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Old 12-27-2019, 04:01 PM
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Should the powerful be able to control the speech of the less powerful?


(Spinning this out of another thread.)

I hope that the answer to this question is the same whether you agree with what is being expressed or disagree with it, but have experiences here that ethics of the powerful exerting control to prevent expression of speech over those with less power varies based on agreement or disagreement with what those with less power are saying. This is beyond the Citizens United sort of impact, which is a different discussion that I think most here agree about.

I exclude from this discussion hate speech, calls for violence, speech that creates a hostile or dysfunctional workplace, or speech that has real impact on your employer.

Example one: An employer firing an employee for political speech expressed outside of the workplace that has no direct impact on the company or the employee's ability to perform their job in any way. Legal in "at-will" states, which is most of them. If an employer objects to your yard sign supporting, say working wage legislation, or Pro-Choice, or support for a candidate of your choice, or whatever, they can demand you remove it or be fired. If you want your job your freedom of expression is at the pleasure of your boss.

Example two: A large group boycotting not a show or channel for what political speech a person who works for them said (which you don't watch anyway) but those companies who advertise on that show. This one will lose more of you I think, but to me boycotts like that are only effective when put in place by those who have power within a society, by way of a combination of purchasing power and numbers, and is a means by which a more monied (powerful) group attempts to control the nature of the discourse in ways that the less powerful cannot.

Both seem wrong to me.

Curious to hear more opinions about this as an abstract, or is it impossible to view other than considering whether or not you agree or disagree with the speech being expressed?
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Old 12-27-2019, 04:29 PM
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The first scenario is certainly bad, but that's the way capitalism works. The second doesn't bother me in the least. Losing a job is just not comparable to losing a client (the advertiser).
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Old 12-27-2019, 07:02 PM
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What is your alternative?

In #1, employers should have to keep employees around even when they're costing them business?

Because if Pat deeply and truly believes that the Kennedy assassination was caused by aliens from Meztli who were trying to rescue Jackie from a scouting expedition gone wrong and Pat decides to publish this far and wide, well.... while I do not think Pat should face criminal punishment, I am likely to think that his employer doesn't do a great job of vetting people and perhaps has problems with quality control in other aspects of their business and I may likely go to one of their competitors. I won't be alone.
The options are for Pat to face the consequences of his speech or the employer to do so. It seems more correct for it to be Pat.

For #2, are you arguing that I should feel obligated to keep giving money to a corporation? Shouldn't that be my decision?
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Old 12-27-2019, 07:14 PM
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Originally Posted by DSeid View Post
Example two: A large group boycotting not a show or channel for what political speech a person who works for them said (which you don't watch anyway) but those companies who advertise on that show. This one will lose more of you I think, but to me boycotts like that are only effective when put in place by those who have power within a society, by way of a combination of purchasing power and numbers, and is a means by which a more monied (powerful) group attempts to control the nature of the discourse in ways that the less powerful cannot.
Say what? If I am one of ten million people who believe (for example) Google is doing something reprehensible, and participate with those other 9,999,999 individuals in a boycott of Chrome in protest of the reprehensible thing....

...then somehow I, as an individual, am more powerful and/or monied than the corporation I protest?

How does that make sense?

I can't see any scenario, in fact, in which it makes sense to claim that a person who participates in a boycott is "more powerful" than the company being protested, and thus that this person is "controlling the speech" of the company.

?


(my emphasis in your quote)
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Old 12-27-2019, 10:36 PM
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Yes, clearly Martin Luther King Jr and the close to a hundred other African-Americans charged with conspiracy for boycotting the Montgomery segregated bus system were the people in power in that situation.

King’s personal power was amply demonstrated by his house being firebombed, and the two weeks he spent in jail for leading the boycott.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montgo...oycott#Boycott
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Old 12-28-2019, 09:43 AM
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The first time I heard the thought experiment about the employee fired for political speech it was a thinly veiled reference to the Nazis from the deadly Charlottesville riot who were outed by antifascist and lost their jobs making sandwiches. It might have been on this very board. If I had an employee, and they had some sort of nut ball political theory that could conceivably cost my customers, or cause other employees to quit, I would fire them, anyone would. No one is going to lose their business to support an employees stupidity.

