I received an email on Friday asking me to sign a petition asking businesses to stop playing FOX news on any televisions in their place of business. I disagree with this petition. Why should these businesses turn off FOX? Because it is home to Glenn Beck, and Glenn Beck rants against progressives, and at least one man has taken that ranting as reason to attempt to murder progressive people. See the petition.
I don’t watch FOX news, or any other cable channel. I watch very little television, in fact. But that is my choice.
I understand why progressive groups would be upset about this, and about Glenn Beck in general, but this petition is coming very close to censorship. Boycotts and refusals to shop are a time-honored method of attempting to influence businesses, but something about this is rubbing me the wrong way.
I think that it is because this goes beyond an individual choice, and is attempting to influence businesses that have nothing directly to do with FOX news. The implication, of course, when these petitions are delivered to businesses, is that they will lose business if they do not give into the petitioners’ demands. It isn’t even as if these businesses have advertised on FOX news (well, they may have, but that’s not why they’re being targeted).
In this country, everyone has the right to say what they wish (within slight limits). That does not mean they have the right to be heard. That is the point of this petition, to limit the audience. But to deliberately target businesses unaffiliated with the speech, merely because they transmit the network carrying the words, that seems like a sneaky way of limiting speech.
Free speech isn’t free if you’re too afraid to speak out or pass on the word. Now, some people will say that Glenn Beck deserves to be silenced. He may say ugly things, but the terrible fact of free speech is that he can say them. Free speech isn’t free if people only say things we agree with.
The best way to combat ugly speech is to speak and act in a welcoming, inclusive manner. Say, by your speech and manner, that ugly talk and ugly actions are not welcome here. To respond in an ugly way only encourages more ugliness. In public life, the Golden Rule is even more important than in private life.