The Right Not To Be Criticized: John Rocker Edition

Sometimes people accuse me of making up, or at least exaggerating, the speech tropes I talk about here.

If only.

In today's example, WND conclusively refutes critics who say "WND can't stoop any lower" by running a think piece by former baseball player John Rocker. Rocker, you may recall, was less known for competence and more known for running his mouth about people who irritated him, a group that seemed to include everyone who didn't closely resemble John Rocker.

Rocker begins his piece by thanking a fallen solider. Tastes differ, but when the topic of your post is not our soldiers, it strikes me as disrespectful and self-indulgent to invoke their sacrifices to launch an unrelated screed. It seems almost as if you're invoking them to insulate yourself from criticism — but big strong manly John Rocker can't possibly be overly sensitive to criticism, can he?

Over recent years, it seems the term “free speech” has become more of an oxymoron than an absolute in our society. Technically, as our Founding Fathers intended, we are all given the undeniable right to voice our thoughts and opinions freely without fear of scorn and/or ridicule derived from non-agreement. I supposedly have the same right to express myself as you do. In a perfect world, my rights should be no different from yours. I’m quite certain that given the current stage of the world’s social climate, however, anyone ascribing to the ridiculous notion that our world is perfect is kidding himself. Our “perfect” world was replaced many moons ago by the defective reality in which we are all forced to reside – and one of the most blatant areas to view the erosion of perfection is seen in the lack of ability many in this great country have to speak freely without fear of chastisement.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am a reader. I started to teach myself to read when I was supposed to be napping. I read instead of interacting with my peers. I read to the exclusion of many other things I should have done. I read things I loved and things I hated. I read the words of the incomprehensibly brilliant and the words of drooling idiots. I've read YouTube comments. But I can say, with complete confidence, that I cannot recall reading anything so completely fucking stupid as that paragraph and its spew of cliches. There is not, and never has been a right to be free of scorn or ridicule or chastisement in response to our speech. In fact, the prospect of scorn and ridicule and chastisement is the only reason America has free speech — because we believe that ignorant or offensive speech is better handled by the marketplace of ideas than by government intrusion. Nothing in law or in history supports Rocker's imagined "right." Only weaklings, cowards, and fools seek protection from criticism of their speech. Yet this moronic trope — this idea that critical speech is censorship, and that the assholes of the world have some sort of protected right not be to called assholes — persists. It persists because of sub-normals like John Rocker. Thanks, John.

There is without a doubt an unwritten but staunchly understood “pecking order” when considering who has the right to freely voice thought without the fear of public scorn and who must tread very lightly on certain obvious topics of socially sensitive subject matter. Media, along with a brainwashed segment of the American populace, grant asylum to different degrees according to what segment of society one belongs. The seemingly more oppressed an individual and that individual’s group is the better. Let’s face it, some have the ability to wage verbal holocaust and go virtually unscathed in the court of public opinion, while similar thoughts or opinions voiced by one whose existence does not grant them immunity will most likely be subjected to scorn and public rebuke from all sides until penance has supposedly been paid. Undoubtedly, the conservative, heterosexual, white male gets and most likely will continue to get the proverbial short end of the stick when it comes to speaking freely. Those who fall into this unfortunate category had better watch their backsides with both eyes when discussing any topic with a script of politically correct verbiage that must be followed.

To the extent that I can understand this hideous paragraph — which is not so much writing as it is putting out lit cigarettes on the exposed tender flesh of the English language — Rocker is complaining that the media promotes selective outrage about what some people say. Given Rocker's history, his view of "selectiveness" and "treading lightly" may differ from ours. But that's irrelevant. Nobody promised you a marketplace of ideas run by aggressive kindergarten teachers making sure that everyone shares and shares alike and plays nice. It's a brawl. Different speech gets valued differently. Different media outlets — motivated by their own values, and by making money — are no more neutral than any other participant. For all the whining of the Right, its values have had extraordinary success in this marketplace through talk radio and Fox News and other outlets. The marketplace is ever-changing, and some ideas are widely despised and ridiculed. Tough shit. Put on your big-boy pants and go speak your mind and, if that's what pleases you, promote and patronize the media outlets that tell you what you want to hear. But if you start whinging about how the marketplace isn't fair because your views are not valued highly enough, don't expect to be taken seriously. If you start talking about a "right to freely voice thought without the fear of public scorn," expect nothing but contempt.

For God's sake, man. Summon an ounce of self-respect.

Hat Tip: Nobel Dynamite.

Last 5 posts by Ken White


  1. Phe0n1x says

    What is this I don't even. I feel like I should get out my pitchfork, torch, and noose after reading that peron's thing's drivel.

  2. says

    Any time I come across someone discussing fundamental rights and they use the word "technically" I cringe and cover my privates, because clearly a punch to the balls is coming soon thereafter.

  3. says

    Oh lord… I just went and read that article and I feel dumber for it. I wonder if he wrote it in a crayon then handed it over to an editor who went thesaurus happy in a valiant effort to not have Mr. Rocker sound as dumb as a foul pole.

  4. What says

    "Technically, as our Founding Fathers intended, we are all given the undeniable right to voice our thoughts and opinions freely without fear of scorn and/or ridicule derived from non-agreement."

    What? I'm afraid I have to scornfully non-agree with that thought and/or opinion.

  5. says

    …we are all given the undeniable right to voice our thoughts and opinions freely without fear of scorn and/or ridicule derived from non-agreement

    …one of the most blatant areas to view the erosion of perfection is seen in the lack of ability many in this great country have to speak freely without fear of chastisement.

    …considering who has the right to freely voice thought without the fear of public scorn

    That article offers the most lucid statement of this ridiculous position you've adduced so far.

    Does he also think that the 2nd Amendment's protection against federal prohibition of firearms means that if he's in a gunfight, it would be "no fair give it back!" for his opponent to disarm him?

  6. says

    Those poor, oppressed conservative, white males. It's just plain racist that they don't have a voice any longer. Our Founding Fathers would be spinning in their graves if not for the fact that doing so causes topsoil turmoil and, god dang it, you just can't get any good free labor these days to fix things like that.

    So here's to John Rocker! May free speech continue to mean no one can call you a stupid poopy head for being a racist dick. As the First Amendment says, "Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech…unless it hurts someone's feelings."

  7. RyanE says

    I'm being Oppressed! I'm being Oppressed!

    Of course, that's what I get, because I'm a white male, which is obviously the oppressed group in the U.S.


  8. Rich says

    I remember when one of the local papers in NYC (not sure if the NY Post or the Daily News) called him that "Punk" Rocker for some choice descriptions of NYC residents near the Mets stadium a bunch of years ago.
    And really, the WND, i fell for your Debbie trap, but no way I am going to WND, i need my few brain cells.

  9. deezerd says

    My GAWD. Who on earth dragged JR from under his rock??? WHY??? :p

    @RyanE: Come see the violence inherent in the system!!! ;)

  10. Linus says

    One of my favorite words, "technically", or "technicality". Chances of it being used correctly/appropriately are almost nil. "Yeah, that bastard got off on a technicality. I guess, technically, he wasn't even in the country when she was killed and he had nothing to do with it. Technically."

  11. nlp says

    I'm just. . .

    I keep hitting my head. . .

    Maybe if I read it backward. . .

    Okay. We need to do something about the state of education in this country, because when someone is technically an adult, and thinks that no one is ever allowed to criticize what he says because the 1st Amendment says so, then we probably need to start over again.

    Does this buffoon ever criticize what other people say? Does he ever rant about the stupidities of the government? Does he understand that the 1st Amendment is about being allowed to criticize?

    My head hurts.

    (Linus, I put the word "technically" in there just for you).

  12. Allen says

    Ah, that made my day. I'm still trying to wrap my head around "staunchly understood."

    I thought he might have learned something, but I guess I'm wrong. He's still butthurt over what he did years ago.

  13. deezerd says

    @nlp: Education can go only so far. Ignorance can be corrected. You can't fix stupid.

