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Taking on the Offendotrons: a review of Russell Blackford’s ‘The Tyranny of Opinion’

A review of The Tyranny of Opinion by Russell Blackford. Bloomsbury Academic Press (October 18, 2018) 240 pages.

It’s fair to say I have a leitmotif when it comes to commentary. Starting in 2015 (in the Guardian) and multiple times since, I’ve written about offendotrons getting people sacked for their dissenting from progressive orthodoxy breaching politically correct speech codes. Typically, these episodes begin with something like an open letter, a Twitter pile-on, a petition. Sometimes the desired outcome isn’t a sacking. It can be having a book or paper withdrawn, or a publication contract terminated, or no-platforming a speaker, or inducing advertisers and funders to end financial support. Occasionally, it veers into criminality—doxxing, calling police to an individual’s house (known as “swatting”), street harassment.

I could bang on about offendotrons every week and have to resist the impulse. At the time of writing, Oxford Law Professor John Finnis—one of my university tutors and a devout Catholic—was in scope. The attacks on him proceeded in the familiar way. He wrote something “offensive” about gay marriage in a 2011 collection of essays. Someone quote-mines the book. Cue outrage, tweetstorms, a petition, and digging through everything he’s ever written. Finnis—according to the petition—is a homophobe who argues against “the humanity of disadvantaged people.”

The idea of testing Finnis’s ideas intellectually was not entertained until Oxford law student Bláthnaid Breslin wrote a thoughtful piece for The Times. She argued against many of his beliefs, but made the crucial point that his claims for natural law and human rights stand or fall independently of his fairly standard Catholic views on homosexuality.

Instead: Do not pass “Go.” Do not collect £200. Go straight to “sack him!”

Russell Blackford’s Tyranny of Opinion: Conformity and the Future of Liberalism does three things to combat this unwelcome trend. First, it provides an updated restatement of John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty for the internet age. Second, it sets out the danger posed by intellectual conformity to public reason and political debate. Third, it provides a forensic analysis of the extent to which people on the political Left all over the developed world have adopted behavior once mainly indulged in by American social conservatives—the weaponizing of moral outrage.

In performing these three labors, Blackford also does lots of other useful things. He outlines how people on the liberal-left—where, incidentally, he positions himself—are often more afraid of each other than they are of their conservative or classical liberal opponents. He provides a bipartisan history of the “outrage industry” that goes back 30 years. Eschewing the phrase “fake news,” he instead discusses how credulous reporting (“believe all women!”) has something in common with the atrocity propaganda that emerged during World War I. He draws careful distinctions between historical shaming campaigns and modern ones.

From the first page, Blackford makes it clear his concern is with civil society and public reason more broadly, not freedom of speech in isolation. He recapitulates Mill in part because he agrees with him that private constraints on speech and behavior can be almost as destructive, at least in liberal democracies, as state constraints. Mill argued that “there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling, against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent.” Blackford suggests that over centuries—at least in the developed world—we have learnt to manage and constrain the state. By contrast, we have not the faintest idea what to do about Google and Facebook. There’s only one internet, and we’re all trapped there for the rest of our lives.

My political tradition, classical liberalism, often maintains a hard, bright line between state coercion and private coercion, especially as it manifests in the United States (where it is called “libertarianism”). There, the First Amendment—marvelous as it is—constrains only state power. Blackford deliberately draws on the U.K.’s somewhat broader tradition, using Mill to undermine narrower First Amendment interpretations: 

[Frederick] Schauer correctly points out that not all cases where some kind of speech is locally restricted are, in a pejorative sense, censorship. For example, I might have a political right—a right held against the government—to express my support for astrology or flat-earth theory ‘to anyone foolish enough to listen’ without having a similar right against my employer. As Schauer points out, “If I am Professor of Physics at a major university, it is silly to gainsay that such public utterances might validly cause my superiors to wonder if perhaps I am in the wrong line of employment and to take action accordingly.”

But what if I am not a physics professor? Imagine that I’m a professor of anthropology, and that I’m not advocating anything as discredited as astrology or flat-earth theory. Rather, I hold certain views about human nature, or about universal tendencies in human societies, that are currently out of fashion in my discipline but remain live options. These views are about as compatible with the evidence as more fashionable ones, and they have never been decisively refuted or definitively rejected within the discipline as a whole. Their current unpopularity is more for political reasons than because of any particular empirical findings that cast doubt on them. What if, in these circumstances, my superiors start to wonder whether I am in the wrong line of employment, and they begin to take action accordingly? This looks far less like a routine, socially acceptable personnel decision than does Schauer’s example of the professor of physics. Other things being equal—assume that I am a competent teacher, and so on—this is indeed looking like censorship in a pejorative sense. [p.53, citations omitted]

In circumstances like these, private (employer) coercion becomes less and less like a reasonable response to an individual not doing his job properly and more like brute, impersonal government coercionof the kind that free speech laws in every liberal democracy were drafted to restrain. And the internet never forgets. The “right of exit” to which political theorists often refer is absent:

If employers use their power to impose their own opinions and attitudes on employees, or to impose whichever opinions and attitudes prevail in the wider society or a large section of it, this produces a strong pressure to conform. In an economic system—such as exists in the United States—where most employers have an almost unfettered prerogative to hire and fire, this can lead to frightening situations where zealous bosses try to control even their workers’ out-of-hours expression of religious, social, and political opinions […].

As they protect their corporate images, employers may monitor the lives of their employees intrusively. With the advent of social media such as blogs, Facebook, and Twitter, employers are increasingly taking an interest in the online footprints of job applicants. Complaints to employers provide a mechanism to retaliate against individuals for behaviour or speech that offended somebody but may have little to do with the workplace. [p.30]

When the facts change, I change my mind—what do you do sir? is a famous quip, often attributed to John Maynard Keynes although its origin is uncertain. Blackford has convinced me that U.S.-style contracts-at-will are insufficient to preserve the norms we should expect in civil society. You cannot have a situation where the only people with the freedom to dissent from fashionable opinion are (some) tenured academics or upper-middle-class Shire Tories who own property. Blackford admits, being close to retirement, he’s buffered in a way a younger academic would not be.

The right of employees to engage in politics with which their employer disagrees was originally won by the trade union movement, but there are problems with modern trade unions. Flexible labor markets—with their ease of hiring and firing—reduce unemployment, especially for low-skill workers. Taken too far, labor-market rigidities produce situations like that in France, where there is a large and permanent underclass of “unemployables” and concomitant civil disorder. So conceding the freedom to hire and fire is something I’m reluctant to do. It may be that the only way to capture the economic benefits a flexible labor market and contracts-at-will confer without endangering freedom of speech is to introduce a Negative Income Tax (NIT) or Universal Basic Income (UBI), so that when people are fired for their views they are not reduced to penury.

