Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Hank Williams Jr., and Free Speech

Country music artist and Monday Night Football spokesman Hank Williams, Jr., caught some heat and lost his job over a comment that compared President Barack Obama to Hitler. Technically, it was an analogy rather than a direct comparison, in which the country singer compared a golf game between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to a golf game between Adolf Hitler and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. I'll be the first to agree that the comments were blown out of proportion and the retribution was a bit extreme. That said, I hate that the whole freedom of speech argument has been dragged into the debate.Williams had every right to say what he did. He was not censored in any way, and the comment aired on television without question. How is any of that a violation of free speech?

Just because there are repercussions to the things you say doesn't mean your first amendment rights have been violated. I can go to any public forum, such as Facebook or even this blog, and write derogatory things about my employer or boss. It's perfectly within my rights to do so. However, if they read that and disapprove, they're probably going to fire me, which is perfectly within their rights as well. This notion that free speech gives you the right to say anything about anyone with no consequences is absolutely absurd.Another thing that bugs me about the whole situation is the misplaced blame. Williams fired back with a new "song" (and I'll use the term loosely) about the downfall of society, how we're becoming a socialist state and pretty much blames Obama for not only his firing, but pretty much anything else wrong with the world today (it is his fault that R.E.M. broke up, right?).

The decision to fire Williams undoubtedly went through ESPN president George Bodenheimer, who has contributed tons of money to several Republican causes, including campaigns for Republican Senator Mitch McConnell and presidential candidate John McCain. So, if there's some vast Democratic conspiracy to take away our rights and spin us toward a socialist society, then Bodenheimer must be in on it. I mean, he even places part of the blame on Fox and Friends, which is about as far to the right as someone can go without toppling over.Bottom line is this sort of highlights how polarized our nation is becoming, and how quick we are to blame anyone else for our problems. I don't think Williams was meant to directly compare Obama to Hitler, and I think firing him over it was a bit harsh, but firing back with a poorly written propaganda tune doesn't help his case any. And to try and make this argument about free speech is even more ludicrous than the lyrics he probably took 20 minutes or so to pen out of anger.

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