free speech rights and ability

One of the traditional, fundamental political divides between the left and the right has been the question of rights and ability, the question of positive rights. Conservatives have tended to endorse only negative rights, while liberals have endorsed a more expansive vision of positive rights. Healthcare is a prime example. Conservatives have long reacted to liberal claims of a right to healthcare by saying that people have a right to healthcare, but no reasonable expectation that government or any other entity will secure people access to healthcare. Society’s only responsibility is to prevent some from obstructing access to healthcare by force. Liberals have always argued that to speak of rights in this way is meaningless, that rights have no meaning without the ability to use them. That’s what I’ve argued, my entire adult life, and I have long been able to assume broad liberal support for that stance.

But when it comes to free speech rights, American liberals seem to have sprinted in the opposite direction. The congealing conventional wisdom among progressives now is that the right to free expression has only been abridged if government literally physically prevents you from speaking. Absolutely every other way in which your right to express yourself is fair game. So when I wrote about a University of California Santa Barbara professor who physically ripped a sign from the hands of another person in an attempt to silence that sign’s message– her quote was literally, “I’m stronger so I was able to take the poster”– it was patiently explained to me by patiently explaining liberals that there was no actual abridgment to free speech, because the government hadn’t sent tanks to silence those protesters. What that professor did was “direct action” and was thus permissible. Why that person using her physical advantage to silence someone amounts to direct action, and a crowd beating up antiwar protesters would not, I have no idea.

Or take the Brandon Eich situation. I have been told by liberals lately, again and again, that Brandon Eich has no right to unpopular political beliefs in the workplace, that he entered into a contract with his employer and that part of that contract means giving up his right to hold and express unpopular opinions. If that sounds like straightforward Cato Institution-style libertarian argument, that’s because it is, and to see so many self-identified progressives aping it would be shocking, if not for the fact that this kind of argument by convenience is so common in today’s liberalism. That there are fundamental issues of principle at stake here, or that the long-term consequences of all this could be profound, goes largely unsaid. In a piece typical of the current progressive style, Alex Pareene mocks concerns like mine without even really attempting to grapple with them at all, content in the idea that because the people who are complaining about this stuff are on the wrong side, their complaints are necessarily ridiculous.

Personally? I don’t know how you can possibly say that we have free speech in principle if you’re enthusiastically supportive of efforts to restrict free speech in practice. It’s just like saying that Bill Gates and a homeless man have the same right to own a Ferrari. Of course free speech doesn’t mean you have a right to not be criticized or a right to occupy every forum. But the way in which contempt for the very term “free speech” has become one of those cultural signals that are the glue of today’s bourgie elite progressivism can and will lead to actual, no bullshit suppression of speech. A liberalism that claims that rights are only denied if tanks are rolling through the streets is a pathetic liberalism and one that stands in direct and stark contrast to the history of the principled left.

It seems superficially, straightforwardly true to me: people like the anti-abortion protester and Brandon Eich are presumed by progressives to have no right to free expression because progressives don’t like what they have to say. It’s pure tribalism, which more and more often is the only organizing principle of liberal America that has any valence whatsoever. Take #CancelColbert, which seemed to me to be a straightforward case of people misunderstanding satire. The opinion of the crowd seems to have become that only effect matters– that intention is irrelevant, and if someone is offended by satire, that satire is offensive even if the intent was not. I find this an interesting attitude, not least of which because progressives don’t even pretend to apply it equally. After all, who is most likely, in American life, to misunderstand satire and be offended by it? Not liberals, but rather conservatives, particularly conservative Christians. How many times have progressives mocked conservatives for mistaking The Onion for real news? There are entire websites devoted to this purpose. How often has Colbert been defended by the self-same progressives because he offended the conservative rubes? It turns out that the principle of “that which offends is offensive” only applies when it’s the right sort of people taking offense.

