Liberal Politics and Trans Rights — My Latest for Splice Today

Despite the fact Dudebro Classical Liberals have tarnished the word, I still consider myself a liberal. I believe in using free speech to criticize bad speech, a government that works for the people, and liberty and justice for all. I’m also transgender, so when I heard that Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay wrote an article for Areo Magazine called “An Argument for a Liberal and Rational Approach to Transgender Rights and Inclusion,” I had to read it.

I wasn’t expecting much at first, though. For starters, whenever cis straight people talk about a “rational approach” to LGBTQ rights, they end up sounding like the white moderates Martin Luther King Jr. wrote about. Also, Lindsay and I recently had an unproductive conversation on Twitter where I criticized him blaming Trump’s election exclusively on “social justice warriors,” and his response insinuated that I just shut up and go away. But I figured it’d be better if I read the article before criticizing them. It isn’t as bad as I thought, but still missed the mark.

The article begins with a false equivalence. “On the one hand,” Pluckrose and Lindsay write, “we have extreme social conservatives and gender critical radical feminists who claim that trans identity is a delusion and that the good of society depends on opposing it at every turn.” I agree; both social conservatives and TERFS (trans-exclusive radical feminists) perpetuate the deadly myth that trans women are really just men in drag that want to infiltrate women’s spaces in order to assault them (even though studies show trans women are more likely to be assaulted in public bathrooms than cis women). But then: “On the other, we have extreme trans activists who claim not only that trans people straightforwardly are the gender they experience themselves to be but that everyone else must be compelled to accept this, use corresponding language, and be fully inclusive of trans people in their choice of sexual partners.” I can understand objections to the last one, but what’s wrong with the first two? What’s so extreme about trans people wanting to been seen and accepted for who they are?

Click here to read the rest.

And in a strange turn of events, Helen Pluckrose loved the article!

When “Free Speech” Silences Marginalized Voices – My Latest Ravishly Article

Contrary to popular belief among certain YouTubers, I’m a social justice warrior who actually loves free speech. In fact, the main reason I write is to use my free speech rights to challenge people’s preconceived notions about gender and sexuality and create conversations about complex social justice issues. One of my favorite philosophers, John Stuart Mill, summarizes it best in his 1859 classic essay On Liberty:

But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is that it is robbing the human race, posterity as well as the existing generation, those who dissent from the opinion still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth; if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.

Of course this opens up a wide variety of questions regarding free speech in the 21st century: Is it censorship when a private organization disinvites a controversial speaker? Would racist slogans like “Blood and soil” be considered hate speech that directly leads to violence? Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to answer all these questions right now. I do, however, want to point out a disturbing trend I see:

Those who advocate for free speech the most vocally tend to be silent when marginalized people are censored.

Click here to read the rest.

WDYT?: Is Hate Speech Free Speech?

CN: Racist slurs/slogans

In the wake of the Charlottesville rally, there’s been a lot of talk about whether or not hate speech is free speech. Maybe I’m just a Regressive Leftist who wants to censor everyone who triggers me, but I don’t think there’s a simple answer.

First, let’s define what hate speech actually is. As Andrew Torrez told Morgan and I on the Biskeptical Podcast a few months ago, the law usually defines hate speech as any hateful speech that directly leads to violence. In other words, it’s one thing to stand on a stage and say white people are the superior race; it’s something completely different to stir up a crowd of white supremacists to go out and commit violence against ethnic minorities right there and then. This is pretty much John Stuart Mills’ approach to free speech. He believed there should be no government censorship whatsoever even when it comes to the most bullshit and inane ideas, but he also said “the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.”

I agree for the most part, but I do have some questions.

Technically anyone can say “Blood and soil” and “1488” on social media, even if they’re not serious. So if someone says “Blood and soil” on Twitter as either a joke or just to vent but has no intention of actually going out and murdering Jews, would that still fall under the category of hate speech? By that I mean should the government get involved, or is it best for regular folks to use their free speech to say, “Hey man, that’s racist as fuck”? I think in this situation it’s best to use your free speech to call out hateful speech because even though hateful speech like that doesn’t directly incite violence, it indirectly feeds into a culture of violence.

I hate to quote Sam Harris, but he was right about one thing: beliefs have consequences. If you feed into a culture that says certain minorities are inferior to others, you create a culture of discrimination, hatred, and, ultimately, violence. Language itself can be violent, but I like to think in this case the best thing to do is use your free speech to condemn hateful speech without the government getting involved.

