Playing the Free Speech Card

DC Comics has hired SF author Orson Scott Card to write a Superman digital comic. This has launched a lot of vocal protest and sparked petitions for DC to not employ Card. I’ve signed a petition and have spoken out against Card online. Why? It’s not for his views on homosexuality, abhorrent as I may find them. It’s that Card is on the board of directors of the National Organization for Marriage, an organization that actively works to deny equal civil rights to homosexuals. I have friends and family members who are LGBT, so NOM’s actions have a direct impact on the lives of people I care about. Card is very open about his views and his activities, so as far as I’m concerned, if DC hires him, they’re complicit in Card’s work against equal civil rights for LGBT people.

You may disagree with me. That’s fine. But in the arguments I’ve seen defending DC and Card, I’ve seen some misconceptions, so let’s get a few things straight.

The US Constitution guarantees freedom of speech. Absolutely. It does not, however, guarantee you a microphone and it doesn’t guarantee you freedom from the consequences of your speech. (In fact, certain kinds of speech are illegal precisely because of their effects. You can’t lie in advertisements. You can’t commit libel or slander.) Asking for DC Comics to not hire Card is not censorship. Neither is petitioning advertisers to pull their support of people like Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck. If the government were to silence Card (or Limbaugh or Beck), that would be censorship. But the First Amendment in no way guarantees Card be paid for what he writes, what he says, or what he does. DC–or any other business–has every right to not hire Card for his views or his actions. (Similarly, neither Rush Limbaugh nor Glenn Beck are in any way guaranteed a voice in popular media. If no one would hire them because of the things they say, that would be their tough luck. That’s not censorship, that’s a free market.)

This does not mean I advocate every company firing anyone who espouses an unpopular view. It’s not so sweeping as that. This is an individual case, and as I said, it’s not about what Card thinks or says, it’s about what he actually does. I would no more support DC hiring someone who was well-known for being active in fighting equal rights for women or people of color.

I will defend Card’s right to speak his mind with every fiber of my being. But I will not support his right to speak his mind without consequence and I will fight against him writing a character I believe embodies and supports the opposite of Card’s views. The character of Superman was created as someone who fights against oppression, bigotry, exploitation, inequality, and injustice. I expect DC Comics to live up to that, and I believe hiring Orson Scott Card goes against that legacy.



7 thoughts on “Playing the Free Speech Card

  1. Thanks for this. As a librarian, I have complicated feelings about this. However, as a human being, I have nothing but loathing for him.

  2. As a librarian and an advocate of the First Amendment, I am completely in favor of my library stocking his books and completely in favor of him spouting whatever opinions he wants. But as a consumer and an advocate of equal rights, I have no problem protesting his hiring by DC and boycotting DC if they continue to employ him.

    Thanks for your comment, Ingrid!

  3. WOW. I didn not know any of that about OSC. That makes me immeasurably sad.

  4. OK, that comic is HI-LAR-IOUS! Thanks, Other Josh!

  5. Couldn’t agree more. He is also a hack. As a short story Enders Game was inspired. As a series of books it is base prostitution.

  6. Barry, I didn’t even want to get into how I think he’s a crap writer. Ender’s Game is one of the few books that made me want to hurl it across the room when I was reading it. I hated it. I honestly don’t understand why so many people hold it in such high regard.

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