If it all is just tribes– if there’s no principle that matters except for Yooks vs Zooks– then fight, OK. I won’t be on board, but I’ve never been much of a joiner. But please: just come out and say so. Just own up to it. If you think that a feminist woman should have the right to hold unpopular political beliefs without being fired for it, but someone who opposes gay marriage doesn’t, because you agree with the former and not the latter, just say so. If you think a counter-protester has the right to physically rip a sign from the hands of an anti-abortion protester but not from a pro-choice protester, just say so. If you think satirists have the right to offend conservatives but not liberals, just say so. It would make all of this so much easier and more honest.

Me, I am absolutely chilled by the idea that companies should have the right to fire people because they hold unpopular political beliefs, even when those beliefs are not being expressed in the workplace. And I find the notion that progressives can safely endorse that bit of crude libertarianism so immensely short-sighted I can’t quite believe it. I also don’t want to live in a world where anyone, no matter how much I agree with them on the issue of substance, feels free to say “I’m stronger so I could stop speech I didn’t like.” If your average progressive disagrees with me, out of a desire to root for the ol’ home team, that’s fine. But let’s be open and honest about what’s happening.

Update: In a system where you have to work to live, if employers have unfettered ability to force your expulsion because you hold political beliefs that the company or your fellow employees find unpalatable, then there is no right to hold unpopular political beliefs at all. There’s no protection, not only for opponents of gay marriage, but for radical feminists, communists, black nationalists…. And the long-term consequence of a world where employees lack the right to political expression is a world where that right becomes solely held by the idle rich.

48 Comments

  1. Some interesting points in here, but let’s just make one thing clear: physically ripping the sign out of a protester’s hands and being fired for a political donation are two very different types of situations.

    I imagine most American liberals (i suppose I don’t count, i’m a socialist, but myself included) were not supportive of the UCSB professor physically accosting a protestor. Full stop. A couple Gawker commenters don’t constitute a strain of American liberalism/progressivism.

    The Brandon Eich thing is occurring in a different register. First of all, even if liberals would theoretically oppose people being fired for their political attitudes, it is something that happens all the time in the real world, so the logic is, well if it’s going to happen to Jane Cubicle, why not a CEO. Unilateral disarmament might not be our best option, since it’s not like management is going to now join us in solidarity to push for statutory recognitions for the rights of workers regarding political speech.

    The other thing about Brandon Eich is that the CEO is just not the same as an employee, and don’t actually even have the same workplace rights (just as an example, they can’t form an Executive Employee’s union). The CEO is, in many meaningful ways, the public face of the company, etc. etc. But when it comes down to it, firing a CEO because of controversial opinions they have which might hurt a company’s bottom line is NOT restricting his/her positive rights, because they have more money than they knows what to do with.

    1. Let’s be clear: getting fired is receiving an act of violence. Bad enough when it’s because you really did screw up. When it comes out of the blue, it is definitely going to be a major disruption to your life. More, and hurt more, than if it was a matter of some time with the doctors, probably.

      Talking about working folks here, obviously.

      1. agreed, it’s an act of violence. But it’s just categorically different than getting physically accosted. In many ways being fired is worse, in some ways its not as bad, but it’s different.

        And yes, talking about working folks, not CEO’s.

        I mean, think about it this way: if firing a person who has millions of net worth is considered a meaningful abridgment of their positive rights to free speech, then why is taxation (using the force of the state to coerce them to transfer dollars from their bank accounts to the government) not a similar abridgment of their full speech rights?

        The one argument I would agree with in the Eich situation is that it sets a bad precedent that could be applied to the rights of more marginalized people. But the thing is, that already happens anyway to ordinary and marginal people, so what is really going to be lost at this point? Not the most hopeful or idealistic argument, but it seems right to me.

