There Are No Bad People


Kristin Devine

Kristin is a geek, a libertarian, and a domestic goddess. She lives in a wildlife refuge in rural Washington state with too many children and way too many animals and works with women around the world as a fertility counselor. There's also a blog which most people would very much disapprove of

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169 Responses

  1. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    Forgiveness is hard. Hate is easy, and it’s fun, and it feels so good, man, and besides, those guys did it first and worse so they’re just getting what they deserve. And if they say they learned a lesson and they’re sorry, well, it’s not student who gets to decide when the lesson’s been learnt, and besides they’re probably lying.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to DensityDuck says:

      And besides, we don’t need those bigots on our side, we don’t need them in the new world, we’ve got 50%-plus-one so all we need is to get our side to show up. And brother, one of the best ways to get your side to show up is to show what happens to people who aren’t on your side.Report

    • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to DensityDuck says:

      Which bigots are asking to be forgiven?Report

      • Avatar veronica d in reply to Chip Daniels says:

        Exactly this. We’re being asked to pre-forgive them while continuing to give them power over our lives. Moreover, there is the thing where bigots retreat into their own echo chambers and get worse. OP seems to argue that this is our fault for not tolerating their bigotry, because evidently it is important to give your racist uncle a seat at the table even though this will completely ruin dinnertime or everyone else.

        Before we can talk of forgiveness, I would want to see that the bigot has actually begun to change, rather than to dig in their heels.

        As society becomes more tolerant, there will be a minority who dig in their heels. There will be some number who just refuse to change. Sure, any of them could change, but some will not. The goal is that they should have no power over others.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to veronica d says:

          And besides they’re probably lying.Report

        • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to veronica d says:

          People have a hard time figuring out what to do with relatives and friends that have done or believe in bad things.

          Someone I know is smart enough to believe in systematic racism and police brutality against people of color but also avers that the cops in her life are good people.

          I think confronting this to be false could be psychologically depressing. How do you confront it?Report

          • Avatar Ozzzy! in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            This is not a good example of what I think you are, I think, trying to say.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            People are complex.

            I loved my mother. Her death hit me harder than anything before or since.

            But my mother used to beat me with wooden implements when I pissed her off. Legions of wooden spoons and paddles were broke across my ass and skull until I was old enough to catch her wrists and stop her.

            She was also exceptional kind and caring, as long as I didn’t set her temper off (and admittedly, it took a lot to spin her up, but I was oh so very good at it, personal challenge kind of thing). In the final accounting, she was a good mom, and a good person.

            People are complex.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to DensityDuck says:

      Forgiveness is hard, and so is being compelling.

      So much easier to just write someone off rather than try to find an argument that will inspire them to change their mind.Report

      • Avatar CJColucci in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        You can’t reason someone out of something he wasn’t reasoned into. Only life experience, a largely random variable, can do the job.Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to CJColucci says:

          I disagree. A compelling argument alone won’t win the day, but it can give a person pause and cause to try and see things differently.

          This is the thing about being compelling, it’s a long game. All those internet articles and essays about how no one ever changes their mind assume that the change has to be in the short term, but it almost never is. Change takes time.

          This is why it’s easier to just write someone off, because no one has the patience to let shit work it’s way through. If they can’t get the instant win, it’s not worth the effort.Report

  2. Avatar Damon says:

    While in general I agree a lot Kristin, there ARE some people that are bad and will never change: the violent, sadistic, people who enjoy killing, raping, etc. Some people, like those, deserve a cage or elimination, for the good of the rest of us That being said, even some of the worst are still capable of change for the good.Report

    • Avatar Kristin Devine in reply to Damon says:

      While I do agree, I hesitate to make an exception for sociopaths because if we did, I think a lot more people would suddenly be called “sociopaths” if you catch my meaning. It would be used as a brickbat to create a class of people who are safe to lock away forever because they allegedly cannot change.Report

    • Avatar gabriel conroy in reply to Damon says:

      You and I probably agree on this, but here’s how I approach it. I think the claim, with which I personally agree, is that there are really not bigots. There are people who choose bigotry. A corollary claim, with which I also agree, is that all of us choose bigotry from time to time. At least that’s my reading of the post’s mail point.

      Now, I suppose if someone chooses bigotry enough, and consistently, and refuses all or most opportunities to challenge or reassess their bigotry–then maybe we can safely call that person a bigot. But while I’m definitely willing to say some people qualify, most people, in my opinion, aren’t that bad.Report

  3. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I used to theorize that we’d be better off with a radical reinterpretation of society: one without cops. Pretty much every single instance showing them lying about a warrant or planting paraphernalia or shooting a guy in the back after a taillight stop confirmed that. Then we had, like, a school shooting and the cops at the site refused to go in. Then you hear that one of the cops who got fired for hiding in his car got reinstated with back pay.

    Stuff like that. “Why do we have cops in the first place?”, and you hear answers about Peelian principles and how We Need To Enforce These Laws and How Will We Go Door To Door Confiscating Guns Without Cops and all that and, all over again, I ask myself “would we be better off without cops?”

    And then I see stuff like the CHOP/CHAZ.

    Okay. Maybe it’s better to have this stuff formalized than not formalized.

    So too with the so-called “Cancel Culture”.

    One thing that keeps popping up over and over again with a handful of the new televangelists in charge of telling us how to interpret this new Calvinism is that they all seem to have a bunch of skeletons in their own closets and, wouldn’t you know it, the same defenses keep popping up in some of the corners for their own preferred televangelist while, at the same time, there are thousands of wannabe televangelists slavering to take the place of the old one who just fell off the pedastal.

    Slavering while sending pictures of their junk to a fan, no doubt.

    And the new Calvinists are going to learn the lessons of the previous fans of televangelists learned.

    Maybe this is the reason behind the push for a lot more intersectional leaders. “We need someone who is less awful!” “Maybe we could ask some white chicks to be in charge!” (twenty minutes later) “Maybe some black men?” (twenty minutes later) “Black women!” (twenty minutes later) “Native American women?”Report

  4. Avatar veronica d says:

    Sure, we can reach out to people. People can change. However, I worry that arguments like this are asking us to make sure bigots are comfortable while we targets of bigotry remain deeply uncomfortable. Being the constant target of hate is actually pretty awful, but people like me are asked to endure it day after day, just to make sure your racist uncle Fred can join us at thanksgiving dinner. Moreover, we can be sure that uncle Fred will say shitty things about me, but I’m expected not to make shitty comments about him. If I do, and if things grow heated, I’ll be blamed for the flareup, while uncle Fred “just can’t help himself.”

    The big question: why do so many show endless patience and sympathy for bigots but show pretty much zero sympathy for the targets of bigotry? Never forget the relationship is not symmetrical. Bigots enjoy hurting their targets, while their targets must endure being hurt.Report

    • As someone who probably sympathizes with the posture you’re critiquing (and as someone who’s much more likely NOT to be a target most bigoted actions), I wrestle with your “big question.” The best that I can come up with is that some measure of patience and empathy/sympathy is what’s required to, eventually, change others. Should you or anyone be burdened with that responsibility? No, it’s not fair to ask you to do that.

      That’s “the best” I can come up with, mind. I’m not saying it’s satisfying. And speaking for myself, while I should use my advantaged position to help others and be an “ally,” I know that for the most part, I won’t be choosing to do that. I should, and I might on the margins, make such choices, but I know I probably won’t dedicate my life to making even the moderate kinds of choices that would be necessary make Uncle Fred uncomfortable. Those decisions are a mixture of self-interest, frustration, goodwill, malice, and privilege on my part. I’m not proud of it, but that’s where I am.Report

      • Avatar veronica d in reply to gabriel conroy says:

        For my part, I don’t put up with uncle Fred. I speak up. I “make it awkward” — but I didn’t really make it awkward. Fred did. What I did was refuse to sit quietly and feel awkward while everyone else gave license to Fred.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to veronica d says:

          “Maybe you don’t like this thing that I’m doing, but it’s your own fault, really” is a pretty classic abuser-gaslighting move.Report

        • And I can’t really blame you for doing that. Or, I might choose to, but I realize I’m wrong to do so.Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to veronica d says:

          Making it awkward depends on a read of the room.

