Dana Loesch brought Andrew Sullivan’s take on the Wonkette situation to my attention. In his post, Sullivan said:
I feel as queasy about this flexing of Palinite muscle as I do about the original, disgusting, asinine story. In some ways, I see a legitimate come-uppance for a tacky site that published a simply inexcusable piece of mean-spirited dreck using a child who cannot defend himself, treating him as if he were subhuman, which he most definitely isn’t. But I also recoil from mob action like this, for the impact it has on fearless free speech and the chilling effect it will have on an already cowed and defensive MSM when covering the truly tough stuff about Palin. (emphasis added)
Sullivan uses “free speech” and “chilling effect” — like it applies in this situation.
Everyone is aware that the First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects free speech from government intervention. That’s all it does. It tells the government to keep its nose out of our speech, except for limited contexts. When the government says, “We don’t like this kind of speech,” it causes a chilling effect; essentially, people are less likely to engage in the government-disapproved speech because they don’t want the government breathing down their necks. Again, this is where the First Amendment comes in to prevent the government preferences from effecting our speech.
When it comes to non-government “chilling effects” — that’s another story. Private individuals/entities can shut down speech without much question. If you violate the Terms & Conditions of Twitter, Twitter has every right to ban you. If you lodge a protest inside a McDonalds, the manager can kick you out without violating any laws since you’re the one trespassing.
And when people speak out against a disgusting blog post which characterizes a child with Downs syndrome as subhuman, the blogger is lucky that his backside wasn’t thoroughly kicked to China. Damn right the reaction was a chilling effect, because we should not tolerate that kind of speech in our society. It lacks human decency and dignity; we can be better than THAT. **
Case law on free speech champion the “marketplace of ideas” — the government is not to stop speech, it is to allow undesirable speech to be drowned out by more speech. Let the market decide. When a business fails to provide a good service, it goes out of business. When someone says something completely moronic and meritless, they are stymied by the reaction.
Yes, Andrew Sullivan — speech by private individuals can be chilled by other private individuals and it’s OK!
** This Wonkette blog post has been deleted by the editor of the site. What it spurred, however, has led to great conversations with and writings by those who I am honored to call friends. Check out Kellie Jane’s Open Letter to the blog’s author (with the author’s reply) and Kurt Schlichter’s “what-we-are-all-thinking” post.