Unusually for someone defending a radical free speech position, Blackford shows sympathetic understanding of the human tendency to conform. Drawing on economist Timur Kuran’s scholarship, Blackford outlines how the majority of people tailor their public statements to fit what’s socially acceptable. They do so for the most prosaic reasons—to make friends, oil the wheels of commerce, get promotions. This is difficult to criticize. We’ve all done it.

However, stating preferences that differ from what one really wants or believes is dangerous. A person who hides his discontent about a fashion, policy, or political regime makes it harder for others to express discontent. Because opposition to the status quo is hidden, we get false information about the beliefs, attitudes, and wants of others. In liberal democracies, this means there’s often widespread “support” for views that would be rejected in a secret ballotand sometimes are. If you want a succinct explanation for why so many polls predicted Remain would defeat Leave in Britain’s EU referendum, Blackford provides it.

He then moves on to a thoughtful discussion of what he calls “the outrage industry.” He sets out important similarities and differences between outrage as it manifested historically and how it manifests now thanks to social media (“cybermobbing”). He also draws a distinction between its history in the U.S. and elsewhere.

People did get outraged about similar things in, say, 1988. Blackford tells the story of German politician Philipp Jenninger and British-Indian writer Salman Rushdie. Jenninger was brought down by accusations of antisemitism while Rushdie was undone by what we’d now call accusations of Islamophobia. Except the term wasn’t widely used in 1988, which forced commentators to call it by its proper name: blasphemy.

The recapitulation of Rushdie’s travails is salutary. It is well to be reminded not only of the grim roll-call of translators and publishers stabbed or shot; rioters burnt alive in Pakistan at an out-of-control anti-Rushdie protest; the own goal of a terrorist who sat on his bomb in a Paddington hotel; book-burnings in Bradford streets. Even worse is the extent to which politicians and public figures on both the Left and Right hemmed and hawed, trying to appease Muslim sensibilities on the one hand, while Special Branch kept Rushdie alive on the other. Of particular note is how few—not even Margaret Thatcher—made a spirited defense of freedom of speech.

Jenninger’s mobbing also occurred in 1988. He was President of the Bundestag and a minister in Helmut Kohl’s government and had impeccable anti-Nazi credentials. His problem—during a speech on the 50th anniversary of Kristallnacht—was his vivid description of widely held views in 1930s Germany and his quotations from actual Nazis. These were interpreted as a disguised defense of Nazism. A political firestorm erupted and he was forced to resign from his official roles the next day. He did not stand for re-election in 1990.

There’s been a shift between then and now when it comes to the people to which outrage attaches itself, however. Rushdie was a Booker Prize-winning, bestselling author famed throughout the English-speaking world; Jenninger was President of the Bundestag. By any measure, both men (and others who were subject to “pre-internet” controversies) were genuine public figures. As Blackford’s history progresses, it is possible—and distressing—to watch a dramatic slide down a sort of “publicness” totem pole.

Things like “no platforming”—which started by targeting apartheid South Africa government officials and racist thugs—moved on to prominent academics (Charles Murray, Erika Christakis, Tim Hunt, Germaine Greer) and thence to journalists and writers (Julie Bindel, Laura Moriarty, Peter Tatchell, Maajid Nawaz). Finally, it landed on ordinary members of the public, like the Covington Catholic schoolboys.

Another key difference is the etiology of outrage in the U.K. as opposed to the U.S. In a careful dialogue with Angela Nagle’s Kill All Normies (2017), Blackford discusses how in Britain online outrage culture originally appeared on the Left. Nagle uses the label “Tumblr liberalism” as a handy catch-all for the left-wing variety. Both she and Blackford document the emergence of a cult of narcissism, suffering, and victimhood whose adherents are nonetheless capable of immense cruelty.

In the U.S., by contrast, the original outrage warriors emerged on the socially conservative Right, and the phenomenon has deep roots. Blackford traces some of it to McCarthyism, and documents the cynical way people across the spectrum—from transactivists to “Pizzagate” boosters—used McCarthy’s tactics as a blueprint. U.S. religious conservatives also became expert at ferreting out their opponents’ embarrassing personal histories—especially those of left-wing academics—and using those details to shame them into silence or get them fired.

This difference in geography is capable of tripping people up, depending on whether they live on the British or American side of the Atlantic. When Toby Young—a U.K. Tory and an associate editor of Quilletteexpressed his concern “at fellow conservatives mimicking the mobbing tactics of the identitarian Left, whether it’s going after Al Franken, Joy Reid, or James Gunn,” his comment reflects the historical pattern Blackford identifies with respect to Britain, where lefties “started it.” In the U.S., the boot was on the other foot.

Why do people engage in this behavior? Blackford notes there’s a belief common to both political tribes. They typically claim we are living in an emergency situation necessitating drastic action against political opponents and justifying censorship. This “state of exception” or “state of emergency” (terminology varies) is considered so dire that much genuinely appalling behavior escapes censure. “Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign was focused on the idea that the United States was in an ongoing emergency situation, but one requiring drastic action from the populist Right,” he notes.

In fact, there’s nothing remotely like a “state of emergency” in any Western liberal democracy. The U.S. will survive Donald Trump safe and whole; the U.K. will survive Brexit. The catastrophizing indulged in by all sides means rhetorical claims are turned up to 11. Hence overblown nonsense about “white genocide,” “rape culture,” “trans erasure,” and so on. But saying this, and standing up for free speech, can be hazardous:

It seems that more and more people, especially in younger generations, now support substantial legal and other formal restrictions on speech that they dislike. They can be very aggressive about this view, and some regard free speech advocacy as itself politically suspect. In this environment, free speech advocates, no matter how conscientious, well informed, cogent, and sympathetic to others they may be, can expect accusations of bigotry or secret agendas. At best, they’ll be accused of insensitivity and cluelessness. These suspicions and accusations may, unfortunately, be the price we have to pay. Often, the only alternative is remaining silent about unfair treatment of individuals, illiberal social developments, and an anti-liberal trend that’s apparent in much left-wing or (revisionist) liberal thought. [p.78]

To up the ante, an individual who defends freedom of speech is sometimes accused of believing exactly the same thing as the speaker whose rights she is defending. Blackford details how during McCarthyism there was a period when even libertarians—generally rock-solid on speech rights—were afraid to defend communists’ right to free speech because they were then routinely smeared as communists. Not as fellow travelers—actual communists. The accusations punched through guilt by association and came out the other side. Chillingly, in the incident that prompted Erika Christakis to leave Yale University, we saw echoes of this. She went publicly undefended by her employer and professional colleagues, even if they (sometimes) supported her privately.