  14. Al says

    I still can't get past the part about reading YouTube comments. I'm pretty sure that counts as a legitimate cry for help.

  15. theparsley says

    Pop physics quiz: How many mirrors would it take to enable one to watch one's own backside with both eyes?

  16. nlp says

    @deezerd. I know you can't fix stupid, but there are ways of papering over it so it isn't quite so intrusive. Like when my mother had the fireplace bricks painted over so it didn't clash with her decorating scheme.

  17. different Jess says

    Rocker (or at least his somewhat smarter PR dude) does get something of a clue in the comments when he complains about the mayors who made licensing-related threats. Those cretins do have effective power to curb speech, for no defensible reason. ("You like health code inspections? Do you like them every day? Maybe you missed our new signage ordinance that applies only to businesses at your address?")

    I don't think the mayors' speech in itself gives anyone a case, but it could certainly be used as evidence of bad intent in an examination of other questionable government actions.

    Maybe I'm giving Rocker too much credit (I trust I'm not giving WND too little…), but I can totally imagine him writing in a paragraph explaining this point as his only real objection, and then the WND editors taking it out because they didn't understand it.

  18. Pete says

    "Media have an obligation to report without the inclusion of bias, not to use their public forum to promote a social or political agenda"

    Damn that scoundrel, Samual Adams, and his anti-British sentiments in the Independent Advertiser!!!

  19. says

    The argument is even internally inconsistent, by virtue of its criticism of people who criticize others.


    There went my head.

  20. Margaret says

    I've read YouTube comments.

    And you're not currently locked in a padded room?


  21. Allen says


    Three, if you want to remove the parallax problem.

    But, that's assuming Rocker could find his, using both hands and a flashlight. I remain unconvinced.

  22. says

    Sometimes I get into a right on reddit with someone from another country who says "I like the fact that 'free speech' here doesn't mean someone gets to say hurtful things." And I always respond "you suck and so does your country." I'm sorry, I can't help it.

    So, John Rocker: I scorn you, and I ridicule you, and you are no good at basket-hoops.

  23. says

    I do not understand people who believe that freedom of speech means freedom from counter-speech. Do they really not see the paradox? Do they receive all their chastisement in the form of armed robbery or interpretative striptease within 500 yards of a school or church?

  24. Kilroy says

    This is no fun. Isn't there anyone that can play the devils advocate instead of just everyone piling on? This is kind of like watching a 90-2 basketball game.

  25. says

    I kinda-sorta understand the POV that criticizing me is censoring me. I may have used to have it when I was much younger.

    Partially it's because sometimes, when people greatly criticize you, sometimes they really are saying that you don't have the right to say it. They'll threaten you with government or institutional repercussions. This can color the mind.

    Also, when young it looks like all the evaluation of you is done by all-powerful teachers and so you have to imagine them as fair as possible, and when they aren't it's upsetting, and you can extrapolate that to other circles.

    I'm trying to explain, not excuse. I'd be hesitant of accusing John Rocker of this because there's such a big temptation for someone who has gone through a conversion experience to be a total dick to the unconverted, so instead I'll just say that he smells bad, has a big nose, and can never put the hockey puck in the hockey net.

  26. Orville says

    Hey John, your criticism of my being critical offends me. By your own logic, doesn't that mean you should stop speaking so you don't censor me?

    Or are you trying to carve out a right that grants you the right to be critical, while denying speech to everyone who disagrees with you?

    Like, you know, the people who actually read what the Founding Fathers you deify wrote?

  27. Miranda says

    “But I can say, with complete confidence, that I cannot recall reading anything so completely fucking stupid as that paragraph and its spew of clichés." Oh my, I needed that laugh on this afternoon! Awesome.

    Oh, the beleaguered heterosexual, conservative, white male! If only there was a place for you to express your views! Other than TV, radio, the internet, and the halls of Congress! I'm still laughing and thanking you very much, Ken.

  28. says

    Well, I was thinking of saying something blistering about the guy's counter-mastery of language (useful concept I got from my father: he used to say of certain people that there is talent, there is lack of talent, and then there is ANTI-talent), and then I saw this:

    To the extent that I can understand this hideous paragraph — which is not so much writing as it is putting out lit cigarettes on the exposed tender flesh of the English language….

    Dude. Pwned and pre-empted. There is nothing to say; all I can do is savor. 'Scuse me, I'm going to go read that line again.

  29. Laura K says


    And anybody I'm forgetting.

    THANK YOU. Nearly.Best.Post.Migraine.Pickup.Ever.

  30. Christina says

    Anyone who tries to do anything in a communal space recognizes this as merely another aspect of the phenomenon, "This world exists exclusively for MY benefit!!" Honestly, sometimes I'm surprised that gravity works for me or that the air allows me to breathe it in…

    Yesterday, I made someone cranky because my 6yo and I, having shifted from holding hands to walking single file at the edge of the sidewalk, did not dive into the bushes so that their party of four-abreast could continue unimpeded by our existence. It was Berkeley, though, so it's possible they understood free speech issues better than the average citizen ;-)

  31. Dictatortot says

    "Isn't there anyone that can play the devils advocate instead of just everyone piling on?"

    Yeeessh … that just seems like too tall an order. Let me take my best shot: back when Rocker first courted controversy, and whenever his name has cropped up since, he's fielded tsunamis of (probably justified) insults and unkind assessments of his intellect. Now, whether or not any of the outraged parties actually said as much, it's not hard to believe that some of them might actually like to see sentiments like his outlawed. I couldn't blame Rocker if he suspects that not too many of his detractors would gather in protest were he legally muzzled tomorrow. No one's censoring him, but suppose that throughout the kneejerk reactions he provokes, Rocker intuits a vague, free-floating sentiment that, just maybe, he OUGHT to be censored … would he be entirely wrong?

    That's really the best I can do, and as devil's-advocate arguments go, it's none too sturdy. Still, it'd be a pretty human reaction to the situation in which he's placed himself, and the reaction wouldn't be 100% unjust.

  32. JLA Girl says

    Was he paid by the word? Did he pay them by the word? Clearly there must have been some pay to word ratio at work here. Otherwise it's just words thrown together to sound intelligent but say nothing.

    Oh wait, Ken already said it best:

    To the extent that I can understand this hideous paragraph — which is not so much writing as it is putting out lit cigarettes on the exposed tender flesh of the English language.

    I'm with Tsarina (or is 'the Tsarina'? I want to be technically correct.) That line is awesome.

  33. Thorne says

    @ Tsarina…


    Absolutely brilliant, if only for the implication that you'd actually have to put effort into hitting a bar THAT low.

    And I'm sooooooo stealing it. One hopes you can at least respect the thief who forewarns. ;)

  34. SassQueen says

    I got through about the first paragraph, then had to stop and floss my brain. Then I realized I could just read Ken's post and be done. So, thanks Ken!

  35. Corporal Lint says

    "Isn't there anyone that can play the devils advocate instead of just everyone piling on?"

    I can make a tepid argument against this statement of Ken's:

    Rocker, you may recall, was less known for competence and more known for running his mouth about people who irritated him …

    I did some futzing around with the numbers and have concluded that Rocker's 1999 season was about the 160th best season by a modern relief pitcher (with "modern" defined here as 1993-present). That's more impressive than it sounds, because there has been roster space for something like 3300-3500 full relief seasons in that time, so at his best Rocker was in the top 4.5%-5% of his historical peers. His one really good year was like a second-tier Billy Wagner season, or like best years by Jose Valverde or Bob Howry. Alan Embree was (like Rocker) a hard-throwing lefty with reverse platoon splits, and Rocker at his best was better than Embree at his best. John Rocker was Chad Fox without the multiple elbow surgeries, and Chad Fox was really good for a little bit, once upon a time. Rocker may be a blathering idiot, but at ages 23 and 24 he was competent at his job.

    Of course, he's 37 now.

