Thursday, May 14, 2009

Miss California, Carrie Prejean's Freedom of Speech Has Not Been Violated

Miss California, Carrie Prejean Source (CC)

This week Carrie Prejean has been making headlines once again because of an investigation into some semi-nude photos that may have disqualified her from retaining her crown as Miss California. As it turned out, pageant owner Donald Trump allowed her to retain her crown, saying "We've made a determination that the pictures taken were acceptable. Some were risque, but we are in the 21st century."

Furthermore, he defended her answer to Perez Hilton during the Miss USA Pageant and started another controversy by saying "It's the same answer the president of the United States gave. It's the same answer many people gave. She gave an honorable answer. She gave an answer from her heart, and I think for that she has to be commended."

Last month when the controversy broke, I wrote in defense of Carrie Prejean, arguing that her answer exemplified perfect tolerance and noting that she "did not say that gay marriage should remain illegal in the other states. She said in fact, that she thinks it's great that Americans can choose one or the other." Though I did criticize her for fumbling over the answer, not directly addressing the question, and not offering the best possible answer (which I formulated at the end of the post). Well today I have some sharper criticisms for her, particularly for the speech she gave at the press conference with Donald Trump.

She said: "On April 19 on that stage I exercised my freedom of speech, and I was punished for doing so. This should not happen in America," thereby turning her loss of the Miss USA title into a free speech issue. But it's not! The government did not punish her for her answer, a private organization did and that is not a violation of her freedom of speech.

Over at Big Hollywood, Melanie Morgan compares the media controversy over Miss Prejean's answer to 1950s era McCarthyism:


Leo Penn, the father of famous actor Sean Penn, was hauled before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (the McCarthy hearings) during the 1950s and harassed, spied upon and ultimately blacklisted for his political views.

But no one is dragging Miss Prejean before Congress to testify about her beliefs, and the government is not involved. A private beauty pageant and several private media companies are. The Miss USA pageant does not owe Carrie Prejean a crown and it is free to award or not award her a crown according to whatever criteria it chooses, including disliking her political beliefs. That criterion may be wrong and you may disagree with it (as I do in this case), but that doesn't mean Prejean's rights are being violated.

In her editorial, Morgan goes on to ask: "So where are the free-speech warriors? How about Sean Penn and the rest of the Hollywood elitists who think the First Amendment was written solely for their benefit?" How were her free speech rights being violated? Because the rest of the media has exercised its free speech rights in criticizing what she said? The way the article reads, Morgan seems to be suggesting that Carrie Prejean's freedom of speech somehow nullifies the rest of ours. That to criticize her for speaking is a violation of her freedom of speech. But what about our freedom of speech?

Everyone has the right to say what they want about Carrie Prejean's political beliefs no matter how wrong, stupid, or ugly. And everyone else has the right to say that those criticisms are wrong, stupid, and ugly. So far, I have exercised my own freedom of speech to defend Prejean, to criticize her critics, to criticize Prejean, and to defend her critics. Figure that out! It's amazing how the fierce pursuit of truth leads you to see all the nuance in controversies such as this.

Hopefully the world will come to understand that the proper exercise of our freedom of speech, is in the earnest pursuit of truth, uninhibited by forcible interference from others. Hopefully we will all begin to see that misunderstanding and misrepresenting this fundamental human right does great injury to it. Here's hoping.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well as long a there are sub-humans like Perez Hilton and his ilk we will have to put up with
their Bull S***!! The militant Gays cause a ton of grief for the gay who just want to live with their partners and be left alone The militants damage the cause as much as the despicable Folsom street Fair Cowboys do…

Anonymous Coward said...

WEM,

You are quite right about everything.

The most amusing part of Morgan's unprincipled and misdirected rant is her complete misunderstanding of Joseph McCarthy's elected office.

He was a Senator and had absolutely nothing to do with the HOUSE Committee on Un-American Activities.

Glad I found Humble Libertarian!

Steve June said...

Anonymous 1 - As much as I understand your frustrations with the "vocal minority" of homosexuals; I cannot imagine that the authors and administrators of this blog will tolerate labeling anybody, regardless of how much you disagree with their choices, as "sub-human".

One of the principle beliefs of Mr. Messamore, and one of the core purposes of this blog, is an open forum for free discussion of ideas without the threat of disrespect or insult. As much as you disagree with Mr. Hilton, degrading him by calling him less than human damages your cause more than his response did his.

For the record, if you look back a few posts, Mr. Messamore also strongly disagrees with Mr. Hilton's comments. However, he does not insult him, nor degrade him. Instead, he simply refutes his arguments and ideas.

Anonymous said...

tsk, tsk, tsk Steve. We just had a long article, about free speech, and how everyone has the right to their opinion, and here you come, telling him what to, and what not to say. The purpose of this blog is not a free discussion of ideas w/o the threat of disrespect or insult. It is the free discussion of ideas. Period. If you don't like the discussion, or the language, there are plenty of other sites that you can move right on over too. I'm sure the disney channel has a nice, family conversation going. Us grown ups that can handle criticism, and adult language, will continue to give our opinions here. He has all the right to speak as he wants, regardless of your approval. He, like you, has no obligation to make everything sound like butterflies and rainbows, so everyone gets a warm and fuzzy.

W. E. Messamore said...

First Anonymous: Let us hope that Perez Hilton is not sub-human and speak as much as we can to the best of his humanity.

I do think you are correct that gay rights activists who want society to confer special rights and privileges to them at the expense of everyone else's rights, do more harm to themselves and society than they do good.

Anonymous "Coward"... thanks! -and yes there's so much that is incorrect about our use of the term "McCarthyism."

Thanks Steve, I do want to keep things as civil and charitable as possible here. A while back one commentator had to remind me to keep my tone cool. In discussions of politics it seldom hurts to be reminded to do so.

Most recent Anonymous: Please don't misunderstand Steve. He is not claiming that Anonymous #1 did not have the right to say what he did. He is claiming that it wasn't right for him to say what he did. Can you acknowledge that there's a world of difference between the two?

For example, you did the very same thing that you are chastising Steve for doing- you criticized his comment. That's all he did- criticize Anonymous #1's comment. Steve wasn't questioning his right to speak any more than you were questioning Steve's.

That's part of the free discussion of ideas, saying which ideas you think are wrong. Steve has an aversion to the idea that Perez Hilton is sub-human and exercised his free speech to correct that idea.

I am inclined to agree with him that insults diminish the quality of the dialogue and act to subvert its ultimate end, which is helping us all to come to a fuller understanding of the truth. Not that I would forcibly act to censor someone's insults, or even in most cases to censor their insults on my own blog, which I would have every right to do and which would not be a violation of their freedom of speech because I don't owe anyone a forum to exercise their right.

I hope you find that agreeable and I am certainly glad that you enjoy this blog as a place for frank, open, and adult conversation about issues that matter.

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