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LogicalFallacy

A discussion on the use of offensive/derogatory terminology

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2 hours ago, LogicalFallacy said:

@Bhim Apologies for not having replied yet. I am working on a reply, but I don't have a lot of free time at the moment. Don't want you to think I'm bailing out of my own topic. I'm giving some serious thought to this one, rather than quick fire replies so responses are taking longer.

 

No apologies needed. I have been a far worse offender in these matters.

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Hi @Geezer. You've made some interesting comments. Since leaving Jesus, I've had to formulate my own cultural and social views. I've concluded that I am "conservative" in the social sense - not in any way relating to fetus-aborting or gay sex - but perhaps not so much in the fiscal sense. As I said in an earlier post, I am not wedded to laissez-faire market economics, and therefore feel that it would be perfectly reasonable to impose an artificial standard that no employer may base a hiring or termination decision on any political or social behavior in which someone engages, outside of a professional context. You seem to have stated a similar perspective.

 

I've had to contend with my own philosophy on a few occasions recently. As I've said on this forum on many occasions, I am not a fan of Muslims. And I'm referring not just to the religion, but to the people. I consider people who practice Islam to be deplorable individuals who should probably be excluded from society. Yet I also believe in a separation of professional life from private life. These two beliefs have clashed when, in the past two or so years, I was asked to interview various Muslim candidates for positions at the company that employs me (I don't actually know that they were Muslims, but from their names, nationalities, and attire it was fairly obvious). It surprised me to find that I was very easily able to separate my feelings about Muslims from my professional objectivity. I was able to evaluate these individuals on their qualifications - irrespective of their assumed adherence to Islam - and I ended up recommending them for hiring at about the same rate as I have candidates from the general population.

 

So I wonder: is it not possible for society in general to practice this same separation of the personal and the professional? Say you don't like someone's tweets either in favor of or against Trump. Or women. Or blacks. Is it so unreasonable to ignore this when deciding whether to hire someone, and more importantly when deciding whether to terminate someone? Based on my own experience I would say this is well within the realm of reason.

 

3 hours ago, Geezer said:

And just for the record, I deplore racists and hate speech

 

This comment is worthy of some discussion. Why do you feel you need to state this in order to have the discussion regarding employment practices and expressed personal beliefs? What if you were racist against a particular ethnic group? Obviously all beliefs translate into some sort of action. But if the extent of that action is that you don't socialize with the target ethnic group, and if your racism doesn't affect the way you treat its member differently in any public space (e.g employment, government services, random public interactions...but mostly just employment), then so what? It is your right to hate anyone you want based on whatever discriminating variables you choose, and others can only judge you on the actions you take which directly affect other individuals. To provide a concrete example, let's say you didn't like my race, because you thought we smell like curry, and the odor is off-putting. As long as I can still get a job at your company (provided I have the appropriate qualifications) or get a fair trial in your courtroom (if you were a judge), it doesn't really matter to me whether you're willing to be on the same bowling team with me, attend a vegetarian barbecue at my house, or let your daughter date my son. None of those other things affect me in any material way, provided you are not impeding my ability to earn a paycheck or have equal protection under the law. So why should "for the record I am not racist" be the figurative tithe you have to pay Jesus in order to have this conversation?

 

In case I haven't yet fully depleted my capital with any woke posters in this thread, let me be unequivocal: yes, I am saying that racism is not a very serious issue. As a "person of color" (it sickens me to use such terminology) I don't care if someone is racist as long as they will still employ me.

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10 hours ago, Bhim said:

 

Hi @mwc. I don't think that the Chilling Effect is the legal term I'm looking for here. As you said, "you cannot freely express your racists ideas in your own backyard for fear that you will be fired." Termination is a perfectly legal action on the part of an employer. As someone not wedded to a laissez-faire free market philosophy, I have no problem with laws that curtail employers' ability to fire employees on the basis of their behavior outside of work (including racist behavior). But right now I'm not aware of laws that make this illegal. But right now, lack of legal protection for offensive speech is the least of my concerns.

     Hmm...I have to admit that I don't understand what you're driving at.  You had said the following:

 

On 6/25/2020 at 5:45 PM, Bhim said:

And this despite that my activity was in no way connected to my employment. So though I have legally-protected free speech, I do not effectively have free speech, because I cannot exercise my right in any meaningful capacity. It is precisely this mode of free speech that I wish to address, namely the mode of speech which is currently only fully accessible to wealthy individuals who do not depend on their employability for their subsistence.

     You say that you have no problem with employers firing people for such things so I'm not sure what the issue actually is.  It seems you're actually fine with the way things are.  The system works.

 

     Or is the point really the outing?  The "neighbor" that is the problem?  The person who lets the cat out of the bag?  That shines the light on your racism, that records the conversion, and is the person who you see as setting off the chain of events resulting in your downfall?  Essentially the "snitch"?  If they'd have minded their own business then you could say what you wanted without repercussions?  It's not what you say that is the problem but rather them for letting others know what you have said.

 

10 hours ago, Bhim said:

Now, I'm happy to separately talk about the various effects that acceptance of open, racially derogatory speech would have on the pertinent racial groups. I'd also be interested to talk about how many people would even wish to take advantage of such acceptance, since I think there are about as many genuine racists in our society as there are round-earth deniers (honestly, do think for an instant that SV really believes the earth is flat?).

 

However I am more interested in why you think the effect on these people is relevant (@LogicalFallacy has alluded to similar concerns, which I don't know that I've addressed sufficiently). The argument seems to be one of utilitarianism. And depending on the utility metric being optimized, this can go to some demonstrably bad places. Since Godwin's Law went out the door in 2016 I don't mind making the following argument: by your prescribed metric of hurt feelings, if a large number of people were made to feel bad due to the relative fortunes of a few well-to-do Jews, then how would the morally correct course of action not be to holocaust the Jews?

     The Holocaust wasn't because of bad feelings over rich Jews.  That being said you present a false dichotomy.  The correct course of action would have been whatever alleviated those hurt feelings in the best fashion (in your utilitarian view that could have simply been taking away and redistributing their wealth...the Holocaust is not an inevitable event).

 

     The type of speech you're talking about has already had its time in the sun in our country.  We know it's about subjugation.  That is its purpose.  That is its effect.

 

          mwc

 

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IMO, this speech issue is tied to political correctness. Political Correctness, IMO, wants to punish thoughts as well as actions. PC was originally a way to control people through the use of intimidation, but it has now morphed into actual harmful actions against those accused of having unacceptable thoughts if such thoughts are verbalized.

 

Essentially mobs have been allowed to become judges, juries, and prosecutors and they also determine the punishment for the accused. The accused has no rights or defenses. Actions detrimental to society should be subject to adjudication. Justice is being threatened and in some cases it’s unraveling and being replaced by vigilante “justice”.  That’s scary.