  36. says

    @JLA Girl – either is fine. There are those who call me "Tsocky." There are those who call me "hey you." (There are also those who call me Lisa, which happens to be my name – I don't use the avatar for anonymity, just for shameless commerce.) You know the old saw – as long as you don't call me late for dinner, it's all good. :)

    @Thorne – you can't steal what I give you freely. Or you could, but it'd be a waste of effort. It was my father's line anyway, and he wouldn't object at all – he was proud of it. (He also happened to be dead accurate in the initial coining and application, but that's another story.)

  37. AlphaCentauri says

    I'm still trying to get my head around "the conservative, heterosexual, white male gets and most likely will continue to get the proverbial short end of the stick … Those who fall into this unfortunate category had better watch their backsides with both eyes"

    Spoken like someone who has his head screwed on backwards, I suppose. But for people in not quite so unfortunate a category, one must wonder what sort of contortions would allow one to devote only a single eye to watching one's own backside.

  38. deezerd says

    @nlp: True that. Rocker had been painted over by retirement long ago. Although there's still a strong whiff of mildew coming from under the paint. ;)

    On the upside, we may be witnessing the birth of a meme. "Watching your backside with both eyes" = this week's "Divide by zero". :)

  39. Chris R. says

    Alpha, heterosexual white males are soooo discriminated against it's not even funny. First they make a movie called "White Men Can't Jump" which is self explanatory. Then a movie called "Single White Female" because single white males aren't good enough :( Then they make a show called "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" which I haven't watched but I am pretty sure is about homosexual men treating some poor heterosexual like a piece of meat. It's a hard world to live in.

  40. James Pollock says

    I've been a straight, white male for quite some time now, and I'm proud to say I've overcome the adversity.

  41. says

    Hear Hear! This is like the perfect juxtaposition – Ken illustrates the Brilliant/Eloquent end of the spectrum, Rocker illustrates the idiotic/platitudinal (since Rocker was fond of throwing out 2 dollar words) end. I don't think Rocker wrote that all by himself – it really seems like he had someone in his social circle that's reputed to be really smart and intellectual edit it for him – except the smart and intellectual person was a windbag who used a copy of "How to impress idiots with cliche's and sophistry".

  42. says

    So if his premise is that we should have free speech and not have any adverse consequences b/c of it, it appears he feels that we should be able to engage in fraud when entering contracts. Otherwise, I don't have the right to free speech without anyone getting upset or facing consequences. People should be able to call 911 pretending to be someone else and claim they just shot their family, otherwise… In this case, it's not even a stretch to say that b/c it's clearly the point he's trying to make – we should be able to say whatever we want and not have to suffer any consequences for it.

  43. Narad says

    Depends how limber you are.

    And which particular portion one wants to keep one's eyes on.

  44. Aufero says

    Given the way the founding fathers spoke about each other, the idea that free speech should be free of scorn and ridicule would probably make most of them laugh until they choked.

  45. says

    "Technically, as our Founding Fathers intended, we are all given the undeniable right to voice our thoughts and opinions freely without fear of scorn and/or ridicule derived from non-agreement."

    The FRAK?

    We have the right to speak without fear of being fined, imprisoned, or shot by the government for doing so. We also have the right to expect that if someone (credibly) threatens us with violence (or other actions that are criminal whether or not motivated by speech) for our speech, that we can expect appropriate legal action. However, there is no protection against having our feelings hurt. There is no protection from insults, vigorous disagreement (reasoned or otherwise), or social shame. We have no reason to expect we will retain our job if we're an embarassment or a liability to our employers. We have no reason to expect that if we say things we know our friends and family will find offensive, that they'll continue to associate with us. We have no protection against any non-criminal reaction to our speech, and we need to be ready to accept that before speaking.

    Rocker does have the same rights as anyone else: The right to speak and suffer the consequences.

    During the earlier naughties, we saw this kind of tripe mostly from the left, whining that criticism of the Dixie Chicks or Ward Churchill were "censorship" or "oppression" or whatever. Now, we get it mostly from the right. (I'm sure Michelle Bachmann is upset that people are reacting to her witch hunt by calling it a witch hunt, and, if she hasn't already, will soon issue a statement complaining that she's being 'censored' because people tend to react to hateful speech *with* hateful speech.)

    When I lived in SF, one of the local leftist free papers (can't remember which, there were a lot of them) would run the "Top 10 Censored Stories Of The Year" on what seemed to be a more than annual basis. Not one of the "censored" stories was actually *censored* — indeed, there was never one I wasn't aware of, possibly because I lived in San Francisco. Anyway, by "censored", they meant "We think this is much more important than other media does!" They did not mean "the government jailed the person who reported this". They did not mean "By publishing this, we risk jail, or even execution." They just meant "Our sense of what's important and what matters differs from that of other people, and that's WRONG and those other people are EVIL!" (I should stress this by no means a leftist monopoly, which is good, because if it was, they'd need to trust-bust themselves. Anyway, I've gotten on the email of assorted right-wing groups, and I constantly get "The stories the LIBERAL MEDIA is COVERING UP!" or "News THEY Don't Want You To See!" gibberish from them, too. Same thing — no censorship, just people whose idea of what's worth coverage isn't the same as theirs, but that's too simple and straightforward an explanation. No. There must be conspiracy. There must be a plot. There must be something, anything, because it isn't possible OUR worldview isn't the ONLY worldview.

  46. says

    Ken, you will be my hero forever for this: "putting out lit cigarettes on the exposed tender flesh of the English language"

  47. C. S. P. Schofield says

    I am a conservative white male, and I despise this twit. He is the precise moral equal of the liberal academics who have hysterics any time an opposing opinion makes an appearance ocampus, or who shoot their mouths off on somethink like the Duke Lacross case and ever afterward get all huffy when any points out that they were part of a lynch-mob.

    Politics is a full contact sport. If you aren't ready to be accused of horrifying moral turpitude, then sit down and shut up with the rest of the sheep.

  48. says

    "Politics is a full contact sport. If you aren't ready to be accused of horrifying moral turpitude, then sit down and shut up with the rest of the sheep."

    C.S.P.Schofield FTW.

  49. theparsley says

    "Given the way the founding fathers spoke about each other, the idea that free speech should be free of scorn and ridicule would probably make most of them laugh until they choked."

    Indeed. I think if you were no good at scorn and ridicule you'd probably get your ass kicked right out of the Age of Reason.

    Come to think of it, there was so much anonymous and pseudonymous bile-flinging going on in newspapers, pamphlets, broadsides, etc. in the late eighteenth/early nineteenth century that it wasn't entirely unlike…the Internet. That's an essay someone ought to write.

  50. says

    @theparsley:"Come to think of it, there was so much anonymous and pseudonymous bile-flinging going on in newspapers, pamphlets, broadsides, etc. in the late eighteenth/early nineteenth century that it wasn't entirely unlike…the Internet. That's an essay someone ought to write."

    To a certain extent, in the sense that humanity doesn't change no matter how his TOOLS change, Kipling has done so:

    Those who DO study history know that it can't help repeating, says I. Human nature is what it is. Reality is not a social construct. The most you can say is that the Internet has given a larger percentage of the population a larger stage for them to reveal their humanity upon. (It is amusing to consider that the lone nutjob, who spends nothing to reach a global audience, has more "freedom of speech" (in terms of the lack of fear of the social and economic consequences) than a large corporation that needs to offend no one in order to sustain itself. CNN or even Fox is much more likely to self-censor (and I am using 'censor' in the common sense, not the legal sense, I do know the difference), out of fear of audience reaction (and the financial loss this implies) than your random Youtube ranter or blogger.

  51. Jeff Brunner says

    Obviously the scathing critics' right to speak derives from the same source as the first speaker's comments and the former speaker's rights are equal to the latter's in strength and extent.

    The real questions (implied by Rocker, perhaps) are whether and when the blistering response transcends mere speech by becoming coercive and punitive, especially if that response is ginned up by an organized force. These questions have particular importance in cases of political speech, broadly construed.

    No sane person would hold that Rush Limbaugh should have been protected from criticism for calling Sondra Fluke a slut, any more than anyone should suggest that Kathy Griffin should have been punished for or restrained from calling 16 year-old Willow Palin a dirty whore.

