Tuesday, August 22, 2017


For years conservatives and libertarians agreed that employers could do pretty much anything they wanted to their employees, that worker protections were just an impediment to profit-making (though they were more than happy to protect workers from unions), and that the right to fire them for any old thing should not be abridged. But their hackles were raised in recent years when men like Brendan Eich and Donald Sterling started getting defenestrated on the grounds that their bigoted speech or actions had damaged the business entities with which they were associated.

Still, in nearly every thundering defense of these guys and denunciation of the PC liberal speech police, your average conservatarian would throw in a sentence, obviously painful to utter, about how of course the company had the right to fire the guy, however blah blah blah.

Apparently they're sick of having to defend this as a universal principle. The brethren have really gone nuts for James Damore, the Google Bro who was famously fired for circulating a memo saying his female co-workers were biologically unsuited to excel in a tech company. He's gotten more Ugh PC Bad defenses than all the other poster boys put together. And some of them have started asking: Must we protect every company's right to fire whom they please? Surely we can find a way to protect the racists and sexists!

Some of them have been content to vaguely threaten ("I’m just beginning to wonder if Google is not getting too big for our own good" -- Andrew Stuttaford, National Review). But in "How to Break Silicon Valley’s Anti-Free-Speech Monopoly," Stuttaford's colleague Jeremy Carl endorses regulating Google -- and other tech companies around which wingnuts have concocted conspiracy theories -- so that they're forced to publish, and if need be offer inflated prominence to, conservatives:
Government regulation of [electric] utilities has traditionally been justified to avoid having multiple companies building redundant and costly infrastructure and distribution assets. 
For conservatives, the time has begun to think of some major Web services — in particular Facebook, Google, YouTube, and Twitter — in the same way. Yes, they are private companies, just as many utilities are. And yes, these Internet monopolies do not have the same physical-infrastructure advantages that electric-utility monopolies have. But because of their network effects, their dominance and monopoly power are in many ways even starker.

If I don’t like my utility I can put solar panels on my roof and an inverter and battery in my garage, and I can still get power. But if I can’t get access to the 2 billion people on Facebook because Facebook doesn’t like my politics, my rights of free expression are greatly curtailed. [emphasis added]
If I'm not guaranteed equal market share with Trevor Noah, I'm being prejumadiced against!

Making everything worse, as usual, is Megan McArdle. Suddenly the power of the internet "mob" to crush Damore's career is a massive problem for her -- in a way that its power to crush, say, Kathy Griffin's never was.

"Whenever a new form of power arises," McArdle cries, "we need to think about how to safeguard individual liberty against it." After all, "there’s only one internet, and we’re all stuck here for the rest of our lives." It's kind of like living in a company town -- except of course the company is always right... Well, it's kind of like being an entertainer who turned up in Red Channels during the blacklist -- except they were commies, or at least comsymps, so they got what was coming to them... Well, whatever, when it comes to this particular kind of speech martyr, "mass private coercion, which even if not quite as bad, still needs to have safeguards put in place to protect individual liberty."

McArdle doesn't say what those safeguards would be but, since she compares the current situation to the old Soviet Union and (I assume this was an inside joke) The Handmaid's Tale, clearly emergency powers may be invoked. The free market is okay when its hegemons are right-wing -- what's good for General Motors and all that -- but when it starts siding with liberals, something's got to be done.

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