Charlottesville is where things get tricky. Not only were the white supremacists chanting “The Jews will not replace us” and “Blood and soil,” but according to the people who were there, they also came with bats, brass knuckles, shields, and other weapons. They were ready to fight. Would their chants of “Blood and soil” and “The Jews will not replace us” count as hate speech in this case? Should the government keep a closer eye on future white supremacist rallies (not that the government cares about black and brown people, of course)?

What do you think?

ICYMI, Three Recent Splice Today Articles I Think You All Will Appreciate

As you may or may not know, I recently started writing for Baltimore-based website Splice Today which covers politics, art, and culture. Here are three recent articles I wrote for them that I think y’all might like:

Fear Builds Walls: How Pink Floyd’s The Wall Predicted Trump

Gender Dysphoria as a Still, Small Voice (It’s pretty emotionally raw, so discretion is advised)

The Failure of Classical Liberalism (Oh boy, this is gonna piss off the Free Speech Warriors!)

So yeah, hope you like them.

A Dream Come True–My Guest Spot on This Week’s Everyone’s Agnostic Podcast

One of my favorite podcasts is Everyone’s Agnostic where every week Cass Midgley and Bob Pondillo interview people about their deconversion stories. I always wanted to be on their show, and a few weeks ago I got my wish. Our discussion is now online, and you can listen to it here.

Bye, Milo!

By Niels Noordhoek (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Niels Noordhoek (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

CN: Rape

Oh happy day! Within 24 hours of a video of Milo Yiannopoulos defending pedophilia coming out, he lost his speaking gig at this year’s CPAC, his book deal, and maybe (it hasn’t been confirmed yet) his gig at Breitbart. [EDIT: He resigned today.] This all came just two days after Larry Wilmore tore Milo a new asshole on Bill Maher (after Maher basically handled Milo with kid gloves).

The best part is those who have defended Milo’s free speech rights are finally realizing what a turd breath is:

(No word yet from Dave Rubin because he’s currently on vacation.)

Of course not everyone is leaving the Milo Fan Club. Russell Blackford, for example, thinks a privately owned business dropping a client is just as bad as government censorship for some reason:

Apparently we need to sit this Russell guy down (whoever the fuck he is) and explain him the difference between the government banning books and a privately owned publisher deciding not to do business with someone.

Now as you all remember, last week I brought up the whole free speech debate and whether or not we should give Milo a platform. While I still think he should have been deplatformed long time ago, my friend Michael Sherlock says Milo’s downfall is exactly how this free speech thing works:

I hate to say it, but maybe he’s right. Maybe by giving Milo enough rope, he’s now hanging himself.

All I know for sure is that I’m loving this train wreck!

The Biskeptical Podcast #19: Milo’s Frozen Peaches

Today Andrew Torrez from Opening Arguments joins us to talk about whether or not that little shithead Milo Yiannopoulos should be allowed to speak on college campuses. We’re gonna talk about what defines hate speech, whether it’s free speech, and whether or not it applies to Milo. Trust me, this is one podcast you’ll want to take legal advice from (although Andrew disagrees)!

Listen to “The Biskeptical Podcast #19: Milo’s Frozen Peaches” on Spreaker.

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Not Another Milo/Free Speech Article!

By OFFICIAL LEWEB PHOTOS [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By OFFICIAL LEWEB PHOTOS [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

CN: Transphobia

I know, I know, you’re all sick and tired of hearing about that little shit Milo Yiannopoulos and his freeze peach. However, let me see if I can break it all down for you.

First let me clear something up: I don’t believe in banning people from speaking at colleges just because they’re controversial.

I’ll explain whether or not this applies to Milo in a second, but first I want to say that when it comes to your normal everyday “controversial” speaker like Christina Hoff Sommers or Dave Rubin, I don’t believe banning them from college campuses is the answer. It only fuels the whole “anti-free speech on campus” hysteria. Instead, I suggest attending their talks, fact checking all they have to say, then tell them why they’re wrong during Q&A. Sure, they might get defensive and mumble something about snowflakes, but it’s not really about getting them to change their minds; it’s more about changing the audience’s mind.

I actually saw a real life example of this not too long ago. I attended the Women in Secularism 4 conference back in September, and one of the speakers was Wendy Kaminer, who spoke about the whole Regressive Left Is Stifling Free Speech On Campus Thing. We all gave her a chance to speak (even though we all had resting bitch face), and then when it was time for Q&A, a few people got behind the mic. One woman said, “I’m a biracial bisexual college student, and you don’t know what I go through, so don’t tell me to get over it!” Kaminer then explained that all she meant was “making things less socially acceptable is better than legislating things.” (There’s some debate about whether or not this works, but for now I’ll just share this ACLU article that talks about it.)

