[star]The American Mind[star]

October 18, 2003

ESPN Cans Gregg

Gregg Easterbrook got fired from ESPN over a badly phrased post on his New Republic weblog. I agree with Matthew that those webloggers who wildly went off on him are responsible for his firing. Easterbrook has no history of anti-semitic comments, writes for a magazine run by a Jew, and he gets canned. Meryl Yourish can say all she wants that Easterbrook shouldn't have been fired, but in her previous post she doesn't accept his apology and continues to cry anti-semitism since "When Leon Wieseltier says it was an anti-Semitic statement, you know it was an anti-Semitic statement." Sorry, Meryl, but I read the infamous post and didn't notice the anti-semitism, and I think I'm a rather bright person. I noticed a poorly worded post, but knowing what I know about Easterbrook, I focused on the spirit of his thought, not the literal words. Part of weblogging that makes it interesting is the spontaneous nature of it. A writer gets an idea, types it, and hits the publish button. Just like we accept a certain amount of spelling and grammatical errors in e-mail and instant messages so should we accept some brain farts if we want the maintain weblogs' spontaneity.

Jeff Jarvis is right that any hint of offending some group (Catholics excluded) will chill speech.

We have to stop being afraid of strong -- and wrong -- opinions. We have to stop being afraid of mere speech. We have to learn again to fight fire with fire -- words, that is -- rather than with nuclear weapons such as this.
When someone says something stupid, call it stupid. When they say something wrong, call it wrong. When they shout, shout back. That is the free marketplace of ideas and speech. That is democracy. Nothing to be afraid of there.
But if we try to cut off that free discussion, even when it is offensive, we cut off the marketplace of ideas, we cut off our own freedom.
What ESPN did is essentially insulting to its audience. They think we can't take care of ourselves, that we can't make our own judgments about Easterbrook and what he said and how he apologized; they are condescending to us when they think they are protecting us from offense.

Weblogs, by their nature as purely independent media, will be an outlet for offensive speech and responses to it. However, with the social nature of the blogosphere (the power of the link and comments) ostricism can and will happen. That's something to be aware of when thinking of weblogs as the next big thing in media.

"Gregg Easterbrook and Me"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Culture at 11:53 PM | Comments (3)