Sampson Independent

Free speech doesn’t come with a free pass

Enough is enough.

It is long past time for people, whether celebrity or ordinary citizen, to realize that free speech doesn’t come with a free pass nor the right to spew venomous words against others simply because we don’t like them or agree with their politics, thoughts or actions.

What’s more, utilizing the right to freedom of expression doesn’t come without consequences. Somehow we’ve all forgotten that part of exercising our freedom.

We have seen it over the course of the last week as people have chosen sides on the NFL’s new policy with regard to players taking a knee during the National Anthem. Officials of that organization have every right to expect those who work for them, no matter their color, to behave in a manner reflective of the principals and values of that group. If they choose to make players stand for the National Anthem or stay in the locker room until after it is played, then so be it. Players, just like any other employee, can choose to accept those working conditions or find somewhere else to work. And employers, if dissatisfied with how an employee represents their company, has the right to dismiss them and move on.

ABC thought so and canned Roseanne Barr because of it.

The network canceled its hit reboot of “Roseanne” Tuesday after Barr’s racist tweet that referred to Valerie Jarrett, an adviser to former President Barack Obama, as a cross between the Muslim Brotherhood and the “Planet of the Apes.” Her agent dropped her, and other services pulled “Roseanne” reruns. Barr also tweeted slurs toward Democratic financier George Soros and Chelsea Clinton.

While Barr has a right to mouth off as she likes; ABC has just as much right to say, as it did with the lightning quick dismissal and show cancellation, that they don’t want someone like Barr representing their company.

We don’t think the media company went too far; in fact they likely didn’t go far enough given that they’ve allowed the acidic opinions of Whoopie Goldberg and Joy Behar to continue.

We view their rapid-fire, hate-filled views just as repugnant as we do Barr’s and, for that matter, some of the words spewed from the mouth of President Donald Trump.

And, we view many of the words spewed on our Facebook pages, our Twitter feeds and our Instagram posts with the same disdain.

Somehow, individually and collectively as a country — be it because of social media, crumbling morals or rising anger over just about any topic — we lash out without regard for the hate spewed, the damage it could cause and the way it makes us look.

We can remember a time when folks hesitated to even write a letter to the editor because our policies are such that we require the writer’s signature and we print the author’s name under that letter. Even today, people stop short of submitting letters when they find out there name must be attached to it.

Yet they don’t seem to have a problem spewing venom on social media where, in many cases, their photos and names can be found right beside their rant.

Whatever happened to expressing your opinion emphatically but respectfully?

From the president to celebrities, the wealthy to the everyday citizen, we’ve somehow decided that it’s OK to be crash, abrasive, less than truthful, hate-filled and abusive, all for the sake of flexing our freedom of speech muscle.

But doing so has consequences, and it’s high time people realized it.

This is, as Jarrett said, a teaching moment, and a moment we hope people will use lift us out of the muck and mire in which we are currently submerged.

Examples need to be set, from the President to Goldberg and Behar; from our neighbors and friends to our local officials. We all have a responsibility to shoulder, and it is up to us, individually and collectively, to stand up and say enough is enough.