They spread malice against all religions »« Pax Dickinson’s finger

Speech has consequences

Ken White has a post about Pax Dickinson at Popehat.

He starts by pointing out that free speech does not mean that speech will and must be free of consequences.

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.  That is right and fit; the First Amendment prevents the government from punishing us for most speech.

Private consequences are something else. Speech is designed to invoke private and social consequences, whether the speech is “venti mocha no whip, please,” or “I love you,” or “fuck off.”1 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.

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.

I think Jason Walsh was doing that on Twitter a few hours ago, but I can’t be sure, because he never did answer my question asking what he meant by “off colour.” But I digress. Ken goes on to say criticism of Pax Dickinson led to the creation of a hashtag #StandWithPax, and to quote a tweet –

I #standwithpax because being offended is not grounds to start a witch hunt.

Paging Russell Blackford, paging Michael Shermer, paging paging paging.

The foundation of “witch hunt” rhetoric is the notion that some free speech (say, Pax’s) is acceptable, and other free speech (say, the speech of people criticizing and ridiculing Pax and his employer) is not. You can try to find a coherent or principled way to reconcile that, but you will fail. Pax Dickinson is not stupid. He tweeted provocative things, which have a natural and probable tendency to cause social consequences, seeking the social consequences he wanted:  the admiration of the like-minded, the anger of people he could laugh at, and general attention.

But not too much attention; not the wrong kind of attention; not the attention of his boss, for instance.

Comments

  1. eigenperson says

    DO NOT READ THE COMMENTS.

    Unless, of course, you wish to be made aware that Clark is a friend of Dickinson and will soon be writing a post defending him. Of course, Ken is free to choose who he wants to associate with. I just wouldn’t make the same choices.

  2. says

    I was going to suggest reading the comments. Lizard and Ken White do a great job taking down the claim that workplace discrimination laws are a de facto government speech restriction.

  3. screechymonkey says

    eigenperson@1,

    It’s only recently that I’ve been reading Popehat regularly, so all I really know about Clark other than his foray into that comments section is his rather comically horrific attack on atheists of a couple of weeks ago. (Short version: by “atheists” he means “atheists who are materialists,” and by “materialists” he means not the usual philosophical meaning but rather “people who don’t even believe in the existence of ‘concepts’ or ‘ideas’ or anything else that can’t literally be expressed in terms of atoms or molecules.” He insists that all of the Four Horsemen fall into this category, which tells me something about his reading comprehension abilities.)

    So yeah, I’m really looking forward to some epic ineptitude in his promised defense of his pal Pax.

  4. screechymonkey says

    I do think that there’s an interesting discussion to be had about when it’s appropriate to contact someone’s employer and/or publicly demand that they be fired for things they’ve said in their private, non-work capacity. But this situation isn’t even close to the line.

    Dickinson was a high-level manager, he didn’t really maintain separation of his Twitter account and his employment, he was commenting on things (women in tech, hiring procedures) that were within his professional duties, and expressing opinions that indicate that he is likely very bad at that aspect of his job and a huge liability risk for his employer.

  5. Al Dente says

    I’m angry that some people think whatever they say is free speech but any criticism of what they say is censorship. It’s your free speech to say stupid or hateful things and it’s my free speech to point out that your speech is stupid or hateful.

  6. eigenperson says

    I was going to suggest reading the comments. Lizard and Ken White do a great job taking down the claim that workplace discrimination laws are a de facto government speech restriction.

    OK, do read those comments (Ken’s comments are in general worth reading). But try to skip the awful ones.

  7. picklefactory says

    Clark is an elitist jackwagon, and furthermore, the sort of elitist jackwagon that would sneeringly agree that he is one. It’s like Randazza; apparently they’re contractually obligated to have a tremendous jerk as co-blogger.

  8. Bjarte Foshaug says

    I have a list called “Free Speech for Dummies” that I post whenever I encounter a Freeze Peach troll on Twitter. It goes like this:

    Free speech means…
    …you have a right to express your views no matter how disgusting, offensive, or wrong.

    Free speech does not mean…
    …that anybody is obliged to listen.
    …that anybody is obliged to offer you a platform.
    …that your views are entitled to stand unchallenged.
    …that everything that’s compatible with the law is worth saying.
    …that everything that’s compatible with the law is also compatible with basic human decency.
    …that you don’t have to take any kind of responsibility for what you’re putting out there.
    …that any piece of “information” that hardly expresses any “argument” or “opinion” or “claim” at all should also be protected.

  9. CAlliope says

    M. Foshaug, can you elaborate on your last two items?

    What would be considered taking responsibility? I am thinking that it means that you are not free from dissociation with your words. Or do you mean like, liability for yelling fire in a crowded theater-type situations? What about anonymity?

    Secondly, I am trying to think of what type of information you’re referring to in your last item. I don’t want to be uncharitable, but the first thing that came to mind are art and pornography, or perhaps commercial speech. All of which I personally believe should be protected speech.

    I have little niggles with this or that in your list, but I like it and have expressed similar things myself to people. Thanks for sharing.

    I came here from Popehat.

  10. screechymonkey says

    Oh, of course it is. Of course Clark “knows” that a guy he’s never met and has exchanged two emails with is just “performing” with his long record of obnoxious tweets.

  11. says

    There are lots of problems with Clark’s piece, but the biggest is that he goes on a good deal about how on the Internet, people get shamed a lot more than the old days and way beyond the boundaries of where it’s useful, but fails to deal with or even mention that their potentially harmful behavior is reaching a much larger audience, too.

  12. Stacy says

    There are lots of problems with Clark’s piece, but the biggest is that he goes on a good deal about how on the Internet, people get shamed a lot more than the old days and way beyond the boundaries of where it’s useful, but fails to deal with or even mention that their potentially harmful behavior is reaching a much larger audience, too

    Yeah, Clark’s got some evo psych explanation, pulled from his ass, about why that’s a bad thing.* But whatdyaknow, the sorts of things Pax says on the internet, which serve to shame minorities and women, aren’t really a big deal. And while whining about Pax being fired for his opinions, Clark fails to mention the fact that Pax’s opinions might affect his job performance–or unfairly hinder the employment opportunities of others.

    * Yes, Clark uses evo psych to support his argument that it’s morally wrong to shame white dudebros on the internet. Why is this guy on Ken White’s blog?

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