Off Topic Messages

One from the Right, one from the Left

Wed Nov 30, 2005 1:27 pm

About a month or so ago, Fox News Talking Head Bill O'Reilly made some offensive and disparaging remarks about the city of San Francisco. Many considered it downright hate speech.

A few weeks later an English professor from a small New Jersey community college sent a student an e-mail disparaging the war effort and claiming soldiers should basically turn their backs on the war and their leaders. He also promised to undermine a conservative movement the student was establishing at the college.

I don't want to get any specifics about each case as they are not what I'm interested in here. What interests me is that the offended parties in both cases demanded action, the same action: the termination of the offenders. As it worked out only one of the two actually lost their position. As a big TV star Bill O'Reilly wasn't going anywhere. It's a good thing though for him because a star with less of an established audience probably would have been given walking papers.

My question is how did we get to a point that we now feel we have to punish people who make offensive statements with the loss of their jobs? And why are we engaging in punishment instead of debate?

Wouldn't have an appropriate way to handle the O'Reilly issue have been to challenge and or condemn his statements? Also, isn't the damage done to his credibility more than enough punishment.

Wouldn't a proper way to handle the professor be to ask him to make sure he sticks to English in the classroom? His personal life should be his own. Personally, I would talk to him about the need to encourage student political awareness on either side of the fence rather than discourage it. But he is always allowed to disagree with anyone on campus or off.

We often joust on the Left and the Right these days but I have noticed on both sides of the debate these days that there is no longer a tacit agreement that "I disagree with what you say but I defend your right to say it." These days it seems to be agree with me or else. How did we get to such a disrespect of our most fundamental right? Until its our own voice getting shut down, we often don't realize what a precious right that is.

Wed Nov 30, 2005 1:36 pm

I get the feeling that a lot of it has to do with the "instant gratification" that is fully meshed in our society, as well as constant vibe of "going to the next level" in many of our forms of expression. The "extreme" of 20 years ago is bland today.

Adversly, the "PC" (not computers) movement has given many people much thinner skins and much louder voices, which has been good and bad, but is further showing signs of being misued by those who know how, and generally making everyone react more strongly to any number of things.

Why is it that the more warning signs we have, the more "don't do this, don't sit here, don't put this there", etc, the more we hear about people doing stupid things without thinking.

I may be 25, but I definitely consider myself "old school" in many ways of thinking, this definitely being one of them.

Great post, man.

Wed Nov 30, 2005 4:40 pm

LTB, there's a big difference between what that professor did and what O'Reilly said.

The professor at Warren Community College in New Jersey resigned following public outcry over his call for the fragging of U.S. officers. English professor John Daly sent an e-mail to freshman student Rebecca Beach, criticizing her for organizing a campus event featuring a decorated Iraq war hero. In the e-mail to Beach, Daly wrote that "real freedom will come when soldiers in Iraq turn their guns on their superiors."

He went on to say that he would aggressively thwart the student's right to be heard on campus. Daly has since resigned his adjunct position at Warren Community College.

I firmly believe that someone in his position who would threaten a student in that manner deserves to lose his job.

Bill O'Reilly's situation is a bit different. Bill is the host of a radio and television program where he gets paid to put forth his views, popular or not. He's not a state college professor hired to teach young people. O'Reilly's point was that San Francisco voted to oppose military recruiting in the city's public schools including colleges. O'Reilly believes that the vote was disrespectful to the men and women currently serving in the armed forces, and suggested that if he were the president and people in San Francisco felt that way, they were welcome to go it alone if terrorists showed up.

I really think the two situations are apples & oranges.

Wed Nov 30, 2005 5:45 pm

LiketheBike wrote:

About a month or so ago, Fox News Talking Head Bill O'Reilly made some offensive and disparaging remarks about the city of San Francisco. Many considered it downright hate speech.



EagleUSA wrote:

Bill O'Reilly's situation is a bit different. Bill is the host of a radio and television program where he gets paid to put forth his views, popular or not. He's not a state college professor hired to teach young people. O'Reilly's point was that San Francisco voted to oppose military recruiting in the city's public schools including colleges.

O'Reilly believes that the vote was disrespectful to the men and women currently serving in the armed forces, and suggested that if he were the president and people in San Francisco felt that way, they were welcome to go it alone if terrorists showed up.


Likethebike, I watched that show or saw a good deal of it. I think it was
a running theme for awhile.

