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It seems like one could easily agree with the Harper's Letter and also advocate publicly that Rowland's behavior and ideas are harmful and she should lose her status as a cultural touchstone for her tone-deaf and misinformed opinions. Perhaps where there is some disagreement is whether Rowland should be punished.

I think one's response to the question of punishment has to do with differing objectives in the situation.

Some possible objectives:
1. Stop Rowland from spreading and validating harmful ideas to others. (punish ok!)
2. Change Rowland's mind. (punish not recommended)
3. Stand up for those harmed by Rowland's speech. (punish ok!)
4. Virtue signal. (punish ok!)
5. Discourage others who agree with Rowland from speaking up. (punish ok!)
There are other, non-punishment related ways to reduce the future likelihood of Rowling's anti trans behavior. I'd suggest a combination of extinction and DRI (differential reinforcement of incompatible behavior) might be better approaches with less problematic side effects.
 

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Ok. I agree with you, and think most in this thread would, too. I also think that the same can be said about the end of the other slope.
What is the other end of the slope? I haven't seen anyone advocating for wholly unfettered speech (i.e., clear calls for violence).
 

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There are other, non-punishment related ways to reduce the future likelihood of Rowling's anti trans behavior. I'd suggest a combination of extinction and DRI (differential reinforcement of incompatible behavior) might be better approaches with less problematic side effects.
Yes, absolutely. My point was that for some people the objective is not to change Rowling's behavior, but to prevent the spread of bad information and harmful ideas.

What is the other end of the slope? I haven't seen anyone advocating for wholly unfettered speech (i.e., clear calls for violence).
I haven't seen anyone advocating for a "Great Purge" either.

s


Twitter and Youtube are private companies. And, my general disposition to that is they can do what they want. However, they also have a monopoly on these forms of communication. And, as such, I think it can be argued they are a public forum. I mean you have politicians directly communicating on it. They've also asserted they're not publishers and have special privileges related to that in the law. I think a case can be made that they shouldn't be able to restrict speech to the degree that they are.

If you want to advise friends that they shouldn't use YouTube because of Alex Jones, that's fine. Boycotts are a thing. I disagree with you (in this hypothetical) as I think the sentiment is anti free speech, I think it trends unethical (I think the organized blitzes on advertisers by various groups in attempts to deplatform are unethical), but it is a free country. YouTube arbitrating what is acceptable content at a political level or Facebook or Reddit. . .that's different, yes? That's far more dangerous.
Yes, it's certainly dangerous that private businesses have monopolized the primary form of communication in our society. Agreed.

As to whether advising another to avoid speech... Is it unethical to advise my Muslim friend, whose family was collateral damage to a drone strike and who just arrived here from Syria, not to watch YouTube videos because I'm concerned he might end up being radicalized? There's tons of evidence that this sort of thing happens ( [1] Maybe It’s Not YouTube’s Algorithm That Radicalizes People [2] The Making of a YouTube Radical).

Or is it just unethical to advise my white friends not to use YouTube because it produces content that could radicalize my Muslim friend?

Or is it unethical to express my outrage that YouTube is profiting from publishing content that radicalizes my Muslim friend and leads him to harm my white friends?

Or is it unethical to contact the CEO of YouTube and ask that he stop publishing content that radicalizes people to believe in hateful ideologies that I believe incite violence and perpetuate systemic oppression?

The realities get a lot more fuzzy once you dig into it more, in my opinion.
 
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WisNeuro

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I haven't seen anyone advocating for a "Great Purge" either.
Well, no one advocates for it until they have a firm grasp of power. But, we haven't seen any great calamities by advocating that people have a right to open debate no matter their political affiliation. I can't think of any historical contexts for "the other end of the slope."
 
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Well, no one advocates for it until they have a firm grasp of power. But, we haven't seen any great calamities by advocating that people have a right to open debate no matter their political affiliation. I can't think of any historical contexts for "the other end of the slope."
Well, again, I don't believe anyone is advocating against the right to open debate. That's obfuscation.

I would argue that the other end of the slope of total restriction on speech is total unrestriction and centralized advocacy for hate and violence. You could point to basically any war or genocide as an example of the bad outcomes that come from public incitement of hate and violence.
 

