As a species, we’re chronically uncomfortable with free speech. Recently country singer Hank Williams, Jr., while appearing on a TV show, compared President Obama to Hitler. For that ESPN removed Williams as the introducer of its Monday night football.
Williams’ statement smacked of hyperbole. It was not the comment of an astute political thinker. But he had the right to make it. By censoring him, ESPN committed a wrong against our democracy.
The federal constitution forbids the government, not private individuals or corporations, to censor free speech. Yet censorship by a private organization, such as ESPN, is bad form. Our social contract, as it were, allows and encourages individuals to speak their minds even when they are very wrong.
Worse still, through censorship ESPN has legitimized Williams’ statement. By removing Williams ESPN has made the appearance of considering the Obama administration an oppressive regime to be feared.
All in all, it’s a sad state of affairs.