No Hard Feelings

First Alabama. Now Connecticut. It’s growing, like fungus. Laws arising to guarantee that no one shall utter a harsh word and hurt anyone’s feelings. Enforced with the might of the state and some quiet time in prison. Volokh provides the text

The Raised Bill No. 456, sec. 2 would provide, in relevant part:

(a) A person commits electronic harassment when such person, with intent to harass, annoy or alarm another person, transmits, posts, displays or disseminates, by or through an electronic communication device, radio, computer, Internet web site or similar means, to any person, a communication, image or information, which is based on the actual or perceived traits or characteristics of that person, which: …

(2) Has a substantial and detrimental effect on that person’s physical or mental health;

(3) Has the effect of substantially interfering with that person’s academic performance, employment or other community activities or responsibilities;

(4) Has the effect of substantially interfering with that person’s ability to participate in or benefit from any academic, professional or community-based services, activities or privileges; or

(5) Has the effect of causing substantial embarrassment or humiliation to that person within an academic or professional community.

So what if the delicate teacup whose feelings are bruised by mean words deserved criticism. So what if they are schemers or scammers. So what if they lied, cheated, stole. Even liars have feelings, you know.

The law is sold on the back of tragedy, like the suicide of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi. So what if we don’t know why he committed suicide, when we can easily point to Dharun Ravi and lay blame. After all, this removes the taint from everything else that happened in Clementi’s life that contributed to the decision, all the things that aren’t obvious to outsiders who demand easy answers to all questions.  We have a bad guy to blame and we’re damn well going to use it.

Of course, it’s all different when it’s Us saying mean things about Them. They deserve it. We’re justified. We have a good reason to speak ill of them, but they never have a reason to hurt our feelings.  After all, we’re good, by definition, and that makes them bad. We’re right. They’re wrong.  Why can’t they just pass a law that makes this clear, that we can speak our minds because we would never abuse our rights, but they can’t because they aren’t good like us, and don’t deserve to speak their minds. Isn’t that how laws work?

The quagmire is growing. It’s growing before our eyes, with possibly well-intended but more likely pandering politicians showing how they can desperately fix every problem, real or perceived, with their sledgehammer painted in colors designed to appeal to an ignorant public.  The public will love the idea of these laws as they’re sold to explain how no evil bully will ever harm another Clementi.  Of course, no good person will ever reveal another evil liar, even if that liar happens to be a politician. 

There’s a point to all the free speech stuff, as there is often some bad that has to be absorbed if you want the good.  It works both ways. And it’s not according to whatever you, personally, think is good or bad.  The judge isn’t going to give you a call and ask for your opinion before deciding whether to toss the case or throw the bum in prison.  Yes, you think he should, but he won’t. Trust me on this.

At some particularly foolish moment in time, somebody got it into their head that hurt feelings were just as terrible as a bullet to the head. They’re not. Somebody decided that nobody should ever feel badly because of something another person said.  Forget that archaic “sticks and stones” rhyme. Everything is painful. Make it stop. No matter what the price, make it stop.

No one disputes that bullying, whatever that is, happens. No one questions that it shouldn’t. But the cure can be worse than the disease. These laws don’t just stop bullying (if indeed they stop bullying at all), but the critically important speech that calls out stupid, evil, nasty people and their ideas.  You don’t like bullying, but do you like evil people being able to do what they want without anyone knowing?

It’s happening before your eyes. Watch the fungus grow.

11 thoughts on “No Hard Feelings

  1. Libertarian Advocate

    Wow, that’s broad enough to bite Limbaugh hard on the buttocks.

    More than a dozen years ago, I started saying that the sticks and stones rhyme had been re-drafted by emotionally squishy self-esteem proggers to end like this but words will absolutely destroy me.