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What is a public figure? What is the line for that? And further, putting pressure on YouTube to cancel Alex Jones is a method. But, one could also argue against jones and, if you win, Jones would get fewer views. What you are saying, in my view, is you don’t trust people to be able to determine for themselves what is good information. That’s anti free speech, in my opinion. It’s just being done through a proxy (a company with a monopoly over a commonly used communication format).
Are you really suggesting that people make youtube videos to argue against Alex Jones? And you think that this will solve the problems that he creates by spreading his paranoid delusions?
 

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I would argue that the other end of the slope of total restriction on speech is total unrestriction and centralized advocacy for hate and violence. You could point to basically any war or genocide as an example of the bad outcomes that come from public incitement of hate and violence.
That public hate and violence did not come from free speech, it comes from suppressing the speech/ideas/rights of others, pretty much the opposite of what some of us would advocate.
 
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beginner2011

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People definitely are in the academic sphere. It's not a hypothetical, it is happening.
That public hate and violence did not come from free speech, it comes from suppressing the speech/ideas/rights of others, pretty much the opposite of what some of us would advocate.
Maybe I'm missing something. It sounds like you're concerned that people censuring academics for what they deem to be inappropriate behavior/speech is heading toward something akin to the "Great Purge". Can you describe for me the sequence of events that would lead to this "Great Purge" event, and can you also describe the individuals/groups that would be in charge? Who is doing the Purging and who is being Purged in your imagined future?

Are you imagining Biden will be enacting a Great Purge? What are we talking about here.
 

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I think you are missing something in the aim of hyperbole. The Great Purge would be an extreme example of that slope. The more likely slope would be the removing of ideological "dissidents" from academic positions, in a Potter Stewartesque way, based on somewhat arbitrary distinctions, rather than one's ability to produce methodologically sound research. It's already happening, so we really do not need to imagine it. In the end, I believe this only ******s our ability to progress, both in the scientific and empirically driven public policy arenas.
 

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I think you are missing something in the aim of hyperbole. The Great Purge would be an extreme example of that slope. The more likely slope would be the removing of ideological "dissidents" from academic positions, in a Potter Stewartesque way, based on somewhat arbitrary distinctions, rather than one's ability to produce methodologically sound research. It's already happening, so we really do not need to imagine it. In the end, I believe this only ******s our ability to progress, both in the scientific and empirically driven public policy arenas.
Are you saying that referring to the Great Purge as a risk when discussing current trends in censureship is hyperbolic?

Edit: I'm really not trying to be obstinate. I'm wondering what you're seeing that I'm not, so I started by asking you to outline the specific scenario you are seeing that I am not.
 

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Are you saying that referring to the Great Purge as a risk when discussing current trends in censureship is hyperbolic?

Edit: I'm really not trying to be obstinate. I'm wondering what you're seeing that I'm not, so I started by asking you to outline the specific scenario you are seeing that I am not.
I can't speak for WisNeuro but I view it as more a dynamic function of just how 'rabid' knee-jerk censorship (and 'punishment' in the form of going after people's careers) develops over an extended time frame. At first, it's just here-and-there 'sniping' of public figures who dare to step outside the orthodoxy. Then, as people get a dopamine rush from exercising such 'power' over other people in the form of 'punishing' them for 'wrong-think' and others vicariously learn just how 'effective' this form of intellectual bullying is, it escalates. It starts to happen more and more often and people get more and more reluctant to speak their minds on certain topics or pay attention to certain data or findings. Then, people are attacked/'canceled' for even more minor deviations from the orthodoxy and--due to the 'success' of punishing one's ideological enemies in such a climate--such 'cancellation' attacks become more and more frequent. It's a positive feedback loop. It's more a force of nature or phenomenon than some sort of top-down driven agenda, necessarily, but it still operates like a 'Great Purge' in terms of its effects. It's a process that--if not reversed--is very likely to spiral out of control and devastate whatever credibility formal academia has in the public sphere.
 

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Plenty of open debate on display here (the anonymity probably helps). Also, are we still talking about the letter?

