Friday, September 13, 2013

In the Future Everyone Will Be Fired After Fifteen Minutes

Earlier this week Pax Dickinson, the Chief Technology Officer at Business Insider, was fired after a number of his tweets regarding women and minorities drew public outrage. Pax (if that is his real name) is only the latest of a growing series of individuals who lost their jobs after expressing unpopular or offensive views. In July Jack Hunter resigned from a position on Senator Rand Paul's staff after past statements in defense of the Confederacy came to light. In May, Jason Richwine resigned his position with Heritage after the details of his Ph.d dissertation (which speculated on issues involving race and IQ) were reported in the Washington Post. Psychology professor Geoffrey Miller managed to keep his job after one of his "fat shaming" tweets went viral, but was censured by his employer, was forced to undergo sensitivity training, and is subject to a number of other administrative penalties.

And that's just in the last few months. Going back further one can find the same story playing out over and over where an unpopular comment draws popular outrage, leading the offender's employer to (quite rationally) seek to disassociate itself as quickly as possible.

What's odd about these sorts of incidents is that, while a single offhand comment can ruin a person's career, professional pundits are in general subject to very little accountability for what they say. After the 2012 election, Dick Morris was dropped from Fox News "because I was wrong." But the truth is that Morris had been wrong on television and in writing for more than a decade beforehand without any apparent ill effect on his career, and there are plenty of folks in the media who consistently make poorly grounded predictions or spout false talking points and yet continue to maintain employment.

I used to think that these sorts of cases were part of a passing phase. Between social media, 24-hour news, and an archived Internet, the number of possible occasions for people to take offense at other views seems to be growing exponentially. Eventually, I thought, people would grow tired of constantly being outraged, and would become desensitized to such things. I also figured that as people would become less willing to exploit public outrage to pressure employers to dump folks for their views once they realized that they were at risk to the same tactics.

Increasingly, though, I wonder if this trend might be permanent. Michael Brendan Dougherty recently noted how the Internet can serve to intensify the tyranny of common opinion. The anonymity of modern industrial life created space for more non-conformity of opinion and behavior as opposed to, say, life in a small town or village where everyone is "in everyone else's business." If technological advances mean an end to anonymity, is this going to result in some degree of rollback of this openness as social media recreates the social pressures of conformity on a much larger scale?

And, if so, then so what? Many of the opinions that have gotten the folks listed above in trouble are, in fact, quite noxious. But there is nothing about the sort of outrage strategy being employed requiring that the views that get you fired be noxious or even wrong; all that is necessary is that they be unpopular. Is it really so hard for people to imagine how this sort of strategy could be used against perfectly legitimate views. Public opinion can be quite fickle; the Internet is forever.

Ironically, it is hard to mount a cogent objection to these sorts of tactics from a purely libertarian point of view. Most of the cases I've mentioned did not involve the government, just private citizens expressing their rights of free speech ("X should be fired") and association ("Sorry, X, but we're going to have to let you go"). I've even seen libertarians cite similar sorts of campaigns as a positive feature of a civil society.

On the other hand, J.S. Mill's On Liberty (one of the classic defenses of freedom of opinion) was written against both legal *and* social sanctions for unpopular opinions. Given Mill's consequentialist attitudes, this is not really a surprise. If conformity of thought has negative consequences, then those negatives will probably exist regardless of whether the conformity is due to government dictate or to social pressure. Frankly, I've never been sure if the idea of there being no social sanctions for holding any opinion is even possible. It's certainly never been tried. But it is the case where people constantly self-censor their opinions (more than they do now) would probably be a much blander and boring world than the one we have today.  

UPDATE: Even Paul Krugman is worried. 


  1. It's easy to imagine how someone could be fired for holding a perfectly legitimate view--but are there examples of this actually happening?

    1. Here are a bunch of examples of people getting fired for their political beliefs--for instance running for local office, posting online, and even having a bumper sticker on their car. Note that none of these activities took place on the job.

      That's not to mention that holding the perfectly legitimate view of "this workplace should be unionized" will get you fired very quickly from a lot of jobs.

    2. Wonks Anonymous11:47 AM

      Larry Summers actually made a more nuanced argument than many people believe, and his most iq-determinist point (about variance) is empirically correct. On the other hand, many believe he was fired for a number of reasons other than offensive statements.

    3. Anonymous1:52 PM

      Um, yes. Anyone ever fired for "racism" was fired for holding a perfectly legitimate view.

    4. Larry Summers actually made a less nuanced argument than many people who believe "that he made a more nuanced argument than many people believe" believe.

