Free Speech vs. Freeze Peach

Last month, a broad spectrum of feminist activists and organizations published an open letter to Facebook, demanding that the social-networking colossus crack down on pages that glorify or promote violence against women. Although Facebook’s moderators had long disallowed anti-Semitism, gay-bashing and other kinds of hateful content, they often excused misogynist pages, even graphically violent ones, as mere “distasteful humor”.

If anything ever seemed like a David-versus-Goliath battle, it was this. But the campaign generated a flood of outraged messages to Facebook’s advertisers, some of whom started to get nervous and pull their ads. And just a week later, in a startling announcement, Facebook capitulated and promised to improve its moderation policies.

This is exactly how the marketplace of ideas is supposed to work in a free society. By allowing their ads to be posted alongside violent and degrading sexism, Facebook’s advertisers were signaling their tacit approval of that content. And the public responded by exercising their right of free association, voting with their dollars and declining to support companies who underwrote a viewpoint they found abhorrent. This is how democratic persuasion always operates, the same way that divestment was used to pressure the South African government to end apartheid.

By contrast, here’s how the marketplace of ideas isn’t supposed to work: this week, media critic Anita Sarkeesian posted the second installment of her web series Tropes vs. Women in Video Games, showcasing the mindless repetition of sexist clichés in popular games. Within an hour, the video was taken down by an army of trolls who abused YouTube’s flag function. It was quickly restored, but even so, this showcases the tactics of anti-feminists: not to meet speech with speech, or even to persuade YouTube’s advertisers to pull their support, but to attempt to silence Sarkeesian with false takedown reports filed in bad faith.

I always think this distinction is obvious, and it seems I’m always wrong, because every time this happens, some trolls predictably complain about “censorship” and the denial of their free speech. (Even the ACLU, though I usually agree with and support them, was off-base on this one, absurdly comparing Facebook to a government.) So, as a service to the confused, let’s go over the definition one more time.

Free speech is the right to speak your mind without government censorship and without fear of extralegal retaliation like harassment or violence. That’s all!

Free speech doesn’t include the right to speak your mind on any forum anywhere. The government may not prevent you from speaking, but private parties, like blog owners or corporations, aren’t required to let you use their property as your platform.

Free speech doesn’t include the right to be believed or to be taken seriously. People may mock, ridicule or laugh at what you say, or they may reject it outright.

Free speech doesn’t include the right to be listened to. People who don’t desire to hear your opinion can hang up on you, block you on social media, change the channel, close the browser tab. Free speech doesn’t give you the right to bombard people with harassing messages or otherwise force them to pay attention to you against their will.

And free speech doesn’t include the right to suffer no consequences whatsoever for your expressed opinions. As Facebook found out, if you say things that other people find abhorrent, they may boycott you, disinvite you or choose not to associate with you.

There are countless people who don’t understand this, or at least pretend not to understand it, and who insist that their free speech does include all these spurious rights: the right to say anything they want, to anyone they want, at any time and place they want, without facing any consequences or incurring any damage to their reputation. The social-justice community has a punning homophonic description of this whiny, entitled behavior: not free speech, but “freeze peach”.

This idea spans the ideological spectrum. One of my very first posts on Daylight Atheism was about a Christian school suing a public university that refused to grant college credit for courses taught from an explicitly devotional, sectarian viewpoint. (They lost.) At the time, I called this the fallacy of free speech – but in retrospect, it it was clearly the freeze-peach mentality.

Atheists have their share of them too, as we’ve seen over the last few years: the misogynists who think that FREEZE PEACH! means their right to pester women in any way they choose or use any kind of misogynist language they see fit is sacrosanct. (Remember that unfortunate fellow who raved that my criticism of his behavior amounts to censorship?) Of course, they apply this standard with extreme selectivity, screaming about how the slightest criticism of their ideas is tantamount to brutal persecution by jackbooted thugs, while at the same time freely and gleefully trying to silence opposing views by harassing or intimidating the people who hold them.

Image credit: Shutterstock

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Loren Petrich

    I’ve experienced the “freeze peach” problem in a similar context: trolls at messageboards. I’ve noticed that they consider it an intolerable injustice when they are banned or otherwise kept away from their targets. I’m unwilling to name names, so it’s hard for me to go into much further detail, however.

  • ool0n

    Pretty much everyone at the Slymepit.com was banned or their ideas ridiculed at some point. They took it so badly they have been on a bigoted crusade to destroy the careers of feminists at FreeThoughtBlogs.com for years. Amazes me how badly people take a bit of blocking or ignoring. Adam might decide he doesn’t like Rothko and randomly ban me because of my avatar. I cannot imagine being so worked up about one person (Or even a few) banning me that I go on a butthurt rampage like that. Weird.

  • Azkyroth

    Off-topic, but why the fuck did I just have to go in and disable Allow Automatic Redirection for Patheos to stop it from redirecting me to the front page every time I tried to load your or JT’s blogs? Someone on the back end needs a stern talking-to.