I think the authors of the letter in question (which was allegedly started before the Pinker stuff happened) had witnessed a few genuinely concerning situations where an individual on social media shared a contradictory or "non-woke" opinion and then faced serious repercussions. The most egregious example I can think of is when David Shorr was fired for apparently tweeting a study published in a peer-reviewed journal that did not seem to sit well with some commentators.

I think Twitter discourse in general is harmful for actual interpersonal growth and nuance. And, it's frightening to think that one could lose their job for tweeting a cohesive and non-inflammatory piece of scholarship (although, I would also hope someone wouldn't get fired even if the study in question *was* inflammatory). I think the authors of the letter are similarly concerned by the prevalence of pithy slogans that allow for no nuance and are essentially made for social-media activism ("SILENCE IS VIOLENCE" violence? really?). When non-nuanced social media slogans lead to any sort of corporate or public policy it's a recipe for disaster (see our current president for one notable example).

I am an optimist. This country's founding, in part, solidified the notion of racial difference and racism and we need to reckon with that. I don't find shame a useful tactic for growth, nor do I find 'white fragility' a good book, but I am heartened that I am part of a generation that does seem to care about marginalized individuals and attempt to ameliorate injustices. I do wish more of the discussion happened off Twitter.
 
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beginner2011

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I can't speak for WisNeuro but I view it as more a dynamic function of just how 'rabid' knee-jerk censorship (and 'punishment' in the form of going after people's careers) develops over an extended time frame. At first, it's just here-and-there 'sniping' of public figures who dare to step outside the orthodoxy. Then, as people get a dopamine rush from exercising such 'power' over other people in the form of 'punishing' them for 'wrong-think' and others vicariously learn just how 'effective' this form of intellectual bullying is, it escalates. It starts to happen more and more often and people get more and more reluctant to speak their minds on certain topics or pay attention to certain data or findings. Then, people are attacked/'canceled' for even more minor deviations from the orthodoxy and--due to the 'success' of punishing one's ideological enemies in such a climate--such 'cancellation' attacks become more and more frequent. It's a positive feedback loop. It's more a force of nature or phenomenon than some sort of top-down driven agenda, necessarily, but it still operates like a 'Great Purge' in terms of its effects. It's a process that--if not reversed--is very likely to spiral out of control and devastate whatever credibility formal academia has in the public sphere.
I'll say that I wholeheartedly agree with the open letter, and I also think that the framing of the issue in this thread trends toward distortion. Namely, confusing possible with likely (cancel culture = Great Purge), minimizing the magnitude/risk of harm to marginalized/vulnerable people, and exaggerating the magnitude/risk of harm to ourselves and our peers. Raising the specter of the Great Purge is, in my opinion, an appeal to pathos that is not based in the reality of the current circumstances. I think it's highly likely that - at the very least - some non-zero portion of the outrage we're seeing about "cancel culture" is related to believing thoughts that confuse the possible with the likely. I'd also add that we have a tendency to minimize the magnitude/risk of harm to other people when we do this. You're all psychologists. You know this stuff.

To reiterate: I agree with the open letter. "Cancel culture" certainly has a chilling effect on open debate that is undesirable for many of the reasons outlined in this conversation. I think it's also important that we be cautious about our own tendencies toward distortion and don't throw out the baby with the bathwater.
 

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As a point of reference, I did not bring up the Great Purge example until someone brought up examples of the holocaust. It was never used as an analogue to what was currently going on, rather it was a direct response to a side argument, and then brought up again when it was asked what the possible deleterious effect could be. And, it was also clearly stated that, although these are real historical examples, they are not the current situation, nor do we believe that is what will ultimately happen here. Hardly a distortion, rather something that seems foisted to inaccurately define an opposing position.
 
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DynamicDidactic

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Link for an article from NYMag. An important grain of salt, we of course don’t officially know what happened. Also the David Shor in question isn’t anyone famous or public and I probably didn’t need to include his name in previous post.
Very intriguing. I wish I knew more details. My initial, knee jerk, reaction is again that twitter is not the place to have these kinds of discussions.
 

beginner2011

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As a point of reference, I did not bring up the Great Purge example until someone brought up examples of the holocaust. It was never used as an analogue to what was currently going on, rather it was a direct response to a side argument, and then brought up again when it was asked what the possible deleterious effect could be. And, it was also clearly stated that, although these are real historical examples, they are not the current situation, nor do we believe that is what will ultimately happen here. Hardly a distortion, rather something that seems foisted to inaccurately define an opposing position.
For reference, this is the first allusion I see in this thread made to either the Holocaust or the Great Purge.

