Abortion, and forcing people doesn’t work out how you think

So, according to certain media, there is a bill making its way through the final stages of the Missouri state legislature that could “allow employers and landlords to discriminate against women who use birth control or have had abortions.”

But, I’m not a Missuran (is that a word? Missourian? I think it’s Missourian…) why should I be poking my nose into their issues? It’s none of my business…

See, that’s the problem with this particular bit of legislation – and the legislation that inspired it. Noses going where they aren’t welcome.

There are two “problems” here; or at least, two causes that I sympathize greatly with, and it just so happens that they are on opposite sides.

First is the issue of reproductive rights; what you do with your body isn’t anyone’s business. Even if we’re talking about abortions – and assuming the hypothetical “you” here believes that life starts at conception, and therefore it’s murder – that’s still an issue that aught to be resolved in a court of law. Not by employers, not by landlords – most importantly, because they cannot access a person’s medical information to make an informed decision.

On the other hand (sorry, if you were with me up to here, I might lose you now…) I also sympathize with people being forced to do and pay for things that they find are morally objectionable. (If you’re still here, imagine being forced to pay for conversion therapy… forcing people to pay for other’s treatment still sound like a good idea?) Everyone is entitled to their opinions and beliefs, and we don’t get to just dismiss them if they run contrary to our own, and force people to conform to our ideals.

Now, of course depending on your position in the political spectrum and how much science you know, you’ll probably be more sympathetic to one of these problems than the other. Which is understandable. What isn’t, however, is refusing to consider the other problem because you think your problem is more important.

This is what leads us to the law of unintended consequences being the only piece of legislation that never fails to pass. People focus on their issue, and in the pursuit of their noble goal, ignore the negative side-effects of the legislation they are supporting.

Opposition to this new law won’t be effective if it doesn’t consider the cause; and while “those guys I disagree with over there are just mean and evil and do mean, evily things” is nice to whip up the base into calling legislators and signing online petitions … it’s not the best way to craft legislation – or to prevent a new version of this bill from making the rounds once the activism has died down.

After all, SB-5 was created by the same mechanism; of whipping up a different base by accusing the “other side” of wanting to mean, evily things and they have to be stopped. Damn the consequences, saving innocent children is more important.

It’s this partisan, retaliatory legislative and executive action that ignores the concerns of the people they are reacting against that is the problem. Just stopping SB-5 isn’t going to fix the problem, anymore than passing the bill is fixing the problem. It’s just creating a new and bigger one; because very often people will ignore some of their own issues to force through a bit of legislation that they think is “more important”.

I doubt that the people who support SB-5 are any more amenable to employers being able to look through their employee’s medical records, than people who oppose it are OK with denying people the right to practice their religion. They’re just so focused on the passionate, immediate issue of abortion that they aren’t really stopping to think of all the consequences of what they are advocating for.

And that leads us to having these awful, messy, backwards bills and laws.

Now, my apologies to the citizens of the great and lauded state of Missouri, that I was using you as an example of this issue – and please don’t think I’m trying to tell you how to run your state. Just that… given how hard it was to find information on this bill, it seems more people there should know about it.




The silver lining to interrupting a play

If you’re partial to free speech, like I am, you’re probably unhappy with Laura Loomer’s – accompanied by Jack Posobiec – interruption of the Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar with President Trump referenced in the titular role.


In a way, I can understand why the action was “necessary” <– and I mean to quote there, not mock. Interrupting the play would presumably provoke outrage among the “free speech = hate speech” crowd, who’ve been engaging in much worse antics against free speech lately. They would condemn Ms Loomer’s actions, and it’s useful to point out the hypocrisy of their outrage, and the underlying partisan bent to their “words hurt people” mantra.

Heretofore, there have been largely two groups: those who support free speech regardless of political inclination, and those who demand safe spaces from political speech they disagree with. The latter are most prominently SJWs (though the right does have it’s snowflakes).

shapiro arrested

Free speech activists like myself could remain consistent in advocating for free speech for everyone. No problem there. The problem is that the SJW segment could also be largely consistent in being opposed to what they dubbed harmful speech.

