FREE SPEECH AIN’T FREE
Daniel Drezner makes several observations about anti-Semitism, the Easterbrook controversy, and the blogosphere today. Of especial interest are two points:
1. A couple years ago, Easterbrook himself argued that people should expect economic repurcussions from unpopular speech. As I note in Dan’s comments section, I agree that ESPN/Disney has every right to fire someone for speech they disagree with. But we, of course, have the right to criticize them for the decision. For a journalistic enterprise to fire someone for ideas expressed in a column is rather dubious; this is all the more true when it’s at another venue on a topic other than for which he’s employed to write there.
2. Dan also makes an interesting point here:
Atrios concludes his last post by saying, “I find the rallying around him rather creepy.” You know what I find creepy? Anonymous bloggers hypocritically lambasting Easterbrook and other bloggers with the guts to write under their own name.
A hypothetical: what happens if Atrios had posted something equally offensive? Does he lose his day job? No, because of his anonymity. He clearly prefers it this way, and I’m not saying that bloggers must out themselves. However, the cloak of anonymity does give Atrios a degree of insulation that other bloggers don’t have. Say what you will about Easterbrook — at least he put his real name on his posts. It’s not clear to me that Atrios is willing to bear the real costs of free speech that have now entangled Easterbrook.
I’m a little dubious of anonymous blogging myself, but find it understandable. Steven Taylor initially wrote as “PoliBlogger” until deciding to just blog under his own name. John Lemon–who is alive and well and intends to start blogging again once his busy schedule abates–is still pseudononymous because he feels it necessary to protect his career. In the vast majority of instances, I’m not sure that it much matters–one’s arguments can stand or fall on their own merits.
But, perhaps, if your argument is that one must be prepared to face consequences of controversial speech, one should sign one’s own name? At a visceral level, I tend to think so. Still, this is somewhat analogous to the “chicken hawk” argument: How dare you speak out in favor of a war if you’re not prepared to pick up a rifle and get shot at? Christopher Hitchens did a pretty good job taking that one apart.