Cherry-picking and Tattletaling

Matthew Barganier, in one of the most vile ad hominem attacks I have ever seen, cherry-picks a single statement from a lengthy philosophical debate, and then calls on his readers "to give IHS an earful about the arguments its program director makes on his weblog." IHS, the Institute for Humane Studies, is Max's employer.

Now, to be absolutely clear, I don't share Borders' nationalistic relativism. But neither do I share Barganier's reflexive rejection of torture. One can be a perfectly upstanding libertarian and still be willing to advocate torture under certain circumstances. Nothing in libertarianism rules out torture in all conceivable situations, even if the specific form of torture involves boiling people alive. Period.

If you don't like Max's argument, argue against it - don't run tattletaling to his boss. What the hell is this - the second grade?

Instead of apologizing, Barganier tries to explain away his shameful actions with this weak-ass excuse:

I seem to recall a lot of grumbling about Dan Rather over the last several months, and Dan Rather never posted an essay on the web arguing that Bush should be defeated -- why is it inappropriate to give IHS an earful about the arguments its program director makes on his weblog? This is not repeating a private conversation, or the details of Borders' personal life. It's commenting on his friggin' blog, for Pete's sake.

Dan Rather is a public figure, whose comments, even in his personal life, may be expected to reflect poorly on his employer. Borders, on the other hand, is not a public figure. But more importantly, Rather was heavily criticized for what he said and did in his official capacity as a reporter while on the job. Borders' weblog, on the other hand, is clearly personal and unaffiliated with his employer, as Barganier could clearly see by clicking on Max's "about" page, which includes the disclaimer that "The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the aforementioned sites." Or, Barganier could have clicked on his own link to IHS, which notes that Jujitsui Generis is a personal blog.

It's way out of line to complain to people's employers for what their employees say informally on their personal blogs.

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Agreed. As you can see in

Agreed. As you can see in Max's comment thread, this had me going apoplectic last night. I can't fathom how someone can in seriousness call themselves a libertarian when their first instinct is to intimidate rather than to argue. Anyone who takes the importance of reasoned and passionate discussion very seriously can't help but find that kind of thing offensive. It's like watching a man get kicked in the nuts.

"Dan Rather is a public

"Dan Rather is a public figure, whose comments, even in his personal life, may be expected to reflect poorly on his employer. Borders, on the other hand, is not a public figure."

It's good to know that "The Mainsteam Media" is held to a higher standard than "The Blogosphere". Let's suppose that a worker for a Jewish charity publishes charming little tidbits on Stormfront.org, Micha. Does that person have some sort of "right" to not have that information forwarded to his employer? Is that forwarding "shameful"?

It’s good to know that

It’s good to know that “The Mainsteam Media” is held to a higher standard than “The Blogosphere".

If Max was a non-public-figure reporter for the New York Times or CBS, who also maintained a personal blog on his own time, it would still be bad form to call up his employer everytime he blogged something you disagree with.

Let’s suppose that a worker for a Jewish charity publishes charming little tidbits on Stormfront.org, Micha.

In such a case, it would be clear from this worker's comments, even if posted on a personal blog, that the worker is committing fraud against his employer and cannot be trusted to honestly perform his job. In this case, however, Max is doing no such thing. As I said, his comments, taken in context, are certainly compatable with libertarianism, and should in no way be construed as fraud against his employer.

I'm unclear on the test for

I'm unclear on the test for when someone is or isn't a public figure.
Some tv journalists are public figures and some aren't? Are no bloggers public figures (by virtue of their blogging anyway.)
I beleive there are times when someone is acting badly in offhours where it is responsible to inform the employer. I don't suggest that this is such a case, only that there can be such cases.
Sometimes rules about how to live life supercede rules for having a nice debate. Again, I don't think that's the case here, but I wouldn't categorically rule out that sort of thing. This is one of the reasons why I feel very strongly about being able to blog anonymously. (I blog under a psuedonym but don't hide my identity, but who is juan non-volokh? I don't know and don't want to know.)
Informing an employer is very different from calling the cops, which could constitute a civil rights violation under certain circumstances.
I trust IHS can handle the situation.

This is the reason why most

This is the reason why most of our contributors write under pseudonyms. Several bloggers, including one I know in Oz, suffered from this particular form of abuse. Alas, because I am a writer and my name is my meal ticket, I can't write under a nom de guerre.

"In this case, however, Max

"In this case, however, Max is doing no such thing. As I said, his comments, taken in context, are certainly compatable with libertarianism, and should in no way be construed as fraud against his employer."

Then there won't be any problem, will there?

And I'm pretty unclear on the public/private dichotomy that you've presented, here. I think it's a hopeless tangle, because someone's personal life can affect their work life, as my above example showed. And it's rightfully up to the employer to be the judge of that. The IHS is who gets to decide what "libertarianism" means to them.

I don't think there's a

I don't think there's a meaningful distinction to be made between "public" and "private" figures in the sense Micha is talking about. I don't even really think it's relevent here. Dan Rather and CBS got skewered for showing a lack of integrity and for breaking the sense of trust people had in him. In this case Barganier is the one breaking the sense of trust among bloggers, i.e. that I can speak my mind without some petty churl deliberately trying to get me in trouble with my employer.

