While researching for this post, I found a great article that tackled the exact topic I was planning to bring up.
In this case, it’s absolutely fantastic, as I respectfully disagree with the author’s position.
That article is “Here’s the difference between Colin Kaepernick and Roseanne Barr,” by David French.
To be clear, I agree with much of what French argues. But I disagree with where he draws the line on free speech and the support he uses for that argument. On the other hand, he seems like the kind of person that I’d love to sit down with and have a conversation about the topic, as he seems to be genuinely trying to develop a good stance on it, and also seems open to having his ideas respectfully challenged.
I’ve included a link to his article so that you might read his piece and my own and be better informed about the situation.
Now, there’s a pair of ideas that would be easy to get bogged down by in this situation. I feel I have to touch on them briefly, but I’ll let them go at that as they could easily be articles on their own.
The first is that Kaepernick’s platform is confusing and perhaps, factually-inaccurate. If I were his friend and he was looking for advice, I would have suggested changes, because the way this has played out was predictable, and the current situation is good for no one.
The second is that Kaepernick is not that great of a football player. At best, he’s above average, and at worst he’s getting benched for his performance. He’s also aging and likely to be expensive while having declining performance and increasing health issues.
While his protests are likely a significant factor in his not having a job, it’s important to take the other stuff into account. Teams may not want to have the headache caused by having him on their team in addition to the risk and cost they’re taking on that is unrelated to his protests.
It’s also underreported, but relevant, that Kaepernick opted out of his contract, which was worth up to $126 million, and would have kept him under contract through 2020. He literally quit and is now complaining about not having a job. Maybe he has a case, and maybe he shouldn’t have opted out, given the downsides I listed above.
But, while relevant to the picture as a whole, neither of these things has a lot of bearing on the question of whether or not Kaepernick should be allowed to protest.
French argues that “[t]he standard we ought to apply is one of decency,” and that “[t]olerance for dissent is vital, but at the end of the day, professionalism and decency aren’t – or shouldn’t be – too much to ask.”
On the one hand, I agree with the professionalism argument.
But, decency, on the other hand, strikes me as an unreasonable thing to expect.
First, who defines what is decent and what is not? There’s at least some subjectivity here, and we’d need to somehow come to an understanding that could be agreed to by all, which might not be possible.
Second, this is a restriction based on content. If we start banning certain kinds of speech based on their content, we open the door to all kinds of restrictions that would not be in our collective best interest. Generally speaking, it is understood that whether an exercise of freedom of speech is legal or correct is not based on the content of the speech.
So, I think that we should all strive to be decent people and to speak to each other in decent ways, but I don’t know that we can justify banning indecent speech for being indecent.
Our problem now is that we need to come up with some sort of standard to which companies should hold themselves which we feel comfortable applying to all companies.
This is made more difficult by the fact that many companies have taken contradictory and unsupported stances and actions. Some, such as Google, seem to be striving for ideological purity, as evidenced by the firing of James Damore.
It’s a difficult question, but I think we can start to answer it by figuring out what exactly a company is.
I’ve advanced the argument that free speech should not be infringed upon by the government, as free speech is necessary to prevent tyranny.
Likewise, I’ve argued that we need to allow for free speech in our interactions with each other so that our own free speech can be preserved.
Which of these institutions does the company more closely resemble?
At first blush, the answer would be the government.
Both share a hierarchical nature. It’s easy to imagine moving up the ladder from average citizen to President of United States, just as it to imagine moving from entry-level employee to CEO.
However, substantial differences exist.
The government, at least in a democracy, is made up of all of the citizens of the country. Everyone has a say in how it is run.
Companies, on the other hand, are composed of only a small portion of the people that live in the country. Those people are chosen by the company, but also choose to work in the company.
In fact, you could define a company as a grouping of individuals willingly working towards a common goal, which is typically making money. If you don’t agree with that common goal, you probably won’t apply to the company to begin with.
So, the company regulates what people say and do while they are working so that everyone can work efficiently towards the common goal. There’s all kind of behaviors that would hinder that progress, and many of them are legal, but your employer will prevent you from doing in order to maximize the work that is done.
To be continued tomorrow.