Monday, April 21, 2014

My latest Baffler post: forget all the nonsense you've been hearing about "liberal intolerance" on campus and elsewhere. The biggest threat to freedom is at the workplace.

We've heard a lot in recent weeks about alleged "liberal intolerance" -- at Mozilla, where a CEO was forced to resign due to controversy over his donation to an anti-gay marriage campaign, and at Brandeis, where the university revoked a planned honorary degree for anti-Islam activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali. But the "intolerance" charges were bogus. The Mozilla guy was a PR disaster, and Mozilla was within its rights to fire him. Hirsi Ali has herself made many intolerant comments about Islam (such as her statement about the necessity of defeating all forms of Islam -- not just the radical kind).

The Mozilla and Brandeis cases pose no actual danger to free speech. There is a serious threat to freedom of expression in America, but it’s one that conservatives largely remain silent about: the threat posed to employees’ freedom of speech, by their employers, both on and off the job. Read my latest Baffler piece to find out about how, in recent years, employers have been able to legally fire workers for everything from driving a car with a bumper sticker of a candidate they didn't like to wearing a tie of a football team the boss didn't prefer to being a fan of My Little Pony. You can also find out about the growing trends of loss of privacy on the job (employers are demanding jobseekers and employees' Facebook usernames and passwords -- how could that possibly go wrong?) and political coercion at work (I cite examples of employees receiving campaign literature in their pay envelopes, being forced to attend political rallies, and more). Smell the freedom!

Sadly, conservatives rarely complain about the threat to freedom many Americans experience at the workplace. And to be honest, not a lot of liberals do, either. Liberals and conservatives alike tend to focus on cases where elites are affected -- hence the obsession, even on the part of some liberals, with "political correctness" on campus. The concerns of ordinary working people are not deemed as important, unfortunately.


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