Free Speech Does Not Mean the Media is Required to Provide Anyone with Access
Somewhat unnoticed in the uproar over Rush Limbaugh’s disgusting and offensive remarks about a young law student who dared (dared!) to try to voice support for requiring employer sponsored health insurance to provide contraceptive with no co-pays is the fate of MSNBC commentator Pat Buchanan. Mr. Buchanan has long been a spewer of rather divisive and hateful commentary on race and religion, and finally MSNBC has had enough. They terminated his services on that network.
MSNBC’s recent decision to suspend and then fire Pat Buchanan felt rather anticlimactic. Phil Griffin, the network’s president, told reporters that Buchanan was in trouble for offensive ideas expressed in his latest book, “Suicide of a Superpower.”
But someone named Mathew Continetti was assigned by the Washington Post to review a biography of Mr. Buchanan, and he came up with this gem as to the cause of Mr. Buchanan’s firing by MSNBC.
succumbed to pressure from outside groups interested in the suppression of political speech with which they disagree. Griffin
Really? No one including Mr. Continetti can point to any organized campaign against Mr. Buchanan. No one can describe any pressure from anyone that lead to the termination of Mr. Buchanan. This idea that Mr. Buchanan was fired because of “outside groups interested in the suppression of political speech” is pure fantasy by Mr. Continetti, he has no evidence whatsoever that this was the case, and the Washington Post in its unending zeal to curry favor with the right just lets it go.
But that is not the important point here. The important point is that like many others, Mr. Continetti has an improper concept of the idea of free speech. The right to free speech means that Mr. Buchanan has the right to publish his hateful screed, and that right is not to be restrained by government. It means that Mr. Buchanan has the right to voice his hateful screed, and government cannot enforce any restrictions on Mr. Buchanan to do so as long as he does not engage in libel, slander or the other types of speech that are prohibited.
However the right of free speech does not include a right to go on network television. Really, it doesn’t. For a network to take Mr. Buchanan, or anyone else off the air does not suppress free speech, it does not discourage political discourse, it does not damage the right of anyone. The opportunity to speak on television on in the media is a privilege, and in revoking that privilege MSNBC does nothing to suppress political speech.
There is an erroneous concept in the nation about free speech. It is that free speech is not only to right to speak, but the right to force others to listen. This idiotic concept was enshrined in a Supreme Court decision, which allowed a hate group masquerading as a church to display hateful messages at the funerals of war casualties, even though the funeral was a private affair and the protest message of the hate group had nothing to do with the funeral activity or its participants. The activity was simply a way to force listening to speech onto people, and to their shame the Supreme Court sanctioned this.
Mr. Buchanan has all the freedom and rights in the world to say what he believes and to publish what he wants. But the rest of us have equal rights not to listen to or read hate speech like what Mr. Buchanan presents. And that right not to listen includes the right of a network not to put Mr. Buchanan on the air. After all, despite many pleas MSNBC has declined to present The Dismal Political Economist on any of its shows, and no one, including the DPE would argue that this is suppression of political speech.