In recent weeks, two completely separate people have said stupid things. Two different people have been the victims of two baying mobs.
I talked about Irene Gallo before. To summarise, in a facebook post, promoting her employer – Tor Books – she called a bunch of Sci-fi fans (including several who read Tor books, some who are published by Tor, and who even nominated one of their books for a Hugo), Neo Nazis. This has led to calls for a boycott from the supporters of Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies. However others were quick to defend her. The Puppies are being pretty whiny here, but to give Grant credit, he is quite explicit about not wanting any dismissals or resignations.
In other news, Nobel winning scientist Tim Hunt, at a dinner made a rather bad joke about Women in labs, falling in love and crying. This was a juicy little soundbite for the media, and (especially presented out of context as it was) naturally offended a lot of people. He was roundly mocked for his comments, as he should have been. People then demanded the university sack him, and the university complied. Any other profession, and he’d have a good case for wrongful dismissal. Grievances about sexism normally go through a formal process. But he’s already been tried and found guilty by twitter so the university’s role is just to carry out sentence. This criticism of the twitter mob has been met with criticism. The criticism is attacked as Tone Policing by idiots who like their buzzwords.
I notice that the criticism and defence of these two people is split along lines of allegiance. Had Tim Hunt said Female Scientists are Neo-Nazis, would the roles have been reversed? Had Irene said that the sad puppies were cry-babies, would those who rounded on Tim Hunt also have demanded her resignation from Tor? The criticism seems to be based not on right and wrong, but on tribalism. Libertarians are extremely defensive of Tim Hunt. Feminists extreme fringe is extremely defensive of Irene Gallo.
Is it really too much to ask that we simply don’t make sexist jokes, or accuse people of being neo-Nazis in public? Can we perhaps accept that after the public shame ritual, and an apology, that these people might have learned their lesson, and to actually allow them to get on with life? Or must we demand a sacrifice to the gods to atone for their terrible sins?