walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

Fox: the pre-Weiner

I checked in on Elizabeth Pisani's excellent blog recently (that's what got me reading Kaiser Foundation stuff) and one of her entries was about David Fox's firing from Reuters over a mis-directed private message that wound up in a Reuters staff-only chat room in the middle of the night.

Like Weiner, Fox immediately tried to undo the error. Reuters fired Fox over the incident and an extensive discussion ensued.

This is pretty good coverage:


Fox at no point claimed to have been hacked -- that's a difference -- and of course Weiner is an elected official and Fox was employed by a private (?) corporation. Both work in areas where Speech Matters and an individual's right to free speech may be curtailed by the nature of their employment. The argument in Fox's case is that gallows humor helps morale. The argument in Weiner's case is more or less that this isn't any of our business anyway.

I think none of the details matter. I think our collective fascination with misdirected, inappropriate speech reflects two major trends in play right now.

(1) We definitively established that it is NOT OK to say certain things in mixed/polite company (women driver jokes, racist jokes, homophobic remarks, etc.). However, we haven't actually required that people stop thinking these things, and generally speaking we've allowed people to continue to maintain communities in which this sort of speech is acceptable. THIS IS NOT ABOUT THE LAW. I AM NOT THE GOVERNMENT. NOTHING I AM SAYING HAS ANY THING TO DO WITH LIBERTARIANISM. So don't reply to this on that basis. I am talking about social pressure: who we think it is okay to be friends with, employ, etc.

(2) The capacity to Screw Up communications with technology is immense and Very, Very New to most people. (Not to me. I've been dealing with this kind of fuck up for a couple decades now.) Most people have HUGE anxiety about hitting reply all or whatever when they meant to forward something to a particular person or whatever. I think these two instances are where we're collectively working out our feelings on these screwups and how they should be handled.
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