I've talked to Max and I don't think this is going to end up costing him his job or anything, but that's not the point. The offense here comes from the fact that rather than trying to argue, Baganier went straight for a cheapshot. It sends the message that "I think what you're saying is terrible, so I'm going to make your life difficult." It betrays a disdain for rational debate.

I concede: the

I concede: the public/private figure distinction isn't very solid or important. It's simply one of the first distinctions that came to mind. More important is the personal/professional capacity distinction. Borders' actions were clearly made in a personal capacity on his personal blog. Rather's actions were clearly made in a professional capacity, which reflects on his employer.

Isn't

Isn't "personal/professional" just a different way of stating "public/private", Micha?

>>I’ve talked to Max and I

>>I’ve talked to Max and I don’t think this is going to end up costing him his job or anything, but that’s not the point. The offense here comes from the fact that rather than trying to argue, Baganier went straight for a cheapshot. It sends the message that “I think what you’re saying is terrible, so I’m going to make your life difficult.” It betrays a disdain for rational debate.<<

Glad to hear it won't cost him his job, although, can you imagine if hundreds of people followed the call and complained to his employer? Who knows when they might decide to get angry -- or imagine being told 'your blog, or your job'?

Public message boards are notorious for this sort of behavior, after the posters get to know each other a bit and exchange a few emails. I've heard of it costing jobs, as well as causing legal problems. Of course, I only know these things from the postings on the internet . . . for what they're worth.

Lopez, No, the two are

Lopez,

No, the two are different. A public figure is a public figure all day, every day, in both his personal and professional life. A public figure is just another way of saying "celebrity." However, anyone who has a job, both celebrities and non-celebrities, has a personal capacity and a professional capacity.

Okay Micha, but that doesn't

Okay Micha, but that doesn't change the fact that the IHS is judge and jury, here.

Hey, it's free-market justice in action!

Stop being a prick, Lopez.

Stop being a prick, Lopez.

[...] emphasize that my main

[...] emphasize that my main concern here is for the various libertarian webloggers that get all up-in-arms over this kind of action. Without a d [...]

1. Quoting someone and

1. Quoting someone and linking to the full context is not ad hominem.

2. I don't see that the statement was cherry-picked for anything but succinctness. What I object to in the original post, and what I think Barganier objects to, is fully implicit in that one sentence and fully confirmed by the context. It's the moral nihilism I take issue with.

3. If Borders worked for IBM or ABC Realty I'd say it's a cheap shot to take the matter up with his boss, but this matter seems relevant to working for a place called the Institute for Humane Studies.

At the anti-state.com forum several people were highly critical with me for publicly asking Jeremy Sapienza about distance between certain prevailing editorial positions of antiwar.com and and his own positions publicly stated elsewhere. Some objected that this was a low blow and that I was trying to get Sapienza in trouble with his employer. I was perfectly comfortable with my questions - Sapienza was listed as Senior Editor of antiwar.com so I failed to see what was unfair about pursuing apparent contradictions between the editorial policy of a major web site and the public statements elsewhere of the Senior Editor.

It should be noted that Sapienza himself never objected that my questions were unfair. He's no whiner.

Barganier obviously thinks that Borders' statements are incompatible with being a Program Director at IHS. You obviously don't think they are. It's up to IHS to decide and Barganier might be right for all I know.

1. Quoting someone and

1. Quoting someone and linking to the full context is not ad hominem.

No, but calling on your readers to flood his employer's inbox with complaints as a scare-tactic certainly is.

2. I don’t see that the statement was cherry-picked for anything but succinctness. What I object to in the original post, and what I think Barganier objects to, is fully implicit in that one sentence and fully confirmed by the context. It’s the moral nihilism I take issue with.

But it's not the moral nihilism Barganier objects to. Does anyone honestly believe that Barganier would have written his post if all Borders said was something along the lines of "The U.S. government should pursue whatever best serves the interests of the American people, and this pursuit is neither moral or immoral"? Of course he would not have, because that is not as exciting as quoting someone out of context.

If Borders worked for IBM or ABC Realty I’d say it’s a cheap shot to take the matter up with his boss, but this matter seems relevant to working for a place called the Institute for Humane Studies.

It would be one thing if all Barganier did was email IHS privately to inform them of what its employee said on his private weblog, as a "public service" to that organization, in case they cared. It's a whole 'nother thing to initiate a boycott/negative publicity campaign in order to get Max fired/reprimanded. Indeed, as a result of this controversy, Borders ceased blogging entirely.

It should be noted that Sapienza himself never objected that my questions were unfair. He’s no whiner.

I would have no problem if all Barganier did was ask Borders if his personal beliefs were in line with his organizational commitments. But that is not what he did. Did you start a publicity campaign to get Sapienza fired or reprimanded?

These claims that Barganier

These claims that Barganier took the statement out of context are simply false. He linked to the post. And the context adds nothing but confirmation anyway.

"One can be a perfectly upstanding libertarian and still be willing to advocate torture under certain circumstances. Nothing in libertarianism rules out torture in all conceivable situations, even if the specific form of torture involves boiling people alive. Period."

Is there any libertarian reason why you shouldn't boil someone alive to feed him to your pigs if you can get away with it? Extra pig food is a good result, isn't it?

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Deep Breaths
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