Charles Pierce | Esquire | December 20, 2013
What good is a Bill of Rights if it protects us (increasingly thinly) against government, but subcontracts the job of abridging those rights to every other institution that affects our lives and well-being?
s the day went on, I heard an unfortunate number of progressive friends address the issue of the suspension of the crackerfamilias with the flat assertion that the First Amendment doesn’t apply to corporations and that therefore, A&E was within its rights to suspend the guy. (Which, as Steve M. points out, isn’t really a suspension but rather that the crackerfamilias is sort of banned from A&E world HQ while his program is on hiatus, which many of the show’s fans likely believe is a form of hernia.) I do not deny the basic legal correctness of this point, but I do wonder if progressives should be quite so blithe about it.
The Bill Of Rights is supposed to be durable and universal. Now, though, in our schools and in our workplaces, it has taken a severe beating. Regularly scheduled drug testing without cause eviscerates the protections of the Fourth And Fifth Amendments. Just this week, Senator Professor Warren proposed a bill that would decouple credit checks from the application process, which at least is a step toward reasserting a right to privacy. To say that, well, Phil Robertson doesn’t have a First Amendment right to a TV show is only to make half an argument. What good is a Bill of Rights if it protects us (increasingly thinly) against government, but subcontracts the job of abridging those rights to every other institution that affects our lives and well-being? As it happens, I had disciplinary action taken against me at the last newspaper I worked for because of things I had written on the Esquire.com Politics blog prior to coming to work here full time. When I asked my immediate supervisor why this happened, he replied, “My primary obligation is to the company.” (I looked down to make sure I wasn’t wearing a nametag with the word Wal Mart on it.) If I showed you the official letter of reprimand, you wouldn’t believe that it actually was written by anyone who worked for a newspaper in any capacity except hawking it from a steam grate. They were within their rights to do what they did, but if you believe in civil liberties, you have to start wondering how truncated those liberties are in daily life.