Donald Sterling gets banned for life by the NBA, and the usual suspects start hollerin’ about the First Amendment. This despite the fact that it’s a private membership organization making decisions about who they want to have as members.
When Brendan Eich was forced to voluntarily step down as CEO of Mozilla because of his political donations, John Scalzi observed:
I mean, isn’t this supposed to be how things work? Decisions made, a frank exchange of viewpoints by legitimately interested parties, choices selected with an eye toward the bottom line good of the company, and actions voluntarily taken by the person and people affected? With no governmental interference in any way? Is this not the very soul of laissez-faire capitalism?
I remember people were confused about freedom of speech way back when Vanilla Ice was a thing, and I am sure they were confused about it long before then. So I don’t think I’m going to set anyone straight on this. But I do have three observations.
First, it may be sad that Eich had to give up his position with Mozilla. But he was not clapped in irons and thrown in San Quentin. He can still work, he can still speak at conferences, and he can still donate money to anti-gay organizations if he likes. What he did was not illegal, it was just … frowned upon.
Second, many people far less well off than Eich or Sterling have lost their jobs because of things they’ve said. A while back some folks got booted from their jobs because they made a joke that offended an eavesdropper, and then the eavesdropper got fired for raising a stink about it. I can think of at least two bloggers who lost their jobs because of things they said on their weblogs. It really happens all the time. We just don’t often see the rich and/or powerful paying a price.
Third, I still remember the Dixie Chicks.
In general, I think people ought to be more tolerant of other people’s viewpoints. People do need an opportunity to change their minds and evolve, and I don’t like it when people are intimidated into silence by twitter-mobs. But that doesn’t mean we need to tolerate assholes, or that we shouldn’t speak up when we find one.