    It is not so clear, however, that when Limbaugh's critics organize boycotts of his advertisers, supported enthusiastically by the Mainstream Media such contact should be protected in the name of the First Amendment.

    To the extent that the outcry for punitive action against Limbaugh took place on public airways, I think it not unreasonable to consider whether that conduct is entirely in keeping with the public trust on which basis the licenses thus employed were issued and undertaken.

    (It is in this regard that the stark imbalance between the treatments accorded by the media to Limbaugh and Griffin–fill in the blanks with pretty much anyone on the Right and Left, respectively–becomes important. The fairness doctrine is history, but those holding broadcast licenses are still required to use them consistently with the public welfare.)

    In the present election cycle, questions about when criticism becomes coercion contrary to the public good have reached a new level of importance because of the Mainstream Media's treatment of otherwise private individuals who have contributed to the Romney campaign. Not just the Koch brothers, either. Ordinary donors, distinguished only by the size of their donations, have faced journalistic investigations of their sealed divorce records, long-past criminal records, and the like, clearly motivated to punish them for their donations and to discourage others from such contributions.

    It would be very difficult to argue that these media campaigns do not and are not intended to have a chilling effect on the right side of our social and political discourse.

    I am not a lawyer, but I understand that two metaphors are used to suggest where the line between protected speech ends and actionable behavior begins: There is no right to scream "Fire!" in a crowded theater, and the right to attack another person ends upon contact with his nose.

    I think much of the activity about which John Rocker seems to complain transgresses ordinary and protected speech by one or both of those tests.

  52. Contracts says

    Not since "Ezra" have you had an alter ego as awesomely named as "Nobel Dynamite."

    Not even "Via Angus."

  53. says

    @Jeff: If I were 20 years younger, as I was when I started posting on the internet (actually, my first CI$ post was twenty six years ago… gak…), I'd write a multi-thousand word essay expounding at length on the multiple idiocies, contradictions, and sheer, unmitigated stupid (these days, that's a noun, not an adjective. So it goes.) that your post contains. But I'm older, fatter, and lazier now, and I'm reasonably certain there's a dozen or more bright young folks who will be happy to indulge themselves in that Sisyphean endeavor.

    I'll just say this.

    If the image tag doesn't work for some reason, click this:

    Let's just take your indignant reply about how I'm not taking your carefully well considered and brilliantly insightful opinion seriously as a given, OK? Yes, yes, I'm shallow and rude and lowering the quality of debate and I am indicating for all the world to see my lack of interest in meaningful and reasonable discussion on this topic. Trust me, I've written enough of those replies myself to people like me that I could write yours for you and save you a lot of time. (Except that, in addition to being fat and lazy, I'm also greedy, and won't do it for free.) Just that when you make a post saying "But it's not FAAAAIRRRR that some people are more criticized than others!" to an article which explicitly acknowledges this fact and then goes on to point out that the marketplace of ideas, like all marketplaces, *isn't* fair, and TOO FRAKKIN' BAD FOR YOU, CRYBABY… and when you imply that it's somehow wrong for people to be held accountable for their political activities, when, by definition, a political activity is a declaration that you believe it is morally proper to use lethal force to accomplish some end (government is best defined as 'the entity which society invests with the power to use lethal force for purposes other than individual self defense'; all political debates boil down to deciding what those purposes should be), you handily exempt yourself from being deserving of anything but dismissive sarcasm. Feel free to hold any low opinion of me that you wish due to this; I assure you, since I know myself darn well, it will not be low enough. (You may also try "I don't hate you, I just feel sorry for you". That's a good one. I also like "I have absolutely no interest in what you think about me", which is problematic, since, by posting it, you show you DO have such interest, and you want the world to know it. Then again, an awareness of self-contradiction doesn't seem to be one of your strengths.)

    I mean, "It's not clear" that calls for boycotts are protected speech? It's about as "not clear" as absolute vacuum. Or, in other words, it's as clear as the laws of physics allow it to be. Not a single photon is deflected in the passage through the clarity of the fact that calling for a boycott, when done by any private entity, broadcast or not, wealthy or not, is absolutely and without the tiniest sliver of doubt or question protected speech. If I were to bash my head against each and every brick wall on this planet, and whatever parallel Earths may exist, it would not be sufficient to erase the imbecility of that argument from my mind, and that's just one tiny bit of your essay.

    There are plaintiffs on JUDGE JUDY who make more coherent arguments than that.

    PS: There's a word for people who want the government to act to make markets — in speech or anything else — "Fair". That word is "Communist". Does that shoe fit, Comrade? (Red baiting is fun!)

  54. Jeff Brunner says

    Since you have already provided both sides of a conversation in which I haven't the slightest interest, I will simply suggest that you get help.

  55. says

    Woot! "I don't hate you, I just pity you" AND "I have no interest in what you think, but I'm very interested in making sure a global audience is aware of my disinterest!" in one post!

    I don't need help; I'm quite capable of generating thousands of words of vaguely coherent blather on my own, thank you very much.

  56. Grifter says


    I am confused as to the specifics of the underpinning of your argument. It appears to be "people have free speech unless there's more than one of you, and you aren't on the public airwaves to say things I don't like". I'm not trying to be overly snarky, I just don't see where the argument comes in that you get to determine what is newsworthy (are Romney's donors newsworthy? What if it was, say, 90% people from the NeoNazi movement? Would it be newsworthy then?), or that free speech ends when there's more than one person (a strange hypocrisy, considering Limbaugh's followers are called "dittoheads"…so his followers are allowed to act en masse, but not his critics?).

  57. Jeff Brunner says


    What I do not understand is your anger at me, which appears to be based upon assumptions about my personality and values, rather than responsive to my argument. Assumptions, incidentally, that are far wide of the mark. (It has been more than 40 years since anyone has called me a communist!).

    You note early in your first comment–asserting a foundation of authority, perhaps–that you have been commenting since the early days of Compuserve. (Join the club. My first personal computer was an Altair.)

    If my comment, an off-the-cuff assessment with which even I might disagree tomorrow, was enough to wind you up this much, perhaps it is time you took a break.

  58. says

    @Grifter: The mainstream media is focusing attention on things Jeff doesn't want them to focus attention on. This is censorship.

    The ultimate truth is, Jeff's entire argument is based on irrelevancies. Let us take everything he says as a given: That the mainstream media is biased against Romney, and that they seek to "expose" supporters of Romney in order to discourage other people from supporting him. Assuming that they limit themselves entirely to legal means of gathering information (and if they have not, then, those reporters or agencies which broke the law can be punished without involving the First Amendment at all), then, it really doesn't matter. You have a right to be biased. If you have personal wealth and a political axe to grind, you have a right to buy all the grindstones you can. This doesn't mean your politics are correct. It doesn't mean you're being ethical. It doesn't mean you *should* do these things. But you DO have a right to do so, and I've never heard of any "solution" to this that was not worse than the problem. (Any system which allows the government to decide what political speech is "fair" or how many people should be allowed to comment on an issue or who should be protected from public exposure of actions taken to influence the public is so self-evidently flawed that it merits no detailed dissection.)

    The ability of demagogues to spread vile ideas and control the passions of the mob is a well-documented danger; asking the government to intervene to stop them is a far worse danger that is just as well documented. (As PJ O'Rourke put it, "When buying and selling are regulated, the first thing to be bought and sold are regulators." This applies to the regulation of speech as much as anything else.)

    An important counterbalance to the right to spend as much money as you wish advocating for a cause you support is the right of your fellow citizens to know you're doing it. Write all the anonymous editorials and internet screeds you wish; when you write checks, you enter a different realm of activity. (In a perfect world, voting would not be anonymous, either. Since we live under a winner-take-all system, where everyone gets the government the majority deserve, we should have a right to know who decided what laws we all have to live under. The negative and positive impacts of this would, in the long run, balance out.)