 

Politicians are failing to do their sworn duty because they are being intimidated by these mobs and submitting to their demands. Disbanding police forces is an insane idea and the though of having no police force is terrifying. If these mobs are successful in disbanding police departments anarchy and chaos will result. 


History tells us many of the great empires fell from within. I genuinely fear this could happen to the United States too if elected officials don’t stand up to this threat and take decisive action to get it under control. It appears Democrats will take political control in the upcoming election. If large Democratic cities are an example of what happens when the Democrats are in control then the U.S. could become a chaotic, lawless, country. And I fear this is a real possibility.

 


 

 

 

 

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7 hours ago, mwc said:

You say that you have no problem with employers firing people for such things so I'm not sure what the issue actually is.  It seems you're actually fine with the way things are.  The system works.

 

I said this: "I have no problem with laws that curtail employers' ability to fire employees on the basis of their behavior outside of work." What I am saying is that I want employers to be prohibited from firing their employees for making racist comments outside of work.

 

7 hours ago, mwc said:

Or is the point really the outing?  The "neighbor" that is the problem?  The person who lets the cat out of the bag?  That shines the light on your racism, that records the conversion, and is the person who you see as setting off the chain of events resulting in your downfall?  Essentially the "snitch"?  If they'd have minded their own business then you could say what you wanted without repercussions?  It's not what you say that is the problem but rather them for letting others know what you have said.

 

I'm glad you bring up this point. Again, ignoring for the moment that I have an expectation of privacy in my house, in principle I have no problem with the snitch. I even have no problem with the social consequences...right up until we encounter the termination and inability to secure new employment. That is my sole objection. Prevent my employer from legally terminating me for my speech, and you can have all the political correctness you desire.

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37 minutes ago, Bhim said:

 

I said this: "I have no problem with laws that curtail employers' ability to fire employees on the basis of their behavior outside of work." What I am saying is that I want employers to be prohibited from firing their employees for making racist comments outside of work.

     Ah.  I had apparently misread your statement.

 

Quote

 

I'm glad you bring up this point. Again, ignoring for the moment that I have an expectation of privacy in my house, in principle I have no problem with the snitch. I even have no problem with the social consequences...right up until we encounter the termination and inability to secure new employment. That is my sole objection. Prevent my employer from legally terminating me for my speech, and you can have all the political correctness you desire.

     In essence you're speaking to the "cancel culture" that has become fairly pervasive.  This is a bit of a sticky wicket.  We've allowed businesses to creep into our personal lives over time.  When they were allowed to do things like drug testing, background checks and whatnot.  It's a matter of drawing lines.  It seems that this has become a new litmus test.

 

     Myself, I would ask if someone walks the walk or just talks the talk as a way to sort things out.  Some folks have dug up "dirt" that is years old on people who seem to have not walked that walk so it's just all talk.  There seems to be no reason to bother with those people.  Going to your Hitler example we know he was a vegetarian and was all for animal rights but beyond that the walk he actually walked was rather rotten.  It would be a huge mistake to spotlight those "good" things and ignore the "bad" and likewise I think it is a huge mistake to spotlight the "bad" and ignore the "good."  More nuance is required.

 

          mwc

 

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33 minutes ago, mwc said:

Ah.  I had apparently misread your statement.

 

Addmittedly, I worded it rather poorly. Hence the more direct clarification.

 

33 minutes ago, mwc said:

In essence you're speaking to the "cancel culture" that has become fairly pervasive.  This is a bit of a sticky wicket.  We've allowed businesses to creep into our personal lives over time.  When they were allowed to do things like drug testing, background checks and whatnot.  It's a matter of drawing lines.  It seems that this has become a new litmus test.

 

Regarding the cancel culture...I'm going to have to go with a firm "maybe" on this. Cancel culture is an entire apparatus consisting of private individuals who are familiar with a chosen victim, the entire social media complex, online mobs, and then finally the cancel-ee's employer. I'm going specifically after the employer here. Prevent the employer from terminating the employee, and cancel culture is meaningless. If I publicly make racist comments, I'm fine with others refusing to socialize with me and with people saying negative things about me online. As long as I continue working to collect a paycheck, and can move to new jobs at other companies as my professional interests change, I am fine with the other social consequences remaining.

 

33 minutes ago, mwc said:

Myself, I would ask if someone walks the walk or just talks the talk as a way to sort things out.  Some folks have dug up "dirt" that is years old on people who seem to have not walked that walk so it's just all talk.  There seems to be no reason to bother with those people.  Going to your Hitler example we know he was a vegetarian and was all for animal rights but beyond that the walk he actually walked was rather rotten.  It would be a huge mistake to spotlight those "good" things and ignore the "bad" and likewise I think it is a huge mistake to spotlight the "bad" and ignore the "good."  More nuance is required.

 

 

So would you say that if someone is to be "canceled" for racism, the standard of evidence should be actual racist behavior (e.g. refusing to hire a qualified black applicant), rather than racist speech? If we added the qualification that racist behavior with no externalities (e.g. not wanting to have a black friend or have your daughter date a black) is also not grounds for cancellation, we might be getting to a compromise that I would find acceptable.

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14 hours ago, Bhim said:

Regarding the cancel culture...I'm going to have to go with a firm "maybe" on this. Cancel culture is an entire apparatus consisting of private individuals who are familiar with a chosen victim, the entire social media complex, online mobs, and then finally the cancel-ee's employer. I'm going specifically after the employer here. Prevent the employer from terminating the employee, and cancel culture is meaningless. If I publicly make racist comments, I'm fine with others refusing to socialize with me and with people saying negative things about me online. As long as I continue working to collect a paycheck, and can move to new jobs at other companies as my professional interests change, I am fine with the other social consequences remaining.

     I don't know if I'd care for this sort of legislation.  When I had my own business (an ISP) I happened to have customers who were members of the KKK.  I wasn't worried about employing them but they were a concern as customers.  I very firmly believed in their right to free speech but I contacted them and told them that if they said anything that was threatening, intimidating, etc. then that crossed the line and I would be the one who would make the call.  I never had any problems from them once I had that conversation even though I disagreed with them.  To my knowledge they never did more than talk nonsense.  None of what they said was ever put into any sort of action.  That would not have been acceptable.  Actually, I take that back, I'm pretty sure one of them signed me up to one of their newsletters since I got one for years (and there was no way to unsubscribe).

 

     Anyhow, that said, if I were employing one of those same folks and it came to light that they were with the KKK I might not wish to work along side them.  I don't hold beliefs sacred.  This is just another belief to me.  So I would think that I might want to have that option to terminate that employee available.

