Monday, April 30, 2007

Free Speech Isn't Totally Free

Bill of Rights
Amendment I
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.

I am a big fan of the above words. They are the fundamental backbone of what you are reading right now. The government is forbidden, except in very specific circumstances, from punishing people for what they say in public. Unfortunately too many people take this to mean that freedom of speech equals freedom from responsibility for what they say. And therein lies the misunderstanding. I know this is somewhat stale news, but I would like to address the Imus flap in this context. For those of you who don't know, talk show host Don Imus referred to the female basketball players from Rutgers as 'nappy headed ho's' on his radio show a few weeks ago. Of course this touched off a firestorm of racial indignation, and ultimately lead to Imus being fired. Some would like to see his ouster as a violation of the First Amendment, but I strongly disagree. The Constitution only applies to the Government. Imus has not been prosecuted. He does not face legal action. He got fired because his comments, which were probably no worse than any number of other comments he has made in his many decades as a 'shock jock', angered enough people that his advertisers removed their support. T'was booty killed this beast. For all its protestations of art for art's sake, and freedom of the airwaves, money is the true lifeblood of broadcasting. And that money comes from advertisers who want you and me to buy their stuff. Who can blame companies for not wanting to be associated with someone who, in this obnoxiously PC time in which we live in, appears to be an insensitive racist? I don't agree with it. I don't think it's fair. But it is the reality of the world. In a country where a single moment of unrestrained exuberance can derail an entire presidential campaign, why should we be surprised when an aging loudmouth gets canned for being a pig?

Anyway, just my two cents. Ok, show's over, go on about your business.



Turtle said...

I don't disagree with you, but it's still a large pile of steaming horse poo. The advertisers KNEW who they were sponsoring. They KNEW that Imus was a cantankerous old coot who insulted everyone and everything. They knew precisely whose bed they were sleeping in.

It is not right for the government to dictate what we say. That's what the first ammendment is all about. It doesn't matter if they don't like what is being said, the right to say it is protected.

What gives corporations a higher calling? I think the companies that threatened and gestured need to be sent of gesture of their own. I think they should all be boycotted. I think that THEIR actions need to make the news. I think that THEY need to be held accountable.

No, it is not fair, but by standing by complacently, by accepting their actions, we are allowing them to get away with not being fair. And THAT isn't right.

Jennifer said...

The advertisers are a bit disingenuous, supporting him all of these years. Everyone knew what kind of material Imus put out there. But most people didn't listen to him, so when they heard his material, things blew up.

I appreciate your comments on Freedom of Speech. I was just reading an essay that made similar remarks -- over on Media 3.0. Shelly Palmer wrote an essay called "The Rap on Freedom of Speech."

It's worth a read, too.


Monkey said...

Why does the nappy part of the comment get so much attention and the ho get none. Why are mysognistic comments so accepted in our society?