      Summers was arguing the line of thought that intelligence is purely inherent. That's really not a tenable line to hold and it doesn't withstand rigorous scrutiny. He brings a one-variable analysis to intelligence, says "ability" is "normally distributed with a higher variance for men than women" and is supposed to be widely acclaimed for his "courage." But these terms: "intelligence", "ability", etc. are poorly defined and there is little reason to think that IQ tests measure them accurately. The entire discrepancy could be explained away by postulating that women of intelligence are trained to hide it, starting at a young age, and ultimately resulting in less training of said intelligence.
      Very little was going on in that discussion in terms of understanding cognitive ability and how it develops. And yet Summers' defenders whimper that their poor man was abused when he was practically re-inventing the wheel!

      The fact that he felt that his lay opinions hadn't been considered by an audience of experts was incredibly arrogant and insulting.

    5. Anonymous4:47 AM

      Thanks, Wispers, for your pointless postmodernist word games pontificating on definitions of intelligence, a word to which you strangely seem attribute enough meaning to get your kickers in a twist over claims to be able to measure it with an IQ test, and then tacking on a frankly infantile ad hoc hypothesis , just in case, to your unfalsifiable contentions of equality as if these actually established anything regarding the truth or falsehood of Summers's contention, which explains the discrepancy at least as well as your blathering insinuations of patriarchal oppression. Go back to your Women's Studies classes, where your level of intellect is more appreciated.

    6. Anonymous3:16 PM

      Seriously? I'm going to indulge myself despite knowing that this is a bad habit...

      The idea that IQ tests are not a complete measure of intelligence is widely held and (to me), pretty intuitive. Whether the ad hoc hypothesis is infantile or not is, I suppose, subjective, but the introduction of a competing hypothesis is a common way to demonstrate that a body of cited "evidence" does not sufficiently demonstrate a rhetorical conclusion.

      I also didn't find any contentions of equality and I think the argument was not really about demonstrating the falsehood of Summers's statement. When he made his remarks from his prominent position, the burden of proof should have been (and, by most people, was) placed on him. If there is insufficient evidence from which to draw a conclusion, then his assertions reflect either a personal bias or professional failure or both.

      As a note, I didn't miss the rude and insulting tone of your comment, but I'm not sure that there is a way for me to address it constructively. You are sufficiently articulate that I assume the tone is intentional, so I'd encourage you to reflect on why Whispers managed to make you so angry.

  2. In the future, magazines will make up fictitious offensive employees and "fire" them to prove how sensitive and socially conscious the magazines are.

    OH WAIT, that's what "Pax Dickinson" is.

    The future is here. The future is Henry Blodget.

    1. Noah,

      If you aren't careful, people will realize that the Not Quite Noahpinion team is fictional, and that you have really been writing all these posts under various pseudonyms.

    2. ArgosyJones8:30 PM

      If you were fake, Noah would have fired you over your ridiculous first post.

    3. So does that mean Cardiff Garcia is not a real person? I always had my suspicions. After all, everyone knows Welsh Town + Spanish name is how you do your cage fighting stage name. Eg Neath Nadal, or Swansea Ramirez.

  3. It's easy to imagine how someone could be fired for holding a perfectly legitimate view--but are there examples of this actually happening?

    Plenty of cases around the time of the Iraq War.

    1. Good point. Phil Donahue, etc. I guess my question is whether those firings occurred because of popular pressure or because of internal corporate politics.

    2. I'm not sure it matters in practice. Either the public gets outraged at somebody's internet postings, or their boss does; they'll self-censor to avoid being fired either way.

  4. Philip9:59 AM

    Richwine. Watson.

    The relationship of race and IQ IS perfectly legitimate, well established in every legitimate study that's been done over almost a century - but you're not supposed to mention it in public.

    Oh, and my name's not Philip.

    1. Anonymous10:31 AM

      Can you provide a few references?

    2. Anonymous11:52 AM

      Exactly. Of course these things have enormous policy implications.

      Greg Cochran's blogpost sums it up nicely:

      And the commonsense explanation for why there should be racial differences, just a couple weeks later:

      But what we have instead of open discussion (with so-called "freedom of expression") is a bunch of people on social media shouting "witch! witch! burn the witch!"

    3. "The relationship of race and IQ IS perfectly legitimate, well established in every legitimate study that's been done over almost a century"

      Clearly, I'm unfamiliar with this literature - can you start me off with some references so I can confirm your assertion? Note that I am absolutely skeptical of "everybody knows" assertions, since in my experience the things that "everybody knows" are often not just wrong but wildly, 180degrees wrong. Everybody knows that.

    4. reiner Tor12:40 PM

      @JohnR: Google is your friend. Wiki is your girlfriend.

    5. The problem you're going to have, Philip, is that "race" is not rooted in biology and genetics--it's entirely a cultural and visual construct. Go back 150 years and 9/11ths of humanity's genetic diversity was along the coasts of western and southern sub-saharan Africa. Another 1/11th was in North Africa. And the last 1/11th of humanity's unique genes took up the entire rest of the world. If you want to say race is a product of genetics, then "African" or "black" or whatever else you want to call it comprises more races than all the other groups combined.