  • Figs

    I always think of it this way: if I sent an article to Time Magazine and they refused to publish it, would that be a violation of my free speech? Obviously not. That’s their discretion. Push that out to private entities at large, and you’ve got it. Congress can’t make laws abridging freedom of speech, except in some narrow excepted cases, and that’s that.

  • smrnda

    I think the other contrast between the ‘tropes vs women’ flag attack is that, unlike a boycott with stated objections and a clear goal, it was dishonestly abusing a feature in order to shut a video down, which isn’t really that different than say, hacking a website to ‘remove’ the content you don’t like – not really a case of speech against speech.

    I’ve seen a similar case made by religious organizations that their tax free status is necessary for them to have ‘freedom of religion’ since, if they had to pay taxes, it would cost more money and financial hardship ‘inhibits’ their right to practice their religion. Again, it’s an absurd case, on par with suggesting that because no studio will give me millions of dollars to make a movie that I’m being ‘silenced.’

  • Mike

    *posts rape and death threats to prevent a channel or warning to similar channels from posting similar material
    *comments disabled in response
    “MUH FREEZE PEACH!”
    *proceeds to flag said video to remove it
    *sighs with pleasure and turns attention to own videos and blogs, selectively deleting and blocking users who question what the hell is wrong with them

  • Loren Petrich

    I think that I could go into a bit more detail. For a while, I was at a messageboard that I’ll call B1. It was founded by some refugees from some other boards whose management was sometimes autocratic. Its founders had high ideals, but as time went on, certain of its admins became suspiciously tolerant of the misbehavior of certain trolls and all-around jerks. The antics of that gang of trolls drove off many members, and some of them founded a board that I’ll call B2.

    The trolls at B1 are still there, and they moan and groan about how authoritarian the management of B2 is, how B2′s admins won’t let in certain people. Some members of B1 continue to troll the place, however, and some of them have posted nasty pictures and revealed personal information in their desperation to get responses.

  • ool0n

    I guess entitlement and childishness are fairly common human attributes. Many parallels there!

  • BrandonUB

    The social-justice community has a punning homophonic description of this whiny, entitled behavior: not free speech, but “freeze peach”.

    I can’t speak for others, but this is one of the things that’s made me really distance myself from identifying with the social-justice community. I’m really uncomfortable with mocking the idea that free speech is an important value, even for people that are saying vile things. Yes, I fully realize that many forums are not covered by the Constitution, and I absolutely understand that no one’s required to host nastiness, but I see the “lolz freeze peach” mentality creeping farther out. The distinct impression I’ve gotten from some social-justice proponents is that they’re really not all that big on free speech as a value.

  • BrandonUB

    Agreed. I was having the same problem with Hemant’s page yesterday.

  • DavidMHart

    If I may weigh in here, the reason for the piss-takery, as far as I can see, is that certain members of Team Harassment either misconstrue, or genuinely don’t understand, the difference between (on the one hand) being prevented from sharing their views on someone’s private blog, or being reprimanded by private citizens for their views, and (on the other hand) being subjected to government censorship or vigilante reprisals. This failure to understand, or deliberate pretense of being unable to understand, is what is being mocked, not the ideal of free speech as it actually plays out in people’s real legal rights.

  • robot_makes_music

    People are way too impressed by how much attention was lavished on them by their mothers, and need to realize they ain’t the center of the universe anymore.

    [speaking of tropes] Oh wait, still in mom’s basement? That perspective may be hard to achieve. ;)

  • BrandonUB

    I guess I’m probably touchier than most about the spirit of free speech rather than just the letter of what’s technically protected. Personally, I’m inclined to let people hang themselves with their own stupidity when it comes to whatever they’re wanting to post. I’m fine with that not being everyone’s approach, but I dislike the legalistic sentiment that free speech (as a concept) pertains only to avoiding prosecution.

  • Azkyroth

    It’s a good thing you’re privileged enough to be able to treat harassment and hate as a mere academic exercise or an issue of taste, like if the paint clashes with the curtains in a hotel room.

  • Azkyroth

    1) do you have any fucking evidence at all that any of that applies?
    2) is it really THAT important to make this women and/or young people’s fault SOMEHOW?

  • Azkyroth

    The distinct impression I’ve gotten from some social-justice proponents
    is that they’re really not all that big on free speech as a value.

    How?

  • http://bigthink.com/blogs/daylight-atheism Adam Lee

    Personally, I’m inclined to let people hang themselves with their own stupidity when it comes to whatever they’re wanting to post.

    If this were just about people making fools of themselves in public with bad arguments, I’d agree. The moral calculus is different, however, when the “speech” at issue is targeted personal harassment.

  • http://bigthink.com/blogs/daylight-atheism Adam Lee

    I sent a message to Patheos about it. I haven’t heard back, but I haven’t seen it happening since.

  • BrandonUB

    We must be talking past each other to some extent. I don’t think behavior that rises to the level of harassment is permissible at all, but people get banned for behavior well below that standard.

    Again, that’s surely any bloggers right, but I don’t think it’s a great attitude.

  • David Simon

    Doesn’t your hand get wet sometimes from putting all those words in other peoples’ mouths?