Now here’s why Milo’s case is different.

This past December, Milo spoke at the University of Wisconsin where, at one point, he projected a picture of a transgender student along with her name on the big screen and then openly mocked her. He called her a “tranny,” said she was a man trying to get into a women’s bathroom, and ended the rant by saying, “I’d almost still bang him [sic].”

To me, that’s not a “free exchange of ideas.” That’s just flat-out bullying, and there should be consequences.

The funny part is even the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man says free speech has consequences. According to articles 10 and 11:

10. No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law.

11. The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law. [Emphasis mine]

Now here’s where things get tricky again: “established by law.”

While doing research for this blog post, I came across a Vice article about the trans student Milo attacked. Near the end of the article, there are two opposing viewpoints about whether or not Milo’s attack falls under the “abuse as defined by law” thing. First is ACLU senior staff attorney Lee Rowland who says:

“. . . when a visiting speaker chooses to use a speech to attack the identity of an audience member, he is the one who bears moral or legal responsibility for those words.” Trying to hold a university liable for that “would be a death knell for controversial speech on campus.”

On the other hand, National Women’s Law Center director of education Neena Chaudhry says:

Kramer could have a legal basis for arguing that the school should have intervened when Yiannopoulos began to target her directly. According to Chaudhry, the question at hand is when free speech crosses over into harassment. “There’s a legal obligation for schools to address such harassment, and that includes when it’s by a third party,” Chaudhry says.

To me it’s a case of harassment, but I know that I’m not a legal expert, so I could totally be wrong. (Maybe I’ll get Andrew Torrez on the Biskeptical Podcast to talk about it.) In the meantime, I suggest to everyone that if Milo’s coming to you town, email the Dean of your local college, remind him/her of Milo’s past, and say, “You want transphobia on your campus? ‘Cause that’s how you get transphobia on your campus!”

The Biskeptical Podcast #8: Indigenous Rights and Free Speech Warriors

Today Morgan and I discuss the North Dakota pipeline protests, followed by a discussion about the rise of the so-called “cultural libertarians.” Also, the President makes a public statement about the importance of free speech . . . at least for some.

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Meet the Free Speech Warriors

The term “social justice warrior” (SJW) is a funny one, isn’t it? Depending on who you ask, it means either anyone who talks about systematic oppression, or just those who refuse to talk to people who disagree with them. According to Urban Dictionary, the latter definition is the right one, although even then it’s easy to throw the SJW label at anyone who doesn’t do respectability politics (I know I have!). Regardless, if the term SJW is meant to differentiate the “good” social justice activists from the “radicals,” then I propose a new term to describe another group of radicals: Free Speech Warriors.

Like the so-called SJWs, Free Speech Warriors (FSWs) are those who take a wonderful thing and totally ruin it for everyone. In this case, the ruined wonderful thing is free speech. I’m not patriotic, but I am glad I live in a country where the government can neither imprison nor execute me just for saying religion is bullshit. I support everyone’s legal right to share their opinions on social media, no matter how shitty. Having said that, though, just because I support one’s legal right to spout bullshit online doesn’t mean I can’t use my legal right to call them out on their bullshit. Also, even though I’m not a legal expert, I’m pretty sure harassment and threats aren’t covered by the First Amendment. As the old saying goes, “Your right to swing ends where my nose begins.”

The FSW, however, says, “Your nose shouldn’t get in the way of my right to swing.” For the FSW, a private individual saying, “That’s racist, don’t say that” is just as bad as the government outlawing racist statements. Also, as we’ve seen from the #FreeMilo hashtag, FSWs apparently think free speech covers harassment as well.

For those that don’t know, two weeks ago Twitter permanently banned gay alt-right blogger Milo Yiannopoulos for his involvement with harassing actress Leslie Jones online. Although Twitter did not specify a particular tweet that broke the camel’s proverbial back, the Washington Post says, “Yiannopoulos was subject to several warnings from the social network over the course of his Twitter career and had lost his blue verification check mark in January for violating Twitter’s rules.” The Post also mentions that conservative pundits Charles Johnson and Robert Stacy McCain have been permanently banned from Twitter for similar reasons.

Of course talk-show host Dave Rubin must have missed the memo that Yiannopoulos was banned for harassment because shortly after the ban, Rubin tweeted his support of Yiannopoulos. According to Rubin:

“#FreeMilo situation is not about 1st Amendment, which is govt. coming for speech. My defense of him is a defense of exchange of ideas. . . .Twitter/Facebook have become the roads we have to partake for exchange of ideas. There should be convo about their responsibilities.”