 

14 hours ago, Bhim said:

So would you say that if someone is to be "canceled" for racism, the standard of evidence should be actual racist behavior (e.g. refusing to hire a qualified black applicant), rather than racist speech? If we added the qualification that racist behavior with no externalities (e.g. not wanting to have a black friend or have your daughter date a black) is also not grounds for cancellation, we might be getting to a compromise that I would find acceptable.

     Long term patterns are helpful in gauging behavior.  That's why they say you only get one chance to make a first impression.  You only have one sample at that point.  If that sample is bad then, odds are, you're going to be seen as a bad person.  You're in for an uphill battle to change that perception (and depending on what you've done you might not be able to manage to change it).

 

     Let me understand your examples.  If you do not want a black friend that seems entirely up to you.  It doesn't seem to be imposing your racism on anyone but yourself.  If you do not want your daughter to date a black person is this something that you keep to yourself?  Or is this something you tell your daughter?  Is it a rule?  If it is then it has become external.  Your racism is now imposed on your daughter.

 

          mwc

 

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This isn't meant for anyone in particular, just a general announcement about free speech and this website.

 

This is a privately owned and operated website. The moderation here is extremely liberal in terms of letting people say what they want. Even though, at the end of the day, it is a privately owned and operated website. It's best to think of this website as a group meeting taking place on private property. Everything should be pretty clear in that context as far as where free speech fits into the equation. 

 

Carry on.....

 

 

 

 

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Are we discussing offensive terminology or are we actually discussing socially disapproved terminology?

 

Yelling fire in a theater when there is no fire is illegal. It is inciting panic, which is dangerous to human life. However, in general words are just sounds in the air or symbols on paper (or a screen). Words are neither good nor bad. Words only become approved (non-offensive) or disapproved (offensive) in the judgement of those reading or hearing the words. So, who is the final arbitrator of what words are disapproved versus what is approved? And when and how should such things be policed? Always? Everywhere? No matter the audience? No matter the venue? Is calling an alcoholic an alcoholic in public morally wrong? Is it criminal? Is it immature? Is it perhaps distasteful? How about rude? How about just saying "Wow that's kinda rude, dude, don't you think?" Why moralize it ad nausea?  Why try to criminalize it?

 

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On 6/29/2020 at 11:09 AM, Bhim said:

 

 

 

 

I'm glad you bring up this point. Again, ignoring for the moment that I have an expectation of privacy in my house, in principle I have no problem with the snitch. I even have no problem with the social consequences...right up until we encounter the termination and inability to secure new employment. That is my sole objection. Prevent my employer from legally terminating me for my speech, and you can have all the political correctness you desire.

 

Bhim, I have a question for you which I ask purely so that I might better understand your position.

 

Suppose you own a store, and I regularly shop there. Then supposed I hear you engaging in racist speech on your property, and decide that I no longer wish to purchase goods from you. Presumably (correct me if I'm wrong...) you would be fine with this.

 

Now suppose that I own a store, and you are my employee. Again suppose that I hear you engaging in racist speech on your property, and decide that I no longer wish to purchase services from you. That is to say, that I no longer wish to employ you. Clearly you do have a problem with this.

 

My question is, what is the foundational difference between the two scenarios?

 

Please don't misunderstand me. I understand very well that there are laws which govern employer/employee relationships,  and I understand that there are many fewer laws which govern customer/store owner relationships. The law is not my concern. I'm asking why you think that there should be laws in the one case, and not in the other.

 

You seem to think that it is your fundamental right to not be terminated for your speech. Nevertheless, both relationships  that I presented to you are specifically transactional. On your view, it would seem to me that consistency demands that opting not to engage in any specific transaction should also be considered a fundamental right (given, of course, that we do not take the same view towards rights, as has already been established). So, to put it another way, why is it that my right as the storeowner to not engage in a transaction should be superceded by your right to engage in consequence-free speech?

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If my speech is not breaking any laws, then if I am fired for excercising my constitutional free speech right on my own time, regardless of my employer's personal opinion on the matter, I would have the right to litigate being fired, unless there is an established company employee policy addressing off-the-clock behavior firmly  in place prior to the "offense."  That is all there is. The same protection of free speech goes for a protestor caught on camera on her own time screaming at and denigrating a police officer. If fired, the protestor can expect to win in litigation, unless her behavior violated established company policy.

 

Culturally disapproved language, so long as no laws are violated, is not illegal. So long as there are no company policies in place, firing is unlikely to uphold in court. Can certain language be generally considered tasteless? Rude? Course? Unwise? Perhaps. But that doesn't necessarily make it illegal. At least, not yet. 

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The elephant in the room is that people often want to be offensive or to insult.

 

It is a way of expressing anger, frustration, and can provide both relief of pent up frustration and tactical advantage.

 

The main purpose of language is to express emotions and ideas.

 

This is frequently ignored in this type of discussion.

 

Sometimes you just want to make someone feel bad for various reasons, and not all of them are necessarily unjustified.

 

It's often an unsubtle way of telling someone that you don't want to interact with them anymore. One could argue that people escalate too quickly, but it's also hard to deny that anything less will often be ignored.

 

The very concept of "soft" language to replace "offensive" words is just downright weird. Someone who says "darn" means the exact same thing as someone who says "damn", yet one is somehow less offensive than the other for some reason? Both should actually be equally offensive, yet one is considered more polite for no good reason I can understand.

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1 hour ago, webmdave said:

If my speech is not breaking any laws, then if I am fired for excercising my constitutional free speech right on my own time, regardless of my employer's personal opinion on the matter, I would have the right to litigate being fired, unless there is an established company employee policy addressing off-the-clock behavior firmly  in place prior to the "offense."  That is all there is. The same protection of free speech goes for a protestor caught on camera on her own time screaming at and denigrating a police officer. If fired, the protestor can expect to win in litigation, unless her behavior violated established company policy.

 

Culturally disapproved language, so long as no laws are violated, is not illegal. So long as there are no company policies in place, firing is unlikely to uphold in court. Can certain language be generally considered tasteless? Rude? Course? Unwise? Perhaps. But that doesn't necessarily make it illegal. At least, not yet. 

 

Yes, and this is why I was careful to say that I'm not particularly concerned with the law here. I'm asking about why Bhim feels that laws protecting people from being fired for speech should exist in the first place.

 

As an employer, I could argue that who I choose to pay to work for me ought to be entirely up to me. And why I choose to not pay someone to work for me similarly ought to be entirely my business. In fact, my choices regarding who I choose to pay and who I choose not to pay could themselves be considered a form of free speech, or at least free action. If, that is, we are taking a principled, "fundamental rights" approach to free speech, and freedom in general. I happen to think that such an approach is problematic for a number of reasons, but Bhim seems to disagree with me here. So my question to Bhim was meant merely to illucidate his views on why, on his approach, the cancellation of one transaction is ok while the cancellation of another is not. Again, legally, I understand that they are different. I'm asking why they should be different on his view. 

