Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Can An Artist’s Or Writer’s Views Or Personal Life Remain Apart From Their Work?

Roseanne Barr, a controversial but talented comedian and star of the hit comedy series, “Roseanne,” was dumped by ABC over her Twitter statements that involved racism. But this story is not an isolated incident. The whole world of politics, sports, entertainment, business, and has put a chill on free speech.

Most people would agree that if someone behaves badly they run the risk of losing their job, especially if their poor behavior relates to or injures their ability to do their job. For instance, if you are an addict, a company may fire you, especially if you smoke crack at work. Or, if you are a high-profile personality where your image impacts your employer, and, you are arrested for domestic violence, this might earn you a suspension, demotion, or dismissal.

But what if the actions one takes is merely speech? Are Tweets, Facebook posts, interviews with the media or speeches a fireable offense?

I don’t like what Roseanne said—nor her support for Trump nor her other crazy statements over the past few decades. But should those views be seen separately from her TV show?

Can we keep art at a distance from those that create it? Can we separate the artist’s life and views from the work produced?

On the one hand, we may say “Screw her, she’s a racist and an idiot—let her lose her show,” On the other hand, the show is not racist and is actually one of the better comedies across the TV landscape. And even if the show was racist, isn’t it up to viewers to determine what they watch? Or are viewers deemed not responsible enough to judge such things?

I always cringe when speech is punished, even in this case where it seems Roseanne is deemed unfit to have a hit TV show and the platform that goes with it. If we penalize speech, we limit and control it. Or, worse, we begin to push the line that one shouldn’t cross closer to the middle. We’ll go from patrolling what seems like the obvious extremes to picking people off who say less significant things.

It’s a really tough debate. We don’t want evil to win nor see hate flourish. We don’t want to normalize the extremes. But who dictates what is over the top, and who determines the appropriate punishment? Is there something in between TV cancellation and ignoring her Tweets?

All of this is especially frustrating when the President of the United States can call black nations shit holes, say the former President was the member of a religion that he wasn’t, speak in a derogatory manner about women, discuss people as if they are animals, and treat others in a demeaning and disrespectful manner. If he said these things while hosting a show he might have been cancelled. Instead, he gets to rule the world.

What is free speech?
-Is action free speech, such as burning a flag or not standing for the national anthem?
-Is it being able to criticize the government?
-To share our views in all circumstances?
-Is hate speech free speech? What is hate speech?
-What responsibility do we have that comes with free speech—in what we say, don’t say, how we express ourselves, and what we think our speech could result in?
-How does Fake News help or hurt free speech?

PEN, ACLU, and other organizations stand up for free speech and in the process seek to define it, but right now it seems Twitter and employees of those who use Twitter are determining just how far free speech will be tolerated. 

In cases like Roseanne, the price of free speech is very, very high.

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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2018. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by WinningWriters.com as a "best resource.”

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