Freedom of speech often misunderstood

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: April 1 2014 | 2:40 pm - Updated: 7 April 2014 | 3:03 pm in

I have no stake in the “Mallard Fillmore” debate. I do find his commentary mean, petty, often wrong about the facts, and most important, not at all funny. But my choice is to simply not read.

But I am always bothered when people misunderstand or misuse the First Amendment and its guarantee of freedom of speech and the press.

Floyd Williams’s March 26 letter “Comic’s appearance is freedom of speech” is just the latest in a string of letters misunderstanding this concept.

It’s true that Bruce Tinsley has a right to write whatever he wants in his comic. But this doesn’t guarantee him the right to be published.

Readers also have a right to voice their complaints about what a newspaper publishes. This, too, is free speech. And the newspaper has a right to respond or not to those complaints.

If they think enough readers are upset, they would be smart to consider dropping a comic. It’s a simple business decision. Likewise, businesses can censor employees, telling them what to say or not during work hours.

For example, despite what many people have said, Walmart asking or requiring employees to say happy holidays does not breach the First Amendment.

What would qualify as a free-speech issue is if the government made these decisions, if the government said The Gazette can’t publish “Mallard” or citizens can’t say merry Christmas. A business can make its own decisions about speech.

I appreciate Williams’ military service. But when he claims he was defending the Constitution, he should get it right.

Glenn Freeman

Mount Vernon

 

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