    Lastly, Grifter, you're talking to someone who has managed to claim, with a straight face… er… keyboard… that calling for a boycott of a business is censorship, not in the casual sense of "A group of overzealous activists is upset by something someone said and wants to use economic pressure to make them unsay it", but in the legalistic sense of "This is an activity the government should criminalize and punish". In other words, he is saying that marching outside a bookstore with picket signs (protesting the books they sell, and encouraging people to go elsewhere) is the same as throwing firebombs into the bookstore (an act which attempts to suppress speech through violence). Given that, attempting to find any meaning or coherence in the rest of his post is probably futile, but you're welcome to try.

    (Someone might argue that a sufficiently well-organized protest will have the same effect, in the end, as violence or threats of violence, and therefore, they should be considered the same thing under the law. Someone who argues that is an idiot. You have no right to have people patronize your business, buy your books, or give you a platform on which to speak. You DO have a right to not be assaulted or killed based on your speech. Even if the consequences, in terms of your speech, of the threat of economic boycott (or simply the loss of social status due to exposure of the causes you support) and the threat of a punch in the face are the same, they are not the same in terms of what the government may or may not do in response. The government can't, won't, and shouldn't protect you from people refusing to deal with you because they dislike your ideas. The government should protect you from people who wish to use force against you because of your ideas. That this is something that needs to be explained, over and over and over, would be depressing if I hadn't lost all hope for humanity ages ago.)

  59. Grifter says


    You don't have to convince me on this subject, but I was hoping for a response that might help me understand precisely where Jeff's breakdown occurred. Kind of like when you see an algebra problem with a wrong answer, and you try to pick apart where the mistake was: did you screw up X, or Y, or both?

    In this case, I'm curious what makes him think people shouldn't say mean things about people he likes (a hypebolic exagerration of your argument, Jeff, cut me some slack should you respond). Does he think support and criticism are qualitatively different kinds of speech, which is why he thinks criticism should be prevented, or if it really is just that he doesn't like people being allowed to say things he disagrees with, or is it another reason? Either way, he's saying that criticism should be prevented, but one is simple hypocrisy, and the other might benefit from a conversation about the idea of the definition of free speech.

  60. says

    @Lizard –

    Woot! "I don't hate you, I just pity you" AND "I have no interest in what you think, but I'm very interested in making sure a global audience is aware of my disinterest!" in one post!

    A pretty accurate paraphrase of YOUR comment (the intelligible portion of it, at any rate). To which I'm a little surprised there was any reply at all, given that you went so far out of your way to pre-empt and pre-dismiss it.

    Why bother, if you're going to have both sides of the argument all by yourself, inventing the other side instead of actually reading what he said?

    With which I don't necessarily entirely agree, but I sure don't see where you're getting "imply that it's somehow wrong for people to be held accountable for their political activities"; seems to me his position was almost exactly the opposite, and that it's you who are saying it isn't FAAAAAAAAAIR.

    Makes me wonder who it is you're actually arguing with, and why it calls for that degree of outrage.

  61. Grifter says

    @Jeff and @Tsarina:

    I don't read outrage in Lizard's reply, I read amused sarcasm and attempts at snark (that appear to have fallen flat with both of you, hence attempts). That might be just me.

  62. says

    @Tsarina: Not far enough, it seems. So it goes.

    Also: You're conflating "held responsible in the court of public opinion" and "held responsible in the court of the court". This is, apparently, the same conflation Jeff makes, and it's a pretty darn silly one.

    There are narrow circumstances where speech is criminal –defamation, incitement, and so on. However, no examples where speech falls into those categories but is not being punished properly were offered by Jeff. Rather, he offers examples of speech which is not even borderline or hazy, but as squarely at the center (hmm… that's a weird metaphor…) of protected speech as one can get — but he thinks (or, perhaps, he was just playing with ideas, which he seems to be claiming as an elegant and graceful way to back out, which I'm happy to grant to him, as Ghu knows I've used that tactic more than once) that this speech should not be protected, on the grounds that it's effective (that is, people organize a protest to entice someone to change their behavior or refrain from speech, and it works) and, perhaps more importantly, that it's not speech he agrees with. (My editors have nagged me about reducing my use of parenthesis; if I can't use them in my paid writing, I have to use them SOMEWHERE, and y'all at Popehat are the lucky recipients.)

    In terms of pre-empting the conversation… I'm testing a hypothesis that if I post and then dismiss all the obvious responses, I might generate an inobvious (unobvious?) response, which would be fun and interesting and force me to consider my positions anew. So far, the experiment is a failure, but I'm not ready to quit. As Edison apocryphally quipped, "I have not failed to invent the light bulb. I just haven't found the right person to steal the idea from and then take the credit."

  63. Careless says

    " I've read YouTube comments. But I can say, with complete confidence, that I cannot recall reading anything so completely fucking stupid as that paragraph and its spew of cliches"

    One of these sentences has to be false.

  64. Jeff Brunner says

    A dear friend (who has long enjoyed reading the Popehat fray, though to my knowledge has never joined it) suggested that I might find the posts and comments interesting. The Popehat community, she said, is an island of calm reason in the sea of vitriol that passes for intellectual and political discourse today.

    I have not found it so in this brief visit.

    As for my "breakdown," I acknowledge that I didn't do a very good job of communicating the point I was trying to make, which had nothing to do with the straw arguments you both have posed, did not question the rights of any speaker (or even of today's JournoList-coordinated, media-powered mobs), and certainly did not propose censorship of any person in any form.

    My point was simply that there might be a point worthy of consideration buried in the murk of John Rocker's prose.

    In an interview with a religious publication, Dan Candy had the audacity to say "“We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives.” In consequence, his business is under sustained assault, stoked by the national media, that has had a catastrophic impact on some of the independent businesspeople who own and operate Chick-fil-A franchises, as well as their employees–individuals who may or may not share Mr. Candy's point of view. (As we saw yesterday, it has also made some franchisees a lot of money.)

    I do not for a moment question the right of gay jihadis and their friends in the mainstream media to conduct their campaign against Chick-fil-A. I merely note that in fact, though not in law, Mr. Candy's freedom of expression has been abridged. The problems experienced by the franchisees and employees of Chick-fil-A must weigh upon Mr. Candy, and they cannot fail to have a chilling effect upon others who might wish to agree with him but no longer feel free to say so.

    Of course, it is equally objectionable when advocacy of marriage equality provokes similar demonstrations and brings similar harms. But there is a difference between those two cases, a difference rooted in the belligerent advocacy of the mainstream media and the unity of purpose with which it acts. The sustained cheerleading of the mainstream media crowds the theater, so to speak. Mr. Holmes is no longer with us to opine on the question of whether in cases like Chick-fil-A screaming "Fire!" should be considered an offense as well as offensive, but I think the question legitimate.

    Does that mean that Equality Matters, the mainstream media, or anyone else should be censored or their right to speak otherwise abridged? Of course not. (I never suggested anything of the kind.) But if our society is going to remain as free in fact as it is in law, conduct that escalates disagreement in ways that bring real harm should be roundly condemned by all. A society that can quickly mobilize against bullying in middle schools ought to be equally able to discourage equally harmful bullying in public discourse. In all cases, not just when the victims are dear to the hearts of those who think themselves progressive.

    There is one legal adjustment that might be worth considering. Though the Fairness Doctrine is gone and not lamented (except by those who wish to use it to silence Rush Limbaugh and his kind), it remains true that licensees of the public's broadcast spectrum are obliged not to act in ways contrary to the public interest. If indeed, as I believe, the broadcast media's unified (coordinated!) social and political advocacy transcends opinion by causing quantifiable and verifiable harm, the re-licensing process might provide an appropriate forum in which to encourage more responsible behavior.

  65. Grifter says


    "I merely note that in fact, though not in law, Mr. Candy's freedom of expression has been abridged."

    That is a flatly untrue statement. He may continue to say whatever he wants.