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/brutereason Miri

    What’s interesting is how, when you point out that the first amendment only applies to the government, they’ll try to wave that off by claiming that “open dialogue and free expression” are very “important” and that private individuals, companies, and forums should take it upon themselves to promote that as well.

    Of course, if your “free expression” entails hurling abuse at people until they retreat, that’s not very conducive to an open exchange of ideas, now is it?

  • Blue Ming Seiko

    Those who want to engage in Freeze Peach are generally privileged thirteen year old boys psychologically, even if they are inhabiting thirty-five year old bodies.
    I have long questioned Facebook’s attitude towards women for letting this stuff go on. The only reason I’m still on there is because I’m an admin of a page which attempts to get homes for animals in shelters.

  • http://kagerato.net/ kagerato

    [Edited for clarity, because some individuals who shall not be named like to completely ignore the context of a rest of a post to discover the premises which utterly contradict their interpretation. Tribal warring with people who are on your side, for the loss!]

    I’m curious as to why many Americans are opposed to requiring businesses to directly adhere to constitutional rights in the same manner as the government. This really puzzles me, especially in the case of corporations — which are nothing more than a legal fiction we allow to exist. Some of these rights might not always make sense in that context, I can see. I don’t find it particularly plausible that some megacorp is going to be quartering soldiers in our homes in the near future, at least. And much of the fifth and sixth amendments are only relevant to the courts and judicial process, so unless or until our courts are being run by businesses, they’re just out of scope.

    What’s the objection to forcing corporate giants to obey freedom of speech, assembly, press, and so forth? Or against them searching and seizing property without a warrant? Preventing cruel and unusual punishments? Eliminating involuntary servitude? Equal protection of the law? Right to vote?

    Seems to me that quite a number of constitutional rights are legitimate and fairly applied outside the scope of government. I honestly do not understand why powerful institutional organizations, be they corporations, churches, universities or anything else of the sort ought to have the power to unilaterally decide that these rights do not apply and thus determine, in practice, that you do not have them.

    Control tends to accumulate in the hands of just a few people, and this is not limited to the government. When a non-governmental institution denies you your ability to be heard, to act, or to otherwise have any influence on an injust situation, what practical alternatives do you have? They’re often the only show in town! Otherwise, they’re typically part of a oligarchy or plutocracy these days. None of the other players are likely to be any more sympathetic to your “trouble-making” causes than the first one was.

    Of course, you could petition the government, usually through the courts. This will take a minimum of months, often years. Sometimes decades. It assumes that federal law is already on your side, otherwise your case will typically be summarily rejected (potentially with prejudice, meaning you cannot simply refile it later). It also assumes you are rather rich and have time to spend on lawyers, no job to work, and nothing really to do with your life other than wait, advocate, and present evidence and arguments to judge and jury.

    I can understand, at least, why it’s impossible to set the standards of the bill of rights on individuals. They don’t have the kind of power that institutions do. There’s no means to enforce it. Most importantly, the bill of rights only exists to protect individuals in the first place. It would be paradoxical to try to impose it on them.

    Institutions, though? Why is the government able to create entities that don’t have to obey the restrictions placed on it? This seems to be an easy and rather straightforward loophole around fundamental rights. Suppose I was wrong in the opening paragraph, and violations of the third amendment are on the horizon sometime this century. Well, it says government can’t quarter troops in our homes. Problem solved, right? Actually, big problem. We’ll have Blackwater — I mean Xe — I mean whatever the hell they’re called now — do the quartering for us (the government). They’re not agents of the government, after all! We didn’t tell them to do anything, you see. They’re “acting alone”. Insert whatever nonsensical cover story you want to invent.

    This isn’t exactly hypothetical here. We’ve had loosely-affiliated third party agents of the government violate both constitutional rights and federal law numerous times in the past. Yet, somehow, people still think it’s all well and great that institutions don’t need to obey fundamental rights. They’re put all their trust into thinking that the government will solve these problems for us. This is rather disconcerting when history seems to show the government is corrupt more often than not, and constantly looking out for the powerful in favor of oppressing and controlling the powerless. What are we supposed to do when corporations notice that the government is like this (they did a long time ago) and start abusing the fact to their own advantage?

    Isn’t it pretty clear that the system, as it stands, is basically busted? Surely it’s time to put in some tough fundamental restrictions to prevent the revolving door of corruption from forming a self-propagating feedback loop. And this time, it’s going to be necessary to leave out the giant gap where private entities can accumulate unlimited power to themselves.

  • hannah

    Facebook is in many ways like a government, or at least a public square. There’s certainly a case to be made for banning censorship (in the form of deciding what content is moral or immoral, be it racism or sexism) the same way we do in other public spaces. Obviously Facebook is a private company, and they can monitor what’s said in their forum, and that’s how most of the internet works. However, in a time when the internet is not unlike the street, with facebook being one of the most trafficked passes, is that sort of censorship just?

    People are idiots, and people who say sexist shit and think that no one is allowed to retaleate are idiots. But by banning such content, wouldn’t one be doing the same thing? Assuming that her opinion is right and not allowing the others to speak?

