Thursday, January 30, 2014

Speech Free From Censorship, Not From Criticism

In case you missed the controversy over the comments by Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame, this video is a quick summary:

Following the suspension by A&E, prominent conservatives, including Sarah Palin, spoke out characterizing Robertson's statements as being protected free speech. No wonder students are confused about the parameters of free speech protection. It is important with the explosion of social media and internet communication that students understand that the liberty of expression does not protect them from criticism if they say something that other people don't like. Speech that may be protected from government censorship is not equally protected from private action by employers, customers, suppliers, competitors, friends, enemies, or people who don't even know you.

A response that I read that I think will resonate with students came from syndicated commentator Leonard Pitts.  Here is the link to the editorial. Here is a quote:

Yeah. Because freedom of speech means you can say any asinine thing you want and nobody can call you on it or punish you for it. Right?
Um … actually, no.
Free speech means you can say any asinine thing you want and the government may not call you on it or punish you for it. If the feds came after Robertson, I’d hold my nose and stand with him. But he wasn’t punished by the feds. He was punished by the free market.
The First Amendment gives each of us the right to bring whatever we wish into the marketplace of ideas — faith, gay rights, white supremacy, libertarianism, socialism, birtherism — without government interference. But if enough people don’t buy what you are selling, you don’t stay in the market very long. And if what you’re selling offends enough people, the market will show you the door.
So Robertson’s rights were not abridged because his network slapped his wrists. Those are the rules we play by. That’s how America works.
A&E, calculating that Robertson had become a liability, dropped him. His fans raised an almighty ruckus and A&E chose discretion over valor, doubtless realizing the people most likely to be offended by the man probably weren’t watching him in the first place.
Now Robertson returns — just in time for a new controversy. It seems an old video has surfaced in which he lists the qualities a man should seek in a prospective wife. She should be 15 or 16 years old, advises the duck hunter — and a good cook.
Great. So now we get to see how child marriage plays in the marketplace of ideas. God bless America.
Read more here: 

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