Lindsey.jpg

Facebook and the Latest First Amendment Martyr

You may have seen this photo. The woman pictured, Lindsey Stone, is flipping off a sign at Arlington National Cemetery. Stone was fired from her job with a Massachusetts non-profit after she posted the photo to Facebook, and the picture went “viral,” as they say.

Stone protests that the picture was meant to be ironic – not disrepectful. Maybe so, but that excuse was not good enough for her employer. Predictably, commentators across the web started whining about Stone’s First Amendment “right” to post photos to Facebook “without retribution,” as one well-meaning, but misguided, veteran put it on Business Insider.

Sorry, guys. The First Amendment restrains only government suppression of speech. It was never intended to guarantee consequence-free speech. When the amendment was ratified in 1791, the Founders understood, for example, that individuals would continue to be liable to defamation lawsuits if they engaged in slander. And that’s a good thing, as I explain over at Fox News.  

I sympathize (to some extent) with Stone for losing her job over this indiscretion, but her employer has every right to dismiss her. The First Amendment is not a guarantee of lifetime employment — unless you work for the ACLU. The full article is here.

  1. Crow

    We’re firing you out of irony Lindsey. Don’t take it as disrespectful.

    Your severance check is in the mail.

  2. BrentB67

    I am confident we are mere days away from her appearing at a news conference with Sandra Fluke to blame this injustice on Mitt Romney or George Bush (both of them).

    It would be a fantasy come true if she never worked again and ended up destitute – she should not enjoy the liberty and economic prosperity secured by the heroes interned at Arlington.

  3. Guruforhire

    My wife was more upset about it than I was, and I am the veteran.

    I get that its rude, trashy, and disresepctful.  But she isn’t being malicious, she is making a tasteless joke.  If she were holding a sign saying saying the troops deserved to die, or baby killers had it coming I would probably be upset.

  4. Guruforhire

    This is something that needs to be beaten into the skulls of every young person in america.  Especially the young ladies.

    Don’t put anything on facebook that your ultra conservative christian grandma would disapprove of.  (some political exceptions apply)

  5. Vance Richards

    “You’re fired!” is also protected speech. And If I ever get fired for a joke, I would hope it’s something funnier than that.

  6. ConservativeWanderer
    Guruforhire: This is something that needs to be beaten into the skulls of every young person in america.  Especially the young ladies.

    Don’t put anything on facebook that your ultra conservative christian grandma would disapprove of.  (some political exceptions apply) · 1 hour ago

    When I trained people to do telephone customer service, I told them, “Always pretend that your grandmother is on the line. Never say anything to a customer that you wouldn’t want her to hear you say.”

  7. Jordan Wiegand

    I find the first amendment to be just enough rope.  Yes, she had a right to say that, no she didn’t have the “right” to have everyone else accept it.  Everyone’s sanction upon her is protected by the same free speech she purported to use in that disgusting photograph.

    I hope she learns the distinction between “free” and “without consequences,” from this interaction. 

  8. ConservativeWanderer
    Jordan Wiegand:

    I hope she learns the distinction between “free” and “without consequences,” from this interaction.  · 3 minutes ago

    But, Jordan, there aren’t supposed to be any consequences in the Age of Obama!

    That’s why we have ObamaCare, and the government paying for contraception and abortion, so people can sleep around without consequences.

  9. Schrodinger

    “Stupid is as stupid does.”

    Forrest Gump

  10. Johnny Dubya

    “The First Amendment restrains only government suppression of speech. It was never intended to guarantee consequence-free speech.”

    Just so, Adam.  It never ceases to amaze me that Americans fail to understand this simple concept.  I would add that the amendment was also never intended to guarantee freedom from criticism of speech, which is something liberals need to remember when they try to silence conservative critics in the name of the First Amendment.

    Like Adam, I am sympathetic to Lindsey’s plight.  Her photograph was a tasteless, crude, and ill-advised joke–not a political statement.  So she should not be vilified as one who disrespects veterans.  (I say this as a son of one who will soon be interred at Arlington.)  We should not shake our fists at her, but rather shrug our shoulders, shake our heads, and move on.

    However, her employers were within their rights to dismiss her.  Let this cautionary tale be a lesson to all of us on social media.  College students should be particularly careful about their online presence and how it might look to prospective employers.

