Your Speech Is Free, But Consequences Aren’t

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.

Free speech

Loozrboy via Compfight

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 than 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.

King Mango Strut 2013, Coconut Grove, Miami, FL (27 of 75)

photo-gator via Compfight

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:


33 thoughts on “Your Speech Is Free, But Consequences Aren’t”

  1. Well, I can see both sides of this argument. Being a reprehensible human being is a good reason not to be hired.

    On the other hand, corporations should not get by with things we don’t allow the government to do. As the US moves closer and closer to being an oligarchy, allowing corporations to have a chilling effect on speech is every bit as dangerous as allowing the government to have one. I would expand the First Amendment to prohibit anyone from censoring private speech. That is not to say it’s okay to say offensive things in the workplace, or to express such opinions in school. But we’re on a very slippery slope, here.

    The story about your grandfather shouldn’t be upheld as a shining example of where we want this society to go, should it? Where people shut up and go along, just to avoid being hurt or imprisoned or worse? Behavior is a different matter. How we BEHAVE towards one another is rightfully a matter for HR and the law. But when we can’t talk to one another, it’s a dangerous time.

    1. Holly, I’m going to start with the story of my grandfather because I want to make sure the point is understood. I don’t use that story to say it’s the way things should be. I use that story to indicate that he fully understood how things are, and they’re that way today. Should it be? Truthfully I just don’t know. Do we want to work with racists and such? Not me. But what does one weed out to say it’s protected when someone’s looking for a job, any job, or not?

      Truth be told, minorities have understood this is how things are forever. It’s everyone else who’s starting to learn how it’s always been and they don’t like it one bit. Racism and sexism and the rest were always behind the scenes, dirty little secrets that mainly the good ol’ boys network got away with. You probably didn’t see this link I posted on Google Plus (no one seems to want to acknowledge the serious stuff I sometimes post there, but here it is: Do we allow the establishment to continually exhibit behavior against a group just because we want to protect free speech? If we know about these folks early on, shouldn’t we be allowed to decide they wouldn’t be a good fit within our organization?

      All I’m saying here is that freedom of speech is a pipe dream for most people. If one has the guts to say whatever they want to say they need to have the guts to deal with the consequences. And if those consequences keep them from getting a nice job… I really don’t have a problem with it. Tough love but, you know, this is a pretty forgiving country long term, so pull your act together (not you of course lol), be contrite if you know how, be sincere (most of us can spot phonies) and you’ll be accepted by someone eventually.

  2. Good words once again Mitch.
    I find it is one of the sad parts of this ‘new age’. Sure you can still say anything yo want…yet at the same time anyone cn know about it.
    What about that girl who cost her family something like $80K her father won in a lawsuit settlement because she blabbed about it on Facebook?
    It is a fact now that prospective employers will search a candidates Facebook and Twitter pages to see what they think about Frozen or Justin Beiber or pot or Jews or Nazis or missing Malaysian Airlines. True you say anything you want there but like you say…best be ready to deal with it
    So the hard part is having a strong opinion about something and not being able to say it.
    Let’s say I am looking for a job. Let us also say I am campaigning for medical marijuana. I write about that on Twitter and the HR person at a company I have applied to reads that, they may assume I smoke pot and thus may not hire me because they are a strong Christian company whose views are pro-life and anti drugs. I get passed over.
    What does this do really? It pushes us vocal people into the closet and stifles our voice.
    Turns us all into conforming robots and drones. Sad.
    Might as well be North Korea really?
    (To anyone who actually read all of this, as I know no one other than Mitch actually reads all the comments…please understand I am being a little cynical and sarcastic here. Sort of. Or am I?)

    1. Hey Troy,

      First, can I ask you to test another browser with your next comment just to see if it immediately shows up on the blog instead of in spam? It’s just a test to see if it works, but whether it does or not, you can decide which browser you want to keep using afterwards.

      Second, that’s how things have always been; we now just have social media and Google to be able to find things out easier. Last November there was a guy in a town about 45 minutes from here elected its local judge. A few days afterwards a news story came out that he’d been a porn star in the early 1970’s. First he denied it, then he owned up to it. Thing is, it was more than 40 years ago and one would think no one should care but people did, first because he lied and then because some of them didn’t want a former porn star as their top legal analyst, so to speak. However, since he was already elected there was nothing they could do.