Perhaps stupidity is harsh, so how about poor judgment. I'm bisexual In most places for most of my life it was not a protected class. So, I made sure my employer didn't know that I occassionally suck dick. If I can keep that to myself for my entire professional career, then Nazis can keep their mouths shut too.
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Old 12-28-2019, 11:00 AM
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1. In the first case, no I don't think an employer should fire, or be able to fire, in this situation.

2. This question is puzzling. Should million of customers be able to boycott? It's less of "should they" and "well, they do have the power." If they don't like something, they do, and should be able to, go elsewhere with their dollars.
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Old 12-28-2019, 12:04 PM
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I would suggest that several respondents re-read what the op asks as their responses are to different scenarios.

The first explicitly states: "political speech expressed outside of the workplace that has no direct impact on the company or the employee's ability to perform their job in any way"

Responses like "employers should have to keep employees around even when they're costing them business?", and "No one is going to lose their business to support an employees stupidity", are not responding to the op at all. This portion is asking about speech that DOES NOT do those things but is exclusively speech that the employer disagrees with.

Also not sure that such is "the way capitalism works" ... capitalism work just fine in those states that aren't at-will and that have protections in place for non-workplace speech expression. Colorado's and North Dakota's seem most relevant:
Quote:
Colorado: Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-34-402.5 says it's illegal to fire an employee because that employee
engaged in any lawful activity off the employer's premises during nonworking hours unless the restriction relates to a bona fide occupational requirement or is reasonably and rationally
related to the employment activities and responsibilities of a particular employee or
a particular group of employees; or is necessary to avoid, or avoid the appearance of, a conflict of interest with any of the employee's responsibilities to the employer.

<snip>

North Dakota: N.D. Cent. Code § 14-02/4-03 (2003) says it's illegal for an employer to fail or refuse to hire a person, to discharge an employee, or to treat a person or employee adversely or unequally with respect to application, hiring, training, apprenticeship, tenure, promotion, upgrading, compensation, layoff, or a term, privilege, or condition of employment, because of participation in lawful activity off the employer's premises during nonworking hours which is not in direct conflict with the essential business-related interests of the employer.
The second section is specifically asking about boycotts specifically aimed at preventing your (or anyone's) POV from having any soapbox at all. Boycotts aimed at punishing behaviors that one considers immoral, unethical, or would want to be illegal are not the subject. Google doing something reprehensible or segregation policies are not the subject in the op. It is instead the observation that the use of consumer boycotts as a tool to restrict who gets a chance to have their ideas heard, to control which ideas get expressed, is one that in general is most able to be employed by those of privilege and of existing power.

I began reconsidering this after you with the face reminded me of a conversation we had about it a dozen years ago (dang an impressive memory she has!) I'm going to repeat some of what I said back then but hey after a dozen years I can repeat myself!

To my way of thinking during the McCarthy era speechifying against Communism was ethically fine, blacklisting those who may have said something interpreted as sympathetic to Communists, not.

I accept that boycotts specifically to control access to the soapbox are themselves a form of expression and completely legit. They will be used by all sides involved. They do seem to me however to be another way in which those with more money/disposable income (the consumers advertisers care about) have power to control speech expression by others.

After a dozen years my position is a bit softer on this latter issue than it was. Facebook as a soapbox and the way its claim to be a neutral stage has been exploited to spread mis- and disinformation is really what has me rethinking it. FWIW.
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Old 12-28-2019, 12:51 PM
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Originally Posted by DSeid View Post

I accept that boycotts specifically to control access to the soapbox are themselves a form of expression and completely legit. They will be used by all sides involved. They do seem to me however to be another way in which those with more money/disposable income (the consumers advertisers care about) have power to control speech expression by others.
My opinion is the same as it’s always has been: One can support the right to boycott without supporting all boycotts.

I disagree with your characterization of boycotts with respect to power. The only power that consumers have is their purchasing power. Most corporations, in contrast, have that plus the means to influence public opinion and public policy. Not just with money but with their control over information and their ability to lobby effectively. There is no contest here; to whatever extent an individual has control over the speech of a company, it is infinitesimal compared to the control companies have.

