Why I think xkcd is wrong about Free Speech

The xkcd cartoon conflates the particular and narrow protections of the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution with the older, broader, more general (and, if we’re honest, somewhat nebulous) principle of freedom of speech.

It is a great mistake to imagine that these things are the same. Doing so ignores the existence of non-governmental forms of censorship, including corporate censorship (e.g. internet filtering), and popular censorship via the tyranny of the majority — or, for that matter, the tyranny of powerful minorities!

In an open society, you personally are supposed to recognize the freedom of others to speak. Via Why I think xkcd is wrong about Free Speech – Pat Kerr – Medium

Technical Speaker Uninvited When SJWs Politicize Event

Latest hullaballoo: Curtis Yarvin (aka “Mencius Moldbug”) was invited to give a presentation on his new computer system Urbit to the Strange Loop tech conference. Then some of his ideological enemies (actually literal Communists) found out, objected to his political views, and he got banned from the conference.

Article here, Hacker News thread here, impressively prescient Moldbug post here, demonstration of inevitable Streisand Effect here.

I did consider not linking this since it’s so obviously toxoplasma, but I was convinced to do so by this letter where the conference organizer states he’s never read any Moldbug himself, but decided to cave to the ban request because otherwise politics overshadow the conference, which was supposed to be about tech.

This kind of crystallizes a pattern I’ve been noticing recently where some social justice activists use a tactic along the lines of “Nice institution youse gots here, shame if somebody were to politicize it”.

I sympathize with the desire to give into that to avoid trouble, but I think maybe the only way to avoid enshrining that kind of heckler’s veto always working is to make it clear that the choice to give in will also be politicized.

Maybe if organizers know that banning all insufficiently-leftist-people and not banning all insufficiently-leftist-people will both result in politicization and Internet firestorms, they’ll say “screw it” and just follow their principles.

Via Slate Star Codex. Apparently you’re not allowed to speak about anything at all if you don’t have The Right Political Opinions At The Right Time, especially when the #hashTagMob start bullying and heckling. The best response to the #hashTagMob is to double down and invite *more* people they disagree with. Giving in gives them the ability to say “See, we were right!” and then they’ll do more of it. Once you pay extortion, you never get rid of the extortionist.

The TSA as Milgram Experiment

I have had it in mind to write up an article about the TSA as an implementation of the Milgram experiment, but it’s apparently old ground already covered:


(Posted from inside Newark Airport, at which security was pleasantly civilized: no taking-off of shoes, a metal detector instead of a body scan, and of course a bag scan.)

How Guns Made The Civil Rights Movement Possible

Chinn was already a legend in Madison County, Mississippi, because of his unwillingness to bend to white power. David Dennis, then CORE’s Mississippi project director, recalls being in the courtroom of the county courthouse in Canton, Mississippi one morning in 1963, attending a bond hearing for a volunteer who had been arrested on a traffic violation, when C.O. Chinn walked in. Chinn was wearing a holstered pistol on his hip, which probably would not have raised an eyebrow if he had been white.

“Now C.O,” drawled the judge, “You know you can’t come in here wearing that gun.” Madison County Sheriff Billy Noble, was also in the courtroom; Chinn looked over at him, and responded, “As long as that S.O.B. over there is wearing his, I’m gonna keep mine.”

The enmity between Chinn and the sheriff was well known throughout the county and, half-expecting a shootout, Dave Dennis thought to himself, “We’re all dead.” But the judge spoke coaxingly to both men: “Boys, boys, no. Why don’t you put your guns on the table over here on the table in front of the bench. Let’s be good boys.” Both men walked to the table, and — eyeing one another “very carefully,” Dennis remembers — set their pistols down.

via Strong men keep a-comin’ on – The Washington Post.

A Non-Conformist’s Guide to Success in a Conformist World

I found this unexpectedly comforting; I myself am an example of point #10.

1. Don’t be an absolutist non-conformist.  Conforming in small ways often gives you the opportunity to non-conform in big ways.  Being deferential to your boss, for example, opens up a world of possibilities.

3. In modern societies, most demands for conformity are based on empty threats.  But not all.  So pay close attention to societal sanctions for others’ deviant behavior.  Let the impulsive non-conformists be your guinea pigs.

6. Fortunately, the content of modern education is neither linear nor cumulative.  You can safely forget most of what you didn’t feel like learning right after the final exam. 

8. Educational success hardly guarantees career success.  But educational credentials open a lot of doors – including most of the doors to non-conformist-friendly careers in academia, science, and yes, bureaucracies.

10. Social intelligence can be improved.  For non-conformists, the marginal benefit of doing so is especially big.

12. When faced with demands for conformity, silently ask, "What will happen to me if I refuse?"  Train yourself to ponder subtle and indirect repercussions, but learn to dismiss most such ponderings as paranoia.  Modern societies are huge, anonymous, and forgetful.

There are more at the link. Via A Non-Conformist's Guide to Success in a Conformist World, Bryan Caplan | EconLog | Library of Economics and Liberty.

Your Right to Swing Your Fist, and Pinocchio’s Nose

Your right to swing your fist ends at the other’s guy’s nose. But what if the other guy is Pinocchio, and his nose is growing? Your freedom is being restricted by his expanding sense of harm.

Some ideas of “harm” are unreasonable. Via Dan Carlin, Common Sense #269, “The Challenges Of Living Dangerously” at about the 38:00 mark.

Supreme Court bans warrantless cell phone searches

The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that police cannot go snooping through people’s cell phones without a warrant, in a unanimous decision that amounts to a major statement in favor of privacy rights.

Police agencies had argued that searching through the data on cell phones was no different than asking someone to turn out his pockets, but the justices rejected that, saying a cell phone is more fundamental.

This is a blow in favor of liberty. Now you need to remember to uphold your rights. When the officer asks to see your cellphone, you reply in a polite and deferential tone: “Officer, with great respect, I do not consent to searches. May I be on my way now?” Via Supreme Court bans warrantless cell phone searches – Washington Times.

Holder seeks to avert mandatory minimum sentences for some low-level drug offenders

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is set to announce Monday that low-level, nonviolent drug offenders with no ties to gangs or large-scale drug organizations will no longer be charged with offenses that impose severe mandatory sentences.

The new Justice Department policy is part of a comprehensive prison reform package that Holder will reveal in a speech to the American Bar Association in San Francisco, according to senior department officials. He is also expected to introduce a policy to reduce sentences for elderly, nonviolent inmates and find alternatives to prison for nonviolent criminals.

Good. Better if they end the drug war entirely, but I’m happy for baby steps in that direction. (Credit where credit is due.) Via Holder seeks to avert mandatory minimum sentences for some low-level drug offenders – The Washington Post.

It’s not a “social contract.” It’s a “peace treaty.”

Our “social contract” is not a valid contract in any normative sense of the term, since the supposed parties never agreed to it. The standard response is that you agree by choosing to remain in the country. But that only works if the government already owns the country and so is entitled to decide who is permitted to live there, a claim that is itself based on the supposed social contract, which makes the argument circular.

A better metaphor than a contract would be a peace treaty. Different people in a society have different, and sometimes inconsistent, views of what each is entitled to. Since none of us has an unlimited ability to enforce his view, in practice we settle for some compromise, the best outcome we think we can get given the existing balance of forces. Viewed as a contract that is a contract made under duress, so not binding—but then, the same is true of a peace treaty, since the usual alternative to signing it is having people continue to drop bombs on you.

via Questions for Independence Day Evening, Art Carden | EconLog | Library of Economics and Liberty.