Violenceacrez, Reddit and Abuse of Power

[Updated: It appears that I misread David’s post – and the responses of some of his commenters.  My bad.  Huge apologies to all involved, especially David.]

 

I’m just going to fess up right now – here, at the beginning of this post – that of everyone here at the League, I am by far the least Internet and computer savvy.  It’s really not even close.

I have never once written a line of code.  I can’t trace my on-line lineage back to some late 1990s/early 2000s bulletin-board community.  When we have editorial email threads about potential new site features, the question I am most likely to ask to any suggestion that references anything on the Internet is, “What?”    I still have to either google just about every damn acronym people use in the comment section.[1]  Hell, two years ago I didn’t know what a blog was. I say all of this up front to officially get it out of the way, so that everyone so can just label me an old man that just doesn’t “get” their new hip technology culture before we even begin.  So if you’re prone to do that, go ahead and get it out now.  I’ll wait…..  Got it off your chest?  Good.  Then I’ll proceed with the question I find that I most want to ask the good citizens of the Internet:

What the f**k is wrong with you people?

Thanks to two posts by David, it has come to my attention that a volunteer subeditor for Reddit has been “outed” by Adrian Chen over at Gawker, and as a consequence has lost his job with his real life (and non-Reddit) employer. Michael Brutsch, who goes by the online handle Violentacrez, was fired this week from his job at a Texas financial services company.  Called a troll by Chen (and many others), Brutsch has been a Reddit community leader as well as moderator of many of the site’s subreddits.  Using a variety of sockpuppet aliases (such as Chokeabitch, Niggerjailbait, Rapebait and Jewmerica) Brutsch apparently considered himself something of a cross between a free speech Gadfly and an outraging and offensive performance artiste. His chief subreddit (and the second most popular on Reddit) was Jailbait, the provocatively named site that featured exactly what you might expect.

The screams from many Reddit users and moderators over Brutsch’s outing were both swift and loud.  That outcry is echoed elsewhere, including here at the League – both by David and (at least at the time I am writing this paragraph) all of his commenters.  If we allow this kind of censorship, I am asked, where do we draw the line?

Defending Brutsch, David brings up an example of a real-life married couple that made a sex tape which led to the husband’s dismissal from the police department for which he worked.  He also points to his own difficulties with Internet gatekeepers under his filmmaking nom de plume, Tony Comstock.  Commenter James B. Franks sets his sights on Gawker’s Chen, saying “I fall firmly into the, ‘I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it’ camp. This sort of thing needs to get stomped on fast.”  On Reddit, of course, the comments against Chen are far darker, spicier and written with far more vitriol.  (Many of the subreddits responded initially by banning all links to Gawker.)

The entire Violenceacrez issue has been framed (initially by Brutsch and the Reddit community, and later by David and his commenters) as one of free speech.  Being a blogger, I am a pretty big advocate of this particular freedom and I stand pretty firm on the rights of people to give voice to unpopular ideas, even ones that offend.  However, in this case I think it’s worth taking a look at exactly what kind of “free speech” everyone is worried about being trampled:

[W]ith Jailbait, Violentacrez decided to create a safe space for people sexually attracted to underage girls to share their photo stashes… Jailbait was the online equivalent of systematized street harassment. Users posted snapshots of tween and teenage girls, often in bikinis and skirts. Many of these were lifted from their Facebook accounts and thrown in front of Jailbait’s 20,000 horny subscribers.

Got that?  The freedom of speech being defended by Brutsch, Reddit, David and others is the ability of Brutsch and others to take pictures of other people – underage people, without their knowledge or permission – and share them with tens (hundreds?) of thousands of others as masturbation fodder.

If you’re wondering where I draw the line in the free speech debate, this is pretty much it.  You want to post an essay or a short fiction about bedding an 11 year-old girl, hey, knock yourself out.  Be my guest!  I think it’s a little weird, but it takes all kinds, right? But sneaking a quick picture up the skirt of an 11 year-old girl who’s just out at Baskin Robbins with her parents, and then posting it on the Internet on a free-pornography subreddit?  That crosses so many lines of public decency, morality, courtesy and legal liability that I find myself slack jawed so many people here and on Reddit view someone objecting to doing so as a “chilling” hampering of their First Amendment rights.

This is not a question of free speech.  It is a case of the abuse of power and privilege, albeit a very nerdy one.

David uses the aforementioned case of the Alabama police officer that made a tape of himself having sex as the natural corollary to the Brutsch situation. But I would argue that since that police officer and his wife were willing participants – both in the video’s creation and its distribution – it’s a a poor choice.  To my mind, the police officer that’s currently under investigation from East Sussex is the real corollary to Brutsch:

This year Nicola Brookes, a 45 year-old woman from Brighton, posted a line of support for a contestant on television’s Fear Factor on her Face Book page.  A police officer who came across that post (and, it would seem, really did not like the contestant) began an intense, months long harassment of Brookes.  This harassment included posting sexually explicit threats from an anonymous source to both Brookes and her daughter, as well as hacking into her email account and sending out notices to friends and employers, in Brookes’s name, that she was a prostitute, a child pornographer, and a drug abuser.

The reason that the officer in question was so willing to commit these offenses against a 45 year-old woman are the same reasons that Brutsch – and others on Reddit – have been so willing to do similar to underage girls: Their vastly superior knowledge of computers, code, and hacking allowed them to completely dominate another human being with little fear or reprisal.  In the virtual world of the Internet, this is what abuse of power and privilege looks like.

Internet defenders of Brutsch bemoan Chen’s not respecting Violentacerz’s desire to keep personal-life details private – and his employer’s right to not be associated with such actions when made public – while simultaneously defending Brutsch’s right to invade others’ privacy as “free speech.”  This is of course ironic, but it is not surprising.  Most of those demanding a system of rules where the computer savvy are allowed to victimize the unlearned – while being fully protected by that same system for doing so – are the very people that already sit atop that food chain.  In the fleshbot world, those in power like to set things up so that if you are a cashier who steals $2,000 from your customer you go to jail, but if you are an executive that steals $20 million from your clients you pay fines and make deals with the district attorney.  In the digital world, those in power are no different.

As to the financial services company that fired Brutsch, I will say only this: If he were my employee, I would have fired him immediately.  If I found out that his supervisor knew of his online goings on and decided not to say anything about it, I would fire him or her as well.

People should not confuse “freedom of speech” with “freedom from consequences.”

 

[1] (Or just make up my own definition.  For example, I long ago decided when someone types ROLF they’re saying “I just threw up,” because phonetically ROLF! is the sound people make when they vomit.  I’ve never bothered to look up the real definition, because I know I’ll just be disappointed.)

Follow Tod on Twitter, view his archive, or email him.

Please do be so kind as to share this post.
Share

250 thoughts on “Violenceacrez, Reddit and Abuse of Power

  1. I am not supporting Bustch in the comments. I think the man is a pathetic loser.

    However, there is a serious issue about whether an employer should be able to fire an employee for off-work legal activity. Violentacrez is a horrible example though. The cop who made a sex tape with his wife is a better example. There is nothing illegal about making a sex tape with another consenting adult. There is nothing illegal about putting this on the Internet. Why should an employer be allowed to get uptight about this and fire said employee? I say this as a serious issue of labor rights. I have also heard of conservative employers who fired employees for getting divorced.

    There is nothing I find supportable or laudable about the dude. However if I am going to be a good civil libertarian, I can’t just make it about activities or people that I support and like.

      Quote  Link

    Report

  2. The story about the police officer from Brighton is a false equivalence. He was abusing his power as an officer of the state and should be punished for that. This is different than a police officer making a sextape with his consenting wife or girlfriend.

      Quote  Link

    Report

      • No it isn’t okay and should result in some kind of civil lawsuit. Perhaps even against the employer if said harassment was done during work hours and with work resources. Then the guy could fired.

        Allowing employer’s to fire for any off-work reason is tricky and often wrong. Perhaps sometimes an employer needs to and with good cause but I am trying to think of a system that protects most people,

        How would you write a law that allows an employer to fire someone like this idiot while protecting another employee who belongs to an S and M type group/club or some kind of transgresive performance collective?

          Quote  Link

        Report

        • I’m not advocating writing any laws at all.

          But to the larger point, I see a very, very huge chasm between any group of adults engaging in consensual activities and using pictures of underage children without their knowledge or consent. If I’m an employer, I don’t worry that an employee of mine likes spicy sex. One can engage in spicy sex and still be a moral person who has an issue with breaking the law at others’ expense.

          I would be gravely concerned about one that would do what Brutsch did, however.

            Quote  Link

          Report

          • While you might not be concerned, plenty of more moralistic employers are concerned.

            IIRC from my employment law class, there are four states with “lifestyle protection” laws that prevent employers from firing employees for lawful out of work activity. In all other U.S. jurisdictions, firing for any out of work activity is fair game. At-Will really does mean At-Will for the most part. Any employee can be fired for a good reason, bad reason, or no reason at all.

            I am generally opposed to this. I am more for Just Cause firing (aka as good reasons only) and will easily and without a fight concede that Violentacrez easily falls into Just Cause termination. So I recant and apologize for any previous defense.

            I feel sorry for his victims and hope they sue and win (possibly even from reddit). I feel sorry for his wife because she is very sick. Though according to the gawker story she seems to have full knowledge of his trolling activties which gives me pasue. I think her on-line name was not_so_violentacrez.

              Quote  Link

            Report

            • I actually agree with this. I just don’t think that means “so anything goes.”

              As for the wife, yeah, it’s pretty harsh. And it makes me wonder what the hell everybody was thinking.

              And now, how easy is it going to be to get a healthcare-benny job? How will this guy ever be hirable in the age of google?

                Quote  Link

              Report

              • To answer your question (hopefully it was not rhetorical)

                1. He will never be hired anywhere again.

                2. He will look for employers too lazy too google or get “lucky” and find one that sympathizes.

                3. He will need to lay low for a few months and then start looking as this story fades into Internet memory.

                  Quote  Link

                Report

              • The shameful fact that not_so_violentacrez doesn’t have health insurance (that is the shameful fact that there are uninsured people in the USA) can be addresses separately. To a considerable extent is has been addressed. Depending on elections she will probably get either medicaid or a large enough subsidy that they can buy insurance on an exchange if violentacrez can never get a job with benefits.

                This is related to employment at will. It wouldn’t be so bad if (when ?) it no longer means that you have health insurance at the will of your employer or your spouse’s employer . More generally a generous welfare state is an alternative approach to preventing employers from having vast and arbitrary power over employees.

                the US employment at will labor law is unusual in developed countries. In most other developed countries there is a list of legitimate reasons for dismissal not a list of disallowed reasons for dismissal (race, unioni activity etc in the USA). Some of these other countries have little problem getting employers to hire people even though they can’t fire them at will (others of them have huge unemployment). Just cause dismissal legislature seems extreme and (I think) almost inconceivable to you. But it is very widespread.

                  Quote  Link

                Report

                • Agreed on the healthcare and I support single-payer. In some ways, single payer (and other safety net stuff) would make me more willing to support at-will employment because people will not be completely fucked if terminated.

                  What gives me pause is her screenname of not_so_violentacrez. This means she knew about and approved of her husband’s activities. What the fuck?

                  And then there is the other story (which I still hope is false) about his nineteen year old stepdaughter and a previous wife.

                    Quote  Link

                  Report

  3. Though I have to admit, I understand and empathize with anyone who would be creeped out by violentacrez and not want to work near him. I would fire him before telling my innocent employees to deal with the situation if I were the boss.

      Quote  Link

    Report

  4. I am reading Jonathan Haidt’s “The Righteous Mind” currently, and it expresses what I have sensed for a while now- that there are moral foundations to our political opinions that rest on things like justice, fairness, sacredness and group identity.

