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The Price of the Wrong Opinion

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

By Petrarch  |  August 14, 2017

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:

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.