Monday, September 12, 2005

Liberal Shaming in Action

I recently suggested that liberals need to reclaim the power of shame ("for good instead of evil"). There's a neat example of this mentioned over at Positive Liberty, of a website that will publicly expose those who sign a petition to ban gay marriage and civil unions in Massachusetts. Let's see them explain that signature to their neighbours -- and in a few years' time, their grandchildren.


  1. what is the point of signing a petition of you dont want to expose yourself?
    I guess maybe you want to expose yourself to some people but not others - but if you preseve anonymity it is rather like an anonymous poll but without the statistical accuracy.

  2. of course this is interesting

    > I might not support them or their philanthropies or their businesses

    Do they really what to open that can of worms? lets say voting records of owners were put on the out side of shops - I might well not go to a store with an owner who votes green. I would not realy be concerned if they were gay though. being gay doesnt hurt me - voting green does (potentially).

  3. There is some attraction in recording someone's political views for posterity. I hope that in future people will look back at current blogs and see firsthand how reactionary views are justified by common citizens no different from us. But a petition record hardly serves this purpose - it doesn't include their reasoning, and that most people who bother to sign these things usually don't worry about being proved wrong and being embarrassed by their grandchildren in the distant future.

    I think something like this is ultimately unconstructive to those who use it. It doesn't add anything to the debate, and it is really a way of implicitly threatening them with hasslement for holding the wrong views. Hardly a tenet of liberalism, isn't it? Also, it legitimates Conservative retailiation by allowing them to out us on "anti-God" or "anti-morality" petitions. I really don't think we need bring political squabbling to the private sphere. I know I wouldn't want to be called a babykiller every time I invite the Joneses over for dinner.

  4. Isn't this a dangerous precedence? Would you feel equally good if far right anti-abortionist activists starting publicizing the names of pro-choice people? I think this activity offers a chilling effect on democracy. Especially if people start punishing others for their votes or views.

    The problem is that when people promote this strategy, I think they tend to assume it won't be handled across the board.

    Personally, I think what we need to do is bring more civility back to government. I think this is moving in the opposite direction.

  5. "Would you feel equally good if far right anti-abortionist activists starting publicizing the names of pro-choice people?"

    No, I want this power to be used "for good instead of evil".

    But I see your point. If the good guys start playing nasty, the baddies may follow suit. Ah well. It may be best to reserve the shaming for non-partisan issues, like the disabled-carpark poachers mentioned previously.

    Though it's worth noting that the petition signatures are a matter of public record in any case, so it's not like publishing the results of a secret ballot or anything.

  6. That's true Richard, but what counts is how they are publicized. And if I understand, the homosexual activists are encouraging using names off of the petitions who own businesses so as to either boycott or even protest. That's a rather huge significant and perhaps chilling effect on democracy that can only make the tone of political discourse worse. (Much worse)

  7. There's another voice against publicizing the names and addresses here.

    And I think that I'll count myself as one more vote against that website. It's better not to let partisan politics take over business and personal lives. Home addresses can be used for nefarious purposes (the post I linked above shares a personal story). The bad guys already seem to be using them nefariously: remember when Focus on the Family sent Michael Moore's home address to their loyal followers? They also used the excuse that it was a matter of public record. We don't want to enable greater harassment of individual citizens, or to make people afraid to express their political views. If anything we should be shaming the people who are enabling this kind of harassment, as Jonathan attempted to do to FOTF.

    One more thing. The good guys on gay marriage will look bad if this list gets misused. Not the kind of publicity that we're looking for.

  8. Yeah, good point.


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