    Its clear that his intention of trolling was exactly to push these very boundaries- he deliberately struck at the most sacred of red lines in our culture- race and children.
    It is unnerving to think of getting fired for expressing an idea; but then again freedom can’t be absolute, only within a limited range.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    • “It is unnerving to think of getting fired for expressing an idea;”

      I think framing the taking pictures up the skirts of children without their consent and posting them on free porn sites as “expressing an idea” is a bit of a reach.

      If someone video-taped your employee, say, torching a building at night, or holding up a liquor store, and you saw that video, would your concerns be centered around that video’s expressing an idea?

        Quote  Link

      Report

          • That’s a valid epistemological objection, Michelle. Haidt’s research pool was self-selecting. But I still think the media is fairly national on politics: the 3 cable networks, AP and Reuters, NYT content is syndicated as well. Talk radio & Fox vs. the MainStreamMedia.

            But you can’t listen to Limbaugh without him relaying what the MSM is saying whereas one can live in America and live a fairly Fox-free life [which I believe you have written you do].

            Since the MSM has the investigative tools, the right is mostly in the business of interpretation. Look at Drudge on any given day, and it’s MSM sources far more than Daily Caller let alone WorldNutDaily or NewsMax.

            http://www.drudgereport.com/

            It’s what Drudge picks out from the steaming pile of MSM content that makes him “right-wing,” not his sources themselves. The Drudge reader is fully bilingual.

              Quote  Link

            Report

            • I get what you’re saying, but it’s hard to avoid the Fox’o’sphere even if you never tune in. Heck, where would Jon Stewart be without Fox? Plus, it’s not like Fox doesn’t have the resources to do actual investigative reporting if they so desired but their main objective seems to be liberal bashing.

              To some extent, to be at all politically literate, you need to know what the other side is up to no matter what your political persuasion.

                Quote  Link

              Report

              • Jon Stewart’s Fox News Channel isn’t the real FNC. Anyone can beat the dregs of anything. Gretchen Carlson vs. Ed Schultz? We’re in WTF territory here, Charmin vs. the Regular Brand.

                I find you a principled correspondent, Michelle. Everything I Know About Fox I Learned From Jon Stewart ain’t it. I watch them both. Bill O’Reilly got a draw in their “debate” the other day—I actually think well of both Stewart and O’Reilly. And the beautiful thing is that they clearly think well enough of each other or they wouldn’t have appeared together on the same stage.

                So we—you and me and all us other stooges—we all gotta dial it back a bit as fellow Americans and all. I think you can feel me on this.

                Honestly, I’ll go with Charles Krauthammer as the “Foxosphere.” If you can beat him, I guess you’ve beaten the best. Although if we’re to be obliged to defend every godamm thing someone on our side sez, you have to put up somebody to get punked too.

                Or we could just go with Obama vs. Romney and see what happens.

                  Quote  Link

                Report

                • It’s more than that, though.

                  For example, I just clicked over now, and the top story links into how many people are (justifiably) concerned that both camps have said they will boycott the debate tonight unless the moderator agrees not ask any follow up questions. This is a pretty big meme right now, and is being covered (and criticized) by just about everybody who isn’t part of either campaign.

                  The Drudge headline?

                  “Feminists Furious!”

                  It links to a Daily Caller story that quote’s some prominent women saying there ought to be follow up questions.

                  This isn’t a case of “finding” a story, it’s a case of creating one. It’s taking a story that pundits everywhere are talking about, selecting a few quotes from one particular demographic and misrepresenting that they are they only ones talking about it, and then attempting to persuade a casual reader that if Romney doesn’t do well tonight, it’s because of those crazy feminists.

                  I’m not saying you can’t find any examples of similar tactics on the other side. I *am* saying that if you are defending that type of journalism as simply reporting news front page that others are burying in the Metro section, you’re being disingenuous.

                    Quote  Link

                  Report

              • Rufus,

                1.) I don’t read Drudge.

                2.) I realize you were being snarky.

                3.) But, advocatus diaboli – if it turned out that that event was (after taking relative population sizes into account) occurring at a rate significantly higher than the race-reversed scenario (white kids jump a black person somewhere in the US)* – would your implied Drudge post in fact be news that was worthy of reporting, particularly if in other media sources, the frequency of, or emphasis on, reporting these 2 scenarios was flipped**?

                * I have no idea if this is the case.
                ** Ditto.
                *** This is the most convoluted question I have ever written. Sorry.

                  Quote  Link

                Report

                • (responding to Glyph) Well, that’s the assumption, right? I assume Drudge strongly believes that there is an epidemic of black kids running around beating up whites across the country that the politically correct media is burying, which is why he chooses those stories to highlight so often. After a while of reading him, you get the idea what themes and trends he wants to highlight, and which ones he thinks the mainstream media is ignoring. I’m also sure that, to a lepidopterist, there are some fascinating trends happening with butterflies right now that the media is very wrongly overlooking. I’m not sure that putting them on a blog as front page news necessarily proves that to be correct.

                    Quote  Link

                  Report

                  • Sure, I have never even read him to my knowledge, and I unpacked all that out of your initial comment and Tom’s reply.

                    My question is, what if a reliable peer-reviewed meta-study of some kind bore that out?

                    Would we still make snarky comments about Drudge’s personal obsession, only then we’d make fun of him because well, yeah, duh, EVERYBODY knows that, he must have an unseemly motivation or mental imbalance to keep chasing his own white whale (ha!) all the time like that?

                    Or, would we look into why it was true, and what if anything could be done about it, and why the media had not been reporting things accurately, and grudgingly admit that that weirdo Drudge had been right all along?

                    I guess I feel like we’d do option #1 more than #2. Don’t know why.

                    Although, maybe not – maybe ‘cos Catholicism is on my brain from an exchange in the Hobsbawm thread, but for a long time there people thought Sinead O’Connor was nuts after the SNL / Pope picture / abuse & coverup accusation thing.

                    But it turned out she wasn’t (not about that, anyway). So my sense is that she’s been vindicated. So maybe if Drudge turned out to be right people would give him some credit.

                    In a semi-related note, if Romney does win this election, we should declare a single ‘TVD Day’ here at the League. Tom’s never lost faith in his man. Though a lot of people might want to take TVD day off here, to avoid the inevitable crowing that would ensue. ;-)

                      Quote  Link

                    Report

                    • Hey, maybe so. It’s possible that someone else will bear our his thesis.
                      But my point is that Drudge has not borne out his thesis, although plenty of his readers seem to think he has. He’s just searched out certain news stories and hyped them in a specific way. It’s also pretty hard to see how he’s demonstrated that the media fails to report certain stories or ignores them by linking to where the mainstream media reported those stories. Really, all he’s shown is that they fail to give his interests the proper emphasis. If it turns out that his obsessions correspond to some reality, then huzzah. But, he’s not going to be the one to prove it by holing up in a mansion in Florida and linking to other people’s reporting in a selective way.

                        Quote  Link

                      Report

                    • Fair enough. But if he is to be dismissed simply because he highlights the stories that interest him, or complains they don’t interest others enough, or attempts to string those stories together into a narrative – well, see also: every other blogger ever.

                      So I guess what’s more interesting to me than the existence of Drudge or his obsessions is, is he right or wrong? And if he’s right, why is that so, what does it say, and what if anything can or should be done about it?

                      This is obviously all way outside the scope of this discussion though.

                        Quote  Link

                      Report

                    • Drudge is Drudge because he broke the “non-story” of Monica Lewinsky when the mainstream media were burying it.

                      We should be praising the multiplicity of voices, not delegitimizing them. Talking Points Memo is Drudge’s act from the left, but they play it straight. I say, good on them. Who watches the watchers?

                      http://www.realclearpolitics.com/2012/08/17/how_drudge_report039s_lewinsky_scoop_changed_journalism_287728.html

                        Quote  Link

                      Report

                    • Well, I agree, but I don’t really think I am dismissing him. I read Drudge pretty regularly- at least a few times a week. If nothing else, it tips me off about what stories conservatives will be bringing up here in discussions. I just read him with a grain of salt that his “bilingual” readers seem not to.

                      As for the crime statistics, we got into them a while ago when I was arguing with a drive-by commenter about why the media, in her opinion, was failing to report the wave of African-American hooliganism in Chuck E. Cheese restaurants (no, seriously). My point then was that most violent crime is so vanishingly small in comparison with the larger population that it’s hard to draw any sorts of general conclusions about what it says about the larger society- a problem I also have when feminists try to characterize the overall culture’s gender norms by focusing in on rapists.

                        Quote  Link

                      Report

                    • I’m not anxious to get into the tall weeds or defending Drudge’s existence, but I think he was trying to get ahead of a phenomenon of violent “flash mobs,” one which fortunately appeared to have flared but died.

                      *http://www.blackyouthproject.com/2012/05/report-violent-flash-mobs-are-caused-by-boredom-lack-of-resources/

                      The phenomenon went unreported in the national news; it was only Drudge linking to the various local media that the pattern was even visible. Otherwise one would read his local paper and see

                      http://www.suntimes.com/news/crime/14080435-418/wicker-park-store-victim-of-flash-mobbery.html

                      only isolated incidents. It may have been un-PC but it was sharp aggregating on Drudge’s part.

                      _________
                      *”A recent study of the controversial, so-called ‘flash mob’ phenomenon, conducted by the Kansas City Area Education Research Consortium, suggests that flash mobs are largely triggered by boredom, a lack of resources, and a desire to “provoke older people and make havoc.”

                      Though the study largely ignores race, high profile critics of flash mobs like Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Maryland Legislator Pat McDonough have explicitly singled out black youth has purveyors of fear and violence through flash mobs.

                      While most flash mobs are nonviolent, some have turned violent, leading to curfews for young people in cities across the country. KC-AERC surveyed 280 teenagers and focus groups of 50 young people in order to gain a better understanding of the nature of these incidents.”

                        Quote  Link

                      Report

                    • We should be praising the multiplicity of voices, not delegitimizing them.

                      Nah, what I’m saying is actually pretty simple. It’s not a matter of praising or deligitimizing anyone. You say we should read the mainstream media with a critical eye and part of that is looking as well to these alternative media sources. I agree with all that and add that we should read ALL of our sources with a critical eye, including the TPMs and Drudge Reports. Just because they’re outside of the media borg doesn’t mean that we should leave the grain of salt out when we read them.

                        Quote  Link

                      Report

                    • Actually, Rufus, my thesis is that the truth is out there, just buried in plain sight. I don’t think the mainstream media lies as much as slants. If you read a long NYT piece, the truth is in there, only it’s in the 15th paragraph, not reflected in the headline, not above the fold, it’s below the fold on Page A68.

                      That’s where Drudge comes in–he simply makes what’s in the 15th paragraph on Page A68 the headline and the truth is out.

                      In fact, that’s my secret for reading a mainstream newspaper–just start at the end and work back toward the headline.

                        Quote  Link

                      Report

                    • In fact, that’s my secret for reading a mainstream newspaper–just start at the end and work back toward the headline.

                      Huh. That’s Noam Chomsky’s advice on reading the news as well. It’s interesting that both he and you don’t come to the same conclusions…

                        Quote  Link

                      Report

                  • Okay, let me get this straight, and please understand that I don’t mean this to sound snarky, but it seems to me that what you’re saying is that, if a newspaper editor takes one story or one aspect of a story and hypes that, via headlines and where it’s positioned, that they’re “slanting” the news; however, if Drudge takes another aspect of the story- say the 15th paragraph on page 32- and makes it a headline on his front page, he’s bringing out the real story or even just the “truth” and allowing it to shine. That really feels to me like a matter of perspective.

