Katherine Timpf at National Review offers a very reductive take on Roseanne’s firing.
She was fired, and she deserved to be fired. Her comment was racist and unacceptable, and I would not want someone who had made that kind of comment representing my company, either. It really seems that simple to me, but oddly enough, I’ve actually seen some conservatives defending her — saying that her firing is an example of the rampant political correctness that flies in the face of free speech — and honestly, this is something that I just can’t understand.
First of all, this is in no way a free-speech or First Amendment issue. The First Amendment protects us from facing consequences from the government over our speech, not consequences from our peers or our employers.
Constitutionally protected free speech does indeed restrict the government (or at least the Federal government) from restricting our speech. But free speech is a concept that transcends any particular forum or organization.
ABC has the right to fire Roseanne. Starbucks has the right to tell you not to bring guns into its coffee shop. (There’s a certain amount of inconsistency in which parts of the Bill of Rights modern jurisprudence decided that private companies are obligated to protect and those which they aren’t. But that’s a subject for another time.)
Free speech is a larger concept than its particular legal protection in the Bill of Rights. It’s a societal value.
I have the right not to associate with someone I disagree with. So does ABC. ABC disagreed with the specific content of Roseanne’s views. It fired her.
Individuals and their businesses making decisions whom they can associate with (a right that’s actually been denied to them for quite a while) is different than the imposition of certain speech standards which are enforced across organizations.
These standards are aggressively punitive. They have ideological standards, but not legal ones. (The right gets fired for offensive comments, the left doesn’t.) Their goal is no-platforming. It’s a purge of anyone who deviates from an ideological norm.
Do some of the targets have it coming? Maybe.
But free speech is an idea. And it’s not just about the government restricting speech. The left is demonstrating that it’s possible to turn the First Amendment into a dead letter by building an alliance of corporations, non-profits, colleges and crowd sourced media lynch mobs to totally control speech in this country.
That’s deeply troubling. It is a free speech issue. And not one that the Bill of Rights is equipped to tackle.
The left has built a deep state across institutions to impose its values and views. The First Amendment doesn’t address that. But RICO and anti-trust laws might be someplace to start. Along with the Communist Control Act.
Free speech is important. And it isn’t only the government that can take it away.