Who’s Abridging What (Updated)

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Who's Abridging What (Updated)

by baldilocks

Two recent “pub­lic out­rage” issues in this year’s news have demon­strated that many peo­ple — even baldilockscon­ser­v­a­tives — have the notion that no one may abridge “free speech.”

The only law related to free speech is in the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion, specif­i­cally, Arti­cle I of the Bill of Rights. Stated therein:

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.

Con­gress shall make no law abridg­ing free­dom of speech. There­fore, if you are not or I am not Con­gress, we are unable make any law abridg­ing free speech. If a pri­vate cor­po­ra­tion or a pri­vate asso­ci­a­tion is not Con­gress, it is unable to make any law abridg­ing free­dom. There­fore, the 1st Amend­ment does not address what any par­ties which are not Con­gress may or may not do with respect to free­dom of speech. Again, none of the par­ties men­tioned in the cases above are Con­gress, nor are they any other branch of gov­ern­ment. Each case involved some­thing called a con­tract between pri­vate parties.

A con­tract is a writ­ten promise. Con­tracts can have all kinds of terms, some of which may involve what par­ties say in pub­lic. Other terms can stip­u­late how a party can react when the other con­tract­ing party vio­lates any of the terms. Things like ter­mi­na­tion and fines are exam­ples of such penal­ties, and you can bet that both A&E and the NBA listed these things on the con­tracts they offered to the Robert­sons and to Sterling.

Observers are free to give their opin­ions on what they think and how they feel about these pub­lic con­tro­ver­sies and their out­comes, but, in the end, it comes down to what was promised con­trac­tu­ally and whether any of those promises were bro­ken. If Duck Dynasty fans or A&E fans or NBA fans or even Don­ald Ster­ling fans don’t like how these pri­vate par­ties have resolved their con­tract prob­lems, fans are free to no longer be fans. But, not being Con­gress, nei­ther A&E nor the NBA have vio­lated Phil Robertson’s or Don­ald Sterling’s 1st Amend­ment rights, respectively.

Each entity is free to act accord­ing to the terms of their respec­tive con­tracts. And, you and I are free not to give them our money if we don’t like what they do.

At least for now…

(More on the Don­ald Ster­ling topic here.)

AFTER­THOUGHT: A&E fired Phil Robert­son for his com­ments, then re-​instated him; the NBA banned Don­ald Ster­ling for life. Both A&E and the NBA reacted to the sen­ti­ments of their respect core con­sumers. Busi­ness is business.

Juli­ette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was pub­lished in 2009; the sec­ond edi­tion in 2012. Her new novel, Arlen’s Harem, is due in 2014. Help her fund it and help keep her blog alive!

by baldilocks

Two recent “public outrage” issues in this year’s news have demonstrated that many people—even baldilocksconservatives—have the notion that no one may abridge “free speech.”

The only law related to free speech is in the U.S. Constitution, specifically, Article I of the Bill of Rights. Stated therein:

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.

Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech. Therefore, if you are not or I am not Congress, we are unable make any law abridging free speech. If a private corporation or a private association is not Congress, it is unable to make any law abridging freedom. Therefore, the 1st Amendment does not address what any parties which are not Congress may or may not do with respect to freedom of speech. Again, none of the parties mentioned in the cases above are Congress, nor are they any other branch of government.  Each case involved something called a contract between private parties.

A contract is a written promise. Contracts can have all kinds of terms, some of which may involve what parties say in public. Other terms can stipulate how a party can react when the other contracting party violates any of the terms. Things like termination and fines are examples of such penalties, and you can bet that both A&E and the NBA listed these things on the contracts they offered to the Robertsons and to Sterling.

Observers are free to give their opinions on what they think and how they feel about these public controversies and their outcomes, but, in the end, it comes down to what was promised contractually and whether any of those promises were broken. If Duck Dynasty fans or A&E fans or NBA fans or even Donald Sterling fans don’t like how these private parties have resolved their contract problems, fans are free to no longer be fans. But, not being Congress, neither A&E nor the NBA have violated Phil Robertson’s or Donald Sterling’s 1st Amendment rights, respectively.

Each entity is free to act according to the terms of their respective contracts. And, you and I are free not to give them our money if we don’t like what they do.

At least for now…

(More on the Donald Sterling topic here.)

AFTERTHOUGHT: A&E fired Phil Robertson for his comments, then re-instated him; the NBA banned Donald Sterling for life. Both A&E and the NBA reacted to the sentiments of their respect core consumers. Business is business.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2009; the second edition in 2012. Her new novel, Arlen’s Harem, is due in 2014. Help her fund it and help keep her blog alive!