      We all know that's not how it's defined. It's defined as a set of cultural and visual definitions that denote advantages and disadvantages in various geographic areas. And yes--the definition of race varies depending on where you are.

      So the whole race-IQ thing is just saying there are some cultural groups within the US and Europe who are more favored by the education system. Wow. Shocking research right there.

      Many of us know from first hand experience, others know from anecdote, and researchers know from scientific data that there is a direct link between financial resources and ability to perform on intelligence tests. And guess what--when the financial stress of poverty is alleviated, poor people suddenly perform just as well as their wealthy counterparts. It's not smarts-->riches. It's the other way around.

    6. reiner Tor1:11 PM

      @Cameron Hoppe: Race is a biological construct, otherwise how was it possible to tell from DNA alone with 100% certainty the race of any person? I guess DNA is a social construct either.

      So much nonsense has been written on race by obfuscators and wishful thinkers like Jared Diamond that some basic thinking would be in order. If you are a young Earth creationist then please stop reading, we're not going to agree.

      You had over fifty thousand years a huge human migration out of Africa. The populations arriving in Europe and Asia picked up some local Neanderthal (Europe, Middle East) and Erectus (Asia) genes on the way. Once there, they had vastly different environment than in Africa (like cold). Whatever the evolutionary pressures, cranial capacity clearly increased at colder climates. (Cranial capacity is vastly different for these social constructs, I guess it's just a coincidence. Socially constructed Asians have on average over 100 cc more cranial capacity than socially constructed Africans, for example.)

      Around ten thousand years ago people started to have agriculture, first in the Middle East, then China, Southern Europe, rest of Europe (Europeans seem to have been largely replaced by Middle Eastern agriculturalists around the time), etc. which increased population densities, and changed the environment still further. (An agricultural village is a very different environment than hunting-gathering in a forest.) Higher population densities led to a Fisherian acceleration in evolution, so over the past 400 or so generations we've had faster evolution than before, b/c of more mutations AND heavier selection pressure (due to different environment).

      And now you are telling me that over those fifty thousand years no genetic difference could have evolved among different races, except their skins? Oh, and body composition, musculature, different bones, but other than that, nothing?

      You really only believe in it because you never thought about it.

    7. Anonymous1:56 PM

      Reiner Tor's is a good summary.

    8. Nathanael2:28 PM

      Stop talking nonsense.

      Race is a bullshit concept; that's the single largest problem with bogus claims about "race".

      If you want to claim that there are links between specific DNA sequences and specific types of intelligence -- sure there are. But most "race" claims are of the form "American black people are inherently dumber than American white people", and that is PUREST BULLSHIT.

      Not least, it is bullshit because most of the DNA of American black people is *exactly the same* as the DNA of American white people -- from the same freaking male slaveowners, in fact.

      Every one of these racist "studies" has turned out to be a pile of garbage upon close investigation.

      By way of contrast, the studies showing that being raised in a high-lead environment causes people to be stupider -- *THOSE* studies are solid. And once you correct for that sort of stuff, there actually aren't any "racial" differences in "intelligence".

      But racists will keep pumping out bilge even though their racist ideas have been disproven repeatedly. And big industry will keep trying to suppress the truth about lead and mercury poisoning... sigh...

    9. reiner, I'm not going to engage in any of the ad hominem or rudeness that goes on on the intertubez. However, your argument contains many inaccuracies and pseudoscience. I will address those points:

      *how was it possible to tell from DNA alone with 100% certainty the race of any person?*

      There have been many who claimed to be able to do this, and many researchers have attempted to replicate their methods and findings. So far none of these methods have proven to work as advertised. There is a vast amount of academic literature, easily found through a google scholar or search of public university libraries.

      *You had over fifty thousand years a huge human migration out of Africa. The populations arriving in Europe and Asia picked up some local Neanderthal (Europe, Middle East) and Erectus (Asia) genes on the way.*

      Huge migration is a matter of definition. All these migrations represented just a small percentage of the African population. All the Neanderthal and Erectus (surprised you're mentioning this much older species from which Neanderthal and Sapiens evolved) genes came from Africa. They themselves evolved from a subset of of ancient African populations. In short, you're dealing with very few unique genes.

      *so over the past 400 or so generations we've had faster evolution than before, b/c of more mutations *

      More mutations? You're arguing that the mutation rate has increased by an entire order of magnitude since the emergence of Homo Sapiens. Two orders of magnitude if you reach back to the rise of Hominids. I'm sorry, but this doesn't help you mathematically.

      *AND heavier selection pressure (due to different environment).*

      I spent several years working with e coli, yeast, and other critters to improve and produce treatments for human diseases, mainly by introducing new genes and applying selection pressure to populations. Selection pressures reduce genetic diversity. So you're actually arguing against yourself here.

      *You really only believe in it because you never thought about it.*

      The peer-reviewed literature disagrees with you:

      Have a great day!

