Archive for October, 2011

Freedom of Speech?

Posted: October 6, 2011 in Uncategorized
The real problem is the Redskins jersey

I’m not really a fan of Hank Williams, Jr. Let’s just get that out upfront. (For those of you that know me, I’m not a fan of any country music, but that’s really beside the point). My lack of caring for Hank Williams (I’m dropping the “Jr.” for the sake of writing) does not really influence my thoughts on the recent flap regarding his comments comparing Obama to Hitler. As an American, he has the right to say, of course, whatever the hell he wants to say. If he wants to compare my mom to Satan, I don’t really care. It’s his right to say it, so say it. I may think he is incredibly misguided (re: ignorant), but who am I to moan and groan about the fact that he said it. I might not agree with it, but I agree with his right to let it flow from his weirdly bearded mouth. (by the way, on that note, what the hell is up with his beard anyway? It looks like he went down to a pubic grooming shop, took all the scraps, and glued them to his face. Not to mention, of course, I never trust a man that won’t take off his sunglasses.)

What I do have a problem with, however, is all of the ignorant souls that have come out of the woodwork to defend him. “Why did he get fired? Haven’t you heard of free speech?” Blah. Blah. Fucking blah. I’m not going to get started on the comments all over the web about Obama being a dictator (remember the Patriot Act?), or how the “liberals” are the one responsible for Hank Williams (still dropping the “Jr.”) getting fired (I’m not sure how that has anything to do with the price of tea in China). What I will get into, though, is a quick lesson on how the First Amendment works.

From the Constitution of the United States:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Let’s ignore the part about religion (but wait, let’s not just for one second. Aren’t the same people jumping to defend Hank Williams’ rights to free speech the same people that would like to see Islam abolished from this country? Just sayin’.), and focus instead on the “freedom of speech” part. Notice the first word of the Amendment, “Congress.” That doesn’t say “ESPN,” unless my English is just horrible. It says, “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech.” It doesn’t say, “you can say whatever you want to say and expect no repercussions.”

The common interpretation of the First Amendment as it pertains to free speech is that your speech will protect you from prosecution (i.e.-you won’t be arrested for saying something), but it does not protect you from non-incarceratory consequences. In the instance that we are referring to, the First Amendment absolutely does not protect you from professional consequences if your employer believes your comments or actions cause damage to said employer.

Think I’m wrong? Think they are just picking on Hank Williams? Think this is just part of the liberal agenda? Well, let’s try this then. When you go to work tomorrow, answer the phone like, “Hi, this is _____, I think Obama is a real ni___.” Try that a couple of times and see what happens to your employment status. Then, after you are fired, visit an attorney and tell him or her that you would like to sue your now former employer for unlawful termination of employment. Be sure to tell this attorney that you believe your now former employer violated your First Amendment rights and unjustly terminated your employment because you said something your now former employer didn’t agree with or care for. Tell the attorney this, then count how many minutes this attorney spends laughing at you before he or she shows you the door.

The impetus for this post is less about what Hank Williams said, but more about the wildly ignorant reaction (hello, Yahoo!) all over the Internet to his firing. And this leads to my underlying concern. We are an ignorant nation. We are so ignorant, that we don’t even know our Constitutional Amendments. The problem isn’t Obama, or Hank Williams. The problem is that the majority of Americans have absolutely no idea about how the world really works. The majority of Americans hide blindly behind things like Amendments that they don’t understand and expect them to solve all of our problems. Want to make this a better nation? Educate yourself. Become a bastion of knowledge.  Right wing. Left wing. Conservative. Liberal. It doesn’t matter. If you want to make a difference, become a better citizen by removing your veil of ignorance. Take off your blinders and see the entire picture, not just what’s in your backyard; not just what you were raised with.

Am I saying we should all agree on all issues? Absolutely not. But we can all become more knowledgeable about the issues and form more educated opinions about them. Educated debate breeds progress. Ignorant debate breeds more ignorance.

As for Hank Williams? ESPN has the right to protect their business. They are not in the business of taking political sides. They are in the business of giving all of us the sports and sports talk that we crave. You, Hank, crossed that line. You muddied the waters. You put their brand and their profits in jeopardy. You deserve what you got. Maybe you can move your song over to FOX now for their soccer coverage. Are you ready for some futbol?

Mind your speech a little lest you should mar your fortunes.
–William Shakespeare