          If Fred is talking shit and everyone else is OK with it (because they agree, or don’t care), then you are making it awkward by speaking up.

          If Fred is talking shit and everyone is quietly offended by it, but afraid to speak up, then Fred is making it awkward and you are just giving voice to what everyone else is thinking.

          In either case, go you for speaking up. But in the former, either you need new friends, or you got a lot of work to do and this won’t be the first get together where things get awkward.Report

          • Avatar veronica d in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            Well, the scenario is that awful family dinner where folks tolerate Fred due to family stuff. You’re supposed to silently endure his bullshit.

            Of course, we can apply that metaphorically to the broader society. For example, in real life the context could be the workplace, where minorities are supposed to quietly endure bigoted coworkers.

            Should we? We can speak to our manager or HR, but that is its own can of worms. If we get the bigot fired, then many people, including a few on this forum, will stand up for the bigot. “It’s sooooo unfair he got fired!” they say, all while ignoring all the discomfort he caused to his coworkers.Report

            • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to veronica d says:

              Should you be quiet? Nope. Speak up, let awkward be on the part of the audience.

              As for getting the bigot fired, I guess that depends on if his bigotry is in the workplace.

              My Boatswain was a racist in and out of the workplace. Today, if his ass got fired, I’d applaud.

              But if the bigot is only a bigot privately, and he’s got the presence of mind to keep his opinions to himself at work, I’d have a problem with him being fired for it unless you could show that he’s somehow allowing the prejudice to directly affect work relationships*.

              *Granted, they almost always do, because such folks can rarely help themselves but to find subtle ways to mess with the people they are prejudiced against, but assume this is a spherical bigot.Report

              • Avatar Jesse in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Posting on Twitter or Facebook isn’t “keeping it private.”

                As I think I’ve pointed out before, there were likely thousands, if not millions of racist and sexist people who somehow survived the changeovers in the 60’s and 70’s.

                You know how they did that? By not openly talking about how they still wanted to grab their secretaries ass or how they thought their black co-worker got their job because they were black, in places those co-workers could hear him.

                Well, in reality, a lot of them, which led to lots of “cancelings” in the form of multi-million dollar EEOC and sexual harassment lawsuits, but most people figured it out, just like most people have figured out that even if you think your co-worker is an anchor baby, not to post it on Facebook.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Jesse says:

                Depends on how you’ve got things setup on Facebook or Twitter.

                But yeah, if the post is public, or even open to your wide range of friends/followers, then it isn’t private.Report

  5. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    Scientists estimate that our ancestors killed each other at a rate of about 20 per 1000, rising as high as 120 per thousand in times of crisis and upheaval, and this has dropped to a better, albeit still not great rate of 13 per thousand worldwide.

    This appears to be 13 homicides per 1,000 deaths, i.e. 1.3% of deaths are from homicide. Normally homicide rates are expressed as homicides per 100,000 living people per year. For reference, the global homicide rate in those terms is about 6-7 per 100,000 per year.Report

  6. I really liked this post, Kristin. Thanks for writing it.Report

  7. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    I’ve gotten to the point where I consider overt white supremacy= Pedophilia.

    In other words, this should be a taboo that simply must not be tolerated or encouraged in the slightest.

    If this sounds extreme, I would ask you to look at the amount of damage, the scale and depth of misery and suffering that it has inflicted on entire nations.
    Then ask, when we see people marching under the Confederate or Nazi flag, why shouldn’t we feel the same depth of repulsion and disgust? As Veronica asks, why are we so willing to grant leniency and tolerance here as opposed to other societal taboos?Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      Because White Supremacists have spent a long time convincing people that it’s not about White Supremacy. And the Nazi’s have borrowed that playbook.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      Also, there are just enough WS/Nazi’s running around that we all know that one friend or family member who is at the very least sympathetic to those POV. And just as the LGBTQ has won tolerance through exposure, bigotry maintains because that one person you know is not the caricature of a WS/Nazi (at least as far as you know them).

      I think back to my Boatswain, who was racist as hell, but he was my superior officer, and part of my crew and I had no choice but to work with the man. And as long as we avoided topics related to race, you could forget he was racist.

      So we are conditioned, in a way, to tolerate that viewpoint to a degree.

      We probably shouldn’t be, but enough of us are…Report

      • Avatar veronica d in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        The easy answer is that bigots should not be placed in positions of authority. Certainly I agree with this. However, this creates incentives for people to be secretly bigoted, which is messy in its own way. For example, what if I detect that someone is transphobic, but they know how to keep a lid on it? Should they be blocked promotion? Consider all the debates over what is a “dogwhistle.” How can I convince people?

        How many hours a day should I spend trying to convince bigots to stop being bigots? How many hours a day should a spend convincing third parties that a sneaky bigot is actually a bigot? How many hours a day should I spend convincing people that bigotry is harmful and we should work together to oppose it?

        I don’t blame you for not standing up to a superior officer. It’s not your fight, plus it’s a risk. I don’t ask people to be heroes. I do ask them to understand how terrible this is for people like me.

        Of course, his superiors are responsible for him, which is why we engage politically to get anti-bigots into positions of power.


        Recently I read this book:

        Bigots do sometimes change their minds. However, their motivations vary. Sometimes they change because they realize that it is the right thing to do. Sometimes they change because they realize that being bigoted is a social dead end. I expect both play a role.

        It seems that making bigotry a social dead end has two effects. It will dissuade some bigots, as they want to be socially accepted. For others, however, it will just drive them deeper. They will find echo chambers.

        Maybe this is bad, but I think otherwise. Driving them into echo chambers is fine provided those echo chambers lack social power. The point is, can they cause harm? Once they can no longer cause harm, we can work on the slow process of converting them — or converting some of them, because there will be dead-enders.Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to veronica d says:

          There will always be the secret bigots, just like there are always sociopaths. With regards to them… I really don’t like witch hunts. If they can keep it secret, that’ll have to be good enough for now.Report

    • Avatar Pinky in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      If you had to ballpark a number of overt white supremacists in the US, would it be 60 million?Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Pinky says:

        Think of a lynch mob.
        How many people are actually driving the mob? Only a handful. Donald Trump, Stephen Miller, Tucker Carlson, The Federalist guys, and a few others.

        How many are going along with it enthusiastically?
        A lot more. The GOP Senators and Congresspeople, a lot of Governors and mayors.

        How many are trailing along just for the sense of excitement and lulz?
        A lot more. Most of the Trump rally participants, some bloggers.

        How many are sitting passively nodding, but not wanting to say so publicly?
        Even more. The rest of the GOP voting base is here.

        So putting them all together, yeah, I would say its about 60 million.

        But you asked about “overt” right?

        Well, in terms of how it affects the course of events, I would say that “overt”, and “nodding along with overt” is a distinction without a difference.Report

        • Avatar Pinky in reply to Chip Daniels says:

          Just for clarity – a few weeks ago you were saying that conservatives no longer saw half the country as being valid. Today you’re saying that 20% of the country’s population based on their votes, presumably projectable to 50% of the population by beliefs, are morally no better than paedos.

          Do you see how maybe you’re not conveying a lot of esteem for them?

          Your position strikes me as absurd, so I’m not sure what to reductio it to. But just consider this: without saying some variant of “because I’m right”, how would your position be any different from anyone else denying the legitimacy of his opposition? Is there any way that, say, an alien arriving on the planet would be able to distinguish your position from totalitarianism?Report

          • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Pinky says:

            This is an example of the excuse-making I mentioned in reply to Saul, where “intolerance of bigots” is symmetrical to “intolerance of minorities”.