                      Quote  Link

                    Report

          • I believe that even people in Red America get more exposure to liberalish perspectives than the inverse in Blue America. If you consumer popular media, or go to college, it’s hard not to be exposed to liberalish perspectives. Not that you can’t be shielded from it, but it takes quite a bit of effort on the part of your family and community.

              Quote  Link

            Report

            • I think this might be true of college life, and perhaps even sitcoms, but as a general statement it depends in large part on where you are. When I was growing up, I knew three types of people: far rightists (mostly white supremacists), conservatives, and Blue Dog Democrats (who voted for Reagan). I didn’t really realize there was a “left,” other than maybe those scary commies, until late in high school, and I didn’t meet any liberal Democrats, much less actual leftists, until college. When I go home now, I run into conservatives and moderate Republicans (my hometown is in one of the most conservative areas of Tennessee). All but one of my friends from high school whom I’ve friended on Facebook are conservatives (and the one who’s not is a moderate Democrat).

              Had I grown up in the East Village, or Eugene Oregon, things would have been different.

                Quote  Link

              Report

              • How much exposure one gets to each side is dependent on where you’re from, but I think it uneven in the aggregate. (This isn’t meant as a bitch-moan-whine or a brag – more just an “it is what it is” observation from splitting my time between cultures.)

                  Quote  Link

                Report

                • This is perhaps true today, though there are a whole hell of a lot of people who get all of their news from Fox News, right wing radio, conservative blogs, and maybe a newspaper. And they don’t watch racy sitcoms that include gay people or interracial couples or whatever counts as liberal these days. In other words, I think the “bilingual” thing is probably bullshit, on two levels: 1.) while a lot of people have to be bilingual, I don’t think it’s limited to either end of the political spectrum, and 2.) a whole lot of people on both ends choose not to be bilingual, or remain monolingual by default, because people associate with people like them for the most part, and they seek out information that fits with their world views.

                  I know Tom thinks Haidt confirms his view, but he’s wrong, and he misrepresents Haidt’s work every time he brings him into his “bilingualism” discussion.

                  If you’re in a place that is overwhelmingly liberal or conservative, you probably have to be bilingual to some extent, or else you have to shut yourself off from the bulk of the people around you. This isn’t just a regional thing, either. I know a few people who are relatively political liberal, but are Evangelical Christians. They have to be bilingual because so much of their social circle is extremely conservative. If you live in a place that’s politically diverse, however, or that’s mostly middle of the road, it’s fairly easy to be politically monolingual without any social cost.

                    Quote  Link

                  Report

                  • It may actually be less true today than in years’ past, due in part to things like Fox News and the Christian entertainment industry, and it may be more true insofar as socially liberal (or libertine) values have found more of a home on our airwaves and the ability of liberals to make a more entertaining product while conservatives fail in that regard. It’s hard to say.

                    I don’t disagree that there are bilinguists on both sides. I’m just hung up on what I see as an asymmetry. I live in a red place, I was raised in another red place, yet it’s still easier for me to tune out one side than the other due to the prevailing cultural winds. Put be in Blue America (where I have also lived), it becomes much easier but for the fact that I myself do not lean to the left. (To be fair, I could be extrapolating too much from my own experience.)

                      Quote  Link

                    Report

      • It validates my thought that one of the reasons liberalism failed to win electroal majorities is that we opted to get tagged with the “anything goes” libertine reputation.

        I don’t think it is true, maybe never was, but we ceded the image of national patriotism and personal morality to the other side, and even to this day don’t fight very hard for it.

        We scorn the totems and emblems of the flag and religion, but they actually are important. The fact that the other side cynically exploits them only proves how powerfully important they are.

          Quote  Link

        Report

  5. If we allow this kind of censorship, I am asked, where do we draw the line?

    What kind of censorship? There wasn’t any censorship involved, so far as I can tell.

      Quote  Link

    Report

      • Yeah, on reflection, I just can’t see how this is a big deal. I especially don’t understand the complaint coming from someone closely aligned with libertarianism, not only because libertarians advocate right to work laws (which entail the right to fire), but because the complaint is cultural at this point, and not legal. And complaining about the abuses permitted under cover of cultural norms is a pretty standard liberal (statist!) complaint!

        But … maybe I don’t understand what’s in play.

          Quote  Link

        Report

        • I suppose I can see the whole “right to privacy” thing going on with a right to be anonymous, but violating the privacy of others seemed to be part of his M.O. so we’re talking about the right of someone to privately violate the privacy of others?

          I don’t know that I’m comfortable with him losing his job for his offline hobby (I mean, *I* have a pseudonym and am not sure that I’d want my boss’s boss’s boss reading my stuff) but I also know that part of doing stuff is having people know that you did stuff. If you don’t want people to know that you did X, the surest way to make sure that that happens is DON’T DO X.

            Quote  Link

          Report

          • Yeah, I that’s what I was getting at here and over on David’s post, too. I’m just not sure what David’s the complaint is. Is it there ought be a law? Or that people oughta different than they are? Or…?

              Quote  Link

            Report

                • The complaint being that people are not acting in a way that we think they should.

                  To pick a different example, a FPer on the League was made to resign because he outed a commenters place of employment (or something to that effect). Nobody is suggesting that this should have been illegal, but it was determined that it was wrong. Others might have thought that pushing him out was wrong, even though doing so was within the League’s legal prerogative.

                  There are some interesting conversations to be had about what is right and what is not right aside from “there ought to be a law.”

                  So if one believes that Chen acted inappropriately, that may be worthy of comment even if there oughtn’t be a law. Or if they believe that the employer did, or Violencecrez did.

                  Violencecrez’s actions do appear to me to be rephrehensible, from what I understand. I’m not sure about Chen’s actions. I think the employer probably did the right thing (see my comment below). All of this is a conversation apart from legal ramifications, though, libertarian or no. At least from my vantage point.

                    Quote  Link

                  Report

                  • Well, I guess we can all rant against Chen for violating a sacred code or something. Or being a dick. Or lament the demise of pseudonymous commenting in the internet age as evidence of … the decline of the internet’s revolutionary promise?

                    I think this stuff is based on having an unrealistic expectation, then finding out it in fact isn’t realistic, and then conclude that reality’s to blame. Or something.

                    Sorry. I just don’t know what the hell the point is. Obviously.

                      Quote  Link

                    Report

                    • Chen is an Internet journalist who generally goes against places like /b and reddit and challenges the professional troll presumptions. The one he challenges most often is “Don’t take things too seriously on the Internet”

                      Chen and his wife have been the victim of general /b style attacks because of his articles. I think a lot of people are angry at him for breaking a sacred code as you put it. They want the Internet to be a separate place from the real world and they want their actions on the net to be free of consequence.

                      Almost everyone seems to agree that Bustch’s posts are morally or ethically reprehensible in some way. His defenders don’t want any real world consequence for these actions.

                        Quote  Link

                      Report

    • Not only do I not see a censorship issue, but I don’t know that I even see a privacy issue. I mean, if agents of the state were involved in any of the steps taken, I think we’re talking about a very different issue. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. If Violentacrez thinks he was unduly harmed, he can do the one thing more American than engaging in free speech: sue.

      There is no freedom of speech issue when dealing with private parties. Plain and simple.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      • Depends on which level we’re talking about. There is a privacy issue insofar as “mind your own dang business, buster” but not a legal privacy issue as far as I know.

        As I mentioned in my comment above, when a former League FPer outed a commenter’s workplace, that was seen as a privacy issue, but not a public policy privacy issue until or unless congress passes a law making such illegal.

          Quote  Link

        Report

          • No enforceable (or regularly enforced) rights were violated. There may be another level to which we think of as should-be rights, and that could be considered to apply here (though I don’t think does), but that’s a different question. I’d hesitate to use the word “rights” here even the initial behavior was something I thought should be tolerated.

              Quote  Link

            Report

      • I worked as a freelance writer and photographer for many years. Even at public events, I had to get a signed release for photos, particularly photos of children. Always.

        Schools always seem to have a signed-release policy, as well. If you child hasn’t got a release on file, they won’t publish school-related photographs with the child in them.

        Now we step in to the confusion of laws, which likely vary by state, and institutional policy, which obviously vary by the institution. But my experience as a semi-professional photographer indicates that there’s plenty of precedence to protect children from having their photographs published unless their custodial guardian has given permission.

        Seems, at the very least, a fine custom to honor and encourage, even in the wilds of the world wide web.

          Quote  Link

        Report

  6. I don’t think this is a free speech issue. The posting of pictures of anyone without their consent is at best unethical and possibly illegal. Even with speech, we have some limits when it comes to the welfare of others, such as inciting a riot or slander/libel.

    You are spot on when you state that “freedom of speed does not mean freedom from consequences.” If I own a business, I have the right to protect that business, and if an employee does something that may harm my business, I should be able to fire them. In fact, I would expect it. Would you do business with a bank if you knew that they gave safe harbor to known sexual offenders? You would then assume that the bank would take swift action to make sure that you stay as a customer. Also, if you work for a company that has certain world views (think Chik-fil-A), and as an employee you wrote publicly about world views in direct conflict, would you not expect a certain end result?

    I have customers that I know do not align to my world views, and as a contractor, I have to take that into consideration. This is why I don’t express them so willingly on my own blog, as my employer may see it as a possible loss of business. In my line of work, I have to take that as one of the trade-offs.

      Quote  Link

    Report

  7. Not seeing how there’s a problem to be solved here. He has a right to post his offensive filth, Chen has a right to out him, and his employer has the right to fire his ass. Seems like the system worked.

      Quote  Link

    Report

      • There is room, I think, in the libertarian worldview for the notion that everyone acted within their rights but not everyone acted in the right way, with the distinction being that which is legally permissible is not morally so.

        I don’t have any moral problem with the last act. The first two… I do have issues with.

          Quote  Link

        Report

        • but not everyone acted in the right way, with the distinction being that which is legally permissible is not morally so.

          “The right way…” That’s why it’s Libertopia, it seems to me. Because people are supposed to act differently than they in fact do. It’s bordering on fantasy.

            Quote  Link

          Report

          • I don’t know many libertarians who will stake the claim that libertarianism will result in perfect behavior? I think the argument is that on balance it’s better to legally allow people to act in a wrong manner (but that’s not mutually exclusive with the condemnation of wrong behavior).

            Some libertarians do argue that liberty is (moral/ethical) license, or that people who act immorally or unethically will always get their just desserts. I don’t think it’s a universal stance, and I think public condemnation is a part of the desserts.

            I get the sense that we’re talking past one another.

              Quote  Link

            Report

            • I don’t know many libertarians who will stake the claim that libertarianism will result in perfect behavior?

              No, I agree with that. My view is that for far too many people, libertarianism requires perfect behavior. If only people were different… If we could only get the incentives right…

              I don’t think we’re talking past each other at all. We’re just disrageeing about what David’s point was.

                Quote  Link

              Report

              • You realize that the un-libertarian position is that Brutsch should be flogged and castrated, for either being, (or just acting like – mens rea doesn’t matter) a creepy perv. As would happen (or something to that effect) in a typical illiberal regime throughout the world or throughout history.

                Mr. Brutch’s situation is at a very different point on the political Mollier diagram than say, if he just wanted to smoke pot in his rented apartment.

                  Quote  Link

                Report

                • I don’t think the word “un-libertarian” means what you think it means. The standard meaning of the prefix un means one is A or un-A.

                  Your claim is that all but libertarians support both flogging and castration of creepy pervs.
                  In fact, you assert that there isn’t anyone who advocates flogging without castration of vice versa (sad to say there are such people as well as all out flogger/castrators out of 7 billion people you will find some anti sicko sickos).

                  I think you mean at least anti-libertarian but really opposite-of-libertarian. I think your comment is a perfect expression of the error of thought which is more common than any other error of thought or than any valid method of thought — the false dichotomy.

