art by Randall Munroe
This really needs to be said, and shared, everywhere it can. Because I’m always seeing people misunderstanding exactly what freedom of speech means. Whenever some public figure says something stupid or offensive and gets fired or threatened with a boycott someone else wants to start screaming about that person’s “free speech rights”. Whether it’s radio host Anthony Cumia getting fired for racist rants on Twitter or people boycotting Orson Scott Cards books and movies because of his views on homosexuality, there’s always a loud group who starts whining about freedom of speech.
But there are things these people don’t (or choose not to) understand. Freedom of Speech means that the government can’t put in jail or punish you for something you say or write. That doesn’t mean that the public can’t reject you for something you say or write. And there have always been limits to Freedom of Speech anyway. Such as the old yelling FIRE in a crowded theater example, and laws against libel. If you want to write a blog saying J.R. LeMar is ugly, well, you have the right to do so. It doesn’t matter how upset I get about it, it is your opinion so you still have the right to say it. However, if you write a blog saying, J.R. LeMar is a terrorist, now that’s a different story. I could sue you for that, because that is untrue and therefor it is libel. So, no, you don’t have the right to just say something like that, unless you have proof to back it up.
But the public has the right to choose to boycott a person or a business for whatever reason they want. And they have the right to encourage others to boycott that person or business. If, for example, you don’t want to buy an author’s books because they are anti-gay rights or if because they’re pro-gay rights, that is fine. That author still has the “right” to say or write whatever they want. Some people argue that when it comes to entertainment we should only judge an artist by their work, and that their personal views should be irrelevant. And if you do that, that is fine. But no one is obligated to do so.
For me, the fact is that my time and money are both limited. I can’t read every single book, watch every single movie or TV show, etc. that I’m interested in, so I have to make choices. We all do. So if, for example, I personally choose not to buy any comic-books written by Chuck Dixon or Frank Miller because of things they’ve said publicly that I disagree with, that’s my choice, I don’t owe them anything. I’m not stopping them from saying or writing whatever the heck they want to, but I’ll spend my money elsewhere.
And I’m not immune to this either. This blog is public, as are my Facebook and Google+ pages where I share my posts. I write what I want to here, and would have to accept any potential consequences. I’ve posted links at work before, so my boss and coworkers are able to read anything I write here. I’m an “At Will” employee, I signed a document when I got hired that I understand that they can fire me for any reason at any time without prior notice. So if I decided to write a blog here or a status update on FB complaining about my job and insulting my boss and coworkers and they saw it and fired me for it, I couldn’t blame them. I still have the “right” to do that, but then I’d have to accept whatever consequences.
Heck, I’ve even got complaints about so-called censorship because I moderate comments on this blog, and have occasionally refused to allow comments that I considered insulting. But as I always say this blog is NOT a democracy, I set the rules and therefor I’m the only one with “freedom of speech” here. So get over yourself.