            “I wish to put your children in cages.”
            “I won’t tolerate that.”

            Ahh, intolerance on both sides! How to tell the difference?Report

            • Avatar Pinky in reply to Chip Daniels says:

              If you were casting a net smaller than half the country, or accusing them of something less than being morally equivalent to paedos, I could probably accept your position. Or if you’d answered differently than “because I’m right”. But you have to face the fact that your position, however you got to it, is declaring that half the country is morally no better than paedos. That disqualifies you, by the standard you invoked two weeks ago.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Pinky says:

                I’m not following your logic.Report

              • Avatar Pinky in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                I believe it was two weeks ago that you were saying that the conservative half of the country no longer considers the liberal half of the country to be legitimate, and on that basis you were condemning them. Am I remembering that correctly? And here, you’re saying that half the country has no moral legitimacy, correct? I’m not saying that you’re wrong, necessarily, only that the position you’re taking right now would be condemned by the position you took two weeks ago. And while you’re not necessarily wrong, I think we have to treat your position as extreme and therefore suspect. At least we have to question whether you’ve lost nuance.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Pinky says:

                You really think that “Minorities are illegitimate members of the citizenry” and “Anyone who holds that view should not be tolerated” are equal values?Report

              • Avatar Pinky in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Yeesh. Did I say they were equal? This is what I mean about nuance. You’ve convinced yourself that nearly half the population believes that “minorities are illegitimate members of the citizenry”. Or if not believes it explicitly, does so functionally. (Which is just another way of spitting on nuance.) And functional dehumanizing is an appropriate response to functional dehumanizers, right? I think you’re the one who believes that those two statements are equal.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Pinky says:

                Trumpists aren’t less than human. And they aren’t illegitimate members of the citizenry.

                They are just citizens who hold very hateful and toxic viewpoints which shouldn’t be accepted.

                I think this search for “nuance” is an echo of MLK’s observation in the Letter From Birmingham Jail where he talked about those who offered mild mannered words and blandishments about equality, but couldn’t bring themselves to criticize the bigots directly.Report

              • Avatar Pinky in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                See, I just don’t believe you. Or, rather, I believe you when you say that half the country is no better than paedos, not when you say they’re legitimate members of the citizenry. Maybe you are still walking the fine line of hating the sin and loving the sinner, but in your rhetoric you’re leaving out the “love” part. And if you’re distrustful of nuance, I don’t see how you stand a chance of maintaining that balance.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Pinky says:

                This is just another variation of “You don’t know what’s in their heart!” argument.

                Except, it doesn’t matter. Every white person who walked by a lynching was a good and decent person who loved their children.

                Didn’t matter then, doesn’t matter now.

                We have a duty as citizens to uphold our values and at the end of the day, it becomes a binary choice of how we act, and how citizens act is to vote.

                When people say they will vote for this awfulness, they are making a binary choice to act in its furtherance.
                All the nuance in their heart doesn’t mean crap.Report

              • Avatar Pinky in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                I’m thinking of the nuance in the facts. Like, “I wish to put your children in cages” is a parody of a position.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Pinky says:

                Its the literal position of the Trump administration.
                And no one anywhere in the GOP seems to object to it.

                All the literal positions of the Trump administration read like a parody, but I can’t do anything about that.Report

              • Avatar The question in reply to Pinky says:

                I mean it’s only a parody as long as you’re talkin to somebody white I mean the second you fail the paper bag test you’re going to go in a cage if you’re crossing the border and they made That explicit it’s part of the strategy to make it seem as hostile as possible to refugees and immigrantsReport

  8. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    A dialogue as imagined by very important people and others who do not want to admit the left is correct:

    Richard Spencer: I say, dear chap, the problem with that Hitler fellow is that he did not complete the job.

    Rabbi Katz: Good sir, I must thoroughly disagree with your statement.

    Richard Spencer: Is that so? I guess we must agree to disagree. Would you like a scone with clotted cream before I club you to death while screaming the Jews will not replace us at the top of my lungs.

    Rabbi Katz: That sounds lovely dear fellow but I shall not be allowing you to manhandle my body in such a matter.

    Richard Spencer: Why this whole conversation as changed my mind! I hereby renounce all of my old ways.

    Rabbi Katz: Oh jolly good.

    This conversation should be recognized as completely absurd. It is not the job of the oppressed to show endless good faith to their oppressors. Why do you deny bigots agency? Why do they lack the ability to account for their actions?Report

    • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      One of the many excuses the bigots and supporters employ is to make bigotry a protected class, where being black, and hating black people are symmetrical classes, both deserving of protection.

      But as Kristin points out, bigotry is a willful choice, a choice to disassociate oneself from the norms of society.Report

  9. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    Saying that there are no bad people seems to be wanting to use structural racism as a away to excuse your own bigotry and prejudices. “I can’t be a bad person, since racism is structural rather than personal I’m not responsible for any of it.”Report

  10. Avatar North says:

    I think this is a great post Kristen but it should be applied broadly to the left wing zealots as well as the right wing ones.

    There aren’t people in the US who’re born as Social Justice/Maoist Cultural revolutionaries. When they say they want to make it safe for racial and sexual minorities etc. to live in equality with everyone else in the country they are probably not secretly or overtly trying to make war on Christians; conduct a Cultural Revolution or enact some perverse reverse Jim Crow system only with the woke sitting in the catbird seat over the un-woke masses. And this remains true no matter how much right wing conservative or libertarian screechers yell that they are.

    There’re not bad people but there definitely can be bad incentives on both sides.

    On the right you have the former persecutors (Christians most especially) who desperately need for the anti-bigots to take up their old strategies otherwise the former persecutors will be consigned to that roll for all of history. You have the bigots who need a cultural war to cloak their need to cling to bigotry and you assuredly have the entire edifice of right wing infotainment media which needs to gin up the culture wars to sell shit to an ever dimishing number of frightened increasingly elderly people.

    On the left you have the professors and academic loons who’re desperately trying to carve slices of a dwindling academic economic pie for themselves and will cling to any subject or excuse to explain why they deserve tenure, jobs, money, respect. You have the endless hordes of low info twitter twits and social media morons who just want to signal their virtue for a few minutes and get a low cost surge of endorphins that say “yeah you are makin the world better” with your hate mail or pileon click etc…

    And in the middle you have the opportunists: the politicians who depend on the fanatical fringes to get elected; the corporations who’s cost benefit calculation says firing anyone the moment there’s any sort of allegation of impropriety is cheaper than investigating or defending the matter and those same corporations who correctly recognize that social justice signaling is far cheaper than (and can be used as a replacement for) addressing economic complaints.

    And so far the casualty list for the leftist social justice brigade is comparatively short. The Founding Fathers are in no real danger of being erased from our public spaces. If left wing loons occasionally overreach (as they definitely do) then bronze is reparable in a way that flesh is not-statues of laudable figures can be repaired and put back up faster than the tiny left wing fringe can pull them down. Unless Jesus comes dropping by again the lynched, crushed and murdered minorities are not so easily repaired.Report

  11. Avatar Jaybird says:

    McMegan has a decent thread on Cancel Culture.

    The whole thing is good.

    But, you know, McMegan wrote it. She believes a lot of wrongthink.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Jaybird says:

      From the motte to the bailey.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        You know, on one level, I appreciate what “Cancel Culture”, in the best version of it anyway, is going for.

        In an iterated games, tit-for-tat is an exceptionally good strategy. Perhaps the best one.

        There are arguments over two-tits-for-tat or tit-for-two-tats and I’m pleased to entertain any/all of the arguments over a good, solid, *PREDICTABLE* tit/tat relationship.

        But, Cancel Culture seems to be playing the Grim Trigger strategy. And the trigger was pulled a ways back.Report

      • Avatar veronica d in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        I can play this game!

        The motte is academic freedom. The bailey is being able to call black people stupid without consequence.