                    Quote  Link

                  Report

                • You realize that the un-libertarian position is that Brutsch should be flogged and castrated, for either being, (or just acting like – mens rea doesn’t matter) a creepy perv.

                  Maybe. But the point of David’s OP (as I understood it) was that the guy was outed, that his nym was linked to a hisownself and he got fired. It wasn’t about the moral or pragmatic argument undergirding his firing. It seems to me that’s a different issue.

                    Quote  Link

                  Report

              • So this is about David in particular? Is David even a libertarian? I’ve thought he a liberal with a strong civil libertarian streak. Regardless, I didn’t read it as saying “there oughta be a law” if that’s how you read it. He clarifies in this thread that “I am unconcerned with either Brotsch’s outing or firing, and while I expect it will have some (greater or smaller) effect on how people conduct themselves online, I see it more as a data-point on a trend-line than a watershed.”

                I agree that what libertarianism requires is not realistic. I don’t particularly see where that applies here, though. Since we agree on the underlying thing, if not its applicability here, it may not be worthwhile to continue. Up to you.

                  Quote  Link

                Report

          • I think the fantasy is the idea that there’s a single “right way”. The brand of libertarianism that I’m drawn to is based on this sort of epistemic humility. I can say that one or the other person was “wrong” in my opinion, but they each have their own opinion that apparently disagrees with mine — who am I to enforce my standard on them?

            And I didn’t think Tod was particularly libertarian — has he said he is?

              Quote  Link

            Report

  8. One: “free speech” is about making laws that censor. Being censored by your associates, i.e, those who have chosen to associate with you, is a completely different matter. The Internet is a big place. Everyone has a right to some part of it, but not just any part of it.

    Which leads to two: Pictures not the same as speech. Speech is speech. There’s really nothing else to say. You can say whatever you want, and the government can’t lock you up or fine you for it, but that’s as far as it goes. Any other interpretation requires substantive reasoning to defend it beyond banal utterances of the sort “free speech dude.”

      Quote  Link

    Report

    • Here I disagree and so does the law, speech is not just literally the words you write or speak. Images count as speech. Actions count as speech (like burning the flag). The Government can not censor or punish either Larry Flynnt or Robert Maplethorpe for the images they take.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      • Note how the law doesn’t take into account anything related to communication studies, anthropology, sociology, or linguistics in coming to the stunning conclusion that speech acts and performance art has no meaningful differences from verabl and written speech.

          Quote  Link

        Report

        • How about what artists say?

          Why shouldn’t visual art like Robert Mapplethorpe? Music like Philip Glass? Or performance art like Karen Finley and Meredith Monk be protected under the First Amendment?

          Humans do just as much communication through visuals, dance, sound, and music as we do through speech. Why should law be allowed to punish Andre Serras for a photograph called “Pissed Christ” over a speech that communicates the same idea?

          I don’t see this as a worthy distinction.

          Also should the law always just do what three out of five experts say? Certainly experts and academic arguments should be considered but there are broader, more philosophical considerations that are also important that cannot be quanitifed. Including non-vocal communication in Free Speech is one of these ideas. It allows people to communicate in ways that are more emotionally evocative and produce a strong emotional reaction. Visuals often do produce a strong reaction than speech.

          Your arguments on a very limited First Amendment are not very liberal.

            Quote  Link

          Report

    • E.C.,

      You’re way way way way off base on this distinction you’re making between speech and pictures. It’s well-established law that that the First Amendment can cover utterances, writing, images both moving and still, and expressive conduct like dance or flag burning.

      There are reasons why “speech” might not be entitled to First Amendment protections, but the form that said speech takes is not one of them.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      • “There are reasons why “speech” might not be entitled to First Amendment protections, but the form that said speech takes is not one of them.”

        Long standing precedent does not make it correct. In the sense that the Constitution has been interepted over a century to become freedom of expression rather than speech, I’m unconvinced due to the ilogic of that interpretation that it’s a correct one.

        The fact that you think certain speech can be censored, but that pictures have as legitimate equality to speech in being protected, despite the fact that pictures are quite literally, literally, not speech. I mean, what kind of constitutional gymnastics need to happen to say speech doesn’t mean just speech? It’s Alice in Wonderland stuff.

          Quote  Link

        Report

        • I mean, what kind of constitutional gymnastics need to happen to say speech doesn’t mean just speech?

          I think that it’s more of the emanations from the penumbra from “speech, or of the press”. If I print a political cartoon showing Brother Jonathan farting in the face of John Bull, censorship of that picture may not, technically, violate freedom of speech but it does violate freedom of the press.

            Quote  Link

          Report

    • Freedom of speech is about protecting the freedom to utter ideas, including dissent. Let me know ahead of time though if you’d prefer to litigate this based on the history of the Supreme Court rather then the merits of what’s being discussed and the truth separate from what some men and women in robes said a long time ago (“long time ago” because clearly what opined today in the Court is constrained by past precedent).

      The easiest way to protect speech is by simply saying, speech is speech and it’s protected. Freedom of expression takes us down the road of fighting words, fire in theaters, and the public’s inevitable ability to limit speech it doesn’t like by exploiting peculiar caveats in case law.

      In the view that I’m laying out, and which I huff and puff about everyonce and a while around here, burning the flag in public can be stopped in the same way any other public action that is predicated on speaking or assembling or associating can be limited (e.g. I can’t litter, even if littering is an expression of my contempt for the environment and green energy policy). BUT I can still burn the flag on my own property or someone else’s if they allow me, and the flag is mine.

      I can take a video of my wife and I and sell it to the neigbor because, and can only be stopped if the Court some how deems that regulatable per the commerce clause.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      • Ethan, how do you square this with the political cartoon that I just drew, that contains no words? You believe that the government can stop its dissemination? That that is what the framers intended? That they somehow forgot about images, or weren’t concerned about them, and only thought of ‘words’ when putting the thing together?

        Come to it, words on paper (or on a screen) aren’t ‘speech’ either. They are words. Letters. Symbols. Written words are a completely different beast, using different parts of the body and brain to create and interpret, than ‘speech’ does. So maybe that isn’t protected either?

        Seriously, I must be missing your point here somehow.

          Quote  Link

        Report

        • Printed words is contained in the Press’s right. And if the Framers had meant to include pictures, why didn’t they say so? Or perhaps they really were stupid men for thinking that this ambiguity would never be an issue, which then calls into question their very judgement in how the Constititon was drafted.

          I’m fine with saying that expression should be protected. But that comes from an amendment, not a wild interpretation of one sentence. Seriously, anyone that thinks we can somehow fit broadcast and internet technologies into the existing framework rae looney. Yes, we’re going to have to reform the document to hash out these areas in serious detail. Or we could just wait to see what the partisan judges on Federal and State courts, and the Supreme Court think, and follow that.

          To use my example of littering, do you think current law would allow or prevent that?

            Quote  Link

          Report

          • Hmm. I think I see where you are going (and sorry if I seemed aggressive asking, I just really didn’t get it), and I have no idea how this squares with the Constitution or case law, but here’s my gut reaction (hey, it’s the internet!)

            With littering – I might be expressing my opposition to anti-littering laws, but public hygiene trumps my right to dump filth on the ground where it will attract disease-bearing rats, or obstruct public sidewalks so that people trip.

            Here’s the distinction I see – there is a clear real-world physical danger arising from my “speech” action; and this danger is not at a remove. I also can’t burn the flag near the Sunoco gas pumps, even if I am protesting the nexus of US energy policy and military actions in the Mideast.

            But when one is taking a picture; or disseminating a picture; how is making or viewing this symbolic representation engendering any real-world danger except in the abstract or twice-removed sense (unless illegal or violent acts were committed in the course of taking the photo)?

            And if it’s not, why wouldn’t we file a photo under “words will never hurt me” rather than under “sticks and stones”?

            And, under your view would people using these to communicate be enjoined from ‘saying’ what they want? Maybe they can neither speak, nor write. But they can draw, and point at the picture they drew.

              Quote  Link

            Report

  9. If you are in a public place, anybody has a right to take a picture of you (from a distance that doesn’t get into a subjective bubble of one’s ‘personal space’.)

    if you put a picture up on facebook or elsewhere on the internet in a public or semi-public profile, anybody has the right to repurpose that photo as they see fit. (you should know who your friends are).

    Anybody can be fired for any reason.

      Quote  Link

    Report

      • Oh, nothing I wrote is about legalities, most go the other way.

        Plus, for every person like me that doesn’t give a snot, there’s likely at least 11 people that think creepy pervs deserve whatever they get. So before some teenager’s father socks creepy perv takin pix of his daughter square across the jaw, the creepy perv needs to ask himself 1) am I confident a jury will convict my attacker of assault? and 2) even if someone else is paying for it, will my dentist actually be good enough so I will be able to eat steak again?

          Quote  Link

        Report

    • “If you are in a public place, anybody has a right to take a picture of you (from a distance that doesn’t get into a subjective bubble of one’s ‘personal space’.)

      if you put a picture up on facebook or elsewhere on the internet in a public or semi-public profile, anybody has the right to repurpose that photo as they see fit. (you should know who your friends are).”

      I think the calculus (moral, legal, and otherwise) changes when discussing minors.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      • I think the calculus (moral, legal, and otherwise) changes when discussing minors.

        Does it? If I’m at the beach taking pictures with my kids and there are some other people – potentially minors – in the background, should I be complied to get their express permission?

          Quote  Link

        Report

          • Public space is public space, full-stop. In the extreme case, we have some very strict laws against distributing child porn and it doesn’t matter where you got it. But my understanding is that this guy is not being investigated for breaking such laws, is that not the case? (I’ll admit, I’m not keen on reading too much about the guy).

              Quote  Link

            Report

            • “if you put a picture up on facebook or elsewhere on the internet in a public or semi-public profile, anybody has the right to repurpose that photo as they see fit.”

              For the same reason we don’t let minor enter into the same types of legally binding contracts that we allow adults, I think it is fair to impose differing standards elsewhere. The argument being put forth there seems to be predicated upon accepting the consequences for one’s actions. We have a long history of holding minors to a different sent of expectations than we do adults. I see no reason why we can’t apply this to photos posted on FaceBook.

              If you are an adult and put photos on Facebook, perhaps it is appropriate to say that others may do what they will with them.
              If you are a child and put photos on Facebook, I think it is wholly inappropriate to say that others may do what they will with them.

                Quote  Link

              Report

              • I agree, but I believe that double standard is already (rightly) codified in law: distributing child porn, identity theft, stalking, etc. are all already illegal. In this case, however, I am not aware that any such laws were broken and so the way we talk about this individual’s actions – at least in terms of their legality – should reflect that.

                I would, in theory, support relaxing the child-porn laws to encompass the kind of pictures this guy was trawling, but it’s a very unpleasant area of law.

                  Quote  Link

                Report

                • I think there are ways in which the law has not caught up with the tech. Which is not to say that they will or should change as we better understand the implications of our technical advances, but we shouldn’t always trust that existing laws are aptly prepared to deal with unforeseen situations.

                  Regarding this particular set of circumstances, I suppose here is how I see it:
                  – If I, an adult, put pictures on Facebook and they are later distributed and redistributed and eventually reach people I never wanted to see them, it seems the response was, “You should have known better.” So while I might have been harmed, I was complicit in that harm and thus am left without grievance.
                  – If a child does the same (and I’m talking 11-, 12-, and 13-year-olds, not girls 3 days shy of their 18th birthday), are we really comfortable saying, “Hey, sorry, you brought this upon yourself?” I am not. I don’t know if we can consider children that young appropriately prepared to “consent”. Now, this begs questions about children that age being on Facebook or other social media sites.

