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[EDIT: See here for discussion of various complicating factors; my claim isn’t going to be that a completely innocent person was punished, so much as that this entire paradigm of punishment is dangerous] 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.

Having free speech laws on the books is a necessary precondition, but it’s useless in the absence of social norms that support it.

If you win a million First Amendment victories in the Supreme Court, but actively work to undermine the social norms that let people say what they think in real life, you’re anti-free-speech. What I want to get into here is a point specific to this situation: the guy made this joke under his real name.

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”.

If you’re a very stupid libertarian strawman, you might ask whether that town had any anti-gay laws on the book – and, upon hearing they didn’t, say that town was “pro-gay”.

If you’re not a very stupid libertarian strawman, you hopefully realize that being pro-gay isn’t about boasting how progressive your law code looks, it’s about having a society where it’s possible to be gay.

Not having laws against locking up gay people is a necessary precondition, but it’s useless on its own.

You only get good results if good laws are matched by good social norms.

Likewise, the goal of being pro-free-speech isn’t to make a really liberal-sounding law code.

It’s to create a society where it’s actually possible to hold dissenting opinions, where ideas really do get judged by merit rather than by who’s powerful enough to shut down whom.

They pore over your public statements – Twitter feed, Facebook timeline, any blogs you might have written, anything you’ve said in mixed company that you don’t know if somebody else wrote down waiting for the time they could use it against you.

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