        1. I know that employers are not a group that enjoys a lot of sympathy from the left, but what rights do they actually have? I make my relatively meager living running a small company with 4 people including me. If we all find out a white employee is posting Aryan Nation propaganda to facebook, do I have any moral obligation to my black employees who have to work alongside this guy? Or am I morally obliged to side with the racist? And if the two black employees, who are not easily replaceable, decide to terminate their employment so that they can pursue more friendly arrangements, is that an act of violence against me? After all, if they walked at the same time with no notice, it would likely cost me my own livelihood.

          In this vein, I’ve argued to a Libertarian friend that these kinds of issues are reasons for Libertarians to support safety nets, unions and even a guaranteed minimum income. If a society makes employment a prerequisite for basic necessities, then the public is going to have all kinds of reasons to intervene in the employer-employee relationship. But if we had a guaranteed minimum income it would ironically be a lot easier to look at employment from the Cato, voluntary association, at-will perspective.

          1. Did he get along with the black employees previously? If not, why didn’t you fire him then? Sounds to me like the four of you should sit down and talk things over.

          2. That’s an interesting perspective, Don. Just beware that the more power granted to employers for the “right” to fire because of personal views, the *less* likely it will be used to fire white supremacists.

            Meaning, there are a lot less white supremacists than there are employees who will be fired for all sorts of specious reasons.

            A guaranteed minimum income would help, but we are far from that, and employment is still such a major part of people’s lives.

        2. Employers in the US already have virtually unlimited ability to fire anyone for any reason. There are a few protections, but not many, and so far as I know, there are no protections for political views.

          The standard line from the folks Freddie is criticizing is “Eich has a right to free speech…he does not have a right to a job as the CEO of Mozilla”. I agree with him that the right to free speech doesn’t mean much if people are going to be threatened with destitution for expressing unpopular views, but I don’t think that’s much of a real problem that exists in reality. Eich’s family isn’t going to starve, and the left is far too toothless in the US to carry out purges of conservatives from corporate America.

          To me it’s just a small (and not very dangerous) part of a larger (much more dangerous) problem: the American left seems to care about beating up its enemies far more than it cares about standing for any actual principles.

      2. “getting fired is receiving an act of violence”

        Hogwash

        If I choose to fire you, I’m not committing violence against you. As an employee, you are supposed to contribute to the owners of the company, more than they pay you (at least that’s the owner’s intent). If you don’t show up to work, destroy company property, harrass other employees, or just don’t produce enough value to justify your job, who’s doing the harm? Such employees should be fired.

        And just to show the stupidity of such a stance, if you disagree, then please hire me. That you won’t, just indicates your real position.

  2. I can’t decide whether this is just a human desire to suppress the other tribe, found in people of all political stripes, or whether there’s a division within every political group between those who want to suppress opposing views and those who want to debate them.

    I don’t like the idea of suppressing opposing views, but of course it isn’t that simple. One of the arguments I see creationists make is that they’re being denied their right of free speech when colleges don’t hire them to teach biology. This seems like a clear application of your argument that one doesn’t have a right if not provided the wherewithal to exercise it.

    I also don’t think it’s as simple as standing behind people’s right to express unpopular or minority positions. In many areas of the internet, for instance, women who voice their opinions are subjected to large numbers of abusive rape threats. I would contend that the women and the people threatening them are both expressing unpopular and minority opinions, but that they cannot both have untrammeled free speech, since the intent and effect of the threats is to intimidate the women from speaking out.

    There seems no getting away from the fact that speech is just a conveyer of content, and try as we can to avoid it, we will end up privileging one kind of content over another.

    1. I don’t like the idea of suppressing opposing views, but of course it isn’t that simple. One of the arguments I see creationists make is that they’re being denied their right of free speech when colleges don’t hire them to teach biology.

      Yes! This, very much.
      Freddie nods to this when he says, “Of course free speech doesn’t mean you have … a right to occupy every forum.” But I think that putting it that way buries something important: it allows us a backdoor for restricting speech without admitting, or even realizing, that we’ve done so. And yet it is a backdoor we can’t easily do without; so I’d prefer just to admit that restricting speech is what it’s about.