Providing at least a few counter-examples of what the regressive left does, could be said to be necessary to underscore the selective application of their ideological censorship. Barring the existence of their tactics being used against them, they could at least cling to the pretense that they were at least OK with a non-partisan application of their censorship.

By exposing the outrage of these groups against what Ms Loomer and Mr Posobiec did, it shows that their drive for censorship is not directed at limiting violence and hatred, but at silencing their political opposition.


Of course this comes at a cost, one that’s too steep for a lot of us to bear. Ms Loomer and anyone else who participates in, or defends, these interruptions will have no consistency or moral authority on which to stand up for free speech – at least not without some form of penance for having violated their own principles. I, for one, would not break my principles in this regard, and I completely support and encourage no one else doing so, either.

Those of us who are especially critical of the censorship drives of authoritarian leftism (and, to be fair, rightism), should be wary of being too enthusiastic in condemning Ms Loomer. I understand the motivation; to finally have have a counterexample of anti-SJW snowflakery with which to strengthen our bona fides of standing up for free speech wherever necessary, regardless of political affiliation.

Sometimes you have to fight fire with fire – and while it’s our duty to condemn any attempts at political censorship, we aught not forget the greater good of the forest for the burning trees around us.

This, by no means, excuses what Ms Loomer did. I sympathize. But in the end, her protest is only valuable for the defense of freedom if it’s completely rejected by anyone who supports the free exchange of ideas.


#NotAllMuslims is not enough

Following in the wake of the recent terrorist attack perpetuated by radicalized Islamic extremists (it doesn’t matter when you’re reading this; it’s the unfortunate reality of the world today that this sentence is perpetually relevant), there are those who will point out that not all Muslims are terrorists.

This is problematic.

No one with even a minimum amount of sense actually thinks that all Muslims are terrorists. So saying #NotAllMuslims is, at best, stating the obvious, and contributes nothing to the discussion. Yes, the sky is blue, water is wet, and people are still dying.

This is an even bigger problem if you are, yourself, Muslim.

It’s perfectly understandable that in the wake of the horrors of a terrorist attack, and with emotions running high, it will be important to someone who is Muslim to clarify that not all Muslims are terrorists. The problematic part is if this is the only thing they do; and if moving to be defensive of their faith is the first step, and especially if it’s the last.

For starters, there is the issue of perception: by bringing up a defense of Islam when clearly the perpetrator was a deranged lunatic who happened to have the same faith, it just further solidifies the link between the two.

But that’s optics. The real problem is underneath that: Islamic terrorism is by far the most common breed of terrorism in the world:

muslim attacks

To say it has nothing to do with Islam is, at worst, naive.

It’s also an increasing problem:


The other fact is that the vast majority of victims of radicalized Islamic terrorism are other Muslims.

terrorist victims

Radicalized Muslim terrorists are people from the Islamic community, who are radicalized within the Islamic community, who then stage attacks which primarily affect the Islamic community. This is clearly a problem within the Muslim community, both worldwide and within individual countries.

When Islamic terrorism strikes in the West, it gets more attention in Western media because it’s a spill-over of something that’s going on in the Muslim community, and is affecting Westerners who are otherwise not involved in the problem. (For example, in Iraq, despite the US invasion in 2003, over 82% of the victims of terrorism are Muslim and Iraqi).

What are Muslims, therefore, doing to tackle this problem within their community? Therein lies the problem:

thrids musim

Of course Britain is not the world, but we can see a clear problem. At least in the western world, we rely on the community to help prevent violent crime. In any other group, the number of people who would report to the police any potential terrorist is in the high 90s. This is how the police do their job in a free society, in a society that respects people’s rights to privacy, that doesn’t snoop on people’s religious practices, and doesn’t interfere in people’s private activities. They trust that the people will call the police when they see activity that might harm them or others.