I fail to see how it was "hate speech." Did you think he "gay-bashed"?
He didn't. It was, as Eagle points out, about another subject.

I actually think he makes a legitimate point. I always thought it was a bit
ironic to have had military recruiters banned from my state university
campus as a holdover from the Vietnam war era opposition and activism.

Those who supported this ban years later were among the first to cry
foul over those who restricted free assembly and free speech. Incidentally,
Jewish activists for Israel as well as Muslim Student Union regularly
manned tables in that same area where Uncle Sam was verboten. :roll:

I do see your greater point about taking away one's job, but still,
life is about consequences, and "free speech" as guarenteed by the
Constitution does not extend to labor laws, especially absent a union
contract. An employer has more free reign than not, especially if the
person brings unwanted publicity or controversy. Recall that
ABC sportscaster years ago who make allegedly "racist" comments
about Blacks and swimming. The guy was gone in seconds
with his reputation in ruins despite being apparently a good guy with a
good reputation.

And in a time of war, it can be dicey to pop off at the wrong
time. I'm not saying its right, but it's par for the course.

That Colorado (?) anti-war professor Ward Churchill suffered the consequences of having his views heard by a wider audience. This
tends to happen when a nation's at war. It may not be right,
but what else is new?

Thu Dec 01, 2005 2:05 am

I read the e-mail the professor wrote and it was not personally threatening. There was no physical or personal threat to the student in the letter. The threat was to "expose" the conservative ideals put forth by the student. He should be allowed to do that. Your free time should be your own and your ideas no matter how radical should not be contained by your job.

But I didn't want to get involved in the specifics because the outcry is more what's important to me. I could have very well used Linda Ronstadt ejection from the hotel following her Michael Moore rant a year ago as my Left example. The e-mail thing was more recent though. My point is about the need to punish the expression of offensive ideas.

Thu Dec 01, 2005 2:16 am

LTB wrote:
My point is about the need to punish the expression of offensive ideas.


I think the punishment should fit the crime. In the case of the professor, he may not have physically threatened his student, but he did say he would aggressively thwart her right to be heard on campus. I think that sort of threat goes way beyond the boundaries of opinion and borders on harrassment and infringing on her right to free speech and the rights of all students on that campus to freely exchange ideas and opinions. Regardless of whether his e-mail was composed on his day off or during class, what he did was wrong. Professors have no business harrassing, demeaning, or otherwise intimidating students for their own personal gain.

LTB, are you suggesting that it's only the Left that is punished for unpopular speech or opinions? I hope not...one only has to look to Trent Lott as an example.

Thu Dec 01, 2005 4:34 am

likethebike wrote:I read the e-mail the professor wrote and it was not personally threatening. There was no physical or personal threat to the student in the letter. The threat was to "expose" the conservative ideals put forth by the student. He should be allowed to do that. Your free time should be your own and your ideas no matter how radical should not be contained by your job.




To say he merely threatened to expose her conservative ideals doesn't really reflect the tone of the email. To put it in context, he said:

"I will continue to expose your right-wing, anti-people politics until groups like your won't dare show their face on a college campus. Real freedom will come when soldiers in Iraq turn their guns on their superiors and fight for just causes and for people's needs--such freedom fighters can be counted throughout American history and they certainly will be counted again."

He's essentially threatening to run a student off campus and that's not acceptable. The professor's right to be heard is not in question, it's the way he went about it that rightly led to his dismissal. As for the claptrap about freedom fighters, I think that tells us a lot about his extreme brand of politics. He's the kind of liberal that gives liberals a bad name. To me, it's contradictory to attend antii-war rallies and speak out passionately against the use of violence, and in the next breath encourage soldiers to turn their guns on their superiors. I think he would get on famously with George Galloway.

That said, I do agree with your general sentiment LTB, which Jamie expanded on with his point about misplaced political correctness. I just think the Daly example doesn't fall into that category. It extends beyond punishing offensive ideas to punishing the harrassment of a student, which was the appropriate course of action - even if she was a little fascist :)

Re: One from the Right, one from the Left

Thu Dec 01, 2005 7:20 am

likethebike wrote:About a month or so ago, Fox News Talking Head Bill O'Reilly made some offensive and disparaging remarks about the city of San Francisco. Many considered it downright hate speech.