    10. Nathanael2:55 PM

      As someone who understands biology and has read serious studies, one way to put this is:

      -- if I see a study purporting to show inherent genetic differences in brain functioning between pureblood Kalahari Bushmen and pureblood Inuit, I will actually bother to seriously read it.

      -- if I see a study about "Asian people" or "Black people" or "White people" or "Caucasians" or "people of European descent", I will throw it in the shredder without looking. It is not even wrong.

    11. So I guess southern whites are stupider than northern whites for genetic reasons, and adopted kids are smarter than non-adopted kids for genetic reasons? Oh, and Jews were stupider than gentiles for genetic reasons 100 years ago, but have now miraculously evolved to be smarter?

      The whole race and IQ thing is a belief that is very popular with large segments of the white population, but has very few adherents among people who study IQs. Putting this out there like you are some brave defender of rationality against out-of-control PC is poop of the bull.

    12. "If you want to claim that there are links between specific DNA sequences and specific types of intelligence -- sure there are. But most "race" claims are of the form "American black people are inherently dumber than American white people", and that is PUREST BULLSHIT."

      There are problems even with the first statement, because "intelligence" is not a well-defined concept. Even IQ is not a particularly convincing measure. Education levels, better, but what kind of laboratory would you need to test the hypothesis: identical twins separated at birth, etc... All of this is dead-end research guys.

    13. Anonymous9:55 AM

      From Rushton and Jensen's work

      "30 years of research on race differences in cognitive ability"

      World wide average differences among blacks, whites and east Asians
      IQ Cranial Capacity Cortical Neurons (millions)

      Blacks 85 1267 13,185

      Whites 102 1347 13,665

      East 106 1364 13,767

      Race is not well defined. What we can see though is that there is a relationship between social definitions of race and the above three variables.

      This does not imply that there is some underlying genetic factor necessarily attached to those genes which place certain people into particular categories such as white, black or east Asian. But it is consistent with a story where by those people who have certain characteristics that we use to classify people's race also tend to have genes that lead to lower or higher cranial mass, levels of cortical neurons or IQ test scores. It is also compatible with other more environmental stories.

      The data certainly does not incontrovertibly demonstrate that these gaps are coming from higher prevalences of certain genes amongst people we classify to be in certain races. This is however one plausible story for explaining these gaps. I personally believe that getting this wrong in one direction is more costly than getting wrong in the other.

      A social belief in even a small racial difference will have large adverse effects. People are a little racist anyway and historically tend to exaggerate any small difference on which we can discriminate. Historically it has always been very easy for humans to justify inequities between groups via appeal to the intrinsic inferiority of one group to another. There is probably, therefore, a social bias towards finding innate differences between "our group" and "their group". Given this bias we should demand a very high burden of proof from those who want to claim that race is the reason for the difference in social outcomes. As far as I can tell this burden of proof is far from being met.

  5. I think the desensitization is coming, but I think it will be a generational issue. Old people love to be outraged at how terrible the world is becoming. People who grew up with the internet, on the other hand, are much more difficult to shock.

    1. Anonymous11:23 AM

      The desensitization is coming, but you can't tell ahead of time if you get to be a pre-desensitization case, a post-desensitization case, or the case that leads to the desensitization tipping-point.

      (Said the Anonymous commenter.)

    2. "People who grew up with the internet, on the other hand, are much more difficult to shock."

      Right up until they get old, anyway.

    3. Anonymous12:33 PM

      "People who grew up with the internet, on the other hand, are much more difficult to shock."

      I concur. I assure you, I cannot be shocked.

  6. reiner Tor12:36 PM

    Males have genetically higher variability, for obvious reasons. (XX vs. XY.) This means any trait that could catapult you to top positions in society (like intelligence) will in all likelihood be more variable among men than among women. The larger variance for any trait will also mean that among intelligent people (say above 115 IQ) there will be more males than females (just as among not so intelligent people below 85), however, among geniuses (like above 145 IQ) male dominance will be overwhelming. (Just as among the retarded.)

    This means that in the absence of any social engineering, males will predominate at the top of society (CEOs and the likes), just as they will predominate at the very bottom (prisons, homeless, etc.). This is to be expected.

    These two paragraphs could cost me my job if I were exposed. Even though I think it is a reasonable view that should be open to discussion.

    1. Anonymous2:25 PM

      Listen, I think you should be able to believe what you want, and I don't think it's anyone's business what you believe (but of course, other people can have their own opinion what their business is).

      But my goodness, this genetic variation seems like angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin stuff. You seem, dare I say, *obsessed* about it.

      Even if you were able to show some statistical significance to back up your theory on how the Y chromosome's additional genetic variation affects certain multi-variable, exceedingly complex characteristics on a population-wide basis, I hardly see much interest in that. How could you even get a mildly interesting heuristic from such a finding? What would it mean on a daily basis?

