With multiple celebrities recently joining the known chorus of disrespectful communicators, it would seem wise to wrestle with what free speech is — and is not.
Let us first acknowledge that freedom of speech does not mean we can say whatever we wish, whenever we wish. We can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theatre nor use our words for slander, libel, perjury, or extortion, for example. The First Amendment does not protect such.
Let us also note that there is a difference between slander and libel as compared to ridicule or criticism.
The challenge comes when the words becomes profane, as profane, rude as it is, does not legally equate to “wrong.”
What does “profane” mean?
— treated with abuse, irreverence, or contempt : desecrated; treated disrespectfully, irreverently, or outrageously.
Unfortunately, we live amidst a culture that seemingly, continually, allows and even encourages increasing irreverence and disrespect…
Rosanne Barr’s recent racist tweet about former Obama staffer, Valerie Jarrett, qualifies as “profane.” Samantha Bee’s recent vulgar insult about Ivanka Trump qualifies as profane.
But profane as they each are, both do not legally equate as “wrong” — and thus still qualify as “free speech.”
Do Barr and Bee thus have a right to say what they said?
Do they have a right to keep their job?
Do ABC and TBS have a right to fire them?
And do the companies have a right to choose not to fire them?
Of course. ABC and TBS may treat Barr and Bee differently; it is up to them as their respective, individual employers.
The First Amendment allows us to “say what you wanna’ say,” but it does not provide the right to maintain employment, especially if working for a private employer. Companies have a right to expect certain behaviors from their employees. Such is the core challenge embedded within the NFL/anthem controversy.
… “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech…”
That law — tough as the manifestation of it can be for different ones of us at different times — is the protection our Founding Fathers provided, even for what is unpopular.
We have a problem, no less, with what we feel is wrong or unpopular.
For some of us, that is only the words of Barr.
For some of us, that is only the words of Bee.
For some of us, that is only the reaction of ABC.
And for some of us, that is only the reaction of the NFL.
Friends, this isn’t fun. Good people think differently. Good people think differently in regard to what speech should be “free.” We have different — and different valid — perspectives.
And because we think differently, our application of First Amendment protection is perhaps more than anything, respectfully inconsistent.