Consumer power only matters when a lot of individuals reach the same conclusion about a company and decide to steer their money elsewhere. Since there is nothing inherently wrong with this and most importantly, nothing that can be done to prevent this short of government intervention (which would violate the 1st amendment), I don’t know what else there is to say about this reality.

Last edited by you with the face; 12-28-2019 at 12:52 PM.
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Old 12-29-2019, 05:28 AM
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I'm not sure i understand the 2nd scenario: Is the idea that because they cumulatively have more bargaining power, the masses are therefor now the powerful side in the power balance equation? And this is somehow bad?
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Old 12-29-2019, 09:32 AM
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Originally Posted by DSeid View Post
(Spinning this out of another thread.)

I hope that the answer to this question is the same whether you agree with what is being expressed or disagree with it, but have experiences here that ethics of the powerful exerting control to prevent expression of speech over those with less power varies based on agreement or disagreement with what those with less power are saying. This is beyond the Citizens United sort of impact, which is a different discussion that I think most here agree about.

I exclude from this discussion hate speech, calls for violence, speech that creates a hostile or dysfunctional workplace, or speech that has real impact on your employer.

Example one: An employer firing an employee for political speech expressed outside of the workplace that has no direct impact on the company or the employee's ability to perform their job in any way. Legal in "at-will" states, which is most of them. If an employer objects to your yard sign supporting, say working wage legislation, or Pro-Choice, or support for a candidate of your choice, or whatever, they can demand you remove it or be fired. If you want your job your freedom of expression is at the pleasure of your boss.

Example two: A large group boycotting not a show or channel for what political speech a person who works for them said (which you don't watch anyway) but those companies who advertise on that show. This one will lose more of you I think, but to me boycotts like that are only effective when put in place by those who have power within a society, by way of a combination of purchasing power and numbers, and is a means by which a more monied (powerful) group attempts to control the nature of the discourse in ways that the less powerful cannot.

Both seem wrong to me.

Curious to hear more opinions about this as an abstract, or is it impossible to view other than considering whether or not you agree or disagree with the speech being expressed?

First and foremost, "at will" employment are specifically geared laws for UNION employees and companies who deal with unions. "At will" has NOTHING to do with any other form of employment. If you aren't employed by a Union or work through a Union, or are any part of a Union or company that deals with Unions, then "at will" has absolutely nothing to do with you or the company you work for.

Secondly, if a company fires you for something you did in your private life, you have the right to sue the f**k out of them for intrusion, violation of personal and civil rights, and communist dictatorship over your personal beliefs.


As for your title question Should the powerful be able to control the speech of the less powerful?
Those with power of any kind have always used it to control the speech or thoughts of others. Religion, politics, government.......anything that is organized and claims any sort of power will hold that power over those they consider "underneath" them and use them as their puppets. This includes their speech, as well as their emotional state, thoughts, and actions.

Back in the 1960's the rise of protesters against "the man" (those in power) was at it's highest in our history. They were fighting the rule of those with power over societies speech, thoughts, and human rights. And if you have studied history or paid attention to it in school, then you know what kinds of reactions those in power had against those who protested it.

You can fight "the man", but you can't win. Simply because "the man" HAS the power that was given to them by the people in the first place. The only way to handle "the man" is to control his power or remove it. But "the man" has had too much time and too much control to build up a solid army and defense against anything and everything, short of a civil riot breaking in and executing "the man", or those in power that have corrupted their position and office.
  #12  
Old 12-29-2019, 10:04 AM
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In the US, free speech is a right. But employment is not. Until we make employment a right, then people should feel free to employ whomever they want short of discriminating against protected classes.

I can think of a bunch of political topics that I wouldn't fire someone over. Pro-life/pro-choice would be one of them. But someone else's "It's just politics, man!" is another person's litmus test for basic decency. Like, back in the 1960s, the enfranchisement of black Americans fell into the "It's just politics, man!" bin for the majority of Americans. But for black folk, that topic was very sensitive. Would you have blamed a black employer for terminating an employee for espousing the view that black people shouldn't be able to vote? Why should the employee's right to say "BLACK PEOPLE HAVEN'T EARNED THE RIGHT TO VOTE!" override the employer's right to say "YOU'RE FIRED!"