      Is it ridiculous? Absolutely. Is it fair? Most of the time probably not. At the same time people need to learn from history so they don’t continue messing up when examples are always in front of them. I say messing up because, as I stated in the piece, people do have the right to say and act however they want to but if someone holds it against them, for the most part it’s their right.

      Besides, just asking for asking’s sake, why would someone want to work for a company whose values they didn’t share anyway?

  3. Free speech, I think, will always be a debated issue…especially because of how stupid we can be (of course, I don’t blame anyone for that. It entirely depends upon the situation and the person).

    Does a racist person deserve the right to free speech? He has the right, but does he?

    I am not sure whether I should blame this person for being racist..It’s like he/she was born that way. They were taught to be racist (so, who is the real culprit here?).

    Lot of grey areas like that. Hopefully the law will get better in the future (hopefully, we will have a more efficient system by then).

    I do love the idea of democracy, but it would never work (do we truly have a democracy in this world? I don’t think so. Those with power still run this world).

    The only way a democracy would work if when majority of the people become responsible (and by that I mean, taking action).

    When I look online (or offline), I see a lot of people complaining about the government, or the programs, or anything that occur in their life. A lot of people are ready to complain, but only a few are ready to take any action.

    My philosophy is that a person doesn’t deserve the right to complain about anything, if he/she isn’t willing to take action. And, by action, I mean more than venting on the internet!

    In a democracy, people do have power, but most of them don’t use it (or use it well). So, no one to keep the government in check (I often think, when I hear about corrupt gov or gov officials, what would I do in that situation? Would I misuse the power?).

    Surprisingly, I have said yes many times (Although, my ego might not agree with that. I like to view myself as a good person!).

    Anyways, thank you for giving me something to think about, Mitch ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. No problem Jeevan, and your thoughts are intriguing.

      Scholars have been saying for decades that for all the talk we have about democracy the U.S. is more of a republic anyway. It’s not a mistake that word is used in the Pledge of Allegiance. Also, the word “democracy” isn’t in the Constitution, but republic is:

      “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened), against domestic Violence.”

      I throw that out there as a point of knowledge. In any case, I counter a statement you made; no one has ever been born a racist. Raised to be one, for sure, but never born to be one. Still, behavior doesn’t allow anyone to qualify for everything. Does one get to insult the federal government every day of their lives and then expect they’ll be the first choice for a federal contract? Does one get to talk bad about a co-worker too many times and then believe they’ll be treated fairly and equally when that person is promoted above them and knows what the other person said about them all the time? If they do they’re stupid, although in some instances it’s supposedly legally protected; doesn’t mean life might not prove to be miserable for them.

      We’re all a product of our backgrounds but it doesn’t mean we’re married to those things. My dad, being a military man, drank, smoke and cursed; I’ve never done any of those things; choice. If one chooses bad behavior, one chooses to deal with the consequences. If it’s not bad behavior but a belief, stand behind it or be ready to fall. Expectation of anything else is illogical; if one is lucky after insulting someone else, so be it.

      It’s a tough stance but a more realistic and proven one than going the pollyanna route.

  4. You shouldn’t have start this topic, Mitch. I am definitely on the side of Brendan Eich, but this is my opinion. I am convervative, period.

    1. Of course I should have Carl; my blog, my words, my opinions. lol You’re allowed to be conservative and have your opinions. Just here in the U.S., there are some people who won’t work with you for those opinions. If you don’t care, have at it. lol

      1. This is the same, discrimination with oposite mark. So now, normal people are chased because they are normal.
        Great, I am sure that human kind wont make it, because normal people are not tolerated and common sense is tabu. There are so many other important issues, that talking about ped…sts.

      2. Carl, folks with your mindset always think that. What is normal anyway? That’s how we view things for the most part in the United States. With where you’re from though I wouldn’t expect you to believe otherwise. Still, you’ll find folks who’ll work with you & share your point of view; if it’s not everyone, just move on to the next gig. That’s how I’ve lived my entire life.

      3. Hi Mitch,

        Sorry gentlemen, I normally do not comment within others conversations but this time I feel I need to.

        Kaloyan, you used the term “discrimination with opposite mark.” Maybe I’m interpreting you wrong but I completely disagree. I live in California so I had to listen to the “battle to save marriage” nonsense daily during the entire prop 8 business.

        By not being able to marry and have their marriages recognized as legal, gay people ARE being discriminated against. People that have little or no tolerance for anyone within the LGBT community are free to speak their mind, under the law and don’t have to fear “discrimination.” Retribution or judgement maybe, but that’s their choice by expressing their views.

        When the president of Chick Fil A made his public comments he did not lose any rights he already had. And judging by the lines outside of his restaurants of people with his same thoughts, opinions, and attitudes I don’t think his business suffered much either.
        A group of people were fighting to gain a right they did not, and some U.S. citizens still do not have. That’s discrimination.

      4. Hi Aaron,

        My point is that there are topics that are more important that this. Most people don’t see the full picture. My point is that this is just a way of masking important outstanding issues. For God or Buddha sake, we are at the point of 3rd World World. Fues will finish in 10 years, bees – countdown to extinsion, bank system is crashing worldwide, etc, etc, etc…. And we are talking about gay marriages. Family is the smallest functional unit of society. Gay couple is non-fuctional unit. I don’t really care about who will marry who. People choose to live with somebody, that’s it. What is the point? Marriage is just a formality, period. If the world have existed based on one gender couples, the human population would be 10k people.
        Mitch, the above points are good topic for an article.

      5. Hello Kaloyan,

        I can partly agree with what you are saying. Yes, there are plenty of things going on in the world that deserve more attention- things that could harm the environment or the planet, or disrupt peace. So then why disrupt the peace by stepping on the rights of individuals, especially when those rights wouldn’t be of harm to anyone?
        What bothers me most is the large sums of money wasted on the ballot battle which could have been put to better uses like helping the homeless get on their feet, or donated to an abused women’s shelter, or for feeding under-served kids, any number of better served issues. I agree that marriage is a formality which is why I was so irked about the battle to “save marriage.” Two men getting married to each other, or two women marrying each other isn’t going to have any impact on my marriage.

        But back to the original issue I took objection to. As you can see in my outdated gravatar I am a black man, not really blue skinned. If I applied for a job and wasn’t hired and could prove that I wasn’t hired solely because of the fact that I was black or because of my gender, and no other reason, that would be discrimination. Agreed?
        But if I went to an interview and started speaking my mind about issues that had nothing to do with the job position and I didn’t get hired because the interviewer was unimpressed, that is not discrimination.
        Just as if I was an employee and during every break I ran off at the mouth voicing my unpopular opinion to the point that my coworkers didn’t like or respect me, and showing up to work was no longer something I wanted to do and I quit, that again would be of my own doing, not discrimination. I hope you see and understand my point.

        I shall step down off my soapbox now, and apologize to Mr. Mitchell for hijacking too much of his comment section.

  5. I try to keep my personal views to myself, especially when I know it could offend a lot of people. If I was going to donate to a cause that I knew people objected to I certainly wouldn’t do it publicly.

    Then again, I don’t donates to causes, although I do give to several charities which I think is a lot more important.

    1. Peter, most of this blog is opinion, and so is yours. lol I know what you mean though, and most of the time here I skirt the direct issues to talk about something else, but use examples of what I’m talking about to help make connections. Still, I like that my opinions are more on the side that’s more for people rather than against people; I feel good about that.

      1. Man, it’s so funny having you call me Peter.

        I’m probably more opinionated on my BS blog, but even there I show a fair bit of restraint.

        If someone was to question my views I would certainly argue the point but not to the extent that it turns into virtual fisticuffs.

      2. Except on that blog you’ve always handled yourself very well and you’re right, even on that one you haven’t been as bad as you could have been.

      3. So why is that do you think. Is it my psyche or the way I’ve been brought up. Perhaps even a little to do with my religious beliefs?