Exactly, the cancel culture ideological purity test mentality is just as dangerous as right wing fascism. Either path leads to the suppression of science and progress.

Edit: Reading the response letter @Jon Snow linked now. I see many of the points I've been trying to make stated much more sharply than I have:

But they miss the point: the irony of the piece is that nowhere in it do the signatories mention how marginalized voices have been silenced for generations in journalism, academia, and publishing.
 
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WisNeuro

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For reference, this is the first allusion I see in this thread made to either the Holocaust or the Great Purge.
Right wing facism encompasses a far greater realm of human history than just the Holocaust. And, technically the Great Purge arose out of a left wing revolution. The allusion to the Holocaust was made by another poster who equated right wing fascism to the Holocaust.
 
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beginner2011

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Right wing facism encompasses a far greater realm of human history than just the Holocaust. And, technically the Great Purge arose out of a left wing revolution. The allusion to the Holocaust was made by another poster who equated right wing fascism to the Holocaust.
You made an allusion, @psych.meout just connected the dots and made an explicit reference to your implied claim.

I know you know what allusion means, but just in case:

al·lu·sion
noun
an expression designed to call something to mind without mentioning it explicitly; an indirect or passing reference.


Look, if none of you want to reflect and seriously consider the possibility that you may be biased in your thinking on this issue that's a decision you can make. This conversation, like many others on this forum, has been an opportunity for me to gain knowledge, expand my thinking, and also learn more about my own tendencies toward biased thinking. I'm more argumentative than is useful, particularly on the internet. I have a tendency to strawman views I disagree with. I jump to conclusions and this leads to defensiveness that makes debate more imprecise and acrimonious than is helpful.

Hopefully I'm more aware of my automatic thoughts and behaviors and able to be more considered now for having engaged in the discussion. It's my opinion that self-reflection and intellectual humility would be valuable for all Americans right now.
 

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I was not alluding to that specific event, regardless of your belief of implication. If it comforts you to believe so, feel free.
 

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A response.
This. The authors do a much better job of what i was attempting to do with my posts yesterday- mainly that the original Harper's piece was a bit tone deaf in that it's largely entitled authorship was complaining about being silenced by members of historically un-entitled, low-power, marginalized groups.

I have done some introspection on this topic and my initial views on what should be done regarding people like Rowling who espouse what I consider to be ignorant, incorrect, or just plain mean views. My initial thoughts yesterday were that the response should be to just ignore her and stop paying for her products- basically addressing the issue from the standpoint of the fiduciary relationship. While that approach seems to make some sense, the more i though about, the more I realized how it is a biased view coming somewhat from my position as a white, upper-middle class, male. It assumes purchasing power, ignoring the decades/centuries of marginalizing of the affected populations so that has resulted in them not having the means to make any direct negative financial impact. Basically, because of prevailing majority behaviors, the very group Rowling targeted and that would be the most negatively impacted by her views, is- as a result- much less likely to be able to directly target her by not purchasing her product. They can only impact the fiduciary relationship by calling for others to take action. It's easy for me to say "don't buy her books/movies/lego toys/etc." coming from a place where I could actually do so. In summary, the groups most negatively impacted by the views and most positively impacted by changes in these views is less likely to have the power/access to directly change them. Thus they scream loudly for those of us with the power to do so, while working to give the future power to do so themselves.
 
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I was not alluding to that specific event, regardless of your belief of implication. If it comforts you to believe so, feel free.
You specifically said that right wing fascism was as "dangerous" as cancel culture. To what "danger" were you alluding?
 

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Suppression of academic/intellectual debate and ******ation of actual scientific progress.
Ok, if we accept the premise that this is occurring in both situations, what are the differential means by which those two groups achieve that end?

One is various forms of social pressure and the other is terrorism and murder. Now, do you see why your analogy was bad?
 

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Ok, if we accept the premise that this is occurring in both situations, what are the differential means by which those two groups achieve that end?