  • http://kagerato.net/ kagerato

    Hmm. You seem to be making a similar point to mine (see the long post below). In it, I emphasis a particular need to enforce certain limitations on powerful, private, institutions. Many of these are going to end up being similar to the restrictions on governments, just by the nature of what power is and how it becomes abused.

    One thing I forgot to mention, though, is that there’s still a critical distinction between positive and negative rights. The kinds of rights specified in constitutions are nearly always the negative type — limitations on certain entities’ capacity to stop people from doing something. Positive rights, on the other hand, require the entity to actively provide resources to assist in doing something. As long as we have a concept of private property and private resource controls, the distinction between the two will be quite important.

    So saying that private companies need to respect free speech is not the same as asserting they must provide time, energy, labor, communication channels, land, or anything else to arbitrary citizens. What it implies is that the business cannot try to actively impede the public’s ability to exercise their speech. So, for instance, Facebook deciding to delete posts would never be a violation of anything. They can act as their own private censor as much as they care to, for precisely the reason that they own all of the physical resources which are being used for the communication. To contrast, an example of a free speech violation in this context would be if an ISP decided they were going to actively interfere with your personal political blog. There are many ways in which they might do this — a denial-of-service attack is an obvious one, but much more subtle means are available. They could simply stop routing DNS requests for your site, silently cutting off your ability to reach anyone who relies on their DNS servers. To be really malicious, they could replace your site with whatever content they felt like by actively modifying and interfering with the network traffic itself at the packet level.

    There’s a second major qualifying element I forgot in my original comment. It’s that there’s no such thing as an absolute right; all rights have limits. My right to freedom of movement ends where it would cause someone else harm by the motion itself. Likewise, free speech doesn’t imply the ability to libel and slander others, or to harass them, or to create imminent public danger (shouting “fire” in a crowded theater).

    I think these two elements together essentially answer your questions. One, the censorship employed by private companies is essentially an unpreventable, necessary evil unless we completely reconstruct society in the mold of positive rights (and that would change effectively everything, really). We rarely consider the existence of rights in that sense for any other context, so it seems odd to introduce them here. For the second, it’s not really preventing others from speaking unless there is a clear and active interference in something they own or control.

    There’s always trade-offs to be made not matter where you draw the borders, so people will naturally come to different conclusions about what the fundamental constitutional rights mean and how they should be enforced. I think we can do a lot better at preventing powerful organizations from interfering with these rights, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that any particular instance in which people cite an issue really are significant enough to rise to a level of a violation worthy of the courts (or even public outrage).

  • http://kagerato.net/ kagerato

    There’s a good argument to be made that tax exemptions for religious organizations violate the Establishment Clause, due to treating some but not all religions specially. I personally think all of the special interest carving that’s been done to the tax code is an abomination and surely a nightmare to deal with if you actually want to figure out how to calculate effective net tax.

    One could conceive of a scenario where taxes can be used to oppress particular religious organizations. I’m sure it’s happened before, too, though probably not to any culturally dominant sect. In any case, making a religion (or the adherents thereof) pay more than normal taxes would almost certainly fall afoul of the Free Exercise Clause.

  • http://kagerato.net/ kagerato

    Here’s a much more interesting case: you try to mail a perfectly safe letter or package containing a specially crafted, artistic, highly intelligible political message to your congressional representative. Only you tried to send it through FedEx, and because they don’t like the content of your message, they refuse your business.

    Should that be legally permissible? It is, assuming there isn’t some federal law or regulation I’m not aware of. (There are far more laws than any one person can keep track of. I truly doubt whether even experienced lawyers know them all.)

    No problem, you say. I’ll just mail it via UPS. They reject it, too. Your only hope is to send it through the U.S. Postal Service, and they’re essentially a private entity nowadays. What happens if none of them take it? Going to deliver it yourself? Hire a special carrier?

    That example may be a little anachronistic for you, but feel free to substitute a digital e-mail message instead. All the same essential facts apply; service carriers can refuse to handle your communications or packets for pretty much any reason they feel like. Importantly, most of the things that would genuinely cause you grief are going to be pretty much uniformly blocked or dropped at _all_ major business carriers. So I guess it’s time to start running your own mail server?

  • GCT

    Since when are liberals/progressives the ones who turn a blind eye to abuses of corporations? What in the hell are you going on about? Last I looked it was the conservatives that sought to give free reign to corporations, you know, since the free market will fix everything by magic.

  • http://bigthink.com/blogs/daylight-atheism Adam Lee

    Facebook is in many ways like a government…

    Is it? In what ways, specifically?

    …or at least a public square

    No, it’s not. Facebook is private property; it always has been.

  • UWIR

    But just because the former is not the same as the latter, does not mean that we don’t have to be concerned about the former. If every blog owner says “Lolz, freeze peach” and bans anyone who disagrees with them, that doesn’t violate the First Amendment, but it makes the Internet a highly toxic force in society. And many of the people saying “Lolz, freeze peach” don’t have a problem saying that private organizations shouldn’t be allowed to discriminate, despite the fact that the Fourteenth Amendment doesn’t apply to private organizations. If an organization refused to let black people to vote in their elections, we wouldn’t accept “Lolz, 15th Amendment doesn’t apply” as an excuse, so why do we accept “First Amendment doesn’t apply” when censorship is being criticized? People are up in arms about Facebook’s privacy violations, but the Fourth Amendment doesn’t apply to private organizations, right? Just because the First Amendment isn’t enforceable against private organizations, that doesn’t mean that the principle behind it doesn’t apply.

