Clippings: Speech is protected, but jobs aren't
Are you ready for some free speech?
Well, within limits. I would like to keep my job, be it ever so humble and modestly paid.
Well, I could just about stop there, and that would sum up the kerfuffle earlier this month about ESPN’s decision to remove Hank Williams Jr. and his trademark “Are you ready for some football?” opening from its Monday Night Football program.
Williams went and spouted off on a Fox News show called “Fox and Friends,” about the most welcome place possible for a right-wing, no-talent hack living off royalties from his legendary daddy’s music.
See, I can call him that: This is an opinion column, Williams is a public figure, he wrote a song in which he calls the country under President Obama the United Socialist States of America, and if you’ve ever heard him sing, well, it’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
But if I took it a step further and compared him to a cannibalistic serial killer, a vicious rabid animal or a reality TV star, well, then my publisher might ask me to clean out my desk.
Anyway, Williams said the following about President Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner playing golf together: “It be like Hitler playing golf with Netanyahu.”
A Fox reporter then said, “I don’t understand that analogy, actually.”
“Well, I’m glad you don’t, brother, cause a lot of people do. They’re the enemy. They’re the enemy.”
“Who’s the enemy?” Williams was asked.
“Ah — Obama. And Biden. Are you kidding? The Three Stooges.”
OK, so math isn’t a strong point either for Hank the Third ... er, Jr.
But even the Fox News folks were taken aback. Said Gretchen Carlson: “You didn’t – you didn’t, cause you – you, you used the name of one of the most hated people in all the world to describe the, the ah, I think, the President.”
To which Williams replied, “That’s true, that’s true.”
He later backtracked and tried to claim he was trapped. You know, because Fox News is so unfriendly to conservative entertainers. Maybe Carlson was upset because only former Fox show host Glenn Beck and the Tea Party sign carriers Fox shows all the time are allowed to use Nazi references.
But the point is Williams is perfectly free to express his opinion. If he wants to spout off and compare Obama to the mass murderer of 6 million Jews, that’s his right. It says so right here:
“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.”
The Bill of Rights supports the right of idiots, savants, idiot savants, intellectuals, sports stars, bloggers, pundits, entertainers, academics, students, factory workers, the unemployed and underemployed, beauticians and even politicians to say whatever the heck they want to say.
And so do I. I don’t have to listen. I don’t have to agree. I can actively disagree, the tactic that is always the best answer to bad speech: better speech.
But those who want to speak their mind need to accept the consequences. When the Dixie Chicks’ lead singer said her band was ashamed to be from the same state as President Bush, well, that was bound to upset some folks who then wouldn’t buy their albums. Fair enough.
And when Hank goes and compares Obama to one of the worst mass murderers in history, well, you know, a company that has previously associated itself with him just might no longer wish to do so. Fair enough.
Funny thing about that First Amendment. There’s a little more to it, this courtesy of Wikipedia:
“Although it is not explicitly protected in the First Amendment, the Supreme Court ruled, in NAACP v. Alabama, 357 U.S. 449 (1958), freedom of association to be a fundamental right protected by it.”
So, if ESPN executives freely choose not to associate with someone ignorant enough to compare a sitting president with Adolf Hitler, more power to them.
We just shouldn’t confuse ESPN’s right to disassociate itself with that moron with his right to free speech, however moronic. Hank can still spout off however he wants. Just not on the time or dime of a company that doesn’t want to hear it.