    Odd thing is this weird mentality has even crept into our premier military academies. True story: A friend of mine was brought on to teach at the Naval War College in Newport. During faculty Orientation he was told not to use harsh or tough words that might hurt the students feelings or diminish the officer candidates’ self-esteem. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

  2. Jesica

    Hi Scott. Someone by the name of Ann posted a comment on the Popehat blog today stating the following “I am not so certain I was incoherent as you seemed to have clearly understood my message. I am simply pointing out the hypocrisy of Randazza’s claim, while at the same time he supports this kind of behavior from his colleague and fellow blogger, i.e. Simple Justice. To repeat: When a law blogger disseminates private e-mail accounts to his nut job commenters with the knowledge that these nut jobs will contact the commenter, it is despicasble behavior. It is wrong and for an attorney, it is unethical.” From what little I know of you this would seem to be a stretch. Am hoping you can clarify and/or refute.

  3. Jess

    Well, the New York City Department of Education has decided to step up to the plate and take this to a new level of absurdity by telling anyone interested in writing their tests to avoid the use of certain words or phrases on standardized tests lest they appear biased or evoke unpleasant emotions in students. They want to avoid the use of certain words or phrases on standardized tests if “the topic is controversial among the adult population and might not be acceptable in a state-mandated testing situation; the topic has been overused in standardized tests or textbooks and is thus overly familiar and/or boring to students; the topic appears biased against (or toward) some group of people.” The list of the words and phrases is below.
    Abuse (physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological), Alcohol (beer and liquor), tobacco, or drugs, Birthday celebrations (and birthdays), Bodily functions, Cancer (and other diseases), Catastrophes/disasters (tsunamis and hurricanes), Celebrities, Children dealing with serious issues, Cigarettes (and other smoking paraphernalia), Computers in the home (acceptable in a school or library setting), Crime, Death and disease, Divorce, Evolution, Expensive gifts, vacations, and prizes, Gambling involving money, Halloween, Homelessness, Homes with swimming pools, Hunting, Junk food, In-depth discussions of sports that require prior knowledge, Loss of employment, Nuclear weapons, Occult topics (i.e. fortune-telling), Parapsychology, Politics, Pornography, Poverty, Rap Music, Religion, Religious holidays and festivals (including but not limited to Christmas, Yom Kippur, and Ramadan), Rock-and-Roll music, Running away, Sex, Slavery, Terrorism, Television and video games (excessive use), Traumatic material (including material that may be particularly upsetting such as animal shelters), Vermin (rats and roaches), Violence, War and bloodshed, Weapons (guns, knives, etc.), Witchcraft, sorcery, etc. ]
    Makes you wonder how they expedt anyone to “learn” anything.

  4. SHG

    Her name isn’t  “Ann.” She is my latest nutjob stalker who was banned from SJ. She then called Randazza to get him to convince me to let her back and to remove/sanitize her comments and delete responses that hurt her feelings. Randazza swiftly realized she was a nutjob, and now it appears she’s pulling a mini-Cystal Cox.  Aside from that, I’ve got no clue what she’s talking about, but that’s nothing new. 

  5. John Burgess

    The “Read with Dick and Jane” series would have a hard time clearing that hurdle.

    Maybe they just want picture books, perhaps interactive ones on which students can just point, thus improving their touch-screen capabilities.

  6. Marc J. Randazza

    I am ashamed to say that my initial evaluation of her was that she was just a scared kid, who wanted to be liked.

    Watching her stalkerish behavior, it comes to me as no surprise that she is a Touro grad. That place really knows how to crank out nutjobs.

  7. Onlooker

    As a retired military officer I find that to be absurd, ridiculous, and sad. I know that things had softened a bit in training over the last 30 years or so, but this is just too much.

  8. SHG

    I’m not prepared to blame Touro as the source of cranking out nutjobs, though it certainly hasn’t done a good job of vetting their admissions or graduates for serious issues. I’ve got to believe that many of its grads are otherwise normal people who will go on to have great careers in the law.

    But between this and Rakofsky, it should be a wake-up call that they need to do a whole lot more to weed out the unethical or crazy from its ranks. If it doesn’t, then it deserves whatever reputation it gets.

  9. Pingback: Your Emotional Rescue | Simple Justice

Comments are closed.