The Right to Flip Off the President

In an Op-Ed in the Washington Post by about “her right to flip off president” by one Juli Briskman who was photographed doing just that and got fired by some company called “Akima”, she concludes thusly (sounds deep, but it’s not):

“Let’s call this “autocratic capture.” Autocratic capture is not new to the world, but it is new to this country, and it is up to all of us to keep it from taking root. Our democracy depends on it. As James Madison warned in the early days of the United States, the “value and efficacy” of free elections “depends” on Americans’ “equal freedom” to examine the “merits and demerits of the candidates.”But if Americans can keep their jobs only when they refrain from criticizing the president, then that freedom is lost. And once the freedom to speak is lost, then the rest of our constitutional rights will not be far behind.”

Wrong, lady. You already have a right to flip off the president. The president isn’t retaliating against you. The government isn’t retaliating against you. And your employer has a right to hold you to certain standards of behavior to remain in its employ (I know this is a opinion that’s increasingly frowned upon, but that’s the way it ought to be.)

Now, you weren’t fired for “criticizing” the president. Flipping someone off isn’t criticism. “Criticiizing” involves pointing out where you differ in opinion with someone and providing an argument supporting your position over theirs.

Flipping someone off is just rude, especially in public. You weren’t “examining the merits and demerits of a candidate”.

An employer has the right to look at that behavior and say, “hmmm, if people know she’s one of my employees and she’s this rude in public and millions of people find out, that reflects poorly on my company. I don’t hire rude people. I hire well-adjusted adults. I don’t need this.”  Which is why the company had the policy you violated in the first place.

Your right to free speech does not protect you from the social consequences of that speech. It just means *the government* can’t do anything about it. That is the extent of your constitutional(ly protected) right.

Now that right is increasingly put in danger, but not from the direction you think it is. “Hate Speech” laws, which people are attempting to morph into “Compelled Speech” laws — that’s where the real danger is. And regardless of what you think of the rest of his politics, that is not coming from the President.

Since you brought up James Madison, yes, he would agree you can’t be fined or put in jail for flipping the president off. But he would not agree your employer couldn’t terminate you over it. In fact, I suspect he himself would have terminated you over it.  People didn’t tolerate public rudeness very well back then, and that was not a bad thing, IMHO.

Here’s a thought question… flipping someone off is a sign of disrespect. Perhaps the ultimate sign of disrespect. And I, at least, think everyone (including you) has the right to show disrespect for people they don’t like. That being said .. isn’t that “hate speech”?

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5 thoughts on “The Right to Flip Off the President

  1. Chris

    Just a thought on disrespect. Hamilton was a friend of Madison, and as I recall, Hamilton and Burr had a political discussion. One was buried and the other resigned. Maybe that’s how we force people to be polite – even when disagreeing.

    Reply
  2. Jay Carter

    Chris is right. What happened to “buggy whips” in the past . . . is happening to “manners” today.

    Recently, I read that those who are currently “at the helm” of Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia,  are trying very hard to hold on to a seldom seen practice. (Manners)

    At the club, if some imbecile shows up wearing his baseball hat backwards, he will not be permitted on the grounds.

    Even if he has his ACLU membership card with him.

    Reply
  3. roger

    ” It just means *the government* can’t do anything about it” [to prevent it]. I believe strongly that 1st Amendments protections end at prior restraint.

    Reply
  4. philmon Post author

    The threat of punishment after the fact is a form of prior restraint. You get to express your opinions, and the government can’t throw you in jail for it. That’s free speech in a nutshell.

    Reply

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