The Price of the Wrong Opinion

America's kids are learning how to live in a totalitarian society.

Forbes described yet another incident of political correctness run wild:

It wasn't a good idea for some of the girls, ages 12 to 15, on the Atlee (Va.) Little League softball team to react to a hard-fought Junior League World Series victory Aug. 4 over host Kirkland (Wash.) -- which had a player and a coach ejected for stealing signals and relaying them to the batter -- by posting a picture to social media featuring middle fingers raised in Kirkland's direction.

But it also was an extreme overreaction by Little League to kick Atlee out of the tournament and reinstate Kirkland as punishment for the post -- especially after Atlee's coach had the girls delete the post and apologize to Kirkland in person.

Should these 'tweens have publicly flipped their opponents the bird?  Absolutely not: it is impolite, unladylike, unsportsmanlike, obnoxious, and generally crass.

Should punishment have been swift and firm?  Of course, and, as far as we can tell from the story, their coach did exactly that in a highly appropriate and just way.

Twenty years ago, apologizing for rude comments would have been enough to close the incident - but unfortunately for these girls, not in our hyper-sensitive era.  No doubt somebody on the opposing team was offended and complained - understandably, we'd have done the same had our girl been on the receiving end - but apparently it didn't occur to anyone involved that the punishment ought to fit the crime, and the sporting equivalent of capital punishment was a tad excessive.  The league looks like draconian fools and the opposing team comes across like the "special snowflakes" of Internet ridicule.

Like Forbes, we agree that the Little League grossly overreacted to the team's actual offense on its merits.  However, there is an unintended silver lining that Forbes is insufficiently cynical to notice.

Life Lesson Learned

Imagine the outrage, the anger, the tears in the homes of the Atlee team members!  They'll remember this incident for a long time, and no doubt endure years of resentment for having their hard-fought victory yanked away.

And it's precisely because of the anvil-sized nature of the impact that this incident will show the girls more vividly than any parental admonition that what you say on the Internet can come back to haunt you.

However bad they are hurting right now, their hurt of the moment is dwarfed by having your life destroyed because of a tweet that our Social Justice Warriors decree to be unacceptable.  How many current examples are there of private individuals who've had their lives, their marriages, their careers, and their finances ruined by an ill-judged sentence?  A decade ago, at worst they'd have been punched in the snoot by an offended hearer; today, the Internet is forever and so is the penalty.

And the same is true for opinions that are expressed according to convention but contrary to political correctness.  USA Today reported:

Mozilla co-founder Brendan Eich stepped down Thursday as CEO, just days after his appointment. He left the nonprofit maker of the Firefox browser after furious attacks, largely on Twitter, over his $1,000 contribution to support of a now-overturned 2008 gay-marriage ban in California.

Mr. Eich exercised his constitutional right to "freedom of expression" by making a financial contribution to a political campaign as Americans have done for centuries.  The beliefs of this particular campaign - that homosexual unions are not, and ought not to be, marriages - were believed by nearly everybody in all of human history including such Democrat luminaries as FDR, JFK, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama, until a few minutes ago - but abruptly, Mr. Eich's ideas were not acceptable to the PC crowd even though a majority of California voters agreed with him.

The resounding win in the referendum Mr. Eich supported was overturned by a judge who - surprise, surprise - was in a homosexual relationship and promptly married his partner once he'd ruled such unions to be constitutionally required, but that wasn't enough; anyone who'd had the temerity to support the majority needed to pay a penalty.

Of course, those on the left loudly claim that was never the goal:

"There was no interest in creating an Internet lynch mob," OkCupid co-founder Sam Yagun, whose dating service site was among those engaged in online protest, said Friday. "I am opposed to that with every bone in my body."

Regardless of Mr. Yagun's stated intent, the protest his web site helped start destroyed a well-qualified executive over political issues having nothing to do with his job performance.  Our "lynch mob" atmosphere is one reason conservative groups are adamant about not releasing donor lists: like as not, the howling hordes will descend upon anybody who has the gall to support conservative views by writing a check.  This is exactly why our ballots are supposed to be secret even in union representation elections.

Growing up in this harsh, unforgiving world, the girl's team must take this lesson to heart if they are to have any hopes of a peaceful, moderately successful life.  Not all of us are willing to have riots take place at our public appearances, like Ann Coulter and many others; most of us would be horrified at mobs of angry leftists screaming epithets at our private residence while our teenage kids were present, as happened to bank executive Gregory Baer.

Some on the Internet are beginning to notice that things are getting out of hand.  The Times described one shamer's feelings:

As time passed, though, I watched these shame campaigns multiply, to the point that they targeted not just powerful institutions and public figures but really anyone perceived to have done something offensive. I also began to marvel at the disconnect between the severity of the crime and the gleeful savagery of the punishment. It almost felt as if shamings were now happening for their own sake, as if they were following a script.

