Can I express my sympathy for Adrian Smith without endangering my chances of finding a job? Mr Smith voiced mild disapproval of the institutionalisation of gay marriage on Facebook and, after a colleague complained about his opinion, found himself being demoted and his pay being slashed.
Perhaps there’s a complication that’s been obscured from the public view but all the information that’s available suggests that this is another example of the draconian enforcement of progressive ideals.
If it’s an attempt to save peoples’ feelings from “offence” this policing of speech fails as it instead makes people nervous, distrustful and, in cases such as this, impoverished. In furthering the idea that being exposed to disagreeable opinions is a naturally traumatic thing to face, meanwhile, it ensures that people are more liable to feel the torments of being “offended”.
I suspect for others it ensures that their opinions seem more legitimate. As a means of winning an argument I’ll grant that acting as if you haven’t merely triumphed but discredited your challengers to such an extent that they’re forbidden from existing is remarkably efficient. On the other hand, it’s also quite unjust.
There’s another reason I’d like to express my disapproval of the treatment of Mr Smith, though. He’s said to have been demoted because he broke the code of conduct of the housing company he worked for. How was this, I thought, when it was his personal Facebook page? Apparently it was because he’d named the company as his place of employment on its “work and education” section. I suspect, then, that they weren’t raging liberals but were concerned about what raging liberals might have thought of their being linked with Mr Smith.
Can’t we take it as read that personal opinions, expressed out of the workplace, are not and shouldn’t be considered representative of whoever we work for? There are some exceptions – a social worker, for example, would rightly provoke alarm if they were found expressing their impassioned support for Jimmy Savile – but in the overwhelming majority of cases it doesn’t and shouldn’t matter what you happen to believe. If I wanted a plumber, a flautist or a thespian their views on marriage, tax and David Cameron’s face would not interest me. I’d want to know if they could fix my pipes; play the flute and embody Falstaff.
I express this point, perhaps, with more than my usual vigour because I’m personally invested in it. There are lots of potential employers who, if they stumbled over this ragbag collection of thoughts, might conclude that they want no association with me. On that note, can I express what intelligent, beautiful and downright kingly souls they are…
The bas…Oh, wait, am I still typing?