February 22, 2005
But the Constitution says that Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech, it does not say that those who exercise it are immune from other considerations Â– namely economic or social ones. The reality is that if you say something unpopular or controversial, there may be repercussions that have nothing to do with your Constitutional rights.
For example, thereÂ’s no law saying that I canÂ’t express whatever particular views I have at work. However, as an employee, I have a responsibility to not put the employer in a bad light. If I advocate clubbing baby seals for sport or mandatory euthanasia at age 65 (neither of which I condone, please understand), IÂ’ll be fired in a heartbeat. And I have no recourse because my employer expressly prohibits this type of activity at work. They have a business to run and donÂ’t need the bad publicity.
So whatÂ’s the difference if a celebrity speaks out against the current administration or if a professor makes outrageous charges against the government? There is none. If I choose not see the films of an outspoken actor whose views annoy me, thatÂ’s my right. And if enough people exercise that right and the actor becomes box-office poison, filmmakers have a right not to hire them.
When the Dixie Chicks criticize the President while on foreign soil, the have to assume that the core of their fans Â– country music lovers Â– will turn on them. The ChicksÂ’ bread is buttered by the most patriotic people in the nation. So if those same fans decide to boycott their shows and dispose of their CDÂ’sÂ…welcome to the free market. ItÂ’s all about choice, folks.
I refer to Ann CoulterÂ’s latest about Ward Churchill, about whom IÂ’ve posted in the past here. His employer, the University of Colorado fired him for the comments he was published and pushed in his classroom. She makes a good point about academic tenure:
Tenure was supposed to create an atmosphere of open debate and inquiry, but instead has created havens for talentless cowards who want to be insulated from life. Rather than fostering a climate of open inquiry, college campuses have become fascist colonies of anti-American hate speech, hypersensitivity, speech codes, banned words, and prohibited scientific inquiry.And lest we forget that, ultimately, ChurchillÂ’s employer is accountable to the Colorado taxpayers.
Even liberals don't try to defend Churchill on grounds that he is Galileo pursuing an abstract search for the truth. They simply invoke "free speech," like a deus ex machina to end all discussion. Like the words "diverse" and "tolerance," "free speech" means nothing but: "Shut up, we win." It's free speech (for liberals), diversity (of liberals), and tolerance (toward liberals).
Even accepting the modern notion that the First Amendment applies to state governments, the Supreme Court has distinguished between the government as sovereign and the government as employer. The government is extremely limited in its ability to regulate the speech of private citizens, but not so limited in regulating the speech of its own employees.And itÂ’s usually those Liberals who scream about free speech that show up to heckle and shout down Conservative speakers, like Coulter, and go so far as to throw pies at her. In the marketplace of ideas, Liberals often lose in the minds and hearts of the American people. Which is why for them Â“free speechÂ” only applies as long as it isnÂ’t in conflict with their ideas. And that my friends, is why the Left despises such outlets as cable news, talk radio and the Internet. Because they canÂ’t shut them up.
So the First Amendment and "free speech" are really red herrings when it comes to whether Ward Churchill can be fired. Even state universities will not run afoul of the Constitution for firing a professor who is incapable of doing his job because he is a lunatic, an incompetent, or an idiot -- and those determinations would obviously turn on the professor's "speech."
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