One is various forms of social pressure and the other is terrorism and murder. Now, do you see why your analogy was bad?
I do not believe that it is a zero sum game. You do not have to censor some ideas to elevate other ideas.

And no, the analogy was not "bad, "good," or otherwise, simply a factual accounting of history given the context you provided.
 
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Come to Division 22 midwinter and buy me one—we have lots of neuro stuff! ;)
I'm not confident midwinter will even be in-person, with a possible second/third wave of covid to go with the usual flu season. I'm currently organizing our state convention for next spring and we're still parallel planning all of the virtual infrastructure in case we have to pivot again.
 

beginner2011

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I was not alluding to that specific event, regardless of your belief of implication. If it comforts you to believe so, feel free.
In an effort to see how I misunderstood you, I went back through the thread a little more carefully. I can see how it's possible you weren't initially alluding to the specific events of the Holocaust or Great Purge.

Exactly, the cancel culture ideological purity test mentality is just as dangerous as right wing fascism.
...
If we really want to throw out the strawmen of body counts, don't forget to add in the numbers from Stalin and Lenin while we're at it.
...
At this point, no, we are not at the point of physical danger. ... It's not a very far stone's throw to see violence initiated.
...
No, the sky is not falling yet, but there are clouds in the sky. ...
However, in my first post in this thread when I specifically asked you for an example of how CCIPTM is as dangerous as right wing fascism the first example you gave was the Great Purge. I wonder if you can see how I may have been confused.

Can you define what you mean by "the cancel culture ideological purity test mentality" (CCIPTM)?

Can you give me an example of how CCIPTM is as dangerous as right wing fascism?
To the first question, it's that any thought/idea, even those based on data and empiricism, that go against a certain agreed upon orthodoxy, are anathema and should be silenced. Furthermore, the person who voiced that idea/thought, needs to be removed from any public or private position that they exist in.

As for a historical example, we have things like the Great Purge of intelligentsia and academics. The CCIPPTM is not a new or novel concept.
It would have been less confusing for our discussion if your first response to a request for an example was not to raise the Great Purge, which you had already previously acknowledged was a strawman.

You went on to clarify your argument and move away from the strawman in a later post:

I think you are missing something in the aim of hyperbole. The Great Purge would be an extreme example of that slope. The more likely slope would be the removing of ideological "dissidents" from academic positions, in a Potter Stewartesque way, based on somewhat arbitrary distinctions, rather than one's ability to produce methodologically sound research. It's already happening, so we really do not need to imagine it. In the end, I believe this only ******s our ability to progress, both in the scientific and empirically driven public policy arenas.
My understanding at this point is that you're saying that within the context of public discourse the CCIPTMentality is just as dangerous as right wing fascism (as a mentality) in terms of threats to free speech and open debate. Sure, under those conditions the claim that CCIPTM = Fascism makes sense. I think it's kind of a confused analogy/comparison because fascism by definition is "a form of far-right, authoritarian ultranationalism characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition, as well as strong regimentation of society and of the economy," and not just a mentality. However, I'll agree that there's a way of thinking about society and people that underlies support for that form of government.

I'm curious about the evidence you're pointing to for "the more likely slope" which I think @Fan_of_Meehl described well. Can someone point to examples of "ideological dissidents from academic positions, in a Potter Stewartesque way, based on somewhat arbitrary distinctions, rather than one's ability to produce methodologically sound research?" I think I'm out of the loop.
 
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foreverbull

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This. The authors do a much better job of what i was attempting to do with my posts yesterday- mainly that the original Harper's piece was a bit tone deaf in that it's largely entitled authorship was complaining about being silenced by members of historically un-entitled, low-power, marginalized groups.

