As most Liberals will be quick to tell you, the First Amendment only protects you against government censorship, not the private sector consequences. If you say something inappropriate, text/email it to someone, post it online, your boss will definitely fire your miserable cretinous ass and he should. Assuming the government doesn’t press charges and toss you in jail, your right to free speech has been held sacrosanct and intact. Now, go be a better person.
While Liberals will go to great lengths to protect free speech legally, sadly, recently they are accumulating an astonishingly poor record protecting free speech intellectually. It seems worse somehow since it’s coming from a movement that came so far and sacrificed so much for this right. Now some speech, doesn’t deserve to be protected legally or intellectually. A great example is Imus’s “nappy headed hoes”. Legal? Sure. And no one is arguing otherwise. But after a long history of phenomenal disrespect, cruel shaming and unapologetic racism, launching a social campaign to drive him off the radio was entirely appropriate. Imus is still on the radio, but liberal action was useful here because it set a new standard in discourse and dialogue. So long as we continue to hold media personalities to this standard national discourse should improve.
However the Juan Williams case demonstrates the reverse. For starters Juan Williams is not an entertainer but a well respected journalist. Someone noted for their contributions to civil rights. His claim to controversy was his statement that he becomes nervous when he flies with a group of Muslims. Racist? Absolutely. If it came from the mouth of any number of conservatives with a history of racism and offensive comments I think this situation might warrant liberal protest.
Another way this situation is different is the content. Tossing around the n-word, or other obscenity designated to shame or degrade another is, I would argue, categorically different than admitting to casual racism. It’s a fine line to be sure, but a movent dedicated to intellectual rigor and cooperation as a means to improving the human condition. The difference lies in intent. When Williams made that comment, and still today, there was something of mass hysteria regarding Muslims on airplains. The liberal media, by focusing it’s outrage on Williams, they missed a valuable “teachable moment” to highlight the plight Muslim American and the ongoing and well documented harassment.
Lately there have more blatant attacks on free speech coming out of academia. Last year we saw protests shutting down guest speakers all over the country, including at Berkley, the home of the free speech movement. Academia has a special place regarding free speech. Amadinijad, who was the Iranian Prime Minister at the time spoke at Columbia. Amadinijad is almost certainly guilty of crimes against humanity, and rigging the Iranian elections, and has brutally suppressed popular protest, but allowing him to speak at a major American University. His views are repugnant. He is in every way the “bad guy.” However, he still gets his moment at the podium, if for no other reason to reveal to the world how very wrong he is.
It’s time for Liberals to be smarter about the battles they pick. It’s vital in order to protect the right of free speech. Forums dedicated to knowledge and discourse such as academia need to be all but inviolate from liberal (or conservative) umbrage. Forums dedicate to conversation such as comics, journalists, and pundits need to be given wide latitude until a pattern of degradation arises.
The one place were a zero-tolerance policy is necessary is law enforcement, government employees/politicians, and primary and secondary educators. It is because these individuals do not play a crucial roll in national discussion (you generally hope your 2nd graders teacher stays out of the news) but they make decisions for other people and racism in this are simple can not be tolerated