Your Speech Is Free, But Consequences Aren’t
Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Apr 6, 2014
Brendan, Brendan, Brendan… gone so soon after rising so high… I guess stupidity can follow someone long into their future can’t it?
For those of you who aren’t up to speed, a couple of weeks ago Mozilla, the company that puts out Firefox (my favorite browser by the way), promoted Brendan Eich to the CEO position. In 11 days he was gone, the victim of what I’m going to say is public stupidity in giving money to support the California proposition against gay marriage back in 2008. The uproar was immediate I guess because, being out of the news loop as I sometimes am, I didn’t know it had occurred until the day he’d resigned.
Of all things, I came to the news because of a press release someone put on on a dating site called OKCupid that I saw on Twitter (yes, one of my favorite news sources) trying not to take credit for promoting the initial protest against the hire (but the gloating was obvious) and then reading that not only were a lot of people up in arms about the hire but many people within the company were as well. And the statement made by the head of the board certainly didn’t sound like the normal company speak lines of “We’re sorry to see _____ go…”, instead coming out like “We were wrong, and thanks for helping us see the light.”
What was interesting is that the people who normally could have cared less about anything that happened in tech that believed as Eich did came out saying that this was a clear violation of free speech and that it was setting a dangerous precedent. That once again I felt it was time to straighten everyone out about our free speech laws in this country shows that folks aren’t paying attention to either myself or what’s really going on. I touched upon the topic of being controversial in 2011 and early in 2012 when I talked about the courage it takes to be in social media, and Holly & I touched on the topic when I interviewed her later in 2012, which means I haven’t talked about it in more tha 18 months; my bad. So, let’s get this clear once more, since it really can’t be stated enough times.
In the United States, everyone has the right to express their opinion. What everyone doesn’t have a right to do is state their opinion and not have someone else disagree with it if they choose to. It’s the reason why so many people can love the movie Frozen (count me in) and a few can say they think it’s overrated. It’s the reason why so many young girls love Justin Bieber to the end of the world and others hate his guts (I don’t have an opinion either way).
What everyone has to realize is that, as I stated in the “controversy” article, if you’re strong enough to stand behind your convictions, say whatever you want to say and deal with whatever the consequences might be later on. If your opinions keep you from getting a job later on because they’re counter to what that particular employer wants to deal with, so be it.
Sorry kids, but that’s not the same thing as discrimination, where you don’t hire someone for what they are. No one asked to be black or female or gay or disabled or bald or heavy or… name something.
When we decide to say whatever we want to say, if it’s going to irk someone it could impact your life; that’s just how it goes. I take stands on things all the time, but I try to word my missives in a way that they’re not specifically insulting to anyone. If they take offense I’m ready to deal with it. But I don’t have masses of people hating on me because I’m not stupid.
What’s stupid? When you can donate money to a cause you know might hurt you later on and don’t do it anonymously, doing it so you can write it off in your taxes which, if you’re a public official or a public CEO, are allowed to be seen by anyone. Brandon, really?
Here’s a bit of family history. My grandfather was a registered Republican for a major part of his life. He never voted for a single Republican in his entire life. He owned an auto repair shop in a Republican city and knew he’d never get any business if he’d registered as a Democrat. So he did what he had to do to survive, kept his mouth shut even amongst his friends, and voted his conscience. He wasn’t ready to be controversial until he shut down his business, and no one was the wiser until he had nothing to worry about. Freedom of speech? In his day, even with the Constitution? Please!
Freedom of speech is a legal reality; freedom of consequences is a true reality. If you’re big enough or important enough or passionate enough of stupid enough (Facebook drunk pictures; really folks?), those things can come back to hurt you. I know someone who literally changed her name and waited a year for it to sink in so she could start applying for jobs under that name, in hopes that her political views under her other name would become obscure, as she is a liberal fireball but lives in a conservative area. How many of you would want to go through something like that?
Let’s not be too timid to have an opinion but let’s also not be naive. We all know when we’re about to say something on purpose that someone else might not like. If you don’t want to deal with the potential heat then don’t say it. If you can deal with it, and you’ve thought about your future, then go ahead.
Still, as the video below will prove, I believe there are times when you must speak your piece; it’s just how I roll: