:

    "STEM outreach tends to focus on convincing young girls that they want to do it, not convincing them that they can"

    A big part of which is convincing them that they won't be the only girl in the room. Nobody much likes being an outlier — it definitely plays a role in keeping men out of female-coded fields like nursing and elementary school teaching, too. Part of that involves making efforts to get other outliers into the room. I don't expect gender parity to happen any time soon, but there's a big difference between being one of two or three women on a team of twenty and being The Woman.

    As for code samples, they're still fairly inadequate, because you just can't set up anything too extensive in an interview situation. The person doesn't have enough time, and your developers don't have enough time to grade it. The last time I was asked to do one, it was to "write a magic 8-ball", which is pretty much a toy program — it's just checking to see if I recognized that a random number generator was the correct approach, and if my code didn't look absolutely vile. That tests whether or not I am a BAD developer, but is entirely insufficient to tell you whether or not I am a good one. You expect most of your interviewees to be able to pass such a threshold, which brings you back to relying on other metrics to decide between the competent candidates.

  158. Ryan C says:

    I will be more clear. This happens every single day, and it usually goes unopposed. People are tormented to the point of suicide for coming out as gay people lose their children because they come out as atheists and there is less of an outcry than there is here because some idiot lost his job, not because of "free speech" it had nothing to do with what he said it had to do with where and how he said it. He lost his job because his bosses realized he was too fucking stupid to keep it. But oh noes! The injustice of the "witch hunt"! There was no witch hunt.

    NotSont, this is precisely why I expressed concern — because being both gay and atheist (and in an interracial marriage to a Buddhist, no less), I see this sort of thing happening all the time. I'm not very sad about Pax losing his job. But I worry about people in my communities facing "social consequences" because they said or did something unpopular. Mob rule is an ugly thing, even when it's limited to a campaign of Internet savaging.

  159. EAB says:

    @Clark: "Because the preferences of young girls are less important than the preferences of gender activists"

    Um, wow, way to misunderstand the point. The point isn't to satisfy the Diversity Fairy, but not to WASTE TALENT.

    Say 10% of the human race has the capacity to be good at programming — most people just don't, the way most people don't have innate musical or athletic talent, but the innate ability is equally distributed among the genders. Ecluding 95% of the female 50% of that 10% leaves you with a lot smaller talent pool. The world is a better place when the Grace Hoppers get to be Grace Hoppers instead of bookkeepers.

    Medicine went through the same thing over the last couple decades, and the field is the better for it. If we were to snap our fingers and remove all the female doctors, it would nothing short of be catastrophic for the entire system. Yet that's what we're doing right now in the tech industry.

  160. Ryan C says:

    Um, wow, way to misunderstand the point. The point isn't to satisfy the Diversity Fairy, but not to WASTE TALENT.

    Oh man. I need someone to draw the Diversity Fairy. But how?!?

  161. Clark says:

    @Ken:

    Put another way: I don't think you can logically challenge my characterization here without equally challenging my characterization in almost all, if not all, of my "speech is tyranny" posts.

    Actually, I've never been fully convinced by that line of argument.

    In some of your posts, I think you succeed in making your case that the candidate du jour applies a different standard to himself and others, but in other cases you don't.

    There are a few different cases:

    case 1: Blogger A says hurtful things, gets butthurt when others respond with hurtful things and wants government to stop the response.

    case 2: Blogger A says hurtful things, gets butthurt when others respond with hurtful things because it's not faaaaaiiiiir

    case 3: Blogger A says hurtful things, criticizes the lynch-mob mentality of people who respond en masse

    Pax is very much case 3: by comparing himself to Emmanuel Goldstein he's pointing out that

    * he has been selected for criticism by a socially connected savvy bunch
    * most of the people joining in the mob haven't engaged in the arguments he's fighting, and – in fact – don't even know the context of his arguments

    As usual, the face of Emmanuel Goldstein, the Enemy of the People, had flashed on to the screen. There were hisses here and there among the audience. Goldstein was the renegade and backslider who once, long ago (how long ago nobody quite remembered), had been one of the leading figures of the Party, almost on a level with BIG BROTHER himself, and then had engaged in counter-revolutionary activities, had been condemned to death and had mysteriously escaped and disappeared.

    The programmes of the Two Minutes Hate varied from day to day, but there was none in which Goldstein was not the principal figure. He was the primal traitor, the earliest defiler of the Party's purity. All subsequent crimes against the Party, all treacheries, acts of sabotage, heresies, deviations, sprang directly out of his teaching. Somewhere or other he was still alive and hatching his conspiracies: perhaps somewhere beyond the sea, under the protection of his foreign paymasters, perhaps even – so it was occasionally rumoured – in some hiding-place in Oceania itself.

    Winston's diaphragm was constricted. He could never see the face of Goldstein without a painful mixture of emotions. It was a lean Jewish face, with a great fuzzy aureole of white hair and a small goatee beard – a clever face, and yet somehow inherently despicable, with a kind of senile silliness in the long thin nose, near the end of which a pair of spectacles was perched. It resembled the face of a sheep, and the voice, too, had a sheep-like quality. Goldstein was delivering his usual venemous attack upon the doctrines of the Party – an attack so exaggerated and perverse that a child should have been able to see through it, and yet just plausible enough to fill one with an alarmed feeling that other people, less level-headed than oneself, might be taken in by it. He was abusing BIG BROTHER, he was denouncing the dictatorship of the Party, he was demanding the immediate conclusion of peace with Eurasia, he was advocating freedom of speech, freedom of the Press, freedom of assembly, freedom of thought, he was crying hysterically that the Revolution has been betrayed – and all this in rapid polysyllabic speech which was a sort of parody of the habitual style of the orators of the Party, and even contained Newspeak words: more Newspeak words, indeed, than any Party member would normally use in real life. And all the while, lest one should be in any doubt as to the reality which Goldstein's specious clap trap covered, behind his head on the telescreen there marched the endless columns of the Eurasian army – row after row of solid-looking men with expressionless Asiatic faces, who swam up to the surface of the screen and vanished, to be replaced by others exactly similar. The dull rhythmic tramp of the soldiers' boots formed the background to Goldstein's bleating voice.

    Before the Hate had proceeded for thirty seconds, uncontrollable exclamations of rage were breaking out from half the people in the room. The self-satisfied sheep-like face on the screen, and the terrifying power of the Eurasian army behind it, were too much to be borne: besides the sight or even the thought of Goldstein produced fear and anger automatically. He was an object of hatred more constant than either Eurasia or Eastasia, since when Oceania was at war with one of these Powers it was generally at peace with the other. But what was strange was that although Goldstein was hated and despised by everybody, although every day and a thousand times a day, on platforms, on the telescreen, in newspapers, in books, his theories were refuted, smashed, ridiculed, held up to the general gaze for the pitiful rubbish that they were – in spite of all this, his influence never seemed to grow less. Always there were fresh dupes waiting to be seduced by him. A day never passed when spies and saboteurs acting under his directions were not unmasked by the Thought Police. He was the commander of a vast shadowy army, an underground network of conspirators dedicated to the overthrow of the State….

    In its second minute the Hate rose to a frenzy. People were leaping up and down in their places and shouting at the tops of their voices in an effort to drown the maddening bleating voice that came from the screen. The little sandy-haired woman had turned bright pink, and her mouth was opening and shutting like that of a landed fish. Even O'Brien's heavy face was flushed. He was sitting very straight in his chair, his powerful chest swelling and quivering as though he were standing up to the assault of a wave. The dark-haired girl behind Winston had begun crying out 'Swine! Swine! Swine!' and suddenly she picked up a heavy Newspeak dictionary and flung it at the screen. It struck Goldstein's nose and bounced off; the voice continued inexorably.

    In a lucid moment Winston found that he was shouting with the others and kicking his heel violently against the rung of his chair. The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but, on the contrary, that it was impossible to avoid joining in. A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge-hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one's will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic…

    The Hate rose to its climax. The voice of Goldstein had become an actual sheep's bleat, and for an instant the face changed into that of a sheep. Then the sheep-face melted into the figure of a Eurasian soldier who seemed to be advancing, huge and terrible, his sub-machine gun roaring, and seeming to spring out of the surface of the screen. But in the same moment, drawing a deep sigh of relief from everybody, the hostile figure melted into the face of BIG BROTHER…

    Winston had heard the whispered story of a terrible book, a compendium of all the heresies, of which Goldstein was the author and which circulated clandestinely here and there. It was a book without title. People referred to it, if at all, simply as the book. But one knew of such things only through vague rumours. Neither the Brotherhood nor the book was a subject that any ordinary Party member would mention if there was a way of avoiding it.

    First: Jesus, Orwell was a genius. My respect for him grows each year.

    Second: Note that Big Brother does not capture and kill Goldstein. Pax was not saying that the government was squashing him. The point of the passage is that the proles in the audience don't know what deviations Goldstein is responsible for, and they don't care. They don't need to read his terrible book to know that it's terrible – they're being told so by their betters, and on cue they hiss and snap their mouths and flush with anger.

    Again, I think the symbology of Pax as Goldstein is perfect – I note that hours before the Pax story broke I was using the exact same imagery for Zimmerman, for exactly the same reason – to reference mass social condemnation, not to reference government opression.

    Personally, I love Pax's venemous attacks upon the doctrines of the Party, and I wish him a long and healthy life so that he can do a lot more of it. If there are occasional misfires (I note that the Valleywag writer had to go back a full three years to find Pax drop the N-bomb, which was in utterly poor taste, and which I will not defend), then so be it.

  162. EAB says:

    Sorry, but as a mother of two seven-year-old daughters, the comment about "gender activists" really REALLY has gotten my goat.

    My husband was encouraged to take up programming as a kid; I was not, and I came to it by accident at a late age. If I hadn't been naturally talented enough to overcome a late start, I would not have been able to achieve what I have in my career. I have helped make millions of dollars for my companies and have made meaningful contributions to the field and to the world, and I almost missed out on all of that completely.

    You had damn well better believe that my daughters are being aggressively encouraged to go into STEM. As seven-year-olds, their "natural preferences" revolve around My Little Pony, and they have no earthly idea whether they would like programming or not. It is my job as their mother to help them do as well for themselves in life as I know they can. That means making them practice the piano, and eat their vegetables, and play a sport even if they're not any good at it, and be exposed and encouraged to STEM.

    If my daughters have any natural talent at all, they will have a powerful advantage that a whole lot of other little girls with the same degree of inborn ability, but who are not the daughters of two coders, will not share. If I could give that to all those other little girls who don't even know they have those talents, I would (and I do try), because it would make the world a better place.

    Characterizing that as some sort of insidious feminist plot is, frankly, really insulting.

  163. ChicagoTom says:

    Look – When it comes to free speech, Pax is one of the good guys. He's libertarian(ish). He's for individual rights. He's against government interventions. Using him as a poster boy for "speech is tyranny" is not only misguided, it's diluting and confusing the very message you're trying to send

    So tribalism is essentially your defense to his being a grade A asshole who got what he deserved. And here I though libertarians were supposed to be better than the right and left tribes. (At least that's what they claim)

    The bottom line is that this asshole decided to publicly out himself as an asshole. And then he got what almost every asshole who publicly outs themselves as an asshole gets. And now his defenders are twisting themselves into contortions to attack people for pointing out that he is an asshole. The butt-hurt is strong in libertarian tribes.

    This guy has to be the LEAST sympathetic figure I have ever seen. Trolling on twitter in some of the most inflammatory ways, and then acting like victim because people made him face consequences for his inflammatory rhetoric??? What exactly did he think was going to happen? Any wounds here are completely self inflicted. You work for someone else and then go around writing inflammatory shit under your real name so now that inflammatory shit is associated with your company…and people think it's bad that guy got fired?! My only question seems to be –what took so long?

    If this jackass was writing under a pseudonym and someone went out of their way to uncover his identity, I would be much more sympathetic. He at least tried to disassociate from his employer in that case. But he didn't give a rat's ass how it looked to the public so he got shit-canned. This is a Dog bites Man story if I have ever seen one.

  164. ChicagoTom says:

    Because the preferences of young girls are less important than the preferences of gender activists

    Yes because young girls are never discouraged from going into STEM careers or areas of studies.

    Clark knows this because he was once a young girl, apparently.

    In fact the whole fucking world is gender blind and no one tries to pidgeon hole people into appropriate gender roles — just like we live in a post racial society.

  165. Ken White says:

    First: Jesus, Orwell was a genius. My respect for him grows each year.

    I agree completely.

    Let me tell you another reason the Goldstein reference irritates me. It's the same reason the "witch hunt" and "lynch mob" language irritates me.

    At the heart of all of them is the notion "I am a thoughtful person who has arrived at my views by rigor and principled logic, after due deliberation. The people against me are a thoughtless horde driven by unreasoning hate and mob mentality. Their viewpoint is entitled to no respect because it is rage, not thought."

    It's a way to argue the opposite of appeal to popularity. It's a way to argue that if a bunch of people express an idea, it is less valid because they are in agreement. They are only being swept along, but I am an Evolved Person above such emotions. In a way it's hipsterish. "Psssshh. Everyone likes that show. They must only like it because it's popular to like it."

    That's not engaging the point. The fact that a large number of people think that, for instance, Pax is a douche does not make it less likely that he's a douche. It may not make it more likely, but it doesn't make it less likely.

    Perhaps I particularly dislike this rhetorical approach because it's so seductive and so easy to accept.

  166. Sinij says:

    Siderail: STEM are not magical ticket to prosperity, as anywhere else there are too many graduates with too few jobs. STEM shortage is a myth perpetuated to push for more HB visas and to keep wages down.

  167. Nerull says:

    It's amazing that the definition of "free speech" used by some arguers here removing that right from other people.

    Take the earlier example of a restaurant owner with a Klan habit. His habit could loose him his job because people might not want to eat here. The solution, apparently, is to force people to eat there at gunpoint. Because there is really no other way to "fix" this infringement upon his free speech.

    Do you really realize what you're arguing? That the speech of certain individuals is so precious that others must be forbidden from using speech of their own in response?

  168. Katie says:

    Does it ever say why they fired him? It seems, to me, to be more likely that he was fired because he seems to like to challenge people he works with and/or are in the same building to fights? Once again, calling people names is one thing, but threats of physical harm is, you know, sort of less legal.

  169. ChicagoTom says:

    You had damn well better believe that my daughters are being aggressively encouraged to go into STEM

    Apparently the "gender activists" (and you can feel the disdain Clark has for those people in his comment) have gotten to you. Don't you know that if your little girls were drawn to those things they wouldn't need any encouragement at all. Ignore the fact that those fields are dominated by males and strong female role models are hard to come by, and that there tends to be bias against women in those fields — that's just nature doing whats natural. At a young age they know what they want and don't need your encouragement (read: brainwashing)

  170. corporal lint says:

    ChicagoTom, nowadays in a lot of primary and secondary schools everyone with any smarts at all is being pushed towards STEM. There's some brainwashing that's gone on, but it has little or nothing to do with feminism.

  171. rubysububi says:

    Pax Dickinson had the right to act like an asshole on Twitter, and Business Insider had the right to fire him when his toxic idiocy left nasty stains on their brand. Since the government is not censoring Pax Dickinson, he doesn't need any help with his free speech issues. (Except maybe from a very patient therapist.)

  172. Marconi Darwin says:

    most of the people joining in the mob haven't engaged in the arguments he's fighting, and – in fact – don't even know the context of his arguments

    Is there a good way to tweet authorial intent?

  173. Clark says:

    @ChicagoTom

    Apparently the "gender activists" (and you can feel the disdain Clark has for those people in his comment)

    Ah, excellent – my writing style is doing its job.

  174. Clark says:

    @Katie

    Does it ever say why they fired him? It seems, to me, to be more likely that he was fired because he seems to like to challenge people he works with and/or are in the same building to fights? Once again, calling people names is one thing, but threats of physical harm is, you know, sort of less legal.

    Shorter Katie:

    "I've never met him, and I have no reason to believe that he's picked a fight, but he disagrees with me, so I bet he's violent."

  175. eddie says:

    So tribalism is essentially your defense to his being a grade A asshole who got what he deserved.

    No.

    Ken is going after people who conflate social consequences with government action. I was pointing out to Ken that, as best as I can tell, Pax is exactly the kind of person who does not do that.

    It's got nothing to do with tribalism, and I'm not defending his being a grade A asshole. You're probably misreading or misunderstanding my comments.

  176. James Pollock says:

    "Siderail: STEM are not magical ticket to prosperity, as anywhere else there are too many graduates with too few jobs. STEM shortage is a myth perpetuated to push for more HB visas and to keep wages down."

    Wages go UP when there is a shortage of skilled workers ready to do the work today. You only need to keep wages DOWN if they have gone UP.
    The problem is that previous training/education/experience in STEM may not translate to the STEM job that is open TODAY. All of the STEM career fields move rapidly, and 20 years experience doing x may not translate into any ability to do y at all. (When I learned my field, NetWare was at least 90% of servers, DOS was well over 90% of clients, and they were linked with 10BaseT. If you learned IT more than 4-5 years ago, you probably missed the virtualization movement entirely and have had to update your skillset as the way network services are provided has been changed at a fundamental level.

    That's why there can be both a surplus of people trained in STEM and unfilled STEM jobs at the same time.

  177. Chris says:

    case 2: Blogger A says hurtful things, gets butthurt when others respond with hurtful things because it's not faaaaaiiiiir

    case 3: Blogger A says hurtful things, criticizes the lynch-mob mentality of people who respond en masse

    I'm not really seeing the difference between cases 2 and 3 here. Case 3 seems to be a subset of case 2.

  178. James Pollock says:

    "At a young age they know what they want and don't need your encouragement (read: brainwashing)"
    Encouragement to try things and brainwashing are thoroughly different things.

  179. James Pollock says:

    ""I've never met him, and I have no reason to believe that he's picked a fight, but he disagrees with me, so I bet he's violent."

    Clark, you want to re-read the article again, and look at the pictures this time.

    Granted, "you want to say that to my face" isn't EXPLICITLY a challenge to a fight, but it's tough to find any alternative interpretation that rings true.

  180. John Cain says:

    Personally, I love Pax's venemous attacks upon the doctrines of the Party, and I wish him a long and healthy life so that he can do a lot more of it. If there are occasional misfires (I note that the Valleywag writer had to go back a full three years to find Pax drop the N-bomb, which was in utterly poor taste, and which I will not defend), then so be it.

    Yeah, this broadside against the party was totally the tits, brah. Your boy's awesome. Fuck Nelson Mandela!

  181. Xenocles says:

    @Lizard-

    "On the unicorn thing… I can't see how this is interpreted as condemning quota systems."

    Here's how I interpreted it. I try to maintain a charitable view when I don't know a lot, so keep that in mind:

    "Tech managers are busy people with some challenging roles to fill. They don't care about the gender of their people, just that they can do the job. "Female" (and unstated but understood, "male") is as much of a qualification as "unicorn" is. Thus any time spend concerned with these extra constraints in hiring is a waste."

    I don't know this guy. I can see the issue with a mythical creature as the hyperbolic example. But this strikes me as a plausible interpretation of the tweet in the absence of other data.

  182. Clark says:

    @James Pollock

    ""I've never met him, and I have no reason to believe that he's picked a fight, but he disagrees with me, so I bet he's violent."

    Clark, you want to re-read the article again, and look at the pictures this time.

    Granted, "you want to say that to my face" isn't EXPLICITLY a challenge to a fight, but it's tough to find any alternative interpretation that rings true.

    I read it as entirely congruent with my reading of the Emmanuel Goldstein reference:

    "A crowd of you are mouthing off about me as a braying horde, not acknowledging that I'm an actual human being. Would you be this rude in a normal social setting where you're not part of a mob?"

    The addressing a tormentor by name and making an appeal to civilized norms to break the fever of a mob is a staple of literature. To quote a bit from To Kill a Mockinbird:

    “Don’t you remember me, Mr. Cunningham? I’m Jean Louise Finch. You brought us some hickory nuts one time, remember?” I began to sense the futility one feels when unacknowledged by a chance acquaintance.

    “I go to school with Walter,” I began again. “He’s your boy ain’t he? Ain’t he, sir?”

    Cunningham was moved to a faint nod. He did know me, after all.

    “He’s in my grade,” I said, “and he does right well. He’s a good boy,” I added, “a real nice boy. We brought him home for dinner one time. Maybe he told you about me, I beat him up one time but he was real nice about it. Tell him hey for me, won’t you?”

    Note that Pax is not fighting Anil Dash but is actually hanging out with him later:

    https://twitter.com/paxdickinson/status/377563915284008960

  183. Chris says:

    But this strikes me as a plausible interpretation of the tweet in the absence of other data.

    In this case, I don't think we're operating in the absence of other data. Given the number of his other tweets that clearly seem intended to offend, the mental gymnastics required to come up with an inoffensive meaning for this particular tweet seems rather implausible.

  184. Marshall Moseley says:

    You are using euphemisms for, essentially, blacklisting. Criticize this guy? Sure. But when someone exercises a constitutional right and then you go after their livelihood, that's attacking the exercise of that right.

    According to your logic, the Hollywood studios of the 1950s were just delivering 'natural consequences' when they drove Dalton Trumbo to move to Mexico.

    This is differentiated from someone like Rush Limbaugh where his livelihood *is* the message. Boycotts are fine. But if you go after someone's employment because you don't like what they said, you are a thug.

    It's a classic propaganda technique — wrap the unacceptable in different language and present it as if it's reasonable.

  185. Chrysoprase says:

    US libertarians think of responsibility as European socialists think of redistribution: fine if it happens to other people. Can we stop pretending either (and particularly this little tit) are relevant?

  186. Xenocles says:

    " Boycotts are fine. But if you go after someone's employment because you don't like what they said, you are a thug."

    What do you think a boycott is that doesn't threaten employment?

  187. Lee says:

    @Mike: people who express unpopular opinions in their spare time

    Dude, way to trivialize the point! Pax's opinions were not "unpopular" — they were vicious and hateful and, as Ken points out, exposed his employer to potential legal issues. His employer therefore, quite rationally, chose to terminate his association with them.

    Not to mention, would you want to have a person in your chain of command who publicly voiced such "unpopular opinions" about a group that includes YOU? This isn't likely to happen to you, of course, as you are almost certainly straight, white and male, and therefore playing on the Easiest Setting There Is.

  188. Michelle C. says:

    It's the internet people are gonna be a**es and say what they want if you don't like what they say stop following them or reading their blogs.

  189. eddie says:

    @Ken:

    It's a way to argue the opposite of appeal to popularity. It's a way to argue that if a bunch of people express an idea, it is less valid because they are in agreement.

    It would be, if it were an argument. In the present case at hand, I don't think it was ever intended to be an argument. It was simply an observation, and, I think, a correct one.

    Pointing out that a mob is being mobbish is, if anything, an argument against being mobbish, not an argument against whatever the mob is chanting.

  190. Chris says:

    Not to mention, would you want to have a person in your chain of command who publicly voiced such "unpopular opinions" about a group that includes YOU? This isn't likely to happen to you, of course, as you are almost certainly straight, white and male, and therefore playing on the Easiest Setting There Is.

    I am a straight white male. In my former career as an academic I often heard people senior to me voice such "unpopular opinions" about groups that included me.

  191. Lizard says:

    Because the preferences of young girls are less important than the preferences of gender activists?

    This would imply there is some pure, ordained by nature, preferences which young girls (and boys, and those who aren't sure yet) have transmitted to them at conception, and that interfering in this ordained purity is base malice. This is as patently ridiculous as the extreme leftist opposite, that everyone is born a perfect tabula rasa, and the entirety of society was contrived by The Patriarchy, sometime around 100,000 BC.

    The "preferences of young (anyones)" are determined by a mix of inclination and social conditioning. Inclination can't change; human nature, and individual nature, is what it is. A lot of who I am was determined by what sperm won the lottery. A lot of who I am, and how my innate tendencies manifested was determined by my upbringing, culture, the values my parents chose to emphasize, the options luck presented to me, etc. Consensus society is based on multiple conflicting groups stating their ideas about what should be valued and what shouldn't. You can argue for or against any group's choice of values using a lot of different means, but "You are substituting natural preferences for your unnatural ones!" isn't really a strong one. Teaching girls they should *not* be interested in programming, either implicitly or explicitly, is no more or less an interference in their "natural" preferences. I think everyone is happier when they are aware of the range of choices they CAN make, and are not taught to exclude or forget about some based on reasons not relevant to their ability. (Again, at the instant sperm and egg met, for me, it was ordained I would never be a professional athlete, or artist, or musician, or a lot of other things. But, it is easy for me to imagine being raised by some of my more illiterate and dull-minded relatives, and not have realized I could have a career of the mind, not the body, because no one made it clear to me that was a choice I could actually *make*. No one should be forced into programming, or anything else, if they don't like it, but to say that it's wrong to make an effort to inform them that this is something they can *consider* is ridiculous.)

  192. Ken White says:

    @eddie:

    Pointing out that a mob is being mobbish is, if anything, an argument against being mobbish, not an argument against whatever the mob is chanting.

    If it's not an argument about substance — "these people only say this because they are in a mob mentality, they have no argument for it" — then what does it say or mean?

    Does it just mean too many people are talking at once? Too many people are criticizing or ridiculing simultaneously?

    "Don't write about this person. You'll tip us over into a mob. Only 10 people can tweet about him today. Otherwise it's mobbish."

    Again: I think "mob" is just a reductive dismissal of a bunch of people disagreeing with you at once.

  193. Lizard says:

    But that's a rabbit hole I really don't want to go into, because all I come to at the end is a giant sign reading "…and humans as a group tend to suck."

    Well, duh. :)

    I don't think it's possible to have any kind of meaningful discussion about human society, as it is, how it could be, or how it should be, without starting with that as a given.

  194. MrA says:

    @Ken, @eddie,

    Ken, I think you're confusing the term "mob" with "chorus". "mob" speaks to intent in a way that chorus doesn't. Dickinson's tweets suggesting a mob makes a particular point, and, I think, makes it reasonably well. Most were there not to reason or disagree, but to attempt to silence and punish.

  195. eddie says:

    I think "mob" is just a reductive dismissal of a bunch of people disagreeing with you at once.

    Well… yes. But usually the mob has dismissed you as well. Try engaging in productive discussion and debate with a thousand people at once sometime. I'm sure you've seen something like this yourself from time to time right here.

    Besides, not everything is an argument, nor needs to be. Sometimes rhetoric is just venting. Being targeted by a mob is something well worth venting about.

    Although in Pax's case, I think it's not venting but rather gloating. I suspect he'll be wearing it as a badge of pride, not unlike some other acquaintance of ours on a somewhat different topic #giff…

  196. EAB says:

    "Tech managers are busy people with some challenging roles to fill. They don't care about the gender of their people, just that they can do the job."

    Tech managers who don't give any thought to the possibility of gender bias in hiring are tech managers who aren't doing a very good job.

    Look, the thing you have to understand is that we programmers think of ourselves as perfectly rational beings of pure thought. We're very good at justifying our right(eous)ness because $REASONS, at inventing as many $REASONS as necessary, and refusing to consider the possibility that we're wrong. If you don't believe me, go ask a group of programmers what are the best text editors and programming languages, and watch the fur fly. (We don't call them "holy wars" for nothing. )

    The truth is that we're not all Spockian geniuses. We're just as irrational as any other group of intelligent people, only we're better at refusing to admit it. And if you don't think that attitude bleeds over into hiring, you're kidding yourself.

    This is a subgroup of people which overlaps heavily with the subgroup who has serious arguments about whether women are real SFF fans or if they're just into it to catch boys now that ComicCon is cool. We did every hipster exclusionary stereotype before hipsters thought they invented them, only with ThinkGeek t-shirts and Mountain Dew. And the unpleasant result is that if we want to throw an interview or come up with a bunch of reasons not to hire a particular candidate, we're really really good at doing it. We ask a bunch of ridiculous nit-picky questions about the order of arguments to a certain function, or claim their code sample isn't elegant enough, or ask them what their favorite version-control system is and sneer at the results, or find some other gotcha question that sounds impressive but really has zero relevance to the job requirements.

    You're simply going to have bias in your hiring unless you actively work against it, because the truth of this particular culture is that there is an awful lot of bias floating around ranging from subtle to overt. There's no way that doesn't impact the hiring process too.

  197. James Pollock says:

    "The addressing a tormentor by name and making an appeal to civilized norms to break the fever of a mob is a staple of literature. To quote a bit from To Kill a Mockinbird:"

    That's a non-denial denial if I ever heard one. Challenging someone to a fight as "an appeal to civilized norms to break the fever of a mob."?

    In what civilization? Certainly not THIS one.

  198. CJK Fossman says:

    Seems to be a lot of smoke being blown about the unicorn thing. How about, just for the sake of a thought experiment, we tweak the wording a bit:

    "Readers spend as much time looking for an intelligent comment by $YOU as they do looking for intelligent comments by unicorns."

    Let that settle in a bit, then come back and tell us how it's not a slam against $YOU.

  199. Lizard says:

    But this strikes me as a plausible interpretation of the tweet in the absence of other data.

    "You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means."

  200. Lizard says:

    Oh man. I need someone to draw the Diversity Fairy. But how?!?

    Only one answer to that: http://www.theonion.com/articles/graphic-artist-carefully-assigns-ethnicities-to-an,1588/

  201. CJK Fossman says:

    @EAB

    Right on, except you gave a free pass to the comment about "tech managers [having] challenging roles to fill."

    I would be surprised if the author of that sentence ever actually worked for a "tech manager."

    Anyone reading this who has not worked for a "tech manager," realize this: Dilbert is a documentary.

  202. TM says:

    @CJK Fossman

    You modified that comment a bit more than just changing the subject. Or more accurately, you changed the subject from a collection of individuals to the specific actions of a specific individual, and you changd the action from worrying about how to get those individuals to looking for those actions. A better modified version would be:

    "Readers spend as much time worrying about how to find intelligent posts from men (or insert other group here) as they do worrying about how to find intelligent posts from unicorns."

    To which the question is, is that a statement about "men", or a statement about "worrying about how to find those posts"?

    I agree with the other posters that it read far more like the former than the latter but I can also see that it is ambiguous without being overly charitable either.

    In all, I continue to be amazed by how many people don't see what a horrible method of communication twitter is. Using it to make any nuanced point (or really any point that relies on anything other than the worst interpretation of the literal words) is like trying to hold a political debate with bumper stickers.

  203. Matthew Cline says:

    @eddie:

    Well… yes. But usually the mob has dismissed you as well. Try engaging in productive discussion and debate with a thousand people at once sometime. I'm sure you've seen something like this yourself from time to time right here.

    Besides, not everything is an argument, nor needs to be. Sometimes rhetoric is just venting. Being targeted by a mob is something well worth venting about.

    Trying to engage with too many people at once on the Internet at once is futile/frustrating, but it doesn't deserve to be compared to a person in-the-flesh encountering a large group of people who are angry at him/her. Pax might be using the word "mob" hyperbolically (if he's using that word at all), but there seems to be a significant number of people using that word who aren't engaging in hyperbole.

  204. Al I. says:

    @Clark, they're meeting up for chocolates, because Anil's response to this guy's brogrammer hyperbole-scented bluff was to laugh and deflate it. He changed the game, which does not necessarily having a bearing on Pax's original intent. (Or stated intent vs actual intent, since Pax seems to be full of shit.)

  205. EAB says:

    "Or more accurately, you changed the subject from a collection of individuals to the specific actions of a specific individual"

    No, CJK Fossman didn't. $YOU in that context means a collection of individuals of which you are a part. It's perfectly clear that saying "looking for intelligent comments by people whose names start with T is like looking for unicorns" is an insult directed at you, not some sort of statement about the irrelevance of the name T to the quality of the comment.

  206. Aaron Meyer says:

    Ken, to be fair I think that Pax is at least partially right about the first twitter quote. (See https://encyclopediadramatica.se/Mad_Mel note that the site is not exactly work safe.)

    That said, I also think it's clear that Pax isn't anywhere close to blameless here. The entire situation highlights an issue inherent to "social media." Namely, that what you say is archived, but the context in which you say it is not. Though it seems to me that the quote was likely readily identifiable as a satirical reference to Mel Gibson's insane rantings at the time it was posted, it's abundantly clear that it is definitely not readily identifiable as such today.

    Twitter's character limit exacerbates the problem by substantially curtailing the ability to include context within a post and a person offering "social media consulting services" (as Pax claims to now be doing) has no excuse for being oblivious to these potential pitfalls. There's similarly no excuse for being unaware of the probable social consequences of his tweets given the current climate. Like the proverbial tortfeasor and the eggshell plaintiff, the speaker must be prepared to take the public reaction as he or she finds it.

  207. Clark says:

    @Al I.:

    @Clark, they're meeting up for chocolates, because Anil's response to this guy's brogrammer hyperbole-scented bluff was to laugh and deflate it. He changed the game

    Changed the game? From calling some guy he'd never met "an asshole" when he thought he was anonymous in a mob, to treating him like a human being when he was called out by name?

    Cool.

    I approve.

    It's a shame he started out with such a stupid game, but it's great that he's changed it to an non-autistic real-human-being one.

  208. wgering says:

    @CJK Fossman: Stop mocking me! All my time spent looking for unicorn comments will pay off when I find one and prove their existence!

    *ahem*
    *straightens tie*
    *serious face*

    @Roman Candle said pretty much everything I was going to. Guy says First-Amendment-protected thing that offends some people; company decides they don't want to have employees who offend people, so they use First-Amendment-protected freedom of association to fire offensive guy.

    I see no censorship here.

    Are we going to do this every time someone says something that hurts someone else's delicate fee-fees?

  209. Tarrou says:

    So if I have this right, with regard to free speech………

    Salacious, controversial, and offensive speech is free speech is good, and when it is misused….

    Criticism of that speech is also speech, and is good. More speech!

    But complaining about that criticism is bad.

    And here we reach that meta level, where I complain* about a post complaining about a post complaining about the tweet complaining about the original speech. This is where trying to police the opinions of the world takes us in short order. Things get silly fast.

    *more confused than complaining, but it fit the flow.

  210. Ben says:

    @EAB

    Thanks for writing. I read a bit about those classical music blind auditions and it was enlightening. As a recent graduate of computer science I can attest to the fact that a typical gender ratio in almost all of my classes was 10:1. It was discouraging.

  211. Xenocles says:

    @Lizard, et al.-

    It actually doesn't matter if the only qualification for tech people is breathing. It only matters that you could interpret that statement with respect to gender-based hiring as I suggested.

    Maybe it's not plausible if you know the guy's an asshole with a low opinion of women. I don't know him from Adam, and I don't really care to. All I know is that if I read just that tweet, or even that tweet along with some cherry-picked ones (like the ones in this article), you could assign a reasonable probability to the idea that he was saying something about the idea that hiring women is a good in itself as opposed to the idea that he was saying that women have no qualifications.

    Without getting pedantic, plausible to me means something like "there's a reasonable likelihood it could happen or have happened." If you put yourself in my position how can that not be a plausible interpretation?

    I'm not even trying to defend the guy. You said there was no way to interpret that statement other than negatively, and I offered one. Has anyone asked for clarification? I'm afraid I don't twit.

  212. Lizard says:

    Without getting pedantic, plausible to me means something like "there's a reasonable likelihood it could happen or have happened." If you put yourself in my position how can that not be a plausible interpretation?

    Well, yes, if I put myself in your position, which I am now thinking is on the planet Htrae in the pre-crisis DC universe, it is indeed a plausible explanation. However, here on Earth-Prime (or Earth-247, I think, in the current set-up — honestly, I haven't kept track since the mid-90s), Occam's Razor dictates that you're creating unnecessary assumptions in order to justify your theory. Barring the presentation of other evidence, we must assume that the use of a mythical creature is a metaphor for another, equally mythical, creature. "Unicorn" is almost never used as symbolic shorthand meaning "irrelevant"; it is used nearly exclusively to mean "non-existent".

    To make the argument you claim he was trying to make, he might have said "Tech managers are as concerned about gender as they are about hair color", or "Tech managers spend as much time worrying about hiring women as they do about hiring Yankees fans over Mets fans", or a million other metaphors which made it clear that gender is irrelevant. The burden of proof is on you to show that your inobvious, counter-intuitive interpretation is superior to the intuitive, obvious, one. "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence", and all that. (If you think it's *not* an extraordinary claim, or that your explanation is not inobvious or counter-intuitive, say "Goodbye" to Bizarro Number One for me.)

  213. Lizard says:

    Are we going to do this every time someone says something that hurts someone else's delicate fee-fees?

    Having been active in online communities since 1989, I can safely say, "Yes. Yes, we will."

  214. Unimaginative says:
    The general consensus of the STEM education community isn't that female developers are rare because they can't do it, it's that they're rare because they don't want to do it.

    This seems to be a cultural belief rather than anything based on evidence.

    Such a lack of evidence as provided by multiple studies to find out why women are leaving STEM jobs. For example, at Princeton, they found:

    So why do women leave science, engineering, and technology careers? The answer comes in five parts. First and foremost, the hostility of the workplace culture drives them out. If machismo is on the run in most U.S. corporate settings, then this is its Alamo—a last holdout of redoubled intensity. Second is the dispiriting sense of isolation that comes when a woman is the only female on her team or at her rank—a problem exacerbated for others when she in turn leaves.

    source: http://hbr.org/2008/06/stopping-the-exodus-of-women-in-science/ emphasis mine.

    I don't know this guy. I can see the issue with a mythical creature as the hyperbolic example. But this strikes me as a plausible interpretation of the tweet in the absence of other data.

    There is other data, though. The hostility against women in the workplace in the tech industry is quite well documented. Knowing that, why would anyone (absent personal experience with this specific person in this specific business) NOT interpret the unicorn line as implying that he would not consider hiring a woman in tech?

  215. RomanCandle says:

    I was asked several comments earlier to explain my semi-defense of the unicorn remarks.

    Bottom line, I put more weight into Pax's actions (actually hiring women) than a series of tweets. Of course I can't say for sure if he discriminated against otherwise qualified women, but neither can anyone else.

    And that's why it's absurd to suggest he deserved to be fired for discriminating against female applicants. It's not something that has been proven, it's almost impossible to prove, and such a standard would indict nearly every person who hires people for a living and has expressed an opinion on just about anything or anyone.

    It's just a cop-out for people who don't want to admit the truth: the only reason he was fired was for offending people's delicate sensibilities.

    Bottom line: just because his firing is legally justified doesn't mean that it can't be criticized on a moral level. And those of us see Pax's firing as an overreaction and a moral panic are not automatically guilty of double standard or hypocrisy, despite what this post suggests.

    Free speech has consequences. But your free speech consequences have consequences too.

  216. RomanCandle says:

    @Tarrou

    We're both trying to say the same thing.

    It's very hard to articulate because it's so meta and circular, but I hope we made ourselves clear to those of us who disagree.

    Everyone here seems to be operating in good faith, which is quite rare in my experience.

  217. CJK Fossman says:

    @TM

    I appreciate the response, but it was a little off point.

    Imagine yourself to be a member of $YOU. Doesn't matter if you are the only member or half the world's population is in there with you. Get yourself into the role.

    Then tell me how you would view my amended statement would be anything but a slam directed as you by virtue of your membership in $YOU.

  218. Unimaginative says:

    And that's why it's absurd to suggest he deserved to be fired for discriminating against female applicants. It's not something that has been proven, it's almost impossible to prove, and such a standard would indict nearly every person who hires people for a living and has expressed an opinion on just about anything or anyone.

    I don't think anybody in this thread said he was or should have been fired for declining to hire women. My understanding is that he was fired for creating evidence that could be used against his employer should someone sue them for sex discrimination. His tweets made him a liability to the company, so they axed him.

  219. CJK Fossman says:

    I put more weight into Pax's actions (actually hiring women) than a series of tweets

    Any evidence for that? Any evidence he hired a programmer, as opposed to an administrative assistant, for example?

    Criticism of that speech is also speech, and is good. More speech!

    But complaining about that criticism is bad.

    I don't think anyone ever said that complaining about criticism is bad as such.

    Pax Dickinson and his supporters are trying to equate his situation to real suppression of speech. By real suppression I mean arrest, sham trial and sentencing to a re-education camp, hard labor or house arrest.

    That action trivializes the real suppression of speech that goes on in the world.

  220. Ken White says:

    @Clark:

    Changed the game? From calling some guy he'd never met "an asshole" when he thought he was anonymous in a mob, to treating him like a human being when he was called out by name?

    Your abruptly shifting sensibilities about indecorous speech are giving me whiplash.

  221. Lizard says:

    Just wondering… where did anyone say he was fired for any reason OTHER than being an embarrassment to his employer? No one, that I can see, is "hiding" that, or "not admitting" it, or "avoiding" it. It seems to have been stated many times, over and over. At best, it can be speculated that if, at some future date, someone has some grounds to sue BI over discrimination, failure to take action against an employee could be considered evidence. However, I don't see anyone claiming this as the sole or even primary reason. (To be fair, with the length of this comment thread, I may have missed it.) The zeitgeist I get from this thread is "Guy's an asshat, and there's no legal or moral requirement for a company to employ an asshat if they don't want to be linked to him any more."

    That's pretty much been the point of this entire thread: That there's social consequences to speech. Further, it's a never-ending cycle. There's no "I win, conversation over" card. Person A says a thing. Person B says "Only jerks say that!" Person C says, "No, you're the jerk!" Person D considers the arguments and says, "No, Person B has a point." Person E says "President 'Obummer' is a Zionist Communist Muslim![1]", because if any thread goes on long enough, you get one of those. And it just goes on, forever, until everyone gets bored. Point, counterpoint, counter-counter-point, etc.

    If people want to organize a mass protest of BI or start an Indiegogo compaign to give this Pax guy money for a startup or whatever, that's their right. If people want to protest the people doing this and convince those supporting them to pull their support, that's their right. On, and on, and on, it goes. This is how society works. This is how cultures form and change. This should not need to be spelled out to anyone capable of using a computer without shorting out the keys by drooling on them.

    It ought to be remembered that the marketplace of ideas, like all marketplaces, doesn't always favor the products we like best — or even those products that seem objectively superior. Free speech is not valued because it is a means to a particular end. It is an end in itself. While it can be argued effectively that restrictions on speech harm minorities (of all sorts — ethnic, religious, philosophical, political, sexual, all of the above) more than they harm the majority (because, by definition, you do not need to protect speech most people agree with), that's not the justification for free speech. One does not, and should not, have to hold each example of speech up to some lens to decide if it should be permitted because it will serve the public good. The marketplace of ideas is not defensible only on the grounds that the "right" ideas ultimately win out. People can, have, and will sell "bad ideas" in the marketplace, and sometimes out-compete good ideas. In the long run, perhaps, bad ideas show their lack of worth and are discarded, and that's good, but it's not what justifies the concept in the first place.

    [1]Google "Obama zionist communist muslim". Prepare to giggle. Then realize they're serious. Prepare to giggle even *more*.

  222. Mark - Lord of the Albino Squirrels says:

    Possible money making scheme #108:

    1) "Discover" new mental disorder: Twitter Aphasia Induced Nuance Tourette's syndrome.

    Cause: Ourdecliningeducationalsystem combined with long term exposure to general postmodern linguistic deconstructivist elements in micro length literary electronic communications.

    Symptoms:
    a) an inability to understand the connotation or nuance of words, phrases, and idioms within one's first language. This narrow aphasia is especially pronounced for linguistic constructions deemed inflammatory, stupid, or offensive by non-sufferers.
    b) a nigh overwhelming urge to use such words, phrases, or idioms often in speaking due to reaction-philic nature of syndrome
    c) Inappropriate or controversial outbursts seem to become prevalent in tertiary stage of syndrome. Nuance/connotation aphasia is most pronounced during this period.
    d) Repetitive vocalization consisting entirely of words related to denial – Example "outofcontext outofcontext", "notwhatImeant notwhatImeant", "Witchhunt witchhunt"
    - is common in late stages.

    2) Provide well paid expert testimony on this diabolical syndrome for wealthy/famous clients facing economic hardship, social opprobrium, or termination of employment caused by their "condition".

    3) Open expensive clinic/sanatarium to treat those suffering from syndrome after discovering my patented Subtle Nuance Optimization Relearning Technique.

    4) Court ordered treatment for TAINT syndrome victims a possibility?

    5) Profit.

  223. RomanCandle says:

    "Pax Dickinson and his supporters are trying to equate his situation to real suppression of speech. By real suppression I mean arrest, sham trial and sentencing to a re-education camp, hard labor or house arrest."

    Most here clearly are not.

    Until you stop setting this particular strawman aflame, I'm afraid there is not much more to say.

  224. RomanCandle says:

    "I don't think anybody in this thread said he was or should have been fired for declining to hire women. My understanding is that he was fired for creating evidence that could be used against his employer should someone sue them for sex discrimination. His tweets made him a liability to the company, so they axed him."

    But as I said in my comment that you quoted, such a standard would be so farcically broad as to include just about anyone. Again, so broad that its meaningless. That's not the reason he was a liability.

    He was a liability to the company because of his extremely un-PC Twitter feed. There's a reason 90% of the criticism has focused on his opinions, not some nebulous bias conspiracy.

  225. Unimaginative says:

    He was a liability to the company because of his extremely un-PC Twitter feed. There's a reason 90% of the criticism has focused on his opinions, not some nebulous bias conspiracy.

    I honestly have no idea what you're saying here. His tweets showed that his opinions were sexist and racist, and he was in a position to decide, or to influence the decision, of whom to hire. His tweets, therefore, make the company vulnerable if somebody they didn't hire decided they were passed over because of his sexist, racist influence.

    His tweets also let people know that, if they give their money to this company (which didn't fire him for racist and sexist tweets), they are supporting a company that condones behaviour they abhor. People are allowed to give their money, or not, to a company whose politics they have an opinion about.

    I'm not seeing a conspiracy. He pulled an asshole move, and apparently has a history of doing so. People noticed, and mocked him. Others were offended, and pointed out his assholery to still others, and his fame grew. His employers noticed that he was attracting negative attention instead of positive, and dissociated from him. That's not a conspiracy. It's not even a mob. That's a person's reputation getting out there.

    If you think his employers should ignore massive negative attention from their market demographic, and keep him on as a "fuck you" to people's over-delicate sensibilities, you're not much of a businessperson.

    You said yourself, his tweets made him a liability to his employers, so they fired him. He made the tweets. That's nobody's fault but his own.

  226. Allen says:

    I would posit that this was not exactly what got him fired, but was merely the last potato that made lame the llama.

    Tigers and stripes and all that.

  227. James Pollock says:

    I see some argument along the lines of "although he did, in fact, write many things which many people found inflammatory, many people do much worse and do not get the same uproar", and thus the response was "disproportionate" as Ken suggests the argument might lie. Some pushback would have been fine, but not something someone should lose their job over. (With related examination on whether anyone should EVER lose their job over things they say on their own time.)

    Of course, any time you do something inflammatory, it is entirely possible that you will be the wrong person at the wrong time and the response will be wildly disproportionate. I think I, personally, would be more sympathetic to complaints of disproportionality from someone who said something innocently or even ignorantly, as opposed to someone who says provocative things on purpose.

  228. no no says:

    The clearly delineated lines of support for "social consequences for speech" break down when you factor in proportionality. Valleywag and other Gawker blogs are essentially 4chan raids under the guise of reporting. Look who laughs and cackles when a Gawker target loses their job or gets harassed off the net, then look at those same people when it happens to Adria Richards. Then suddenly they aren't "social consequences," it is bullying. And the worst doesn't just happen to women: at the extreme end, George Zimmerman got death threats. Much, much further down, the Penny Arcade webcomic guys got death threats for a comic and their response. Another webcomic creator, "Our Valued Customers," got death threats for a comic he posted. Gawker is not above slamming little people up against the wall either, they've delighted in publicizing racist tweets by children, the addresses of legal gun owning citizens, a host of other "small" people that any one of us may find objectionable but don't deserve to have their lives or reputations permanently threatened for ad clicks.

    Are Internet flash mobs a "social consequences of speech?" Even if someone is an a-hole, to what degree do they deserve what happens to them?

  229. Clark says:

    @Ken White

    @Clark:

    Changed the game? From calling some guy he'd never met "an asshole" when he thought he was anonymous in a mob, to treating him like a human being when he was called out by name?

    Your abruptly shifting sensibilities about indecorous speech are giving me whiplash.

    Ken,

    I'm not arguing that calling someone an asshole online is beyond the pale. You do it, I do it. It's the internet.

    In the above quote I am specifically arguing again poster Al I's
    comment to the effect that Pax was an a-hole and Anil, through his greater maturity, "defused" Pax or something and turned it into a chocolate man-date (and, Jesus, I've just learned another phrase that I'm never going to Google).

    Pax gleefully chooses an a-hole persona online.

    Anil responded to Pax like an a-hole.

    My thoughts on things up to that point? Rage on, twitter warriors!

    …but then the two dudes chilled out and decided to grab a drink.

    My thoughts on that? Great. Fine. Whatever.

    I'm narrowly and specifically targeting Al I's attempt to paint this micro-story as having one guilty party and one good party.

    Nothing more.

  230. James Pope says:

    NotSont, this is precisely why I expressed concern — because being both gay and atheist (and in an interracial marriage to a Buddhist, no less), I see this sort of thing happening all the time. I'm not very sad about Pax losing his job. But I worry about people in my communities facing "social consequences" because they said or did something unpopular.

    Which is why the government has intervened directly in employment law, etc for creating special cases for religion, sexual orientation, race, and gender – because it would be very easy otherwise for the normal "social consequences" mill to make a lesbian unemployable, or get a person fired for not participating in someone's idea of "teamwork exercises" that involved prayer.

    Everything else? It's open season.

  231. That Anonymous Coward says:

    @James Pope – did I miss a memo? I was pretty sure that orientation isn't a nationwide employment law thing.

  232. eddie says:

    His tweets showed that his opinions were sexist and racist, and he was in a position to decide, or to influence the decision, of whom to hire

    Which tweets show his opinions to be racist?

    If you're referring to the one about "The Passion Of The Christ 2" posted by Ken above, you should be aware that that was a satire of Mel Gibson's racist comments. When Pax made that tweet three and a half years ago, Gibson's comments were topical, and anyone reading the tweet at the time would have immediately understood the context and recognized it as a satirical attack against a racist.

    This has been pointed out in this thread already, and Ken has already updated the post accordingly. But I guess not everyone has gotten the memo yet.

  233. JT says:

    Late to the discussion as usual, but thanks Ken for a great post. I teach undergraduates, and when I pose the question "can an employer fire you for something you put on Facebook?" I usually hear a loud "NO! That's freedom of speech!!"

    Also, being in academia, I often hear the bullying/chilling argument and talk of speech codes and such. The idea of "silencing" is often abused here. I do believe in the existence of structural discrimination, but I am curious about people in relative positions of power complaining of being "silenced" by someone in a slightly higher position of power as a response to criticism. If you boil down the argument, it goes like this:

    A: Here's my idea.
    B: I don't like that idea.
    A: You hate me.

  234. StopEquivocating says:

    Instigating a twitter shitstorm by posting selective, out of context tweets beside emotionally manipulative language, is not "Social Consequences". It's a dishonest misrepresentation and deliberately designed to cause adverse consequences to the individual victim. Instigating in a witch-burning and then blaming the witch is not "social consequences"

    The point of free speech is facilitating the free exchange of ideas, even offensive ones. You cannot respect free speech and excuse a party for failing to respond to an individual person's political speech in a reasonable fashion, for instead waging a character assassination campaign based on lies, hatemongering, and misrepresentation. Calling that "social consequences" is disingenuous equivocation.

    Yes, speech has social consequences. Social consequences are those that are reasonable and proportional, that can legitimately be blamed on the speaker and not a 3rd party agitator as was the case here– the agitator being Nitasha Tiku of Gawker.

  235. CJK Fossman says:

    @RomanCandle

    Pax Dickinson and his supporters are trying to equate his situation to real suppression of speech.

    Most here clearly are not.

    Until you stop setting this particular strawman aflame …

    Okay, let's try this: Pax Dickinson and some of his supporters are trying to equate his situation to real suppression of speech.

    I'm afraid there is not much more to say.

    You could have told me where to find information about Mr. Dickinson hiring one or more female programmers. If I recall correctly, you believe that he did. I just want see for myself. That's not unreasonable, is it?

  236. StopEquivocating says:

    A: Here's my idea.
    B: I don't like that idea.
    A: You hate me.

    JT, that is explicitly NOT how the pattern often works. What happens is this:

    A: Here's my idea.
    B: Hey everyone look at what A said, he is one of those villian-people you hear so much about.
    C: Yeah wow A is such a villian
    D: Die a fiery death, A.
    E: A is no longer getting any of MY business.
    A: So, do you have a counter-argument or are you just going to continue with this character assassination.
    S: A should have known about social consequences.

  237. StopEquivocating says:

    Okay, let's try this: Pax Dickinson and some of his supporters are trying to equate his situation to real suppression of speech.

    I am highlighting a crucial distinction between using dishonest, manipulative, intimidation tactics to silence opposition, and engaging in intellectually honest, spirited debate and arguments.

    Yes, the 1st amendment forbidding the use of government power to silence free expression is the most important form of free speech, but it's not the only one.

    Free speech is important in any forum where it should be important and those with power are responsible protecting the freedom of those with less power.

    Twitter is the public sphere and it's not up to bloggers at Gawker to determine what speech should be allowed and what should not. A cybermob using public shaming tactics to get someone fired is an attempt at vigilante oppression of free speech. BusinessInsider may have been within their rights to do what they did, but the agitators should have known better.

  238. eddie says:

    Pax Dickinson and some of his supporters are trying to equate his situation to real suppression of speech.

    Pax Dickinson is not trying to equate his situation to real suppression of speech.

    The entire point of Ken's post is that he is, but Ken is wrong. Ken's entire thesis rests on exactly two items: a) Pax called valleywag a "politically correct inquisition" and b) Pax compared himself to Emmanuel Goldstein.

    I think Ken's accusation – that Pax is "blurring the line" between social consequences and government censorship by using these two specific bits of rhetoric – is off base. Clark agrees with me. Ken disagrees. You can see all three of our arguments in more detail in the comment thread above.

    But even if Ken's very tenuous theory is correct, at best you can say that Pax is, through an injudicious choice of rhetoric, inadvertently "blurring the line" between the two. That's a far cry from "trying to equate" the two. Pax certainly does not intend to equate the two, and to say otherwise is to ignore everything about his political positions and his posting history.

  239. TM says:

    @ CJK Fossman

    I see where I misinterpreted and how you could have been referring to the royal you. I still think you overly modified the statement by switching to "looking for intelligent comments by $GROUP" rather than "worry about looking for intelligent comments by $GROUP". Like I said, I tend to lean towards the bad interpretation, but it's ambiguous enough that you could get the less inflamatory one without being overly generous either.

    I mean, let's do a minimal substitution on the quote, to a less politically charged group:

    "Tech managers spend as much time worrying about how to hire talented developers with online handles starting with T as they do how to hire unicorns"

    I can certainly see how you can view that as saying that there are no talented developers with online handles starting with T, but since that seems silly on its face, it makes more sense to be a comment about it being silly to worry about it. Sure if that is what he meant, he could and should have been more clear (would it had made a difference if he had said "how to hire talented unicorn developers") but that goes back to what I said above about twitter and bumper stickers. Frankly, I don't have much sympathy for people that come across as an ass in a medium that lends itself to coming across as an ass.

  240. Ken White says:

    Yes, the 1st amendment forbidding the use of government power to silence free expression is the most important form of free speech, but it's not the only one.

    Free speech is important in any forum where it should be important and those with power are responsible protecting the freedom of those with less power.

    Twitter is the public sphere and it's not up to bloggers at Gawker to determine what speech should be allowed and what should not. A cybermob using public shaming tactics to get someone fired is an attempt at vigilante oppression of free speech.

    This is a good example of what I mean when I say there is no coherent or principled way to create a right to be free of criticism.

    How do you interpret this as anything other than an obligation for Group X to shut up about not liking the expression of Group Y?

    Note, also, the continuing use of misleading terminology. "Vigilante" refers to people who assume government or law enforcement authority to take action against people. Once again, Pax's supporters are blurring the line between the more-speech remedy and official suppression.

  241. Lizard says:

    Are Internet flash mobs a "social consequences of speech?" Even if someone is an a-hole, to what degree do they deserve what happens to them?

    Sheesh, how many times does this have to be answered?

    They deserve it to the precise degree that your morals, values, and principles SAY they deserve it.

    Over, and over, and over I make this point, and over, and over, and over people refuse to get it.

    Laws are, or at least should be, objective and impersonal. They should not discriminate on the basis of the content of the speech, and have very narrow parameters for categories of speech deemed beyond the pale: Threats, slander, libel, fraud, and obscenity. (Caveat: My personal values hold the latter is meaningless twaddle and should NOT be an excluded category of speech, but I'm not going to confuse what the law IS with what I think it SHOULD BE.)

    Personal reactions, otherwise known as social consequences? These are subjective, random, arbitrary, and biased. The law must draw the fewest possible exceptions and conditions because the people will draw an infinite number of them. The law is the defense against the whims of the people towards actual violence against an undesirable.

    "Why do liberals rush to defense of a liberal who has a howling mob criticizing them?" Because humans have an instinct to protect the monkeys-that-smell-like-us from the-monkeys-that-do-not-smell-like-us.

    "Why do conservatives rush to defense of a conservative who has a howling mob criticizing them?" Because humans have an instinct to protect the monkeys-that-smell-like-us from the-monkeys-that-do-not-smell-like-us.

    "But which monkeys are right?"

    That's easy. The monkeys that smell the most like you. Duh.

    "Social consequences" is when people we don't like or sympathize with are bullied.

    "Bullying" is when people we do like or sympathize with face social consequences.
    [1]
    "Wait, so bullying is good?"

    "No, bullying is wrong. Bullying is when people who do not deserve it are attacked and harassed."

    "So social consequences are wrong?"

    "No, social consequences are right. Social consequences is when people who deserve it are shunned and exiled."

    "But that's a completely subjective standard! You're saying that people should act to validate the social standards you think are right, and should act to invalidate the social standards you think are wrong! Aren't you supposed to use a bunch of weasel words like 'privilege' and 'intertextuality' and 'power disparity' to hide that's what you're saying?"

    "No. I'm not a weasel. I'm a monkey, named after a reptile."

    All of us monkeys want to have the other monkeys smell like us. Even those who claim "No, all monkeys should smell different!" are spraying their ideological scent around and sniffing to see who shares it.

    When an individual is shunned or made to suffer for actions I feel do not merit such treatment, I will respond by supporting them (or, sometimes, all the monkeys who smell like them), and fling poo at their attackers. If enough other monkeys agree with me, the rule of the tribe becomes "Thou shalt not attack these monkeys for these reasons, even if you used to be encouraged to attack them."

    I believe my values are correct. (Otherwise, I wouldn't hold them. Again: Duh.) I believe I have no right to use force to compel others to accept them — but I can use sarcasm, snideness, condemnation, and long rants. I can use my status (such as it is) in the tribe:"If you're friends with people that throw poo at the wrong monkeys, I will no longer share my bananas with you, and I'll tell everyone I know not to do so, either." Eventually, some sort of consensus forms, and everyone knows what good monkeys do. On some things, my values might be opposed to that consensus — you don't get to win all the time. I get to decide to change my values, to keep my mouth shut about my values, or to express my values and accept I'll be shunned for doing so. Some will continue to challenge that consensus, choosing to get poo thrown at them and have fewer bananas. Sometimes, they'll shift the consensus back. Sometimes, they'll become bitter, angry, old silverbacks who shuffle sadly around a decaying tree and whine about how the world was better when THEY got to decide who everyone through poo at, and feel something vaguely unfair has happened, but they don't know what and can't understand why.

    Seriously, why does this have to be explained?

    [1]So, here's a specific example: Orson Scott Card was fired from this Superman work because, as it turns out, he's an insane gibbering racist homophobic asshat, and comic book fans… well, a lot of them are also insane gibbering racist homophobic asshats, but not quite to this degree, and DC Comics had used up their PR Blunder allotment for the week. I applauded DC's choice to not give Orson Scott Card any more work.

    A few weeks ago, I read a story (http://boingboing.net/2013/08/21/god-gave-you-a-penis-for-a-r.html) about an author whose book contract was going to be canceled because he wanted his "About the Author" blurb to contain the word "boyfriend" instead of "partner". I condemned the publisher for this, because my values say that being gay is not something that's wrong, and that if I don't condemn those who act as if it IS, they will never know they are bad monkeys.

    LEGALLY, both DC Comics and Cedar Fort can do as they see fit. DC Comics will not/should not be fined or jailed or suffer any legal consequences for supporting Orson Scott Card. To the extent the contract included fees or penalties for canceling his book, DC Comics is obliged to pay them, unless their lawyers snuck in a "gibbering racist homophobic asshat" clause. (Please note, by continual repetition of insults aimed at OSC is a form of smmaring my scent all over the place; I'm signalling to some monkeys, "Hey, monkeys! I'm one of you!", and signalling to others "I'm NOT one of you. Don't come near me, or I'll fling poo on you." Most internet communications are not about transmitting ideas, but spreading scent. Consciously knowing that you're doing this is useful.) Cedar Fort has a right to back out of publishing a book if the author doesn't meet their editorial standards of not being gay. And everyone, regardless of their positition, has a right to make that position known to DC or Cedar Fort, to support them or condemn them as they see fit — and people have a right to judge the supporters/condemners, and share this information, and so on, and so on.

    Since I do not believe there's a right to use someone else's resources for your speech, and that there is a right to use social and economic pressure to show what you think of someone's ideas, I see nothing hypocritical or contradictory about supporting one company's decision not to publish because of an author's views, and opposing another company's decision not to publish because of an author's views, because I oppose the former's views and support, well, I do not know what views Michael Jensen has, he may be a total asshat for all I know, but I oppose the idea that it is socially acceptable to discriminate against someone because they're homosexual, or that homosexuality is something which should be hidden, to the extent that saying "boyfriend" rather than "partner" is consider too "extreme". I want Cedar Fort Publishing to know I think they're bad monkeys. I tell my friends, so that they'll let them know, too. I know what I *want* the social consensus to be, so I try to make it so. Those who want a different social consensus can support Cedar Fort and fling poo at those who condemn them. They can support Orson Scott Card and claim he's a "victim". I can, and will, laugh at them for doing so.

  242. Ken White says:

    The point of free speech is facilitating the free exchange of ideas, even offensive ones. You cannot respect free speech and excuse a party for failing to respond to an individual person's political speech in a reasonable fashion, for instead waging a character assassination campaign based on lies, hatemongering, and misrepresentation. Calling that "social consequences" is disingenuous equivocation.

    You can shout "this isn't speech! This is something else!" all you want. It doesn't make it so.

    Incidentally, I note that your rhetoric is largely indistinguishable from the very people who would like to use official censorship to silence Pax, from the advocates of hate speech codes and cyber-bullying laws, and other censors. It's a false appeal to the categorical: "this JUST ISN'T speech."

  243. Ken White says:

    If you're referring to the one about "The Passion Of The Christ 2" posted by Ken above, you should be aware that that was a satire of Mel Gibson's racist comments. When Pax made that tweet three and a half years ago, Gibson's comments were topical, and anyone reading the tweet at the time would have immediately understood the context and recognized it as a satirical attack against a racist.

    This has been pointed out in this thread already, and Ken has already updated the post accordingly. But I guess not everyone has gotten the memo yet.

    You are free to adopt your interpretation.

    Mine is that Pax is the sort of person who enjoys the "edgy" opportunity to say "nigger" and then go "whoah, brah, it's a joke!"

  244. Lizard says:

    Yes, speech has social consequences. Social consequences are those that are reasonable and proportional, that can legitimately be blamed on the speaker and not a 3rd party agitator as was the case here– the agitator being Nitasha Tiku of Gawker.

    William S. Penn (http://www.popehat.com/2013/09/04/william-s-penn-of-michigan-state-university-teaches-important-lessons-to-college-students/) was removed from his teaching position because a student recorded his rant and gave it to conservative site Campus Reform, which used their reach and influence to bring the story to national attention and to prompt people to react, usually negatively, to Penn's antics.

    Was Penn's suspension "bullying" or "social consequences"? Was Campus Reform an "agitator"?

    Use all the time you want answering. Please show your work.

  245. eddie says:

    You are free to adopt your interpretation.

    Thanks!

    Mine is that Pax is the sort of person who enjoys the "edgy" opportunity to say "nigger" and then go "whoah, brah, it's a joke!"

    That's a pretty awful thing to think about someone you don't know.

    Have you seen him say "nigger" a lot?

  246. Dan Weber says:

    I've skipped 242+ comments. Sorry.

    Social media sucks. You are supposed to simultaneously be famous to bring street cred to your company, and also represent your company professionally, even from your own personal twitter account.

    That first tweet is very obviously mocking Mel Gibson, the same way that someone saying we should let the unemployed eat cake is mocking rich uncaring people.

    But it certainly doesn't belong on any corporate twitter feed, unless you work at a place like The Onion. But because everyone is expected to be a celebrity representing their company on social media, everyone has to treat their twitter stream like an antiseptic corporate blog.

  247. Not the IT Dept. says:

    "If you're referring to the one about "The Passion Of The Christ 2" posted by Ken above, you should be aware that that was a satire of Mel Gibson's racist comments. When Pax made that tweet three and a half years ago, Gibson's comments were topical, and anyone reading the tweet at the time would have immediately understood the context and recognized it as a satirical attack against a racist."

    So a senior manager in an online media outlet doesn't know that there is always the possibility that tweets alluding to a specific event/person might look very different out of context and come back to bite the poster in the ass once the specific event/person is forgotten by the public memory?

    And it's up to everyone else to make allowances? Don't think so.

  248. Ahkbar says:

    @eddie

    I would say that if you don't want people who don't know you to think awful things about you, you probably should tell (allegedly) terrible jokes on worldwide platform.

    In a different context: I am at an office party in which Mr. Dickinson tells this particular joke to a group (including me). We are all aware of the context of the joke in relation to Mel Gibsons's quote. I can't speak for other reactions, but I would at best think he's a terrible, terrible comic; at worst he's a racist asshole. In the middle I would think he's just trying to get a shock/rise out of people. I wouldn't care if he has used the n-word before, as the statement on its own merits (to me) is offensive.

    He was either aware of the risks he was taking in making that statement and thought it was worth it, or doesn't care about the response he would get. If it was the former, then he should take responsibility for the downsides. If it the latter, then he should stop trying to justify it.

  249. Ahkbar says:

    I would say that if you don't want people who don't know you to think awful things about you, you probably shouldn't tell (allegedly) terrible jokes on worldwide platform.

    Apologies for the typo.

  250. Ken White says:

    Let me try something out:

    "The point of free speech is facilitating the free exchange of ideas. But you cannot respect free speech and excuse a party for speaking in an unreasonable fashion, hatemongering, misrepresenting, or character-assasinating. This man's tweets attacking women, feminists, and feminist critique of tech industry culture are part of a lynch mob against the voice of women. I understand that women speaking their mind about discrimination has offended his delicate sensibilities, but that's not justification for what he is doing. When a particular woman speaks up he likes to turn her into the Emmanuel Goldstein of the manosphere. That sort of attention threatens her job and exposes her to a mob of haters. Is it okay for him to push back against the views of critics of tech industry culture? Yes. But that pushback should be reasonable and proportionate. Women identified in hate speech by people like this get harassment and death threats."

    It's amazingly easy to give the arguments against more-speech a quarter-twist and make them an argument about the initial speech.

  251. EAB says:

    @TM: "I can certainly see how you can view that as saying that there are no talented developers with online handles starting with T, but since that seems silly on its face"

    I think you're forgetting that this is explicitly referencing a situation where women are, at best, 10% of the hiring population. (That actually seems very very high to me — my own experience is more like 2%, but I'm also not in Silicon Valley.) It doesn't seem so silly on its face in a hiring context where you can reasonably assume that you will be the only female programmer in the company.

    I love how everyone is trying to construct this to mean something different when I have on multiple occasions heard people say the exact same thing, but with no possible ambiguity about unicorns. I've been in meetings where people ask the technical questions to a male project manager, and keep doing it even when the project manager refers the questions over to me. I've offered solutions that have been blown off until a male colleague repeats the exact same thing five minutes later. I've showed up at tech events and had the entire room stop talking and
    turn to stare at me like I AM a freaking unicorn. I've heard people say crap about women, visibly remember that I am in the room, and explain "Oh, except you, we didn't mean you. You're different."

    I've been a female developer for my entire career, whereas I am guessing that you most likely are neither a female nor a developer. I wish you'd grant the possibility that my fifteen years of experience means I just maaaaaybe have a slightly better grasp of gender issues in the software world.

  252. CJK Fossman says:

    @eddie

    So it's okay to use inflammatory and demeaning language, but it's not okay for the people so demeaned and inflamed to react?

    'Cause the argument seems to be that a mob of women and unicorns ganged up on Mr. Dickinson and thereby crossed some moral line; they "should have known better."

    I think Mr. Dickinson should have known better. As you sow, so shall you reap, as I seem to recall reading somewhere. If you don't like the harvest, sow something else.

  253. Lizard says:

    So a senior manager in an online media outlet doesn't know that there is always the possibility that tweets alluding to a specific event/person might look very different out of context and come back to bite the poster in the ass once the specific event/person is forgotten by the public memory?

    I tend to err on the side of funny over sensitivity, and I sometimes will quote/say things in what I consider to be the manner/style/logic of those whose ideas I oppose — ideally so exaggerated as to make the sarcasm evident to all, but Poe's law is real, and it's possible someone who doesn't know me, or sees the material out of context (i.e, a link to an article where I'm mocking the subject of the article), and draw an invalid conclusion about my real views. On the rare occasions this occurs, I can point to years and years of blog and FB and forum posts that make my views clear, and the weight of evidence is sufficient for anyone who is not bound and determined to stick to their conclusion, facts be damned.

    All Pax's supporters have to do is point to similar material by him that shows he's a genuine supporter of gender equality and is opposed to any consideration of gender in hiring practices, and has no negative opinions as to the quality of female candidates in the technical fields. People rarely state opinions once, and only once, on the internet. As I noted earlier, stating opinions is an important method of signaling the other monkeys, so we do it over and over to make sure all the monkeys see it. Mr. Pax would not have been "targeted" for this "witch hunt" if he had posted one out-of-bounds comment and had never been heard from before and had no reputation or history to speak of. The Cabal Of Clucking Feminist Harpies who spin their Wheel Of Misandry to decide which completely innocent, hapless, male to destroy utterly for no reason at all… doesn't exist, any more than their counterpart, The League Of Extraordinarily Privileged Straight White Gentlemen Patriarchs. Given that, there should be an ample bulk of sane, reasoned, and clear commentary that serves to counterpoint the "cherry-picked" quotes Ken uses. Let's see some. Ideally, predating this particular kerfluffle.

  254. Ken White says:

    Given that, there should be an ample bulk of sane, reasoned, and clear commentary that serves to counterpoint the "cherry-picked" quotes Ken uses. Let's see some. Ideally, predating this particular kerfluffle.

    Point of order: can women vote in this contest? Because Pax suggests that women's suffrage is incompatible with individual freedom, so it might not be fair to let them vote.

  255. eddie says:

    @Not the IT Dept:

    So a senior manager in an online media outlet doesn't know that there is always the possibility that tweets alluding to a specific event/person might look very different out of context and come back to bite the poster in the ass once the specific event/person is forgotten by the public memory? And it's up to everyone else to make allowances? Don't think so.

    That's not at all what I said.

    @CJK Fossman:

    So it's okay to use inflammatory and demeaning language, but it's not okay for the people so demeaned and inflamed to react?

    That's not at all what I said.

    @Ahkbar:

    I would say that if you don't want people who don't know you to think awful things about you, you probably should tell (allegedly) terrible jokes on worldwide platform.

    Pax agrees with you. Pax regrets that people might think he's a racist because of that tweet, and Ken knows that he does.

    To recap:

    Unimaginative said Pax's tweets were racist. I pointed out that his one apparently racist tweet was actually anti-racist. Ken disputed my interpretation and opined that Pax probably enjoys saying "nigger". I pointed out that that's both very uncharitable and unsupported by any evidence.

    Hope that helps.

  256. eddie says:

    Also, Ken or Clark – could you be a dear and fix my blockquoting? kthxbye

  257. Lizard says:

    Point of order: can women vote in this contest? Because Pax suggests that women's suffrage is incompatible with individual freedom, so it might not be fair to let them vote.

    A link/image/etc with the exact quote, so that I can get the Htrae contingent to offer plausible alternative interpretations?

  258. Craig says:

    Pax Dickinson has been fired. What is more important is how long the consequences of his actions will affect him. Will he get another job in the next month and feel little? Or will he have many months or years to deal with what he has said keeping him from being employed? Keep an eye out and see if he lands on his feet or falls on his face.

  259. JT says:

    @StopEquivocating

    I would say that your scene is an example of silencing, and mine is not. My argument was not that there is no silencing, but that it is overused as a red herring in my context (academia, not business). To use it that way diminishes actual silencing. Is it harder for women to make a point in a male-dominated setting? Absolutely. Do some women in other settings use that fact to distract the debate? Yep. Does either of those questions represent the whole of gender relations? No way.

    I would also say in your example that people respond to the source of a message as well as the content. That's basic rhetoric (ethos). If someone has a history of being stupid and evil, then that person's idea is going to be met with resistance, even if it is a good idea. Also the reason, fair or not, that it is difficult to take Anthony Weiner seriously. It matters who says something, not just what the content is, as this poor fool needed to learn:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9uvJzr0zZvk

    I would further say in critical studies, "silencing" has historically been used when there is an unbalance of social power and had always implied the powerful dominating the less powerful.

    I would also like to add that I am a professor and don't know when to stop adding more points to my discourse.

  260. Not the IT Dept. says:

    That's not at all what I said.

    Actually, it is. Since I did not read the tweet however-many years ago when it was topical, but did read it in this thread this day, month and year, then the context had evaporated and the tweet stood on its own. And if a long-time Twitter user who works in the on-line media sector doesn't understand that context evaporates over time, then he's really not understanding the whole social media thing, is he?

    And it's also not up to me to read a tweet and undertake research to determine the context either. Welcome to the internet.

    And by the way, even topically, the tweet wasn't all that satirical or funny.

  261. James Pollock says:

    "the weight of evidence is sufficient for anyone who is not bound and determined to stick to their conclusion, facts be damned."

    Alas, that group of people bound and determined to stick to their conclusion, facts be damned is not a small one.
    There's also large groups of extremists for whom even one tiny step away from the orthodoxy results in instant permanent apostasy. (See, e.g., "RINO") You either agree with all of OUR points, or you're one of THEM.

  262. mcalex says:

    "Unicorn" … is used nearly exclusively to mean "non-existent".
    Ummm, unicorns seem to be currently enjoying a meme relating to being exceptionally (perhaps impossibly) cool and awesome. Especially with bacon added.

  263. James Pollock says:

    "unicorns seem to be currently enjoying a meme relating to being exceptionally (perhaps impossibly) cool and awesome."

    This is not mutually exclusive with "does not exist". Supermodels who are sexually attracted to me, and me only, whould be exceptionally cool and awesome. Of course, it could be that the DO exist, and are merely very, very good at hiding…

  264. TM says:

    @EAB

    So then you agree with me that it's the chosen target rather than the words that lends the interpretation to be a slight against female developers and not the idea that people should worry about hiring them. The words themselves are ambiguous as to the subject of the derision. Were the primary object a less politicised group (say, neckbeared basement dwellers), we would read the statement one way. But because the object is a traditionally (and still) discriminated group, we're inclined to interpret the statement a different way. I'm not passing any judgement on the statement one way or the other, I'm simply pointing out that you don't have to be a closet misogynist to see that there is a less offensive way to read those words.

    As to your assumptions about me, well let's just leave it at assumptions make asses of people and note that I never said anything about whether your experiences in life give you any insight into gender issues among developers, but that you did just say such things about me.

  265. Katie says:

    TM — I think you're missing that there is a meme out there that basically says that talented woman programmers are as rare as unicorns. With the emphasis on talented. You can argue anything you want, but those of us who are familiar with this meme can hardly hear the original comment as anything other than an allusion to it.

    And Clark seems to be arguing that Pax's satire is so amazingly breathtakingly smart and such that I can't imagine he missed his own reference. ;)

  266. CJK Fossman says:

    @eddie

    You're right. I apologize for my unresponsive reply.

    Perhaps you will allow me another try,

    Pax Dickinson is not trying to equate his situation to real suppression of speech.

    The entire point of Ken's post is that he is, but Ken is wrong. Ken's entire thesis rests on exactly two items: a) Pax called valleywag a "politically correct inquisition" and b) Pax compared himself to Emmanuel Goldstein.

    Interesting rhetorical technique, that. Assert that Ken is wrong and then point to the evidence that Ken is, in fact, correct.

    I think Ken's accusation – that Pax is "blurring the line" between social consequences and government censorship by using these two specific bits of rhetoric – is off base. Clark agrees with me. Ken disagrees. You can see all three of our arguments in more detail in the comment thread above.

    Okay, I went looking. Forgive me if I've missed something. In any case, here's what I found.

    I don't think that in this particular case Mr. Dickinson has once implied that he is suffering from government censorship.

    That is your interpretation of Mr. Dickinson's rhetoric. I think your interpretation is incorrect.

    If you think Mr. Dickinson is indulging "speech is tyranny" and "save me from the consequences of my words" (which I know is one of your pet peeves), well, I doubt I can persuade you otherwise. But I think your assessment is off base. I don't read his recent tweets that way at all. And I think that if you were slightly more inclined to be charitable to him, you wouldn't read them that way either.

    These all seem to boil down to "Ken is wrong about this because he's wrong about it," or, alternatively, "Ken is wrong about this because he's misinterpreting the tweets."

    I guess reasonable people can reasonably disagree, so we're going to have to live with our differences on this one.

    But even if Ken's very tenuous theory is correct, at best you can say that Pax is, through an injudicious choice of rhetoric, inadvertently "blurring the line" between the two. That's a far cry from "trying to equate" the two.

    "Injudicious" and "inadvertant?" In another post you described Mr. Dickinson's frame of mind thus:

    Although in Pax's case, I think it's not venting but rather gloating. I suspect he'll be wearing it as a badge of pride, not unlike some other acquaintance of ours on a somewhat different topic #giff…

    Assuming you read his frame of mind correctly, I would not think this to be the reaction of someone who had inadvertently set off a webstorm.

    As to the distinction between "equate" and "blur the line," the effect is pretty much the same no matter what you call it.

    Pax certainly does not intend to equate the two, and to say otherwise is to ignore everything about his political positions and his posting history.

    I'm not going to read his twitter feed. But someone else has already requested a sample of the context that is claimed to be absent from the discussion. Personally I would prefer links to rather than quotes from those tweets that will give me a glimpse of the kinder, gentler Pax Dickinson.

  267. CJK Fossman says:

    Foo. Missed a /blockquote. Sorry, my bad.

  268. Marshall Moseley says:

    >>What do you think a boycott is that doesn't threaten employment?>>

    Boycotts are aimed at businesses, not individuals, and they are *supposed to be* a result of the actions of that business. Yes, the economic effect is individuals, but the distinction is an important one.

  269. nl7 says:

    Somewhat off topic, but my response to Reed Roberts and the 'children are moral innocents with regard to their creation' argument is: 1) simply being less affluent than neighbors or co-nationals is not necessarily something that needs a public solution; 2) that argument applies equally well to foreign children, yet the programs don't which suggests that welfare is something far different from a humanitarian impulse to help the weak; and 3) taxpayers are moral innocents with regard to the creation of others, so it doesn't make sense to imply that simply existing in the same political boundaries as below-average-income children makes one beholden to pay for those children.

    None of which addresses the practical question of how to help kids. But implicitly he was making a philosophical argument for political intervention on behalf of poorer children, so that's my philosophical response. My practical response is that private charity should and will exist, and that cheaper prices for food and necessities is the best *political* way to address basic human needs.

  270. csoared says:

    If someone's snark and sarcasm are indistinguishable from misogynistic, hateful, stupid, racist, homophobic (pick a term) speech to most people then it's damned poor snark and/or sarcasm. Consequences generally follow.
    To argue otherwise exposes one's privilege and privilege-derived blindness.

  271. TM says:

    @csoared

    That depends. A lot of snark, sarcasm and satire relies strongly on context, which may be lost when examined years later. See for example, the Mel Gibson tweet above. I would strongly suspect if you put a modern language version of "A Modest Proposal" online, you might find a considerable number of people find it hateful and offensive and would not understand the satire (which in part is due to a lack of current context).

  272. eddie says:

    @CJK Fossman – A fine try indeed, always welcome.

    Regarding "inadvertant" vs. "gloating" – these are referring to two different things.

    I said that: assuming Ken is correct about Pax's use of "inquisition" and "Emmanuel Goldstein" being examples of blurring the line between social consequences and government censorship – an assumption which I do not agree with – even in that case, it was not Pax's intent to blur the line, i.e. any line-blurring was inadvertent.

    I later said: Pax's use of the 1984 allusion was a reference to the social consequences imposed upon an enemy by a group-thinking mob, not a reference to the use of the power of the state to stifle speech. Ken and I then discussed the point of talking about "mobs" in the first place, and I said that Pax was not making a reasoned argument but was simply venting about being targeted by the mob, or perhaps even gloating about being targeted by the mob.

    Thus:

    Inadvertent: blurring the line between social consequences and government action, assuming that you agree with Ken that his allusions did this at all (which I don't).

    Gloating: taking some degree of satisfaction that a mob of people he disagrees with in turn disagreed with him so strenuously that they took it upon themselves to form a mob. Note that it's merely speculation on my part that Pax feels this way; I could be misreading his tone. His tone can be tough to read.

    Sorry I had to parse this so finely, but you asked.

    Pax certainly does not intend to equate the two, and to say otherwise is to ignore everything about his political positions and his posting history.

    I'm not going to read his twitter feed. But someone else has already requested a sample of the context that is claimed to be absent from the discussion. Personally I would prefer links to rather than quotes from those tweets that will give me a glimpse of the kinder, gentler Pax Dickinson.

    I didn't say anything about kinder or gentler. I said that he is not the sort to equate social consequences with government censorship. I don't follow him and I'm not intimately familiar with his corpus, but his tweets pop up in my feed from time to time retweeted by my friends, and what I've seen has left me with the solid impression that he is a small-government individual-rights libertarianish conservative.

    Like most twitterers, most of what he tweets about is cultural and topical, so I've had to dig a bit to find things that are directly on the point here (i.e. that demonstrate he is unlikely to confuse social consequences for government censorship). But here's a few that are at least suggestive of his attitudes regarding government action:

    Elon Musk giving the hyperloop idea away for free, must not be able to get a government subsidy for it.

    Great Phil Zimmermann interview on the surveillance state.

    there should be one word for "prices arrived at by a functioning market" and another for "prices declared by a bureaucracy".

    And here's one about censorship and social consequences:

    you don't have to shut up. A block is not censorship.

    I hope that sheds some light on why I don't believe that he has deliberately tried to blur the line between social consequences and government censorship.

    And as for this:

    As to the distinction between "equate" and "blur the line," the effect is pretty much the same no matter what you call it.

    There is a difference. The difference is meaningful. Ken and I discussed this very difference. At first I asserted that Ken's standard for earning his condemnation was "equating" and that Pax didn't meet that standard. Then Ken pointed out that I was wrong about his standard; that it wasn't "equating" but rather "blurring the line" that he finds objectionable. I conceded Ken's point, but concluded that determining whether Pax "blurred the line" or not is a pretty subjective matter, and that obviously Ken and I disagreed about whether he had.

    Again, sorry for recapping what has already been said and for parsing it in such excruciating detail. But again, you asked.

  273. Trent says:

    Though it doesn't just apply to them as I've seen similar comments/behavior in my generation and others you can almost smell the Generation Y on people that claim social consequences for speech are censorship. I try to remind all the kids within my familial group that everything they say on the internet is public archive and will follow them around the rest of their life.

    Every single thing you say on the internet is a formal written record archived and available in searchable format to the public and will remain that way for the remainder of your life and beyond. Everything you say will be recorded without context and will be interpreted in the harshest light available and it will likely be used against you in court.

    Knowing all those things I find it incomprehensible the stupid things people say and do on the internet that will forever haunt them. The gentleman *ahem* in question made statements that on there face are hostile, sexist and racist. He did so not only under his real name, but with a tagline identifying who he worked for and what he did for them (which 99% of people will interpret to mean he speaks for that company). And what follows is the predicable public response, and the predicable GenY response of claiming the public response is censorship or bullying.

    And nothing ever changes. But I appreciate Ken trying to hit these people with a stick to remind them that censorship is only practiced by government backed by the courts and threats of violence. Censorship is a real threat to free society, social consequences are not.

  274. eddie says:

    Also:

    Interesting rhetorical technique, that. Assert that Ken is wrong and then point to the evidence that Ken is, in fact, correct.

    I think the evidence I pointed to shows that Ken is wrong, of course. I explained why in further comments between Ken, Clark, and myself above, but I'll try to briefly summarize here.

    These all seem to boil down to "Ken is wrong about this because he's wrong about it," or, alternatively, "Ken is wrong about this because he's misinterpreting the tweets."

    There's more to it than that, and the difference is interesting and informative.

    In short: Ken feels that Pax's allusions to the inquisition and the Two Minute Hate are implicative of the government force that was behind them. Clark and I read those allusions as being about the power of group-think, and ultimately about the nature of social consequences when said consequences are being brought about by an unreasoning mob stirred into action against "the other", the outsider, the enemy.

    Clark made an entirely separate post about just this point.

  275. eddie says:

    @Trent:

    And what follows is the predicable public response, and the predicable GenY response of claiming the public response is censorship or bullying.

    In this particular case, there was no claiming that the public response was censorship or bullying.

  276. CJK Fossman says:

    @eddie

    I appreciate your taking the time. Thank you. It seems we are down to this:

    Ken feels that Pax's allusions to the inquisition and the Two Minute Hate are implicative of the government force that was behind them. Clark and I read those allusions as being about the power of group-think

    That's the crux, isn't it? It's been awhile since I read 1984, but it seems to me the central theme was that the Party sought to control all thought. Or have I forgotten about some sub-plot with howling mobs running about without at least tacit approval from the Party?

    How can the two-minute hates be anything but an expression of the Party's will? Were they not broadcast on the party-controlled network? Wasn't the telescreen a two way device, used by the party to enforce participation in the two-minute hates?

    And consider the Inquisition for a moment. It was instituted by Ferdinand and Isabella, absolute monarchs. Invoking it surely conjures an image of state action against individuals.

  277. eddie says:

    Indeed, I believe that's the crux. Right there. That very crux-looking thing, that's it.

    How can the two-minute hates be anything but an expression of the Party's will?

    Clark said it pretty well, here.

    I think you can quite reasonably read such allusions either way. Indeed, undoubtedly they often are used either way, or both ways at once. But in the case at hand, it seems very clear to me – given the context of the situation – that the author's intent was a commentary on group-think and mobs, not government or force.

  278. StopEquivocating says:

    @Ken White

    There are methods for determining whether particular speech is primarily meant to express an idea or primarily meant for some other purpose. If you are at all familiar with first amendment law, you will understand this concept as it relates to speech such as "fighting words." There is clear definition and tests that minimize the need for subjectivity in order to determine whether a particular example of speech is protected or not.

    Those definitions can be expanded in a more general sense, when talking about use of legal, non-government yet still coercive methods used to silence opposing voices. For example and off the top of my head:

    1. Targeting an individual or small group for who they are rather than what they do, what they stand for, and often even what they say; instead of targeting actions, behaviors, ideas, or at least public and political figures who rely heavily on their public image as a source of power and influence. This is the biggest clue that there are ulterior motives (eg personal vindictiveness or to make an example of him for intimidation of anyone else who might express similar ideas.)

    2. Deliberate and excessive use of words intended to manipulate emotions and inspire hatred and anger. Any good writer will use strong, emotional words to emphasize points and engage readers' emotions. But when a writer's content consists mostly of emotional words, that's a clue the speech is more about manipulation than expression of ideas.

    3. Choosing an audience capable of causing harm to the target, especially if there are not likely any repercussions to the speaker.

    4. Using only "We" voice and pronouns. This disowns personal responsibility for the opinions and views expressed discourages readers from holding their own opinions on the matter, lest they be rejected and ostracized.

    5. Misrepresentation of the target's ideas using select, out-of-context quotes designed to maximize shock value and optimize the chance of adverse consequences (social, economic, or physical) to that person.

    Like most tests that aren't 100% objective, the rubric is not perfect but it shouldn't be hard to see how an example that hits all five of those qualities differs from an example that does not. Nitasha's Gawker post hit all five points using only four short sentences.

    1. She targeted an individual person's character. She's arguing what he is ("racist, homophobic, classist, misogynistic") not his ideas. His only public relevance that I know of is his twitter account. He is not a politician and does not have power and influence based on his image. Any influence he has comes from the content of his ideas and the manner in which he expresses them (esp. humor). The default power differential here is even.

    2. She used dehumanizing language ("what has two thumbs") and negative emotional words ("vile").

    3. She attracts the attention of a force capable of inflicting harm (Business Insider) as a proxy and uses her outraged Gawker audience as leverage to persuade them to act on her behalf. (This gives her the power advantage)

    4. She used the collective "we" to evade personal responsibility for her words and to discourage critical thinking by individuals.

    5. She posts quotes without context and without any commentary. There isn't a shred of evidence that she posted the tweets expecting anyone to consider their content in a rational fashion. This is consistent with an attack on a person rather than an attack on ideas.

    That is how I identify her speech as more towards the "fighting words" end of the scale and less towards the "expressing ideas" end of the scale. This is why I say that her response is not a legitimate "social consequence" of his tweets

    It is not a completely subjective determination.

    And, if it is not clear: I am not advocating Tika should not have the right to publish what she did. She was exercising her constitutional right to free speech. I would never try to take that right away. But it is, nevertheless, an irresponsible exercise of that right. You should not be excusing her or her audience with obtuse references to social consequences.

  279. StopEquivocating says:

    @JT

    I would say that your scene is an example of silencing, and mine is not. My argument was not that there is no silencing, but that it is overused as a red herring in my context (academia, not business).

    I believe the situation with Pax Dickinson is closer to my scenario than yours, that's my point. Based on the content here: http://valleywag.gawker.com/business-insider-ctos-is-your-new-tech-bro-nightmare-1280336916

    That isn't a call to disagree that is a call to action.

  280. CJK Fossman says:

    @eddie

    One last pull on the tap, if you don't mind. I think Clark's analysis isn't supported by the quoted text.

    Clark said,

    The point of the passage is that the proles in the audience don't know what deviations Goldstein is responsible for, and they don't care. They don't need to read his terrible book to know that it's terrible – they're being told so by their betters, and on cue they hiss and snap their mouths and flush with anger.

    The quoted text seems to say that Goldstein was enumerating his own sins.

    Goldstein was delivering his usual venemous attack upon the doctrines of the Party – an attack so exaggerated and perverse that a child should have been able to see through it, and yet just plausible enough to fill one with an alarmed feeling that other people, less level-headed than oneself, might be taken in by it. He was abusing BIG BROTHER, he was denouncing the dictatorship of the Party, he was demanding the immediate conclusion of peace with Eurasia, he was advocating freedom of speech, freedom of the Press, freedom of assembly, freedom of thought, he was crying hysterically that the Revolution has been betrayed

  281. Ken White says:

    There are methods for determining whether particular speech is primarily meant to express an idea or primarily meant for some other purpose.

    I doubt it. I suspect there are only elaborate rationalizations why some more-speech you don't like is not legitimate and mean.

    If you are at all familiar with first amendment law,

    lol

    you will understand this concept as it relates to speech such as "fighting words." There is clear definition and tests that minimize the need for subjectivity in order to determine whether a particular example of speech is protected or not.

    The "fighting words" doctrine, to the extent it lives, is very near dead. It has only been narrowed, not expanded, since its announcement. Every attempt to use it to justify suppression of speech (flag burning laws, for example) has failed. And it's very narrowly construed to permit criminalization of face-to-face contact likely to cause immediate violence.

    Those definitions can be expanded in a more general sense, when talking about use of legal, non-government yet still coercive methods used to silence opposing voices.

    By whom? For what purpose? For you, to categorize what speech you think is illegitimate?

    1. Targeting an individual or small group for who they are rather than what they do, what they stand for, and often even what they say; instead of targeting actions, behaviors, ideas, or at least public and political figures who rely heavily on their public image as a source of power and influence. This is the biggest clue that there are ulterior motives (eg personal vindictiveness or to make an example of him for intimidation of anyone else who might express similar ideas.)

    Yes, I'm familiar with this suggested distinction. It's the argument people use to advocate for hate speech laws that criminalize being a dick to women or minorities. In other words, in order to criticize people criticizing Pax Dickinson, you're adopting the tropes of people who would like to criminalize his douchebaggery.

    Also, I suggest that the distinction is usually elusive. Someone who acts like a dick may, in fact, be a dick; I'm not sure that focusing on their dickish actions instead of their dickish qualities is often meaningful.

    2. Deliberate and excessive use of words intended to manipulate emotions and inspire hatred and anger. Any good writer will use strong, emotional words to emphasize points and engage readers' emotions. But when a writer's content consists mostly of emotional words, that's a clue the speech is more about manipulation than expression of ideas.

    Right. And Pax's words are all straight from Plato's retreat, right?

    Tell me: are you turning this analysis only on the side you're mad at?

    3. Choosing an audience capable of causing harm to the target, especially if there are not likely any repercussions to the speaker.

    I note that you are slipping the notion of "harm" under the radar. It's an attempt to beg the question. What's "harm," for purposes of things we care about? If you're a dick, is it "harm" for more people to recognize that you are a dick? Is it "harm" for more people to hear about something you did or said?

    4. Using only "We" voice and pronouns. This disowns personal responsibility for the opinions and views expressed discourages readers from holding their own opinions on the matter, lest they be rejected and ostracized.

    Fucking Queen Elizabeth.

    5. Misrepresentation of the target's ideas using select, out-of-context quotes designed to maximize shock value and optimize the chance of adverse consequences (social, economic, or physical) to that person.

    You just described the internet and political and social discourse since ever.

    1. She targeted an individual person's character. She's arguing what he is ("racist, homophobic, classist, misogynistic") not his ideas. His only public relevance that I know of is his twitter account. He is not a politician and does not have power and influence based on his image. Any influence he has comes from the content of his ideas and the manner in which he expresses them (esp. humor). The default power differential here is even.

    Actually, she's offering her opinion on his qualities based on his words. Which is what we do when we communicate.

    It's actually quote close to an important concept in defamation law. Opinions are not subject to defamation analysis unless they suggest hidden facts. If you say "I read through Ken's tax returns and I think he's an embezzler and tax cheat," that implies facts and might be defamatory. But if you say "I read these three posts at Popehat here and I think Ken's a racist," then that's classic opinion.

    The author presented tweets and declared her opinion of a person based on them. That's writing.

    2. She used dehumanizing language ("what has two thumbs") and negative emotional words ("vile").

    Two thumbs is dehumanizing? I thought it was a meaningless rhetorical trope. http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HasTwoThumbsAnd

    Also: really? If, last week, you approached Pax and said "you know, I think people on the internet should stop using dehumanizing language," how do you think Pax would have responded? Do you think Pax refrains from dehumanizing language? Would you like examples?

    3. She attracts the attention of a force capable of inflicting harm (Business Insider) as a proxy and uses her outraged Gawker audience as leverage to persuade them to act on her behalf. (This gives her the power advantage)

    So, you shouldn't write about dickery if the person who is a dick works for a company that might fire him? You shouldn't write about dickery if you have a big audience?

    4. She used the collective "we" to evade personal responsibility for her words and to discourage critical thinking by individuals.

    Really? I thought she used it because it's a common journalistic style (or, if you prefer, affectation.) http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/royal-we?page=all

    So: if your position is that she trots out the "we" to evade responsibility, then you'll be able to find posts from her using "I", right?

    5. She posts quotes without context and without any commentary. There isn't a shred of evidence that she posted the tweets expecting anyone to consider their content in a rational fashion. This is consistent with an attack on a person rather than an attack on ideas.

    So she blocked out the part of the image showing his Twitter handle so nobody could check for themselves that — wait. No. She didn't do that.

    She broke Google so that — nope. Not that either.

    So, what context should she have offered? Since you've concluded she did wrong, I'm sure you've researched it. What meaningful context did she omit from, say, this tweet?

    feminism in tech remains the champion topic for my block list. my finger is getting tired.

    That is how I identify her speech as more towards the "fighting words" end of the scale and less towards the "expressing ideas" end of the scale.

    I find your analysis fluffy and subject to being applied to nearly any criticism you don't like.

    This is why I say that her response is not a legitimate "social consequence" of his tweets

    What does "legitimate" mean? Because if it means "something I should criticize," then congratulations, you're doing it. You are subjecting her speech to the more-speech remedy. That's how it should work.

    By the way: if enough people criticized her column as unfair, and she got fired, would you support that?

    It is not a completely subjective determination.

    I do not see any meaningful or useful elements of objectivity.

    And, if it is not clear: I am not advocating Tika should not have the right to publish what she did. She was exercising her constitutional right to free speech.

    And yet, you are repeatedly applying the language of an exception to First Amendment protections, the fighting words test.

    I would never try to take that right away. But it is, nevertheless, an irresponsible exercise of that right. You should not be excusing her or her audience with obtuse references to social consequences.

    Thank you for your more-speech. I will continue to say what I think and accept the social consequences, like a grown-up.

  282. eddie says:

    @CJK Fossman – Good catch, but I'll let Clark speak to it himself if he so wishes. I'll still maintain that allusions to The Two Minute Hate can just as easily invoke the ideas of group-think, identification and vilification of the enemy, and spurring on the group to unreasoning hatred of the outsider as it can the idea of totalitarian government control.

  283. StopEquivocating says:

    Point of order: can women vote in this contest? Because Pax suggests that women's suffrage is incompatible with individual freedom, so it might not be fair to let them vote.

    Does Pax have power here? Is his viewpoint in any real danger of taking hold here? Does being outraged about his opinion help anyone at all?

    "The point of free speech is facilitating the free exchange of ideas. But you cannot respect free speech and excuse a party for speaking in an unreasonable fashion, hatemongering, misrepresenting, or character-assasinating. This man's tweets attacking women, feminists, and feminist critique of tech industry culture are part of a lynch mob against the voice of women. I understand that women speaking their mind about discrimination has offended his delicate sensibilities, but that's not justification for what he is doing. When a particular woman speaks up he likes to turn her into the Emmanuel Goldstein of the manosphere. That sort of attention threatens her job and exposes her to a mob of haters. Is it okay for him to push back against the views of critics of tech industry culture? Yes. But that pushback should be reasonable and proportionate. Women identified in hate speech by people like this get harassment and death threats."

    It's amazingly easy to give the arguments against more-speech a quarter-twist and make them an argument about the initial speech.

    The first thing to realize is that I am not defending Pax's views, and thus I find this a bit tedious to sort through. It's possible that, for some selected tweets, Pax also fails the criteria I noted above. I think it is unlikely he has effectively leveraged a cybermob to influence a stronger power to cause harm a specific target individual. But it's possible. If so, I would encourage as much criticism of him as I am aiming at Tika and Gawker.

    But the main problem with your "quarter-twist" of my argument is that you lack convincing evidence in support of the claims. Yes, the rhetoric is similar but rhetoric is the mere dressing of a real argument.

    This man's tweets attacking women, feminists, and feminist critique of tech industry culture are part of a lynch mob against the voice of women.

    "The voice of women" is an abstract concept. "Women speaking their mind" is a generalization. Feminism is a political movement. Attacking these is not the same as attacking an individual person.

    You also claiming he's part of a lynch mob without offering any reasonable basis for this claim.

    I understand that women speaking their mind about discrimination has offended his delicate sensibilities, but that's not justification for what he is doing.

    Can you prove that threatening women's jobs was (a) his intent and (b) has actually occurred?

    Women identified in hate speech by people like this get harassment and death threats."

    Were women identified? Did they get harassed and was the harassment meaningful? That is, did it cause material harm? Was any individual targeted and silenced?

    So ultimately it isn't much of an argument. Above, in your original post, you make a case that it's possible for some of his tweets to be viewed as "chilling with criticism". Indeed, when I read the comment about "I block feminism in tech" I considered your angle, and it's not entirely invalid. But I haven't read much in the way of back-and-forth context related to that tweet. Concerns that you raise about whether he intends to "chill" opposing opinions could be determined by direct questioning, given that he seems to at least have some propensity to give straightforward answers to questions and challenges.

    Meanwhile, the tweet about female developers and unicorns might be used dishonestly by a lawyer and of course it's understandable that BI might be worried about being sued– but ultimately the tweet is probably true. The tweet is based on the nugget of truth that there are very few talented female developers and most managers don't have the option to discriminate even if they were so inclined. It's then gleefully re-worked into a humorous tweet. I don't blame anyone for finding it offensive, but connecting this tweet to actual employment discrimination is an entirely different story.

    And of course, if BI really believes that their CTO's twitter account is driving away more tech talent than it's bringing in, that's a great reason to take action and remove him; whether they are afraid of dishonest lawyers or not.

    These hypotheticals are valid but ignore the obvious evidence that the whole situation was precipitated by an individual who targeted him specifically and for vague reasons. That is not "social consequences" or if it is, it's stretching the term far past its useful limit in an informal, non-legislative scenario.

  284. Ken White says:

    Does being outraged about his opinion help anyone at all?

    Is the standard for what ought to be said whether it helps anyone? If so, are you applying that standard equally to Pax and his critics?

    Above, in your original post, you make a case that it's possible for some of his tweets to be viewed as "chilling with criticism".

    You're missing my point. My point is that the terminology being used to decry the more-speech is fluffy and unprincipled and could often be applied to the original speech. My point is that whenever we get into these critiques of the witch hunt/mob/PC I see different standards of scrutiny for the first speaker and the second speaker. I don't see why that's a principled system of analysis for which I should have any concern or respect.

    Meanwhile, the tweet about female developers and unicorns might be used dishonestly by a lawyer and of course it's understandable that BI might be worried about being sued– but ultimately the tweet is probably true.

    You're very certain that the tweet means one thing and not the other. I tend to interpret it more the other way, but I'm not as sure as you. However, I do know this: when judges or juries interpret the tweet, they're going to see it was tweeted by the same guy, on the same account, where he complained about people talking about feminism and proposed (trollishly or not) that women's suffrage is incompatible with freedom. The attorney defending that is going to be drinking heavily.

    These hypotheticals are valid but ignore the obvious evidence that the whole situation was precipitated by an individual who targeted him specifically and for vague reasons.

    Ridiculous. The reasons weren't vague at all. She writes about sexism in the industry. She cited a series of specific tweets. You might disagree with her interpretation of the tweets, or the proportionality of deciding to write about them, but there's nothing vague about her piece.

    That is not "social consequences" or if it is, it's stretching the term far past its useful limit in an informal, non-legislative scenario.

    "Social consequences" means consequences arising from your interactions with other citizens, as opposed to government sanctions. Perhaps you think the term is too non-judgmental or positive. Call it "Mean Judgmental People Being Mean." I will agree and say that Mean Judgmental People Being Mean is the natural and probable consequence of free speech and is a feature, not a bug.

  285. StopEquivocating says:

    @ Ken White

    By whom? For what purpose? For you, to categorize what speech you think is illegitimate?

    It's intended to be used by anyone who values free speech to categorize speech that is actually intended to silence and harm individuals. The ultimate aim is to recognize the purpose and role of the free speech ideal in whatever forum you happen to have the opportunity to express yourself. The purpose of free speech is to encourage the discovery of truth by way of debate and discussion.

    Not all forums are equal. The constitution specifies the rules for the widest possible forum (all public discourse). Some forums have specific rules that are much more strict. A cooking forum on the internet might delete any posts that are not about cooking, and if necessary ban chronic violators. A cooking forum does not much value search for truth within their domain except as it relates to cooking. Privately owned, public forums such as twitter, reddit, or a "free speech wall" at a university are slightly trickier because while free expression is an obviously important value, they must at time weigh that value against conflicting business or educational interests.

    Outside the boundaries of any other obviously defined forum, it falls to the participants to uphold the ideals of free speech to the extent that they value exchange of ideas– for their own good and the good of everyone.

    I advocate taking responsibility for the decision to offend that ideal instead of pretending it was never violated. I advocate NOT offering excuses to people who offend that ideal. That is why I have spent all my energy on this arguing with YOU, instead of with Nitasha herself or any of the other various people commenting around the web. She's a lost cause and clearly does not value free expression more than she values sticking it to Pax Dickinson or stirring up controversy for pageviews.

  286. Lizard says:

    The purpose of free speech is to encourage the discovery of truth by way of debate and discussion.

    On another forum, one of the Usual Suspects said something to the effect of "The purpose of humor is to mock the powerful, not the powerless."

    You make the same mistake they made: Arguing that there is a "purpose" to free speech, that it must be justified by serving some higher social goal, that we must (long and weary sigh) tolerate some peoples totally wrong ideas because (longer, wearier, sigh) in the long run, the Greater Collective Good will be served.

    Nope. The purpose of humor is to be funny, and the only "justification" a joke needs is "It made me laugh, even if I hated myself for doing so." The purpose of free speech is to express oneself without fear of being fined, jailed, or shot. It does not need justification. It does not need to be constantly shown to serve a greater good. That it often does so is wonderful, but it's a happy side effect, not the purpose. The "marketplace of ideas" is an apt metaphor, because although the market, in general, does lead to more and better goods and services, that consequence is not its justification. The "Firefly" was cancelled after half a season, and "Honey Boo Boo" evidently has blockbuster ratings, does not mean that we need to stop letting the market decide what TV shows should be produced. (Granted, if you were going to try to make that argument, it would be a good starting point.)

  287. Ken White says:

    The purpose of free speech is to encourage the discovery of truth by way of debate and discussion.

    Says who?

    Let's be frank. The most charitable interpretation of some of Pax's stuff is that he was trolling. That's not discovering truth, unless the truth is "how will people react if I troll."

    Yet he has full First Amendment rights. "Free speech," if we are speaking legally, is not restricted to people using speech for noble purposes.

    But you seem to be using "free speech" differently at different times. Right now you're using it to describe an ideal of public dialogue. To which I say: feel free to idealize that, but (1) it doesn't bind anyone, and (2) if you apply it only to people you don't like, nobody will take it seriously.

    Not all forums are equal. The constitution specifies the rules for the widest possible forum (all public discourse). Some forums have specific rules that are much more strict. A cooking forum on the internet might delete any posts that are not about cooking, and if necessary ban chronic violators. A cooking forum does not much value search for truth within their domain except as it relates to cooking. Privately owned, public forums such as twitter, reddit, or a "free speech wall" at a university are slightly trickier because while free expression is an obviously important value, they must at time weigh that value against conflicting business or educational interests.

    You are mixing completely different concepts together.

    The First Amendment doesn't say anything about public forums. "Public forum," speaking constitutionally, is a legal concept courts have devised to explain where you have a First Amendment right to speak free of government interference and where you don't.

    All the other things you talk about are private entities. The First Amendment doesn't apply to them. (Some state constitutions might — see the Pruneyard doctrine in California — but that's irrelevant here.) They can ban people for mentioning squirrels if they want. A free speech wall at a university is not a public forum for First Amendment purposes unless it is a public university. If it is a private university they can shut it down on a whim if they want and the First Amendment has nothing to do with it.

    Outside the boundaries of any other obviously defined forum, it falls to the participants to uphold the ideals of free speech to the extent that they value exchange of ideas– for their own good and the good of everyone.

    Says who? And why do they have a greater obligation than the speech they are responding to? Do you apply the same ideals to the people they are criticizing?

    Also, I'm still looking for a principled, coherent, achievable test, and I'm not seeing one. I'm seeing "if somebody says something really stupid, then if you have a big audience shut up about it because you might do them harm and that hurts free speech." Bullshit. I'm seeing "if someone acts like a dick don't act like a dick back because that chills speech." Bullshit. I'm seeing "don't call for consequences to behavior you don't like because that chills speech." Bullshit. What I'm seeing is a lot of "it's necessary for you to shut up to save free speech." Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.

    I advocate taking responsibility for the decision to offend that ideal instead of pretending it was never violated. I advocate NOT offering excuses to people who offend that ideal.

    OK. I reject your ideal. It's ridiculous and self-defeating and internally inconsistent and incoherent. It's a lot of words to say "people who criticize people I agree with to loudly or powerfully should shut up." It is exactly what I mean when I say that the arguments against more speech don't work.

    That is why I have spent all my energy on this arguing with YOU, instead of with Nitasha herself or any of the other various people commenting around the web. She's a lost cause and clearly does not value free expression more than she values sticking it to Pax Dickinson or stirring up controversy for pageviews.

    I can see this "ideal speech" thing works just great.

  288. James Pollock says:

    " 'The purpose of humor is to mock the powerful, not the powerless.' "

    Not when the powerful are doing it.

  289. StopEquivocating says:

    Tell me: are you turning this analysis only on the side you're mad at?

    Yours is the only commentary that has made me angry so far.

    By the way: if enough people criticized her column as unfair, and she got fired, would you support that?

    Without details it's hard to say but most likely not. More importantly, I would not try to claim that her being fired is a "social consequence" of her free expression except in the strict, constitutional sense that is not especially relevant for most informal discussions about free speech.

    So, what context should she have offered?

    For the most inflammatory quote of all, the first one posted, she could have mentioned it was intended to be satirical. Every possible context is not required, of course, but when the only attempt is inclusion of a twitter handle, that's hardly indicative of an honest attempt to share someone's opinion.

    You just described the internet and political and social discourse since ever.

    That's not true but even if it was, it doesn't make it right.

    It's actually quote close to an important concept in defamation law. Opinions are not subject to defamation analysis unless they suggest hidden facts. If you say "I read through Ken's tax returns and I think he's an embezzler and tax cheat," that implies facts and might be defamatory. But if you say "I read these three posts at Popehat here and I think Ken's a racist," then that's classic opinion.

    I don't really care about defamation law as I'm not accusing anyone of breaking the law. Accusing someone of being a racist fails to be a "hidden fact" only because racism is not a provable fact to begin with. This principle is fine in a courtroom where evidence and proof is of maximum importance, but far less important in an informal discussion.

    Two thumbs is dehumanizing? I thought it was a meaningless rhetorical trope.

    In context I believe it is. I think we'll just have to disagree on this.

    Also: really? If, last week, you approached Pax and said "you know, I think people on the internet should stop using dehumanizing language," how do you think Pax would have responded? Do you think Pax refrains from dehumanizing language? Would you like examples?

    He'd probably call me names. But I didn't say people on the internet should stop using dehumanizing language, I said use of dehumanizing language is a clue that the speaker is interested more in attacking someone than legitimately sharing an opinion.

    So, you shouldn't write about dickery if the person who is a dick works for a company that might fire him? You shouldn't write about dickery if you have a big audience?

    If you write about dickery with a big audience and use emotional manipulation, dishonest misrepresentation,

    Really? I thought she used it because it's a common journalistic style (or, if you prefer, affectation.)

    It's possible, but I think it's unlikely due to the context. Royal we is certainly a valid concept, but it's also used in the manner I described, particularly by activists.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGph7QHzmo8

    (disclaimer: I don't necessarily endorse that video's overall opinions of the curriculum, as it lacks context, however it is a clear example of educational materials advocating use of "we" in this fashion.)

    I find your analysis fluffy and subject to being applied to nearly any criticism you don't like.

    I think you're being obtuse and there's nothing I can do about that.

    What does "legitimate" mean?

    By "legitimate" I mean expression that respects other's right to informal free speech. She crosses the line by failing ALL FIVE of the criteria I outlined above at once. There might be a more appropriate word but I can't think of it right now.

    Because if it means "something I should criticize," then congratulations, you're doing it. You are subjecting her speech to the more-speech remedy. That's how it should work.

    I am not trying to get her fired and I'm not trying to coerce her into changing her opinions. I'm not advocating she be censored. I'm not posting messages in forums where I expect the people reading to engage in harassment or any sort of abuse. In fact I'm not even bothering to address her at all. I'm taking aim at someone I percieve to be attacking the core ideal of free speech by pretending that the only relevant definition is the one that applies to use of force by government agents.

    And yet, you are repeatedly applying the language of an exception to First Amendment protections, the fighting words test.

    It is because the core ideals behind free speech are codified in the constitution to govern that the language is similar. As you correctly noted, a real first amendment exception would be held to a much more rigorous standard than the one I am using.

    Informally, in forums and between parties who claim to value free expression, the language of the first amendment exceptions can be used to criticize behavior that does not uphold the ideals.

  290. Ken White says:

    Informally, in forums and between parties who claim to value free expression, the language of the first amendment exceptions can be used to criticize behavior that does not uphold the ideals.

    The First Amendment celebrates the right to speak. Your ideal imposes a duty on some people to shut up or only to speak in a way you deem acceptable.

  291. StopEquivocating says:

    Yours is the only commentary that has made me angry so far.

    PS your subsequent engagement has not angered me, only the initial post and its overly broad application of the concept of "Social Consequences."

    Also, I apologize for careless wording and failing to distinguish between words actually in the constitution and words related to describing constitutional exceptions. I hope you will understand the intent.

  292. StopEquivocating says:

    The First Amendment celebrates the right to speak. Your ideal imposes a duty on some people to shut up or only to speak in a way you deem acceptable.

    My ideal imposes a duty on people to make an fair effort to refrain from engaging in intimidation and dishonest rhetoric in response to opposing ideas. I claim no personal authority to make that call, only encourage others to apply the standards I listed. Or at least they should admit that the only concept of free speech they care about is the legal right to say anything they want under any circumstances.

    Your responses to me suggest that you do not find that duty the least bit burdensome. While you've not entirely refrained from emotional and somewhat hostile rhetoric, it's not like I didn't ask for it. You haven't made personal attacks without at least spending some time trying to understand my position. Any misrepresentations of my position are easily explained by mutual miscommunication, and you have allowed me to clarify and elaborate without trying to dox me or have me banned or have me fired.

    I really do not believe the standards I posited are particularly objectionable.

  293. barry says:

    Why free speech? Was it intended to encourage more people to express their opinions more often? Or Was it intended to shift the duty of shutting people up away from the law and onto the people for efficiency? ie. Were the pubs of Philadelphia too quiet or too loud?

  294. StopEquivocating says:

    Ok, I take back one of the nice things I said:

    I'm seeing "if somebody says something really stupid, then if you have a big audience shut up about it because you might do them harm and that hurts free speech."

    This is a misrepresentation of my position and I find it hard to believe it's the result of honest miscommunication.

  295. Ken White says:

    My ideal imposes a duty on people to make an fair effort to refrain from engaging in intimidation and dishonest rhetoric in response to opposing ideas.

    My response is that (1) it seems to value the free speech of the first person to speak over the free speech of everyone over that, (2) it is so vague as to be susceptible to condemning any criticism you don't like, and (3) it begs the question throughout.

    Your responses to me suggest that you do not find that duty the least bit burdensome.

    Oh, I find it completely burdensome and unworkable. If I wanted to adhere to it I couldn't have written this post in the first place, out of fear that by doing so a grown-up might be intimidated by calling attention to the natural and probable consequences of his actions.

    Let's look at another one. This post about a professor: violation of the free speech moral code?

  296. Ken White says:

    This is a misrepresentation of my position and I find it hard to believe it's the result of honest miscommunication.

    3. She attracts the attention of a force capable of inflicting harm (Business Insider) as a proxy and uses her outraged Gawker audience as leverage to persuade them to act on her behalf. (This gives her the power advantage)

    How is this not exactly what you are saying — that in writing, I have to worry about how big my audience is, or what its political views are, before I criticize someone?

  297. mythago says:

    I'm not so sure I agree with your analysis of the Unicorn joke. Another way to read it is Pax is suggesting tech managers apply gender blind hiring methods rather than taking measures that are intended to increase the odds of hire for only one gender.

    Anti-Joke Chicken, is that you?

  298. StopEquivocating says:

    How is this not exactly what you are saying — that in writing, I have to worry about how big my audience is, or what its political views are, before I criticize someone?

    I listed 5 criteria and described them using language like "clues" and that the target of my criticism is a post that features ALL FIVE of them. The features build on each other. If only a couple are present, they're still clues but that also means it's more likely there will be some legitimate excuses or justifications for the lapses (carelessness, provocation, etc.)

    If you honestly have no idea how big or powerful your audience might be, odds are pretty low that you're going to pass my criteria for disrespecting free speech. You may be familiar with Adria Richards. Other than the content of her tweet (a specific complaint about a joke she overheard) I would not accuse her of deliberately trying to get anyone fired or even ejected from the conference. I don't think she expected the reaction she got and had no idea of the power at her disposal. In that case, I assign blame for consequences primarily to the reaction of the conference organizers and the employers who used the incident as an excuse to fire people. Neither of those parties has much duty or interest in free speech so it's not really an issue.

    That said, if some lawyer tried to lay blame exclusively at the feet of the two guys making jokes and label everything else as "social consequences" I'd say your definition is worthless.

    Also: none of the criteria I specified are accurately described as "criticize someone". None of the tests require identifying "criticism" they require identifying specific language elements and context.

    So yes, you misrepresent me. If it's an honest mistake, your comprehension of my position is flatly wrong.

  299. StopEquivocating says:

    Oh, I find it completely burdensome and unworkable. Out of fear that by doing so a grown-up might be intimidated by calling attention to the natural and probable consequences of his actions.

    This is just silly. If you really believe this, it seems likely the problem here is far more your failure or unwillingness to comprehend than my ability to communicate, and so I will stop wasting my time.

  300. Ken White says:

    I listed 5 criteria and described them using language like "clues" and that the target of my criticism is a post that features ALL FIVE of them. The features build on each other. If only a couple are present, they're still clues but that also means it's more likely there will be some legitimate excuses or justifications for the lapses (carelessness, provocation, etc.)

    This is an evasion. You've identified five factors as part of speech that is wrong or illegitimate or whatever you want to call it. Whether or not there are four other factors, you're still saying that people may have to refrain from comment based on their audience.

    You may be familiar with Adria Richards.

    You mean, the person involved in the incident that I specifically linked in this post for the proposition that, when someone inflicts social consequences widely perceived to be disproportionate, there can be a huge social consequence backlash?

    Never heard of her.

    That said, if some lawyer tried to lay blame exclusively at the feet of the two guys making jokes and label everything else as "social consequences" I'd say your definition is worthless.

    "some lawyer" lol. u mad bro?

    "Blame" is not apt. The two guys made what sound like extremely innocuous jokes. Someone was offended and expressed offense. The conference reviewed her expression of offense and decided to take action. One of the guys got fired. The offended person got fired. The conference and the companies doing the firing got huge negative publicity. Everything after the two guys talking is an example of a social consequence. That's true whether or not you feel the social consequence was ridiculous.

    You seem to be reading some sort of value judgment into the term "social consequence," as if it refers to positive or admirable speech or speech on which we can agree. No. Social consequence could be ridiculous. If, for instance, I write something in favor of the right to gay marriage, and some reader gets incensed and starts posting dozens of web pages blasting me, and calls my clients and says I am an immoral extremist, and one of the clients decides to drop me, that's a social consequence. My position is, as far as I am concerned, perfectly correct, and the angry opposition to gay marriage (and my post in favor of it) is stupid, and the angry person is unbalanced, and the client is fickle, but that doesn't stop all of that from being a social consequence of my speech.

  301. mythago says:

    My ideal imposes a duty on people to make an fair effort to refrain from engaging in intimidation and dishonest rhetoric in response to opposing ideas.

    Why only 'in response to opposing ideas'? You are curiously uninterested in imposing a duty on people to refrain from engaging in intimidation and dishonest rhetoric in the first place. Even if we pretend that somebody truly is "first" in expressing an opinion, as Ken notes, all you're doing is imposing a truly bizarre and convoluted No Tagbacks Rule.

  302. James Pollock says:

    "I'm taking aim at someone I percieve to be attacking the core ideal of free speech by pretending that the only relevant definition is the one that applies to use of force by government agents."

    That's the kind of free speech we have.

  303. Trent says:

    "it's necessary for you to shut up to save free speech."

    I sense a meme in the making.

    I also believe that Ken is being far too creative and eloquent in his discussion with StopEquivocating and the intent and language is being lost in a big wooshing sound. I would suggest more direct language involving strong words with "uck" sounds might breach the problem of dancing around the subject with long lists of rules on when people should shut up.

    That 5-point "test" is the silliest thing I've read in a while. This idea that there is some ideal of free-speech that the founders believed in and enshrined in the constitution and that people who don't shut up aren't honoring this "ideal" of free speech is so far beyond reasonable or even sane it's not even funny. I'm reminded of the debate moderators admonishment of Billy in the movie Billy Madison and feel just a little bit stupider for having read them.

    Ultimately why this post makes StopEquivocating so angry is because underneath this convoluted (and bullshit) ideal that some people have to shut up or free speech dies he knows Ken is right. And that frankly doesn't jive with this special set of rules he's created so it makes him angry but he doesn't realize why. So he comes here and writes long posts with 5 part tests that tries to paper over this idea that some people have to shut up with lots of "tests" and "free speech marketplaces" to cover up the intent of making people shut up. It's all bullshit of the highest order and as Ken said, those same arguments are used by the people that want laws making Hate speech illegal.

    But I guess under this 5 part test I should shut up because I'm using strong emotional words. But maybe he should have shut up first because he talked about how angry he was. I'm confused, under the rules who should have shut up first? Have we all violated the ideal of free speech and we all go to free speech hell now?

  304. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Trent is without a doubt the winner of the internet this morning but I disagree slightly one small aspect of this: It's all bullshit of the highest order and as Ken said, those same arguments are used by the people that want laws making Hate speech illegal

    Those who want to make hate speech illegal are well-intentioned – wrong, of course – but still well-intentioned. Right motive, wrong solution kind of thing. Bit on the patronizing side too, quite often, when discussing those they want to protect.

    But StopEquivocating – irony, thou shouldst be living at this hour! – is claiming that everyone should face restraints. And for the sake of a poo-flinging idiot who doesn't understand properly how Twitter works and who now will have lots of spare time to devote himself to the study.

  305. Jay says:

    Ken,

    Since Pax is/was an officer, I have no problem with Business Insider firing him. He represents their business, probably 24×7.

    But say Pax only worked as a lowly programmer or on their loading dock and had no public facing responsibility in his day to day job and had tweeted the same ugly crap. I am less sure that Business Insider should fire Pax. It's not clear to me that Pax would have been fired by Business Insider, but we do see companies fire people with little or no public responsibility over facebook posts:

    http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/06/06/georgia-bus-driver-fired-for-facebook-post/

    http://www.iol.co.za/news/world/teacher-fired-over-facebook-pic-1.1023313#.UjH6PsZwqJU (fired over a *private* facebook pic).

    I am not saying these firings were illegal. These firings probably fit all the legal requirements.

    I am asking if in general, not in the Pax Dickinson case, if we can really claim to support free speech, if we think speech has its consequences means its okay to fire people for stupid things they say or post if they don't have a day to day public role at a company?

    I grew up hearing and believing that the answer to ugly speech was more speech.

    As we network more and more of the world with cameras and everlasting databases, I think we need to recognize that speech has its consequences runs flat into the wall of our new panopticon.

    We should be actively teaching people that private jokes, overheard in public, should not be retweeted. That private photos on facebook pages should be mostly ignored.

    That your power to make an incriminating photo or rape accusation go viral can be just as dangerous as you waving a loaded gun around, and the remedy is not, go for it and let the courts and social media settle it as you would have.

    You write "I note, though, that it's not logical to hold response speech to a different standard than initial speech."

    Condemning the retweet of a private joke overheard in public, to 10,000 followers is not response speech being held to the same standard as the initial speech.

    Condemning the calls for firings of low level employees for ugly speech, even hate speech, is not response speech being held to the same standard as initial speech.

    The answer to ugly speech is more speech, not the eye of Sauron.

  306. Clark says:

    I just now noticed that Ken put captions under each of the screen caps in the original post.

    LOL!

  307. Jay says:

    Related…

    The private and social consequences of your speech — whether they come from a barista, or your spouse, or people online, or people at whom you shout on the street — represent the free speech and freedom of association of others.

    When I was a kid in the seventies and eighties the social consequences of a sexist for sexist speech was limited primarily to the immediate neighborhood. It was mostly ephemeral. It was known by people who would come in to contact with the individual, and could judge for themselves whether any accusations were likely true or not, or see if the individual had "reformed."

    But now, it's all too easy, it's way too easy, for accusations to become viral, to be seen by search engines, to last forever, to be seen and judged by people that do not know the target, cannot tell how accurate the accusations are, the context of the event, or see if the information is old, or the individual has "reformed".

    I believe that's an order of magnitude or more different and disproportionate social consequences than the social consequences are society was founded on, or would thrive on.

    I really don't think we should march gladly into that fishbowl society.

    I don't see the logic of placing every individual into his or her own Truman Show and justifying it with "speech has consequences!"

  308. Ken White says:

    Jay:

    That's a good point, and it's an issue that I have written about before.

    Two points:

    1. In this case — and in many cases of modern shaming — the speech that is shamed is public and global too.

    In other words, Pax didn't make a joke by the drinking fountain. He — to be charitable — wrote provocative things on a global medium, deliberately.

    2. Absolutely shaming used to be local. But local shaming used to be effective. Is it any more? This is what I said in the case of Paul Christoforo:

    For the last hundred years, people who care about such things have been complaining about the anonymity of modern life. People who used to live in small towns live in big cities, and people are turned towards television and globalized, homogenized culture rather than towards their neighborhood. One consequence is the ability to treat people badly — even in serial fashion — with relative impunity. It used to be that you'd get the reputation as the town drunk or the town letch, or the village idiot, and that reputation would follow you until you move on to another town. But now many people don't even know their neighbors, let alone their whole "town."

    With respect to certain bad behavior, the internet can change that — it can transform you into the resident of an insular town of 300 million people.

    In other words, the ability to shame globally accompanies the loss of the ability to shame locally.

  309. Ken White says:

    Jay:

    Condemning the retweet of a private joke overheard in public, to 10,000 followers is not response speech being held to the same standard as the initial speech.

    Condemning the calls for firings of low level employees for ugly speech, even hate speech, is not response speech being held to the same standard as initial speech.

    These are both excellent arguments about proportionality, and fairly made (though I would argue the retweeting is response speech; it's just speech you find very disproportionate).

    As I said explicitly in the post, the proportionality of more-speech is a perfectly legitimate subject of debate, and disproportionate responses are likely themselves to have social consequences, as they should.

  310. Ken White says:

    I just now noticed that Ken put captions under each of the screen caps in the original post.

    LOL!

    I live to please you.

  311. Jay says:

    Thanks Ken for your response.

    I'm not sure I buy into the need to shame globally because we can't shame locally.

    http://www.newgeography.com/content/00242-america-more-small-town-we-think says as of 2000, half the US lived in a city of 25,000 people or fewer.

    New York City has a population of 10,000,000.

    The Internet has a population of 2,000,000,000.

    The World has a population of 10,000,000,000.

    When you or I act like a jerk, the population that needs to know about his is somewhere between 10 and 100. Maybe 1,000.

    Not to play "think of the children", but this does sadden me that I helped bring this world together, and it's not the world I had wanted for my kids at the start of my career.

    (I appreciated your response to my prior comments, so thank you!)

  312. Darryl says:

    How come I can feel the sarcasm all the way over here?

  313. paolaccio says:

    Ah me… seems like Mr. Dickinson is getting ready to do a little of his own naming and shaming.

  314. neil says:

    The really sad thing is that Pax and his supporters have made lots of baseless free-speech claims, but I haven't seen anyone claim that Business Insider was wrong to fire him because his ideas are good and the business should stand behind those ideas.

  315. Clark says:

    @neil

    The really sad thing is that Pax and his supporters have made lots of baseless free-speech claims, but I haven't seen anyone claim that Business Insider was wrong to fire him because his ideas are good and the business should stand behind those ideas.

    I may be as close to a "supporter" as one can find here, and I think that BI was entirely with in their rights to fire him.

    I'll go further and suggest that to not fire him would have been a bad business move.

  316. Lizard says:

    Ah me… seems like Mr. Dickinson is getting ready to do a little of his own naming and shaming.

    I'm a bit confused by this one… is he claiming that news organizations have an obligation to publish "his side" of the story? If so, cool. Please alert the New York Times to reserve 15 column inches for me every day, so I can provide rebuttals to anything they've written that I don't agree with. Hmm. Might need more than 15. Let's just make it a couple of pages to start with, and we'll see how it goes from there.

  317. Ivan says:

    "Not that valiant philosophical efforts haven't been made, such as this one, to distinguish between witch hunts and witch hunts. Apparently Popehat, though he claims to be some sort of a legal scholar and definitely has strong and (more unusually) sincere opinions about free speech, has never heard of Red Channels or Faulk v. AWARE. It's not clear whether he (a) thinks the Hollywood blacklist was a fine idea, (b) believes it was enforced by the FBI, or (c) considers it laudable to purge fascists but horrible to purge communists."

    Mencius Moldbug

  318. Third News says:

    Agreed, the problem isn't the exercise of his parrhesia but the connection to a business entity that he has no ownership in, and ergo no financial skin. That said, it was Business Insider's choice to dump or keep him, and run the risk of association by employment.

    I don't think Pax Dickinson's politics are relevant -though, IMO, he is a typical libertarian- but this weeks thersitical, or incensing tweets from Professor David Guth who wants the NRA children to be shot first by crazed gunmen, and UCSF fundraiser/University of California employee Stephanie Handler, wishing to deny healthcare to Obamacare “nonbelievers”, is indicative that social speech and understanding its sequela may be the least of problems

  319. Ken White says:

    Just wanted to say: I thought Pax's self-pitying language was annoying, but it's certainly not as annoying as this.

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