      In the case of hiring a CEO, this fiasco amounts to a failure of due diligence, in a way: not doing the research prior to the hire that would have signaled to the hiring team that this guy’s views were going to create trouble for them. If they had done that due diligence, presumably we’d never know he was considered and then discarded from the list of possibilities. How many other people with unpalatable views get similar treatment already? How many people get passed over for jobs because Dr. Google tells the hiring manager they once did or thought something declasse?

      I do find the Eich case troubling, but it is hard for me to condemn it with such gusto without knowing the full scope of what we are condemning, and what the counterfactual world without any speech restrictions would actually look like. (Pat’s point about what happens to women who dare to have opinions in unmoderated internet forums is really important, I think.) Extralegal punishment for deviance is pretty well baked into humanity, I fear.

  3. XKCD just summed up the current liberal view of censorship, so I wasted an hour dissecting it at my blog. Whatever you may think of the current liberal take on censorship, it serves neoliberalism well.

    1. I’m intrigued by your last sentence. Care to elaborate?

      I read the XKCD comic at your blog, and found myself asking, “What if the person is *not* an asshole?” The artist doesn’t seem to have considered it.

      In fact, the comic is so vague. It establishes no definitions for the terms it uses. Who’s to say what exactly is “bullshit”? Is it a lie? An insult spoken in a heated moment? An opinion nobody’s thought of before, making it sound weird or off-putting at first? Someone who calls BS might be wrong.

      What if a mod somewhere decided the XKCD artist, too, was an asshole? It could happen, and for various reasons. Would XKCD agree to be censored?

      1. I was being a bit glib, but I would note that the illiberal left seems to wholeheartedly endorse the right of companies to silence workers, even when they’re off the job. There’s this new notion that repressive companies are heroes so long as they’re repressing things the majority dislikes. And the attacks on Assange came heavily from the new liberals.

        You’re very right that XKCD’s creator has failed to notice that the tactics he endorses can turn on him in an instant.

  4. Brendan Eich wasn’t your typical cut-throat/chainsaw CEO, he was a technical expert, an architect, a visionary. I don’t think gloating over his demise is warranted, unless you would consider a soulless careerist with a dozen of image consultant on payroll an improvement.

    Of course he didn’t really get fired; he was driven out by an attack of some liberal zombies, which is, well, not remarkable. There are plenty of Taliban on both sides.

    The issue is, of course, that mainstream liberals have chosen to enthusiastically support and cheer their zombie comrades.

  5. Regarding Eich, it’s interesting to me: Prospective employers can’t legally ask potential employees about their religion, and one would like to believe most liberals consider this A Good Thing. I’m not clear on why some of those same liberals think a de facto firing after the fact, in that case, is acceptable.

  6. “And London, nay England, look to thy freedom, I’ll assure thee, thou art very near to be cheated of it … everyone talks of freedom, but there are few that act for freedom, and the actors for freedom are oppressed by the talkers and verbal professors of freedom” — Gerrard Winstanley, English radical, 1649.

  7. Free speech, at least in from my legal history academic background, is the prohibition on the state from enacting any laws that curtail speech. It’s not tanks, it’s any government actor implicitly or explicitly curtailing speech. The historical roots of this broad reading come from Justice Black, arguably the most significant political actor in removing state interference from speech and thought, and his Warren Court allies. His point, quite literally, argued that all legislatures lack the authority to enact legislation abridging the freedom of speech.

    So when I see your argument that Mr. Eich’s speech rights were curtailed, it is clearly not arguing the traditional concept of speech in this country, at least the way I have conceptualized it. There is no state interference here. It’s not that your point is invalid, that there is a dignity and civic necessity for a wider range of free discourse. I would just like to see this spelled out, whether there are limitations under this frame of free speech in private. There’s at least a pretty straightforward conceptual case on the limits of state interference, even if it doesn’t break down cleanly in practice. There’s a case on the merits to be made, but there seems to be a lot of assumption going on in your argument. Or perhaps I am just misunderstanding the thrust of your argument.