        That’s a fun game.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to veronica d says:

          I dunno. The letter, for example, got a lot of people offended. All it was talking about was free speech.

          It reminded me of this old tumblr post:

          Tumblr these days


          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

            Well… *THAT* didn’t work.

            Anyway, it’s a picture of someone walking through one of those laser rooms where the goal is not to trip a laser. Underneath it says “trying to make a joke on Tumblr without offending anybody”.

            One of the responses calls the person a name and makes the point that if you cannot make a joke without being homophobic or transphobic or racist then you are a bad person.

            And someone pointed out that the original photo made a joke without being homophobic or transphobic or racist and the commenter *STILL* got offended.

            It’s a fun game.Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to veronica d says:

          Bailey: Cancel culture doesn’t exist!
          Motte: Well, they deserved to be canceled.

          Just admit that it does exist, that there are people that are part of it that are far too quick to pull the grim trigger, and the rest of the culture is far too willing to take other members of the tribe at their word, without examining the evidence.

          And to be fair, this isn’t specific to Cancel Culture, the Moral majority did the same shit, and they too refused to acknowledge that the most zealous were afforded too much trust.Report

          • Avatar veronica d in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            I’ll lay it out this way: is there a single, coherent thing that deserves the name “cancel culture”?

            After all, words should carve nature at its joints. I can invent a word “schlorp” that denotes either a pedophile or someone with gray hair. Then I can go around calling people “schlorps” — but that would be asinine.

            So what is cancel culture? What various things are denoted by that term? What do they have in common? Is this a valid, unified concept?

            Evidently “cancel culture” includes entirely reasonable actions, such as graduate students petitioning their university administration to remove a noxious figure. Evidently “cancel culture” also includes enraged Twitter mobs —

            — but not all enraged Twitter mobs. For some reason we need to consider left-leaning Twitter mobs as a special sort of problem, but all other enraged Twitter mobs are unnamed and not considered.

            I offer an alternative. Let’s not break this down according to if it is left-leaning or right-leaning. Instead, let’s look at things on their merits.

            Irrational Twitter mobs are bad, regardless of if they are “cancel culture” or a bunch of -channers who hate women or a Russian bot farm pushing QAnnon. By contrast, reasoned petitions to those in power, pointing out how certain people in a position of power should not be are a natural part of civil society. We need not groups these things together the way the critics of “cancel culture” want us to.

            Now let us ask, why does a certain segment want to conflate irrational Twitter mobs with reasoned petitions, and why do they only notice when left leaning people do it?Report

          • Avatar veronica d in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            More on Hsu, which I think is relevant:

            Both of Hsu’s blog posts reference the “Twitter Mob and Moral Panic.” The “Twitter mob” theme has been picked up by those right wing sources Hsu cites in his blog entry. The mob is composed of activists and are “emotional, they are not rational, Spock-like scientists” (6:00 min.). Let’s be clear about the people Hsu thinks he just described: The 550 MSU faculty, staff, and students who signed the letter to President Stanley outlining their concerns about Hsu? They are an emotional “mob.” The statement from the Center for Genetics and Society objecting to Hsu’s misguided views about genetics? They are a irrational “mob” too. The original long Twitter thread from the Graduate Employees Union (GEU) with specific links to their concerns? They not just a mob, they are a “Twitter mob!” And, although Hsu has never mentioned my humble blog I suppose I’m part of this hated “mob” as well. All these people are, according to Hsu, “horrible people.” However, when Hsu claims there are ” ~2000 signatories to the letter of support, and many dozens of individual letters from scientists and professors” that is apparently not a “mob” but rather Spock-like rationalists, each and every one. Those who claim the critics of Hsu are commit a “guilt by association” argument seem to have no problem with Hsu’s “innocent by association” argument when he claims the support of “top scientists” or “Steven Pinker at Harvard” (17:20). Either Hsu’s associations tell us something about his judgment or they don’t. You can’t have it both ways. Hsu has never explained why the folks at his own university are horrible people while the unknown folks who signed his letter of support are informed angels, but then he has explained very little about the actual issues in this controversy.

            From here:

            There are lots of good links to follow. In fact, I highly recommend that everyone browse that blog. The author is a historian who focuses on race realism and fascism in America.

            But seriously, why is one set of scholars a “Twitter mob” and the other “Spock-like rationalists” (whateverthefuck that means)?

            I think if you scratch beneath the surface of this controversy, both Hsu and the broader context, you’ll find a lot of really ugly stuff trying to present itself as “free expression” and a lot of really thoughtful and decent stuff being dismissed as an “irrational mob.”

            Which isn’t to say that irrational mobs don’t exist or that we shouldn’t be concerned about them, but this current conversation hasn’t been about them. It’s about race realists and various other bigots who want to maintain power.

            To make this topical, which group has the ear of the president? Which is popular among the right-wing media machine — perhaps the most irrational gaggle of goons in recent history?Report

    • Avatar veronica d in reply to Jaybird says:

      It’s funny that she has so many friends afraid to research stuff. One wonders, given the circles she runs in, if she has a lot of friends secretly into race realism.

      But seriously, she is pretty light on details. Which specific research is she talking about? What aren’t they allowed to say?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to veronica d says:

        Is this one of those things where I’m going to spend 10 minutes researching and you’re going to not bother reading the research?

        Because Chip does that. I don’t want to find examples for them to be waved off.

        I mean, the big example from last week is this one. I imagine it’s fresh in everybody’s minds. Does that count?

        Is this one of those things where I have to find 3? 5?Report

        • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird says:

          They are always light on details because the cases don’t bear out the thesis.

          No one forced them to withdraw the paper. They did it because bigots were seizing on it and they didn’t want their work to be used in that way.

          I mean, in your own link:
          We were careless when describing the inferences that could be made from our data. This led to the misuse of our article to support the position that the probability of being shot by police did not differ between Black and White Americans. To be clear, our work does not speak to this issue and should not be used to support such statements.

          This was the sole reason for our decision to retract the article; this decision had nothing to do with political considerations, “mob” pressure, threats to the authors, or distaste for the political views of people citing the work approvingly.

        • Avatar veronica d in reply to Jaybird says:

          She claims she has friends afraid to do research. Okay, what sorts of friends? Research into what? Like, are we talking about a bunch of junior Charles Murrays here?Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to veronica d says:

            Veronica, I used to visit a college diner and walk home from it on Friday night.

            After dark.

            I never once felt any fear whatsoever.

            If a young woman said that she walked a similar route to mine and felt afraid, is the proper response to ask what she was wearing, whether she was deliberately freaking herself out, or other questions about her mindset?

            Because, seriously, my lived experience walking home from that diner was that it was really, really safe for me to do so.

            But to answer your questions: I don’t know. I can find examples of academics talking about how they’re afraid to talk about stuff, if you’d like (I linked to one above). Would that be sufficient or do I have to write Ms. McArdle a letter with your questions?Report

            • Avatar veronica d in reply to Jaybird says:

              You mean the academics who withdrew their own paper because they didn’t like how racists were misinterpreting it?

              Honestly, I’m just going to bask in your self-own for a while. Small pleasures.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to veronica d says:

                You see it as a self-own. I don’t.

                I see a paper that got interpreted in ways the authors didn’t like that then got pulled once it started being cited by wrongthinkers.

                Similar things will happen when we look at their paragraph where they affirm that they’re doing this of their own accord because it’s the right thing to do.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                I mean, seriously. That’s *EXACTLY* an example of what you were asking for.

                And you’re pointing to “HA! THEY PULLED IT!” as me pulling a self-own.


              • Avatar veronica d in reply to Jaybird says:

                They didn’t get burned. They chose to pull a paper because racists were misusing it, not because of social justice bullying.

                The bad guys here are racists, not social justice advocates. This demonstrates the opposite of what you wanted to demonstrate.

                It’s like, do you even have a brain? Can you process basic ideas?

                Like seriously dude, what the fuck?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to veronica d says:

                It’s weird that saying “those jerks are misusing the data and cannot be trusted” was not sufficient.