                    Quote  Link

                  Report

                  • Yeah. I’m okay with saying “you or your parental unit should have known better.”
                    If you don’t think your child should be trusted with the internet, then don’t give it to them. But that’s your decision, not MINE.

                      Quote  Link

                    Report

                    • Kim,

                      Twelve-year-old Susie is at her friends house. She and her friend log onto the computer and sign up for FaceBook despite terms of service indicating they must be at least 13-years-old and require parental permission. They load up some pictures of themselves modeling bikinis and post them. Because they are 12 and don’t really understand how FaceBook or the internet works, these pictures are made public. Within hours, they are being sent around the world, sometimes photoshopped to depict things far more graphic or obscene than the original image.

                      Do we really say that they and their parents should have known better? What is the solution? Keep Susie under lock and key?

                      I’m not saying there should be zero consequences. But there should be an opportunity to seek remedy. If Susie and her parents want the pictures taken down, they should be allowed to demand that of those who are using them without explicit consent. The fact that the photos have been leaked and that they must leap through the necessary hoops to mitigate the damage is a pretty stern consequence in and of itself, no? Must we compound it by saying, “Sorry, pal, nothing you can do about it”?

                        Quote  Link

                      Report

                    • Kazzy,
                      it is my understanding that you can really sue someone into oblivion about posting photos without your consent.
                      I mean, there are SERIOUS problems with this — witness protection among other things.
                      FOR GOOD REASON, we let people bring the smack down on folks who take pictures without consent.
                      Me, I’d have given the kid a not-digital camera, and enough stern lectures/pictures to convince her not to do such a stupid thing.

                      And then, if she did it anyway, I’d say “serves you right.”

                      /not-good parent.

                      I don’t think a kid at the age of 12 “doesn’t understand how the internet works” Or at least, I’d hope none do who are allowed online.

                      A six year old? sure… but who lets a six year old on the internet unsupervised?

                        Quote  Link

                      Report

                    • They can do that, sure. Assuming they have money.
                      (what sort of parent doesn’t give their kids an allowance?
                      The sort of parent who knows their kid can’t be trusted to do good things with it…).

                      I’d venture more on the side of “learn by hard knocks.” Lord knows enough stuff gets posted on 4chan each day.

                        Quote  Link

                      Report

              • The x-ray specs in the back of comics never worked out.

                What *is* ethically interesting (in the sense there’s a lot of ambiguity) is putting a camera on a radio controlled toy aircraft or other ‘drone’ and take pics around the neighborhood, where previously fences would have blocked the sightlines.

                (and to be clear, this is about private individuals doing this, the government should not, without a warrant, though the court cases (again) haven’t always gone this way).

                  Quote  Link

                Report

              • I’m no great expert at photography or the issue in question, but I’m talking about folks that put cameras at around knee level and approach someone so the camera angle can look upwards. Don’t know how the geometry or physics would work to take similar pics the way say, that (woman) photographer took pics of the Princess of Cambridge that made all the news recently.

                  Quote  Link

                Report

    • It is my understanding that if you put up a picture of a minor, without them/their parent’s consent, you can be (understandably) sued into oblivion.
      It is NOT a good idea.
      this is true even IF you had the permission of the minor to take the picture.

        Quote  Link

      Report

  10. As a supporter of employment at-will, I believe that their employee had every right to fire him and that his firing was probably even just. I’m a little less than comfortable with it because I fear this sort of thing being used to justify things I don’t support (such as how “You can’t yell fire in a crowded theater” becomes used by some to justify “don’t say bad things about Muslims if they might react adversely”).

    Apart from the legality is, of course, the morality and ethics of it. I think the ethics argument hinges on the effect it has on the workplace. If he was doing it from work, or if it adversely affects the workplace, then it was the right thing to do. This is likely the case (I’d be somewhat surprised if the second wasn’t the case, really surprised if the first wasn’t). I’m more sketchy on whether or not the firing was righteous if neither of those things were true.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    • Here is the thing about “adversely effecting the workplace”:

      – Suppose JoeyJoJo, the cashier at Acme Grocery, takes part in Neo-Nazi activities in his spare time. At work, he is a model employee, giving no indication of his beliefs. Somehow, customers come to find out about JoeyJoJo’s extracurricular activities. They decide not to frequent Acme Grocery so long as he works there. Would Acme Grocery be justified in firing him because of the adverse effect on their workplace?
      – Suppose JoeyJoJo, the cashier at Acme Grocery, is Muslim. At work, he is a model employee, giving no indication of his beliefs. Somehow, customers come to find out about JoeyJoJo’s faith. They decide not to frequent Acme Grocery so long as he works there. Would Acme Grocery be justified in firing him because of the adverse effect on their workplace?

      I’ll admit to having very few GOOD reasons for answering these two scenarios differently, despite wanting nothing more than to do so.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      • We have collectively determined, as a nation, that race, religion, and so on are protected. To protect against precisely this sort of thing. Should we extend that to unpopular opinions? I don’t see much reason for it, outside of civil service or government work, but it’s something to consider if it ever does become a systemic problem.

          Quote  Link

        Report

          • I think it has to be approached on an issue-by-issue basis. Basically, does the form of discrimination occur on a scale warranting action? With gays, I would argue that the answer is quite possibly yes (alas, particularly in the parts of the country least likely to pass such anti-discrimination laws locally). With Republicans or Democrats? I would argue not. What we’re looking for, in my view, is when discrimination moves beyond something some employer is doing and onto something more system: A population group starts having inordinate difficulty finding work.

              Quote  Link

            Report

            • Next question: What if the first JoeyJoJo prays at the Church of Adolph Hitler, ergo his beliefs are articles of his religious faith.

              I’m tilting at rabbit holes, I realize, but I think this is the very real murkiness that we have to consider.

              And I’m not even trying to make a “point” outside of, “Holy crap, this shit is tricky as hell!”

                Quote  Link

              Report

                • Did you mean to include the “to each customer approaching a cash register” in the parentheses? It reads very differently otherwise.

                  But, yea, tricky indeed. I always wondered why folks with objectionable and likely discriminated against views didn’t simply form a church around those views. The Church of Republicanism! The Democratic Temple! And then that makes me wonder if the protections we offer religion are silly and spurious and simply favor one type of viewpoints over others. And then my head hurts and I want to lay down and I just wished people didn’t do certain stuff and then we wouldn’t need rules. Then I realize that is the crux of libertarianism and I think I’m even sillier still. Then I eat peanut butter and watch football and it all goes away.

                    Quote  Link

                  Report

                  • I’m not sure why they don’t, but I’m *glad* they don’t. One thing I don’t want is for our public officials to have to take a closer look at what does and does not constitute a religion*. The more people who do that sort of thing, the more they have to do so.

                    * – a former state treasurer of my home state once got a lot of attention by declaring that Buddhism was not a real religion. I can’t remember what this pertained to, but it mattered in a material way.

                      Quote  Link

                    Report

                    • I’d argue the government already does this, just not quite so obviously or explicitly. The fact that there is any requirement beyond saying, “This is my religion; it is what I believe,” to constitute a religion and enjoy all the freedoms, rights, protections, and privileges therein shows that the government is already in the business of delineating between real and fake religions.

                      A step beyond that is the various ways in which “freedom of religion” is practiced. A great number of religious practices are outlawed; do you think it is a coincidence that most, if not all, of these are from non-mainstream (i.e., not real) religions?

                      As much as I don’t like it, it seems we have to go to either extreme, wherein we either protect ALL systems of belief or NONE, else we effectively demand that the state determine which are deserving of protection. That might actually be scarier than either extreme.

                      But, again, then the head starts hurting and I just hope no one goes crazy… and I say this as someone who smiled when I pulled up behind a car with an FSM sticker on it.

                        Quote  Link

                      Report

                    • With the exception of the State Treasurer, I think we veer more towards the “All” and against the “None.” I know my preference is for closer to all (excepting out-and-out fraud, for instance), including the Universal Life Church and even the Pastafarians. The more people that hide behind this, the more you have to restrict it. We can only afford to force employers to give Muslim employees prayer mat break time (under “reasonable accommodation”) as long as people don’t cynically set up churches for straightforward personal benefit (“my religion requires smoke-breaks, so you can’t have your smoke-free campus!”)

                      As with a great many things, freedom (including freedom of religion) requires good faith. It’s in the absence of good faith that laws have to start being passed.

                        Quote  Link

                      Report

                    • I’m not so sure that the collective “we” veers towards “all” as much as you or I might. When the conversation about religion in the public square comes up and folks argue that rather than bar it, we should simply allow all forms of it, and I counter that there simply isn’t enough room in the public square for the multitude of faiths out there and they counter that by saying to the effect of, “Well, we won’t let the CRAZY ones in,” and I point out that this means someone in the government has to determine which ones are the “crazy” ones and they reply that they are okay with this because, hey, they’re religion would never be considered the crazy one… I wonder whether we have “freedom of religion” or “freedom for certain religions” as our underlying value.

                      Personally, I *might* be okay with religion being something the government can’t discriminate against but which doesn’t hold the same sacred place that immutable characteristics like race do elsewhere. Which of course makes me consider wandering down the rabbit hole wherein I ponder whether we can consider religion or even non-faith beliefs to be immutable but then the head starts hurting again.

                      Can we somehow legislate against acting in bad faith? That’d simplify things and I see absolutely no drawbacks whatsoever.

                        Quote  Link

                      Report

                    • We can try legislating acting in bad faith, but the miss-to-hit ratio is problematic. The more you try to get people acting in bad faith, the more you hit people acting in good faith.

                      There’s no question that some religions get more leeway than others. This is, to my mind, unavoidable. But I also think it’s a process, and one that bends towards more inclusion over time. Atheists got their insignia for Arlington. Catholics are mainstream. Eastern religions increasingly have chic (in ways that make actual followers’ eyes roll). The movement is in the right direction. The ULC gets to issue marriage practitioner licenses.

                      I don’t see the imperfection as cause of doing away with the entire enterprise. Allowing employers to fire a Muslim employee for being Muslim, or forcing them to work through prayer time even when their prayer can be reasonably accommodated. Allowing ten year olds to drink wine at communion.

                      It’s a messy process, and imperfectly implemented, but I think it a worthy goal to aspire to.

                        Quote  Link

                      Report

              • If it is sincere belief, then it would probably count as religious discrimination.

                The First Amendment does not give the Courts or Congress much power in saying what is and what is not a sincere religion.

                  Quote  Link

                Report

                • Who decides what “sincere” is? It seems to me that simply saying, “This is my religion,” ought to count. Of course, people might start believing all kinds of things if accommodation for such comes to pass.

                  I don’t believe in paying taxes. Or speed limits.

                    Quote  Link

                  Report

                  • Well that is the problem, isn’t it.

                    I’ve come to the conclusion that for the sake of a functioning democracy (or even just society) we simply need to take claims of sincerity on face value or we will be stuck in a La Brea Tar Pit of constant questioning and accusation. We might really know that the person is bullshitting and being sarcastic but need to take it as sincere to protect the truly sincere. The best example of this is The Fying Spaghetti Monster.

                    Or me. I consider myself to be Jewish culturally and ethnically. I go to Synagogue on the High Holidays and celebrate Passover and other holidays. However, when it comes to whether God exists or not, I am a large apathetic agnostic and strongly leaning towards no. My view is that Torah is philosophy and ethics via metaphor and story with some factual elements that have been proven by archeology.

                    However, I have some friends who are hardcore Dawkins styled Atheists. It infuriates them to no end that I identify as Jewish. No amount of explaining can get them to understand or accept the concepts of cultural and/or ethnic Judaism. I imagine they would think me insincere.

                    Which one of us right? Which one of us decides?