    1. The question would be if the state doesn’t also have the duty to protect a citizen’s right to free speech/expression through not only through public law legislation, but private law legislation, protecting the individual against wrongful treatment by others.

      And it’s not like this is an alien concept – it’s e.g. part of anti-segregation legislation, labour union legislation etc, putting factual restraints on companies and business when dealing with customers/employees.

  8. I’m not a free speech absolutist. Curtailing free speech is ill advised, but speech can be be used as a form of violence (e.g. – rape threats, or incitement). In general I feel most of these absolutist debates tend to miss the real issue, which is power. If you have power free speech is fairly risk free. If you don’t have it the consequences can (literally) be lethal.

    As an American you have very few rights in the workplace. I think that’s disgusting, and I don’t think that it’s right that you can be fired for the way that you vote. Most Americans don’t realize this and they should. But Brendan Eich resigned because his presence was a problem for his employer. That’s really not the same thing. Even if his job was protected legally, the outcome probably would have been the same.

    1. You seem to be misrepresenting Freddie’s position. I don’t think he is. I don’t know if you seriously believe that or are trying to frame his position as more naive and extreme than it actually is.

      1. My comment was ambiguous. I meant to say: if you’re saying that Freddie is a free speech absolutist, I completely disagree. I can’t say how you get that from this post.

  9. “I have been told by liberals lately, again and again, that Brandon Eich has no right to unpopular political beliefs in the workplace, that he entered into a contract with his employer and that part of that contract means giving up his right to hold and express unpopular opinions.”

    That thunking sound you hear is Corey Robin banging his head on the wall.

  10. You really think any significant number of liberals would say that a secretary or a factory worker should be fired for opposing gay marriage or abortion? I don’t.

    If your analysis can’t distinguish between wage workers and CEOs, something is very wrong.

      1. I think the idea is that CEOs are supposed to be held to a higher standard than the rest of us. Of course, this only makes sense if you take the social hierarchy of American capitalism seriously — which most millennial progressives absolutely do.

      2. hmm – I thought you did read Crooked Timber – the CEO/worker distinction was all over the comment thread. Most clearly perhaps here: http://crookedtimber.org/2014/04/12/contemptsmanship/#comment-521242
        It’s also, by the way, a distinction that employment law in countries like Germany that do protect employees against being laid off for their politics (it’s basically impossible to fire even a neo-nazi as long as they don’t engage in politics at the workplace or under company label) makes. A company can fire its CEO/Vorstandsvorsitzende(r) for political statements (and lots of other reasons).

      3. It’s certainly my distinction. The CEO is the living embodiment and representative of the company. Anything they say and do can reflect on the company. The same is true of official spokespeople, which is why people who work in PR should be really careful about what they do off the job.

        It’s like churches; they can religiously discriminate when hiring a preacher, but not when hiring a cleaner.

        Finally, Eich wasn’t fired. He quit, because he recognised that Mozilla – a cause to which he was ideologically committed – was being harmed by his continued presence.

      4. There is a material difference between suggesting that a secretary ought to be fired for expressing an unpopular view, suggesting that a CEO should be relegated to a less remunerative position for expressing an unpopular view that makes him incompetent at his job, and suggesting that if secretaries are subject to that rule, then CEOs ought to be as well.

        You are collapsing the three into a single argument.

  11. I think for many liberals like myself, we harbor deep skepticism of the idea that spending money in a political campaign really is “speech.” The idea that rich people have more speech than the rest of us is troubling.

    That said, you’ve falsely presented what happened in the Eich affair as one about beliefs. It certainly was not about what Eich believed; it was about the fact that he acted to destroy the fundamental rights of gays and lesbians in California, flatly refused to give a reason or impetus for that act, then all but stated he would do it again if he had the chance. He could have said he made a mistake in donating or that he would not have donated again to a future Prop 8 if it came up, all without changing his beliefs. That would have ended the whole thing, and he would still be CEO. There were no thought police, there was no litmus test; there wasn’t even a firing.