    What you are saying is that, as a consequence of what he says it is a bad thing for people to say "hey, I don't want to do business with that guy". (And, for the record, you are VASTLY exaggerrating his statements to make them seem more innocuous, which is not a fair thing for you to do while expecting fair debate). You feel the mainstream media is "coordinating an assault" on the man's free speech. In what way? In that they report what he said? In that they report on the calls to boycott? Be specific, because again, I'd ask who you are to ask what is newsworthy.

    You reference to bullying is telling. There is a difference (sometimes forgotten even by anti-bullying folks) between, say, shoving someone's head in a toilet and/or harassing them on one side, and just not being friends with them on the other. No one is obligated, nor should they, to be friends with you; they're just as free to tell others they shouldn't be friends with you, either.

  66. says

    Or, in summation, "I'm not advocating censorship. I just think the government should remove the broadcast licenses of people who say things I don't like or who don't allow people they disagree with airtime."


    NAMBLA might just as accurately claim there's a coordinated media effort to not present their point of view. So what? Who decides what points of view are "legitimate" or "in the public interest"? Who overrules them? Who censors the censors?

    As I like to say, "The public interest is determined by what the public is interested in." In other words — ratings/sales. Or, to quote myself again[1], "Adam Smith pwns j00, be0tches!" (I spend too much time on MMO sites.)

    You have not provided, and I do not think you, or anyone, can provide, a solid argument that if a large enough number of media companies all share a point of view, it constitutes a violation of the rights of those who do not share that point of view, sufficient that government intervention is required. There is, after all, no such thing as a right to have your point of view shared, broadcast, supported, included, etc, etc, etc. You have a right to express it without fear of imprisonment, fine, execution, and so on, but you have no right to an audience, nor any right to the tools needed to acquire an audience. Your argument is a right-wing spin on the equally moronic left wing idea that not seeing one's race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, etc, portrayed or included in media, education, and so on, is a violation of your "rights". There's good arguments to be made that people should be inclusive, should be aware of stereotypes and offensive imagery, should consider someone else's feelings and reactions even if they're not shared, etc, but these arguments don't involve rights, but are just about being a decent human being — again, something the law should not and cannot mandate. You can use force (law) to keep people from harming each other, but you can't use force to make people BETTER, and every place that's tried has ended as a charnel yard.

    Of course, all that's irrelevant, as the points you make are drawn from false premises to begin with.

    a)The bulk of commercial political speech on the airwaves is inarguably conservative; there have been numerous attempts by liberals to produce equivalent programming, but the free market soundly rejects them, leading to hilarious sour grapes along the lines of "Well, liberals are smart and upper class and thus don't listen to talk radio."

    b)The importance of the "public airwaves" in the age of cable, satellite, and the internet is rapidly becoming negligible. The "Pacifica" decision was a poor one to begin with, and it's becoming irrelevant very quickly. At this point, worrying about over-the-air broadcast is closing the barn door after all but one cow has escaped, and it's a pretty sickly cow that's going to die soon.

    The media (like most human activities) is mostly driven by profit, with ideology being an important, but secondary, concern. (If you can make money and serve your ideals, that's great, but if pushed, people will generally choose making money.) If the "media elite" were truly out of touch with the beliefs of most Americans and were trying to "force" their views on people… they wouldn't make money. The first to break from the pack and shift their viewpoint even slightly would draw a huge audience, and the others would be forced to follow up. Indeed, this has happened: Fox. They saw an underserved market and seized it. The system works — though, even if it didn't work, that still wouldn't be a good argument against it. The free market — in speech and in other things — is good because it is good[2], because it is based on the rights of individuals to interact as they see fit. It is not a means to an end; it is an end in itself. If the masses of individuals who compose the market don't act as you wish them to act, you are free to try to convince them otherwise, by whatever means do not violate their rights.

    PS: You've stated you oppose the fairness act, while seemingly wanting it back under another name. Whatever. Here's some questions: Do you support the return of laws which limited how many media outlets any single entity could own, in the name of increasing diversity? Do you support government funding of viewpoints not covered by the "mainstream media", things like public access cable, or grants to produce art, documentaries, and so on which express ideas so unpopular they have little hope of commercial support?

    [1]I may go blind.
    [2]"The first rule of tautology club is the first rule of tautology club." (XKCD)

  67. says

    I ought to let this go, but the multiple inanities keep clawing at my mind like little mind clawing things.

    "But if our society is going to remain as free in fact as it is in law, conduct that escalates disagreement in ways that bring real harm should be roundly condemned by all. "

    The entire point of a boycott is to cause harm, to the precise same extent that the point of an advertising campaign which encourages people to choose product 'a' over product 'b' harms the makers of product 'b'. Would you say, with a straight face, that if a commercial ad campaign for one product were so successful that it caused the makers of a competing product to have to shut down factories, close shops, reduce staff, etc, that this is "bullying"? That people should go out of their way to buy the competing product in the name of "fairness"? I'd like to say "Of course you wouldn't", but I don't have that degree of confidence in your rationality, and I've been informed it's rude to fill in your side of the argument for you, even when I'm saving us both time by doing so.

    Your argument, if one can call it that, is that we should boycott all boycotts on principle… because boycotts can be successful. If, as does sometimes happen, criticism of someone DOES rise to the level of offensive bullying, of kicking someone when they're down and have already surrendered, metaphorically… people in general DO react with disapproval. Most humans have an innate, if vague, sense of when things have gone too far, and will, generally, react accordingly.

    The argument that I, and most other free speech advocates make, in response to issues of offensive speech, and the desire of some to impose speech codes in the name of preventing speech which offends, insults, demeans, etc, is that social controls — free people choosing not to interact, socially or economically, with people who express offensive ideas — are provably superior to legal controls. Your argument, in essence, is that we're RIGHT — that disapproval and a refusal to interact DOES work, that it DOES often serve to control speech that most find offensive, and to limit the resources a person might gain to spread such speech — and that that's BAD.

    You might understand my incredulity that you consider this a viable line of reasoning, and why I raise a virtual eyebrow at your claims that you're shocked and disappointed that your ideas are so poorly received. I don't think you're failing to explain your ideas; you're failing to offer any convincing argument in support of them, and the more you pepper your posts with "gay jihadis" and vague hints of vague conspiracies, the less credible you become.

  68. Jeff Brunner says

    What I said and meant was that decent people who value the good will essential to civilized society should discourage conduct that punishes someone–anyone–for his ideas and beliefs, not least because they usually harm innocent third parties disproportionately to whatever punitive benefit they might incur.

    Nothing I said gives cause to assume that I reject all boycotts as a matter of principle. In fact, I do not. But not all boycotts are founded equally, and I believe that boycotts predicated solely upon the expressed opinions of an owner or manager are morally objectionable (because of the harm to third parties, if for no other reason) and contrary to the public welfare

    I said nothing about advertising and have nothing to say about it now. Another straw argument. Are you so disappointed not to have that additional opportunity to pillory me that you had to make the argument in my stead?

    No, I see that you are trying to save me some time.

    No thanks.

    I said nothing about speech codes or anything of the kind, and nothing to suggest that I would advocate any limitation of the rights of anyone to boycott anything they choose to boycott for any reason.

    Your suggestion that the boycotts and other conduct that I oppose are self-limiting because of the disapproval they engender is contrary to my experience. I prefer to believe my lying eyes.

    I was not in fact shocked or disappointed at your reception of my ideas. If anything, I wish you had actually addressed them. Instead, you chose to presume to understand my thinking and to attack your own fantasies about thoughts and beliefs entirely foreign to me.

    I was surprised by your evident and unreasonable anger at me personally. Gosh, I think some things with which you disagree. That happens sometimes. Grow up.

    Thanks for mentioning "gay jihadis," which I had forgotten, because I would like to make amends. I regret that brief descent into the slough of your vitriol.

    As for "vague conspiracies," I made no hints about anything of the kind. I did say that the mainstream media collectively coordinates the contributions of its various members to the Official Progressive Narrative of the day. A rich trove of emails made available last year proves that beyond doubt. Without the slightest vagueness.

