October 20, 2003 · Lessig
Gregg Easterbrook wrote something on his blog that Roger Simon criticized for being anti-Semitic. It was also, as Glenn Reynolds points out, anti-Disney. The consequence of his writing was that Easterbrook was fired from ESPN (which is owned by The Mouse). Was the cause the anti-Semitism or the anti-Disney-ism?
As one of Easterbrook’s self-described “harshest critics” says, the firing was an over-reaction. I agree, though more because of the place than the substance of what Easterbrook said. Had Easterbrook been the announcer at a football game and made similar comments, I could well understand (and defend) ESPN’s decision to fire him. But a post in a blog is not a blast to 20 million people. No one would hold ESPN responsible; no one, so far as I can see, was even drawing a link to ESPN.
Glenn has a point. ESPN’s actions are ambiguous, at least if you agree with Roger Simon that firing Easterbrook was an over-reaction. ESPN should resolve the ambiguity.
If ESPN fired Easterbrook because it overreacted to his comment, then that’s an injustice to Easterbrook, and a slight to society.
But it it fired Easterbrook because Easterbrook criticized the owner, that’s an offense to society, whatever the injustice to Easterbrook — at least when fewer and fewer control access to media. No doubt, anti-semitism has done infinitely greater harm than misused media mogul power. But if firing your critics becomes the norm in American media, then there will be much more than insensitivity to anti-semitism to worry about in the future.