      4. I don’t think it has anything to do with your religious beliefs; if it did more people would behave better. You’re just a kind and moral guy; that’s enough. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      5. Ah, but that’s the thing, I’m sure there are lots of people who profess religious beliefs but in essence are just assholes. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. You asked me to try commenting using a different browser to see if my comments autos to spam folder Mitch. For this comment I have used Internet Explorer 11 where usually I am on Chrome
    “why would someone want to work for a company whose values they didnโ€™t share anyway?” you asked. True if it is a small company, like a local bakery that makes the best cupcakes in town but they have a different set of values than me so I will not apply there. On the other hand if I apply at…well, ok, I just did apply at LVH which used to be the Las Vegas Hilton. The same place Elvis used to play. That big company will require me to take a drug test. No pot allowed there. All the booze I can drink is fine but a little pot on my own time is bad I guess. Anyway, that is a difference of values.
    As a (not so very skillful Buddhist) I would never work at a slaughter house or a bomb manufacturing plant or the such.

    1. First, it seems it didn’t work for you; heck!

      Second, for me, even if it’s a large company I wouldn’t work there for certain reasons. For instance, I won’t consult at any company that requires me to take a drug test; just not doing it. If I was going to be working with patients (health care) or handling money, and the pay was right then what I’d do is pay for my own drug test and share that, since I’m incorporated. Otherwise, it’s not happening. And I can tell you there are certain companies I’m not working for because I think they’re smarmy. One has to stick with their convictions, otherwise they have none in my opinion.

  7. Hi Mitch,

    You would think that by now people would learn, but apparently not. Don’t people know that in this day and age just about anything you do can be found out be others and shared with everyone?

    I can relate to your grandfather’s situation. In my line I get to know my clients pretty well. When it comes to certain topics I know that unless steam is about to come out of my ears to keep my replies limited to “hmm.” Only once did I have to speak up in disagree with a client, and unfortunately for him he had to learn the hard way that when Aaron argues Aaron comes prepared!

    I think the take away is that people, especially those in any spotlight, need to realize they have three choices- Stand up, Speak up, or Shut Up. And that all three will have some consequences, some good, some not. All I can say for Brandon is I hope it was worth it, but I’m sure he’ll recover. He can probably get an executive position with Chik Fil A ๐Ÿ™‚

    In response to Jeevan you said that “I counter a statement you made; no one has ever been born a racist. Raised to be one, for sure, but never born to be one.”

    I agree that no one is born racist. Racism and prejudices are learned, from parents, siblings, other family members or friends. And yes, some children are brought up in households full of hate and are raised to be racists.
    But I’m not sure whether you meant “never born to be one” or “never born one.” I believe that when parents that are members of hate groups reproduce they have every intention of their offspring being racists. So I say that yes, someone can be born to be a racist, but they don’t have to be one.

    I really enjoyed this post and the comments. Thanks!

    1. Hi Aaron,

      First, not for this comment but for a different one. A benefit to blogging is reading other people’s comments, and when the moment hits you being able to comment on them, whether it’s for or against. I do it all the time; it’s more proof of being in an open society and having the opportunity to express yourself on more than one person’s views.

      Second, I meant my statement about โ€œnever born to be oneโ€. A parent might teach values to a child that aren’t quite right but I doubt there’s a single parent, even a racist, hoping for more than a healthy baby when they know they’re going to have a child. Even though it’s hard to pin down specific statistics, it’s estimated that the overwhelming number of racists are single and even moreso male; there are racist women but usually it’s because they love the man. It’s rare to see a single woman who expresses racist views, or at least is a part of a racist group.

      As for me and business, folks seem to already know before they talk to me that my politics are going to be liberal. For instance, it’s always Affordable Care Act with me and folks who know me know I’ll correct them and that’s that. I always live by the motto “don’t start none, won’t be none.” Not that I don’t start some here and there on this blog. lol

      1. Oh, I think you start some Mitch, ha ha. But is it really “starting some” if it’s your blog?

        One of the reasons I come back, in addition to the helpful knowledge, is because I know your stance on more than one issue and they happen to be inline with mine.

  8. Even while we live in a era of free speech, it is still important to do it sensibly. There are consequences for misdirected \”free speech\” and this is my takeaway from this post. The Brandon example readily reveals all!

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