Free speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequences

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Michael Houck, [email protected]

Photo credit: Laura Fox

Free speech is one of the main principles that made the U.S. how it is today. It was one of the reasons why we went against and seceded from Britain all those years ago. It was for us not to have to worry about a government or hierarchy to detain or punish us when we voice our opinion about a current issue.

We can talk about how the current president might be an idiot on Facebook, say that God will bring hellfire down upon us on the streets with signs or I could talk about how I have distaste for a topic and write about it in this paper.

We are protected from the government because of the First Amendment of our nation’s Constitution. But I think that what people are forgetting when they say that they have the right of free speech is that while people can say whatever they’d like there are consequences for doing so.

The latest example involves Mozilla Firefox CEO Brendan Eich. Or, I should say former CEO, because after 10 days of being appointed the new CEO of the popular internet browser, Eich decided to resign for the good of the company since some new info about him was released.

Back in 2008, Eich donated $1,000 to Proposition 8, the referendum that defined marriage in California as being between only a man and a woman. This referendum was later struck down by the courts.

And that is it. Eich didn’t really do anything else to cause such hate towards him. He hasn’t been as bad has others that have spoken up about their views.

Celebrities like Phil Robertson from the popular A&E show “Duck Dynasty” and celebrity cook Paula Deen have been got a lot of attention last year for their controversial remarks about same-sex marriage and racism.

With Robertson, it was obvious that he was going to suffer major consequences for his remarks about same-sex marriage and the LGBTQ community in a GQ interview. Robertson basically said that homosexual behavior will morph into bestiality and how he doesn’t understand why people are homosexual.

Deen was accused of making remarks against African-Americans and also using the “n-word” in the past.

In these cases I can see why Deen and Robertson got in so much trouble for what they did. For Robertson, it caused him to be suspended from the show for about a week, and the show’s rating have shown a decline since then. Deen had her cooking programs, publishing deals and endorsement contracts canceled with many of her employers, such as Food Network and Walmart.

Now those who support these two individuals (mostly in Robertson’s case that I have seen) say this is against the U.S. founding principle of free speech. While you have the constitutional right to say hateful things, you have to appreciate that there might be consequences for that. More so when you are representing a huge television company like Food Network or A&E, who need to stay neutral with topics like this as much as they can.

Now, I am not saying that they cannot voice their opinions about issues like same-sex marriage, but they have to accept the backlash that will come from what they said because they are not just representing themselves when they are talking; they are representing a whole company’s voice when they open their mouths.    

I can’t see why Eich got so much criticism for what he did eight years ago. With his donation to support Prop 8 he does show that he does support the traditional marriage movement and opposes gay-marriage, but he hasn’t made any remarks that seem to be controversial or upsetting about the issue. Still, people wanted him to step down.

I feel bad for the guy who was basically forced out of a company he loved. I really don’t think he should have been punished in this way for what I consider a small thing like supporting a view that you believe and doing so by donating a small amount, at least compared to other donations.

Everyone has a right to voice an opinion and say what he or she wants to. But we also need to remember that the first amendment doesn’t protect us from contractual obligations of companies and organizations that we might be representing.  And, even in the court of public opinion, every word has its consequence, whether we like it or not.