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Who you hire is entirely up to you so long as you aren't obviously discriminating against a people group. 

 

However, you are not talking about law, you are talking about how people "feel." Since actions based entirely on people's feelings historically account for all sorts of travesties of justice, I don't assign much value there. Sorry for the interruption. Feel away. 

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23 minutes ago, webmdave said:

Who you hire is entirely up to you so long as you aren't obviously discriminating against a people group. 

 

However, you are not talking about law, you are talking about how people "feel." Since actions based entirely on people's feelings historically account for all sorts of travesties of justice, I don't assign much value there. Sorry for the interruption. Feel away. 

 

Yes, I'm talking about what people feel, but not in the way that you seem to think.

 

The law is, at the end of the day,  just a collection of people's opinions about what other people should do (read: an expression of certain people's feelings regarding the behaviour of other people). I'm not asking what the law says. Bhim says it should say "X", and I'm asking on what grounds he says that. And I'm asking him to justify it in a consistent way. That's all.

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1 minute ago, disillusioned said:

The law is, at the end of the day,  just a collection of people's opinions about what other people should do

 

I disagree with that simplistic definition, but you've deliniated the paramaters of your discussion. I'm out. Have fun. 

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Dave says he's out, and that's fine. But his disagreement with my characterization of the law raises some significant questions in my mind. I'm wondering if anyone else feels that I've misrepresented the law as being merely a collection of people's opions about what people should do, and would care to express why they feel so. I'm honestly asking. This is quite an interesting topic to me. It may be tangential, and we can do it elsewhere if necessary, but I think it's relevant. I'm sure LF will let me know if we're getting too far from the topic at hand, and we can start a new thread if need be.

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@mwc and @disillusioned both brought up an interesting and (frankly) inevitable point which I'm surprised didn't come up earlier in the discussion. To quote Disillusioned,

 

9 hours ago, disillusioned said:

Suppose you own a store, and I regularly shop there. Then supposed I hear you engaging in racist speech on your property, and decide that I no longer wish to purchase goods from you. Presumably (correct me if I'm wrong...) you would be fine with this.

 

Now suppose that I own a store, and you are my employee. Again suppose that I hear you engaging in racist speech on your property, and decide that I no longer wish to purchase services from you. That is to say, that I no longer wish to employ you. Clearly you do have a problem with this.

 

My question is, what is the foundational difference between the two scenarios?

 

I quoted Disillusioned, but I think Mwc has the same objection. And it is an objection of which I am very aware. 

 

To address this, let me begin by observing that you are both viewing the hypothetical scenario from the standpoint of the individual. As you say, I as an individual theoretically have the right to associate with whomever I wish. I could refuse to purchase either goods or labor from any individual for any reason, or for no reason at all. And I could make this decision on the grounds that the putative trading partner is racist, or simply because he is wearing a red shirt. From the individual standpoint, I should not have to give any reason as to why I don't want to do business with another individual. All that matters is that I don't wish it.

 

But, as I said earlier, I am not wedded to the free market as some sort of religious principle. I like the free market, I think that it generally works well. But I also think that the overriding principle which should be prioritized is the broader health and sustainability of society in which the individual is embedded. Call it some minor concession to collectivism if you wish (with the understanding that I am pretty strictly opposed to communism and socialism). But without any checks, I don't think that a free market is self-sustaining. At some point we have to consider the cultural cost of unrestricted free market activity.

 

Which brings me to the issue of your right to refuse to do business with another individual on the basis of their racist comments made outside of your workplace. I contend it is patently obvious that if we base our business decisions on the personal conduct of potential business partners, then the society will bifurcate into tribes who only do business with those of similar ideology. This isn't a sustainable way to run any society. So yes, I find it acceptable to force an employer to continue doing business with an otherwise competent and capable employee who makes deeply racist comments outside of work. Logically speaking, this necessitates that I also must conclude that a buyer should be forced to continue shopping at a store whose owner makes racist comments outside of his shop (obviously I'm using the word "racist" to refer to any generic offensive behavior). I don't spend a lot of time talking about the later scenario because it is much harder to enforce. E.g., how do I know that a shopper is refusing to visit your store because you made a racist comment, and not because you no longer carry some product that he prefers? Terminating someone's employment is a more detectable outcome.

 

But just as importantly, the termination of employment has the more potent social impact. If someone stops patronizing your store, the effect is fairly marginal on all parties involved. If you terminate an employee, it can be exceedingly difficult for him to obtain new employment, especially if the termination is based on some publicly racist comment that he is made. So essentially, a life has been permanently altered for the worse because of your decision. Given that Western society is now in a state in which we have fragmented into a small number of tribes, the use of termination of employment as a means of dissociating from individuals who belong to opposing tribes will cause us to incur severe losses on the part of all tribes. Case in point: if I were an employer who had built my own private business, I could terminate all employees who practice Islam or who refuse to verbally confess that practitioners of Islam deserve deportation (the latter would by far result in the most casualties). Yes, my right to do this is a logical extension of free market principles. But the cultural impact of allowing for such a right is so great that society would not survive it. So in order to preserve civilized society, this right has to be curtailed.

 

I hope my position was stated in a reasonably cogent fashion. This is why I believe that employers should be socially compelled to continue otherwise high-functioning employees who express racist beliefs outside of their professional context.

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@Bhim, thank you for your honest response. I appreciate you not ducking the question as many people might have. Your acknowledgement that if we ought to have laws governing who may be fired then we also ought to have laws governing where we should shop is significant. More on this below.

 

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To address this, let me begin by observing that you are both viewing the hypothetical scenario from the standpoint of the individual. As you say, I as an individual theoretically have the right to associate with whomever I wish. I could refuse to purchase either goods or labor from any individual for any reason, or for no reason at all. And I could make this decision on the grounds that the putative trading partner is racist, or simply because he is wearing a red shirt. From the individual standpoint, I should not have to give any reason as to why I don't want to do business with another individual. All that matters is that I don't wish it.

 

But, as I said earlier, I am not wedded to the free market as some sort of religious principle. I like the free market, I think that it generally works well. But I also think that the overriding principle which should be prioritized is the broader health and sustainability of society in which the individual is embedded. Call it some minor concession to collectivism if you wish (with the understanding that I am pretty strictly opposed to communism and socialism). But without any checks, I don't think that a free market is self-sustaining. At some point we have to consider the cultural cost of unrestricted free market activity.

