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Scott Alexander blogs:
A recent spat on Twitter, which I won’t link: some guy using his real name tweeted an offensive joke about how women should make sandwiches at a group of women. A feminist columnist with tens of thousands of followers retweeted with the comment “This is a young man who ostensibly wants a job someday, tweeting at professional women in his field under his own name…RT to help ensure [REAL NAME]’s prospective employers know this when they search for [REAL NAME]’s name”. …
What particularly bothered me about this situation was that the columnist involved was a libertarian who writes for Reason, and her supporters were mostly other influential libertarians.
Not Cathy Young, by the way.
And they were all using the old argument that the concept of “free speech” came into existence ex nihilo on December 15, 1791 with the ratification of the First Amendment, and has no meaning or significance outside a purely legal context of delimiting government power.
My view centers around what I call the concept of being “In the Arena.” The more you choose to be In The Arena of, say, national debate, and the more successful you are at accomplishing your ambitions to be In the Arena, the more reasonable it is for you to be a target for criticism.
I try to be In the Arena, so I’m fair game for critics.
Similarly, I worked pretty hard at times from 2005 to, say, 2010 to point out flaws in the thinking of Malcolm Gladwell, because Malcolm, selling millions of books, giving many highly compensated speeches, and writing lots of long articles in a top magazine, had very much chosen to be In the Arena and was quite successful at accomplishing that.
Over time, my critique of Gladwell has spread, and Malcolm has responded somewhat by refocusing his efforts more toward his strengths than toward the weaknesses I had identified.
This would seem to be a constructive process, even if it involved hurt feelings on Malcolm’s part.
On the other hand, I don’t see much point in putting much effort into critiquing people who either haven’t chosen to be In the Arena or haven’t much succeeded at it.