                      Quote  Link

                    Report

                    • You’re jewish. Maimonides — that great jewish thinker– set up a decent amount of criteria, and you count.
                      Being Jewish doesn’t require that you believe in G-d, just that you follow the commandments and don’t step up and preach that G-d doesn’t exist.

                        Quote  Link

                      Report

                  • Basically, the only way to protect the truly sincere is to give facevalue to claims of sincerity from the insincere.

                    If someone can come up with a foolproof way to protect the sincere without doing so, please tell me. As far as I can tell, none exists.

                      Quote  Link

                    Report

    • This is my big problem with employment-at-will, where is the line? If what I do in my own time does not have any material effect on my employer why should he care?

      When you are struggling to make ends meet your employer has a lot of power over you; because you cannot afford to loose your current job. Is it morally right for that employer to use that power to regulate all your activities both at and away from work?

        Quote  Link

      Report

        • I too am willing to require JUST CAUSE in employment contracts. We need to pass strong regulation against employees who leave their employers because of any old reason. For example, what if the employer is pro Nazi or pro Muslim or pro gay, and the racist employee quits? This is wrong. It must be stopped.

            Quote  Link

          Report

          • There’s still a power differential at work, especially in a bad economy where decent jobs are difficult to come by and where affordable health insurance is usually linked to employment. Even if your boss is a Nazi, you’re not going to quit if you (and your family) depend on the paycheck and insurance. You’ll find another job first–not always easy.

              Quote  Link

            Report

            • When you convert flexible employment contracts to less flexible contracts, you will change who gets offered a contract. And to think you guys are still scratching your heads and wondering why unemployment is so high.

              Good intentions only get us so far in a complex and dynamic world. Eventually we need to consider downstream effects.

                Quote  Link

              Report

              • Not my point, Roger. I’m not suggesting an end to employment-at-will. But it’s silly to pretend that there isn’t a power differential particularly in the case of a big corporation and an individual employee. The laws favor employers over employees by a long shot.

                And I don’t think the lack of flexible employment contracts is what’s driving unemployment.

                  Quote  Link

                Report

                • Michelle,

                  Why do you believe the law favors employers by a long shot? Just asking.

                  For the record, I suggest the law let able bodied adults make their own decisions without putting the governments thumb on either side of the scale. Little good comes from third party interference, and if taken too far, lots of bad results.

                  See my below thoughts on power differentials and the dangers of overemphasizing this imbalance.

                    Quote  Link

                  Report

            • Kim and Michelle,

              On unemployment.

              We made it less likely for people to be self employed than in prior generations by passing regulations against huge swaths of potential enterprise. I can’t open a lemonade stand, offer to drive people places, rent my surfboards on the beach, style peoples hair, etc etc etc. there are countless jobs that it is now illegal for me to do.

              We made it more burdensome to hire and fire people based upon paperwork, regulations, minimum wages, maximum hours, overtime, equal opportunity lawsuits and so forth.

              We screwed up health care by connecting employment to insurance due to unintentional consequences of bad tax policy. This also screws up employment and makes it hard for employees to leave. It thus jams up employment markets as it screws up health market.

              We recently passed Obamacare which acts as a regressive tax on workers, especially less skilled workers. Employers are admitting that this is leading them to restrict employment.

              We reduced worker mobility to go elsewhere for a job by requiring mortgage lenders to offer junk loans to totally unqualified people with no downpayment and no proof of income. When this blew up in our faces, it caused massive unemployment, and chained these less skilled people to a house they wish they never moved into, so they cannot relocate to better jobs.

              Remo clarifies Below what has occurred in Brazil, and similar stories are coming out about France. Once it becomes a regulatory or litigative burden to hire or fire employees, gues what employers do? They either hire contractors (I pretty much shifted completely to hiring contractors in my last few years on the job for flexibility reasons), or they hire off shore, or they replace with automation, or they sit on the cash and don’t hire at all.

              The recession and continued trend in unemployment explained in two easy words. Unintended consequences. Or in a phrase… Unintended consequences from the good intentions of ignorant progressive heavy handed government policies that we warned you all about.

                Quote  Link

              Report

  11. “The entire Violenceacrez issue has been framed (initially by Brutsch and the Reddit community, and later by David and his commenters) as one of free speech. “

    Woah, woah, woah. Wait a minute Todd. While I’ll cop to leaving a little breathing room in my posts to allow the reader to draw their own conclusions, I’m afraid that in this case you’ve gone way off the rails.

    My opinion is that whether or not what Brotsch’s outing and firing is something to be concerned about is so obvious that it doesn’t even need to be addressed.

    But apparently not.

    I am unconcerned with either Brotsch’s outing or firing, and while I expect it will have some (greater or smaller) effect on how people conduct themselves online, I see it more as a data-point on a trend-line than a watershed.

      Quote  Link

    Report

  12. I will also argue that I might be far worse than you when it comes to tech, especially given our ages. I don’t even get included on the emails about what changes to make to the site because I’d probably propose cup holders!

      Quote  Link

    Report

  13. Wise choice to not look up ROLF. Does seem likely it stands for vomiting (it was slang as was ralphing when I was a teenager in a decade which I would like to keep private (OK the 70s)). Rolfing was also a form of massage which was actually painful practiced by some in the late 60s.

    But I fear it is a typo for ROFL (role on the floor laughing). If not a clever minor shift in typing with reversal of meaning.

      Quote  Link

    Report

  14. For the most part, when you throw normal people in a group together then add in anonymity and an audience, what you end up what’s referred to as the “Greater Internet Dickwad/Fuckwad Theorey.”

    As somebody else said, they want all the positives of free speech without any of the responsibilities of it. Now, I can understand and don’t even care that many people use online handles for a variety of reasons including their own job or the fact they’ve used it for a long time. Myself, I’ve had a problem being an ass online at times under my real name but then again, I’m totally OK with the entire world knowing I’m a partisan Democrat who holds positions to the left of most American’s. That’s a little more blase than moderating a forum of upskirt photos or throwing out some racist/sexist slurs out there on a forum somewhere else.

      Quote  Link

    Report

  15. Just judging from his pattern of use on Reddit, I would bet real money that he’s violated his ex-employer’s acceptable use policies for the company IT infrastructure.

    There’s no way that he did all that on personal time. There ain’t enough hours in the day.

    Now, that said, I comment on this blog often on what is technically work-time (as could be verified via the back-end by anyone who is interested), but I’m self-managing and if anything I donate more than 40 hours a week to my job, so I’m massively unconcerned with the ethics of the situation. However, it’s certainly the case that if my employer *wanted* to get rid of me, my activity here on the blog would be more than sufficient to give them credible grounds to do so.

    My choice, therefore, is to act within my own ethical guidelines and not concern myself with official policy, while making sure the people I work for, directly, are happy with the level of service they get. And, also, not be a dumbass.

    However, if I was farking stupid enough to think this gave me carte blanche to start up a skeevy reddit presence, I would say that any consequences of that decision rightly fall utterly and entirely upon my own stupid head, including getting my dumb ass fired when my ill wife depends upon my health insurance. Poor impulse control, anyone? The fact that he doesn’t see anything wrong with his behavior leads me to believe that he’s got his head all the way up his ass, sideways. It surprises me not at all that he has vociferous defenders, as the “what, I have to have some sort of personal restraint to fit into society!?!?” crowd is not exactly lacking recruits, nowadays.

    But that’s just me.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    • The problem with this, Pat, is that it’s easy to imagine less wholesome cases. For instance, “However, if I was farking stupid enough to think this gave me carte blanche to [try to form a union], I would say that any consequences of that decision rightly fall utterly and entirely upon my own stupid head, including getting my dumb ass fired when my ill wife depends upon my health insurance”. You could also sub in “march in a pro-choice (or pro-life) rally” when your boss is on the other side. There’s a real power differential between bosses and workers that needs to be addressed. Which isn’t to defend violent_acrez or say he shouldn’t have been fired.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      • That’s a valid point, Dan, but “There’s a real power differential between bosses and workers that needs to be addressed.” depends upon that power differential being misused (which, I’ll agree, both forming a union and joining a rally would qualify as a misuse of that power differential).

        Of course, power differentials being misused also needs to be taken inside its own context; can you correct that power differential without creating some other, equally- or more-so- nefarious power differential by attempting to correct this power differential?

        In many cases, if you’re focusing directly on that power differential, I’m going to probably assess that last question as, “no”, but I’m open for discussion on that point.

        On the other hand, decoupling things that then reduce that power differential is much less likely to create another nefarious power differential (although there might be other consequences).

        Employee/employer based health care, for example, is wretchedly stupid.

          Quote  Link

        Report

            • It’s only possible under Romney; under Obama it’d be “gummint’s tryin to take away yer company health plan!”
              That particular form of blackmail is one of the cornerstones of the current GOP candidates campaign. I find that enormously galling.
              “My party is absolutely not going to compromise on anything so if you elect Obama nothing is going to get done. But if you elect me as president then I’ll force the Dems to bend because they’ll behave reasonably.”

                Quote  Link

              Report

  16. I don’t want to change the topic. We should spend hours focused on this guy’s utter dickishness, as it is truly something to behold.

    That said, I would like to point out that the way this discussion is going seriously undermines the idea of human beings having a “right” to free speech. We’re all uncomfortable with what he did. We’re mostly comfortable with him having faced the repercussions he has (and will). But if we’re okay with the “Actions have consequences!” argument here, I don’t see how solid our footing can be when someone else somewhere else runs into a truncheon (real or imagined) for criticizing a government, or critiquing a church, or whatever else.

    This then is the sort of thing that I focus on when it comes to my utter disbelief in rights, at least as naturally existing in the world. Hell, even as man-made constructs, we’re still creating nuances to allow what we want to disallow what we don’t.

    Back to our regularly scheduled programming.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    • But if we’re okay with the “Actions have consequences!” argument here, I don’t see how solid our footing can be when someone else somewhere else runs into a truncheon (real or imagined) for criticizing a government, or critiquing a church, or whatever else.

      Well, this is supposed to be the underpinning of the whole free speech codification in the U.S.

      It’s okay for actions to have consequences… generally. Specifically, though, it’s not okay for the U.S. government to level consequences on its citizens for speech. To the extent that someone’s exercise of free speech represents a potential levy of consequences upon them, it’s only the government’s responsibility to protect you from the consequences of your free speech exercise… in limited scenarios carved out in law.

      As long as the consequences of your free speech exercise fall themselves into the non-prohibited sphere of actions, you’re on the hook yourself.

      It’s kind of hard to just toss a root principle out there and say, “Speech should always be free from consequences!” (which isn’t what anyone here is saying, although that’s what I’m reading over at Reddit) and “The consequences of your speech should always be borne by the individual!” (which I don’t think anyone here is saying, either, although it might appear that way on first glance).

        Quote  Link

      Report

      • Except we are comfortable with the U.S. Government leveling consequences in cases of the apparently blatant promotion of child pornography (as seems to have possibly been occurring here). I have no truck with that; I wish the US Government would more aggressively go after actors in these particular situations.

        But as soon as we start saying, “We’re okay with this kind of speech being dealt with!” then the game is over. We’re acknowledging that the freedom of speech is limited, and at that point, it’s merely subject to the whims of the majority/those with power.

          Quote  Link

        Report

        • But as soon as we start saying, “We’re okay with this kind of speech being dealt with!” then the game is over.

          This is unnecessarily reductionist, though, Sam. I mean, if you’re going to take this position, then…

          We’re acknowledging that the freedom of speech is limited, and at that point, it’s merely subject to the whims of the majority/those with power.

          I suppose one could make that argument… but this is empirically not contestable anyway and kind of a statement of the obvious, right? I mean, duh?