Alongside the “state of emergency” catastrophizing is the claim that permitting certain kinds of speech is a form of “harm,” allowing words to be collapsed into violence and “harm” to be emptied of real meaning. Blackford observes that Mill’s “harm principle“—the core of both left-wing and right-wing liberalism—is no defense against people who insist on equating spiritual or psychological “harm” with physical violence. By this logic, Finnis saying homosexuality “is destructive of human character and relationships” is tantamount to gay bashing.

Blackford notes the striking similarity between a claim commonly made by conservative religious believers—that God and his adherents are harmed by blasphemy—and the “revisionist Left” claim that, say, homosexuals are harmed by John Finnis’s words. This is magical thinking. One almost expects Finnis’s accusers to attribute to him the ability to cause people physical harm by uttering a sort of spell—the kind of thing one sees in a J. K. Rowling novel, not political debate. This thinking contributed in no small part to Europe’s Wars of Religion and feeds Islam’s terrible fissures now. It’s the same disordered reasoning about “harm” that animates people in Pakistan who want to hang Asia Bibi, as though she were somehow capable of infecting the country with “Christian germs.”

Feminists routinely claim that a man looking at a woman lustfully (“objectification”) harms her. Anti-racist activists claim that examining differential crime rates based on race or religion—something Steven Pinker has discussedharms black people or Muslims. By this logic, words in themselves are harmful. That is a harder claim to contest than the other, related argument that certain forms of speech inexorably lead to harm. As Blackford points out, the reason incitement is hard to prove at trial is because it’s extremely difficult to instigate violence by dint of speech.

Having said that, one of the most useful things Blackford does is to document the limited circumstances where there is a causal link between speech and violence. Chief among them is proximity in time and space (Mill’s example of “the corn dealer and an excited mob in front of his house”). Weak central governments unable to prevent violence (Weimar) or an authoritarian state willing to promote violence (Rwanda in the lead up to that country’s 1994 genocide) also make a speech-violence causal link easier to establish. But not often. And all causal claims must be rigorously tested—the onus should fall on those attempting to restrict speech.

Blackford’s suggestions on how to respond to outrage are numerous and should be read and digested in context. Nonetheless, I will flag up two here because they are salient for anyone who wants to defend intellectual freedom.

We should never retract our ideas and words, or apologize for them, merely because this is demanded by a cybermob. That is how mobs enforce conformity. The more individuals and organizations are willing to face down mobs in cyberspace or elsewhere, the more those mobs lose their power. [p.204]

At time of writing, Finnis has not been fired. Per Blackford’s advice, he did not apologize, but defended himself robustly. He also embodied something I learned from him when he was my tutor: we are not golden coins to be liked by all. If gays and lesbians demand to be accepted by everyone, the effect will be to run all conservative monotheists out of the universities on a rail.

As recently as ten years ago, I thought a sincere apology, couched in the right language, would see most mobs off. Having now read Tyranny of Opinion, I have to admit I was wrong. Toby Young’s apology when he resigned from the Office for Students was candid, but it still did him no good:

At this point, the cry for my scalp had reached fever pitch. An online petition calling for me to be sacked from the Office for Students had attracted 220,000 signatures. My daughter was refusing to go to school. My wife said that if one more person came up to her and said “Are you okay?” she was going to hit them. I felt I had no choice but to issue a public apology and stand down.

In one respect, that was a mistake. I had been warned that abasing yourself at the feet of the outrage mob and apologizing would just embolden them. They will take it as a blanket admission of guilt and demand that you be removed from all your remaining positions until you’ve lost your livelihood—and so it proved to be. […]

But I don’t regret apologizing, not entirely, because it was heartfelt. When I saw my puerile tweet on the front page of the Mail on Sunday I was filled with a burning, all-consuming sense of shame. I wanted to crawl into a cupboard and hide. My first thought was: “Thank God my father’s not still alive.”

The second bit of Blackford’s advice I wish to highlight is his injunction (taken from Rushdie) to “defend the text.”

In Joseph Anton, Salman Rushdie reflects after two decades upon the early attacks on The Satanic Verses. He says, “The most powerful way to attack a book is to demonise its author, to turn him into a creature of base motives and evil intentions.” He mentions how, when asked by friends what they could do to help, he often pleaded with them: “Defend the text.” That is, he asked for a more specific defence of the literary seriousness of his novel, and the integrity of its author, than could be found in a generic defence of freedom of speech. In the heat of cultural warfare—or worse than that, as with Rushdie’s predicament after the fatwa—much will be said that is not true to the cultural products under attack or to the motives, abilities, and finished achievements of their creators [p.206, citations omitted].

Defend the text” does two things, at least for those of us who write for a living. It demands critics review the work and not its author, and exposes anti-free speech activists who sound off about artistic creations without reading them, watching them, and so on. Some writers have a policy of refusing to read reviews—whether positive or negative—on the grounds that even the best inevitably view one’s work through a distorted lens. However (and be aware n=1 here), I’ve learnt a lot from erudite and thoughtful commentary on my work even when it’s been critical.

On that (literary) point, Blackford has a beautiful, calm, civil voice. He writes gorgeously, guiding the reader through a great deal of material with expertise and, sometimes, élan. It is a lesson in how to argue, and how to think. The Tyranny of Opinion: Conformity and the Future of Liberalism is an exceptional book. Anyone who engages in political debate should read it.

 

Helen Dale won the Miles Franklin Award for her first novel, The Hand that Signed the Paper, and was Senior Adviser to Australian Senator David Leyonhjelm. Her most recent novel, Kingdom of the Wicked—set in a Roman Empire that has undergone an industrial revolution—has just been published. Follow her on Twitter @_HelenDale.

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Helen Dale won the Miles Franklin Award in 1995, read law at Oxford (where she was at Brasenose) and was previously Senior Adviser to Australian Senator David Leyonhjelm. Her second novel, Kingdom of the Wicked, will be published by Ligature in October this year.

61 Comments

  1. “In fact, there’s nothing remotely like a “state of emergency” in any Western liberal democracy.”
    Amen! And offence is much more often taken than given. Sheer boredom may be a factor. People with too much time on their hands and not enough real problems to concentrate their minds fill the void with imaginary slights and outrage.

    • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

      They say that French court etiquette became as overdone as it did because courtiers had almost nothing else to do than play the game of etiquette, so maybe the current game of walking on eggshells (least you cause offense) is similar.

      • O.R. Ange says

        That’s one of the most apt comparisons I’ve heard and given the kind of cult of celebrity and socialite that we seem to foster, I think there’s a lot of evidence for the comparison as well.

      • George G says

        @ Ray Andrews (the dolphin)
        @ O.R. Ange
        interesting observation I think yous are on to something there, and didn’t that period of history end with a lot of involuntary neck surgery for the courtiers at the hands of the people?

        “There is nothing new except what has been forgotten.”

        • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

          @George G

          Yes, as I recall it did end up with more than hurt feelings. And even it that case, the parasites had been content to merely suck the life out of the workers, they did not also ask them to hate themselves for their whiteness and for their lack of etiquette. We on the other hand are expected to hate ourselves and to pay for the sermon too.

