Rarely does a week go by that I don’t read a story about someone who has savagely criticized another person, or a group, on social media and then is shocked (SHOCKED, I TELL YOU!) that countless numbers of people don’t rally around him or her in that moment of great emotional need.
The narrative almost always goes like this:
- Person posts something on social media that is a vile and direct attack on someone or some group; whatever is written goes beyond the fundamental decency people should have for others
- Person defends what he/she has written under the guise of freedom of speech
- Person becomes focus of hatred from either the right or the left (depending upon which side is aggrieved by what was written) for roughly the next 24-48 hours; threats and equally vile language is used by those people who are now on the attack
- Person expects that unflinching support will follow, regardless of the words he/she used
- Person becomes aggrieved if his/her employer, upon being forced to weigh in on this “crisis,” offers even the most mild of rebukes
- Person takes to social media again, this time to criticize the employer
Let’s look at this with a critical eye.
Please explain to me why anyone should defend someone else who goes well over the proverbial line in what he/she says? Moreover, why should anyone — regardless of the field in which he/she works, and, yes, I mean ANY field — expect to avoid possible penalties as a result of their behavior?
Sorry, I’m not buying the “because what they wrote or said is legal” argument. Just because something is legal doesn’t make it ethical, and just because something is legal doesn’t mean you or I shouldn’t be held to account for what we’ve done.
I’m also not buying the “slippery slope” defense that suggests if Person X is penalized now, then the door is opened for Person Y to be punished for something later, even if Person Y’s comments aren’t as hostile.
And I’m most definitely not buying the “oh, come on, they’re just words” argument. If you need an explanation for this, go elsewhere.
It’s up to you if you want to behave in an immature way on social media. But please stop the lunacy that suggests you deserve absolute support for what you’ve done and that no consequences should follow.
Freedom of speech? Yes. Freedom from repercussions? No.