  • UWIR

    A government is simply an extreme instance of a monopoly.

    Suppose the power company cuts off service to anyone who says anything it doesn’t like. Is this just a case of a private organization exercising its right to run its business as it wishes?

  • GCT

    Electric companies are public utilities. Try again.

  • GCT

    If an organization refused to let black people to vote in their elections, we wouldn’t accept “Lolz, 15th Amendment doesn’t apply” as an excuse, so why do we accept “First Amendment doesn’t apply” when censorship is being criticized?

    We wouldn’t accept it because we have anti-discrimination laws that are binding.

  • UWIR

    Are you unable to recognize a difference between a moral justification and a legal justification? Is there nothing wrong with it other than it’s illegal?

  • UWIR

    Your first sentence is a non sequitur, and presumably relies on premises that you haven’t bothered stating. Your second sentence is quite condescending.

  • http://kagerato.net/ kagerato

    I didn’t say they turn a blind eye. I said, from my experience, they usually reject a broad interpretation of constitutional rights that would apply them to private institutions. Not all of them, obviously — I don’t. I seem to be vastly outnumbered on the question, though, and I’m simply looking for a response as to why.

    I wasn’t trying to imply that conservatives take a wide-reaching interpretation of constitutional rights, either. I can see how you might have gotten that impression (due to the mutually exclusive binary dichotomy sense of politics), but that wasn’t the intent. Most conservatives don’t seem to be very consistent about their approach to fundamental rights, either.

    I won’t even go into the libertarians. Every one of them I read tells me something different — I don’t know why they even use any common name.

  • http://kagerato.net/ kagerato

    Actually, in some places they’re private monopolies (or oligopolies). Most power companies in the U.S. are privately owned and operated, and they produce profits either for owners or shareholders.

    Now, they’re also usually regulated. So the question is this: why should we rely on federal or state laws to defend fundamental rights? Is that truly the best way?

    So people would argue that government is special because it has a monopoly on the use of force. I’ve heard some self-declared libertarians use that one before. But I don’t find that convincing. For one, government can contract out its abilities to any private entity for enforcement — and regularly does so. For another, why would we only be concerned about rights violations that occur through violence?

  • http://kagerato.net/ kagerato

    Indeed, I made a similar point that many of the principles enshrined in the constitution need to apply to powerful private actors a few days ago. Otherwise, we are liable to end up in situations where corporations, churches, and other systematic actors abuse us and we simply have to hope that the government has enshrined protections into federal or state law we can use. Plus, that the current government is willing to execute the laws and not turn a blind eye (although if the executive is corrupt, sometimes the courts will be as well).

    Even if the First Amendment applied to private institutions, though, I don’t think it would make any difference to the Facebook case that was raised. Harassment shouldn’t be considered a free speech issue, and I don’t think most judges would side with the harasser any more than they would throw out cases of libel or slander.

    The idea that private entities can do essentially anything unless or until the government specifically decides to step in to stop them bugs me greatly. Are property rights more valuable than most other constitutional rights? Are we living in a plutocracy here?

  • GCT

    Sigh. You seem to be rather confused, as this is what Libertarians think would be a good system, not liberals.

  • GCT

    In any case, making a religion (or the adherents thereof) pay more than normal taxes would almost certainly fall afoul of the Free Exercise Clause.

    What Kool-Aid are you drinking. No one has proposed that.

  • GCT

    When we are discussing the legality of a situation, I’m going to speak of the legality. Face it, you made a bad argument and now you’re looking for red herrings and non sequiturs to complain about.

  • GCT

    I didn’t say they turn a blind eye.

    You’re right. What you said was actually worse. You claimed that liberals/progressives actively oppose these things, which is absolute bunk. It’s a straw man to defeat all straw men.

  • GCT

    Yes, the second sentence is condescending, and you obviously don’t know what a public utility is or how laws and regulations are set up to protect consumers from the example you raised. Next time, you could try and google for 2 seconds before raising another bad example.

    And, why? Why go through all the fuss to try and protect harassment of women?

  • GCT

    Actually, in some places they’re private monopolies…

    Which are allowed because they serve the public and there’s a dearth of resources. FFS – they are still public utilities and still subject to laws and regulations that govern those.

    So the question is this: why should we rely on federal or state laws to defend fundamental rights? Is that truly the best way?

    What the fuck? How else will we defend rights without laws? Are you really that dense, or is this all about defending the “right” of people to harass women?

  • UWIR

    Discussions of what is wrong with someone’s posts tend to be more informative than simply declaring that the other person is wrong, and you’re not going to bother saying why because they can just get the answer from Google. And this “Why do you hate women?” bullshit is completely uncalled for. Just because I think that there should be limits on censorship doesn’t mean I’m “trying and [sic] protect harassment of women”, and the fact that you are not only defending censorship, but doing so in such a rude and dishonest manner, shows how morally bankrupt you are.

