These emotional attempts to suppress controversial or unpopular speech have increasingly made use of what I call the “Mourner’s Veto”—individuals will say that a speaker or a piece of writing has caused them to become distressed or sad or angry or frightened, and they will support these claims with allegations of “harm” or even threats to their “right to exist.” Reasonable debate and discussion then becomes impossible as activists make unfalsifiable but furiously emotive claims about alleged threats to their safety and wellbeing amid much weeping and claims of exhaustion and mental fragility. It is not healthy for the limits of permissible speech to be dictated by the most sensitive person in the room, nor to allow emotional appeals to supplant robust argument as the most effective strategy in a debate.
Spot on. We saw this at Massey University when some staff said that having Don Brash on campus made them feel unsafe.
First, offer unhappy employees a graceful exit. In response to the outcry at Penguin, some commentators suggested that the insubordinate employees should be fired. This is a mistake. Those employees have a right to hold and express their views. Although authors’ speech rights should obviously be paramount at a publishing house, we needn’t sacrifice those of its employees. The firm Coinbase recently offered an excellent model in the face of political pressure from staff—they offered any employee who wished to leave a generous severance package. My understanding is that few took it up.
That’s a good idea.
Second, companies need to get into the habit of ignoring social media and discontinuing the practice of outsourcing their public relations or editorial decisions to Twitter (New York Times, I’m looking at you). Social media has many advantages, but it can often swirl into a cesspool of performative outrage that in no way reflects what the average person cares about.
Excellent advice. Major corporates like Vodafone get spooked on the basis of half a dozen people tweeting about something.