I have done some introspection on this topic and my initial views on what should be done regarding people like Rowling who espouse what I consider to be ignorant, incorrect, or just plain mean views. My initial thoughts yesterday were that the response should be to just ignore her and stop paying for her products- basically addressing the issue from the standpoint of the fiduciary relationship. While that approach seems to make some sense, the more i though about, the more I realized how it is a biased view coming somewhat from my position as a white, upper-middle class, male. It assumes purchasing power, ignoring the decades/centuries of marginalizing of the affected populations so that has resulted in them not having the means to make any direct negative financial impact. Basically, because of prevailing majority behaviors, the very group Rowling targeted and that would be the most negatively impacted by her views, is- as a result- much less likely to be able to directly target her by not purchasing her product. They can only impact the fiduciary relationship by calling for others to take action. It's easy for me to say "don't buy her books/movies/lego toys/etc." coming from a place where I could actually do so. In summary, the groups most negatively impacted by the views and most positively impacted by changes in these views is less likely to have the power/access to directly change them. Thus they scream loudly for those of us with the power to do so, while working to give the future power to do so themselves.
@Jon Snow The article you posted also captures my sentiments. I appreciate your thoughts, @ClinicalABA. I think power is an important factor in all of this that should be considered. Social media lends itself to trending and viral reactions to public figures’ words, which doesn’t require a person to be famous to have an effect, and can be a means to empower marginalized voices. I see some of this shifting as a good thing because it is changing the culture in the direction of accountability and empowering marginalized groups. As we discuss cancel culture, I think it’s important to look at who is doing the talking garnering the responses/reactions, who is responding, and what are the consequences (to both the person initiating by posting publicly and the folks who react). Sometimes people calling out a public figure ALSO receive threats/bullying, not necessarily just the public figure.

I read more about the Pinker situation and the open letter written wasn’t calling for him to be fired, regardless of the quality or merits of the argument regarding his tweets. And Pinker wasn’t fired and did NOT lose his status as fellow of the LSA as was requested in the letter. And with JK Rowling, while she faced social media backlash, I’m not understanding how this is unfair or unwarranted. Her publisher has the right to decide the kind of authors they want associated with their products as it is also about their reputation as well as her opinions are shouted from the rooftops for all to hear, so to speak (I personally wonder why she has such an intense and directed interest in transgender identity, but that’s the psychologist in me and isn’t relevant here). Per what I understand, though, her publisher didn’t even drop her, they just published a statement that expressed disagreement with her.

I have yet to see evidence of widespread firing of people due to “cancel culture” that is unjust. If there are widespread trends of people who aren’t racist/sexist/etc. mistakenly or falsely characterized as such and then fired, then we have a huge problem that should be addressed. But freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from criticism or consequences. Our society didn’t hold people in power or public positions as accountable for some of these words/behaviors in the past, and certainly our culture has shifted and evolved—which might be a wake up call to people who are openly racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, etc. and don’t want to face any real-world consequences for prejudice and/or discrimination.

And, if things do go too far in the direction of actually firing people en masse for assumptions or words that are misconstrued (or widespread violence committed against people who post things others don’t agree with), then in my opinion, things have gone too far, but I would imagine there would be a correcting shift back to a more moderate place if it got that extreme. That said, companies and institutions have a right to choose whom they want associated with their brand, so to speak, and this has not changed. Thinking about my own practice, if I hired an employee who said egregious things on social media, by default my business is now associated with this person and I could be seen as espousing those views by extension as a result if I remained silent. Would I fire the person? It would depend on what was said and why, but I think it could be an appropriate response depending on severity.

Online bullying and harassment, however, is an entirely different topic—not sure where laws fall on this but I’m guessing this is not protected as free speech? Is speech that encourages violence protected? I‘m not as familiar with these laws.
 

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I don’t think the authors of the Harper’s letter believe in a world without consequences, nor do they hope to to further entrench injustice. And I don’t think they are trying to defend hate speech or bullying.

I think one concern that your post makes me think of is that the definitions of what counts as “sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic” etc keep changing and are not always as straightforward as they seem.(Note, I think these definitions should change with social progress, but people need time). One of the authors of the Harpers letter, and specifically named in the counter letter, is considered a transphobe by many for a relatively nuanced piece (in my opinion) on trans youth.

(Article: When Children Say They’re Trans

The authors do probably live in a somewhat myopic world - too much Twitter. There are more examples of people calling for firings of those expressing certain views, only a relative few from the real world. And of course the counter letter expresses very real concerns as well, such as the need for highlighting the voices of members from traditionally marginalized groups. But I don’t think the Harpers letter disagrees with that; in fact, silencing marginalized people would be anathema to the very ideal their defending.
 

foreverbull

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I don’t think the authors of the Harper’s letter believe in a world without consequences, nor do they hope to to further entrench injustice. And I don’t think they are trying to defend hate speech or bullying.