  • UWIR

    This thread was started by BrandonUB, who wrote
    “I’m really uncomfortable with mocking the idea that free speech is an important value”

    To anyone who is neither an idiot nor deliberately misrepresenting other people’s posts, that is clearly not discussing the legality of the situation. So the subject matter of this thread is not the legality, I am not discussing the legality, and if you are discussing the legality, then you are the one who is looking for “red herrings”. you don’t have the slightest thing to say about the validity of my argument, so instead you’re grasping at the straw of my argument being addressed at the “wrong” subject matter, and substituting rudeness for actual content.

  • http://kagerato.net/ kagerato

    I didn’t say anyone had… it’s called explanation by example.

  • http://kagerato.net/ kagerato

    You didn’t actually answer my questions or explore the topic at all. You’re supposed to take a personal point of view, not simply declare other entire groups’ views for them.

    If no liberals anywhere think this (a very strong sense of private property rights) is a “good system”, then why the objections to a broader implementation of constitutional rights that restricts private institutions?

    What harm is it to give customers the ability to challenge the reasons for rejection of services in court, without needing a specialized law to explicitly give them grounds to do so? If an argument is unjustified, made in bad faith, or inapplicable, the courts can simply throw it out. That’s what they do in many circumstances already.

  • http://kagerato.net/ kagerato

    I mention they’re subject to regulation right in the post you replied to…

    As to the second part, the laws most emphatically do not defend rights by themselves. The laws at any level — local, state/provincial, federal/national, and even at the constitutional and international scopes — are just text. They have to be enforced by the courts, executive bodies, and the citizenry to have any proper effect at all. Indeed, many of the laws on the books are effectively meaningless due to their lack of enforcement.

    One of my key points here is that putting general principles into the higher levels of legal scope allows us to solve problems more efficiently and uniformly. A problem solved at the state level fixes an issue for the state; whereas a federal solution operates on the whole nation at once. Likewise, a constitutional solution requires no specific law at all, only a case that may violate an enumerated right. International solutions may be ideal overall, but they’re very difficult to implement in practice.

    On the last part, harassment is not speech, so that’s not even relevant. Read my other posts carefully to see some examples of what I’m actually talking about here.

  • http://kagerato.net/ kagerato

    Completely wrong. Re-read my post. Several liberal writers (I would say about ten, that I’ve read) have rejected a broad interpretation of constitutional rights which applies them directly to private institutions on a uniform basis. I don’t know why that is, hence why I ask. Well, that and it just puzzles me. It seems like liberals should be the first to take the broadest view of what constitutional rights should be, at least to me. The reasons why many conservatives and libertarians reject the view point is a lot clearer, I think.

  • Azkyroth

    You could start with the fact that FedEx has explicitly presented itself as providing the service of delivering mail and goods, provided they are not illegal or unduly dangerous to ship, and blogs and social networks have explicitly presented themselves to provide a community and a forum for the exchange of ideas, within restrictions. This is an apples-and-orangutans comparison.

  • GCT

    You didn’t actually answer my questions or explore the topic at all. You’re supposed to take a personal point of view, not simply declare other entire groups’ views for them.

    Wow…coming from the person that sets up a straw man and then says that it’s what liberals believe? You’re too much.

    What harm is it to give customers the ability to challenge the reasons for rejection of services in court, without needing a specialized law to explicitly give them grounds to do so?

    How do you challenge something in court if there is no law giving you grounds? How silly.

  • GCT

    By example that no one has even thought of proposing – especially one that stinks of religious privilege. It’s not explanation by example, it’s argumentation by insinuation.

  • GCT

    Completely wrong. Re-read my post.

    I’ll do you one better, I’ll quote you:

    I’m curious as to why many liberals/progressives generally are opposed to requiring businesses to respect constitutional rights.

    So, now you’re lying about what you said. Good job at arguing. First, you present straw men, then you claim that you never said that.

    Several liberal writers (I would say about ten, that I’ve read) have rejected a broad interpretation of constitutional rights which applies them directly to private institutions on a uniform basis.

    No, we haven’t. That’s you putting words in people’s mouths. You present us with a, “Why do liberals hate rights so much” bullshit argument, and then try to act like the rational person who’s “Just asking a question.” It’s JAQing off…and why am I not surprised when you come here to JAQ off on a thread about whether Facebook should allow harassing messages targeted at women?

  • GCT

    I mention they’re subject to regulation right in the post you replied to…

    Yes, which is why it’s clear you’re just wasting all of our times.

    As to the second part, the laws most emphatically do not defend rights by themselves.

    FFS. What the hell do you think the Bill of Rights is? It’s part of the Constitution, which is the law of the land. I think we’re done here.

    On the last part, harassment is not speech, so that’s not even relevant.

    At least you’re clear about your motivations. You seem so keen to make sure you protect the right of men to harass and demean women.

