It always seems that whenever a liberal says something stupid and objectionable – um ok let’s qualify that: whenever a liberal says something SO stupid and objectionable that even the MSM rouses itself out of its ideological torpor long enough to feature it, and the public (particularly the right) erupts in condemnation, the default defensive position of said lib is: “Shut up, I have Free Speech!”
In a general sense he and his fellow Libs are correct – everybody in America has free speech (unless they work in Academia, where certain kinds of speech have been banned), but the freedom to say what you like does not come with any guarantees that you will also be freed of responsibility for what you say or that others can’t use their freedom of speech to criticize you for saying it.
Supporters of Bill Maher, The Dixie Chicks and the former Edwards Campaign Bloggers, all victims of oral effluvia, have positioned themselves in this manner in the past; criticism as de facto censorship; refusal to buy the products touted by people who say things you find offensive as a violation of the Constitution. The public must shut up when they disagree and send you money to keep offending them, only then will your speech be free. Corporations, who link their image to celebrities, must continue to sponsor them. Television shows cannot be cancelled. “Shut Up and Sing” becomes “Shut Up and Buy Our Albums”.
Of course it’s a one way street: Ann Coulter’s wildly inappropriate comments last week at the Conservative Political Action Conference on March 2, received the ire it deserved and the same liberal champions of consequence-free speech seemed to feel none of the reluctance to excoriate her that they appear to want the conservatives to feel when Bill Maher lets off a bad one. No, the nutroot section of the internet lit up like downtown Baghdad in 1990 as the invective plummeted down.
Where were they when Michael Savage was kicked off of MSNBC for his rough treatment of a gay radio caller, or Dr. Laura, who suffered a similar fate because of her statements about homosexuality? No complaints at all – apparently they don’t deserve or enjoy the same standard – for them it’s “Free Speech Lite”.
Let’s be clear about this – access to The Public Mind is both a curse and a blessing. When they like you, the world is your oyster. Only the wildly famous complain about being popular, but we all know they would suffer far more if they were suddenly ignored. It’s great to be listened to, but it also means that you will sometimes be held accountable for what you say. The worst consequence for Coulter, Maher, et al. is not criticism; it’s a return to obscurity.
Because media attention is also a privilege that can be revoked at any time.