Pro-life/pro-choice isn't a litmust test for basic decency for me. But I can see how it could be one for someone else.
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Old 12-29-2019, 10:55 PM
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Unless enacting legislation or enforcing morality, "should" is irrelevant. The powerful WILL suppress what they can if they feel it in their interest. Yes, I certainly SHOULD be able to emote freely, and you SHOULD be able to perceive me if you wish, but we know that won't happen in many situations. Speech has consequences. Prudence is wise.
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Old 12-29-2019, 11:22 PM
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Everyone seems to agree that boycotts are a valid use of mass power, and I agree with that as well. However, is it still valid when mass power is used to hurt a private person who has no private power of their own?
Quote:
[Andi] Moritz was a freshman at Bryn Mawr in September 2016, when she posted on the school’s ride-share Facebook page to see if anyone was going to a rally for presidential candidate Donald J. Trump. Mercilessly lambasted by other students on social media, she dropped out of the college to avoid further humiliation.
Andi Moritz isn't and wasn't a CEO who had to resign because a corporate board felt unwilling to stomach the bad publicity from her prior actions. She was an individual with an individual's level of power who was forced to stop going to school. Granted, the school was one of the Seven Sisters, but maybe she was a scholarship case instead of a legacy.

If your analysis begins and ends with "TRUMP" we're not going to have a productive discussion.
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Old 12-30-2019, 09:28 AM
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The hypothetical posits that the worker’s off-duty activities have no impact on the company. In that case, I find it unlikely that most any company would bestir itself to do anything about it. The Charlotsville sandwich artists were toast (yes I did!) the moment anyone said “holy shit, you have fascists working there!” , because at that point it did impact the company. As exception, smaller companies might show cases where there is a strong ideology of the founder - resulting in hiring or retaining only those who don’t show divergent views, and at that point, I think the owner of the company has the right to choose whom he associates with within his own company, and that holds true even if the company gets larger, like Hobby Lobby etc. It is largely self-regulating: lack of diversity in thinking will make them inevitably less competitive, and less rigid companies will eventually crush them.
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Old 12-30-2019, 01:40 PM
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Secondly, if a company fires you for something you did in your private life, you have the right to sue the f**k out of them for intrusion, violation of personal and civil rights, and communist dictatorship over your personal beliefs.
I mean, you have the right to sue for whatever you want, but a lawsuit against a former employer for "communist dictatorship over your personal beliefs" is unlikely to be successful.

In most places in the US a private (that is, non-government) employer can fire you for political speech and you have no legal recourse, aside from a few specifically carved-out exceptions (like, if your political speech is specifically about trying to unionize your coworkers).

I'm not convinced that's a bad thing. Obviously, a given application of it can be bad. But as a principle, I think freedom of association and freedom of contract are important rights, even when they are used by the powerful against the less-empowered.
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Old 12-30-2019, 02:36 PM
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I exclude from this discussion hate speech, calls for violence, speech that creates a hostile or dysfunctional workplace, or speech that has real impact on your employer.
That's not as easy as you appear to believe.

We live in a society where "hate" is defined broadly and "trigger warnings" exist.

It might seem that public advocacy for Planned Parenthood has no bearing on someone's job at Giant Plastics Inc. But what if that brings a worker into conflict with other employees who have strong anti-abortion leanings and a "hostile workplace" results? Or if someone has a photo of himself wearing a MAGA hat on his Facebook page, and other workers claim that's a declaration of hate and that they feel threatened on the job?

