Thursday, August 26, 2004

Patti Davis and 1984...

In The Price of an Opinion, by Patti Davis, we see her whining about one of her speaking engagements being cancelled due to her support for stem-cell research. She states,
I lost a job the other day. The people who had hired me figured out that I support stem-cell research (I don’t know what took them so long) and pulled the plug on a lecture engagement for which they had vigorously pursued me.
Although she does not specify whether it is embryonic stem-cell or adult stem-cell research she supports, or both, it is clear to her that she's being unfairly censored. She goes on to say,
Getting the news that I was canceled was one of those moments when one realizes that the personal really is political. I certainly support anyone’s prerogative to hire or not hire whomever they choose, and I definitely don’t want to work for someone who doesn’t want me. But when people aren't permitted to speak because their opinions are considered inappropriate, it's a sign that something is amiss beneath the surface. Particularly, as in this case, when those opinions have nothing to do with the job itself.
I suppose by her way of thinking, the fact that her speaking engagement was not specifically about stem-cell research (it was supposed to be regarding losing a loved one to Alzheimer’s), then her dismissal for secondary reasons was unwarranted. Never mind, for the moment, that she is probably raking in a hefty sum of money for her speaking engagements, what is one to make of this blather? While she admits that organizations have the right to hire or not hire whomever they choose, she seems to take offense that one such organization chose to not hire her. Consider how she attempts to tie her experience with some recent events,
Performers like Linda Ronstandt are fired from gigs because of an opinion expressed on the stage; people who are angry at Bruce Springsteen’s political views want to boycott his music. We all know what happened to the Dixie Chicks. What became of calm, civilized disagreements, acceptance of the fact that we don’t always agree with each other? ...All of this skids across a thin ice surface, of course, because it brings us to the subject of free speech. If you look around, the cherished idea of free speech is starting to look a bit endangered—it's practically become a punishable offense.
I would argue that the issue irritating Davis has nothing to do with free speech. Afterall, anyone in the world who has internet access can click on the link at the beginning of this post and freely read what she has written. The real irritant for her is the same one that Don Henley, Ronstandt, Dixie Chicks, et. al., have run into - they are under the delusion that freedom of speech means that they can speak their mind, on their turf, at their advantage, and with no consequences. If you want to publicly announce shame at our President while in a foreign country, then expect those who disagree with you to express their disagreement. If you want to support stem-cell research, then expect those who disagree with you to withold paying you money for your services. It's a pretty simple formula. Davis closes with,
I had one moment of hope recently. When I went to Barnes & Noble to replace my worn copy of "1984," the book was sold out. It’s required reading for students, and there had been a run on Orwell’s novel. Maybe a new generation of readers will be so frightened by the book that they'll work harder to make sure it doesn't become a reality.
Why don't you help them out Patti? How about you call up the group that cancelled your speaking engagement and offer to make a hefty donation to their organization in exchange for a chance to speak your mind?

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