A few weeks later an English professor from a small New Jersey community college sent a student an e-mail disparaging the war effort and claiming soldiers should basically turn their backs on the war and their leaders. He also promised to undermine a conservative movement the student was establishing at the college.

I don't want to get any specifics about each case as they are not what I'm interested in here. What interests me is that the offended parties in both cases demanded action, the same action: the termination of the offenders. As it worked out only one of the two actually lost their position. As a big TV star Bill O'Reilly wasn't going anywhere. It's a good thing though for him because a star with less of an established audience probably would have been given walking papers.

My question is how did we get to a point that we now feel we have to punish people who make offensive statements with the loss of their jobs? And why are we engaging in punishment instead of debate?

Wouldn't have an appropriate way to handle the O'Reilly issue have been to challenge and or condemn his statements? Also, isn't the damage done to his credibility more than enough punishment.

Wouldn't a proper way to handle the professor be to ask him to make sure he sticks to English in the classroom? His personal life should be his own. Personally, I would talk to him about the need to encourage student political awareness on either side of the fence rather than discourage it. But he is always allowed to disagree with anyone on campus or off.

We often joust on the Left and the Right these days but I have noticed on both sides of the debate these days that there is no longer a tacit agreement that "I disagree with what you say but I defend your right to say it." These days it seems to be agree with me or else. How did we get to such a disrespect of our most fundamental right? Until its our own voice getting shut down, we often don't realize what a precious right that is.


Please try to keep your posts pithy and also no bloviating. That's Bill's job.

Fri Dec 02, 2005 3:09 pm

Actually I was not saying that at all. And this is precise reason I only wanted to outline in the vaguest details the two separate cases. Because I did not want the greater point obfuscated in the details of each individual case. As I pointed out, I could just as easily have used the Linda Ronstadt debacle as my example from the left or the Rush Limbaugh Donovan McNabb deal from the right. In either case, my argument is that there often seems to be a call for the head of a person who expresses an unpopular idea rather than a refutation of their argument. Why do you have to lose your job? Be kicked out of a hotel? etc.

And I agree there are layers to stuff like Limbaugh and the professor that might make a job loss a proper course of action. Limbaugh's comments might have revealed a lack of knowledge about football. However, the people leading the pitch are not couching their arguments in those terms. They make an automatic equation between outlandish opinion and punishment.

The overall point I'm trying to make is that free speech seems to have no friends these days. The difference between and the right and left only seems to be the topics on which they prefer silence.

Fri Dec 02, 2005 4:10 pm

I would use the Jimmy the Greek scenario as one of the first cases of these kind. For those who aren't famaliar with his comments, here they are.

Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder:

Back in the 1980s, Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder was a very popular figure in the world of American sports. A betting guy, he was said to be great at predicting winners and was used as a color commentator at CBS. In 1988 (on Martin Luther King's birthday, of all days), Snyder made the following comment while trying to explain why (according to him), blacks were physically superior to whites:

"During the slave period, the slave owner would breed his big black with his big woman so that he would have a big black kid. That's where it all started."

Jimmy The Greek never understood why he was fired by CBS and criticized by his friends. "He felt he was falsely accused," his brother John Synodinos once said. "He was praising the blacks actually."

Fri Dec 02, 2005 6:48 pm

"Jimmy the Greek" is the one I was mentioning above but couldn't recall his name.(I wonder why...):
I do see your greater point about taking away one's job, but still,
life is about consequences, and "free speech" as guarenteed by the
Constitution does not extend to labor laws, especially absent a union
contract. An employer has more free reign than not, especially if the
person brings unwanted publicity or controversy. Recall that
ABC sportscaster years ago who make allegedly "racist" comments
about Blacks and swimming. The guy was gone in seconds
with his reputation in ruins despite being apparently a good guy with a
good reputation.


I think he said something about the tendency for blacks not
swimming well having something to do with their muscle density
or something half-cocked like that. Still, he was gone in a flash.

And honestly, shouldn't there be consquences sometimes?

likethebike wrote:... In either case, my argument is that there often seems to be a call for the head of a person who expresses an unpopular idea rather than a refutation of their argument. Why do you have to lose your job? Be kicked out of a hotel? etc. .......
.
The overall point I'm trying to make is that free speech seems to have no friends these days. The difference between and the right and left only seems to be the topics on which they prefer silence.


We live in an extraordinarily free country, LTB, in terms of free
speech and expression - sometimes to a fault. This goes for
Ice T recording "Cop Killer" in the early '90s on down the line.

