Free Speech? Eh, Not So Much

"I may disagree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." -- Voltaire (1694-1778)

"...Unless it might possibly offend anyone in any way at any time. Then you're on your own." -- America (2007)

Or as The Clash noted in their song "Know Your Rights" (from their seminal album Combat Rock), "you have the right to free speech, as long as you're not dumb enough to actually try it." Oh, the "Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech," it says so right there in the Constitution, but your free speech rights will be abridged well below the federal level. If you say anything that anyone might find offensive, you will find yourself hounded from the public square, investigated, humiliated, and if you cross your fingers, rehabilitated. Know your rights. These are your rights. Welcome to America, 2007. "Put in your earplugs, put on your eyeshades, you know where to put the cork." (Tommy, the Who.)

Well, Imus lost the radio gig, too. No surprise, really. Media outlets are controversy-averse. Controversy is bad for business, bad for ad sales, bad for the bottom line. Bad for ratings? We'll never know in this case. One thing's for sure: The civil rights groups that were picketing CBS and threatening boycotts put the lie to the notion that blacks are impoverished in America. Obviously they have enough economic clout that CBS and its sponsors didn't wish to lose their business.