Bullying: Response to Comments

Are we ruled by personal experiences in evaluating allegations of workplace abuse?  The pop therapeutic answer is "yes:" we are seen, in essence, as the sum of abuses we've suffered or meted out in the past.  I find this view pernicious, which is why I want to respond here to one reader's grossly mistaken "sense" from the "tone of my post" on bullying, that I too have probably been accused of abusing employees.  In fact, I'm a freelance writer who never had or supervised any employees. (I did, however have a little experience in being an employee, during my brief, early legal career.)  I mention this to point out the folly of assuming that a political or ideological perspective on a public issue reflects a particular personal experience  -- as if we were virtually incapable of remaining loyal to principles that we apply, or at least strive to apply, with relative fairness and objectivity.  
   
At the same time, this assumption that our points of view (especially the controversial ones) are entirely subjective and arise out of bitter personal experience denies the possibility of empathy: "sensing" that my perspective on Gordon Brown's alleged bullying reflects what is imagined to be my personal history is a bit like "sensing" that I must be gay because I actively support the gay rights movement, or that I must be poor, because I oppose tax breaks for the rich, including the abolition of estate taxes.  
    

It's also worth stressing that this assumption of subjectivity is at the heart of the anti-libertarian, therapeutic culture that prevails on many college campuses and conditions the freedom to speak on the speaker's "inoffensiveness," making the feelings of listeners the measure of every speaker's liberty.  For a lamentably long list of cases in which students (and professors) have been punished (even suspended, expelled, or fired) for pure speech (clearly constitutionally protected), see http://thefire.org/cases/all/.
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Wendy Kaminer is an author, lawyer, and civil libertarian. She is the author of I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional.

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