And yet more on freedom of speech

by Henry on October 30, 2007

The brouhaha over freedom of speech below reminds me that I never got around to blogging about Bruce Barry’s very interesting book _Speechless:The Erosion of Free Expression in the American Workplace_ (Powells, Amazon) which I read over the summer. I was sent it as a freebie because it has a chapter about blogging in the workplace, but found that I was grabbed by the general discussion of how few rights Americans have at the workplace. This is something that I had known in a general sort of way but hadn’t experienced personally (academics, at least tenure-track academics in good institutions, typically have it a lot better than most), and that was really brought home by Barry’s extended arguments and plethora of real-life illustrations. The book starts by discussing the experience of Lynne Gobbel, an Alabama factory worker.

Gobbel had a John Kerry bumper sticker. Her boss informed her that the owner of the factory, Phil Geddes, had demanded that she remove the sticker or be fired; he also told her “you could either work for him or John Kerry.” Geddes had on a previous occasion inserted a flyer in employee paycheck envelopes pointing out the positive effects that Bush’s policies as president were having on them. “It upset me and made me mad,” said Gobbel, “that he could put a letter in my check expressing his political opinion, but I can’t put something on my car expressing mine.”

[click to continue…]

More on freedom of speech

by Chris Bertram on October 30, 2007

I’m glad to see that my friend Martin O’Neill has devoted “his New Statesman column”:http://www.newstatesman.com/200710290001 to the topic this week. A sample:

bq. Any plausible commitment to the values of a democratic society will minimally involve the thought that there should be a degree of political equality. Citizens should not only be equal before the law, but should have an equal opportunity to influence the outcomes of democratic deliberation. If we are to have government of the people, for the people and by the people – in Abraham Lincoln’s phrase – then we need to take seriously the thought that the people’s voices need to be heard. The political philosopher John Rawls, in defining his principles of justice for a democratic state, talks about the significance not only of ensuring that citizens have equal basic liberties (such as freedom of speech, freedom of association and the right to vote), but of further ensuring equality in the fair value of the rights and liberties involved in political life. Without such commitments to the fair value of our rights and liberties, invoking democratic ideals can look like an empty charade, devoid of genuine substance. In other words, if we take democracy seriously, we need to walk it like we talk it.

bq. But what would be involved in delivering a truly democratic society, in which citizens’ democratic rights were not merely a charade – all form and no substance? Well, one thing it would certainly involve is some restrictions on the ownership of the media, so that it could no longer be the case that the content of public political debate is decided by the private interests of a few rich proprietors, like The Sun’s Rupert Murdoch.

I think my only quarrel with Martin concerns him picking on the _Sun_. Some of Murdoch’s other outlets, especially the _Times_ contain much more pernicious garbage these days, but it gets a pass for being a “quality” paper.

Hitler Hitler Hitler

by Kieran Healy on October 30, 2007

Norman Podhoretz’s nuanced approach to arguing questions of foreign policy.