Thursday, September 02, 2010

Great Ted Rall column saying that personal political opinions should be legally protected with regards to work

Here "The Libertarian War on Free Speech". Rall's basic point, which is well taken, is that a person can't be fired for their religion, so why should it be permissible to fire them for their political beliefs? Currently, there's really no such protection, meaning that while you have the right to believe whatever you want politically, you can't write about it on the internet or else, if you're unlucky with regards to employers, you won't be able to work. Of course, such a thing is hard to prove in that employers have the excuse of 'fit' in deciding whether to hire or to reject you. It's a little hint to tow the line of the mainstream. Imagine if a similar standard was applied to religion: you can be whatever religion you want, but we won't hire you if you're not a Protestant Christian. I have an interest in this because I have opinions that are considered radical and outré, but in point of fact this has little bearing on whether or not I can do a particular job. Here's Rall:

"A letter from Joseph Just was typical, but better written than most (which is why I quote it here):

"Ms. Thomas has been denied not one of her constitutional rights. She faces no fine, legal censure or criminal charges for saying what she said. Her immunity from the threat of such sanction (rather than immunity from being, shall we say, 'asked to resign') is what the First Amendment protects. The only reprisal Ms. Thomas has materially suffered (in addition to the public opprobrium directed at her) is the loss of her job at Hearst. She held her job at the pleasure of her employers, and if they decide that due her comments they no longer want her around, they are not obligated to retain her. She is not--indeed, none of us is--entitled to a forum...particularly a paid one."

Legally, Just is right. The First Amendment does not protect us from economic reprisals. I was arguing that employers ought to choose not to fire people for speaking their minds.

story continues below

Unfortunately, employers seem to be whacking people for what they say outside of work more than ever. Countless workers have gotten canned for statements they made on non-work-related blogs and social networking sites. Even more worrisome, many citizens don't have a problem with that. Even self-described leftists have embraced the libertarian extremist view that you have the right to say whatever you want--but don't expect to be able to feed yourself or your family if you do.

Posters at Democratic Underground, a left-of-center discussion site frequented by that rarest and most appreciated of creature, balls-out Democrats, has long been a community I've been able to count upon. On the Thomas issue, however, they sound like Sean Hannity. "Private organizations aren't and shouldn't be required to put up with speech they don't agree with," said one poster." "Free speech is not guaranteed to be speech without consequences," wrote another.

"Freedom of speech doesn't mean freedom from criticism," argued a third. "It means that you can say what you want without the threat of being thrown in jail."

Funny, these same libertarians would have freaked out if the artists who created the Danish Mohammed cartoons had all gotten fired by their newspaper.

True, the First Amendment doesn't protect your right to keep your gig as a community banker even though you wear a swastika T-shirt and whistle the Horst Wessel song on your lunch break.

But it ought to.

If the First Amendment is to truly protect freedom of speech, it must allow Americans to say and think whatever the hell they want, no matter how outrageous. So the First Amendment should be expanded to prohibit economic reprisals. "

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