Category Archives: freedom of speech

The other side of the coin

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:

  1. 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
  2. Person defends what he/she has written under the guise of freedom of speech
  3. 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
  4. Person expects that unflinching support will follow, regardless of the words he/she used
  5. Person becomes aggrieved if his/her employer, upon being forced to weigh in on this “crisis,” offers even the most mild of rebukes
  6. 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.

You want to take a knee? You do it!

You want to take a knee when the national anthem plays?

You do it.

Your symbolic action is working. And it needs to be followed by much more meaningful action.

I could make a dry, legal argument (no offense to lawyers) that kneeling is constitutional. But that misses the point.

The more important reason why kneeling is appropriate and necessary: The people who are taking a knee are silently, but effectively, delivering a powerful message that requires our attention.

And, oh yes, it’s getting the job done.

Remember, there remain large pockets of the country where nasty, angry messages are sent to anyone who refuses to stand when the national anthem plays. (The basic theme is “get out of my country.” Whether the message is written or said that politely depends on the person delivering it.) The kneelers — and they’re mostly public figures, especially athletes — are getting under the skin of the people who respond with such hate.

Might that be because those who hate know that those who kneel are right?

They’re most definitely right. The decades upon decades of systemic inequality — economic, social and political — remain in place; no single piece of legislation can erase the problem. Rather, it will take forward-thinking people — inside and outside government — to identify policies and programs that slowly, but steadily, erode racism.

The Chinese proverb that a journey of many miles starts with a single step applies in this instance. And each time an athlete or someone else takes a knee, they’re reminding every American, of every race, ethnicity, creed, sexual orientation and more, that much more work needs to be done.

You don’t like the message? Sorry, but too bad. It’s the right one.

Meet Cai Xia. She denounced China’s Xi and left the country.

Public Domain image

The New York Times introduces us to the latest Chinese academic who has dared to criticize China’s President, Xi Jinping.

During her career teaching at the Communist Party’s top academy, Cai Xia cheered on signs that China’s leaders might ease their political grip, making her an uncommonly prominent voice for democratic change near the heart of the party.

Now Ms. Cai has turned her back on such hopes, and the party has turned against her. She has become the latest intellectual punished for challenging the hard-line policies of the current leader, Xi Jinping.