      The problem is that even if you're right, it's almost certainly useless information, unless there is some deeper psychological inadequacy you're trying to salve. I mean, if it interests you, go for it, but wow, don't be surprised that people look at you as pathetic and sad, because those are the obvious consequences of your actions *even if you are right*.

    2. Anonymous2:27 PM

      Also, please tell me when you've found your laboratory that includes a perfect model of society with "the absence of any social engineering." What an idiot.

    3. Nathanael2:35 PM

      It's actually true that males have higher variability on several mental measurements -- among other things, this means that there are significantly more psychopaths and sociopaths among males than among females. (There appear to potentially be other reasons why there are more psychopaths among males too.)

      It is natural for there to be more males among the sociopath population. It has also been shown that it is natural for those sociopaths to fill CEO jobs, and to drive non-sociopaths out of those jobs.

      It should, however, be PREVENTED, whether or not it's natural!

      Statistically, there are only a few documented areas where males have higher variability than females in mental abilities (3d visualization is the only one which comes to mind as well-proven).

      If you run the numbers, male dominance based on increased variability in things referred to as *intelligence* comes out to be *miniscule* -- on the order of 60 male : 40 female, *maximum*.

      Which shows that you're a sexist pig, rather than someone who's looked at the actual decent studies.

    4. Orthodox9:14 AM

      Young Earth Creationists make more compelling arguments because they at least try to come up with ways to disprove the existing science.

  7. Anonymous1:24 PM

    Noah, you've missed two facets of this phenomenon. One miss arose because you phrased the phenomenon as the suppression of "unpopular" opinions, which is not quite the correct way to describe what's happening. The opinion-diversity that gets people fired (*IF* one way or another is broadcast to unqualified audiences - a BIG caveat - but also occurs when a "private" meeting is videotaped and then YouTubed [shall we call this ROMNEYED?]) is that it must be an idea that many people (think they) are already familiar with AND they have a really negative opinion of the idea - ie, the idea is "indefensible" to the layman, particularly if it is *NOT* couched with some sort of moderating ORIGINAL context.

    By "original" I mean, if you write a 1000-word essay on the neurological reasons why most women are possibly ~25% worse on spatial reasoning during the low-testosterone portions of their menstrual cycle than hormonally-average men (look it up...), the layman might get upset, but at least there is context to refer back to. But when someone (Larry Summers) simply offers up this conclusion in an off-hand comment, gets publicly condemned, and then tries to qualify the remarks afterward, many in "the public" tend to doubt that the qualifying statement is genuine ("Because why didn't he say all that in the first place? He's just posturing now - we saw his TRUE self in the flippant remark.")

    And the other aspect you missed is that this kind of ideological normalization has a very positive aspect - bad ideas get killed off, making much greater room for network-effects between the more reality-based memes. This positive feedback loop has been going on for a long time now, starting with the Rennaissance, and accelerating with The Enlightenment, of course. No one in western culture is seriously still debating whether the Earth is flat - and that state of affairs means that we have much more time to debate the implications of the Higgs boson and neurological determinism.

    The slaying of the worst ideas - and, unfortunately, the people that espouse them - is a very important mechanism of social progress, and the fact that it is happening more often now isn't NEARLY all bad. In fact, I would assert that much more of the positive effect is happening than the negative (take, for instance, public opinion movement on LGBT rights, and the acceptance of evolution - and even atheism, or the attenuation of nationalistic jingoism [eg, strike syria or not? Compared to 60 years ago...]). True, those who merely *sound* like they are espousing bad ideas are flagrant collateral damage. But perhaps the resistance to even collateral casualties in "surgical" military strikes is (slowly) spreading to the realm of public denunciation, since we DO see more tolerance of many ideas that used to be categorically denounced.

    There's a bad side to that, however, such as the "tolerance" of Neo-Secessionists and the idea that Lincoln violated the constitution AND made the wrong choice on mobilizing against The Confederacy. But then again, these, too, are bad ideas that are getting beaten down in due course.

    And that sounds like an improvement in public debate, not a deterioration. You can find web-presences of all sorts of ridiculous ideas. The only REAL suppression is happening in indefensible (because of brevity) expressions of things that *SOUND LIKE* absurdly stupid ideas - not simply the "unpopular."

    1. Nathanael2:39 PM

      All the studies I've seen say that there is no meaningful difference between men and women along the entire distribution in *2d* visualization.

      Perhaps by "spatial reasoning" (a meaningless term -- reasoning is by definition logical) you mean *3d* visualization specifically. This is pretty much the only area of "intelligence" where I've seen any decent studies *ever* showing any real differences between "men" and "women". All the other studies which looked for differences were garbage.

      4d visualization is a whole 'nother matter and very few people can do it at all. The only one I know of is female.

