When you’re in my house my word is law. For example, in the Harrington household it’s against the law to verbally abuse my wife. In my house there is no higher court you can appeal to. In fact, even if my house were situated in the United States of America instead of England (which is where in fact it is) you still couldn’t appeal to any higher court to reverse or dispute a single one of my laws. Naturally, if you don’t like the law of the land as it applies to the Harrington Household you’re free to go elsewhere.
I don’t think anyone has any problem understanding any of that. But would most reasonable persons agree that my laws do not violate the Constitution of the United States? Well, implicit in the freedom of speech is the freedom from speech, isn’t it? If I don’t like what you’re saying in my house for any reason whatsoever I can boot you the hell out, can’t I? I’m not depriving you of your freedom of speech — or am I?
How is this apparent conundrum solved? How on earth can I get away with this ostensibly egregious abridgment of the Constitutional right to freedom of speech of other people, you might ask? Easy. It’s because I am not the government. If you actually read the Constitution, it says “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.” Maybe Congress can’t but I can. And that’s the difference. And there is no language in the Constitution to contradict me.
That’s why Twitter and Facebook and any other social media entity is free to boot you the hell out anytime they want for any reason. They don’t even have to be consistent or fair about it. They may be huge. They may look like the government, but they’re not. You’re free to inveigh against them for it. But it’s not a violation of the Constitution of the United States.
Republicans don’t seem to understand this. Or at least they pretend not to understand it when it’s convenient for them not to understand it. Take, for example, the recent petition signed by 216 Simon & Schuster employees and over 3,500 outside supporters asking senior executives of the company to stop publishing books from figures linked to the Trump administration. What do you bet that Republicans would start whining about this if it happened? What do you bet that they would clutch their pearls and cry crocodile tears because of this latest example of unconstitutional “cancel culture?”
I prefer to think of it as free enterprise. If Simon & Schuster decides to go ahead and publish Trumpist books then they can. If they decide not to then they can do that too. In response to their choice I can boycott their books if I don’t like their choice, whatever that choice may be. That’s their freedom and that’s my freedom.
I don’t know about you, but if Republicans object to their particular use of freedom then it looks like Republicans want to regulate those freedoms. It would sound to me like they want to get the government involved and regulate Simon & Schuster’s right to decide who they will and who they will not publish. That doesn’t sound very Republican to me, let alone Constitutional. That sounds like Stalinist Russia, a thing Vladimir Putin misses very much.
Recently Simon & Schuster signed ex-Vice President Mike Pence to a two-book deal ahead of a possible 2024 presidential campaign. Many of the good people inside and outside the company objected to this. Their petition says, “When S&S chose to sign Mike Pence, we broke the public’s trust in our editorial process, and blatantly contradicted previous public claims in support of Black and other lives made vulnerable by structural oppression.”
The reason you don’t hear Republicans howling at the moon over this is because S&S decided to go ahead with the Pence book deal anyway. Again, that’s their choice. It’s now our choice to boycott them or not. That’s how democracy actually works. That’s how freedom of speech actually works. Republicans would call that “cancel culture,” even though what it really is is just free enterprise in action, the very thing they pretend to promote. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.