This past holiday weekend it seems everywhere I turn I’m reading something about shock-jock Anthony Cumia from the Opus & Anthony Show being fired by Sirius XM Radio. His termination was based on a slew of Twitter messages that were deemed racist, ranting, and bordering on obscene. Mr. Cumia has deleted his Twitter stream, but Gawker has the screenshots of the slew of tweets he had sent out… because nothing ever TRULY gets deleted from the internet.
The part that troubles me is the number of people who are calling it a First Amendment issue, how freedom of speech is being infringed upon, and how this is very unAmerican on the birthday of the United States. The troubling part is I’ve seen it from people who I would have thought knew better. So let’s just go over what the First Amendment actually says:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
That’s it. That ladies and gentlemen is the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights in its entirety as per Archives.gov. Please note that it specifically says “Congress shall make no law….” It DOES NOT say, “Sirius XM shall not terminate employment….” OR “[Your Employer] shall not terminate employment for obscene and racist tweets/blog posts/comments etc.”
So there you have it. This is not a First Amendment issue or a freedom of speech issue. This is someone who represents a company publicly and did so in a way the company felt is unfavorable to their ideals and mission statements. The First Amendment only protects your speech from the Government, not from the private corporations that sign your paycheck. Before you start thinking it, the “publicly traded” companies aren’t “public” companies either. They are still privately owned by their stockholders and are not bound by the First Amendment.
So how do you get some sort of satisfaction when something like this happens and the First Amendment isn’t really a factor? Corporations, unlike the Government, receive our dollars willfully. So simply stop giving the corporation your dollars. If you’re one of those “Occupy Wall Street” types with a Starbucks cup in your hand, well then obviously you don’t understand the concept or the power of the dollar. I’ve also seen a lot of people cancel their Sirius XM subscription which is more likely to get their attention than rants and raves about the First Amendment.
I think it is SO important to actually understand what your rights actually are as opposed to what you may think they are. If you are employed by a private company, you have no Freedom of Speech protection from them for anything you say in public or on Social Media. Even if you work for a governmental agency, you’re freedom is more limited than you may realize. So when it comes to speaking your mind, especially via Social Media, think about what you’re saying and how it may affect you down the line before you press that ENTER key.