Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Yes, It Is Different

Unbeknownst to me, people have been waiting for me to defend Donald Sterling's right to free speech. Why in Her name would anyone expect that? Yes, I talked about free speech around the Mozilla-Brendan Eich situation. But guess what? Those are two vastly different situations.

1. When Eich made his (loathsome) donation, he was an employee of Mozilla. Not the CEO. Certainly not the owner. Just a guy with a job. He then proceeded (one assumes, somewhat safely) to behave in ways that were so in line with Mozilla's, thus (one assumes, again, somewhat safely) keeping his personal beliefs separate from corporate ones, to the extent that Mozilla was willing to promote him to CEO. His personal beliefs stayed separate from his professional behaviors.

Sterling, on the other hand, is the owner. His beliefs are far more influential, more formative, of the culture of the team. He is key. There is no separation between his beliefs and Clipper corporate.

2. If you read the post about the Mozilla-Eich situation in light of expecting me to defend Sterling, you will notice I didn't defend Eich. I didn't say he shouldn't have been fired. I said freedom of speech doesn't mean freedom from consequence. In this instance, we can't dismiss freedom of speech and we mustn't use "no freedom from consequence of free speech" as a way to justify his firing. Mozilla could have used any number of reasons I would have backed. I don't even know what Mozilla's reasoning was for firing him. This paragraph:

Many, many, many people are "reminding" us that while we have freedom of speech, that doesn't mean we have freedom from consequences after expressing our freedom of speech. does. It's not really freedom of speech if we are threatened with losing our jobs, out homes, out livelihood, out security for speaking our minds.

is the key paragraph.

3. Sterling himself made it a part of Clipper corporate. Don't take pictures and post them publicly. Don't bring them to games. Don't put it out there. Don't make being seen with black people part of Clipper culture. His admonitions to keep it out of Clipper culture actually made it part of Clipper culture.

So, no, I don't believe we can justify Eich's firing because "freedom of speech doesn't mean freedom from consequences." We can justify it in a ton of other ways, but not that one. And no, the Sterling situation is not synonymous. 

Both are repulsive. Both are bigoted and prejudiced. Both attitudes are worthy of losing one's job. One, however, was protected as free speech. The other, not at all.

Those are Pobble Thoughts. That and a buck fifty will get you coffee.


Mrs. Pike said...

While I agree with most of this, I have an issue with the representation that making a donation to an organization is "protected as free speech". The First Amendment says: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." Speech is protected from governmental agencies and legislation, not from a private corporation. Technically speaking, unless Eich worked for the US Gov't or he was fired because of legislation, being fired for his "speech" (in this case, a donation) isn't protected.

BostonPobble said...

Mrs. Pike ~ I love this comment for so many reasons. Thank you!

1. I would love to have a greater conversation around this with you at some time. Like many other people, I was under the impression that protections under "freedom of speech" had been expanded beyond the original description.

2. If, however, your comment is only meant to explain how it was supposed to be used originally, then I totally get that, too.

3. My whole point around the original Eich post was to answer people who were saying "freedom of speech doesn't protect us from freedom of consequence" ~ because, the assumption there is that freedom of speech was indeed applicable to his situation, and that's exactly what freedom of speech means in situations where it is applicable. My intention was never to defend Eich himself. Which leads to (and really does work back around to your comment)...

4. As I clarified in this post, all I needed was another argument beyond the free speech one. So, thank you for making that better argument! (Told you it tied in.)