March 16, 2003

This is not censorship

Okay, some clear thinking is needed concerning this post, Free Speech Crushed in Nashville. Apparently a woman who worked for a country music company was fired for replying negatively to an emailed diatribe from Charlie Daniels. I have only this to say:

This is not a case of censorship.

For starters, no one has the right to be employed by a particular business, firm, company, or organization. Barring certain restrictions, businesses have the right to fire anyone they want, for whatever reason they want. This company may certainly have acted like assholes. But this is the music industry. Have we forgotten what a cut-throat, every-man-for-himself shark pool the music industry is? The record labels and associated businesses are a textbook example of "bad capitalism," and I would sooner work in a coal mine before getting a job in any facet of that glittering hell. Ms. Saviano (the woman in question) had to know that her bosses would drop her like a live cobra at even the shadow of trouble.

But most important: no one is "crushing" this woman's dissent, unless there is a law in Tennessee that if you get fired you have to wear a gag. This woman's right to say whatever she wants, whenever she wants, has not changed. The fanfaronade of cries of "censorship" are at best disingenuous in this case. However, now that she has decided to sue her former employers, the threat of gag orders and such looms. That threat she brought down on herself. She may indeed have a case; I'm not a lawyer, I don't know. But: if she has to not discuss her ideas because it might compromise her suit, or something of that nature, then I want to hear no more talk of civil liberties being threatened by anything other than the burgeoning grievance industry and the many lawyers that live off of it.

Incidentally, this woman did email from her own home, but apparently she somehow used her company's "letterhead," which I gather was some sort of email signature, and that is what the trouble stemmed from. The woman used her personal email address from her home, which suggests one of two things: 1) her "personal email address" was from a company account set up in her home; 2) she did a lot of work from home so she had a company email signature set up in her personal email address; 3) she forwarded the Charlie Daniels screed from her company computer email to her home email, and replied to him, yet forgot to remove the company signature from the forwarded email. For a variety of reasons, option 3 seems most likely. The moral therefore is: learn the art of trimming your email before you hit the "send" button. But most of all, keep your work life and home life separated as if by a two-hundred-foot three-feet-thick titanium wall. It's only common sense.

Posted by Andrea Harris at March 16, 2003 03:19 AM

Nearly all the people who have gotten fired over recreational Internet activity are people who forgot your rule.

Not all of them. But the cases in which somebody got fired for activity that was not on company time, not using company resources, and had no identifiable connection to the company are comparatively rare.

(I recently read of one such case-- even there, the employee was making pseudonymous derogatory commments about the boss, who was not named, and a fellow employee with a vendetta ratted. I'd say that in that case the boss was acting like a jerk, and the rat was definitely acting like a jerk, but the employee was still playing with fire.)

Posted by: Matt McIrvin at March 16, 2003 at 09:16 AM