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.