 

It seems to me that this argument cuts both ways. Could it not be similarly said that individuals may have the right to absolute freedom of speech, but for the broader health and sustainability of society it may nevertheless be beneficial to curtail those rights where racism is concerned? This sort of idea underpins hate speech laws in a number of countries (including mine...), as I'm sure you are aware. 

 

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Which brings me to the issue of your right to refuse to do business with another individual on the basis of their racist comments made outside of your workplace. I contend it is patently obvious that if we base our business decisions on the personal conduct of potential business partners, then the society will bifurcate into tribes who only do business with those of similar ideology. This isn't a sustainable way to run any society. So yes, I find it acceptable to force an employer to continue doing business with an otherwise competent and capable employee who makes deeply racist comments outside of work. Logically speaking, this necessitates that I also must conclude that a buyer should be forced to continue shopping at a store whose owner makes racist comments outside of his shop (obviously I'm using the word "racist" to refer to any generic offensive behavior). I don't spend a lot of time talking about the later scenario because it is much harder to enforce. E.g., how do I know that a shopper is refusing to visit your store because you made a racist comment, and not because you no longer carry some product that he prefers? Terminating someone's employment is a more detectable outcome.

 

A couple of things to note here. First, as I mentioned before, I appreciate your willingness to follow your view through to its logical conclusion. I will grant that termination of employment is a more detectable outcome than refusing to shop in most cases, but not in all. Also, clearly laws governing the circumstances under which an individual may be terminated are inherently difficult to enforce. If I wish to fire you because of your racist speech, but there is a law preventing me from doing so, I may simply fire you for a different, manufactured reason. I mention this because you seem concerned with the practical aspect of how we may know why someone is refusing to shop at my store. Very well. How can we know why someone was fired? In most cases, if you really want to fire someone,  you can find sufficient justification. Moreover, most people who get fired will not take legal recourse. So, if we are arguing on the basis of practicality, I must ask, where is the practicality in a law which prohibits the termination of employees for racist speech?

 

Second, and more importantly, it seems to me that you are arguing here that terminating employees due to racist speech ought to be avoided because it leads to tribalism. I have to say that I find this very ironic, given that racist speech is an explicit expression of tribalism. If we are in the business of curtailing rights for the betterment of society and in the interest of avoiding tribalism, wouldn't it be more efficient and efficacious to simply curtail the right to racist speech? Nip it in the bud, as it were.

 

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But just as importantly, the termination of employment has the more potent social impact. If someone stops patronizing your store, the effect is fairly marginal on all parties involved. If you terminate an employee, it can be exceedingly difficult for him to obtain new employment, especially if the termination is based on some publicly racist comment that he is made. So essentially, a life has been permanently altered for the worse because of your decision. Given that Western society is now in a state in which we have fragmented into a small number of tribes, the use of termination of employment as a means of dissociating from individuals who belong to opposing tribes will cause us to incur severe losses on the part of all tribes. Case in point: if I were an employer who had built my own private business, I could terminate all employees who practice Islam or who refuse to verbally confess that practitioners of Islam deserve deportation (the latter would by far result in the most casualties). Yes, my right to do this is a logical extension of free market principles. But the cultural impact of allowing for such a right is so great that society would not survive it. So in order to preserve civilized society, this right has to be curtailed.

 

I follow this, but I'm afraid that I don't accept the underlined or the bolded.

 

Regarding the bolded, I think there is an implicit slippery slope fallacy here. What evidence do we have for this? Which societies have collapsed because of specific laws governing the situations under which individuals may be terminated from employment? It seems to me that history is littered with examples of functioning societies which have allowed people to be terminated for all kinds of reasons. I understand your concern, but I don't see how laws which allow someone to be terminated for racist speech specifically will lead to the collapse of society.

 

Regarding the underlined, I would simply ask where the responsibility truly lies. Has a life been altered because of my decision to fire my employee, or has it been altered because of my employee's decision to engage in that kind of speech? I posit that speech is a form of action, and freedom of speech does not mean, and has never meant, freedom from the consequeces of your speech. It just means that the government does not curtail your freedom of speech. But, as we've already established, it is very problematic to accomplish this in practice. In fact, you have here been arguing that the government should curtail freedom of speech, in the form of passing laws which govern the situations under which individuals may be fired. Personally, I take more of a "buyer beware" approach. Engage in racist speech if you wish, but understand that there may be social consequences, including potential termination from your employment.

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For my part, I will say that a person should not be fired from a job for something they say off-the-clock and away from the company premises.  However, if it is said within a public domain, whether it be at Publix or on TikTok, it is a different matter, from the perspective of the employer.  Because people often make common knowledge of who they work for; and, as a result, their employees are a reflection of their company.  

 

A recent example would be Stabby Harvard Girl.  Her biggest mistake was simply making a really bad analogy.  But making bad analogies isn't a crime; if it was I'd be like a horse with 3 legs attempting to win the ultimate fighter championship.  I do not think she should have been fired for what she said; but taking to social media to say it put her company in a difficult position.  Many of her followers knew which company she worked for; she made no secret of how much she wanted a position there.  The company can more easily afford to lose a good employee than it can its reputation. 

 

Besides which, I would reckon a person stupid enough to post something like that on social media would probably also be intellectually deficient in other ways that might more directly impact the company.  While I tend to agree with the sentiment her poor analogy was meant to express, I also think the company was absolutely justified in viewing her as a liability and treating her accordingly, especially considering that she was still an intern.

 

https://news.yahoo.com/harvard-grad-says-she-fired-125450691.html

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11 hours ago, TheRedneckProfessor said:

For my part, I will say that a person should not be fired from a job for something they say off-the-clock and away from the company premises.  However, if it is said within a public domain, whether it be at Publix or on TikTok, it is a different matter, from the perspective of the employer.  Because people often make common knowledge of who they work for; and, as a result, their employees are a reflection of their company.  

 

In this day and age,  I'm not sure that there's a real distinction anymore between things that you say away from company premises, on your own time,  and things that you say in a public domain. The world is the public domain now. If I say something,  someone else may tweet it and credit me. They might record me,  and post the video. And so on. You just never know.  This may be regrettable,  but it is the world we live in. We should be cognizant of this. From the employer's perspective, it doesn't really matter if I intended for my speech to be plastered on the internet. If it ends up there, and it reflects badly on the company, the damage is already done. 

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3 minutes ago, disillusioned said:

 

In this day and age,  I'm not sure that there's a real distinction anymore between things that you say away from company premises, on your own time,  and things that you say in a public domain. The world is the public domain now. If I say something,  someone else may tweet it and credit me. They might record me,  and post the video. And so on. You just never know.  This may be regrettable,  but it is the world we live in. We should be cognizant of this. From the employer's perspective, it doesn't really matter if I intended for my speech to be plastered on the internet. If it ends up there, and it reflects badly on the company, the damage is already done. 