  • http://kagerato.net/ kagerato

    I’m an atheist. I already mentioned that example is only likely to be relevant to minority religions. You’re clearly arguing with me just for the sake of arguing.

  • http://kagerato.net/ kagerato

    I wasn’t trying to set up any strawmen. I may have been unclear at times, and to that extent I apologize.

    I asked some open questions for people to answer, and no one decided to actually do so. That kind of makes it hard to have a conversation, especially when the only responses are antagonistic.

    On the latter part, the phrase “specialized law” was used intentionally. Constitutional rights provide a basis for challenge, but they are general principles. You don’t need any federal or state law in order to intervene when you can show a violation of such a basic right.

    It’s my view that the law should be guided strongly by general principle, rather than trying to describe every last conceivable instance case by case. The contents of the federal and state codes are labyrinthine these days; I don’t feel like they are effectively dealing with societies’ problems on an abstract basis.

  • http://kagerato.net/ kagerato

    Yes, they’re two different services and may involve different fundamental rights, or at least different readings of them. I wasn’t trying to claim they were exactly comparable in any sense.

    In the Facebook example Adam presented, there’s a number of separate items to consider.

    (1) Facebook isn’t obligated to host anyone’s content, because as the law stands, private property rights supercede any reading of the other constitutional rights.

    I don’t think that’s morally sound, especially for a government-created institutional entity like a corporation. At one time not so long ago, businesses were allowed to racially discriminate against members of the public. It took a federal law to change this, and that law derived its powers from the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.

    Suppose that, instead of guaranteeing each person the “equal protection of the laws”, the amendment had been written to guarantee people “equal protection”, period? Would we have needed a federal law anyway? Keep in mind the 14th was added shortly after the Civil War — that would have been almost a century for a better devised version to have made a difference.

    One response may be that, essentially, racial discrimination was always a social problem rather than a legal one. Meaning that whatever the laws or constitution, nothing could have prevented or alleviated the problems we faced in the past. I don’t take that fatalistic view of it, though.

    Some people think that the Equal Rights Amendment wasn’t a meaningful proposed addition to the constitution because of their view that the 14th covers the same ground. I’m not sure it does, honestly, and that has everything to do with the exact, weird way the 14th is worded. In any case, there’s still value in being explicit about what you’re trying to do with a general principle. The ERA would certainly add something in that respect.

    (2) Was Facebook being discriminatory in treating some kinds of offensive content differently than others? Yes, pretty obviously. That could be seen as a rights violation in and of itself. But once again, the normal reading of constitutional rights by U.S. courts does not allow for a particularly broad reading of the basic rights so long as it would in any way conflict with the private property owner’s capacities.

    (3) Is Facebook’s removal of content a violation of free speech? No. Yet that answer is really not dependent on a strong reading of private property rights, nor on private institutions being exempt from constitutional rights. It merely depends on the fact that all rights have certain limitations. The right to speech ends where it starts to cause clear demonstrable harm to others, as in cases of libel, slander, imminent public endangerment, and indeed, harassment. If the First Amendment could be read in the way some suggest, then harassment laws themselves would be unconstitutional. That’s rather absurd right on the face of it.

    There’s an obvious analogy to be made with the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms. You have the right to own and even wield various weapons, but that doesn’t imply any right to actually harm others with them. There are only very limited circumstances where a killing is even legal, self-defense being the most prominent.

    Putting it a different way, every constitutional right comes with a corresponding responsibility for how it is to be used.

  • http://kagerato.net/ kagerato

    I don’t think GCT is actually _trying_ to defend censorship, or a narrow and strict understanding of constitutional rights. It’s merely that he or she has failed to actually advocate any personal views at all, leaving a completely blank slate and nothing for others to address.

  • http://kagerato.net/ kagerato

    You’re literally the only one who had argued with me at all, let alone in such bad faith. So who is this “our” whose time I am supposed to be wasting?

    Do you actually believe the Constitution enforces itself? Is it magic? Do you read my posts? We have a separation of powers for a reason. The Executive and Judicial branches of that are of critical importance. Without them, the law is, just as I said, literally nothing more than text.

    On the last part, what alternate universe are you reading my posts from? How does excluding harassment from being treated as free speech SUPPORT harassment? How many times do I have to restate my views before you finally decide to acknowledge them, and not the shadow illusion of them which lives only inside your head?

    I didn’t say anything about Anita Sarkeesian before, partly because I’ve weighed in on that kind of written harassment in the past and partly because it’s just an open-shut case that I don’t see much to say. To be absolutely clear, though, I think the kind of mob vigilantism that’s been hounding her for quite some time now is abhorrent. It doesn’t further the public discourse to force somebody out of publicly accessible spaces. Exactly the opposite. There’s no useful purpose for the kind of regressive threats of violence she’s received; it’s all a form of intimidation and completely avoiding the actual subject matter. The work of cowards, in other words.

  • http://kagerato.net/ kagerato

    You’re amazing good at misreading the plain meaning of words, GCT.

    I’ll lay it out even more explicitly for you. Here’s what Adam said:

    “Free speech doesn’t include the right to speak your mind on any forum anywhere. The government may not prevent you from speaking, but private parties, like blog owners or corporations, aren’t required to let you use their property as your platform.”

