Besides being wedded to the fallacy that porn is exclusively about consenting adults, many of our opponents try to equate citizen activism and criticism of another’s speech with state censorship that violates the First Amendment. Nadine Strossen is one of the more prominent employers of this approach.
One commenter claims that asking businesses to avoid profiting from suffering is “dangerous territory” that “smacks of harassment”. Perhaps this person is not familiar with the Montgomery Bus Boycott or the divestment campaign that influenced South Africa. Were those actions harassment or peaceful resistance to oppression?
With respect to Don Imus, who recently called members of the Rutgers University women’s basketball team “nappy-headed hos”, citizen activism and private economic pressure appear to be doing a good job of responding to bad speech. After a vigorous outcry from Al Sharpton, feminists, and many others, eight advertisers withdrew their campaigns from Imus’s show on MSNBC. MSNBC then decided to cancel its Imus simulcast yesterday. Today CBS, owner of Imus flagship station WFAN-AM, delivered the “finale” by firing Imus.
Over at The Liberty Papers, a blog that does not appear to be a fan of censorship, Doug Mataconis frames the issue as follows:
…Freedom of Speech, as a Constitutional issue, only
means that you have the right to say what you want without the
government punishing you, and even then there are things you can’t say.
Libel and slander laws are not barred by the First Amendment. Neither
are laws against defamation. Saying that Don Imus had a First Amendment
right to make the stupid comments that he did doesn’t really mean
anything, because we’re not really talking about the government
punishing him here.
Imus, however, isn’t just talking. He’s an employee using the
property of someone else — [specifically] MSNBC and CBS Radio — and they
have the right to determine how it’s used and whether something that is
broadcast is appropriate or not…
It may be a bad business decision, it may be unfortunate that they
are bowing to pressure from people like Al Sharpton, but the one thing
it wouldn’t be is a violation of Don Imus’s rights.
Added later on 4/12/07:
“There has been much discussion
of the effect language like this has on our young people, particularly
young women of color trying to make their way in this society,” CBS
President and Chief Executive Officer Leslie Moonves said in announcing
the decision. “That consideration has weighed most heavily on our minds
as we made our decision.”