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Freedom of speech

This is a page from the original version of Pagan Vigil. There are some formatting differences. Originally published at

Some people want freedom without accepting responsibility

I stumbled across the website of an old semantic sparring partner.

Well, not really "sparring partner." His idea of a good debate was to loudly proclaim the superiority of his beliefs, and then when questioned, declare that the negativity was too much and then close down the debate board.

Anyway, he quotes me on the site (without my permission I might add), but one of the other things that that caught my eye is his fascination with Danny Glover getting booted from being the MCI spokesperson. There are at least three different articles on that site that mention the case.

His contention was that Mr. Glover was denied freedom of speech. I'd thought I'd examine that here, because I think it is a classic set of assumptions.

First, a company owes allegiance to it's stockholders, it's customers, and it's employees in that order. Most companies are focused on the Return On Investment, or ROI. A good ROI attracts buyers to the stock, which means that the company can afford to capitalize and expand. Some companies are values focused, they count on the values associated with a company to sell the product. A very few manage to mix the two, but even then those companies focus first on ROI to pay the bills.

A company makes money by keeping the customers that it has and attracting new customers.

When it comes to politics, companies may adopt a cause publicly if it makes good press, but they will usually keep a very low profile when it comes to individual candidates. Customers might overlook a cause they don't like, but customers seldom forgive a company supporting the "wrong man."

Say for a moment that you were the Director of Public Relations (or whatever the title was) for MCI. Your newly hired spokesman for the company just came out against an elected official, who was elected by a very close margin. This violates the contract that he signed with your company. Even if you could overlook that, he could offend half your existing customer base and half your potential customer base. the company can't afford that. So it is a no brainer, you can him as spokesman.

Now, let's look at the things that didn't happen.

Mr. Glover wasn't jailed for stating his opinion.

MCI did not send a bunch of armed thugs over to break a few limbs.

Mr. Glover wasn't prevented from going through other channels to give his thoughts.

And no government agency was involved.

So just how did this violate freedom of speech?

It didn't, of course.

It was the direct and logical consequences to Mr. Glover's actions. There is no reason why that MCI had to give Mr. Glover a forum. If links to a highly public figure like Mr. Glover threatened MCI's bottom line, then MCI was obligated to break those links.

Just because Mr. Glover had declared his values, that didn't mean that MCI shared those values.

On the other hand, Mr. Glover made a choice to capitalize on his popularity for the sake of his values. That's admirable, but it also made him less employable as a corporate spokesman. That was Mr. Glover's choice. He shouldn't be spared the uncomfortable results just because his beliefs were politically correct.

MCI, it's stockholders and employees should not have had to bankroll Mr. Glover's public political declarations.

On the other hand, if you feel Mr. Glover should be shielded from his own actions, I'm sure he'd be happy to take your money. His representation can probably be contacted through the Internet Movie Database. But just because you agree with him, that is no reason for you to require that MCI pay for it. If you don't like what MCI did to Mr. Glover, then sell your stock and find another long distance carrier.

I think this is symptomatic of a certain segment on the left. They want total freedom, but no responsibility. They want not only the freedom to do as they please, but the freedom to ignore the consequences.

Posted: Wed - May 25, 2005 at 06:06 PM

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