I don’t know about you, but I like to think stopping online harassment should one of Twitter and Facebook’s biggest responsibilities. In fact, so does Twitter. In a statement released two weeks ago, Twitter says:

People should be able to express diverse opinions and beliefs on Twitter. But no one deserves to be subjected to targeted abuse online, and our rules prohibit inciting or engaging in the targeted abuse or harassment of others. Over the past 48 hours in particular, we’ve seen an uptick in the number of accounts violating these policies and have taken enforcement actions against these accounts, ranging from warnings that also require the deletion of Tweets violating our policies to permanent suspension. [Emphasis mine.]

And then there’s the brief spat between American Atheist president David Silverman and DJ Grothe about the Reason Rally’s Code of Conduct. After Silverman wrote on his Facebook wall that everyone who was offended by the Code of Conduct should unfriend him, Grothe responded:

Dave, do you honestly believe events that refrain from adopting unenforceable and overreaching policies against “harassment” (including attacking religion, like the Reason Rally’s own “Code of Conduct” does) actually therefore *allow* harassment?

These policies are just for show, and are meant to quell some of the more unhinged parts of the atheist movement. Only in a sense are such policies effective. But in reality, such illiberal policies treat adults like children, and create all sorts of liability issues for organization that adopt them if they actually try to enforce them seriously. They are also inconsistent with the ideals of the event – deliberately offending someone because of his or her beliefs constitutes clear harassment in an HR sense. Attendees of the Reason Rally better be sure not to say anything offensive about religious people and their beliefs. And someone should send Dawkins the memo ASAP. [Emphasis mine]

To which Silverman responded:

These policies set out details for how the illegal activity of harassing people (a far cry from “harassing religion”) is handled, and they definitely work. They are most definitely not for show – I’ve had them at AA conventions for year and yes, they work great, and they provide a more welcoming and safer environment without stifling speech in the slightest. The Reason Rally, as well as the other conventions I’ve run, have theists on stage and attendance. It’s not okay to harass these people. You can say anything you want about their religion, but getting in their faces and badgering AFTER they’ve asked you to stop is harassment and it is not okay, and our policies lay out what happens if you do it. [Emphasis mine]

Silverman hits the nail on the proverbial head. Unfortunately, FSWs believe free speech means freedom to say anything without any consequence whatsoever. It’s a fundamentalist libertarian idea that you should have not only the legal right to yell fire in a crowded movie theater when there is no fire, but also the moral right. Anyone who doesn’t like it, according to FSWs, just needs to stop being offended all the time and grow up.

Which brings me to another defining feature of the FSW: FSWs believe people are way too sensitive these days, yet don’t like it when other people use their free speech to criticize FSWs. As I mentioned a few months ago, YouTube blowhard Sargon of Akkad loves to make fun of the concept of safe spaces, yet once started a petition to have all social justice teachers banned from college. Then there’s the Amazing Atheist’s epic shitfit after Martin Hughes called him out on his racism. Apparently TJ Kirk thinks it’s fine to for him to be a racist, but when people call him a racist, that’s “true racism.” Don’t try to reason that out or else you’ll get a headache.

And then there’s Peter Boghossian, who has a habit of saying provocative things on Twitter and then crying foul when people criticize him. Many remember him tweeting why LGBTQ people would be proud for something they didn’t earn, only to complain about the Regressive Left being offended by everything when people tried to explain why he was wrong. More recently, he predicted on Twitter that “the number of black on black homicides will substantially increase over the next 6 months.” After several people asked him to elaborate, Boghossian sarcastically tweeted, “I want to show my moral community I’m a good person and on their team, so I’ll interpret tweets uncharitably and accuse tweeters of racism.”

To be fair, according to the Pew Research Center, 40% of Millenials polled believe the government should be able to censor things that offend marginalized groups, and that is a problem. As my friend Matthew Facciani wrote a few months ago, “Suggesting that the government should intervene when something is offensive is a clear violation of free speech.” I agree; bigoted assholes should have the legal right to let everyone know they’re bigoted assholes. However, where the FSWs and I disagree is that I believe I should have the legal right to tell bigoted assholes they’re full of shit. For the FSW, calling a racist a racist isn’t “civil dialogue,” and that the worst form of fascism is not giving a platform to fascists. I’m not an expert on John Stuart Mills’ work, but I have a feeling that the FSWs would make him say, “Damn, son!”

I don’t know if the term FSW will catch on like SJW, but there certainly seem to be more FSWs than SJWs out there.