Helen Thomas and Freedom of Speech

Just in case some people don’t already know what Helen Thomas said, here’s a little video (the editorial isn’t mine):

YouTube Preview Image

So, she got fired for those comments. (Officially, she resigned.)

Some thoughts:

  1. The comments are insane, even assuming that she only meant the Jews who arrived in the last 60 years or so (as opposed to those who lived there before Thomas was born).
  2. She has every right to say them.
  3. Hearst newspapers has every right to fire her for any reason that isn’t legally protected.

Jonathon Chait, writing for the New Republic, is no fan of Thomas’s, and spends the first half of an article taking her down for her work BEFORE the latest comments.

But after that, he says that firing her simply doesn’t serve the public interest.

He thinks that a democracy should be about argument, disagreement, and discussion. The penalty for speaking your mind shouldn’t be so high that it stops people from doing so.

At least, I think that’s what he’s saying. His last line says that he doesn’t believe that “being an honest anti-Zionist should disqualify a person from working in journalism.”

This kind of muddies the waters because it’s too specific on both counts.

That is, we don’t know whether other (non anti-Zionist) honest opinions should disqualify someone from working in journalism. And we don’t know whether being an anti-Zionist should disqualify someone from working in a field other than journalism.

I’m not just nitpicking. Let’s say she had said that Jews should go back to Auschwitz, for example. Then should she be fired? What if she had said that Blacks should go back to Africa? Then?

If so, then where is the line exactly? Which discussion and argument is good, which is bad, and who decides? These questions are hard enough when the government is making laws; are companies also going to have to wrestle with them?

Mind you, I’m not one of the people who called for blood. I think people are WAY to eager to scream that people should be fired. Getting fired is a big deal, and I don’t usually think the public gets it right when baying about firing people.

See:

Helen Thomas And The Rights Of Abhorrent Speech (and notice the end of the URL. I bet someone’s sad that the headline of the article is so boring in comparison).

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