  2. Abirdinthehand says

    “He outlines how people on the liberal-left—where, incidentally, he positions himself—are often more afraid of each other than they are of their conservative or classical liberal opponents. ”

    That’s because the left has won the Culture war. A left-wing author isn’t afraid of what Mark Steyn might say about him – hell, being attacked by Steyn would be a badge of honor for a leftist – but Gaia help him if a New York Times reviewer spots a heresy.

    • Lightning Rose says

      Correction: The Left has “won the culture war” only in the MEDIA. The vast majority of Americans outside of the large coastal cities still hold quite resilient traditional values, and smart managers encourage their employees to keep the workplace focused on the job at hand. Many employees could make everyone’s lives much easier by leaving their myriad soapboxes at home.

  3. Noted Down says

    This reminded me of when I finally read “What is Enlightenment” by Kant for the first time. What struck me was that he spent a lot of time arguing that as a private citizen you should think and speak freely, but in matters that overlap with you public roles/work, be much more constrained and follow the norms of whatever role it is you do. Granted he was talking about the specific context of early 18th C Prussia, it still comes as a shock how different it is from the arguements of more modern classical liberals.

  4. Farris says

    When does deplatforming involve Freedom of Speech? In the U.S. the Equal Protection Clause prohibits the governments or its agents from denying equal protection of law to some while recognizing it for others. However like First Amendment that only applies to government actions meaning that it would not apply to businesses, lunch counters, ect.. that did not wish to extend services to all individuals. For this reason Civil Rights legislation was passed under the Commerce Clause. Since businesses engage in or impact interstate commerce, the Clause allows the government to regulate their conduct. So if a Christian Bakery is open for business, it must provide service to the public and not just the public it prefers. Consequently, if a platform wishes to be open to the public, it should not discriminate against views with which it disagrees. Therefore the First Amendment civil right of a deplatformed individual may be potentially impacted.

    • Rev Wazoo! says

      This is a very important point and the laws you highlight are called “public accomodation” laws which list characteristics such as race, sex and creed which a business may not use to deny public accomodation. It would be reasonable to add social media to to the list of hotels, restaurants etc. and political views to the list of items which a business cannot discriminate on.

    • Rev Wazoo! says

      @Farris
      Much deplatforming occurs at at colleges/unis which are mostly organs of the state(s) and even private ones accept state and federal monies making them demonstrably subject to Title IX restrictions so certainly First Amendment ones.

      • Farris says

        @Rev Wazoo

        I agree with your observations regarding public and private colleges and universities.

  5. Circuses and Bread 🇺🇸 says

    Another article highlighting the horrors of political speech. Note the unifying theme of politics. Yeah. You’ll usually find politics lurking about when you see horror.

    Now a riddle that I’m not understanding is why otherwise rational individuals bother with political speech or indeed anything even remotely associated with politics. Is it narcissism? A sort of desire to be seen as oh so beautiful when expounding at length on political minutiae? Or perhaps politics fills the hole that used to be filled by God and religion?

    In any case, in the spirit of offering something new to the discussion, I suggest that the folks who are inclined to political participation get themselves out of debt first. It’s a lot easier to speak freely when you don’t have a car payment and mortgage hanging over you like a sword of Damocles.

    • J. Ryall says

      “Or perhaps politics fills the hole that used to be filled by God and religion?”

      Bingo. I think this is precisely what has led to this heightened level of ideological fanaticism. People have replaced God with the State and religion/theology with ideology. Last time we did that, it led to the deaths of millions. Hopefully we snap out of it soon.

      • No, we haven’t…well, not all of us anyway. This is a common claim by some theists but it doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. In fact, I think it is mostly projection. It would be wise to avoid painting with too broad a brush.

  6. Fickle Pickle says

    Years ago I remember reading and was puzzled by a statement by Pir Vilayat Khan that everybody is quite literally pinioned (or imprisoned) to/by a very limited perspective on quite literally everything by their o-pinion.

    In recent times I have come to see the Wisdom of that statement.
    Check out some of his statements re the nature of Truth & Reality via the awaken.com website.
    You wont find anything remotely like those statements in any of the dreadfully sane chit-chat that now saturates the world – academic or otherwise.
    Speaking of which has anyone noticed that almost every square inch of public space is now saturated with some kind of verbal message, either visually or by music. This includes major sporting events. Such was the case in the recent tennis tournament here in Australia, and at our football Grand Final too.

    Meanwhile every minute fraction of everyone’s social personality is the almost indelible golem like product of their social conditioning or the culture into which they are born.
    The collective blue-pill trance state.
    From the moment we are born everything conspires to induct us into the collective trance state. The primary function of our parents is to induct us into the collective trance state – all of course with the very best of intentions.
    They even do it now with the very best of intentions when they let their two year olds play with I-pads.
    Ever notice how many toddlers and very young youngsters still in their prams are now more or less entranced by their I-pads or similar devices.
    When I turn my computer on I quite often receive two images with toddlers happily playing with I-pads while being warmly embraced by their beautiful (perfect) mothers.
    It seems all so “natural”
    The function and purpose of All of our media reinforce it.
    Such conditioning or more accurately brainwashing has immense force It takes profound sadhana to even begin to be free of it.
    Is anyone familiar with the two books by Joseph Chilton-Pierce in which he explores the culturally created “cosmic egg” in which we are enclosed/trapped.
    The Crack in the Cosmic Egg, and Exploring the Crack in the Cosmic Egg.

    • Rod Paynter says

      Joseph Chilton-Pierce, how about that. The Egg books survived many but not all of my moves. They were good winter reading.

  7. The idea that speech and ideas alone are not harmful has to be reclaimed and reaffirmed as the basis for our society.

    The contrary idea that speech alone is a significant harm is ubiquitous and expressed in practices such as safe spaces and trigger warnings. It is a tool for those who use victimhood as a tool to achieve preferential treatment and political power and they have moved beyond simply claiming speech causes direct harm to the idea that thought itself is something which is harmful and should be controlled or proscribed as expressed in male objectification or the concept of hate crimes. These beliefs are malign and destructive of any sort of individual or collective freedom or even academic debate or discussion.

    The thing that rings true more than anything else in terms of how to respond is never apologise. A reasonable person feels driven to apologise without retracting whatever views have been criticised but for any offence taken as none was intended. This seems reasonable but given the offence was not reasonably taken and that such an admission will be taken as evidence of harm simply reinforces the idea thet the thoughts expressed are harmful reinforcing the idea that thoughts and speech can be harmful.

  8. codadmin says

    The book fails because he’s too desperate to find balance between left and right. He’s essentially saying: “But, but, but, what about the crusades?…” in the aftermath of a modern Islamic bombing.

