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06 April 2014 @ 01:24 pm
The tragedy of pretending bigotry is a legitimate opinion  
This post is borne out of my annoyance with this article titled The Tragedy of Mozilla and with various comments on the internet complaining about how mean people are being to Eich, how if we decide to boycott Mozilla then what happens when "they" decided to boycott something we agree with, when will it end, stop the madness, but free speech lol, and so on.

And another example, here's Andrew Sullivan making the "but both sides!" argument:
When people’s lives and careers are subject to litmus tests, and fired if they do not publicly renounce what may well be their sincere conviction, we have crossed a line. This is McCarthyism applied by civil actors. This is the definition of intolerance. If a socially conservative private entity fired someone because they discovered he had donated against Prop 8, how would you feel? It’s staggering to me that a minority long persecuted for holding unpopular views can now turn around and persecute others for the exact same reason.
Of course, as the subject line I mentioned above should tell you, I think this is an incredibly sophomoric view.

You can read plenty of opinions that agree with me here on Sullivan's Facebook page, but I'll quote a bit from Marco Arment because he's one of the hosts of the Accidental Tech Podcast, which is great and you should totally listen to it if you're interested in tech news. Anyway:
Suppose, rather than fund an anti-gay-marriage bill, Eich had instead funded a fringe bill that prohibited black people from getting married. Or suppose he said during a press conference that he believed women shouldn’t have the right to vote.

Would it be reasonable for the public to be outraged and call for his firing then?

Assuming your answer is yes (I don’t think I can really help you if it’s not), why is that different from funding an anti-gay-marriage bill?
More here.

The main thrust of a lot of those internet arguments is basically this:


That all opinions should be freely expressed, and that by not letting Eich talk about his views we will slide ever-downward on a slippery slope toward some kind of censorship hell. Where will it end, asks the straight white male (and it's almost always someone who won't be personally affected by these opinions, though Sullivan's piece above shows that's not the entirety of the counterpoint), and cue the wringing of hands and the gnashing of teeth.

Here's my response to that:

And there's a number of reasons for that.
  1. Someone leaving a company because their behavior reflects badly on that company isn't censorship, it's capitalism. It's just that usually it's poor people getting fired and no one cares, but when the rich have to do it, all of a sudden people are up in arms. Hmmm.

  2. As I said in the subject, not all opinions are of equal value, and treating them as if they are is an abrogation of moral responsibility. "Let's give people their civil rights" is not the equivalent of "those people are subhuman and do not deserve civil rights." Some opinions deserve condemnation whenever they appear. As Marco Arment says above, if Eich had donated to the KKK this wouldn't even be a controversy. The only reason people are freaking out is because of societal bigotry.

  3. Similarly, bigot organizations like One Million Moms boycott equality groups all the time. Boycotts are not some kind of horrible censorship unless you think that capitalists are morally entitled to our money. They're one of the few methods that the powerless have to affect the behavior of the powerful.

  4. Prop 8 wasn't some kind of mere disagreement among ivory tower intellectuals. The proponents' ads in favor were full of insulting bullshit about gay people being too dangerous to allow around children. Slate has an article about it here.

  5. If firing people for their opinions is so bad, how about we repeal right-to-work laws and work to institute employment protections across the entire United States, conservatives? Does that sound good? I think we can work together on this to...hey, where are you going? Were you even listening to me? Again, Slate to the rescue.

  6. It is still legal in 29 states to fire QUILTBAG people for existing. The situation is not remotely comparable, and pretending like it is is...well, see above about the abrogation of moral responsibility.

American culture loves its Golden Mean Fallacy, to the extent that we have rich people apparently sincerely arguing that pointing out that they're destroying democracy and the middle class and leading us toward a nightmare cyberpunk dystopian future is exactly like the treatment of Jews before the Shoah. That's obviously ludicrous, though. Context matters, and treating this like some kind of horrible witch hunt does an incredible disservice to the actual substance of the argument.
 
 
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q99q99 on April 7th, 2014 03:27 am (UTC)
Yea, I've argued this side with a couple people. Even brought some over.
marianlhmarianlh on April 7th, 2014 02:02 pm (UTC)
This is an excellent summary, and I request permission to share it on my livejournal and Facebook.
dorchadasdorchadas on April 7th, 2014 02:53 pm (UTC)
Now that I've gone through and fixed the typos, I happily give you permission!