  69. Jeff Brunner says

    I didn't say that the government should remove (decline to renew, actually) the broadcast licenses of anyone. What I did suggest was that it might be appropriate for people who agree with me to express concerns in the public hearings that precede such renewals. Remember the ads that stations run when their licenses are up for renewal, seeking public comment about how well they serve the community, etc.?

    ACORN has used these hearings for decades in order to extort various favors from broadcasters. What is so offensive about the suggestion that some people might wish to seize that opportunity to question whether the station has been fair and balanced in its reporting?

    Do I think that active media collusion to demonize private individuals impairs my rights? Not in any way that is actionable by me, clearly. But it is a disservice to the community as a whole and it has a chilling effect on the freedom of speech that you so rabidly defend.

    I said nothing to suggest that I am entitled to have my point of view expressed or represented by any media figure or any media outlet, nor that my rights are in any way violated in consequence of widespread media collusion to promote ideas and policies with which I disagree. (Yet another straw argument.)

    But I am not so sure as regards Dan Candy's rights.

    I never suggested using force of law to make people be better people. (I am a Quaker and thus disinclined to make anyone be anything.) But, as you say, force of law is sometimes appropriate when necessary to keep people from harming each other. Is not my entire argument an attempt to discourage people from harming other people just because those people hold objectionable beliefs? (For the record, I do not support using force of law in such cases.)

    I opposed the fairness doctrine because the notion of equal time was unworkable. That doesn't mean that I oppose its purposes.

    It might have been better had the concentration of ownership rules not been abandoned entirely, but that ship has already sailed.

    I do not support government funding of any viewpoint, period. Indeed, I do not believe that public money should be used to fund NPR. If the marketplace of ideas is unwilling to fund NPR by financial contributions, I should not be coerced by force of law to fund it via taxation.

    Perhaps we can agree upon that.

  70. Grifter says


    The comparison to advertising (not made by me) seems pretty valid to me: when someone requests a boycott, they are asking you not to purchase from a specific vendor; in advertising, the goal is to do that and convince you to buy from another vendor; the boycott has no other specific vendor to send you towards.

    To give an example:

    Let's say there's two pizza joints. One has an owner who is rude and hates black people (though it has never been shown that his business has broken any laws). Would you say it's "morally wrong" for another business to say "Hey, we've got great customer service. Pizza Place A isn't as good, and their owner is a jerk!"

  71. Jeff Brunner says

    "Mr. Candy may continue to say whatever he wants."

    If by that you mean that he continues to enjoy the protections of the First Amendment, sure.

    But Candy now knows how expensive free speech can be. He knows that his franchisees have been punished financially because of his statement. He knows that their employees have lost hours of work they may badly need. He knows that his suppliers have suffered lost business (and, probably, considerable spoilage of perishable goods.

    A responsible person, who cares about the harm to others brought on by his comments, silences himself. He still has First Amendment rights, but his use of them is inhibited and discouraged.

    And not just his. Others who share his beliefs (which, for the record, I do not) now know the cost of expressing them. That cost might be a price they are willing to pay, personally,. But no decent person would impose that cost on so many others.

    Not in every case, certainly, but a significant number of people thus find themselves, upon contemplation of the Chick-fil-A example, free to speak as a matter of law but not free to speak as a matter of fact.

    The quote I used was the only quote provided in the LA Times account I just read to make sure I had the story straight. If he said things more objectionable, that is unfortunate and regrettable. But it does not affect this argument in the slightest.

    If you do not believe that the mainstream media stoked the outrage of its readers/viewers as it reported with evident approval the Chick-fil-A boycotts, no list of citations from me is going to change your mind.

    So the angry protesters who surrounded many Chick-fil-A locations, making threatening gestures at people who stopped there to eat were not harassing the customers and employees? They were just declining to be friends?

    Be serious.

  72. Grifter says

    You can't conflate two groups. A harassing group is not being defended. A boycotting group is.

    Let's say that his views wer emore extreme and awful. Let's say he thought "All black people are N*ggers, and should be executed, and gays should be castrated, and women shouldn't be allowed to work". He said this all the time, but his company never broke the law. Would a boycott still be wrong?

  73. says

    "What I said and meant was that decent people who value the good will essential to civilized society should discourage conduct that punishes someone–anyone–for his ideas and beliefs, not least because they usually harm innocent third parties disproportionately to whatever punitive benefit they might incur."

    Wow, the weasel-speak is strong with this one, as are the crocodile tears. "Sure, someone may have said something you find morally objectionable, but if you don't patronize his business, innocent people might suffer!"

    I'd ask "Do you have any idea what a pathetically ridiculous line of non-reasoning that is?", but I know the answer: You clearly don't.

    If someone asks me for money to fund a cause I disagree with, and I don't give it to them, am I punishing them for their ideas? (I'd ask "Am I no longer a person of good will?", but I've never claimed to be one. I am merrily misanthropic, and any milk of human kindness in the refrigerator of my soul has long since turned to yogurt.)

    I'd also ask, what kind of "person of good will" would use his employees as, in essence, human shields, against criticism of the ideas he freely chose to express? What kind of person would say, "Sure, you may hate me… but if you don't spend money on my business, I'll have to fire some poor people."? (And as you refuse to answer or acknowledge, there is no difference, in the effects on a business, between "Don't patronize this company, their owner is a jerk" and "Don't patronize this company, we make better products for lower prices (or just have a better ad agency)".) Because we live in a capitalist society where there many providers of goods, I constantly choose to favor one company over another, and you know what? I will confess, here and now, that when I decide to go to McDonalds over Burger King, or buy store-brand cola over Pepsi or Coke, I have never once considered which company had workers more desperate for pay, or which one would suffer more from the loss of my business, as a deciding factor. I am a horrible, horrible, monster.

    BTW, can you point to some posts you've made condemning those who swore not to support or patronize Oreo, when they published an ad supporting gay pride? I assume you've been equally vociferous in that area. Also, given that you write "So the angry protesters who surrounded many Chick-fil-A locations, making threatening gestures at people who stopped there to eat were not harassing the customers and employees? They were just declining to be friends?", I would be quite interested in the many posts you surely must have written condemning Operation Rescue and similar organizations and their activities.

    Show me those posts, and I will say you are at least consistent and sincere in your views, even if I do not think those views are particularly well thought out or well argued.

    (For the record, I oppose laws banning protests at or near abortion clinics, provided they do not physically block the entrance or make contact with the patrons. I oppose laws banning groups like Westboro Baptist Church from protesting at funerals, again with the reasonable caveat that they not be able to interfere with the ceremony or physically harass or threaten. There are justifications for "time, place, and manner" restrictions, but such restrictions must be as narrow as possible and must not have the effect of neutering the impact of a protest by removing it from the view of the people whose actions are being protested. Repulsive ideas are the ones which most require protection from both the state and the mob. Speech which is hateful, hurtful, or traumatizing is still protected, because if we ban speech on the grounds it causes an emotional reaction in its target, we ban all speech of any meaning whatsoever. )

    Lastly, I find it interesting (also, hilarious) that a person as concerned as you claim to be about being "moral" is directly, explicitly, advocating that people NOT consider someone else's moral character (by whatever standard of ethics they use) when deciding whether or not to deal with them! "People with strong ethical standards who wish to live in a community which encourages decent and moral behavior should not factor someone else's values or ideals into the decision to do business with them or not." That is what you are saying. You believe that is a rational and internally consistent point of view that provides a decent guideline for someone to use when making ethical decisions.

    (I am sure this will be followed by another round of "I'm not saying X! Stop saying I'm saying X! That's a straw man! What I'm really saying is X! X is totally not the same as X! Why can't you see that?" I think I'll unsub from this and let Grifter have to him/her self. One of these days, I will learn enough self-control to follow Mark Twain's advice.)

  74. ParatrooperJJ says

    While being an incoherrent writer, the point he is trying to make about the goals of the progressive movement is quite valid.

  75. Jeff Brunner says

    Lets do say that there are two pizza joints.

    One of them runs 30 second spots that say "Everyone says that we have the best pizza in town, so don't waste your time and money anyplace else."