No one ever promised that there wouldn't be consquences.

It's like that old crack that you had better own your own free "press"
before you exercise it.

Be outrageous but people will react so don't be surprised if you
lose your Vegas gig. This is my
answer to a Linda Ronstadt, who probably expected it. It was
also the most ink she had in years! :lol:

Maybe Elvis knew what he was doing when he avoided politicking from
the stage. It is, after all, show-biz.

And professors cherish free inquiry and speech, etc. but must
realize that they exist in this country as well. When comments
intended for the campus only reach the greater public, there
can be a huge uproar sometimes...and quite rightfully.

Sat Dec 03, 2005 3:12 am

I thought the Jimmy the Greek was outrageous because he was obviously drunk when he made the comments and the comments he made were not on the air and obviously outside of his level of expertise. He was not just popping off about the topic, he was in a restaurant responding to a reporter's inquiry. The reporter asked about the reasons for the prominence of black athletes in professional sports. Jimmy the Greek was an odds maker, not a sociologist or a biologist. Was there a right answer that he could have given to this question other than "I don't know"?

Greg- Should the consequences be losing your job especially over comments that you are paid to make? Or worse case, a comment made that has nothing to do with your job? Jimmy the Greek deserved to be embarrassed but did he deserve to lose his job. A few years back a Washington DC city official lost his position over the use of the word "niggardly"- a phrase meaning petty or stingy with no racial connotation whatsoever- in a speech. It's insane. That person didn't even deserve to be embarrassed.

And the Linda Ronstadt thing was not just losing the gig. She was forceably ejected from the hotel. If the comments leave Ronstadt playing to an empty room, maybe then you have reason to end the engagement early or not invite her back. But the action that was taken was deliberate punishment of her expression.

Sat Dec 03, 2005 10:32 am

The speech clause in the Constitution is a restriction upon GOVERNMENT iinterference or retribution against free speech.

There is no guarantee of freedom from consequences in the private sector.

Also LTB.........the ejection of Ronstadt, and the boycott of the Dixie Chicks by radio stations, etc etc..........those sorts of action have been classified as free speech rights by the Supreme Court as well. Just as monetary contributions have.

Free speech as pertaining to words only is the very narrowest of definitions. The hotel's decision to boot Linda to the curb is THEIR exercise of free speech.

Do you wish that to be abridged??? I think not......

Sat Dec 03, 2005 10:57 am

That's not exactly what I'm getting at. What I'm protesting is the idea of one for one- controversial speech you have to pay, the idea that being fired or kicked out comes with too outrageous an opinion, the need for retaliation rather than rebuttal. In no way am I suggesting prohibiting the station owners, club owners, boards of trustees from taking any actions they want to take. What I'm questioning is the attitude by the protestors or people like the hotel owner that there has to be some sort of real world punishment for expressing harsh opinions. To me it shows a disrespect for the concept of free speech and the value of dissenting opinion. That is what's distressing to me. What good is the right of free speech if no one is saying what's on their mind for fear of reprisals? If we ourselves don't respect the concept, the government doesn't have anything to worry about.

Again I'm not looking to curtail freedoms on either side of the fence. All I'm asking for (and Jamie A Kelley hit on some of this with the instant gratification post) is the use of some thought rather than marching around like a bunch of automatons or a rats that do a little dance every time a piece of cheese is dropped into the cage. Weigh the situation. Debate before you retaliate.

Sat Dec 03, 2005 11:11 am

I largely agree with your points. But, as citizens with equal rights to free speech, the hotels, radio stations et al also have the right to refuse to accomodate those whose politics are deemed damaging to their interests in some manner.

There are other jobs, other hotels. If you have enough courage of conviction to speak up, you need to have enough courage to quit whining about the consequences.

I have people who work for me who are diametrically opposed to what I believe. Great guys.......great employees. I would never retaliate as some do. But it is their right to do it. And there are...........other jobs, other hotels :wink:

Tue Dec 06, 2005 2:32 am

I'm glad you both see it is a bit complicated.

For the record, I echo LTB's call for more free speech
on the job, so to speak, but that too, should be
countered by the idea that the corporation (or government
or non-profit) shouldn't be put at a disadvantage because
of one person chatting it up with controversial views.
Absent collective bargaining power gained from, say, a
union, most workers really have
little free speech and I do think that is a problem.

In this era, some speech is more verboten then others.