                They had to pull it instead. They retracted it. Not saying “oh, our data doesn’t lend itself to the conclusions those people are reaching”. They said “We no longer support the research we did.”

                It demonstrates exactly what I was showing.

                Like, seriously.

                Did you see that Stephen Hsu resigned?Report

              • Avatar veronica d in reply to Jaybird says:

                The authors answered that question in the article you linked. Did you read it?

                They deny they were influenced by mob pressure. They issued corrections, but after the corrections proved ineffective, they chose to retract. This case doesn’t support your point.

                On Hsu, his actions are pretty odious. Is he the hill you want to die on?


              • Avatar CJColucci in reply to veronica d says:

                Jaybird often has trouble reading or understanding
                his own sources.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to veronica d says:

                Yes, I did read that. And I saw that they retracted it anyway. And I saw that he was asked to resign.

                “Is he the hill I want to die on?”

                Depends on the name of the hill.

                Is the name of the hill “Defend what these guys think”? Or is the name of the hill “Nobody is asking people to resign or retract for wrongthink”?Report

              • Avatar veronica d in reply to Jaybird says:

                The people attacking Hsu were graduate students over whom he had power. They didn’t want a eugenics/race science advocate making decisions that affected them. Evidently the university agreed.

                Certainly grad students have the right to object to an administrator. Certainly the university should consider their claims on their merits.

                Hsu hasn’t been silenced. He remains a physics professor. Likewise, he can continue his race science hobby, should he want to. What had changed is he no longer makes funding decisions for other students. That seems fine to me.

                Is there any racist you won’t defend? Was Fox News wrong to can Blake Neff, or is Fox caving to the social justice mob?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to veronica d says:

                Saying “this guy was asked to resign” is not “defending” him.

                It’s pointing out that this shit happens.

                And you’re looking at the same thing that I’m looking at and you’re not even saying “yes, it happens and it’s good”. You’re saying “no, it doesn’t happen and, besides, he deserved it.”

                (Which, ironically, includes two of the arguments that show up in the tweets that kicked off the thread arguing that this sort of thing is happening.)Report

              • Avatar veronica d in reply to Jaybird says:

                Oh I get that. But still, Hsu was attacked by students over whom he had power, not a random social justice mob. Do they not have the right to speak? Should they have no power to influence who has power over them? Should they have to shut up and accept their situation?

                Who here is really defending academic freedom?

                When we get to specifics, the claims against “call out culture” often fall apart. You’ve made two specific claims, neither of which hold water.

                If your argument only works in the abstract, not the specific, then what is actually the problem?

                As I said, the motte, academic freedom, the bailey, race science.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to veronica d says:

                Of course they have the right to speak.

                Nobody is questioning their right to speak.Report

              • Avatar veronica d in reply to Jaybird says:

                And in this case the administration evidently found their concerns valid and the guy resigned.

                So where is the injustice? The right to speak includes the right of those in authority to listen. Not only did the students speak, they were heard.

                If you want to attack social justice, you need to show bad outcomes. If it leads to good outcomes, we should continue to support it.

                The anti-sj narrative is unhinged Twitter mobs silencing academics. Neither example you presented supports that case. One was a paper withdrawn because racists were misusing the data. The second was internal to a university and involved students petitioning the administration to change leadership. Both seen entirely legitimate on the facts.Report

              • Avatar veronica d in reply to veronica d says:

                You know, I’m feeling kind of bad for Jaybird, so I’m going to help him make his case.

                So, I seem to remember it was either Brown or Yale. Google around. Anyway, an administrator got into hot water over offensive Halloween costumes, or something like that. I’m hazy on the details. Anyhow, there was a very cringey shit storm over it.

                That was a much better example of social justice crazy town than the examples he provided.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to veronica d says:

                No, I saw that one and it was the fraternity president who got in hot water with the dean after the toga party where they took liberties with the female guests.

                The entire fraternity was cancelled as I recall, which led to them rioting during the Founder’s Day parade.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to veronica d says:

                Hey, if we agree that things are now happening that, in the past, would not used to have happened, I’d think that we’re now somewhere.

                Do we agree that these things that are happening now would not have happened in the past? Like, the administration would have told the students to pound sand but, now, they’re actually listening to the students?

                Do we agree that that’s happening now?Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird says:

                Like, the administration would have told the students to pound sand but, now, they’re actually listening to the students?

                The grayhaired veterans of the Vietnam era college protests laugh gently.Report

              • Avatar veronica d in reply to Jaybird says:

                Nothing happened to Hsu that didn’t happen to Charles Murray, so that doesn’t seem so new. Regarding the withdrawn paper, perhaps that is new, but given it was a response to rising white nationalism, I’m not sure if the social justice aspects are what should bother us.

                Again, if your job is to discredit social justice activism, you’ll need to do that directly.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to veronica d says:

                It didn’t happen but if it happened, it was good.

                These are messages that people who claim to be familiar with white nationalism ought to recognize in the wild.Report

              • Avatar veronica d in reply to Jaybird says:

                You can’t make your case so you’re falling back to empty rhetoric. Whatever dude. You’re as slippery as an eel.

                Hint: your argument should follow from evidence.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to veronica d says:

                My argument is that the culture is changing and there are things happening that demonstrates that fact.

                Meh. That’s not that interesting.
                (Sustainable? Now *THAT* is interesting! To be perfectly honest, I haven’t been a fan of tenure-as-practiced for a long time and I think that the new culture might finally succeed in getting rid of it.)

                In the meantime, I’m mostly just interested in the extent to which people deny the obvious.Report

              • Avatar veronica d in reply to Jaybird says:

                It’s obvious that you make terrible arguments defending racists.

                You presented two examples of what you thought were social justice overreach, but neither were. There question is, why did you think they were? You didn’t discover them on your own. You read about them elsewhere. Where? Quillette? SSC? What other lies have they told you? Did you check? Moreover, you clearly didn’t look too closely at either, else you would have known they don’t support your case. In other words, you repeated a bad argument without thinking. Plus you seem quite eager to ignore the degree that letter is a tool for bigots, by bigots, and the useful idiots who stan for them.

                Was it social justice overreach when Fox fired that Naff guy? If not, why not?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to veronica d says:

                Veronica, I’m not arguing “social justice overreach”. I was arguing, however, that they’re examples of the newer cancel culture.

                I’m arguing “cancel culture exists” and the argument I have in my back pocket, waiting to pull it out, is “it’s acting like the ascendant ideology”.

                While it’s true that I think that the old holding-Enlightenment-Ideals (even if hypocritically) culture was better than what appears to be in the process of replacing it, my argument isn’t that the new social justice thing is “bad”.

                As if my saying “it’s bad” would mean a goddamn thing to someone who thinks that “it’s good, actually”.

                In the meantime, I’m mostly just interested in the extent to which people deny the obvious.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                (On top of that, it’s only overreach if it doesn’t work, right?)Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird says:

                Jaybird, your problem is that you refuse to accept that pointing at true things and saying “this is a true thing” can be an attack.

                Because why would you point at that true thing, right now, in this conversation? Clearly you mean for us to notice that thing, and since you’re arguing with her anything you do is an attack on her, and since anything you do is an attack on her then clearly you mean that noticing that thing is an attack on her. It doesn’ t matter what it is, or how much tortured fake-theory-of-mind reasoning it takes to interpret it as an attack.Report

              • Avatar CJColucci in reply to DensityDuck says:

                Odd, it seems that Jaybird’s position is that “pointing at true things and saying ‘this is a true thing'” is an attack. At least for certain true things. And that it shouldn’t be done. At least for certain true things. And the selection of true things to which this rule does and doesn’t apply is interesting.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to CJColucci says:

                If you want to say that People We Don’t Like shouldn’t have jobs, shouldn’t be allowed to use the internet, that anywhere that serves them should be inundated with protests over being Bad-Person-Accepting or Bad-Person-Adjacent, well. I’m sure it’ll be fine. After all, the good guys will always be in charge of the Death Laser.Report

              • Avatar CJColucci in reply to DensityDuck says:

                Take it up with someone who says that. Or has some ability to do that.Report

              • Avatar veronica d in reply to CJColucci says:

                I would say that abstract things generally abstract the abstraction abstractly, all in the meta narrative of speculative theoretical of the abstract. Anyhow, it depends on if we use the correspondence theory of truth or accept the meta narrative theory of abstraction theories of abstraction abstraction abstraction.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to CJColucci says:

                The “pointing at true things” and then saying “behold” isn’t an attack in itself. It’s the “therefore, we should call this person’s employer and ask her if she knows that she hired someone bad” that turns this into an attack.