    Whether the other one advertises or not is irrelevant at the moment, because its parking lot is full of screaming people carrying signs saying (the more coherent ones) that the pizza served there is full of hate. Inside there is a long line of people, more than half of whom, when their turn to order comes, ask for nothing but a cup of water. (So, too, most of the cars at the drive-thru.)

    The two of you have had much fun (I hope) calling me irrational, stupid, a weasel, and (in one instance) psychotic. (In fairness, that was mainly Lizard, but there is no sense in me trying to ask him a question, no matter how civilly, so I shall direct this to you.) Being that you and especially Lizard are so obviously well-versed in such characterizations, how would either of you describe someone seemingly unable see any difference between a television ad soliciting business and a mob that gets in the faces of the employees, and harasses the customers while blocking their access to the order counter at another?

    Seriously, this conversation is unworthy of further attention.

  76. Jeff Brunner says

    Be advised, JJ, that expressing such a sentiment in this forum is likely to get you labeled a psychotic. (See my exchanges with Lizard and Grifter, above.)

  77. Jeff Brunner says

    If by boycott all you refer to is individuals deciding not to eat at Chick-fil-A and encouraging others not to, then neither I nor any other sane person would condemn (or even criticize) it.

    But given the mobs at the stores, I think it unrealistic to regard demands for a boycott as unrelated to the protests unless the former repudiate the latter in making them.

    People in the real world regard all of these actions as a Campaign Against Chick-fil-A, and encouragement of any part of it contributes to the whole.

    BTW, if Candy had actually said the things you pose to set up your question, he would be subject in many states to prosecution for hate speech. Do you approve of that?

    Giving further thought to your example, I'm not sure whether I would boycott Chick-fil-A had Candy said things that loathsome. The temptation would be strong, certainly. But there remains the stumbling block that such a boycott mainly punishes the wrong people. Who suffers more if Chick-fil-A's gross sales drop 25%, Candy or the franchise owners and employees (many of whom, incidentally, are gay)?

    If we are to give commercial expression to our moral outrage, are we not obligated to give thought to the collateral damage we do–especially if it is likely that the collateral effects are the greatest consequence of our actions?

  78. Ben says

    I have not really participated in this conversation, I do not really feel as if I understand. The original piece being discussed. As the line of inquiry moves further and further from the examination of that original work, it seems probable that individuals are entering into this dialogue with different definitions.

    What Jeff (seems to me) to be writing is that he understands this mister Rocker fellow as writing about how the consequences of communication may deter communication – and as that deterrence approaches a certain limit, the expression becomes arbitrarily close tO suppressed. For instance, many 'Amish' communities practice 'shunning' as the preferred method of punishing serious offenses. Even though the Amish would not, as a rule, use violence to suppress speech, few would consider them a 'free and open society', yes?

    So, if we distinguish between the United State's implementation (the First Amendment) and the underlying principle that it seems to express (the benefit provided to a society through freedom of expression/communication) opinions which criticize but do not seek to ostracize or punish a faulty or flawed opinion may be qualitatively differentiated from opinions that do seek to suppress ideas – not through the merits or flaws of the ideas proposed, but through an ancillary collusion. One demonstrates through impartial and universally accessible logic how one mental construct is superior or inferior to another such construct, while the other circumvents reason for the less accessible realm of force. In this case, economic force.

    Is this a fair assessment of your analysis of mister Rocker's original piece, John?

  79. says

    Jeff, I was pretty sympathetic to you and was glad to see you posting here. But you're sounding a little butthurt at the moment which loses me quickly. Just let it go – this is one of the most awesome places on the net – just let it go. THere will be other posts, they will be awesome, keeping this going isn't doing anything but eating up your time. My 2 cents – you're free to disagree.

  80. Damon says

    Jeff is one of that huge number of people who believes that freedom of speech is very important, as long as it's being used to say things he agrees with, whereas it's a pernicious threat to out society when it's being used to argue against things he agrees with.

  81. Grifter says

    @Jeff: I never called you an idiot. You are being disingenuous.

    I have been fairly polite to you, and have both addressed your concerns and engaged in debate, and that seems to bother you. And that's the problem isn't it? If you say something, someone might disagree with you. That's the thing you have to always keep in mind whenever you say anything; you are saying that it's morally wrong to say things, if those things are (in your opinion) incorrect.

    Those of us on the opposite side say that speech is speech. The Westboro idiots have every right to say what they say, and I have every right to call them assholes. I even have every right to refuse to do business with them based on their actions.

    I think the fundamental breakdown is that you don't really think boycotts are bad (your half-hearted, "even if he was a neo-nazi I wouldn't want to hurt the poor line worker is obvious BS), you think they're bad when you're applied to things that you don't feel strongly about. Everyone feels strongly about different things.

    And on a final note, you purposefully misconstrued the argument regarding advertisement, which is why I'm officially annoyed and losing patience with you.
    The argument was (and I made this clear) that one side is saying "don't use this brand X, because they do hate speech", which is what the people advocating the boycott say. The analogy was that that is not very different than "Don't use Brand X, use brand Y, because it's better". Both someone exhorting a boycott and someone advertising for a competing brand attempt to sway you away from brand X, one is simply making a different type of argument to do so than the other.

  82. says

    @Grifter .I'm probbaly being a wuss about this, but Jeff got KO'd pretty resoundingly. I was actually feeling bad for him just b/c losing an argument that bad isn't easy to watch. There's a time to just say you're wrong and walk away – he's a glutton for punishment. But it does hurt watching someone get schooled this badly. I've lurked for quite a while without posting, and I can't recall a time I disagree with you including now. Your last post said it all and I'm pretty sure any objective observer would call this one in your favor, pretty much a flawless victory. Other than the fact he asked for it , this looks like a cat batting around a rubber mouse, or more like Mike Tyson smacking around any of the tomato cans he fought early on in his career. I'd persoanlly cut him some slack just b/c you one this round hands down.

  83. Damon says

    BTW, if Candy had actually said the things you pose to set up your question, he would be subject in many states to prosecution for hate speech. Do you approve of that?

    It should probably be noted that this is just a straight-up out-and-out lie.

  84. says

    Jeff, you are persistently and continuously either missing or choosing to ignore a big difference between what has happened to Dan Cathy and Chick-Fil-A, and what has actually happened.
    The boycott by some of the population (including myself) of Chick-Fil-A has nothing (I repeat nothing) to do with Dan Cathy's personal views or opinions. He has a perfect right to say anything he wants (leaving aside the old shouting of "fire" in crowded theater, I'm not going near that hypothetical).
    However, Dan Cathy does not have a right to say anything he wants without fear of ridicule or criticism (which is how John Rocker appears to be interpreting the First Amendment). If I find his views to be ridiculous, I reserve the right to ridicule them. If he doesn't like that, too bad. He has no constitutional right to not be offended or butthurt if people ridicule his views.
    Secondly, Dan Cathy and Chick-Fil-A have funded, and continue to fund, pressure groups whose objectives include the perpetuation or extension of marriage laws to deny gay people the right to marriage. In other words, Dan Cathy is directly or indirectly funding efforts to restrict or abridge the civil rights of people whose life choices or inclinations he finds personally objectionable.
    This, bluntly, is none of his damn business. He has decided to use his own money and money derived from Chick-Fil-A to engage in ideological and theological campaigns to abridge people's civil rights. I have therefore made an ideological decision to not spend any money ever with Chick-Fil-A.
    This is not censorship or bullying. It is a legitimate response of purchasers. Nobody has to buy from Chick-Fil-A.
    The rest of your postings to me seem to comprise increasingly long-winded attempts to defend a position that, in free speech terms, is indefensible.

  85. Doug says

    @Graham Shevlin….thank you…I was going to make that point, but you said it simply and eloquently.

  86. says

    I've been craving Chik-Fil-A badly since this whole snafu got underway; a well-meaning relative bought dinner for me last night. Figuring it was paid for and I'd might as well eat it, I did so.

    I can happily report that it tasted like cardboard.