    McCarthy was wrong, in the same way Powell was wrong. He grossly underestimated the problem.

    Fast forward from McCarthy and American media, education, and entertainment are all pushing a rabidly anti-American narrative that even McCarthy couldn’t have foreseen.

    There is no comparable ideology on the right, and where it exists at all, it’s tiny, with absolutely no power.

    The same forces that have seized control of the Western means of cultural production, are the same forces that seized them in Russia, China, Cambodia, etc.

    This is a struggle, not between left and right, but between good and evil. Freedom and slavery. Reason and irrationality.

    Liberals and conservatives are on the same side here. We shouldn’t be saying “but, but, but…”

    • Rev Wazoo! says

      Your overall characterization is waaay too strong for me but I very much agree with your insightful observation that conservatives and liberals (the majority od people) are on the same side on this.

      In France and Italy we see contrasting results of what happens when liberals and conservatives are not longer represented by the parties which purport to do so. Other places are experiencing (or may well soon) similar electoral upheavals.

      • codadmin says

        lol…I agree, my language can sometimes be a bit ‘sandwich boards on street corners’ at times. BUT, the hour is late. We, the moderate majority, conservatives and liberals, unfortunately, have to become a bit fanatical ourselves because the fascists we are up against have no brakes.

        They have to be stopped because they are not going to stop themselves.

    • Joseph Ratliff says

      I hope you’re wrong, but deep down knowing what I know of human nature, I feel you’re right … codadmin.

  9. E. Olson says

    I always enjoy how Leftists bring false equivalencies from the Right to suggest that their sins are copied across the political spectrum. As much as McCarthyism has become a dirty word, it should be remembered that declassified Soviet records and other historical unmasking do demonstrate that there were a lot of Soviet spies and Communist sympathizers in the FDR and Truman administrations and throughout the permanent Federal bureaucracies who actually were giving away secrets and offering power-war support to the Soviets. There were also a lot of Communist sympathizers in the entertainment industry who used their influence to put pro-Soviet/Communist themes into scripts and promote pro-Soviet/Communist directors, writers, and actors to influence public opinion in a Leftist direction. It can be argued that McCarthy’s tactics and accusations went overboard, but the threat was real and his actions were widely supported by the public on both the right and left (John Kennedy and Richard Nixon were both McCarthy supporters). It also should be remembered that McCarthy was brought down by members of his own party, while Leftists are still fuming because he dared go after Communists.

    So McCarthyism was about going after a real and true threat to public security, which was finally curbed when members of his own party sensed he was going too far. In contrast, Leftist “McCarthyism” is about going after threats or supporting causes that are not real or true (aka Rape Culture, Black Lives Matter, Transgender bathroom rights, Toxic Masculinity, Global Warming, Open Borders, Abortions Unlimited, etc.) and doubling down when majority opinion says that things are going too far or too extreme. To the Left, no tactic is too severe and no target is off-limits (i.e. it is ok to punch a 15 year old in the face for wearing a disliked hat), and differing viewpoints are always based on racism, sexism, greed, or some sort of irrational phobia. Thus the Left never says enough is enough and curbs their own extremists, because they rightly fear doing so will make them the target of insults and possible physical violence.

    • Rev Wazoo! says

      Yes, the refusal of adherents of the left to identify when the Left goes too far is a seriousnproblem, highlighted by Jordan Peterson frequently. To test it, I started with what would seem like an easy one: cultural appropriation used to cancel art shows etc. i thought my old-time freethinking leftie friends (folks like me actually…) would at least admit it’s a foolish position and goes too far even if they thought (as I *don’t*) the intentions were good.

      But noooooo… An embarrassed and I think fearful silence was the response; they couldn’t say it went too far because it seems nothing is too far. Tragic, really.

      • Rev, I’m seeing the same response from my oldest and best leftie friends — embarrassed and fearful silence –whereas once they would have joined in the mockery. I get a sense of what it must have been like under the stasi, where no one could ever be sure if they were being spied on or even entrapped. The truth is most people are sheep, sheep who don’t want to end up sacrificial lambs. The bright side of that sad fact is that with proper leadership, they can be won over.

        The rules that get me through these bizarro times are 1. give them lots of rope with which to hang themselves and 2. never apologize.

        • I remember ‘Politically Correct’ and ‘PC’ being a source of right wing outrage. It seemed in the 80s that all it meant was just being respectful & kind to different kinds of people. Now it’s taken on terrifying proportions. How an obscure pseudo-Marxist lit-crit obsession turned into project to crush online dissent both left and right is a story that is just beginning to be told. It seems as though sometime around when the Battle in Seattle happened, people in the USG SIGINT shop noticed that dissenters were using the nascent interwebs for organizing. Twitter first came to my attention when Iranian ‘dissidents’ were using it to organize street protests in Tehran which were rather quickly put down. It lapsed then into a platform for celebrities to announce the contents of their chi chi meals. Then it came to the fore again during protests in Egypt and Wall Street. Social media quickly filled with multitudes of people expressint unhappiness with the way two successive US and UK administrations handled the 2008 crisis. Then it was again used by ‘rebels’ organized adn supplied by Western intelligence services to overthrow the governments of Libya an Syria. In Syria they failed to factor in the lliane with Russia adn Iran, figuring Assad would just flee the country which would be carved into Bantustans ruled variously by Daesh, US or Israeli factotums, Turkish occupation, US-allied Kurdish factions, or other ethnic enclaves. This is stated Israeli policy. You can just read work by Andrew Bacevich, Nick Turse, Peter Dale Scott, Rhania Khalek and many others who lay this stuff all out. The thing is the one consistent thing in US foreign policy is maintaining a tight grip on the oil spigot
          Now, too- if you are a US counterintelligence agency (there are a number of competing ones), you must realize th best ope you can run is create a false dialectic online to get ‘The Enemy’ (that is, the citizenry), to tear itself to pieces. You prominently boost voices like Peggy McIntosh or Debra Lerner Specter on one side and counterpose that with the likes of Gavin McInnes or Jim Goad on the other. Then watch them and their adherents tear one another to shreds.
          I’ll probably be booted off WordPress just for writing this.

    • Almagordo says

      It’s like when people describe McCarthyism as a “witch-hunt.” It seems like a convincing description and it is a commonly held way of viewing those events; with one significant difference… witches don’t exist. Communists are real.

      • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

        @Almagordo

        Which begs the question whether it is ok in a democracy to hunt for real communists anymore than unreal witches? Perhaps that is the more valid question. @E. Olson seems to gloss over this point too. Is every communist automatically a Soviet spy? Note the almost perfect parallel with SJWs trying to stop, say, Steve B. from speaking because what he says ‘enables the Nazis’. The idea is clear: if one takes even one step to the right of me, one is a Nazi in effect. So then, if one takes even one step to the left of me, is one a Stalinist — and a spy and a traitor and a baby killer? McCarthy thought so. Had I been there at the time, I like to imagine that had I been called before him I’d have said: “Bugger you, Joe, yes I’m a communist but it’s none of your business. If you catch me betraying my country, by all means have me executed, until then this is supposed to be a free country, and you are an abomination.”