This phenomenon has become known as the "politics of personal destruction," where it's considered to be OK to destroy people over political differences or even for the sake of having fun.  Bill Clinton made the phrase famous, but it's been around since the same tactics were used against President John Quincy Adams two centuries ago.

Pissing Away a Political Career

The odd thing about our modern upside-down society is, there is supposed to be a politics of personal destruction.  These days, though, it almost never works the way it's supposed to.  One of the few positive examples is the case of Anthony Weiner.

A decade ago, Mr. Weiner was a long-time Democratic Congressman from New York's 9th district.  His prospects for future advancement were incredibly bright: he was married to Huma Abedin, Sen. Hillary Clinton's closest aide who's sometimes been called her second daughter.

Then, catastrophe: in 2011, it was revealed that he'd exchanged "sexually explicit" Twitter messages with a woman who was not his wife.  At first he denied this, but when the photos were released, he 'fessed up, apologized, resigned from Congress, and entered rehab.  So far, aside from the postmodern form of his dalliances, Mr. Weiner had done nothing fundamentally different than untold numbers of other powerful men, and he responded in the standard way.

After a suitable time in purgatory, Mr. Weiner re-entered the political fray by running for Mayor of New York, strongly backed by the Clintons.  But in the midst of the campaign, it emerged that he'd once again been sending pornographic selfies to other women - including one who'd first written him to express her disapproval of his behavior.

This isn't just improper and perverse, it's criminally stupid; his campaign collapsed in a shambles and he was cast into outer darkness.  It wasn't enough: a few years later he was caught sexting again, this time with his toddler son in the background; his wife filed for divorce.  His life spiraled downhill rapidly: the police investigated for child endangerment and found he'd been sexting underage girls, which is a felony; in the course of that investigation, his laptop was found to contain classified information from Hillary Clinton's unauthorized email server.

The once-high-flying Weiner is now a convicted felon awaiting prison sentencing.  Uniquely in recent American history, his behavior has been so out of line that everybody on all sides agrees he is unfit for any position of public trust.  The "politics of personal destruction" worked correctly in his case.

Google Versus Americanism

However, there are three uncommon facts about Weiner's wrongdoing:

  • He committed acts which are offensive, felonious, contrary to political correctness, and unanimously condemned - namely, sexually approaching underage girls.
  • He was offered many second changes, and failed in them all.
  • He was very much a public figure throughout the entire escapade, rightfully under a harsher light than shines on most of us.

Most victims of personal destruction don't have any of these extra deficits, yet are destroyed anyway.  Indeed, it's become common for people's first entry into public visibility to be caused by a politically-correct SJW assault on them.

This week, the Wall Street Journal reports that software engineer James Damore, of whom nobody has previously ever heard, was fired for writing a memo criticizing Google's efforts to increase diversity in the firm.  The memo went viral inside Google and was published on Gizmodo (lacking the original charts or links providing documentary support to his theses).  His main offense seems to have been criticizing Google's efforts to get 50% representation of women at all levels in the firm by whatever means necessary; he summarized his arguments as follows:

  • Google's political bias has equated the freedom from offense with psychological safety, but shaming into silence is the antithesis of psychological safety.
  • This silencing has created an ideological echo chamber where some ideas are too sacred to be honestly discussed.
  • The lack of discussion fosters the most extreme and authoritarian elements of this ideology.
  • Extreme: all disparities in representation are due to oppression
  • Authoritarian: we should discriminate to correct for this oppression
  • Differences in distributions of traits between men and women may in part explain why we don't have 50% representation of women in tech and leadership. Discrimination to reach equal representation is unfair, divisive, and bad for business[emphasis added]

Logically and by definition, he's right in saying that any efforts to increase "diversity" must of necessity disadvantage people who're not members of any favored group.  Mr. Damore received a lot of internal support from colleagues who were glad he'd brought up thoughts they feared to express, and now he is the living embodiment of why they were right to fear speaking honestly.

His summary firing is irrefutable proof that his charges were true - some ideas are simply so sacred that criticism cannot be tolerated regardless of logic or proofs provided.

Mr. Damore's mortal sin?  He argued that women are underrepresented in tech not so much because they face bias or discrimination in the workplace, but because of inherent psychological differences between men and women.  The existence of psychological differences between men and women is not controversial in scientific circles; he didn't explore more controversial political-type views such as the fact that men fear women colleagues because a woman can accuse a rival of sexual harassment and destroy his career at any time.  As we discuss in "War on Men", even a very powerful man can be destroyed by womens' accusations regardless of whether they're true or not.