          The Constitution is a piece of paper. It’s not going to stop “those with power” from subjecting “those without power” to limitations on their speech. The institutions of government, however, with the separations of power outlined in the document, make it harder for “those with power” to be sufficiently large to go with a uniform agenda.

            Quote  Link

          Report

  17. I think the best way to look at this is to break up his site from him being fired from his job. I am not going to defend the guy, but i will try to be objective about the problem.

    – Is the site he owns – ‘Jailbait’ legal? Like was pointed out, the whole premisse of the site is invading others personal space.
    – Is the company he worked for allowed to fire him for no reason at all? Has he been paid what he is due on a ‘no reason at all’ firing? They certainly cannot fire him for having a site on the internet, if they did so then there should be some sort of punishment.

    Four outcomes really, but to get to them you must answer those two questions above. The outcomes:
    – His site is legal. He was fired from having a legal site on the internet.
    – His site is legal. He was fired for no reason at all.
    – His site is illegal. He was fired from having a ilegal site on the internet.
    – His site is illegal. He was fired for no reason at all.

    The first conclusion is the one that would hurt his freedom of speech. That is the one all of us should be aware, because it sets precedence for firing pretty much all of the League.
    The second only makes us question if he could have been fired for no reason at all, and if everything he was due in that situation was paid.
    The third brings us to the discussion that can you fire someone you know is making something illegal outside of your company.
    The fourth again disengages his firing from the fact he owns a site. ‘We found out that he is involved in something illegal, and we dont want someone like that working with us.’

    What i think about the guy doesnt matter. What i think about morality doesnt matter either.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    • I have to say I disagree with much if not all of this.

      “They certainly cannot fire him for having a site on the internet”

      They can, actually. Whether or not it is unchallengeable will most likely depend upon the company’s employee handbook, but people are terminated for not only having actual websites, but also for Internet comments, posts and tweets. It is perfectly legal, for example, to set up a website that talks about how much your employer’s services suck. But if you are caught, case law says your employer has every right to terminate you for doing so, providing that they have stated that right in the employee handbook.

      “What i think about morality doesnt matter either.”

      It should, if you are the person’s employer. This person worked for a financial services company. If it were to be discovered that he embezzled money from clients,*and* his employer had good reason to believe that his moral character was suspect and continued to employ him, they would bear substantial legal liability.

      But for the sake of argument, let’s say that he was a teacher. In fact, in the article where he was outed, another case is mentioned where one of the posters of “jailbait” photos was a public school teacher, who secretly took such photos of his students without their knowledge or consent. Do you believe that that teacher would be allowed to keep his job?

      “The first conclusion is the one that would hurt his freedom of speech.”

      No, it wouldn’t. Assuming that taking crotch shots of children and posting them without knowledge or consent is legal (I honestly don’t know) then I suppose that Brutsch has the freedom (the icky, icky freedom) to post such pictures. He does *not* have the freedom from suffering the consequences of non-govermental organizations making assessments of that speech and acting accordingly.

      Similarly, you have the right to make a documentary about anything you want – even one that is pro-KKK. HBO is not infringing upon your freedom of speech, however, if they decide not to air it.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      • I talked about my personal morality not mattering and i blew it right off on the “They certainly cannot fire him for having a site on the internet” didn’t I?

        Ok, per parts, re-arguing.

        I am wrong on they cannot fire him for having a internet site. However, do you agree that such a condition must be cited on his contract? Or is any employer able to fire a employee because they have a site on the internet?

        Ignore the contents of his site for now – lets pretend there is no controversy and his site is completely legal. Is a employer allowed to fire someone BECAUSE they have a site on the internet?

        “What i think about morality doesnt matter either.”

        It shouldnt matter exactly because I am not his employer. If his employer has some sort of morality needed by his employees, then that should be used to qualify if someone should work for them or not. Not my personal code. I am arguing here that my personal morality is not and should not be the morality of any company, and we should pay attention to that.

        My conclusion that if his site is legal and if the company fired him for having a legal site on the internet was based on my fumble that firing someone for having a site was illegal. I already commented that my initial statement was wrong, so the conclusion is definitely wrong too.

        However,

        Stop looking at his specific case. Look at the broader situation.
        Person X participates in a activity that is completely unrelated to his work, and is completely legal.
        Person X is fired from his work because he participates in that activity.

        The problem here is that any company could fire Person X for ‘no reason whatsoever’, pay what it is due in such a situation and nothing can be said further.
        However, if you have a reason for firing someone, you usually pay less ( and in many cases, much less) to that person than if you dont. This is the point where his firing might hit a law – if the company that did so is using the fact that he has another activity – that is in no way related to his work – to pay him less than they would in a situation where they had no justificatives for his dismissal.

        My own, personal opinion on the matter, for what it is worth:
        – He invaded the privacy of some people
        – Posted unauthorized pictures of them
        – Profited from the image of these people else without authorization
        – They are minors.
        Each one of them is a crime of some sort.

          Quote  Link

        Report

        • Good reply!

          “However, do you agree that such a condition must be cited on his contract? Or is any employer able to fire a employee because they have a site on the internet?”

          The degree to which a prior agreement is needed is usually dependent upon the degree with which the employee’s actions can negatively impact the company. So if you employ a salesman that posts a video of yourself spewing anti-semetic rants, you can probably terminate that person without having to be worried about losing your pants in court. But if you’re Coke, you need to get a signed policy agreement that your marketing people will never order a Pepsi product at a restaurant. (This is a real thing, btw.) Without such an agreement, you could easily be sued for wrongful termination if you fired someone for that transgression.

          “I am arguing here that my personal morality is not and should not be the morality of any company, and we should pay attention to that.”

          I would agree with that, with the caveat that there are some lines of broad, publicly agreed upon morality that companies that have fiduciary responsibilities must adhere to. So, in this case, even if you don’t personally think what Violenceacrez did was immoral, it is so commonly accepted as immoral that, as a financial services company, you probably still have a responsibility to terminate his employment. (Which in a way, is saying just what you said, but coming from the opposite direction.)

          As for the rest, we are in pretty strong agreement. One of the reasons I would advise a client to not monitor Facebook pages of their employees is that once you do, it becomes very difficult to credibly say that whatever legal activities or associations you found there had nothing to do with their termination. Burt once said he would love to represent a terminated employee whose company did that, and I think he’s spot on.

            Quote  Link

          Report

  18. I don’t want to talk about the specifics of this but your concept of at will employment sounds fishing scary, seriously no limits except for a narrow range of protections around racism and sexism? I get that is what your laws say but that doesn’t answer the question of if they should.

    Suppose I employ someone and tell them “You must be in bed laid flat on your back and wearing corporate issue pyjamas from 10pm to 6am and I have the right to enter your house at any time to check up on this and fire you if I find you on your stomach or out of bed at 10:05”

    I doubt this is covered under anti-discrimination laws but does that mean an employer should be allowed to do it?

      Quote  Link

    Report

      • That’s a relief but I wouldn’t mind a bit of unpacking of ‘reasonably be said to negatively impact them’.

        I won’t keep my example because it doesn’t work well but use the idea of a guy making sex tapes with his wife. At what point do we say it is reasonable to call that a negative impact? Do we say it isn’t an impact if the manager disapproves but would be if a customer disapproves and if so why are we privileging one persons view over another? Or maybe it happens if x customers disapprove but then there is a need to explain how numbers change the moral calculus.

          Quote  Link

        Report

        • Marty,

          The question is not just whether an employer should do it, the question is will regulation make the situation better all things considered? Yes, I can envision some act by an employer that is so insidious that we should prohibit it. I think it is totally reasonable to prohibit requiring accountants from having video sex with dead animals in order to keep their jobs.

          In general though, the more regulations we pass against employer actions the more we interfere with who gets offered a job. We introduce third parties into the situation who interfere and second guess. The net effect is to move the demand curve for employees down. Thus you either get less employment or lower a average wages, probably both. You get people not hired,because the employer is afraid they won’t be able to fire them. You get more careful screens of employment, so those with less experience are discriminated against rationally because they are an unknown quantity.

          Economists don’t scoff at third party regulations because they approve of goofy employer actions. They scoff because they realize the unintended consequences quickly overwhelm the intended ones, and as a whole we suffer because of it.

            Quote  Link

          Report

          • The problem with trying to regulate it too much is that things become how they are in Brazil right now.

            It is so expensive to hire someone and they have so many safeguards against being fired that companies do not do so anymore. They will hire key personel, the directors, the HR that is responsable to find new employees, the managers for key sections, and all the other people the company cannot live withouth, and do a ‘brazilian third party hire’ for everyone else.

            To give you a example:

            I (big company) will not hire you, Remo, to be my employee. You will open a company, Remo IT, and i will hire the services of Remo IT, and those services will be the services of someone that has the exact capacity of Remo. In that way, I will never need to fire Remo, i will break contract with Remo IT and that company can deal with all the costs associated with dealing with Remo.

            The same laws that are made to give security to workers make less of them be hired the traditional way each year, and make each of them more prone to be fired when needed because the company doing the hiring won’t be the one that will need to deal with all the government security.

              Quote  Link

            Report

          • “I think it is totally reasonable to prohibit requiring accountants from having video sex with dead animals in order to keep their jobs.”

            Would the production of the video be a deductable expense? If so, it could be a good reminder to people of what is and what isn’t deductable.

              Quote  Link

            Report

        • Yes it is totally voluntary. If you want a job that is guaranteed for life, then ask for one. If you think the world would be swell and dandy and employees would flock to the idea, then set up a company using this breakthrough concept. You could corner the market in good employees.

          When I accepted employment, we basically agreed to give each other two weeks notice. I see this as totally fair. If I don’t like the terms I leave. If they don’t like what they get from me I leave. That is absolutely 100% voluntary in any reasonably competitive market with a variety of competing employees and employers.

            Quote  Link

          Report

          • As we discussed before, if you want to define “coercion” as narrowly as all that, fine.
            But it cuts both ways-

            When the City wants to renegotiate your tax rates, municipal water rates, land use etc., it is totally voluntary since of course, you are free to move your business to another city.

            Again, if we define “coercion” to only mean “literally at the point of a gun” it may or may not be true, I just think its not a useful definition.

              Quote  Link

            Report

            • I am close to agreeing with you, but not all the way. In prior discussions I have clarified that an action can be voluntary but unfair if alternatives are not freely available. Job markets involve thousands of employers and millions of employees, therefore they tend to be more fair than government monopolies.

              I am not opposed to government taxation. I am a proponent though of more competition and choice in government services though. I believe it would be a good thing (more fair) if we could make it easier to choose between providers for things traditionally supplied by government.

                Quote  Link

              Report

              • Again, Roger, billionaire libertarians can get together to set up an alternative schooling, food stamp, or health care system anytime they want. Other than the basic requirements to open a food bank, urgent care center, or school depending on the state for example.

                Now, they won’t get government money to fund it, but McDonald’s doesn’t hand out it’s revenues to Burger King and the local hamburger place either. If libertarians truly think they have a better idea than the government, put it out there. Just don’t expect the government to pay for it.

                  Quote  Link

                Report

                • Jesse,

                  Not sure how to respond.

                  Starting with the end, I am commenting on choices in regards to my taxes, which absent relocation, I have to pay. I am suggesting that government would be better, more responsive and more fair if there were more choices, other than just relocation. I agree that this will require working within the democratic process. I am reasonably sure that it is likely that over the long haul it will occur, due to the reasoning Hayek has provided, which includes what amounts to group selection effects at the institutional level.

                  But on another level, I also agree that many of the services provided by governments could and should be done better by non government entities. Nice things about free markets is that we are all incentivized to solve these problems.

                    Quote  Link

                  Report

                • “billionaire libertarians can get together to set up an alternative schooling, food stamp, or health care system anytime they want.”