        BTW I’m not a communist but it would have been my duty to stand with them in that situation.

        • E. Olson says

          Ray – the West was in an undeclared “cold war” with the USSR due to Stalin’s failure to live up the the Yalta agreement, and a hot war with China (Korea) during the McCarthy hearings, Soviet spies/sympathizers in the State Department and Manhattan Project did give the Soviets the A-Bomb plans, so this was much more than a political disagreement or free speech issue. McCarthy, however, was corrupted by his growing power and influence and when he strayed too far was reigned in by his own party, which is not something we see on the Left when they get corrupted by power and start going too far. As someone said about Venezuela over the weekend, ignorant people can vote for socialists, but when the crap hits the fan as it inevitably does, the newly enlightened citizenry always has to shoot their way out of socialism as socialists never peacefully relinquish power.

          • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

            @E. Olson

            True. That does dampen my argument a wee bit. The practicalities can and do intrude on the theory of the thing. And as you say, the right can and does discipline itself, whereas the left almost (?) never does. The essential point is that there is always some fear monger out there ready to whip up hysteria beyond practical necessity in the pursuit of his own power. And there is always someone else who denounces any and all recognition of danger as fear mongering, when sometimes fear is quite appropriate. Right now the fear/hate mongers are the Warriors, not the people who they say deserve to be hated for … hating.

      • markbul says

        At the same time McCarthy was hunting communists in the United States, in Bulgaria priests were arrested – all of them – and had their heads pushed into their own toilet pails. And were made to eat their own feces. And then made to eat the vomit that resulted. This era is still called on of ‘anti-communist hysteria’ by ‘thoughful’ commenters from the Left.

    • Gringo says

      (John Kennedy and Richard Nixon were both McCarthy supporters).
      The ties between McCarthy and the Kennedy family were rather extensive.
      2. Bobby Kennedy worked for Joe McCarthy.

      In 1952, shortly after graduating from UVA, Kennedy got one of his first jobs thanks to an old family friend, Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy. McCarthy, who had vacationed with the Kennedy family and even dated two of Bobby’s sisters, agreed to hire the young lawyer to work on his Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations examining possible communists infiltration of the U.S. government. Kennedy left six months later, after clashing with McCarthy’s brash young deputy, Roy Cohn.

      Though both he and his brother John became increasingly disillusioned with McCarthy’s brutal tactics, neither brother completely disavowed him. In fact, Bobby Kennedy named McCarthy godfather to his first child, Kathleen, and when McCarthy was finally censured by the Senate in 1954, John Kennedy, ostensibly recuperating from back surgery, was the only Democrat not to vote in favor of the measure. It would be take two more years before the elder Kennedy publicly denounced one of the chief architects of the Cold War Red Scare.

      IIRC, the enmity between LBJ and RFK began when LBJ mocked RFK when RFK was working for McCarthy.

  10. Craig WIllms says

    Another warning that the left is going too far. The audience for this is clearly for those on the left – liberals and classical liberals. To those on the Center/Right no thought is given since they are basically monkeys and clowns anyway. To the simpletons common sense is a filter that washes out the nuance and higher consciousness that progressivism conveys.

    E. Olson is right, the right-tribe senses when it goes too far and McCarthyism was a fair example from 50+ tears ago. There is no end to the extreme left, it will eat it’s own. When good liberals like Haidt, J Peterson and Bret Weinstien to name a few are canaries in the coal mine the feast has begun.

    Do we stand back and just watch it, hoping it doesn’t destroy the West before sanity returns?

    • E. Olson says

      Just look how the Left has gone after ultra-lefty Tom Brokaw who had the audacity over the weekend to suggest Hispanics should put more effort into assimilating. The Rubin Report by recovering Leftist Dave Rubin is almost entirely based on interviews with Lefties who have been attacked by the Left, and to their complete shock have discovered the only true defenders of free speech, political and economic freedom, and diverse viewpoints are on the political Right.

      • J. Ryall says

        @E.Olson

        I think you’re being disingenuous or are clearly mistaken when you say the only true defenders of free speech are on the political right. There are many alienated leftists who are just as appalled at the way things have been trending in the past 10 or so years and who staunchly believe in freedom of expression. And, of course, this is a position that’s generally supported by centrists as well. In fact, I’d suggest that there’s a rather large pan-ideological coalition of people who think things have gone too far. Our task is to work together to end this madness and restore sanity before it’s too late. Fortunately, I think we have time.

        • E. Olson says

          JR – I hope you are correct, but the almost total silence of the Left and most centrists to the excesses of the Left would suggest their support of free speech is very low key. Even self-proclaimed Leftists such as Haidt couch their criticisms of Leftist extremism with excuses and justifications that stop far short of really being critical, yet are roundly criticized by the Left for even going that far. Certainly all the early Democrat candidates for 2020 seem to be marching further and further to the extreme Left, which suggests they don’t see a path to victory through the attraction of the “reasonable” Left or centrist voting block.

          • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

            @E. Olson

            Well defended. @J. Ryall’s point fails because what is relevant is not how many lefties might harbor secret reservations about the excesses of the thoughtpolice, what is relevant is how many lefties who are politically active will openly denounce Big Brother? Very, very few. In fact, that one might defend FOS it taken as proof in itself that one is a Nazi, since it appears to be the case that only righties defend FOS and naturally one paints anyone to the right of oneself as a Nazi. Fine then, I had thought of myself as a centrist with a socialist heart and a more conservative head … but if they insist on my joining the Nazis, perhaps I will.

        • Craig WIllms says

          @J. Ryall
          I think that was exactly E.Olsons point. The left has so completely marginalized right-side opinions (since they are all basically Rush Limbaugh) that these classical liberals are shocked to find rational and reasoned comradery with those on the Center/Right.

          When interviewed they still keep right-side thinkers at arms length even as they spout the very same words. The instinct to defend the liberal orthodoxy against anything that smacks of conservatism is so ingrained that their pained expression is as if they just realized their family member is clinically insane.

    • Marius says

      Guys, you cannot cherry-pick facts to support your assertions. While most of what has been said in the article and in the comments does seem to be reasonably valid, there is a pervasive fallacy in almost all arguments: rightists are able to self-check themselves when they go overboard, as opposed to leftists. Well, let me pour some cold water: has anybody heard about pogroms in Eastern Europe, about Iron Guard in Romania, about Arrow Cross in Hungary, heck, about the Nazis in Germany and the Fascist in Italy, just to mention a few. Why can’t you just get it? This is not about left and right, this is about evil people pushing their agenda and weaponizing the large masses of sheep that has always existed among humans and don’t seem to go away soon. One cannot expect moral compass from people who replace their personal thinking with ideology. This is the very reason why they embrace ideologies (left or right): because it relieves them of the pain of thinking through and sorting out moral dilemmas that lurk in every individual situation.