Unlike the Black Bloc antifa thugs at Berkeley, the Social Justice Warriors in the Google hierarchy didn't riot to suppress his ideas; they simply fired him after declaring that he had "advanced incorrect assumptions about gender."  This is a bit of a stretch - Mr. Damore had almost completed a Harvard PhD in biological systems.  It may be that he knows a bit more about gender differences than the average HR functionary or even the Google president.  Read his memo here and decide for yourself.

Conservative Lives Matter?

In a way, businesses like Google have to respond to the PC-driven, shaming culture because it is powerful enough to harm their bottom line if they infuriate too much of the SJW crowd.  The Wall Street Journal reports that SeaWorld attendance is down precipitously due to social media criticism of the way they treat whales that the company is losing money and may go out of business; after most of two centuries, Ringling Brothers Circus finally folded the tent after decades of activist complaints about their "exploitation" of animals.  Since that's the whole point of a traditional circus, they were ultimately driven out of business, and SeaWorld will probably be run out of the animal-show business too.

Google isn't going to be bankrupted the same way, but their HR is rightly concerned about being able to hire the best people in large numbers.  Since they believe a politically correct atmosphere is required to attract young smart folks, that's what they must create by whatever means necessary.

Gender balance in various professions isn't the only topic that can't be discussed; "Candid Conversations about Race" explains why we can't have candid conversations about race either.  The Google engineer pointed out an inconvenient truth:

When addressing the gap in representation in the population, we need to look at population level differences in distributions. If we can't have an honest discussion about this, then we can never truly solve the problem[emphasis added]

He's right, of course.  We believe that the elites at the top of our pyramid know full well that problems of inequality can't be solved with our current approaches.  They don't want the problems to be truly solved because there is political capital to be gained by pointing differences out and encouraging people to blame other people for their failures.

This is what Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, author of The Gulag Archipelago, meant when he warned Harvard graduates of:

"an atmosphere of moral mediocrity, paralyzing man's noblest impulses" and a "tilt of freedom in the direction of evil ... evidently born primarily out of a humanistic and benevolent concept according to which there is no evil inherent in human nature."

He also said, "In order for men to commit great evil, they must first be convinced that they are doing good."

Rank and file leftists are so convinced that their programs are good that they can't see the evil that they do.  We think their leaders know, but want to keep those votes coming.

What Now?

In discussing the Google memo, Wired summarized the company's dilemma:

Discipline the author and risk criticism that Google is censoring speech, or stand by and inflame concerns that the company does not welcome women, an issue that is already the source of internal debate and a government investigation. ...

"How do we ride that line that by law you are entitled to your opinions and write whatever you want but the culture we are trying to build does not support these ideas?" [emphasis added]

Our supposedly "diverse" society which used to be based on freedom of speech has become a totalitarian mechanism for suppressing any thought, no matter how diverse, which doesn't match the very short list of currently-acceptable ideas.  Google has now proven its PC SJW credentials; it has also lost at least one smart technical employee, and it remains to be seen how many other smart conservatives will now steer clear of a Google career.  Their gamble is that the one outweighs the other.

In the meantime, the Atlee girls' Little League team had a difficult lesson, but they now know that anything put on social media can result in a disproportionate response.  From the perspective of the parents and the individuals involved, if this saves each girl only one career-destroying miscalculation, the pain will have been worth it.

Alas, from the perspective of our entire country, if nobody is willing to take personal or professional risks in defense of truth and free speech, we won't have them for very long.  Perhaps that point has already been crossed.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Society.
Reader Comments

Have you seen the NSC memo titled "POTUS & Political Warfare"? Probably the most chilling thing I've read all year. Here's a link to the article via the Foreign Policy website.

August 14, 2017 9:26 AM

There are two issues here that seem to be exacerbated by social media. The ability of minors to do stupid things without " anvil" punishment and the realization that PC thinking is quickly morphing to livelihood threatening thought control. Both seem to stem from the belief that there is one true way of thinking and all others must be crushed.
Minors are minors because society has felt that they need adult supervision until they reach the age of majority. Mr Weiner kept getting second chances, probably because he spouted PC verbiage, until he started messing with impressionable young girls. As it should be. But the girls from Atlee got the book thrown at them for childish activity. I agree that the Coach handled it well. An adult pointing out the error of their ways and applying punishment commensurate with the crime. It is incomprehensible why the PC police thought they had to go one better. Young people make mistakes. It is important that they are used as a teaching moment. Not simply as a reason for though police to flex their muscles.
Probably the best example of PC thought control gone wrong was Starbux's " conversation about race" several years back. It was during some of the Black Live Matter outbursts and I guess they assumed that it would lead to emotive drivel about how everybody should be " nice". In several instances, coffee buyers brought up Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan's 30+ year old memo about how illegitimacy in the African American communities would lead to family dissolution and crime by unsupervised young males ( birth out of wedlock rates then were about 10% what they are now). Needless ti say the average barista wasn't prepared for that. It became clear pretty quickly this was a mistake and Mr Schultz shut it down.
I guess if there is any " answer" to the PC Thought Control movement is to elevate the are of debate. I have no idea if Debate Clubs still exist in High Schools and colleges. It would be great if they could be elevated. Hopefully young people would understand that there are other points of view than the PC party line.

