Mutually Assured Destruction: Free Speech

I’m sure you’ve heard the term ‘mutually assured destruction,’ it’s the concept that what had kept each country from using nuclear weapons, for fear of nuclear retaliation, and ultimately the destruction of both (or likely all) societies.  It’s a pretty reasonable concept, right?

I think, there used to be something similar in the area of ‘freedom of speech.’  We’ve all heard “I disagree with what you say, but I’ll fight for your right to say it.”  The idea was that if someone starts limiting your speech, there will be the ability to limit mine.  Again, a pretty reasonable concept.

Well, in the era of ‘outrage’ we’ve begun the process of mutually assuring the destruction of free speech.  Last week (or was it two weeks ago?  It’s all going so fast) the NFL announce the NFL players who didn’t stand for the National Anthem, could remain in the locker room, or would face fines.  It was the NFL’s response to a lot of pressure from sponsors (apparently the DoD being a major one) and many fans.  I hated that they were doing it, but they’re a business, and it’s their right if it affects them financially.

Then, earlier this week, Roseanne Barr tweeted some racist tweets, and was fired almost immediately.  Now, I know who she is, but I wasn’t allowed to watch that show as a kid, so she doesn’t hold any of the cultural importance for me that she does for many others.  I kind of thought about two things immediately, how much it sucks for her cast/crew to lose their jobs, but also she didn’t call for violence, and while her tweets were pretty awful, did they amount to immediate firing?  I didn’t really think so.

Then yesterday, I started seeing that Samantha Bee (who I do like) called Ivanka Trump (who I don’t like) a cunt.  Now, this word in general doesn’t offend me, (maybe because I don’t have one) but in the context, it was offensive.  Of course many people started comparing Roseanne’s comment (comparing a black woman to an ape) to this comment, the right saying if Roseanne was fired, so should Samantha Bee, and the left saying they’re hardly the same thing.

Here’s the thing, as far as I know, TBS isn’t owned by the same company as ABC, and that’s the only defense I can come up with for firing one and not the other.  Is referring to a woman dismissively as arguably the most crass term for her genitals not as bad as referring to a black person as looking like an ape?  I think we never win when we get into the which is worse sexism or racism debate, but I think trying to hold the same standard for the two is reasonable.

There are things that I would argue could change that, for example, if Samantha Bee referred to everyone as a cunt, the way Jim Jefferies for example does, I think it would be different.  Jim Jefferies uses that word for men, women, children, and inanimate objects.  Not to mention there is a cultural difference between the way Americans use the word and the rest of the English speaking world.  But Samantha Bee, hasn’t used the word a significant amount, to describe many people (in public at least) so to me, it’s on par with Roseanne’s comments.

Now, do I think that Samantha Bee should be fired?  No.  But I think if Roseanne’s going to get fired for it, then Samantha Bee should, and if Samantha Bee isn’t then Roseanne shouldn’t.

My major worry is this, if conservatives continue to feel repercussions for legally protected speech (non libelous, non violence inciting), then either the left will become major hypocrites, or in order to keep things ‘even’ we’ll end up with no freedom of speech.

I know there are a lot of people who make the argument that it’s ridiculous, but Peter Rabbit the film, had a scene in which a human with a nut allergy is attempting to kill him, and he launches a peanut into his mouth, and parents of nut-allergy kids went ballistic.  There isn’t much that isn’t offensive to someone, and so lets not go down that road.

What do you think?  Let me know in the comments below.

2 thoughts on “Mutually Assured Destruction: Free Speech

  1. Well thought out piece! Good read 🙂
    My thoughts: It’s a complex issue, and I can see why people are comparing it to what Barr said, but it’s definitely not as bad. One was a racially-charged comment, following a history of racism from Barr. The other was a historically misogynistic word being said from one woman to another. Still, not perfect, or without consequence, but definitely not the same.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think the long line of Roseanne racist tweets is a very good point, and I see the opposite race versus same sex point too. I do think though that Bee had all the venom and hate toward Ivanka to worsen it to a point where it’s a slur by intention, but it’s definitely in a greyer area.
      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

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