Listening to a podcast this morning (More Perfect, I highly recommend it) and they were debating free speech. What the limits should be, should there be limits, is there a difference in limits when you are talking about government vs. private corporations and should that matter? It was very interesting. I'm always torn on this subject. I think a lot of people confuse free speech for consequence free speech and I'm not one of those. You can say what you want to, but be prepared for the ramifications. But I also believe that there are types of speech that are not okay. Those are all pretty much limited already though. Inciting to violence is the one I think about.
There was also a moment that made me say "yes!" out loud, which was sort of embarrassing considering I was at the gym working out by myself at the time...but anyway... One of the people on the pro-free speech side of the debate was talking about our current climate. With Neo Nazis on Facebook and Twitter just spreading filth everywhere. She was talking about how it's normal to want to stop it. But you cannot make an idea illegal. And then she said, "Simple solutions to complicated problems always have unintended consequences."
You all know I harp on this constantly. There is nuance to most matters that gets lost. Political stances, religious stances, belief systems, problem solving as a whole cannot be boiled down to a bumper sticker and encapsulate all of what needs to be considered.
And we see these blanket statements all of the time. Right now we are on the crest of the wave of sexual assault accusations. And there are people out there who have announced that you always believe the accuser. And there are people out there who say we always should stand by innocent until proven guilty. I think it depends on the situation. Which makes me a target for both camps to take their ire out on me.
Christopher and I were talking about it this weekend. We both had settled on a little criteria for a guideline independently that actually matched. Not that surprising considering I raised him, but still I thought it was cool. Now, this is for accusations without any proof, if you have proof everything changes. How many people are making accusations? Are they all telling the same story? Is there a pattern of behavior that we are seeing? What do you have to gain by making these accusations? What do you have to lose? And one that is just mine, not Christopher's; Is it assault, harassment or just bad taste? Because there has been a shifting standard for what is acceptable behavior. You can say it never SHOULD have been acceptable, and I will agree with you, but it was. You cannot go back and litigate a social norm that has shifted. You can do better going forward.
I am not sorry that I weigh things in my head before I make a final judgement. I will say my first reaction is to believe someone who says they've been assaulted. Then I do the weighing. Then I revise or don't revise my opinion. And sometimes when more information comes out I revise again. And I fully accept that my judgement could be wrong. And you might firmly disagree. That's okay. It's my judgement, not yours.
Because that is the other thing that tends to happen. I see it on my feed all of the time. People think if you don't change your mind to agree with them it means you are closed minded. Like somehow they are the ones with the right opinion and you have to shift or you are wrong. Now, there are things I am closed minded about and I will tell you upfront, I will not change my mind on this. I have this belief and it is rock solid. You are wasting your time if you think I will change. But you are just as closed minded about things you solidly believe in. And no matter what I say, you aren't going to change that belief either. But so many people think they are completely unbiased, in the middle, open minded, and willing to change even if they aren't at all.
So right now we have the wave of sexual assault accusations, and we have Neo Nazis spreading hate speech, and we have different groups of people who are sure they know the right answer and the right way to handle it. But what if this? What if that? I've said before I will punch a Nazi. And I will. I also know that I can be charged with assault if I do. They have the right to say horrible things. I don't have the right to punch them. But they should know the consequence of their hate speech is people hating them. And sometimes if people hate you they will risk the arrest and punch you.
And I will continue to look at each case of sexual assault and harassment accusation as individual and decide what I feel about each one of them. And let me be super clear, my judgement is not dependent on which political party they belong to. Anthony Weiner sexting a teenager is horrific, the multiple accusations against Roy Moore are horrific. Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey and Louis CK are all bad guys in this story. No matter how much Hannity wants you to focus on Clinton instead Moore know that Clinton being a sleaze is not a get out of jail free card for Republicans to be the same.
But, we shouldn't rush in to judge each and every accusation as holding the same merit. Because there will be a time where accusations will be used as a weapon to get people out of races, out of companies, or straight up revenge. It will happen. It might already be happening. We need to keep a level head and look at the nuance. The complexities. What is there to gain? How many are coming forward? What is there to lose? Is there proof? Is there a reasonable thing to believe? And know that you and I might look at and hear something and come to different conclusions.
If X then Y doesn't usually work in human interactions.
There are rarely simple answers that cover every situation. And if you want to apply them you are going to end up with bigger problems.