    He’s right about that. That’s the law. Private property trumps free speech. The reason for this is that constitutional rights do not apply to private institutions by default, only the government, unless there are explicit provisions made to override this (typically in federal law or case law, though sometimes it can be through a combination of several rights interacting).

    From this, I pretty fairly get the sense that Adam doesn’t care much about enforcing individual free speech rights on corporations (and perhaps other private entities). He hasn’t contradicted me, and hasn’t said anything in the thread that would indicate otherwise. So we can fairly take it that this is his view until declared otherwise.

    It’s a common view, too. I’ve seen it before. Many conservatives and libertarians share that view. What is odd, though, is how many liberals also hold it. It seems to be the predominant view point among all Americans. Apparently enough, no one is really interested in discussing why that is or whether it’s the best system. So I set it aside.

    In any case, what you keep doing is subtly replacing what I actually said with what you think I meant (the caricature of me that lives in your head, at least). That Adam and others don’t think constitutional rights should apply to powerful private institutions doesn’t mean they disagree with the general principles behind those rights, or don’t want them enforced on some level. It’s a disagreement about policy mechanism (implementation), here, not necessarily the principle idea itself. Indeed, this is critically important, because my entire top level post was based on this assumption! Without the premise that liberals care about enforcing at least some of the ideas behind constitutional rights in some manner, my post makes very little sense. So how it is that you’ve come away repeatedly implying that my text indicates liberals must not care about the constitution at all, I cannot fathom. I may have been able to word it clearer, sure, and I already apologized for any ambiguity.

    (It actually is _doubly_ incoherent. If liberals don’t care about the constitution, then I would be serving as the living counterexample. Though it seems like you wish to declare my affiliations and view points for me.)

    On the second part, I’m just amazed. What you just wrote means that you are in perfect agreement with me, and therefore have been arguing for no apparent reason at all. I doubt you mean it, though, because you don’t seem to understand what “direct” application of the broad view of constitutional rights I presented would mean (even though I’ve already described it in detail twice). It indicates that no federal or state laws would be required to bring a challenge to court, for one thing. You seemed to directly deny you supported such an interpretation of constitutional rights elsewhere in the thread — or did I misread it?

    In any case, Adam hasn’t said anything at all in response to my particular points. So I presume his opinion has not been changed. If he sees some kind of compatibility between our view points on the implementation of constitutional rights, I would still like to hear it.

    And finally, for the third time, none of my views support a reading of the First Amendment that allows harassment to be regarded as legal. That covers public and private entities alike. You’ve been taking a general tool I presented, the potential for a wider view of some fundamental rights, and used it as a hammer to beat me over the head with repeatedly. Yet the fact that a tool can be used for evil is no argument against the tool at all. This vague contrary view point you keep presenting would be dangerous to the concept of having fundamental rights, period, because there’s ALWAYS the potential for citizens to abuse them. Nothing is going to prevent the mere possibility; we merely have to account for it and therefore shape the law to place reasonable limits on the use of particular rights.

  • GCT

    I asked some open questions for people to answer, and no one decided to actually do so.

    Your “questions” are of the “Just JAQing off” variety; kinda like asking someone when they stopped beating their wife/husband/child/etc.

  • GCT

    To anyone who is neither an idiot nor deliberately misrepresenting other people’s posts, that is clearly not discussing the legality of the situation.

    This is a legal matter, especially the part that you wrote that I quoted and answered.

    you don’t have the slightest thing to say about the validity of my argument…

    I already have, to which you went into a spickle-flecked rage and started accusing me of all kinds of bullshit.

  • GCT

    From this, I pretty fairly get the sense that Adam doesn’t care much about enforcing individual free speech rights on corporations (and perhaps other private entities). He hasn’t contradicted me, and hasn’t said anything in the thread that would indicate otherwise. So we can fairly take it that this is his view until declared otherwise.

    WTF? So, whatever you say or think about Adam is true, unless Adam comes here to specifically contradict you (because it’s his job to come calling every time YOU open your mouth)? Do you have any clue how jaw-droppingly, painfully arrogant and stupid that is?

  • GCT

    Well, a discussion usually involves parties that are acting in good faith and not just JAQing off.

    “trying and [sic] protect harassment of women”

    I just love how you changed what I wrote, but still put it in quotes and added that “[sic]” in there to make it look like I wrote something incorrect. Not only are you stooping to trying to win through grammar police, but you’re stooping to misquoting me to do it. Pathetic. And, of course that makes me the morally bankrupt one, all the while you continue to throw a hissy fit because I don’t agree that freedom of speech includes your “right” to harass women. Fuck off.

  • GCT

    Do you actually believe the Constitution enforces itself? Is it magic?

    No, and I’m not the one treating it as magic. You’re the one claiming that we shouldn’t write specific laws, but should write general guidelines…because people will just get it…you know, because…um….magic?

    And, when did the Bill of Rights and the Constitution cease being the law of the land?

  • http://bigthink.com/blogs/daylight-atheism Adam Lee

    This discussion has run its course, I think.


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