                (But I’m a fan of compartmentalization.)Report

              • Avatar veronica d in reply to Jaybird says:

                So Charles Murray getting run out of the academy was the “old” cancel culture?

                You asked me if these things are new. Are they? Recently we’ve talked about McCarthyism. Was that “cancel culture”?

                Did you know that the famous Stonewall Inn was a blackmail operation?

                For realz. The doorman was mobbed up, and he checked IDs, and then after his shift he’d turn the names over to the Mob. They’d run the names and find out if any were Wall Street dudes, or politicians, or whatever. If they were, they’d blackmail them.

                Cool, right?

                Was that “cancel culture”?

                If we discover someone is really into race science, and if we make that public, and if their employer doesn’t want them around — well you’ll cry “cancel culture.” But why? Why do you sympathize so much with the caliper crew rather than those targeted by the caliper crew?

                Trans people are still woefully underemployed. We face severe obstacles in employment — not me, of course, but I’m not representative. Are we being “cancelled.” Do you care?

                (You don’t care, and don’t even pretend. If you cared, you’d spend less time talking about your race science buddies, and other sundry bigots, and more about their targets.)

                Again, the motte, academic freedom, the bailey, race science.

                Was Fox wrong to fire Neff? Is that “cancel culture”? Give either answer, then explain why?

                You appear to be dodging that question.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to veronica d says:

                “the motte, academic freedom, the bailey, race science.”

                You’re backwards. “Bailey” is academic freedom, the easily-defensible thing that everyone agrees on and nobody can really argue against. “Motte” is race science, the person doing the just-asking-questions-just-noticing-statistics-just-pointing-out-consistencies thing, and as soon as someone says “hey, there’s an awful lot of data that you’re not addressing, and I question whether the conclusions you’re reaching are the most-likely explanation for even the data you do present,” they run back to “well are you really criticizing the idea of academic freedom?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to veronica d says:

                Veronica, I have argued for, for lack of a better word, “compartmentalization” of our lives for a while.

                Your employer shouldn’t care about what you did over the weekend. They shouldn’t fire you for it. They shouldn’t promote you for it. This is something I’ve argued for for a while now.

                I think I subsumed it under a “right to privacy”.

                “But we’ve never been able to achieve that!”, sure. We haven’t.

                As for Murray, I’m under the impression that he has not been cancelled (and that’s bad). As for McCarthyism, I’m one of those who remembers that
                A: those people weren’t really Communists, they were just going to discussion salons
                B: They should have had the right to do that sort of thing under the First Amendment, and not only under the First Amendment under a conception of Personal Liberty that would have been recognizable to any of the Enlightenment Fathers
                C: McCarthy was bad and what he did was bad.

                How many of A, B, and C have changed?

                As for Trans people, are they being cancelled? I know that I have worked with Trans people at my job (IT, you know how it is) and, on top of that, my company does a great job of having yearly Tolerance Training where we watch slides about the importance of Tolerance.

                (As for underemployment, I have gotten into a ton of arguments about the best ways to address unemployment and whatnot. It mostly deals with stuff like positional goods. Personally, I think that Corporate Culture is an understandable thing for any given Corporation to want to maintain, but I also support a large amount of the aforementioned “compartmentalization”.)

                Was Fox “wrong” to fire someone? I imagine they thought it was in their best interest.

                Is that “cancel culture”? Not on their end. They want the best relationships they can possibly have with their advertisers. It has always been thus.

                I do think that the whole “we need to call the advertisers of the show and threaten boycotts!” is part of the Cancel Culture thing. Here are a couple of links to the discussion over the All-American Muslim boycott we talked about a while back.

                I pretty much stand by what I said then.

                I think that “cancellation” when “cancellation” means “look at this bad thing! Condemn it!” is… well, it’s not *GOOD*, but it’s not *BAD*.

                I think that when it’s a “turning of the tables”, it’s a good play… assuming the table doesn’t remain turned.

                But when it takes the form of a Calvinist piling-on and calls for social shunning? It strikes me as bad (in the same way that I thought it was bad in the community that I up-and-left in my 20s). More to the point: I think it’s toxic and unsustainable and will result in itself being cancelled like a YA book.Report

              • Avatar veronica d in reply to Jaybird says:

                Okay, so we’re switching from the “race science in the academy” thing to YA authors and Twitter pile-ons.

                You do see those are different things, right?

                I’ll explain, although I don’t think I should have to at this point.

                These are different things:

                1. The authors of a paper pull it because it gets repeatedly misused by racists, even after they provide clarification.

                2. A group of grad students petition their university administration remove a faculty member from a decision making position because he has connections to race science and holocaust denial.

                3. The head writer for a crypto-white-nationalist Fox news show is removed because he went mask-off racist on a forum and then was exposed.

                4. A misogynistic Twitter mob arising from the -chans attacks Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn for {reasons}.

                5. A woke-scold Twitter mob attacks a YA author for different {reasons}.

                6. Contrapoints is repeatedly cancelled by “trans Twitter” for various alleged crimes.

                7. A group of abusive narcissists use social justice discourse tactics to psychologically terrorize a vulnerable trans woman.

                8. Trans people are legitimately frustrated and frightened by certain well established journalists and writers, such as Rowling and Singal, using their positions to push dishonest science with a goal of changing the laws in ways that would be detrimental to us. We seek ways to speak out against them, but find they have the power to actively silence us.

                Those are different things. I notice that you consistently take the side of the bigots, regardless of the particulars. Why do you do that?

                (I know you’ll deny taking the side of the bigots, but you really do. This calls for some introspection on your part.)Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to veronica d says:

                No, Veronica. My topic has always been “this Cancel Culture thing is happening”.

                The counter-argument has always been “well, it *SHOULD* happen for Race Science!” with a dose of “But it’s not happening”.

                And I point to this thing happening and that thing happening and people who want to talk about how it should be happening with Race Science keep telling me that I’m changing the subject.

                When, no, I’m merely wandering back to it.

                (I mean, go back and look at the tweets that kicked off this entire sub-thread. Check out how many of your examples restate the examples used in McMegan’s second tweet!)Report

              • Avatar veronica d in reply to Jaybird says:

                So if the head of the promotion committee where I work has a blog where he describes trans people as subhuman, I’m literally not allowed to point this out to my trans coworkers are our allies. Moreover, we’re not allowed to point this out to senior management, arguing that the person in question shouldn’t be trusted with making decisions about our promotions?

                Or is that somehow not “cancel culture.”

                Clearly you think it is, as you brought up the Hsu example.

                You’d have my employer say, “Well, he doesn’t say that stuff at work, so I guess we’ll just trust he makes fair decisions. After all, we should trust people to limit their bigotry to outside the workplace.”

                We’re expected to be okay with that. In particular, he will still have power to decide our promotions after we spoke out against him, because I suppose he’s a moral superagent who won’t retaliate.

                Have you ever met a single human being? Have you read a single book? Do you know anything about anything at all?

                I wouldn’t trust him. Asking me to trust him is presumptuous in the extreme.

                My answer is no, fuck off.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to veronica d says:

                I’m old enough to remember when people got fired for being gay. It probably colors my opinion of the meta-issue.Report

              • Avatar veronica d in reply to Jaybird says:

                Dude, I’m pretty sure I’m older than you, and I actually am gay, so thanks, but I don’t want you defending my interest by actually defending those who want to hurt me.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to veronica d says:

                “Dude, I’m pretty sure I’m older than you”

                ARE YOU BLAISEP IN DISGUISE?!Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to DensityDuck says:

                I miss BlaiseP. One loose comment about monkeys and POOF!, he got canceled.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Stillwater says:

                Yeah i miss him to. Wish he hadn’t stormed off in a pissy huff.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird says:

                I would agree that things are changing, in that the hands that move the levers and switches of power have changed.

                But the structure of social norms isn’t any different than it has been.Report

              • Avatar veronica d in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                See, I think it’s a false narrative that academic freedom being threatened. With any false narrative, you have to ask who is spreading it and why.

                So, who is spreading it and why?

                Well, a lot of the specific claims are from advocates of race science. Many of their examples are about race science. So that’s a trend. However, it’s not always about race. Certainly I can find examples of transphobia. I expect, if I looked, I’d find every flavor of bigotry hiding somewhere.

                In other words, this narrative is coming from powerful bigots who feel threatened. The counter narrative is coming from those targeted by bigots.

                If it’s true that powerful bigots are actually being threatened, then — I mean — okay. And?

                I guess for some people a threat to bigots is enough to offend them. They’ll say “bigots are being hurt” and then rest their case.

                Anyway, none of this works as an argument. What the critics of call out culture need to show is that this affects non-bigots. They need to move from “threat to bigots in the academy” to “threats to the academy as a whole.”

                I don’t think they’ve come close to making that case. Moreover, minorities continue to face unfair hurdles both inside and outside of the academy, as do women, LGBT people, etcetera. Moreover, many of those unfair hurdles arise specifically because of powerful bigots in influential positions.

                For example, consider the trans journalist who was barred from an influential mailing list, all for the comfort of a number of transphobes on the list. This is a pretty stark example of how powerful bigots hurt their targets and block their progress.

                The “free exchange of ideas” means, I guess, that bigots enjoy unchallenged power while the targets of bigotry are denied access. In other words, this is an effort by powerful bigots to both entrench their position and to ensure that minorities cannot effectively petition for change.

                Who is being silenced by whom?Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to veronica d says:

                One of the first comments I made on this matter was that no one, anywhere, at any time has ever wanted speech and academic freedom to be unlimited.

                Everyone wants to limit speech at some boundary line. What I think it changing is where those boundaries are being placed and by whom.

                What is noteworthy, as has been pointed out, that the advocates of “free speech” refuse to spell out exactly what it is they want to say, so instead they fall back on handwaving generalities of “freedom”.Report

              • Avatar veronica d in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                It’s usually pretty obvious what they want to say. After all, given context, some thing are just implied.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to veronica d says:

                You’ve got plenty of freedom! Just, y’know, you need to make responsible choices about how you use that freedom. And everybody else has freedom too, plenty of freedom to have thoughts about your research and to express those thoughts, and freedom in who they express them to, and those people have the right to fire you from your job and block you from using their services, which of course will be entirely a private decision by them and not subject to any sort of outside pressure or influence. And if you think that’s a problem, well, freedom of speech isn’t freedom from consequences.Report

              • Avatar CJColucci in reply to DensityDuck says:

                This is true. It has always been true. It will always be true. Because there is no other way it can be. Unless you want to do a really thorough job of restricting all sorts of freedom.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to CJColucci says:

                “Business owners should be free to fire people they disagree with politically.”

                Is that a good opinion this week?

                I remember when it was a bad one.Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Jaybird says:

                This is one of those moments where you think it would be super easy to destroy the “one ring”

                Let’s unite over worker protections and build some better labor laws while both sides have some skin in the game… neither side get’s exactly what they want, but a “truce” for protecting employment which is so much more than simply a job.

                The right will bend from it’s libertarian dogma on entrepreneurship, and the left can get stronger saftey-nets for labor.

                Alas, why throw away the ring when you can use it for good?Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Marchmaine says:

                Speaking on behalf of all leftists everywhere, we would take this deal in a heartbeat.

                Having said that, most of the examples here are of people at the top of the ladder- positions like CEO, editor, coach or manager- where they never will or possibly can have any sort of “worker rights”.

                The job description of an editor or CEO is to represent the company, and the position is 24/7; A single episode of intemperate behavior at a restaurant is sufficient cause for termination.Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Then your offer would be that much easier to make…

                “Hey everyone… we’re negotiating a truce for all the regular folks so the elephants can dance at their own risk.”

                But honestly, that’s a bit like your zip codes… pretend that you’re punching up so you can ignore the collateral damage.Report

              • Avatar CJColucci in reply to Jaybird says:

                I have my own views on the topic, but they are merely my own. The fact of the matter is that private business owners* generally are free to fire people they disagree with politically (there are now a few states experimenting with exceptions) and always have been.

                Very few people, especially libertarians, want that to change, and given how rarely private businesses bother about their employees’ politics, the problem, if it is one, is not worth ginning up the forces of society to solve.

                In the world in which we live, therefore, losing your job because you say politically disagreeable stuff is simply a fact of life, and no one is entitled to whine because their employer came to be aware of the disagreeable politics you made public enough to cause disagreement.

                I would not, myself, pester employers or advertisers over an employee’s politics. If I object enough to the politics of Sean Hannity or Edward G. Robinson, I wouldn’t watch their shows or see their movies. I might mention this to others, and if it caught on and less laid-back people got a hold of the notion, well, that’s just public opinion. And no studio is obliged to hire entertainers whose political views make them box office poison. (The Dixie Chicks and Jemelle Hill might want a word here.)

                So I can’t be bothered, But I do not wish to prescribe my own laid-back practice as a norm for everyone else.

                * The rule is different for public employers, but too complicated to explain in a short comment.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to CJColucci says:

                “private business owners generally are free to fire people they disagree with politically…and always have been.”

                If you feel this way, great, but just please remember that you feel this way next time someone who speaks strongly against anti-trans bias gets fired, or doesn’t get hired in the first place. Because, y’know. It’s not about who you are, it’s about what you say, right?

                And when you see someone say “I don’t want my business to be associated with that particular political movement, and that’s why I won’t bake a cake for your same-sex wedding,” you need to accept that as well.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to DensityDuck says:

                This is a variation of free speech absolutism:

                “Firing someone for pro-pedophilia comments is no different than firing someone for anti-pedophilia comments.”Report

              • Avatar CJColucci in reply to DensityDuck says:

                It’s not a question of whether I feel that way. My feelings are of no importance to more than a dozen people and little interest even to myself. It’s a question of how it actually is, and I don’t see you disagreeing with my description of how it is. And don’t get started on cakes. Public accommodation law and employment law are different things, each with its own rules.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to CJColucci says:

                I forgot you were that guy who decided that the way to not get corncobbed by Jaybird was to proudly declare that you didn’t actually believe in anything and angrily insist that you never had.Report

              • Avatar CJColucci in reply to DensityDuck says:

                You didn’t forget that. You couldn’t have forgotten it because it didn’t happen. I did say there were things that Jaybird found interesting that I did not and did not feel called upon to form opinions about, and the two of you found this simple statement incomprehensible and engaged in a long squabble the point of which eluded me and, I think, most of the readers.

                Like anyone else, I believe plenty of things. For example, I believe my statement about the ability of employers to fire politically incorrect employees is an accurate statement of fact about the world as it is. I could be wrong in that belief, but so far no one has disputed it.

                Maybe you’re disappointed that all I did was describe a fact about the world rather than say how I “feel” about it. As far as I know, nobody cares how I “feel” about it, but I could be wrong. If anyone is interested, I don’t have much in the way of “feelings” about it. I do have some thoughts, if anyone is interested. They don’t lend themselves to bumper-sticker treatment and might be boring, but I could be wrong about that.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to CJColucci says:

                I’m pretty sure it was the “weaponized skepticism” that I found notable.

                Having it explained to me that, “no, it is humility” was a treat.Report

              • Avatar CJColucci in reply to Jaybird says:

                You didn’t “find” it. You made it up. But since you have so thoughtfully provided the link, I’ll leave it for anyone who cares to look it up and decide for themselves.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to CJColucci says:

                C: I have never seen evidence for X.
                J: Here is some evidence for X.
                C: I don’t know enough about the topic for me to be able to say whether that is evidence for X or not.
                J: Here is some information about the authors who wrote it and the schools they went to and the school they wrote it for.
                C: I still don’t know enough about the topic for me to be able to say whether that is evidence for X or not.

                And so on.

                Seriously, that conversation was *NUTS*.Report

              • Avatar CJColucci in reply to Jaybird says:

                As I said, you’ve provided the link. I’ll rely on the reading comprehension skills of anyone who wants to look at it.Report

    • Avatar Aaron David in reply to Jaybird says:

      Well, aside from being a perfect example of how titter shouldn’t be used for complex thought, she nails most if it.Report

  12. Avatar Aaron David says:

    Just a thought to close this out:

    Social Justice is the rock that academia will crash on.Report

    • Avatar George Turner in reply to Aaron David says:

      Social Justice was a concept developed by those bad Germans to justify what they did. I can see academia crashing on it because nothing good ever came from it.Report

      • Avatar Aaron David in reply to George Turner says:

        Academia will crash on it because it is, at heart, anti-intellectual. Being based on received wisdom, deeply bigoted, following cult-like practices and alienating well over half the country, while offering nothing but spite. We can start to see how it will do this in cases such as the one Jaybird sites above, but also the Weinstein’s at Evergreen and the blow-up at Missouri a few years ago. When the institutions start to shit on the people paying the bills without offering anything, the money will run dry.

        Princeton is flirting with ending academic freedom, to be replaced with a committee that will only allow things they feel (notice the word there) are acceptable. Whole disciplines, such as sociology have already been ruined, and there is genuine fear on the part of researchers of making a wrong step or having had a bad opinion 30 years ago. You can see it whenever a contrary opinion is held as dangerous, or even more pathetic, “racist.” A phrase that has no meaning anymore other than “I don’t like!”Report

        • Avatar George Turner in reply to Aaron David says:

          The way the no-nothing ideology has eaten through the Ivy League and other “top” schools, the last bastions of the Enlightenment, free-thought, and academic freedom will end up being the same schools who dominate the football postseason. Fifty years from now the curator of the Renaissance wing of the Met or the Tate will have a “Roll Tide” poster in his office, unless he went to Auburn or LSU. Harvard, despite its endowment, will just be a place where rich white parents send their not-very-bright kids for four more years of baby-sitting. Barney the Purple Dinosaur will be their school mascot, whereas Yale will probably go with Sponge Bob.Report

  13. Avatar veronica d says:

    So “offended on Tumblr” is the relevant test, because that’s the joke. We’re talking about academic freedom, not bad Tumblr meltdowns.

    If you want to argue that social justice social spaces can be toxic, then I’ll agree. Porpy detailed it ages ago:

    Except the motte and the bailey. JK Rowling isn’t a destitute trans gal. She’s a billionaire. She isn’t a victim of transphobia. She’s a transphobe. These things are different.

    That letter was to protect the Rowling’s of the world, not the Porpentines.Report

    • Avatar veronica d in reply to veronica d says:

      This was supposed to be a response to Jaybird’s Tumblr thing above.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to veronica d says:

      Yeah, and the letter was an anodyne defense of freedom of speech.

      And people are arguing about the letter as if it were arguing that Black People Shouldn’t Be Able To Vote and asking people who defend the letter to defend the whole voting thing.

      JK Rowling has not been cancelled. That’s certainly true. But Cancel Culture being a thing that exists, perhaps even a bad thing, isn’t predicated on whether it can make JK Rowling apologize.

      It’s on whether Academia feels afraid to say certain things and makes researchers more likely to not research certain things.

      Which is why Chomsky signed it.Report

      • Avatar George Turner in reply to Jaybird says:

        Well, we have an academic culture that finally decided that the best way to teach uncomfortable truths is to tell students that “uncomfortable truth” is an oxymoron. If it’s uncomfortable, it can’t be true. This has been going on for a while, with professors getting viciously attacked for teaching that men tend to be bigger and stronger than women. Why, that’s hate speech!Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to veronica d says:

      “That letter was to protect the Rowling’s [sic] of the world, not the Porpentines.”

      When does someone stop being a Porpentine and start being a Rowling?Report

  14. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    Only semi-related but one thing the entire Covid-19 pandemic is that many people have a hard time dealing with the fact that humans are messy and might have their own ideas. So there are people on the Left that seem to seriously believe that all our Covid-19 failures and the fact that people aren’t obeying social distancing rules in public is simply because of Trumpista rightists encouraging bad actions. If we had all the ideological correct politicians and leadership than everybody would take Covid-19 seriously and do the right thing. The idea that you might need to engage in a lot of coercion to get people to behave the way you want en mass doesn’t occur to them.

    Then you have the Covid-19 skeptics that believe that people are only freaking out about Covid-19 because the liberal media and venal politicians are lying to them to advance left-wing ideas. If the media simply told the truth, varyingly defined about Covid-19, than nobody would be afraid and we can deal with it in a pure market way or not have to lock down. The idea that people might be taking Covid-19 seriously based on their own thought rather than because of the media never occurs to them.

    I’m kind of frustrated at both sides these days. They can’t seem to expect that people might be a lot more unpredictable than they like.Report

    • Avatar Pinky in reply to LeeEsq says:

      It fits with the general lack of seriousness which would be dangerous if the stakes weren’t so low. As a culture, we care more about which studio owns Spiderman than which party holds the Senate, and to be fair, there are more Spiderman movies per year than significant pieces of legislation. Our great worldwide plague is 99% survivable; if you lose your job you still get paid and if you don’t go outside someone brings you food. Our wars result in the demise of American drones. Our great civil rights debates are about which CEO’s of fast food chains donate to which charities. I’d like to think we’d become serious if there were a legitimate threat, but that’s just speculation.Report

  15. Ok, bigots, listen up!

    I forgive you, and if you’re very, very good from now on I might let you start saying “Merry Christmas” again.Report

  16. Avatar J_A says:

    How should we treat this case:

    Do people that wave guns in BBQ places as their personal face mask wearing exception deserve the benefit of the doubt?Report

    • Avatar veronica d in reply to J_A says:

      Look, he’s just a good guy who wanted kindness and charity. I’m sure he loves puppies and rainbows and black bodies swaying in the wind — oh wait! Leave out that last part. Anyway, yeah, he’s an Amurikkkan and he’s got a gun. He doesn’t need no stinkin’ masks, what are you? A postmodernist?Report

    • Avatar Pinky in reply to J_A says:

      If the gesture was a shorthand for “I don’t believe that the governor has the authority to issue the mandate, and I consider you to be acting as an unauthorized government agent”, then I might even be sympathetic to his argument, but that’s a lot to imply with an antagonistic gesture.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to J_A says:

      Nope, flashing a gun like that is bad form. It’s not even an implied threat, it’s pretty damn explicit.Report

    • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to J_A says:

      If only there had been a good guy with a gun around to stand his ground and make his day and say “Welcome to the party, Pal” or “Yippie Kay Aye mutherfucker” or something like that.Report

  17. Avatar veronica d says:

    Are you cancelling him? 🙂

    But seriously, I’m pretty sure brandishing a firearm like that is a crime. It is in many places. Perhaps we should send a militarized platoon of cops to arrest him.

    Or better yet, a couple of cops trained in deescalation. Either way, service workers deserve better.Report

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