                  The Catholic Church did all these things and it’s not exactly a bastion of hardcore libertarianism.

                    Quote  Link

                  Report

              • You set up a logic structure-
                Coercive=Bad
                Voluntary=Good
                then go on to define coercion so narrowly that it essentially never exists.
                So in your world, anything that happens- anything at all, that doesn’t involve a loaded gun- is voluntary therefore good.
                Then you say that while it may be voluntary, it might also be unfair.

                Well, ok, then that just leads to another question- what do we do about things that are voluntary but unfair? Wring our hands? Shrug our shoulders? Pass laws to prevent it? Or what?

                We don’t really even have enough to argue with here- the definitions you create of voluntary and coercive are so broad on one side and narrow on the other that they aren’t helping us make decisions.

                  Quote  Link

                Report

                • To make things more fair, we need to ensure that there are no barriers to competition and alternative choices. My recommendations for government are in this camp. I am trying to make it more fair. There are lots of barriers to competition in markets as well. Classical liberals such as myself tend to be skeptical of these barriers and obstacles.

                  I’ve thought long and hard about my definitions of liberty, coercion, fairness, exploitation and harm, and am always open to revisions. To be honest, discussing it with you and Stillwater and others is useful.

                  I believe in general people should be free to do whatever they want as long as it doesn’t affect others. Where people do affect others, they should be free to do so in general when it is mutually agreed to or mutually voluntary. These two rules lead to optimum freedom and experimentation within the range of likely positive sum interactions. Zero sum interactions are ones where people do not mutually agree. This leads to arms races of attack and defense and destroys value and prosperity. Zero sum actions should be constrained as much as reasonably possible.

                    Quote  Link

                  Report

                  • Yet again…everything other than a pointed gun is voluntary.

                    I actually think other libertarians might be of value here- they are constantly explaining how even subtle forms of government control are coercive, like rent control and so forth even with no pointed guns anywhere.

                      Quote  Link

                    Report

                    • I think that part of the problem is that if you raise your rent that they will send cops to your house and if you say “I’m not going with you” that the cops can then draw their guns.

                      Which is different from what can happen if you say “I’m not going to show up for my job at Corporation”.

                        Quote  Link

                      Report

                    • Well said in all your points.

                      That being said, I wonder how much of the difference between neo-liberal/libertarians and liberals on some issues like rent control are about placing importance in unquantifiable values.

                      The arguments I have seen against rent control are largely about things that can be easily quantified to a certain extent. Stuff like opportunity. Rent Control keeps people from taking opportunities and moving because they don’t want to lose the low rent.

                      My pro-rent control beliefs come from issues that are not easily discussed in “wonk” white papers. Stuff like the right for families and people to remain in their hometowns or close to if desired or whether they want to stay put. The right of children especially the children of working class folks to stay in the same school and develop communities without needing to move year after year chasing the job market.

                        Quote  Link

                      Report

                    • Jaybird-
                      If a business does not like rent control, they are free to leave the rental market and seek opportunities elsewhere;

                      Of course, entering into the rental market and refusing to abide by the terms of the law will be met with enforcement; its no different than picking up a watch and walking out the door of the store!

                      Yes of course I’m being facetious; saying “if you don’t like it get another job” is no different than saying “if you don’t like it take your business elsewhere”.

                      Whether they are voluntary, or coercive, depends on the level of unequal power.

                        Quote  Link

                      Report

                    • ND, I luv ya man but I can’t wrap my head around your rent control position at all.
                      Rent control doesn’t really happen in towns, it happens in cities. What rent control does is turn the clock back to the 1800’s. Suddenly having enough money to rent a place to live isn’t enough; you need the right relatives, the right insider connections; the right friends to get a place to live in certain desirable neighborhoods. It’s not kind to the poor or families, it’s brutal. Rent control doesn’t let the children of working class folks stay in the same school, it forces them to go to a school in a distant ex-urb and then not have parents to help them with homework because Mom/dad is commuting three hours because they can’t live close to work because of rent control.

                        Quote  Link

                      Report

                    • at North:

                      Those are valid points but they can be changed based on how you structure the rent control. New York has rent control fixed to a family. San Francisco has rent control fixed to a building. In San Francisco, if a building was built before a certain year (sometime in the 1970s) it is rent-controlled. I moved to San Francisco in 2008 with no connections and got my apartment off of craigslist. I am still protected by rent control because my building was built sometime during the 1940s.

                      What I am trying to find is a policy that allows renters to have stability in their life. Some people like moving from apartment to apartment every year or so. It might even be really fun to do this when you are in your twenties but it is not so fun as you get older.

                      Humanity seems unable to get out of boom and bust cycle economies. Right now, San Francisco is going through another tech boom because of Twitter and other new net/social media companies moving into the city. I am very suspicious that many of these companies will last (especially twitter). However, they are jacking rents way up. In my neighborhood, rents on a one bedroom have soared by hundreds of dollars in the last few months especially as compared to when I moved in during the housing bust.

                      I don’t think that landlords should be able to raise the rent as high as they want to take advantage of a boom and displace long-term and hardworking residents. Suppose someone was renting a one-bedroom at 1800 a month for the past three years but his or her landlord jacked up the rent to 2600 because a boom made that the average price of the neighborhood. Where does this person go? What if they discover they are outpriced of the entire city? They still have a job, but now need to increase their commute significantly possibly. Plus all the incurred expenses from moving and possibly losing the fabricate and life they have built up for three years, sometimes much more.

                      Gentrification might be a fact of life but we need to find ways to mitigate the circumstances and have it involve less displacement. Neo-liberals often seem not to care about this and simply say “Look nice upper-middle class businesses. Growth good.”

                        Quote  Link

                      Report

                    • ND, I’m massively skeptical that you can have such a thing as beneficial rent control. I’m certainly happy for you that you were able to network and land yourself a sweet deal on an apartment. Too bad for the less savvy/lucky home seekers though, I expect they’re stuck commuting a lot further from a less pleasant community because the housing they would have occupied in your neighborhood never was built due to rent control.

                      I agree, moving from apartment to apartment isn’t particularly fun but do we have any stats on why people move? Generally my understanding is people usually move either because their job has changed or they want a better apartment. How often do people move because their rent has been jacked up and they’ve been driven out? Is this truly a deep significant problem? As you note people haven’t been able to get out of boom and bust cycle economics but frankly I’m unconvinced that humanity can get out of boom and bust cycle economics and for poorer and lower middle class people to do well in that environment they need to be able to have the maximum amount of flexibility in moving and finding new homes. Rent control is antithical to that.
                      In theory if a boom hit a community so hard that a landlord is able to demand a 50% increase in rents then two things should be happening: wages and job opportunities should be soaring and (in a non rent controlled environment) new housing should be being brought online. In a rent controlled environment of course new housing doesn’t happen and instead you get sprawl. Too bad for all the newcomers to the housing market; it doesn’t matter if they’ve got a nice higher paying job. Unless they are part of the local housing elite they can bus it in from the hinterland or perhaps sublet a box.
                      Gentrification is certainly a good thing but I don’t want to laud displacement. Still there is a great deal in the complaints about gentrification that smack of parochial thinking “I just want it to be the way that it was”. Economies are dynamic, the world is fluid. Rent control is poison; and frankly rent control is illiberal:
                      -Rent control prevents the creation of affordable housing in multiple highly difficult to fix ways thus rent control hurts the poor and most vulnerable in society.
                      -Rent control strongly discourages improvements to existing housing. It also strong discourages dense housing so rent control promotes both urban blight and suburban sprawl thus rent control is deeply ecologically harmful.
                      -Rent control promotes distribution of housing through non-money related criteria. You can’t buy an apartment if you could afford to pay for it. No, you have to have the right friends, the right connections, the right run of luck, a strong grasp of the local language and a strong knowledge of the local bureaucracies. Thus immigrants, newcomers and the poor and unconnected are frozen out of the rent control schemes. Rent control is thus racist and classist, privileging the connected and the majority over the lower classes, immigrants and less well connected.
                      -Rent control is rife with abuse: a rent controlled apartment inevitable gets subdivided, sublet and exploited for gain. The original rented ends up making bank from subletting, the new renters are squashed into little rooms like roaches and the unconnected live in boxes in the alley or commute three hours from the periphery. Thus rent control promotes lawbreaking, cronyism and creates a new perverse form of landed class (the bourgeoisie son who was handed down his twenty dollar a month downtown loft from his Grandfather and leases pieces of it out to eight sub letters for eight hundred bucks apiece.)
                      I’ve read about these problems, I’ve seen these problems and I’ve heard your defense “we can adjust the rent control program to fix this, we just need more rent control, more money and more administrators”. But the oldest rent control programs which have had the most time, the most money and the most administrators to tinker with them are also the worst run and the worst at helping those they claim they assist; the poor and the poorly connected. The only defenses of rent control I run into are either the indignant frightened demands of those who’re benefitting from the rent control system or the well meaning vague assertions of those who think that the ideals behind rent control have their hearts in the right places. Short of arial bombardment; rent control is one of the most effective ways to destroy a community.

                        Quote  Link

                      Report

        • Of course it’s coercive, but it is because “coercive” is a word with a definition far broader than people making political arguments like to admit.

          And it goes both ways. If employees don’t like what a company is doing, they can get a petition, and “coerce” the company into collective bargaining. Hell, I’ve been in situations before where I knew I was valuable and underpaid, and “coerced” my employers into changing my terms of employment on the threat of terminating the entire agreement myself.

          Michelle, above, is correct: the employer/employee relationship is, by and large, an unequal one. But that doesn’t make everything management does nefarious, and it doesn’t follow that just because you’re not allowed to, say, continue to be a teacher after you’ve been caught selling child pornography that the courts are going to allow your employer to tell what sex positions you are allowed to have with your wife.

            Quote  Link

          Report

          • I agree Tod,

            I will add on that it is dangerous to over-apply the lens of power differentials to contracts. It is probably reasonable in the case of children, mentally challenged and in situations of duress.

            The reason is that power differentials are pretty common, and as long as competition occurs on both sides of the contract, the market rate is not set by power, but by supply and demand — for both sides.

            Furthermore, just as the power differs, so too can the expected benefit of the interaction. The employee gets something to feed and shelter his family, the employer gets a negligible difference on a quarterly balance sheet. In other words, the interaction clearly has a huge impact for the person of lesser power and little benefit for the one with more. Any third party interference with the proclivity to set contracts is going to hurt the prospective worker the most.

              Quote  Link

            Report

  19. There are legitimate questions about when it should be okay, legally and morally, to fire someone. There are very legitimate questions about when it is okay, morally and legally, to take away anonymity an anonymous blogger.

    The case of this pseudo-pedaphile doesn’t bring up these questions. He was violating the rights to privacy of underage girls and escaping moral condemnation through anonymity. That should be outted as a deeply immoral act. And this immoral act committed against young girls was so awful that they were likely to effect his employer deeply negatively, thus there was clearly just cause to fire him.

    There are controversies about anonymity and firing. But this case is in no way controversial and there is no need to debate it specifically.

      Quote  Link

    Report

  20. I also think it’s important to remember that this guy got famous (internet famous anyway) before his identity was outed. And he was famous for immoral acts.

    Usually anonymity (and also slander and libel protections) extend primarily to those who aren’t well known. This guy was essentially a public figure, who became a public figure by acting deeply immorally. If he’d wanted his anonymity, he could’ve quit. Or changed his alias and laid low. But he wanted to be known and famous under his pseudonym.

    Thus, questions about the anonymity of bloggers and posters in general are not relevant to his case either. Nothing the reporter did threatens anonymity in general.

    BTW, Shazbot3 is my real name.

      Quote  Link

    Report

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *