Ep. 21 The God of Social Media Demands Sacrifice, Not Mercy

Bob goes solo to discuss a particular aspect of outrage mobs on social media, in which people intentionally spread misleading or outright false smears against their opponents. He covers the fate of Scott Alexander (who had to shut down a subreddit thread because of online harassment accusing him of supporting Nazis), Nick Sarwark’s latest (feigned) ignorance of Tom Woods’ views on prostitution, the hatchet job on Bob’s Wikipedia entry, the smears of Jordan Peterson, and–in the interest of fairness–some examples of overreach by “his side” too. Bob wraps up by explaining the harm of this behavior, and how comedians are the only ones left who can speak the truth.
Mentioned in the Episode and Other Links of Interest:

The audio production for this episode was provided by Podsworth Media.

About the author, Robert

Christian and economist, Research Assistant Professor with the Free Market Institute at Texas Tech, Senior Fellow with the Mises Institute, and co-host with Tom Woods of the podcast "Contra Krugman."

12 Comments

  1. […] This is about as gossipy as you are ever going to get me. Just to be clear, Sarwark’s latest shenanigans wouldn’t have made me do an episode. But it was being stuck in an airport reading what happened to Scott Alexander, the day after Sarwark’s shenanigans, that pushed me over the edge. Enjoy it while it lasts. […]

  2. Danan on 03/08/2019 at 4:23 PM

    I have to say I enjoyed the irony of Jordan Peterson saying someone not at least willing to potentially get violent is not worth listening to, Bob. Given your upcoming debate, and such.

    • Robert Murphy on 03/08/2019 at 8:36 PM

      Yeah I thought of that too. I guess I would say to him, “Go ahead and hit me three times old man, and then we can get back to our conversation.” I think that would earn his respect.

  3. Dave H on 03/09/2019 at 12:54 AM

    I found it kind of interesting that Bob brought up nested hierarchies in things like literature or music, but in fact literature and music *do* involve evolutionary processes that we can observe which yield those hierarchies. Artists are inspired by other artists, and put their own spin on those works, and genres spawn new sub-genres all the time. Unlike living organisms though, art can have a large multitude of “parents” and can have inspiration from contemporary works as well as prior works, which will yield messy hierarchies that are more graph-like than tree-like.

  4. Nicholas Sarwark on 03/09/2019 at 4:31 AM

    Not only is there a reduction in sexual violence in jurisdictions that have legalized sex work, but rape and other forms of sexual violence are also more often prosecuted and carry more serious penalties in those jurisdictions, despite the normalization that comes along with legalization.

    The claim that normalization will lead to reduced penalties for rape is not substantiated anywhere. The claim that normalization will make it easier to get to legalization is supported by the history of interracial marriage, cannabis decriminalization, and same sex marriage equality.

    As to the standard argument that legalization is not the same as approval, normalization of an immoral act doesn’t change people’s right to abstain from and disapprove of the immoral act. Cf. drinking and smoking cigarettes, both of which are considered immoral by large groups of people, but it is normal to sell liquor or cigarettes.

    Legal, normal, and moral are three separate categories. Putting something in the first category often moves it to the second, putting something in the second often moves it to the first, neither push it into the third, that remains in the realm of conscience.

    I did listen to the sex offender registry episode in its entirety and thought it was very good.

    Be well.

    • Tyler Folger on 03/10/2019 at 5:02 PM

      I believe Tom’s original remark was made in response to a post supporting the normalization of sex work. Normalization of an immoral act may not change people’s right to abstain from it, but it’s nevertheless undesirable for the welfare of the community, if indeed it is immoral.

      It’s also arguably not really the business of Libertarians to be pushing for normalization. Even if it’s true that normalization makes it easier to get legalization, that doesn’t demonstrate that this approach is strategically useful, because it requires expending effort to normalize the behavior to begin with. And it’s far from obvious to me that trying to move an entire political region’s cultural world view in a struggle against their upbringing and core moral principles (and arguably sensible morality) is more practical than simply advocating that they not use violence against peaceful people. Less practically still, achieving legality by normalization requires you to do this – to change entire people’s cultural attitudes – again and again and again for every issue relevant to Libertarians. Whereas, if you instead convince people to legalize prostitution or whatever else using the principle of non-violence, you can reuse that same principle that has already been acquiesced to help justify the next goal and the next in a cumulative fashion.

      But even if normalization were strategically effective to obtain legalization, it’s still not obvious that we should go that route, because if you’re normalizing immoral behaviors, that’s a cost of your political activism that has to be reckoned with. In other words, even if it’s easier to achieve a moral goal like legalization by normalizing immoral behavior, why should we accept that outcome if there’s another way that doesn’t involve normalizing immorality? If we can instead appeal to a general principle of non-violence and get the legalization without spreading immorality, shouldn’t we prefer that? In fact, depending on how strongly you feel about it, you might think that legalization is not even worth it at that price. Note that this wouldn’t make you unlibertarian. For example, I might favor drug legalization, but if you’re telling me that the way we’re going to achieve this is by selling heroine to kids so that the next generation just considers heroine use “normal,” there’s nothing at all unlibertarian about me saying “No, I’m not going to do that. I want legalization, but not that way.”

      Additionally, even if normalization were a strategically effective way to get legalization, and even if it could be done at an acceptable cost to conscience, this doesn’t really promote Libertarianism in a meaningful way. There’s nothing at all impressive about getting people to stop punishing by law something they approve of or are ambivalent towards. And this kind of victory would only ever be tenuous and fickle. The moment that the society finds something they do disapprove of, it’s going to be right back to the billy clubs and cages, because they’re not really Libertarians. They don’t really believe in tolerating peaceful activities. You’ve just convinced them to not disapprove of this particular activity for the moment.

  5. Tel on 03/09/2019 at 9:56 AM

    Not taking anything away from Michael Malice but I believe this interview from 2005 is the earliest explanation of how Political Correctness is intended as a tool to bully people.

    FP: You make the shrewd observation of how political correctness engenders evil because of “the violence that it does to people‚Äôs souls by forcing them to say or imply what they do not believe, but must not question.” Can you talk about this a bit?

    Dalrymple: Political correctness is communist propaganda writ small. In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.

    http://archive.frontpagemag.com/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=7445

    It’s probably fair to also give mention to George Orwell and the way the Ministry of Truth converted the Oldspeak over to Newspeak in order to manipulate people’s thoughts. That’s more of a generic idea of controlling the means of communication, but they also would bully individuals who didn’t seem to be buying into the official lies.

  6. Paul Binder on 03/09/2019 at 12:18 PM

    The intent of this episode was clearly good and taps into the fair mindedness that makes you so attractive. That being said, for me it fell short of what it could have been. Chofetz Chaim in the Jewish tradition has written on the ethics of speech. Plishkin’s “Guard Your Tongue” is an English adaptation. I honestly believe that a study of the concept of lashon hara or evil tongue would be of benefit to you. Perhaps you could even adapt them to the modern times and the internet.

  7. Ohad Osterreicher on 03/09/2019 at 1:03 PM

    Great episode. Was a bit dry at the beginning but from the point at which you started to talk about Tom and on, I was hooked. Made me laugh so hard at times.

  8. Rick on 03/09/2019 at 3:16 PM

    Bob, the video game you described, perhaps it was Starcraft.

    I appreciate your effort to articulate your analyses, and I enjoy your podcasts.

  9. […] Ep. 21 The God of Social Media Demands Sacrifice, Not Mercy […]

  10. Logiphage on 03/14/2019 at 1:00 AM

    I think the game you are talking about is Battlezone, or it’s sequel Battlezone 2.

    It is indeed a classic game. It was the first and imo still the best hybrid FPS/RTS game.

    Both have been rebooted (as battlezone redux and battlezone combat commander) and are available on gog.com. gog.com’s thing is they don’t sell any games with DRM, so maybe get there rather than someplace like steam.

    BTW very happy with your show. I kind of prefer the ones with just you.

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