Home / General / More on What “Free Speech” Means [UPDATED]

More on What “Free Speech” Means [UPDATED]

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Since we seem to be getting some Althouse defenders in comments here, I suppose I should expand on a couple points:

  • There are, indeed, “free speech” principles that go beyond simple government censorship.  When people are fired for expressing political views or having political associations that aren’t relevant to their job performance, this is bad for “free speech” even if it’s not a violation of the First Amendment.
  • With that said, it’s ridiculous to say that principles of “free speech” mean that people are entitled to keep their job no matter what they say in the course of their job.   Fox News has the right to hire Glenn Beck to spout nutty, false, and pernicious conspiracy theories.   But saying that it’s irresponsible for Fox News to do so isn’t a violation of any plausible definition of “free speech.”
  • And, of course, there’s absolutely no reason to believe that Althouse actually believes in the ad hoc principles of “free speech” she criticizes nameless “liberals” for not adhering to.  She defended the firing of Shirley Sherrod even after the initial Breitbart video was exposed as a fraud. She didn’t object (and implicitly cheered) when Helen Thomas was fired for expressing anti-Semitic political views.  She was nearly giddy with excitement when Dave Weigel was fired for expressing political views on a private email list.   It’s not just liberals but Althouse herself who don’t believe in the standards of free speech she criticizes “liberals” for not practicing.

…To add to the comedy, Meade in comments:

That assertion [point #3] is belied by following each of your three links and actually reading what she said.

Needless to say, he doesn’t follow up with any argument explaining how Althouse wanting people fired for their political views is consistent with her more recent views about “free speech.” Since I’m sporting, allow me to get started by identifying two differences between Wright and Althouse, although I’m not sure that this is what he intended:

  • One the one hand, the liberal campaign to “silence” Glenn Beck exists largely in Althouse’s head, and to the extent that it exists has a long way to go to rise to the level of being “ineffectual.”   On the other hand, the much more systematic winger campaigns against Sherrod and Weigel were actually successful at getting them fired (or “silenced.”)  And, yet, Althouse strongly endorsed the WaPo’s utterly risible justifications for firing Weigel for his political views and also endorsed Breitbart’s reprehensible smear campaign against Sherrod.
  • It’s also worth noting that Wright’s questioning of whether it was responsible for Fox to give Beck a platform — whether one agrees with him or not — involved stuff Beck actually said on his show.   In the cases of Weigel, Sherrod, and Thomas they were fired for expressing views in private emails, a speech, and an interview respectively.   The threat to “free speech” seems even more severe in cases in which someone is punished for off-the-job speaking.
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