    I would think most liberals agree that your UCSB professor was over the line; I certainly do. But if you have to resort to that anecdote for a foundation that liberals are out to destroy the wrong kind of dissent, you argument is pretty weak. That said, you fail to realize that Eich’s actions were must more akin to the professor than the protestor in your example. He was essentially marching into a same sex wedding and ripping up the marriage license, using his money to mobilize the state to do his unconstitutional bidding.

    1. This flies in the face of everything that I’ve seen. Where did he “all but say that he’d do it again?” Are you referring to the “I haven’t really thought about it,” response? How does that indicate what you claim, especially in light of his own statement that he was sorry for the pain he’d caused and his recommitment to LGBTQ-welcoming policies at Mozilla?

      We have very little evidence in fact regarding what Brendan Eich believes on the matter today. We have much more evidence of his intention to play by the rules – our rules – going forward.

      In my opinion what you’re really asking for is for him to proclaim a root-and-branch extirpation of any attachment to his previous reasoning about the matter. Some are unwilling to do that in public (Should the President be asked to do so? Should either Sen. or former president Clinton be asked to do so?) They may well feel that they acted in the best faith they could at the time.

      The distinction that matters is between public and private, and how the private space is a space wherein opinion can change in the absence of coercion. That space, to any serious liberal, ought to be a sacred one.

      1. When asked if he would donate to Prop 8 again, he said, “I hadn’t thought about that. It seems that’s a dead issue. I don’t want to answer hypotheticals. Separating personal beliefs here is the real key here.” He could have just said “No,” or even, “Not given my role as CEO,” neither of which would have required him to change his beliefs one iota. He wouldn’t even recognize the harm Prop 8 did to the developers that started the issue (a bi-national gay couple) when they met with him face to face:

        “I met with Brendan and asked him to just apologize for the discrimination under the law that we faced. He can still keep his personal beliefs, but I wanted him to recognize that we faced real issues with immigration and say that he never intended to cause people problems. It’s heartbreaking to us that he was unwilling to say even that.”

        Both these quotes make it pretty clear to me that he would act again to destroy the fundamental rights of gays and lesbians. I don’t care if he opposes gay marriage (which it seems like he does), or even if he thinks gays are subhuman (which it seems like he doesn’t). I think it crosses a line to twist the political process to revoke the rights of people just because of their inborn characteristic–this goes far beyond just ‘belief.’ I think it perfectly appropriate to refuse to work for someone who would use the fruits of your labor to deny you both your rights and your humanity.

        I applaud his commitment to inclusive policies at Mozilla, but recognize many of those are required by CA or local laws, and that he had no power to follow them or not on his own, even as CEO. But again, I don’t care about his reasoning for funding Prop 8, and am not seeking to spelunk into the cave of “why” anyone decided they had to act to deny LGBT rights they themselves have. This is so because I only care that he not act to do harm; it’s a very clear line to me. It’s never been about Eich’s opinion, which I agree is his inviolate right to hold whichever side he’s on.

      2. When asked if he would donate to Prop 8 again, he said, “I hadn’t thought about that. It seems that’s a dead issue. I don’t want to answer hypotheticals. Separating personal beliefs here is the real key here.” He could have just said “No,” or even, “Not given my role as CEO,” neither of which would have required him to change his beliefs one iota. He wouldn’t even recognize the harm Prop 8 did to the developers that started the issue (a bi-national gay couple) when they met with him face to face:

        “I met with Brendan and asked him to just apologize for the discrimination under the law that we faced. He can still keep his personal beliefs, but I wanted him to recognize that we faced real issues with immigration and say that he never intended to cause people problems. It’s heartbreaking to us that he was unwilling to say even that.”

        Both these quotes make it pretty clear to me that he would act again to destroy the fundamental rights of gays and lesbians. I don’t care if he opposes gay marriage (which it seems like he does), or even if he thinks gays are subhuman (which it seems like he doesn’t). I think it crosses a line to twist the political process to revoke the rights of people just because of their inborn characteristic–this goes far beyond just ‘belief.’ I think it perfectly appropriate to refuse to work for someone who would use the fruits of your labor to deny you both your rights and your humanity.

        I applaud his commitment to inclusive policies at Mozilla, but recognize many of those are required by CA or local laws, and that he had no power to follow them or not on his own, even as CEO. But again, I don’t care about his reasoning for funding Prop 8, and am not seeking to spelunk into the cave of “why” anyone decided they had to act to deny LGBT rights they themselves have. This is so because I only care that he not act to do harm; it’s a very clear line to me. It’s never been about Eich’s opinion, which I agree is his inviolate right to hold whichever side he’s on.

        1. Same-sex marriage is not a universal human right. It sounds to me that while he is not guilty of denying any rights (anyone has the right marry, to marry a person of the opposite sex, that is), you really are denying him something: the legitimacy to his view of marriage, of what marriage is. And I don’t see what this has to do with being CEO.

          1. …and maybe it would make sense to care a little about their reasoning; y’know, just in order to understand better what’s going on in their heads. Less righteous indignation, more mutual understanding.

  12. “The congealing conventional wisdom among progressives now is that the right to free expression has only been abridged if government literally physically prevents you from speaking.”

    I find people make that argument when someone invokes the First Amendment, and not when someone just refers to “free speech” generally. People are quick to cite the First Amendment, and literalists are quick to respond by pointing out the lack of government action.

    Free speech can be suppressed without government involvement, but the First Amendment cannot be violated except by government action. Unfortunately people cite the Amendment so frequently that now any reference to “free speech” is treated like a reference to the Constitution.

    It’s all just about words, even though we know what people are really trying to say.

  13. We need to stop using “progressive” and “liberal” interchangeably. They’re not the same thing, any more than “reactionary” and “conservative” are the same thing. Progressives are increasingly willing to force others to either believe as they do or else make sure they never make their dissenting views known. Liberals still believe in principles like freedom of speech and a marketplace of ideas, wherein ideas are adopted or rejected on their merits. Same sex marriage has been making strides because liberals won the discussion. Now progressives are coming in to punish anybody who disagrees with their orthodoxy. It’s a dangerous trend, and liberals would be wise to rein the unruly progressives in — particularly since this kind of thing can create a backlash which will unravel the gains we’ve made in the last five years.

  14. Looking at the original post:

    We have a definition for ripping signs out of peoples’ hands: assault. It’s illegal and I for one am against it.

    I don’t want anybody to get fired for what they said off-the-job. However, telling me that “you can’t criticize Person X because Person / Organization Y will do something bad to X” means that I have (in practice) no right of free speech. In Eich’s case, there were two separate and distinct acts – the act of criticizing him and the act of accepting his resignation. One can (and should) deal with those two acts separately.

    I also think that with freedom comes risk. That’s my real name up there, and it’s unique enough that a Google search will pop up me and blood relatives. So, every time I say something, I take a risk that somebody will object forcefully enough to cause me harm. That risk is the price of freedom.

  15. “Conservatives have tended to endorse only negative rights, while liberals have endorsed a more expansive vision of positive rights. ”

    I’m aware that this paradigm purports to distinguish between rights to something vs. rights from something, but the choice of “negative” and “positive” to characterize them, rather than “passive” and “active,” say, exposes it as–once again!–left wing propaganda disguised as thoughtful philosophy. The propagators of this paradigm were well aware that the popular understandings of “positive” and “negative” are “good” and “bad.” As a matter of propaganda, this concept serves to denigrate individual rights, and destroy any actual understanding of what is and what is not a right. “Positive rights” aren’t rights and “negative rights” aren’t negative. I would abandon the terminology.

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