Free speech and the Tebow Ad.

We are unfortunately becoming used to seeing the sort of report that follows, in this case it is from “Rasmussen Reports,” which blandly covers an issue which is becoming all too frequent in this age, the denial or attempted denial of free speech. It seems that as governments have become bigger and with better technology have been able to intrude into more aspects of our private lives, the public have tended to become more politically motivated and thus, doctrinaire in their views.

The result is that where in the past issues were debated intelligently, there is an increasing tendency to pursue the idea that views, dissenting from the ‘current truth’ be banned. This is not entirely new, the KKK, fascists, comos, religious extremists, and such like were supporters of this line but now it has unfortunately, become mainstream. The current controversy is about the following advertisement:

The ad was prepared by the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family and features Tebow, a star footballer and his mother, who talks about the difficulty she had when she was pregnant with Tim and how a doctor advised her to consider an abortion. The pro-life message then notes that the child she chose not to abort went on to win the Heisman in 2007 and lead his team at Florida to two national championships.

It is difficult to fault this ad. If anything it is simply an effort to persuade the pregnant to consider other options to abortion. We are all entitled to present our views peacefully in any forum where people listen. Authoritarians however disagree.

Liberal activists and pro-choice (but only one choice) groups including Planned Parenthood and the National Organization for Women have strongly protested CBS’ decision to run the advertisement. At least one activist has threatened the network with legal action. The controversy has generated a great deal of attention for the ad.

Planned Parenthood and the National Organization for Women have a right to disagree with the content of this ad even though it is essentially none of their business, being simply a commercial transaction between consenting parties. They are not in any way denied the right to present their own views on the same forum if they are prepared to pay for it. The idea of legal action is bizarre.

Advertisements seem to be a favorite target of the more extreme elements in society who seem to imagine that the rest of us are putty in the hands of unscrupulous manipulators who force us to eat unhealthy foods and engage in other activities which offend their puritanical tastes. As result we are increasingly seeing attempts to ban them.

Apparently owing to an increasing incidence of obesity it is argued that after a fourteen hour day, it is not in my interests to be aware that I can get a seven and three quarter pound mactripple bypass burger with large fries and a supersized thick shake for $6.99 on the way home. I feel I should have the right to know what’s on offer and make my own decisions.

Attacks on free speech are harmful to all of us. The denial of the right to present certain views skews thinking in the direction of those who for whatever reason are able to acquire the political pull to have their bigotry and stupidity enforced. The fact is that the need to ban debate on an opinion probably indicates that such an opinion is a stupid one which cannot stand up to the cold light of reason.

There were calls for the banning of statements by Sheikh Hilaly after his ridiculous rant about women being to blame for being raped. The man has by his own statements been thoroughly discredited and is now seen as a laughing stock. Were he unable to make those statements he would still be considered credible owing to his idiocy not being exposed.

10 thoughts on “Free speech and the Tebow Ad.

  1. Legal action is absurd… but unfortunately we don’t have absolute freedom of speech and so the threat of legal action will always be available.

    People will always find some bleeding heart life-boat example of why speech should be controlled by government… and then this will inevitably expand as other groups use other excuses to restrict some more speech. I think freedom of speech is too important to play these games. Freedom of speech should be absolute (so long as you’re using your own property, or the property of people dealing with you voluntarily).

  2. “The ad was prepared by the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family and features Tebow, a star footballer and his mother, who talks about the difficulty she had when she was pregnant with Tim and how a doctor advised her to consider an abortion.”

    Actually, the ad didn’t even go that far… she referred to him as her “miracle baby,” but never mentioned abortion (or the doctor’s advice) in the ad at all. Not that it would change anything if she had, but it makes the complainers look rather silly.

    It’s strange that people so opposed to an alternate point of view being heard can consider themselves, “pro-choice”.

  3. The question was: “Do you agree or disagree with the decision to air an ad dealing with abortion featuring Florida quarterback Tim Tebow?”

    This question isn’t asking about the legality of the situation so I don’t think you can draw any conclusions about people’s understanding of free speech. The question is asking do you agree with the CBS executives decision, not their right to make a decision. – Although I would say I think it’s a stupid question unless you work for CBS marketing department.

    “Fifty-four percent (54%) of Indianapolis Colts fans agree with the network’s decision, compared to 41% of New Orleans Saints fans.”
    – this stat also raises some questions IMO about the survey.

  4. “It’s strange that people so opposed to an alternate point of view being heard can consider themselves, “pro-choice”.”

    The only logical conclusion is that some of them are pro abortion.

    “There were calls for the banning of statements by Sheikh Hilaly after his ridiculous rant about women being to blame for being raped. The man has by his own statements been thoroughly discredited and is now seen as a laughing stock. Were he unable to make those statements he would still be considered credible owing to his idiocy not being exposed.”

    Well said Jim.

  5. I’m fairly sure Planned Parenthood was not involved in asking CBS to cancel the advertisement. They did not sign the open letter to CBS, but instead ran their own advertisement and video response on the issue.

  6. I actually don’t see a problem with planned non-parenthood pressuring CBS and even groups are threatening legal action.

    This isn’t the case of the state intervening but people squabbling against each other.

    If it goes to court so be it.

  7. “This isn’t the case of the state intervening but people squabbling against each other.”

    No, but it is the case of one party threatening to use the state against the other… if it were just a boycott, I’d agree with you – but it’s a bit more than that.

    “If it goes to court so be it”

    And if the court chooses to restrict freedom of speech you’d be OK with it?

  8. Fleeced;

    No of course not. However the courts are there to settle disputes and if people think they have a case they can bring them forward. Similarly the court can summarily throw the case out if it has no merits.

    I think free speech has strong enough under pinning to withstand attacks in courts. We just saw SCOTUS stand up for free speech most recently.

    Don’t get me wrong, they are pricks for taking it to court.

  9. Benjamin, you appear to be correct about Planned Parenthood. While the original report I saw mentioned them as part of the protest, most news reports do not mention them. It seems to be instigated by the Women’s Media Centre along with the National Organization for Women and the Feminist Majority, and others.

    Others refused, with Free us Now being scathing:

    Oh please give it a rest – you are making women look shallow and stupid- I have lost all faith in you and the other liberal so-called women’s groups. Give me a break- for the love of Pete what the hell are you afraid of? Women’s rights include freedom of choice which apparently you are trying to prevent. …

    Where are you with that soap box that you are so privileged to have on the real problems women face? You are a damned hypocrite- and you are making women look ridiculous with this hissy fit. The ad is not anti choice it is all about choice – I repeat it is all about choice Jehmu -the choice your mother made to have you and the choice Tim’s mother made to have him is not anti choice, what the hell is wrong with you?

    The abortion issue was settled in 1973 with Row v. Wade, so it is difficult to understand why the fuss over an add that simply advocates choosing not to, and in no way attempts to challenge that decision. If CBS makes a bad commercial decision they will pay for it in the same way any other company does, unless they can get a bailout.

    Using pressure group politics to silence other opinions especially by substantially state funded organisations is an attempt at denial of free speech.

  10. Using pressure group politics to silence other opinions especially by substantially state funded organisations is an attempt at denial of free speech.

    I honestly don’t think it is, Jim. It’s how people organize themselves.

    Of course they don’t want the message to get out, however ultimately the state has the real power to silence which we libertarians are concerned about.

    However if I can convince you to stop playing an ad, it doesn’t have an bearing on free speech issues.

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