John Stossel: Offensive SpeechSubmitted by Alliance With None on Wed, 05/07/2014 - 00:11
Last week, when the NBA banned racist team owner Donald Sterling, some said: "What about free speech? Can't a guy say what he thinks anymore?"
The answer: yes, you can. But the free market may punish you. In America today, the market punishes racists aggressively.
This punishment is not "censorship." Censorship is something only governments can do. Writers complain that editors censor what they write. But that's not censorship; that's editing.
It's fine if the NBA -- or any private group -- wants to censor speech on its own property. People who attend games or work for the NBA agreed to abide by its rules. Likewise, Fox is free to fire me if they don't like what I say. That's the market in action, reflecting preferences of owners and customers.
But it's important that government not have the power to silence us. We have lots of companies, colleges and sports leagues. If one orders us to "shut up," we can go somewhere else.
But there is only one government, and it can take our money and our freedom. All a business can do is refuse to do business with me, causing me to work with someone else. Government can forbid me to do business with anyone at all.
Of course, government never admits it's doing harm. Around the world, when government gets into the censorship business, it claims to be protecting the public. But by punishing those who criticize politicians, it's protecting itself.
That's why it's great the Founders gave America the First Amendment, a ban on government "abridging the freedom of speech."