I reluctantly agree.  From a legal perspective, I think people should have an expectation of privacy in their own homes.  But the reality is that if anybody with a cellphone is within earshot, then anything you say can, and will, be used against you.

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@Bhim (Note: Quote blocks are Bhim's previous reply)

I think I need to preface this second post by clarifying to all that while I do not have an issue with certain words as I’ve expressed, that should not be taken to mean I condone wholesale widespread usage of derogatory language. In fact myself, I think I tend to too easily get frustrated with a person and call it how I see it – our most recent example in the lions den who I do think is either willingly ignorant or suffering from dunning-Kruger, possibly both. Should we straightway call people who say the earth is flat stupid? Ehhh depends on the goal I guess. Certainly if you had hopes of changing their mind, leading with “ur stoopid” probably isn’t going to help your end goal.

 

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So to start, I'm glad you delineated between government-protected free speech and the broader concept of free verbal expression (I emphasize the word "verbal" because in general I don't believe in free expression, e.g. I can't express myself by punching you or something of the like). I don't feel that government protection of free speech is in serious jeopardy at the moment.

 

Agree about the difference between freedom of speech and freedom of expression. I think Hitchens said it best: “My freedom to swing my arm ends right before it touches your nose” I assume you include written expression in the same vein as verbal?

 

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 I'm far more worried about how we interact as individuals, and on the general culture of suppression of ideas.

 

I think here we agree, we are merely approaching this concern of interaction from different positions. I wouldn’t say diametrically opposed, but clearly my concerns and your concerns are not directly aligned, though there is much overlap.

 

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For example, let's say I want to express the opinion "black people possess genetics that confer inferior intelligence to that of non-blacks" (offensive opinion chosen intentionally), and let's further say that I discuss this with others in my backyard. What if my neighbour records me and broadcasts it across the far reaches of social media? Despite that I was engaging in a legal activity with consenting adults - on my own property and with a legal expectation of privacy - the Internet would call for me to be terminated from my employment. And this despite that my activity was in no way connected to my employment. So though I have legally-protected free speech, I do not effectively have free speech, because I cannot exercise my right in any meaningful capacity. It is precisely this mode of free speech that I wish to address, namely the mode of speech which is currently only fully accessible to wealthy individuals who do not depend on their employability for their subsistence.

 

I do share your concern here. In your example the people are using force to shut down your free speech. There is a fundamental difference between my request to refrain from using certain terminology and to think of the wider societal effect our words have, and those who want to shut you down by force because they don’t like what you say. I’m asking you to voluntarily be a decent person. They (The people who dox and get people fired) are attempting to shut you down, I’m not. I want to change your mind, and thus the language you use voluntarily. So again, as I said in my OP, yes there are concerns we must address, but I don’t think we should be offensive merely for the sake of being offensive because we think there is a cowardly culture or a culture of suppression. I think there are better ways to fight the problem than yelling “nigger” (again using this word to drive the point home) in the street then proclaiming it’s your right of free speech to say it and its your way of fighting suppression.

 

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Thanks for clarifying that there is a larger philosophical issue here for you. That definitely elucidates my interpretation of your comments. Aside: I must say I'm impressed by your willingness to use the N-word even by way of reference. Maybe it's a US vs. New Zealand issue, but over here we are trained from birth to never use that word. The fact that such an ethic exists - that there is an unspeakable word - is evidence of the culture of cowardice to which I refer. The fact that I don't say the word, even when posting anonymously on a VPN, is not something I am proud of. Two points here.

 

It (The N word) doesn’t have wide public use here. People generally won’t use it. It is to my shame that my ‘godly’ family use it every time we meet. I did intentionally use the word to press my point home, distasteful as it is.

 

I wouldn’t call the culture of not using that word “cowardice”, especially in the USA with its history of use and oppression of black people. Can you provide an example where you can truly justify the use of the word nigger? If not, then why would it be cowardly to not use the word?

 

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2. I take issue with the analysis of mockery here, because it is too specific. I'm not sure that mental illness was met with mockery in antiquity, since an inability to diagnose it would probably have caused all mental illness to be categorized as general lack of intelligence (but I'm not familiar with the history of this, so maybe I'm wrong).

 

I will ceed the point on the historicity of mental illness. While I intuitively think it’s something that people would have mocked in the past I have no research to back that up therefore at this point for me it’s merely opinion. I also don’t think the historical issues matter to such a degree that would make it worth investigating for this topic.

 

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 But I think we're not talking about empathy here, but sympathy, i.e. actually taking part in one's suffering rather than understanding it. I want to ask: why did you choose mental illness as opposed to any of the other available modes of suffering (e.g. poverty, genocide, etc.) as the focus of your sympathies?

 

Because it was the one at hand, you mentioned Asperger’s which is a mental illness, however in my post I tried to make it clear that I think we should be mindful of any term that is a characteristic of that person. (Ref #1) For example a person with Asperger’s is part of what makes that person them. The same as your race, hair colour, facial features etc. For example I also take issue when people, disagreeing with another, mock the persons looks as a way of argument. “That horse mouth bimbo with squinty eyes and buck teeth has dumb ideas” is not an argument. It’s merely mocking something they have no control over, and is unrelated to the thing you didn’t like – namely that they said something you didn’t like/thought was stupid etc.

Here again I distinguish between calling someone stupid because you think they are stupid and mocking some characteristic they have no control over. Most people can control whether or not they say stupid stuff. (Now if a person has a lower IQ, and this is known, then calling them stupid is just being a plain arsehole, they cannot help that their IQ is lower)

 

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I say this not to suggest that the issue is in fact personal for you, but to point out a potential oversight. Namely that many insults occur by way of analogy to some group of people who are defined by a deficiency. I haven't thought about this aspect of linguistics before, and after reading your post this morning I spent the better part of the day thinking about this topic, so I could be wrong. But when you call someone an "idiot" you are analogizing the idiot to people who are genuinely dimwitted. Calling someone "dumb" is a comparison to a deaf person. "Lame" refers to a crippled person. We call people with functional vision "blind," despite that the word is still in the vernacular as a reference to a lack of eyesight. "Ass kisser" and "shit eater" refers to people who are (presumably non-consentually) performing demeaning acts in order to feign obeisance to a socially superior individual. I'm not sure there's a generic principle here. After all, the word "asshole" is a crass reference to an unsanitary but deeply essential body part. But if the overriding moral principle here were that we should not use insults which rely on analogy to deficient individuals, then said principle severely limits our ability to insult. And hey, maybe in Jesus' (fortunately fictional) new world where all of us are in eternal hell, that would be a good thing.

 

You raise some interesting points here, and I guess it is along these lines that I have the most problem in justifying my position. I guess we are talking degrees here. No on is ever diagnosed medically as being “an idiot” but they are for medical terms such as Asperger’s etc. I do get the point about even terms such as idiot as being referential to a person to is truly lower IQ (through no fault of their own). Except I would suggest that they way the word idiot is used today does not actually reflect on or create a stereotype of people with low functioning IQ. The word is generally used to describe a person who is assumed to have enough intelligence to understand some subject matter but is not getting it for some reason. (Hence terms like idiot, stupid, and blind)

 

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But I do think this is worthy of some analysis. Do we eliminate the entire subset of insults that map to personal deficiency? Do "dumb" and "lame" get a pass because they have moved out of common usage as medical terms? You mentioned the term "spastic." When I was growing up we used the term "spaz." I didn't know until this morning that this referred to muscle spasms that are associated with cerebal palsy. So what I'm asking is: what's the limiting principle here that stops us from banning literally every insult?

 

I’ll start with the ending question first: This conversation is not about banning words. It’s about being mindful of what words we are using and the impact they can have on others. As for the limiting principle to be honest I’m not sure on that one. I guess the problem with my framework is that it’s based on empathy and a person’s willingness to not be intentionally offensive which are entirely subjective categories. Clearly this is a weakness in my argument thus far because you and I clearly have different views here. So where I might intentionally limit or even exclude certain words you don’t seem to have the inclination to, and because I am only appealing to your conscience and not rule of law I have no way of clearly delineating words or enforcing compliance. Nor would I want to enforce compliance. I think I’ve made that much clear.

 

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Now, you gave an answer to this question in the paragraph (which I omit to limit the screen space I consume). You suggest that if you call me a moron, you are insulting me in a way that is morally acceptable. But if you call me a retard, mental, or a racial slur then this is morally unacceptable. Why did you group "retard," "mental," and racial slurs together? One of those thing is not like the other two. Retard and mental refer to mental retardation, a deficiency which I do not knowingly possess. Although I didn't perform all that well on high school standardized tests, so who knows? But the racial slur is interesting. If you called me a racial slur, presumably it would be one that maps to my actual race, namely Indian (aside: I feel left out that there is no N-word equivalent for Indians, if you learn one please pass it along). So you've incorrectly grouped together two insults that don't map directly to any personal trait of mine with a third which, by design, refers specifically to an immutable trait. Calling me a retard or mental is more like calling me a moron than any of those three are like the racial slur. I'm not going to be offended at being called a retard, mental, or a moron.

 

You have a point here about the way the terms map directly to a person, and I was aware of this when I used the example. I was trying to get a point across that wasn’t quite so clear. My point would be better made had I used the terms Asperger’s or Autistic, rather than retarded or mental as I think these more closely map to personal traits. I think I do this in one of my paragraph's above where I talk about "characteristic's of a person" (Ref #1 above)

 

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Presumably if I were more thin skinned though, I might be offended at the racial slur. So it's not about what offends me, is it? The only way I can think of in which retard, mental, and <unknown racial slur> group together logically is in their offensiveness to an absent third party observer. An actual retard or otherwise mentally handicapped person, or another person of the race to which the slur refers, might be offended. And that necessitates the question: why are the needs of an absent observer a consideration here?

 

Word’s carry meaning and have an impact on people. I am willing to go as far as saying words can hurt people, to the point that in the extreme people will hurt others or hurt themselves as a result of being influenced by words. Sorry, but Godwins’s law is coming into effect right now! In our most extreme example of ‘recent’ history Hitler’s words caused massive physical harm. Now referring to SV as Asperger’s is nowhere near Hitler’s diatribes towards various groups of people, however it can still have a hurtful effect on those who have or are associated with those with Asperger’s. I can think of a more well known issue: The gay community has faced, and continues to face, a lot of social harm. So I don’t use, and I trust you wouldn’t either, the phrase “your gay” or “that’s so gay” as an insult towards someone, even if I thought it was perfectly fine to do so while waving my flag of free speech around.

 

I don’t think we can reduce every human interaction down to this this and this is allowed, but this that and the other isn’t. The OT tried that and failed. I’m appealing to a broader ideal where we conduct ourselves with consideration for others while giving ourselves and others permission to express themselves. So it’s rather hard to quantify.

 

To the point of offence: I’m not so worried about any offence caused. (See below for my typical response o the phrase "I'm offended".) One cannot help if someone takes offence when none was intended. However when one is intentionally using language they know has the potential to hurt particular groups of people I think one should consider whether it is appropriate to use that language.

 

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From your perspective I can understand why you feel this way. I am, after all, referring to SV as an Asperger's Christian after you've told me that it offends you.

 

I’m quite sure I didn’t say it offended me. I believe the phrase I used was "pissed off", and even implied anger. Not the same as taking offence. The reason I get angry isn’t to do with how I feel (my ‘offence’) it has to do with how it might impact those whose lives, through no fault of their own, are somewhat or entirely determined by their condition. (Depending on severity)

 

However when it comes to offence I oft quote Stephen Fry "You're offended? So fucking what?"

 

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And believe me, I don't want to be put in this position. As you alluded, I was a bit sloppy in my language: I could stop doing this, but I'm choosing not to. I'm very aware of how antipathetic this looks. But again, there's a time dependence to this situation, as well as a sort of spatial dependence. If you and I were in a room together for the past decade, unaware of the broader culture, done nothing all day and night but post on ex-C about our dislike of Christianity, and you raised an objection as soon as I said "Asperger's Christian," I would likely see no reason to not use a different term (though whatever I used would mean "socially inastute" Christian, and would thus be synonymous). In that sense, my reasons for refusing to use a different term are very much not about you.

 

Again, perhaps my analogy isn’t quite on the money, but imagine your argument but we are dealing with the term nigger instead. Does your argument make any sense whatsoever? Imagine suggesting that you might be inclined to use a different term, but in today’s cancel culture you feel it is cowardly therefore you’ll continue to refer to black people as niggers. To me this argument simply screams I’m being offensive and I want to continue being offensive.

 

The single biggest problem with my argument is the inability to clearly draw lines and say everything on this side is ok, and everything on the other side is not ok. It requires some judgement and taking into consideration of others. “How are you to know what is ok and what isn't?” you might ask. Well I’d suggest if someone is indicating to you that perhaps your language is inappropriate and gives (hopefully) good reasons for discontinuing that could be one way to know.

