$60,000 Fine for Small Talk
In totalitarian regimes, it is best not to be too garrulous. Anything you say — no matter how innocuous — can and might be used against you. An example from the repressive dystopia known as Taxachusetts:
The seemingly innocent question posed by a Boston rental agent to Gladys Linder when they were searching for an apartment was “Where are you from?”
“Venezuela,” she answered.
Gladys and her husband went on to find an apartment a month later without further incident. But she found the question about her national origin insulting and upsetting.
This is Massachusetts, and you know what came next.
Stokel filed a complaint with the Boston Fair Housing Commission, claiming that rental agent’s question was discriminatory and caused her to suffer fear, anxiety and sleeplessness over a three-year period.
Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 151B and the Boston Fair Housing Commission Regulations make it illegal for any licensed real estate broker “to cause to be made any written or oral inquiry or record concerning . . . national origin.”
Although this was the agent’s first discrimination complaint and there was no discriminatory impact on the tenants at all, the Commission found that the question itself was unlawful and issued one of the largest penalties I have seen in recent years – $10,000 in emotional distress damages, plus $44,000 in attorney’s fees and costs and a $7,500 civil penalty against the broker – a whopping $61,500 in total liability for this single question, not to mention the tens of thousands the agent had to pay for defense legal fees.
The ruling can be found here: Linder v. Boston Fair Housing Commission, Mass. Appeals Court (Dec. 17, 2013).
Like Islam, Nazism, and Soviet communism, political correctness is a lunatic ideology that allows zero tolerance for what it defines as thought crimes. Given that we live in a society run by adherents to this malignant creed, it is best when talking to those you don’t know well enough to trust to keep all communication down to single syllables, or if possible, noncommittal grunts.