Monday, May 19, 2014

The Perils and the Virtues of Free Speech

Donald Sterling with V. Stiviano

Kathleen Parker recently courted ridicule with the 1st Amendment-bashing comment, “Speaking one’s mind isn’t really all it’s cracked up to be...” A comment made more farcical as Ms. Parker makes her living “speaking her mind.”

Yes, like many of us, she meant that “the other person’s” right to speak his/her mind should be curtailed, net hers/ours.

Her comments were made, of course, over the recent Donald Sterling controversy, in which an apparently jealous, and definitely goofy old man said some very regrettable things...and the mob immediately demanded Sterling be crucified.

Troublingly enough, what the Donald Sterling episode proves is that most Americans seem neither to support, nor even understand the 1st Amendment’s free speech provisions. Most also seem not to support, nor fully understand the privacy provisions of the 4th Amendment either, but that’s another issue altogether and one in which technology is far outpacing our ability to defend what once was thought of as “basic privacy.” Again, that’s another issue.

As far as “free speech” goes, ironically enough, it’s ONLY offensive, ugly, controversial, inflammatory and unpopular speech that NEEDS such protections, so the 1st Amendment, like it, or not was written precisely to protect the kind of speech Donald Sterling, the Nation of Islam, the KKK, the Five Percenters and the neo-Nazis all engage in - hateful, offensive and inflammatory speech.

What “crime” did Donald Sterling commit?

Aside from the crime of being “bad for business,” which the NBA has every right to remove him from that economic cooperative for, he actually committed no actual crime at all.

Moreover, it’s more likely than not that Donald Sterling ISN’T even the worst person involved in that mess. While Donald Sterling seems to be a “dirty old man,” as well as an all-around “bad guy,” the “love interest” in all this, the coquettish V. Stiviano is a cold-blooded predator. The “rich old man/beautiful young woman” exchange is very much like the standard illicit drug sale – without the buyer, in this case, the “dirty old man,” there could be no “pusher,” in this case the attractive young woman willing to sell her affections. BUT V. Stiviano appears to be far, FAR worse than a mere “pusher,” or prostitute, she appears to have been an adept blackmailer who had already shaken down a rich old man Sterling for a Ferrari, TWO Bentleys and a $1.4 MILLION Condo (, prompting a lawsuit from Shelly Sterling - “the wife.” Subsequently, in an apparent fit of anger, Ms. Stiviano apparently made good on a “blackmail threat.” So, Donald Sterling was probably right when he recently told Anderson Cooper that he “should’ve just paid her off.”

In fact, Ms. Stiviano’s greed embarrassed organizations like the NAACP (which had given Sterling numerous awards), cost others their jobs and livelihoods (L.A. NAACP head Leon Jenkins was forced to resign in the wake of the scandal)...and YET, in the eyes of many misguided Americans, Ms. Stiviano is seen, if not as a heroine, at least as a benign character, rather than the abhorrent predator she really is!

Now that says a LOT about the state of Donald Sterling’s sub-par judgment, but it STILL does not make bigotry, or offensive speech a crime. In FACT, the only potential felony here is Ms. Stiviano’s apparent illegal recording of those private conversations (California DOES NOT allow for “one party consent” to record) and selling them to TMZ.

If such speech were criminal, then Jay-Z (Shawn Carter), a former minority partner in the Brooklyn Nets would’ve been likewise crucified for his own behavior, which was even more despicable than Sterling’s. Jay-Z attended a Nets game wearing a “Five Percenters medallion” (the Five Percenters are a radical offshoot of the hate group known as “the Nation of Islam”) who teach that “blacks are gods and whites are devils,” AND for hosting a party in February 2010 at the Merah club in central London, in which whites were banned from attending. (  &

Again, ONLY vile, offensive, controversial and inflammatory speech...the kind most people find uncomfortable NEEDS the protection of the 1st Amendment.

While I personally revile the black supremacist ideology of the Five Percenters and the NOI, the 1st Amendment legally protects such speech, at least from government censure and arrest. YES, such speech can get you fired by companies and organizations that can’t be associated with such speech. They have that right as private entities. And it CAN subject you to public ridicule, but the 1st Amendment bars government from punishing those who engage in such speech.

Is Donald Sterling a “bad guy”? Of that, I have little question. He’s a lifelong “progressive” after all. BUT should he be destroyed for a few ill-conceived private utterances? ONLY if that’s going to become our “new normal.”

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