My personal take is that we should lean strongly towards maximal protection of employees' free speech in their private lives, short of activities such as calling for specific acts of violence - and that protections should extend to everyone, "powerful" or not.*

*I may not agree with some boycotts of commercial entities over the statements/political activities of their owners and top executives, but I don't see anything immoral about the practice.
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Old 12-31-2019, 08:26 AM
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I'd have to see some statistics on people losing their jobs for broadly defined hate or for trigger warnings before I can take any of this seriously. The bar really seems to be at the level of march in a murderous Klan rally, lose your job, not mention a triggering phrase after work, out of ear shot, lose your job.
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Old 12-31-2019, 10:31 AM
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The first scenario is certainly bad, but that's the way capitalism works. The second doesn't bother me in the least. Losing a job is just not comparable to losing a client (the advertiser).
I agree with this.

If there was an employee that was perfectly politically neutral at work, but he got fired because his boss saw a Trump or Bernie yard sign outside of his house— I’d think that really sucked, and that it was wrong, although the boss was still within his rights.

But in real life it doesn’t work that way. Small businesses tend to develop their own culture and mindset from the top down., meaning someone with liberal leanings will tend to hire other people with the same leanings and that company “personality” may become a factor in the way the business attracts clients.

My nephew, who’s fairly conservative, works for a construction company, the kind that paints American flag designs on all their vehicles. I probably wouldn’t last a day there before I ran my mouth off and got fired. The phrase “not a good fit” comes to mind.

Yes, this sucks in today’s employment market, but it shouldn’t. There should be sufficient job opportunities that a good worker has options and can easily find an employer that in comfortable with his personal beliefs. Rather than passing subjective and hard to enforce laws protecting political speech, we should work towards a job market that is more robust for employees.

And as for advertising boycotts, I think those are a way to give ordinary people at least an illusion of power against a large company. By my own POV, it’s a little silly, simply because horrible behavior by large companies is endemic. I have laughed out loud at someone who stringently made a point of not eating at Chik-Fil-A, as they gassed up their car at an Exxon station.

But if people want to exercise their power that way, I have no issue with it. And, what are you going to do? Pass a law making everyone shop at Hobby Lobby?
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Old 01-02-2020, 02:51 PM
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I would consider both situations in the OP wrong, but like abortion, they should remain legal anyway because outlawing them is worse.

I mean, lying is nearly always wrong, and almost always entirely legal. Should we outlaw lying? Is this thread about morality or the law?
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Old 01-02-2020, 04:30 PM
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Of course, if the employer has any sense at all, they will usually try to find a way to get rid of the employee that hides the objection to that employee's outside activities. HR in a company of +100 tends to be very adept at finding ways to show you the door.

But we do not live in a frictionless vacuum, where they saying of things comes without consequences. Some of those consequences are salutary, and some can impact us very hard. Because, what is the point of expression that amounts to but shouting into the void? If you are not ready to deal with the effects, then STFU.
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Old 01-02-2020, 04:59 PM
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The OP's first example is interesting. In general, most employers aren't going to get pissy if you go put a political candidate's sign in your yard, or even some kind of political/religious statement. My experience is that they get concerned when the employee's out-of-work behavior is likely to reflect badly on the company in some way. So if you're out there doing stuff that's drawing attention to yourself, your message, AND is something that can come back to reflect on the company, then they're going to be pissy about it and possibly fire you. So if your pro-choice sign is 10 feet tall with flashing lights and a loudspeaker, and you're on the news as "John Doe, owner of the sign and employee of XYZ corp" they would probably not like that.

But if your sign isn't anything remarkable, then it's unlikely they'd know or care. It's the uncontrolled involvement of the company that the vast majority object to, not that their employees have different political opinions than the company line.
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Old 01-02-2020, 06:08 PM
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Originally Posted by chaidragonfire View Post
First and foremost, "at will" employment are specifically geared laws for UNION employees and companies who deal with unions. "At will" has NOTHING to do with any other form of employment. If you aren't employed by a Union or work through a Union, or are any part of a Union or company that deals with Unions, then "at will" has absolutely nothing to do with you or the company you work for.

Secondly, if a company fires you for something you did in your private life, you have the right to sue the f**k out of them for intrusion, violation of personal and civil rights, and communist dictatorship over your personal beliefs.
This is absolutely, completely, 100%, unalterably wrong. Chaidragonfire, here's my cite that says you're wrong. Please post a cite that agrees with your claim.
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