Lately, it seems as if almost every week some leftist celebrity finds the time and energy to publicly demonstrate their gross misunderstanding of a simple two-word phrase: “free speech.” Although few people expect them to be literate enough to read the second amendment, even the first amendment now appears to present insurmountable difficulties to many Hollywood figures. This week, it is actor Tim Robbins who is in need of some remedial assistance.
Robbins, who played Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh in the 1988 film “Bull Durham,” managed to get himself uninvited to a 15th anniversary commemoration for the baseball-themed movie last week. In a brief letter to Mr. Robbins, the president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame expressed displeasure at the actor’s public condemnation of the war against Iraq and informed him that the commemoration would be canceled as a result. As a baseball fan, Robbins was understandably disappointed.
As a leftist, he was immorally outraged.
Robbins responded to this alleged effrontery with typical celebrity sanctimony. “Long live democracy, free speech, and the ’69 Mets,” he wrote in reply. “All improbable glorious miracles that I have always believed in.” In a subsequent speech to the National Press Club, Robbins closed with the quip, “we must honor and fight vigilantly for the things that unite us. Like freedom, the first amendment, and, yes, baseball.” Apparently, Tim Robbins is quite comfortable walking the moral high ground with respect to the first amendment. Perhaps it is time he checked his altimeter.
The first amendment guarantees that, among other things, “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” Although that seems straightforward enough, Tim Robbins is having trouble understanding just how the first amendment applies to the complicated life of Tim Robbins. Perhaps he will find the following explanation helpful.
The part of the first amendment in question merely prohibits institutionalized government restrictions on what Mr. Tim Robbins may communicate. This means that Mr. Tim Robbins is free to speak his mind about the war in Iraq (or anything else that tickles his fancy) without government interference, intimidation, or any other form of government-enforced “abridgement.” Private citizens, however, are free to interfere, intimidate, and “abridge” Tim Robbins as much as they want (provided that they do not violate his right to life by initiating or threatening violence against him). No one is required to listen to Tim Robbins–even though he is “Tim Robbins.”
Now Tim, I know this may come as a shock to you, but that’s just the way it is. No radio or television station is required to carry an interview with you, no newspaper is required to publish anything you write, and no sports organizations are obliged to invite you to parties. Studios can even stop offering you and Sean Penn jobs if they want to, and that would not be a violation of your first amendment rights. Freedom of speech is simply a specific form of freedom from the initiation of physical force. In a free country, all citizens–not just people named “Tim Robbins”–are free to live their lives without answering to Tim Robbins. Even the president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame is free. Get it?
Here is how to tell if your freedom of speech is being violated: If government thugs from the Department of Homeland Security (or any other agency) harass you because of a statement that you make about the war in Iraq, then the government is violating your right to free speech. When that happens, simply swing by my house and I’ll hook you and Susan up with some good battle rifles, a copy of the second amendment, and a crash-course in basic tactics. I hope this clears things up for you, Mr. Robbins.
When celebrities misapply the principle of free speech in the way that Tim Robbins has, they destroy the very rights that they profess to defend. If the first amendment meant what Robbins thinks it means, then the only way in which the Baseball Hall of Fame president would possibly be able to uphold Robbins’ “right” would be to suspend his own. The president would have to hold a commemoration ceremony regardless of whether he wanted to, just to accommodate Robbins’ penchant for public speaking. In essence, this would mean that the rights of the owners of the Baseball Hall of Fame are subordinate to the desires of some guy who once played a pitcher in a movie. And in that case, the word “rights” is no longer appropriate. All rights, including the right to free speech, are parts of a unified whole–they are derivations from the fundamental right to life, and obliteration of one of them is an eventual obliteration of them all.
The consequences of this corruption of the first amendment are chilling. When Tim Robbins claims that being uninvited to the Baseball Hall of Fame is a violation of his freedom of speech, he invalidates the concept of “rights” altogether. The least he can do to redeem himself is to be consistent. If the first amendment means that the Baseball Hall of Fame has to throw a party and invite Tim Robbins to speak at it, then don’t the rest of us have that same “right?” So, where should you and I meet for your next press conference, Tim? If you’re paying for the podium, airtime, and advertising, then I’d like to exercise the “Tim Robbins version” of my first amendment rights. And don’t worry about a script–I already know exactly what I’m going to say.