 

I  feel you might largely agree apart from the wider cultural and social situation where you are justifying the continued use of such language as a form of protest. (See your below quote for reference)

 

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Right now, I live in a place where racial violence is regularly occurring (with most of the victims being whites). In addition to various news reports of people being fired from their jobs for the mere accusations of racism, I work for an extremely woke company which I feel will soon attempt to compel me to say "black lives matter" (I'm content to remain silent to remain employed, but I won't utter those words no matter the consequence). In some sense, through no fault of your own you picked an inopportune time to ask me to refrain from using specific language. But I strongly feel that some line has to be drawn against compelled speech and compelled silence. And if I can't draw that line on an anonymous online forum, how can I draw it at the point where my manager asks me to say "black lives matter?" In some sense the two situations are not identical; the former is compelled silence and the latter is compelled speech, which I believe to be far worse. Now, what I'm about to say bears directly on these next comments of yours.

 

I’m not sure where I’m compelling you to be silent. In order to compel you I’d have to have some threat of force – in this case using mod powers. In this case none was used, and moreover none can be used (Ex-C policy isn't to silence people). You are equivocating, incorrectly in my opinion, a request and appeal towards decency with forcing you to shut up (Or speak up) just because I don’t like something. If you called me some horrendous insult I really would not give a shit. If you called me Asperger’s my problem wouldn’t be that you were insulting me (Similar to I’m not so much worried about you insulting SV ) – Personal insults are separate (And worthy) issues to discuss. What I’m concerned about is the wider impact it has. Admittedly in this case it’s minimal impact, but I trust we are all smart enough here to get my point.

 

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I want to separate offensiveness from the above issue of compelled silence. Had the request been something along the lines of "you shouldn't insult SV," I would have happily complied. Like you, I don't want to be intentionally offensive. And if the offense in question was insulting SV, I would find it acceptable to retract my comment. But the offense was directed at the hypothetical third party Asperger's patient, and was thus an unintentional offense. That is at the root of my objection. I'm being asked to show a special sympathy for people with Asperger's, over and above what I would show towards people with any deficiency (stupidity, poverty, etc.). Really, the Asperger's issue is irrelevant. If I had insulted SV in a way that referred negatively to Indians, and someone who didn't know I was Indian (or maybe even someone who did...) asked me to not do so, I would now feel the special responsibility to not cease uttering the offending terminology. I hope you'll be able to trust me when I say that I'm not seeking to deliberately offend people. But what I want to avoid at all cost is a situation in which someone else's happiness depends on my speech or thought.

 

Again I' wasn't attempting to compel silence. I think we may majorly differ here if I understand you correctly. You seem to be saying that we should not give regards to the effect our speech may have on others, whereas my position is that we should. And yet you seem to indicate that had I appealed to SV's feelings you might have complied. Why is SV's individual feelings more important than the impact on Asperger's community members? I'm not sure the unseen third party argument cuts the mustard here.

 

And the same goes for actions, which is why slogans like “I’ll have a big a carbon footprint as I want” or “I’ll smoke if I want too” really annoy me. If our words and actions only affected ourselves I’d be all for each person doing what-the-hell-ever. Sadly we do affect each other with our thought’s, words and action’s, and hence as a social species I think we should give regards to how these might affect others.

 

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No, thank you for posting. Putting these thoughts to words takes considerable effort, and I hope I've reciprocated with an equally thoughtful reply. Looking forward to further dialog!

 

Likewise. Apologies for the tardy reply.

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On 7/2/2020 at 2:52 AM, webmdave said:

Are we discussing offensive terminology or are we actually discussing socially disapproved terminology?

 

I know Dave has said he's out, but I found his posts thought provoking and therefore worth responding to even if Dave himself does not reply.

 

I've been mulling over this. I'm not sure the term "Offensive terminology" is the right term. Thinking of my whole crux, what am I getting at? Am I saying certain words should be banned? No. Am I saying that we should try and get Bhim fired for saying "Asperger's Christian"? Certainly not! Heck I'm not even that much concerned if people get offended or no. You're offended? So fucking what? What I am getting at (If I try and do this in one line) is we should (Or should we) have consideration of the effect's that our words have on others, particularly with regards to, let's call it derogatory language.

 

In our case example here "Asperger's Christian", referring to my fiend as having Asperger's is not derogatory or offensive, it's simply a statement of fact. Referring to SV as an "Asperger's Christian" is a derogatory insult, but not just a bland one where no potential for any hurt/harm, but one that maligns a particular group of people, namely those with Asperger's.  I guess the question is should we give a fuck about peoples feelings and whether they are hurt by words or not, which I discuss below.

 

On 7/2/2020 at 2:52 AM, webmdave said:

Yelling fire in a theater when there is no fire is illegal. It is inciting panic, which is dangerous to human life. However, in general words are just sounds in the air or symbols on paper (or a screen). Words are neither good nor bad. Words only become approved (non-offensive) or disapproved (offensive) in the judgement of those reading or hearing the words.

 

Words don't occur in a vacuum though do they? They always carry context and meaning. Word's themselves are not good or bad, but if string together a set or words that essentially say go kill yourself, that is bad, yes? I think we'd all agree. So I disagree that they are just symbols on paper. The context and meaning that words have make them more than just symbols or sound-waves. I'm not sure this expresses the idea correctly, but the quote "the whole is greater than the sum of it's parts" comes to mind. In this context I think we should give regards to people's feelings and whether certain terms are likely to cause hurt or harm. (Be that emotional/mental or physical)

 

On 7/2/2020 at 2:52 AM, webmdave said:

So, who is the final arbitrator of what words are disapproved versus what is approved? And when and how should such things be policed? Always? Everywhere? No matter the audience? No matter the venue? Is calling an alcoholic an alcoholic in public morally wrong? Is it criminal? Is it immature? Is it perhaps distasteful? How about rude? How about just saying "Wow that's kinda rude, dude, don't you think?" Why moralize it ad nausea?  Why try to criminalize it?

 

I'm not sure it's a mater of what words are approved, certainly not from a legal standpoint. There is some aspect of social approval wherein our communities attempt to 'regulate' (I don't like using this word in this context but my brain is shutting down and I can't think of a better word) language. I should distinguish here between acceptability of having certain modes of language socially regulated versus having ideas regulated/outright disapproved/banned from public. So back to my main point, I think we should be mindful of words that we use, and if say my ideas got widely accepted in society this will create a corresponding social pressure to not use unneeded derogatory language. We have seen examples of this, it's legal, but no longer socially acceptable, to use many terms such as nigger, faggot, etc.

 

Now I'm going to head off on a side tangent here, but it's related, and that is the current pressure to stop using the words "fat" or "Obese" etc. however once should not conflate, or confuse what I am talking about, to what the 'fat acceptance' people are trying to achieve. I do think that we shouldn't be derogatory to an obese person just because they are obese. So calling someone a fat ugly slob is the sort of thing I'd be suggesting we don't say. However, pointing out the fact that obese people are more likely to have health issues, and fat causes a shit-ton of problems, and a doctor telling someone that they are obese is not derogatory, it's just simply stating what is.

 

 

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