Saturday, March 26, 2011

In reply: Free Speech is a Matter of "Whether" You Can Speak, Not "Where"

Revised and extended, in reply to: Huffington Post v. Breitbart: First Take Roundup

While I do think Arianna/HuffPo blew this thing, I’m not at all down with the “free speech” meme that Breitbart and those who support him and/or are ideologically opposed to the “liberal/lamestream” media (real or imagined) are trying to sell.

In the simplest terms, since when does free speech include an entitlement to the featured position on someone else’s media outlet? Free speech isn’t absolute, especially where privately owned/operated media is concerned. While you have every legal and ethical right to speak, you don’t have any legal or ethical right to do your speaking on my blog, newspaper, or tv/radio station (or anyone else’s, aside your own) unless I give it to you. And I have every legal right to grant permission or to withhold it, and even take it away after granting it, for any reason I choose, or even none at all. And while one can certainly judge the ethics of my doing so, one cannot legitimately claim any free speech entitlement to my media space, or violation of free speech if I choose not to allow you to use it. There is no such entitlement, legally or ethically speaking.

Arianna screwed up because she promised Andrew something and then went back on her word, and because it’s pretty apparent that she and the HuffPo team are not being forthright as to the reason why they did so. Whether it was the pressure of those libs who didn’t want Breitbart on the front page, or Arianna taking sides in a dispute between two folks she sees as friends, I do not know. But I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the Louis Renault-like feigned shock, SHOCK in discovering that Andrew Breitbart was capeable of ad hominem attack, or pretending that such attack was unique to this particular featured author. Had Arianna honestly said she a) was giving in to the wishes of her loyal readership, or b) was offended by what her friend Andrew said about her friend Van (whichever or whatever the real reason was... There certainly could be a c) or d) that I haven't considered...), I’d be much more supportive of Arianna and the HuffPo team. (And while I’m not happy with the means, I am happy with the end; My feeling from the start was that Andrew has his own dang blogs, and doesn’t deserve the increased exposure as a featured author elsewhere… especially not an elsewhere so often deemed the enemy (which is to say, "not conservative, and therefore dishonest, biased, ...") by the likely Breitbart audience. Obviously, Arianna didn’t get my memo on the subject, and was willing to give him that exposure… until she wasn’t.)

Andrew Breitbart is still free to speak. In fact, he’s still free to speak right there at HuffPo, even, should he wish to avail himself of the privilege. Andrew Breitbart is still welcome to blog at the Huffington Post. That he is accusing of them of violating his free speech, and that so many are echoing him, just doesn't make any sense. Andrew’s speech is just as free as it ever was, and any suggestion to the contrary is ridiculous on it's face. (Of course, I doubt Andrew will take advantage of the fact that he can blog there. His best chess move is to cry and wail about the unfairness of HuffPo's free speech violation, and blogging there would expose the hypocrisy of the meme he's selling. But theoretically, Breitbart could take up the HuffPo bandwidth abandoned by his friend Liberal Lee Stranahan (that name again is Liberal Lee Stranahan, spelled L-i-b-e-r-a-l L-e-e S-t-r-a-n-a-h-a-n, just so there's no confusion), who recently Quit Blogging At The Huffington Post in solidarity with Andrew Breitbart and his supposed free speech plight. While I doubt it'll happen, wouldn't that be fodder for an Alanis Morissette lyric, if it ended up that Andrew Breitbart became a Huffington Post blogger, while Lefty Lee Stranahan (he's "way left wing," you know) got more exposure on rightwing sites than he ever did on HuffPo? (If you actually read the Morrissete link, maybe so, maybe not.)

The speech is free. The venue and the audience though, often has a price. In this case it might've been a little personal respect for a friend of a friend, or maybe his remembering that he's a guest at Arianna’s virtual house, and that, while she wants to be hospitable, she also has an obligation to keep her longtime/loyal audience happy. We don't know for sure what it was, except to say it probably wasn't ad hominem attacks that left Breitbart with just a regular slot at HuffPo, rather than a front page one. (Oh, the indignity... The humanity...)

Your having free speech doesn't mean I'm obligated to give you my soapbox, let alone my tallest one, with the matching bullhorn, or the busy corner where my crowd gathers.

Revised and extended from a comment posted March 26, 2011 at 2:57 am, LS blog time

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