August 14, 2017 11:34 AM

I couldn't agree more with your comments. I fear, however, that we're all preaching to the choir, while the PC flames are rapidly coming up the basement stairs. I've never considered myself an alarmist, but this business has a particularly bad scent to it. I hope we're not in the early stages of the perfect storm, which feeds on the widespread confusion about the present administration, and the overwhelming bias of the media and the educational system, to greatly multiply the effect of the inherent evil of the crazier progressives.
Although I certainly respect the idea expressed in the letter above, about debate clubs, I fear that a much larger arsenal of dead serious, faster acting, responses will be required to contain this threat. I'm afraid that challenging the citizenry to stand up and be brave and resolute in the face of this onslaught will be about as successful as it was in pre-war Germany. I would sure like to hear some ideas......
Please keep up the great writing; it's much appreciated.

August 15, 2017 11:17 PM

The Little League just created a bunch of potential new libertarians at Atlee. Good job!

August 27, 2017 1:42 PM

This article lists a number of other people whose careers were destroyed by the same illiberal forces:

August 31, 2018 10:09 AM

WIRED believes that Mr. Damore stated well-recognized differences but exaggerated the differences. They say it wasn't a rant, and to a degree, being fired proved his point.

Damore's assertion that men and women think different is actually pretty uncontroversial, and he cites a paper to back it up, from a team led by David Schmitt, a psychologist at Bradley University in Illinois and director of the International Sexuality Description Project. The 2008 article, "Why Can't a Man Be More Like a Woman? Sex Difference in Big Five Personality Traits Across 55 Cultures," does indeed seem to show that women rate higher than men in neuroticism, extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.

As always, the issue is the extent of the difference (and what causes it-more on that in a bit). Also, as Damore himself notes: Google hires individuals, not populations.

Damore argues that greater extraversion and agreeableness, on the whole, would make it harder for women to negotiate and stake out leadership positions in an organization, and that higher neuroticism would naturally lead to fewer women in high-stress jobs. The first-order criticism here is easy: Damore oversells the difference cited in the paper. As Schmitt tells WIRED via email, "These sex differences in neuroticism are not very large, with biological sex perhaps accounting for only 10 percent of the variance." The other 90 percent, in other words, are the result of individual variation, environment, and upbringing.


Very smart people studying the same things collect related, overlapping data and then say that data proves wildly different hypotheses, or fits into divergent theoretical frameworks. The incoherency problem makes it hard to know what social science is valid in a given situation.

[Not to mention the fact that VERY FEW social science studies are replicable]


Here's Damore's take: "On average, men and women biologically differ in many ways."

Nothing to argue about here. If men and women didn't differ biologically, it would make sexual reproduction very difficult indeed. Also, men and women differ in height (on average), bone mass (on average), and fat, muscle, and body hair distribution (on average). No one thinks those differences are socially constructed.

Damore, though, is saying that differences in cognitive or personality traits-if they exist at all-have both social and biological origins. And those biological origins, he says, are exactly what scientists would predict from an evolutionary perspective.

Evolutionary psychology and its forebear, sociobiology, are themselves problematic fields. Two decades ago evo-psych was all the rage. It's essential argument: Males and females across species have faced different kinds of pressures on their ability to successfully reproduce-the mechanism, simplistically, through which evolution operates. Those pressures lead to different mating strategies for males and females, which in turn show up as biological and psychological differences-distinctions present in men and women today.

In fact, evolutionary biologists today race to point out that the nature-versus-nurture dichotomy is outdated. No serious scientist finds it to be a credible model.


In 2005, Lawrence Summers, then president of Harvard, suggested publicly that women might not have as much "innate ability" as men to succeed in academic disciplines that require advanced mathematical abilities. In response, psychologists got together to assess more than 100 years of work and present a consensus statement about whether Summers was right. They concluded that a wide range of sociocultural forces contribute to sex difference in STEM achievement and ability, including family, neighborhood, school influences, training experiences, cultural practices, and, yes, some biological factors.

August 12, 2022 3:35 PM
Add Your Comment...
4000 characters remaining
Loading question...