October 22, 2003
Another Insta-Departure

[Updates below.]

I jumped on Glenn Reynolds before on his self-declared libertarianism in regards to public servivces and education. Now, I'm jumping on him in regards to media consolidation. I don't find this at all consistent with libertarian philosophy.

The Instapundit seems to think that once an ownership company has the power to start firing writers from disparate parts of it's media empire, that company has too much power. Specifically:

If people who write for one outlet have to think about pleasing not just one boss, but a plethora of them, then people will write a lot fewer criticisms. And if most outlets are controlled by a small number of conglomerates, we’ll read fewer criticisms, as a result.

Alright. So take the thought process one step further, Mr. Reynolds. What happens to those people who want to criticise and who have either been fired or think they will get fired? They'll find another place to work, form an independent company, find another job and work freelance, etc. The marketplace doesn't just come to a crashing halt if you are afraid of losing your job or if you get fired for expressing unpopular opinions. This doesn't result in a permanent, net reduction in criticism.

Yeah, Gregg Easterbrook's kick in the pants from ESPN and subsequent historical article cleansing were bad moves from a PR, business, and customer service standpoint. But ESPN and it's parent company(ies) have every right to fire and hire whomever they want, to their detriment or benefit. Mr. Reynolds approvingly quotes Stanford law professor Larry Lessig:

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.

A "offense to society"? How can such a term even make sense when applied to a case like this? It's collectively offensive to fire an employee who bashes one of his upper-echelon employers?

I feel it is far more offensive to impose blanket media ownership limits on businesses (and, by direct extension, their Free Speech and property rights) than this case.

UPDATE 1/20/2005 12:25pm
Glenn Reynolds is NOT a Libertarian

UPDATED 9/26/2005 2:38pm
He hasn't been paying attention to An Intellectually and Morally Serious Antiwar Movement.



Posted by Drizzten at October 22, 2003 07:34 AM

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