Home > Pythia of Journalism, The Guardian > What is it about Freedom of Speech that Greenslade doesn’t understand?

What is it about Freedom of Speech that Greenslade doesn’t understand?

Helen Thomas

Helen Thomas: "Have I had my tea yet?"

The Pythia of Journalism™, Roy Greenslade, has worked himself into a right old huffingtonpost about the furore over “doyenne of the White House press corps” Helen Thomas and her remarks about Jews in Israel.

While graciously if condescendingly conceding that Thomas’s comments that the Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine” and go “home” to Germany and Poland were “quite simply, a disgraceful, thoughtless and indefensible” and that, at 89, Thomas had had “a long run, after all”, it’s not that she’s been fired by Hearst that has him jumping up and down on his Guardian soapbox waving his Comment is Freedom Pass:

“But it’s the next bit of the story that concerns me. She was also dumped by her speaking agency, which issued a statement: “In light of recent events, Nine Speakers is no longer able to represent Ms Thomas, nor can we condone her comments on the Middle East.” The agency’s president, Diane Nine, later emailed HuffPost to say: “We no longer represent Helen for books or lectures or anything else. So, in the land of the free, where freedom of speech is guaranteed under the constitution, a person who expresses what are deemed to be controversial views is effectively gagged. Has Ms Nine never heard of Voltaire?”

Never mind that informed opinion is that Voltaire almost certainly never said the “I may not agree with what you say…” quote (it is believed to be an invention of one of his biographers), it seems what upsets him is that in free society, with freedom comes responsibility. Yes, the American Constitution does guarantee freedom of speech, but with that freedom comes responsibility for the outcome of exercising that right.

And just as Thomas is free to air her views, Hearst and Nine Speakers, which as far as I can see are both privately-owned incorporated companies, are perfectly free to decide they don’t want to be associated with those views. And Thomas is free to engage another company to peddle her poisonous cack if she so desires. That is what freedom means, Mr Greenslade. Tell us what it is you don’t understand about this concept, please.

When a sportsman is caught with his pants down or an entertainer is caught with her nose down in the Colombian marching powder, would Mr Greenslade cry “Censorship!” if a private company decided to dispense with their services in its advertising? On this showing, perhaps he would.

And where, Mr Greenslade, in the writings of Voltaire or any other thunderous supporter of the right to freedom to speech do they even hint that there is some sort of a supporting right to an audience?

What is ironic is the number of comments under Greenslade’s diatribe that are buried beneath the deathless epitaph:

“This comment has been removed by a moderator. Replies may also be deleted.”

Freedom of speech. Don’tcha love it?

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