Letter to the Editor: What is the cost of free speech?
November 2, 2010
I am extremely disturbed by Bob Sweigertand#8217;s article and#8220;NPR Fails Free Speechand#8221; because he tries to simplify a complex issue and makes NPR out to be the villain in the process.
Sweigert would have us thinking that free speech is, and should be, protected no matter what, but we know that the courts have put time, place and manner restrictions on a variety of speech over the course of our history. There are many more limits to speech than just inciting violence as Sweigert suggests.
This is not the central issue however. The heart of his article defends Juan Williamsand#8217; right to express his feelings, regardless of what his work contract says. Really? So now we just disregard work contracts? What about me and#8212; I am an 11th-grade history teacher, am I allowed to express my feelings to my students? Can I tell my students that when Iand#8217;m traveling through the city, black people make me nervous?
Look, this is not what I feel, nor do Muslims make me nervous on a plane. I am just trying to make a point, and here it is: with positions of power and responsibility comes a degree of censorship for the common good. Juan Williams was negatively stereotyping Muslims as something to be feared, and he did it on national television. Sweigert doesnand#8217;t address the content of Juan Williamsand#8217; feelings that he so vehemently defends. Content matters. Negative stereotyping leads to discrimination, racial profiling and even hate crimes.
I would think Juan Williams might understand that, given the history of African-American race relations in the United States. People who are in positions of power and work for the government, like teachers, politicians and journalists at NPR, donand#8217;t necessarily have freedom of speech. They arenand#8217;t your average Americans expressing their feelings whenever they want to. They work for the good of the people, and yes, they are under contract.
Of course Sweigert doesnand#8217;t mention the $2 million dollar contract Juan Williams immediately received from Fox News after being terminated from NPR. That should ease the pain of his hurt feelings and allow him to say whatever he wants on TV.
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