Freedom of speech is not freedom from consequences
Earlier this week the newly hired bloggers (Amanda Marcotte, and Melissa McEwan) for John Edwards presidential campaign came under fire for past entries posted on their blogs Pandagon and Shakespeare’s Sister. Michelle Malkin posted some of the entries from Pandagon that were full of vulgarities, misspellings, and the extreme left-wing, bigoted, hate-filled garbage you might find on Democratic-Underground (Where Elizabeth Edwards has been known to occasionally post). Initially, the Edwards campaign ignored the revelations about the nuttiness of their new employees figuring (or hoping) the complaints would fail to get traction with "mainstream media." However, this morning Terry Moran of ABC news (hardly part of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy) posted an entry online about the situation (with excerpts of there worst postings by Edwards' bloggers) which had this money line:
Is Edwards' association with a person who has written these things a legitimate issue for voters, as they wonder--among other things--whom he might appoint to high office if he's elected? If a Republican candidate teamed up with a right-wing blogger who spewed this kind of venom, how would people react?According to Salon, the Edwards' campaign has fired the two bloggers since Moran's article ran this morning. However, the Edwards' campaign so far is denying they've been fired. Time will tell.
I mostly ignored the earlier reports of the ridiculous postings by Marcotte. Nothing she posted was all that shocking compared to what is normally posted at leftist sites like DU. Some bloggers like John Hawkins of Right Wing News occasionally venture into DU to get material for posts about the nuttiness of the left. Personally, I don't have the stomach for visiting those places. What prompted me to post about this story now is the various claims that this is a case of suppressing free speech. It is nothing of the sort. As the title of this post says our Constitutional protection of free speech is in no way a guarantee of protection from criticism or consequences.
There are several lessons to be learned from this situation. For several years we've seen stories in the news about human resources departments reviewing MySpace, Facebook and other online entities for embarrassing information about prospective employees. If companies realize online postings could be embarrassing then a political candidate definitely should understand that fact. For bloggers, sometimes the anonymity of the internet emboldens the writer to the point where they type things they would never say out loud. I'm no prude and I've probably uttered more cuss words than I should have, but I'd never type them into a web posting viewable by anyone and everyone. A wise person once said someone who must swear to get their point across is only demonstrating their limited vocabulary. Lastly, it should be obvious to anyone with half a clue, but if you have aspirations of being involved in the political process you should be more circumspect online than you would in private.