      • E. Olson says

        Marius – the Nazis and Italian fascists, Iron Guards, Arrow Cross were Left – they hated capitalism and free speech, and loved big government, high taxes, and big regulation. They are often described as far right because they are nationalist and because they hated Jews, but those characteristics were also common in much of the rest of Europe including the USSR, Poland, and France. Poland, France, Ukraine, Romania and much of the Netherlands were very eager and cooperative in rounding up Jews for the death camps, while fascist Italy was much more reluctant. Stalin called WWII the “Great Patriotic War” and urged soldiers to fight for mother Russia, which sounds a bit nationalistic to me. Stalin was also in the process of sending Russian Jews to the Gulags when he died in 1953. Hitler and Stalin hated each other because they were so much alike. The only clearly Right Leaning dictatorship in recent history was Pinochet in Chile, who privatized pensions, cut taxes, shrunk government, and peacefully relinquished power to free and fair elections. The Pinochet regime death toll is generally estimated at less than 5,000 people, while Hitler and Stalin killed millions and Communism’s death count is something over 100 million globally.

        • Topos Karst says

          “Marius – the Nazis and Italian fascists, Iron Guards, Arrow Cross were Left – they hated capitalism and free speech, and loved big government, high taxes, and big regulation.”

          This statement is comical in its backwater American parochialness. It expresses the intellectual poverty of someone whose only point of reference is modern US Republicanism, and who thus interprets history through this anachronic and utterly inappropriate lens. “Big government”? “Big regulation”? “High taxes”? These are the bugaboos of Reagan and those who came after him, not of fascists or historical right wingers. Comic gold here.

          If you educate yourself on history even to a small degree, you will see that essentially all authoritarian and totalitarian regimes –Hitler’s, Stalin’s, Mussolini’s, Mao’s, and a slew of monarchs to boot, were all strongly in favor of as big a government as possible, since they were essentially the government; they were all in favor of taxes as high as they needed, since they were the recipients thereof; they had no fucks in particular to give about regulation of industry as long as industry did their bidding; and they were all opposed to speech which opposed them.

          For the love of all that is holy, please don’t vote in any election more important than municipal dog catcher.

  11. Excellent review of an outstanding and important book. (Full disclosure, I wrote one of the reviews that appears on the back cover.) Most essential is the way in which contemporary censors rely upon the abuse of the harm principle, in order to construe speech they disagree with as violence and thus justify its banishment from civil discourse. I did a short piece on this myself not too long ago.

    https://theelectricagora.com/2018/09/15/just-stop-it/

    • david of Kirkland says

      Yes, harm today includes some loss of expectations, or not being given a chance, etc.

      • All of which are subjective and unquantifiable. As is emotional distress. That’s why Mill very scrupulously indicated that they should not be included under the harm principle, and clearly, he was correct.

  12. A statute of California law prohibits discrimination against employees that is motivated by their political beliefs. James Damore’s attorney cited this statute when she sued Google, or Alphabet., I guess. Damore describes his political orientation as middle-of-the-road. His memo was reasonable and based on well-supported findings.

    • E. Olson says

      From what I understand, Damore’s memo was a response to some Google diversity seminars where the trainers invited feedback from participants. To his detriment James took the invitation seriously and provided some honest and well-supported points, which to his apparent surprise was not the type of feedback the diversity and inclusion theocrats were looking for.

      • david of Kirkland says

        But is google allowed to decide who it wants working there? You may not like their choice, but then you can hire Damore yourself, or he can start his own business, etc. If you assume that one only has one opportunity for a life, then we’re all stifled by fear.

      • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

        @E. Olson

        Why is this not being taken to SCOTUS? Nuts, I’ll make a contribution.

      • ccscientist says

        I worked for a rather rigid company. They brought in some touchy-feely consultants and asked us all what we thought in my department. No one would speak because we knew better.

  13. Jim Gorman says

    Keep trolling the ultra-left. Sooner or later they will begin to eat their own or their violence will grow until it is recognized as a true danger.

  14. david of Kirkland says

    It seems that most businesses that care about “illegal workers” is only a function of the government imposing its immigration laws on employers.
    Same goes for speech police issues…if courts would stop allowing lawsuits against corporations for the speech/actions of individuals that are not defined corporate policy, they’d stop caring what employees say/do on their own time.
    Employers worried about drug testing? Background checks? Yes, these are all done not because the companies are so concerned, but because failure to do so leads to lawsuits when a bad actor does something while on the job.
    You can’t have actual free speech if other free people cannot show disagreement and choose to no longer associate with you. If you are afraid of the power of corporations, you need to get government out of controlling corporations and laws holding corporations responsible for bad actions of employees who are not following a defined policy. As soon as you constrain employers, you are just adding tyranny in some failed hope of achieving better liberty.

    • Craig WIllms says

      @ david
      Fair points all. However in situations like the one Starbucks found itself in when the police were called to move two (black) men out of the store that were not buying anything, it was not the government that forced all Starbucks employees to go through training that implied white employees were all subconscious racists. Corporations are often disingenuous virtue signalers.

  15. The “apologist” angle has been common to every moral panic I have ever lived through. Any person pointing out that the War on Drugs was trampling civil liberties while producing dubious gains against the scourge of drug abuse could expect to be accused of being a drug user themselves, so lots of people who knew very well that the dangers of casual drug use were being wildly exaggerated chose to keep their heads down and their mouths shut. In the days of the Repressed Memory scare when daycare workers were being sent away on long prison terms on the flimsiest, most fantastical testimony, the crimes being alleged were so severe that nobody with a reputation to preserve seemed willing to express even the tiniest skepticism for fear of being labeled a Satanic Ritual Abuse Apologist. (In a perverse twist, the more lurid and implausible the accusation, the less likely anybody was to publicly express doubt, because how could you defend something so lurid and shocking?)

    When the stakes are high, any vigorous defense of the rights of the accused is likely to result in the defenders finding themselves accused as well. This explains not only the curious absence of sane voices in the midst of a moral panic, but the proliferation of newly-minted zealots trying to distance themselves from the contagion of moral taint. As in a classic Prisoner’s Dilemma scenario, if individuals could be assured that they wouldn’t find themselves alone in standing up for what they believe to be right, they might find the courage, but since they have no way of knowing how many others silently agree they are unwilling to risk it. Constant example-making of other dissenters serves to reinforce both the supposed rarity and the untenability of the dissenting position.

    • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

      @Sylv

      Which is one of the reasons we used to like Toxic Masculinity — we used to understand that we might one day be called on to die alone for something that mattered.