I think one concern that your post makes me think of is that the definitions of what counts as “sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic” etc keep changing and are not always as straightforward as they seem.(Note, I think these definitions should change with social progress, but people need time). One of the authors of the Harpers letter, and specifically named in the counter letter, is considered a transphobe by many for a relatively nuanced piece (in my opinion) on trans youth.

(Article: When Children Say They’re Trans

The authors do probably live in a somewhat myopic world - too much Twitter. There are more examples of people calling for firings of those expressing certain views, only a relative few from the real world. And of course the counter letter expresses very real concerns as well, such as the need for highlighting the voices of members from traditionally marginalized groups. But I don’t think the Harpers letter disagrees with that; in fact, silencing marginalized people would be anathema to the very ideal their defending.
As someone who is a bit of a specialist in this area, that article was probably one of the best if not the best summary of the topic of transition in youth I’ve read that wasn’t written by an expert in transgender identity. Singal covered the research and controversy well and it was very balanced for a layperson reader. Did this author get fired for publishing this piece?

I see what you are saying about nuanced definitions, hence why I included my thoughts about how misinterpretations or assumed “isms” aren’t valid reasons to be fired. In ambiguous cases, I think explanations and clarifications from the author/public figure can be helpful at clearing this up at times. And context is important, as well as patterns of behaviors in these cases.

For example (real world example), some lesbians have stated that they are not attracted to transwomen/women with penises (tweeted such). Some extremists immediately labeled these women as TERFs and “transphobic” on social media for not feeling attraction to transwomen without vaginas. Should a ciswoman who is gay be fired because she’s “transphobic” per a small number of very extreme thinkers in this case? I would argue no, attraction has nothing to do with transphobia, so I understand your point (I’d wonder why someone would feel the need to tweet that, but this is just for the sake of argument). I think there are levels here and blatant transphobia is probably something we could recognize more easily (I.e. JK Rowling’s essay in which she called transmen “women” and compared hormone therapy to conversion therapy in a later tweet). But certainly there can be gray areas, and I’m more hesitant in those cases to take sides, hence why patterns of behavior might be more relevant there and/or more context and clarification would be important. Twitter is a tough place (no place?) for nuanced conversation, that’s for sure.
 
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WisNeuro

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I'm curious about the evidence you're pointing to for "the more likely slope" which I think @Fan_of_Meehl described well. Can someone point to examples of "ideological dissidents from academic positions, in a Potter Stewartesque way, based on somewhat arbitrary distinctions, rather than one's ability to produce methodologically sound research?" I think I'm out of the loop.
A couple examples off the top of my head would be some of the controversy of research in the LBGTQIA+ community that was discussed in a lengthy thread a few months back. Another example would be some of the fallout, both public and private from the Cesario research. When I refer to the Cesario stuff, I am not referring to the Hsu issues.
 

WisNeuro

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Online bullying and harassment, however, is an entirely different topic—not sure where laws fall on this but I’m guessing this is not protected as free speech? Is speech that encourages violence protected? I‘m not as familiar with these laws.
Calls to violence are not protected speech (see Virginia v. Black). Although this gets into a grey area when things are ambiguous, such as a joke, or something that is considered hyperbole.
 

gene_halpert

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Jesse did not get “fired” - I believe he is a freelancer. There were some articles against him with the accusation of transphobia (published in less mainstream outlets like Jezebel). It’s hard to say with certainty whether those accusations have cost him some work or funding, but it could be argued.
 

beginner2011

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A couple examples off the top of my head would be some of the controversy of research in the LBGTQIA+ community that was discussed in a lengthy thread a few months back. Another example would be some of the fallout, both public and private from the Cesario research. When I refer to the Cesario stuff, I am not referring to the Hsu issues.
If you could point to the LGBTQIA+ research controversy that would be helpful. That's too broad for me to search in any meaningful way.

Cesario was removed from his academic position? I'm seeing him still listed on the MSU website as an Associate Professor: Associate Professor | Department of Psychology | Michigan State University

He recently requested a retraction of the controversial article: Authors of study on race and police killings ask for its retraction, citing “continued misuse” in the media

Help me understand how this is an example of someone being "removed from [their] academic position".
 