    2. Anonymous5:13 PM

      No one can do 4d visualization (because the neurons we use to perform visualization are arranged in a plane and always reduce the "field of view" to a 2D projection [to match our optical perception]). However, you can be trained in the rules of what the 3d view of 4d changes looks like (as have I). However, Spatial Reasoning is a standard description of a type of reasoning, which includes, for instance, the rate at which a person can rotate a 3D mental image. This has actually been measured (average is about 57 deg/sec I think). The research I'm citing is one that where they found that hormone levels appear to play a significant role in the perceived mental differences between men and women (from math and science to language) - and menstrual cycle changes thus cause women to experience variability in this capacity. This is very interesting (I think) and also explains how we can have basically the same brains, but still experience the apparent variations in the sexes. It isn't that one sex is dumber than the other. Women tend to speak faster than men, have a larger vocabulary, etc, etc. But, apparently, these sex differences are largely caused by the effect of sex hormones on different parts of the brain. Note that even males experience hormonal changes through life - and this research offers a possible explanation to why so many great (academic) men do so much of their best work in their 30's - perhaps that TENDS to be an optimum in most men in both hormone levels and the effects of aging.

      Yes, I am aware that culture could be the cause of all of these differences in the sexes - but many studies now seek to control for cultural differences and it really does appear to show that there are some natural differences between the sexes. And should this really be shocking? Who doesn't feel good or bad as a result of all sorts of hormonal changes (waking up, late at night, post-sex, pre-sex, hungry, satiated, breastfeeding, not; menstrating/cramping, not....). The sexes do not experience all of these symmetrically, so how could there not be SOME variation between the sexes?

      Granted!!!::: the variation between members of either sex are greater than the variation between most members of different sexes - but that does not matter. There are, apparently, differences between the mean woman and the mean man, and that's okay. It doesn't justify *stereotyping* - but it does call for recognizing that seeking a 1-for-1, 50% distribution of women and men everywhere is not a valid way of looking at the world, starting with the obvious: the number of people with cup size greater than C is heavily skewed in favor of women - and it would be a mistake to encourage men to seek to fill that category. Does that matter? No.

      Anyway, we were ACTUALLY talking about the capacity of people to express dumb (or not so dumb ideas) not debate each dumb (or not so dumb) idea....

  8. Anonymous1:28 PM

    Suffice to say that it is a little rich to be upset that some establishment white men have lost their jobs for having unpopular opinions when so many others have been denied opportunity because they have different perspectives. Like libertarians who can't understand why they have so little support among minorities because they somehow fail to see systematic discrimination.

  9. Anonymous1:39 PM

    I've always detested the cult of political correctness.

    I do think that businesses should have the right to hire and fire anybody for any reason whatsoever, even if its a ridiculous BS one.

    That being said, I wish people were able to accept alternative ideas and debate them without feeling like its the end of the world. Lots of people lose their jobs over expressing some opinions just because bosses are worried about looking bad. Often, they look worse by firing somebody.

    Despite paying lip-service to it at times, I don't think most people are willing to challenge their in-built assumptions. Ideas that don't neatly fit on the narrow 3x5 index card of approved public opinions are automatically dismissed. Given that most employers and people in positions of power didn't grow up with the internet and especially things like Facebook, not only were they less exposed to alternative modes of thinking, but I think they're essentially set up to automatically dismiss challenges to their companies.

    Given all of this, if you have some kind of professional career to maintain, you should either decide to refrain from participating on the internet altogether (a valid choice, but difficult for most) or deleting or privacy protecting most social media accounts. At the very least, maintain some personal discipline about what you're posting online. Don't argue about politics online using your real name, use your Facebook account just for getting peoples' contact information and give them a call and meet up. Socially its healthier and professionally its also healthier.

    Even if you do everything perfect and don't post anything controversial online, you're still not really perfectly safe because you can't control what other people say about you. Somebody with a grudge against you can create a fake Facebook account or website about you and poison the well. Somebody could go and write something negative about you or falsely attribute something to you on DirtyPhoneBook for instance. And then Google caches all of that forever, anybody searching for you (for an employment check or whatever) sees that and might dismiss you. So literally nothing you can do can ultimately prevent this.

    In the long run, hopefully people that grew up with the internet and Facebook take on leadership roles and people can adjust somewhat and expand their ideas of what acceptable opinions are.

    In the short run, if you rely on any kind of social media accounts, the best thing you can do is consider deleting them or at least protecting them and using some discipline to moderate what you talk about. Beyond that, you can't do much else.

  10. Anonymous2:18 PM

    I suppose it sucks for Pax that he lost his high-powered business job in the tech industry because of a few dumbass comments he tweeted.

    I think I'm going to focus on all the women who were unable to climb the corporate ladder because of assholes like him instead. If that means society whacks you on the head for saying things like that, well maybe you should try being less of an asshole.

    1. Anonymous2:36 PM

      Yep. And don't cry for Pax, he's still running a startup.

  11. Anonymous2:35 PM

    Here's my complaint about "accepting alternative ideas" in this context: Is it a radically new idea to say that women can't do math and science? To say that black people are genetically inferior? That Hollywood is run by money-worshipping Jews? Or are these "ideas" that have been around for centuries, making it more difficult for women and minorities to succeed?

    And have any of these free speech martyrs really been ruined? Pax Dickinson still runs a startup. Jack Hunter has a radio show and newspaper column. Gregg Easterbrook writes for ESPN. Jason Richwine works for National Review.

    1. Orthodox9:24 AM

      Your problem is you have an emotional reaction when you read something you don't like.

      No one said women can't do math and science. They said that there are more men at the very highest levels of math because of some genetic variation. All this means is that if you see a lot of men winning math Nobel Prizes, it isn't sexism.

      No one said blacks are genetically inferior. They said there are some genetic variations. Again, when you find an occupation that is heavily white or black, it doesn't necessarily mean there is racism. For example, you can look at sports such as football and see more white offensive linemen and more black defensive linemen. And if you think lower intelligence makes a person inferior, it is yourself who has the problem.

      Finally, even Jews have said Hollywood is run by the Jews. Apparently this is a new idea to you, because you are unaware of reality.

  12. In a large scale sense, I guess I can understand the concern for opinions being limited to what society deems appropriate. There are certainly topics in the US that are too taboo. In a more narrow sense, like the issue of sexism, I have a much harder time thinking we are betraying the spirit of Mill's On Liberty by shaming sexist. It's not like we haven't heard the opposing opinion for hundreds of years.

  13. Nathanael2:51 PM

    People who promote really stupid, offensive, hundred-year-old, debunked, disproven, bigoted ideas -- *who are in jobs where those ideas matter* -- should be shamed out of their jobs, because they are *spreading* those ideas *through* their jobs.

    People who promote good ideas should stay in their job. And when bosses fire people for *good* twitter statements (like supporting equal rights), those people get public support and "fire the boss" petitions.

    So yes, the power of popular opinion is great. But it *always* was. This is society. It's a good thing, on the whole.

    And how about the third category -- public statements which are *neutral*, which are really personal life matters, rather than statements on matters of political import?

    I think *that's* what most people are really worried about. Nobody gives a damn if an intellectually dishonest bigot gets fired for promoting bigotry on the job. People care whether people is being fired for their recreational activities, whether it's smoking pot or going to S&M clubs or whatever, or for simple political activities like advocating for the Green Party or Libertarian Party.

    Well, the Internet generation *does not care* about the personal activities. Eventually the older generation will die off. Everyone knows Hans Blix, weapons inspector, is into S&M, and does anyone really think it affects his job performance?

    As for the political activities, people are getting to be quite persnickety about the right to be involved in political parties.

    So things are getting better.

    I frankly think that the right-wingers are attempting to confuse people.

    Think about this: someone who supports the Confederacy -- the Confederacy! -- is supporting both treason and slavery. That is really beyond the pale for someone *working for a US Senator*. Of *course* Jack Hunter resigned -- he announced his support for treason and slavery and his opposition to the US Constitution, while working for a US Senator.

    The rest of the people on your list were in similar situations -- "Pax" was being racist and sexist while in a position to make hiring decisions, for example.

    In short, the right-wing nut jobs you listed who were fired richly deserved to get fired because their statements *directly reflected on their competence to do their jobs*.

    This should have no impact on people who are tweeting about things unrelated to their jobs.

  14. It's never a question of whether there will discrimination or no discrimination. It is always instead a question of what forms of discrimination will be permitted or even required by the state. Through political correctness the state has chosen a side and has decided that some forms of discrimination are commendable or even necessary but has erected legal penalties on other forms of discrimination. Discrimination is countered not by ending it but by reversing it.

    1. Huh??? Has the state been shooting dirty looks your way when you try to tell black jokes or something?

      I really don't think the state is calling the shots here.

  15. Shorter version of post: So some people got fired for spouting sexist and racist things on the Tweets and Internets so their employers said, Hey you're a public embarrassment, believe it or not sexism and racism are selling points of diminishing value these days, but you know, pundits and other really rich and well-connected people get to do similar and even stupider stuff and not get fired, though by and large they are generally associated with Fox News, hey, what's up with that, though now to segue, I'll drop the average-person-versus-rich-well-connected-Fox-pundit angle, now that I've planted it as a little-people-versus-big-people head fake, and wonder out loud why people don't just get tired of being outraged, not pausing to consider that maybe it's because sexism and racism really are outrageous and deserve to be called out as socially unacceptable, but hey, I did say that *many* of the opinions attracting an outraged response are *noxious* and I won't stop to say exactly which are NOT *noxious* and I'll just then post a hypothetical about some generic *outrage strategy* that might at some future date be used against merely *unpopular* views even though I don't have any particular examples and the main prerequisite for an effective "outrage strategy" would appear to be behavior or opinion that is by general social consensus judged to be outrageous, and so some handwaving about freedom for unpopular views even though I have presented no evidence for such views being endangered except in cases that I myself acknowledge to be *noxious* and now we close with a cliche about not wanting the world to become a blander and more boring place, which I guess means we should all give the sexists and racists a break, remember, it's like Nixon and future presidents, so just stop being *outraged* all of you.

    Bonus non sequitur watch: *Frankly, I've never been sure if the idea of there being no social sanctions for holding any opinion is even possible. It's certainly never been tried. But it is the case [sic] where people constantly self-censor their opinions (more than they do now) would probably be a much blander and boring world than the one we have today.*

    If (1) a society with *no social sanctions for holding any opinion* is (2) one that has *certainly never been tried* then a world in which people (3) *constantly self-censor their opinions* is in fact (4) *the one we have today.* QED

  16. Anonymous4:48 PM

    With the advent of the web, people not only censor themselves more, but increasingly posture and perform in public, like celebrities or politicians. The result of this is an incredibly insincere society, forcibly dishonest, and not especially civilized or what I would call adult.

    Meanwhile, the genuinely grievous social problems--mass incarceration, extreme wealth inequality, unemployment and underemployment, inadequate access to healthcare and education, out-of-control student debt, and yes, global warming and nuclear weapons--are conveniently ignored.

  17. Am I really the first one to point out that the graphic at the opening of this post is Really Inappropriate?

  18. Am I really the first one to point out that the graphic at the opening of this post is Really Inappropriate?

    I wasn't aware of that!

  19. To be fair, Pax was fired because he made comments related to hiring women, and in his capacity as CTO made hiring/firing decisions. This is a liability nightmare the first time you fire someone litigious.

  20. Anonymous3:16 AM

    So where do girls who want to be promiscuous and dress trashy but complain about having to be "shamed" fit into this?

    1. Why should we shame girls who want to be promiscuous and dress trashy? Don't you want to do those things?

  21. I would say that the problem isn't the internet rooting out unpopular thoughts: the problem is arbitrary power of employers to institute zero-tolerance policies and fire at will.

    "... the place where [adults] pass the most time and submit to the closest control is at work. Thus, without even entering into the question of the world economy's ultimate dictation within narrow limits of everybody's productive activity, it's apparent that the source of the greatest direct duress experienced by the ordinary adult is _not_ the state but rather the business that employs him. Your foreman or supervisor gives you more or-else orders in a week than the police do in a decade."
    Bob Black, The Libertarian As Conservative, 1984

  22. Whether an idea is outrageous has nothing to do with whether it is or is believed to be true or false, and only a little to do with popularity. In all of the given examples, the stated beliefs are outrageous because the beliefs themselves are understood to be harmful to certain people or groups of people. An outrage requires a clearly identifiable victim. It's easier to get away believing in astrology or creationism or even positive stereotypes like "Asians are good at math," where the harm or the victims are less obvious.

    I don't say this to trivialize outrages. Negative stereotypes really are harmful whether or not there is any amount of truth to them; this has been demonstrated quite convincingly in the stereotype threat studies. That they have a demonstrable harmful effect is one of the reasons it is quite difficult to determine if there is any truth to them beyond their effects as self-fulfilling prophesies.

    1. "But there is nothing about the sort of outrage strategy being employed requiring that the views that get you fired be noxious or even wrong; all that is necessary is that they be unpopular."

      Is it really that easy to get everyone outraged for long enough to force their firing?

      How do you define unpopular anyway? Is belief in Judaism popular? I don't see how it could be; very few share that belief and most regard the religion as incorrect in some way. So could you create an outrage out of someone expressing such a belief? No, certainly not today. What about anti-semitism, is that popular? Well, no, though I would not be surprised if the number of people holding anti-semitic beliefs is larger than the number of Jews. But one of these is recognized as noxious and one is considered acceptable. And so long as the public is distinguishing between the noxious and the merely wrong or unpopular, then I don't think it's correct to say that outrage tactics are equally effective with the latter. I suppose we should be wary of attempts to expand the definition of noxious, though progress demands that its definition will grow over time.

  23. Anonymous10:28 AM

    The removal of freedom of expression and thought is one of the keys to full, firm control. Between the Islamists and the multi-cultis, our children will be completely incapable of stemming the certain downfall of western civilisation. Dark ages? Here we come, again!

    1. OHHH NOOOOOOooooooo....

    2. Boy, you can say that again. The first step towards destroying freedom of expression and thought is to teach people to be tolerant of different cultures...

  24. What a crack up.

    Let me get this straight you libertarians.

    You defend the right of restaurant/hotel owners to not be willing to serve African Americans, but your knickers get twisted when another business owner fires an employee for shooting their mouth off?

  25. Anonymous7:44 AM

    What im really wundering now, is who did give that guy his Ph.D.? Thats someone who should definitly be fire. Or better, fire everyone involved in grading, not just the advisor...