Arguments That Give Me Pause: On Opinions and Their Consequences (Part 2)

Speaking of the same Stephen Fry quote, had a point when looking at the big picture. Indeed, there are times when political correctness leads to extreme censorship; that can tedious or even harmful. While I think that a little political correctness is appropriate and a heightened social consciousness is important, people can take these things too far. There is a point where people try to tightly control others’ thoughts or speech, harshly judge others’ behavior, disproportionately hand out punishments, or even commit murder. This is largely in the absence of really talking about what offended them and why; the effect of such actions can of course last for years.

For one thing, censorship reaches radical levels when people tell others not to use relatively harmless terms. Words like “bossy” have been shunned by some people — and there was a short, unsuccessful campaign to ban the word — because they think it has sexist implications. Some Hillary Clinton supporters want to ban words like “ambitious” or “polarizing” when used to describe her because they supposedly have sexist implications. That is ridiculous.

Depending on who you ask, no one wants anyone to use the term SJW (social justice warriors) but the term arose to describe a certain group of people [namely those online]. These Internet “activists” take political correctness and twist the spirit of it, particularly on Tumblr and Twitter. Not only is third- or fourth-wave feminism apart of their repertoire, but so is the “defense” of minorities. The general breakdown in communication and open discussion from universities with ultra-liberal staffs has been taken online. SWJ’s act offended for people of color in certain instances, even when there is no real consensus among the groups in question. White males are told to “check their privilege” in debates; the sentiment is used to shut people up without actually countering their points. SWJ’s eventually push minority groups aside and try to speak for them. Ultimately, these online activists will shun and harass anyone who doesn’t think like them. Acts of harassment include doxing, when someone’s personally identifiable information (like a credit card number) is broadcasted without that person’s permission. The targeted individuals’ livelihoods are of course threatened by this, as well as their safety. In this case, people can be justifiably scared to talk in fear that any comment they make will be met with a real-life attack.

Some people have lost their jobs or were suspended because of the stupid things they said and did. Depending on the situation, that may be unnecessary. I don’t believe someone should be fired from his job just for making a generally offensive statement. Depending on what the statement is and if it is not aimed at a boss or part of a bullying campaign against a co-worker, a scolding and atonement should be enough. Just correct the behavior and make sure the worker is not creating a hostile workplace.

There are two cases from ESPN alone where I thought that suspension should not have been handed out due to words. Stephen A. Smith ─ whom I don’t particularly like, but I do agree with him on various topics ─ was suspended sometime in 2014 after some comments he made when discussing the Ray Rice scandal. Smith said that men should never hit a woman, but women should not try to initiate violence against men either. That’s an understandable thought, but Smith stumbled on his own message and was rightfully chewed out for it, particularly by Michelle Beadle. That should have been the end of it, but Smith was suspended for the rest of that week. Earlier this year, Keith Olbermann was suspended for a few days for his stupid tweet to a group of Penn State students, who had just raised money to fight childhood cancer. He failed to follow the link they put in a “We Are” tweet and called them pathetic. (Olbermann has been outspoken against Penn State ever since the Sandusky scandal, but that was no excuse to take it out on the students.) He eventually apologized, which I think was fitting enough. A subsequent interview with Penn State students who worked on the charity would have been better than a suspension.

I also believe no one should necessarily be fired for being an ass [online], provided the conditions I described above. For example, Adam Smith is still paying for his misguided rant at a Chick-Fil-A worker he uploaded three years ago. Now, some may argue that he was a “liability” to his company, but why is that? Was Smith bad at his job? Did the voice mails to his company hold that much weight? Who made those calls and why were so many people invested in the situation? Smith really said nothing harmful to the woman in the drive-thru. The worst he did was make her feel uncomfortable in that moment. What’s more is that Smith later apologized on camera and the woman forgave him. But no, that’s not enough. He doesn’t deserve to be a CFO or hold a six-figure job ever again. Eff this guy and his family.

Honestly, where should it end? This was a video that lasted for nearly 4 minutes and Adam Smith made three mistakes. First is the mistake of recording another person without her permission. Second was making her uncomfortable for issues out of her control. The third mistake was to upload it. He was being an ass, but should he have lost his livelihood over it?

That is what I hate about people and the job hunt. We often have more sympathy for someone who was chewed out (or just made uncomfortable) than those we see being abused right in front of us. And I don’t know why so much attention is being paid to the Internet footprint of a prospective hire when everyone is due to act like a fool once and extenuating circumstances can explain why someone has nudes online.

But I digress.

Now, In terms of the U.K.’s Religious Hatred Bill (which later became the Racial and Religious Hatred Act of 2006), the idea that one could be arrested and imprisoned for up to 7 years for insulting religions ─ through speech, writing, broadcasts, or blogs ─ was essentially dangerous. It relied on intent more than imminent threat. The act was watered down due to free-speech provisions, but that opened loopholes for those truly intent on acting on religious hatred.

Let’s go even further on the religious front. For instance, there have been moments when people were threatened or even killed for their thoughts on and criticisms of Islam. In 2007, there were death threats for a Swedish political drawing depicting the Prophet Muhammad. Former Pope Benedict XVI was threatened over repeating a quote that Islam was to be spread by the sword. Just this year, 19 people (including 12 Charlie Hebdo staff members ─ the editor among them ─ 3 police officers and four people at a Kosher supermarket) were murdered in France over various depictions of Muhammad on the French satirical magazine. Militant Islamists have emerged as one of the world’s greatest threats, to say the least, and governments have done little in the way of finding a way to effectively deal with threats from terrorists who use religion, especially militant Islamists. There is the fear of offending people, but there are also Muslims who feel that physical attacks are justified in response to the criticism of Islam.

So yes, there is sometimes an unfair price paid for words and free speech, but not in the way people I mentioned in Part 1 would have their opponents believe. In my last post, I said words have consequences. To be more specific, I think those consequences should mainly be verbal, as in a fitting response. There needs to be a balance, where harmful ideas are rightfully attacked and otherwise controversial ideas are studied for their merits. Stupidity should be countered with intelligence, thoughtfulness, and fairness. There is a line one mustn’t cross, even when dealing with disgusting individuals with like opinions.

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