free speech14 Apr 2006
If you had asked me a year ago, I would have never thought I’d find myself criticizing the Scene in defense (sorta) of Bill Hobbs. Go figure.
Anyways, on this issue, before the inevitable “free speech” argument comes forth, let’s go ahead and address this issue before the hyperbole gets started. The situation is a remarkable, if sad, demonstration of free speech, its power, and its consequences. I sympathize with Bill – I’ve been on the receiving end of (nearly) losing a job due to something I said (well, technically just a picture of marijuana on my website), and it was not a pleasant experience. I felt helpless and angry. But this has nothing to do with free speech, specifically, and everything to do with being beholden to our employers in general, in places where Polite, Professional Employees just don’t have opinions. Welcome to modern capitalism.
Though we can never know for sure that Hobbs’ resignation was coerced, it seems almost certain that it was. If that’s true, Belmont alone bears responsibility for that decision. They could have stood up for the rights of their employees to say and do what they choose, but they didn’t. Blake has said on several occasions that all bloggers should be watching what has happened, because it affects all of us and our ability to speak freely – and he’s right, but Spragens is not at fault. The root “problem” as it pertains to free speech here is not that Bill shouldn’t have posted a stupid cartoon, and neither is it that Spragens shouldn’t have publicly pilloried him for it. The problem is that we’re so bound and subordinated by our employers that we feel compelled to check our speech, lest we bite the hand that deigns to feed us for the time being.