  11. ConservativeWanderer
    Kevin Walker:

    Just so, Adam.  It never ceases to amaze me that Americans fail to understand this simple concept.  I would add that the amendment was also never intended to guarantee freedom from criticismof speech, which is something liberals need to remember when they try to silence conservative critics in the name of the First Amendment. · 5 minutes ago

    One could actually argue — and I have — that criticism is just as protected as any other speech.

    Tends to send lefties into frothing fits.

  12. jkumpire

    It is another symptom of the disease the left-liberal side of our political and social divide is giving us. There is no such thing simple decency or respect for others, even our honored dead. Not only should she be fired she should be shunned like Aaron Burr was. Fat chance of that happening.

    Consider how Tea Party people act and protest, and how they are attacked in so many places. This person had the stupid idea to give the finger and pretend to yell  beside a sign that says ‘silence and respect’ and she is loved and cared for as if she was the poster child for free speech.

    We are so casual as a culture nothing really does matter other than whatever we want to do at that moment. Then after we get what’s coming to us we complain about how racist, sexist, add you own word -ist our white, patriarchal society is. 

    Problem is now that she is fired, she’s living off our tax dollars and borrowed Chinese money.

  13. Matthew K. Tabor

    It’s an instructive example of how people view free speech — they’re solid on our ability to do it, but they’re murky on being free from the consequences.

    … which is an instructive example of how they understand positive/negative liberty.

  14. Vance Richards

    When people boycotted the Dixie Chicks for bad mouthing Bush, Al Gore said, “They were made to feel un-American and risked economic retaliation because of what was said. Our democracy has taken a hit.” Yes, not buying Dixie Chick albums puts democracy at risk. Way to go, Al.

    Americans like to say that they are free, but it is sad that so few even understand what that means.

  15. Garrett Petersen

    You know what I think should get people fired?  Pretending to hold up the leaning tower of Pisa.  Even ironically it’s lame.

  16. Nathaniel Wright

    If she worked for me at my non-profit, she would have been fired as well.

    Had she held up the leaning tower of Pisa, as Garrett recommends against, I would have recommended her for a promotion as she had passed a signature right of passage.

  17. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr.

    What I found really unbelievable was the “apology” the woman in the photo issued afterward. In it, she said that she didn’t intend to be disrespectful.

    Excuse me? That is precisely what you intended, quite explicitly and deliberately. You can try to excuse it as a joke, but you can’t claim it wasn’t disrespectful!

  18. Goldgeller

    I don’t think she should’ve done what she did. It makes her look bad. Not because she gave a finger to someone, even a dead person, but because she thinks this makes her look edgy. How old are you again? 

    In any case… she was there on official capacity, so it’s kinda hard to know where one draws the line in “duties while on the job.” With that said… I don’t think she should’ve been fired.

    I’m very much concerned about– as Greg Gutfeld called it– the “tolerati” essentially remolding society by being “outraged” and “offended” at everything. Is this really a firing offense? Is this really one of the worse things we can think that’s been done? I think the answer to these things is “no.” Let’s not kid ourselves– she’s juvenile. But it probably isn’t firing worthy.

    Also, Greg Gutfeld’s book “The Joy of Hate” was a lot of fun and very intelligent. I listened to the audio version and it was great!

  19. Joe
    jkumpire: There is no such thing simple decency or respect for others, even our honored dead.

    Correct – there is no such thing as simple decency or respect. Decency and respect are informed by culture, mores, tradition, maturity, and a lot of subjective judgment. I would never inherently know to take my hat off for the national anthem, but that wouldn’t stop the death stares. It’s too bad the issue these people focused on was one of First Amendment violation, because if they had complained about overreaction and peoples’ inability to just ignore childish behavior from an adult, they would have had a point.

  20. Joe
    Goldgeller:

    I’m very much concerned about– as Greg Gutfeld called it– the “tolerati” essentially remolding society by being “outraged” and “offended” at everything. Is this really a firing offense? Is this really one of the worse things we can think that’s been done? I think the answer to these things is “no.” Let’s not kid ourselves– she’s juvenile. But it probably isn’t firing worthy.

    Also, Greg Gutfeld’s book “The Joy of Hate” was a lot of fun and very intelligent. I listened to the audio version and it was great! · 12 minutes ago

    The Gutfeld/Breitbart (RIP) anti-outrage cause is EXACTLY what I thought of when I heard this story. Back when I was 13 I met a 12 year old girl who had been raped by a guy with AIDS, contracted AIDS herself, and had a child from the incident who also had AIDS. The school kids would make fun of her for getting raped by poking her and saying “[the rapist] is coming to get you!”. I tend to save my outrage for stuff like that.