WisNeuro

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If you could point to the LGBTQIA+ research controversy that would be helpful. That's too broad for me to search in any meaningful way.

Cesario was removed from his academic position? I'm seeing him still listed on the MSU website as an Associate Professor: Associate Professor | Department of Psychology | Michigan State University

He recently requested a retraction of the controversial article: Authors of study on race and police killings ask for its retraction, citing “continued misuse” in the media

Help me understand how this is an example of someone being "removed from [their] academic position".
The discussion is back there somewhere, perhaps if someone else has a link to it, I don't have the time to search for it at the moment.

Cesario was not removed from his position, but he was forced to decline certain speaking positions. There was also some internal fallout as well. (Full disclosure, I have past affiliation with the institution and still have very good friends in the dept).

Also, in the discussion, removal from position was only one of the negative outcomes. The pressure to not do research or have discussions in an area were another negative outcome.
 

beginner2011

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The discussion is back there somewhere, perhaps if someone else has a link to it, I don't have the time to search for it at the moment.

Cesario was not removed from his position, but he was forced to decline certain speaking positions. There was also some internal fallout as well. (Full disclosure, I have past affiliation with the institution and still have very good friends in the dept).

Also, in the discussion, removal from position was only one of the negative outcomes. The pressure to not do research or have discussions in an area were another negative outcome.
But you clearly claimed that removing dissidents was already happening.

I think you are missing something in the aim of hyperbole. The Great Purge would be an extreme example of that slope. The more likely slope would be the removing of ideological "dissidents" from academic positions, in a Potter Stewartesque way, based on somewhat arbitrary distinctions, rather than one's ability to produce methodologically sound research. It's already happening, so we really do not need to imagine it. In the end, I believe this only ******s our ability to progress, both in the scientific and empirically driven public policy arenas.
Maybe your intention was to say something different, but I'm struggling to see how, based on what you wrote, your claim could be interpreted in a different way.
 

beginner2011

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If you had data suggesting no racial bias in policing, would you publish it? If you had data suggesting social contagion or a similar concept in school children in the rate of transgender identity, would you publish it? If you had data showing no sexism in hiring practices in engineering would you publish it? What if you had data that teaching intersectionality and CRT in diversity trainings increases racism compared to teaching people not to look at identity when considering ideas?

I personally wouldn’t touch any of those topics with a 100 foot pole.

note, I’m not taking a position on any of these topics, just suggesting that the current milieu is not healthy, in my opinion.
Yes, absolutely. Without question. Just look at the controlled drinking studies and the backlash the Sobells received back in the 1980s. They received numerous death threats, had targets on their back for years, and had bodyguards at international conferences. Despite the severity of the backlash, I don't believe there was a widespread outrage among academics or an open letter decrying "cancel culture". This is not the first time psychologists have produced research that people don't like and strongly oppose.

If my research interests were in this area I would be happy to advocate strongly and work diligently to ensure the implications of my work were interpreted accurately. Otherwise, what am I even doing? If anyone cared about my work enough to freak out like that it would just be that much of a reminder how great an impact my work was having. If I had results like you mentioned I would probably be more proactive about consulting with stakeholders than I would reporting results from a boilerplate clinical trial or something, and especially conscientious about the language that I use to describe my results. I know it's easy to say now, but I don't believe I would decide not to publish it because I might get "canceled" by people on the internet and/or receive some push back.

Edit: I'll also add that I would agree that there are certainly people saying and doing things that I don't think are healthy for the discussion. I believe the frequency and impact of these people's behavior is being overstated, though.
 
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beginner2011

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The NYTimes podcast 'The Daily' did a two part series on "Cancel Culture," which I thought was really interesting. Curious if anyone else listened to it. Take aways: Cancel culture started as an ironic joke on Twitter. There isn't a clear definition of what is meant by 'cancel culture'. People generally are opposed to 'cancel culture'. People generally attempt to link their ideological opponents with 'cancel culture' because it is a strategically shrewd way to 'win' an argument without actually engaging with the content of the opponent's argument.

 

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