      I once heard a story from history, I’ve forgotten the details, but as I recall it was during one of the endless (well, not quite endless) revolutions in France. The Chamber of Deputies (was it?) were all rounded up individually at night, a bayonet was leveled at their guts and they were given a paper to sign renouncing the Republic. It seems that none of them did, even tho none of them had any idea what any other was going to do. The coup failed. Very toxic.

      Yes the recovered memory panic was a particularly filthy little episode wasn’t it?

  16. R Henry says

    Western cutlure is experiencing an echo from 500 years ago.

    In the early 1500, Europe was rocked by the writings of Martin Luther, who was a monk and Professor in Wittenberg, Saxony, Germany. One day he nailed a list of 95 discussion questions, which questioned Church tradition and practice, to the Chapel door.. The list was soon called the “95 Theses” The 95 Theses were published using a new, whiz-bang machine called the “Printing Press” and broad distribution was rapid.

    The Press served to give Luther a platform MUCH larger than had ever been used to challenge Church officials…and to enlist support from large swaths of the general population. This had never happened before, and the ensuing tension and rancor eventually fomented the Protestant Reformation, the bifurcation of the Western Church, and a continuing chain of cultural transformations, including the Enlightenment, which form the foundation for our modern Western World. The printing press entirely disrupted European culture

    I believe the Internet generally, and social media specifically, are analogous to Luther’s press. Our culture has never before been able to exchange ideas and information so rapidly, and so effectively. This technological advance has evolved faster than our morality, law, and politics. Contemporary Westerners are struggling to understand who can be trusted, who can’t be trusted….we don’t know what to share, what to keep private…or even how to keep our affairs private. Laws are entirely inadequate as they were often conceived prior to our Internet Age.

    The Internet is our contemporary disruptive new communication technology. It is proving to be vastly more disruptive than the printing press was 500 years ago. Our ability to adapt to the new technology has, thus far, been very poor.

  17. R Henry says

    I have lost track of how many pieces about contemporary culture cite Twitter as the locus for “mob” action, and general reputational disparagement.

    Uhm, that is easy to avoid. Delete your twitter account, and ignore the twits who seek to intrude in your real life. There IS life without twitter folks! It’s better than the one with twitter!

  18. Lightning Rose says

    Have you noticed that lazy “journalists” just spend an hour on Twitter in the morning and report all the turds that were flung there as “news?”

    As an employer, let me give you my perspective. I want someone who’s not going to make me trouble, who needs the job and therefore values it, who gives good value for what I’m paying them and by and large leaves their private life at home. Your butt in the seat, on time and focused, is what I want.

    The recent output of certain colleges that specialize in SJW indoctrination today need not apply. Members of certain “marginalized groups” will be taken at face value but better not be wearing any “grievance” on their sleeve at the interview. If you appear to be mentally ill or unstable, no I’m not going to hire you. Take your pink beard, purple hair, nose-piercing and ear plugs elsewhere, because that’s not the image I want. While you have a perfect right to “fly your freak flag,” I will not pay you to do so here because I want a certain level of mature dignity.
    I don’t care about your politics, your ideologies, your exercise habits or your dietary leanings, but I DO expect them to be kept out of the office. Ditto religious practice, sexual behavior, substance abuse and virtue-signaling.

    All this used to go without saying a mere 20 years ago . . .

  19. While generally a well-reasoned review (I haven’t read the book), the following is quite unfortunate:

    “In circumstances like these, private (employer) coercion becomes less and less like a reasonable response to an individual not doing his job properly and more like brute, impersonal government coercion—of the kind that free speech laws in every liberal democracy were drafted to restrain. And the internet never forgets. The “right of exit” to which political theorists often refer is absent:

    [indent] If employers use their power to impose their own opinions and attitudes on employees, or to impose whichever opinions and attitudes prevail in the wider society or a large section of it, this produces a strong pressure to conform. In an economic system—such as exists in the United States—where most employers have an almost unfettered prerogative to hire and fire, this can lead to frightening situations where zealous bosses try to control even their workers’ out-of-hours expression of religious, social, and political opinions […].

    [indent] As they protect their corporate images, employers may monitor the lives of their employees intrusively. With the advent of social media such as blogs, Facebook, and Twitter, employers are increasingly taking an interest in the online footprints of job applicants. Complaints to employers provide a mechanism to retaliate against individuals for behaviour or speech that offended somebody but may have little to do with the workplace. [p.30]

    When the facts change, I change my mind—what do you do sir? is a famous quip, often attributed to John Maynard Keynes although its origin is uncertain. Blackford has convinced me that U.S.-style contracts-at-will are insufficient to preserve the norms we should expect in civil society. You cannot have a situation where the only people with the freedom to dissent from fashionable opinion are (some) tenured academics or upper-middle-class Shire Tories who own property. Blackford admits, being close to retirement, he’s buffered in a way a younger academic would not be.”

    The argument attempts to use a(n apparently) private university example – referred to by “In circumstances like these” – to make a general claim that state protections are needed to prevent private employers from firing employees due to their political views, because the “right to exit” is absent. But even this one example doesn’t show that (the quote provided from the book certainly doesn’t) – the author does nothing to show why the right to exit is absent. Because she can’t. Because it is not absent. The employee can quit at anytime and search for a more suitable employer, or get together with like-minded people and start their own university (company). Yes, it might take courage to quit, to stand up for yourself, to possibly accept a lower standard of living for a while. So what? Elsewhere, the article states this quite clearly.

    Even more egregious is that she goes on to use this as an excuse for a NIT or UBI.

    Somehow, these people always find a way to justify the unjustifiable.

    Of course, the current welfare state is unjustifiable too, so six of one, half dozen of the other?

    But, as I said, otherwise nicely done.

  20. ccscientist says

    Very much like the essay but I am afraid that the claim that mobbing started on the Right (conservatives) in the US is false. Sure there may have been a few such people but they were novices and impotent compared to the current Left (who call themselves progressives). The Left is getting people fired for an old joke they made, for voting for the Defense of Marriage Act (a state version of it) back when it passed a majority vote in California, for private conversations people had, even for complete lies someone told. Virtually all of the assaults of people such as Trump officials or Trump supporters has been from the Left. Campus no-platforming is totally from the Left. Conservative protests like March for Life or Tea Party or 2nd Amendment rallies are always peaceful, whereas Antifa burns things down and assaults people.

  21. Jett Rucker says

    I’d say the Mother of All Offensive Positions enjoying serious support from anybody in the present day would be Holocaust Revisionism, closely followed by skeptical opinions of government actions to influence climate change. Following a distant third might be opposition to the War on Drugs.

    Apropos this article’s subject is a favorite quote of mine from William Blake (1757-1827):

    “When I tell any Truth it is not for the sake of Convincing those who do not know it but for the sake of defending those who Do.”

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