I understand that this might be a bit of an alien concept for people who are immigrating form totalitarian countries with secret police who are more interested in affirming the power of the country’s dictator than the security of the people. But most Muslims in the west are not, in fact, immigrants; they grew up in a democratic society, where the police act on the principles of democracy.

However, Muslims are slow to challenge and denounce religious leaders who perpetuate hatred of non-Muslims. They accept the narrative that they are victimized, and must resist government “intrusion” in the form of terrorism prevention by not reporting people who are becoming radicalized.

Saying #NotAllMuslims is a way to wash one’s hands of responsibility to better the community, to weed out potential terrorists who – remember – target other Muslims to a greater degree. Some Muslims take the next step of publicly denouncing terrorists acts once they happen – but because of the timing, for many it seems more in an effort to avoid backlash than a sincere sentiment. Especially after standing up for members of the community who, it turns out, were complicit in the radicalization of others.

The solution to Islamic terrorism is not in the West: it’s in the Muslim communities around the world. How exactly those communities can be convinced to weed out the terrorism in their midst is another question; but the status quo is certainly unsustainable. In the face of increasing radical Muslim attacks, anti-Islam sentiment will only grow, and the reciprocating defensiveness of the Muslim community will likely solidify.

Muslims have the means to put an end to radicalization within their community; it is their responsibility to take the lead here.

Evil people

I hesitate to label people “evil”.

Yes, there are a lot of people out there we could, quite justifiably, call “evil”. I understand the motivation for doing it; it’s about the principle, and pointing out that some people are just irredeemable, causing more harm to the world than any potential good. And for some, it feels good to point those people out; to clearly identify the “bad guys” (and, affirm, by exclusion, their own virtue).

But there is a long-standing historic problem with labeling people as evil. Actions, sure; actions are easily identifiable as evil, and they should be condemned. But if a person is “evil”, it has consequences.

Consider the hypothetical question: If you could go back in time to 1933, for example, and shoot Hitler, would you? While this is an interesting moral thought experiment on about the courage of one’s convictions – there is another element: Most people would, without hesitation, shoot to kill Hitler. Because, he’s evil, you see; killing him would prevent a lot of bad things from happening, and not only is it OK to kill people labeled as “evil” – it’s one’s moral obligation.

hitler killed hitler.jpg

Now, of course Hitler is Godwin-levels of evil, and we have the benefit of hindsight to know that, yes, effectively once he got power, Hitler did all sorts of awful crimes. But, here’s the thing about those atrocities: he – and his cohorts – justified their actions because they’d labeled other people as “evil”. Now, of course, the difference is that we know Hitler was evil, and the Nazis were just labeling their political enemies as evil.

So, when we, today, label a group of people – political enemies – as “evil”, because they do something we believe is harmful … how is that different? (Because we know those people are evil, and we’re to good guys, that’s why! Well, that’s what the Nazis thought, too.)

nazi propaganda


You see, throughout history, no one has ever thought, “I’m an evil, horrible person, and that’s why I’m going to do evil, horrible things to people.” We know that, but when we label a person as “evil”, we’re not actually thinking of it at the time. We just point to a person – or a group, it’s more often a group than a person – as doing something that we know is wrong, and then those people are obviously evil.

And the thing about evil people is, we can’t let them get away with it. We have to deny their freedom to do their evil things. We hate them. It’s even OK to hurt them, so they stop being evil. And if that doesn’t work, we might have to kill them.

I mean, we put it in a little more sanitized terms, such as these people have “got to go”, that we can’t rest until “there isn’t any more of them left”. We aren’t actually saying that they should be killed.

But, really, how many people who think radical Islam is evil would question that people accused of radical Islamism are being detained? How many people who think we should punch Nazis would demand due process for people accused of being white supremacists?


I mean, you’re not going to defend someone who is clearly evil, are you? Are you a Jihadi apologist? A white nationalist sympathizer?

You see, all those horrifying atrocities committed throughout history – and being committed to this very day – were done against people who were labeled as “evil” by people who felt were doing the right thing. Yes, that includes innocent civilians targeted in terrorist bombings. It’s OK to kill evil people. It’s OK to hurt evil people.

Labeling people as “evil” is the first step to dehumanizing them, stripping them of their rights, and becoming a participant in the very evil we think we are condemning.

What stops us today from committing the barbaric evils we see in other times and places isn’t that we are better at calling out evil people; it’s because there are still people in our society who will stand up for the rights of people who are labeled as evil. As counter-intuitive as that might seem.

It’s when an ideology has enough power to brush aside anyone who would stand in the way of being evil to the people who are called evil that true evil happens.

Which is why I can’t call people – much less groups of them – “evil”. Their actions? Certainly. There is lots of evil happening in the world. But we don’t stop it with labels. We stop it with actions.

Kathy Griffin blames the victim

I generally prefer to avoid drama (it’s too dramatic), but given that I’ve taken to talking about free speech a lot lately, I’d be a bit remiss not to address the Kathy Griffin beheading issue.

At this point, the details are out there on the internet in much more… err, detail than I can cram into a blog post. But I’ll leave others to discuss the trees, and focus on the forest:

Basically, Griffin did something pretty tasteless while trying to do something shocking to get some attention. It turned out that the shock value was a good, long step over the line of acceptable, and she started to get backlash. This prompted her to apologize.

This is where it should have ended, if the world acted according to the rules of decency.

Everyone on occasion says things that are wrong, that they regret, the consequences of which they don’t fully calculate. I’m included in that. The thing to do is apologize, make sure not to make the mistake again, and then we all move on.

But we can’t do that: See, the way things work now is that when someone says something offensive, we – the “good” people of the world – have to tear that someone to shreds, even if they acknowledge their fault and try to mend their ways. There are mass movements to boycott certain brands because someone associated with them has the wrong opinion, YouTubers lose funding because of videos making fun of Nazis, TV hosts fired because of something tasteless was caught on a hot mic… That’s the norm.

So, that Kathy Griffin is somehow shocked that she’s losing contracts and venues won’t host her after she did something offensive seems …  a bit of out of touch with the world she comes from (ie liberal Hollywood).

Right now, there is a movement going around to get Bill Maher fired for using an offensive word. A word; never mind showing a decapitated head of the current President of the United States, with no content warning in case said President’s 10-year-old son might see it. Kathy Griffin herself was not the least bit sympathetic over Sean Hannity potentially losing his job for… being crazy and Irish?

Griffin tweet

Anyway, in a world of trigger warnings, demands for banning hurtful speech, safe spaces, boycotts … it seems that Griffin is just not up-to-date on what’s going on in the social justice world.

All the foregoing is based on the assumption that what she was doing was in good faith. Had that been the case … well, she probably wouldn’t have done it in the first place. Certainly not gleefully joked about how offensive it was.

This could have been an opportunity to reflect on how these movements to punish people who say things they disagree with are, over all, bad for discourse and end up harming even people with otherwise good intentions. A person shouldn’t be judged based solely on the content of a single tweet.

We could have talked about the importance of sharing ideas, and defending people’s right to say what’s on their mind even if we very much disagree with it. We could have found some common ground here.

Unfortunately, Griffin took a different route: enlisting lawyers and then proceeding to blame the victim. She’s now claiming that she is the victim here; because she’s getting the very same backlash she’s comfortable with dishing out to other people, and it’s somehow Trump’s fault that he’s annoyed with her for doing something that was incredibly offensive to him and his family.

While the mental gymnastics needed to reach that conclusion are worthy of Olympic gold, it’s still pursuing a simple, and all too human, goal: not have to deal with the consequences of her actions. No, I don’t mean having posted that thing about Trump. I mean about supporting the movements that call for firings, contract cancellations, and other consequences for people who say things they disagree with.

If you go around calling the PC police on people, don’t expect those people to stand up for you when the PC police knock on your door.

More on how PC culture is stifling free speech.