If you openly object to anything I write here, you are violating my First Amendment rights.
I sincerely hope you dismiss the above as utter idiocy, because it utterly is.
Sadly, it appears to reflect a pretty widespread assumption about what freedom of expression in this great republic is supposed to mean — namely, an accountability-free pass to say, write, broadcast, post, tweet or blog pretty much anything you want, in total immunity from any consequences or unwanted reactions.
In a perverse way, that’s OK. One of the enduring beauties of the Constitution, and of the Bill of Rights in particular, is that it protects the rights even of people too stupid to understand it.
The most maddening manifestation of that ignorance comes in the form of what I call the John Rocker Syndrome. The former Braves pitcher babbled a bunch of Neanderthal nonsense to Sports Illustrated and then became a free speech poster boy when he was roundly criticized for it. (The free speech rights of his critics were apparently not relevant to the Rockerites’ righteous First Amendment crusade.)
From the Rocker defenders you got a lot of “I don’t agree with everything he said, but …” (The guess here, then and now, is that they agreed with every damn word he said.)
No, it was all about Rocker’s freedom of speech, which was never in jeopardy and never abridged. He kept pitching for the Braves until he couldn’t get anybody out, which is how most pitchers have lost their jobs since long before Jim Devlin got caught tanking games for the Louisville Grays in 1877.
Now America’s favorite constitutional fallacy is back in the public dialogue, both nationally and locally — the former in Bristol, Connecticut, the latter just down the river in Eufaula. Both involve high-profile national corporations.
The first concerns former pitching great, (now former) ESPN baseball analyst and notorious loose cannon Curt Schilling, who got in hot water — again — with the sports network for sharing and commenting on some crude Facebook stuff about the whole transgender restroom thing. (Really, folks … get a life.) If you have thus far been spared the graphic details, you can easily find them on a few thousand websites.
The second involves a Wendy’s cashier in Eufaula who reportedly was overheard saying she “hated these f-----g cops in here” when a couple of Barbour County deputies had come in for lunch.
Schilling was fired Wednesday; as of Friday the Eufaula cashier’s employment status had not been determined, or at least not made public.
In neither case is the First Amendment even remotely an issue.
Not that you’d know that from some of the drearily and predictably apocalyptic reaction. “Freedom of speech no longer exists” went one fairly typical constitutional doomsday response to the Schilling story.
Well … yeah, it does. Nobody will go to jail — not even the cashier, whose alleged insult targeted government enforcers. But both speakers were public faces, if on vastly different scales, of nationally known employers. Their troubles are about professional conduct, not freedom.
As an American, I have freedom of expression. That doesn’t mean I can publicly write or say anything I want and expect the Ledger-Enquirer to endorse or even tolerate it.
If you still don’t get the difference, re-read my friend and colleague Dimon Kendrick- Holmes’ Saturday column about “representing.”
Personally, I have less than zero interest in what Curt Schilling thinks about gender issues or anything else. I don’t turn to ex-jocks and sports analysts for sociopolitical insight. The only gripe I’ve ever had with Schilling is that he absolutely owned the Braves. They couldn’t have hit him if he’d been lobbing beach balls and they were swinging tennis rackets. And I really don’t care what somebody in Eufaula I never met thinks about the presence of police in the business where she works.
Here’s a hypothetical question, the answer to which I’m pretty sure I know: Are a lot of the folks who think the cashier should be fired the same ones insisting Schilling shouldn’t have been? If the issue is free speech, then what, pray tell, is the difference? Except that the cashier isn’t likely to be offered her own talk show on Fox.
Dusty Nix, 706-571-8528; firstname.lastname@example.org.