Archive for March, 2012|Monthly archive page

Freedom of Speech

For a variety of reasons, I feel the need to get up on my soapbox and talk about some of the fundamental freedoms that the Constitution guarantees us here in the United States.  In this post, I’m going to talk about Freedom of Speech .

I’m not going to delve into the history surrounding the adoption of this particular amendment in the Bill of Rights, but rather some of the reasons why this right in particular needs to be protected.

Anyone trying to infringe, abridge, nibble away at, or otherwise trying to take away this right has their reasons — and they’re uniformly bad.  Whether it’s a government, corporation, or your next door neighbor, whatever reason they may give,  the bottom line is simply that they don’t want to hear, or have others hear, something that casts them in a less than perfect light.

As an example, in my post Restaurant Guide (you can see it here: https://truckied.wordpress.com/2010/03/19/restaurant-guide/ ), one of the things I suggest is checking if the cashier asks “was everything was all right with your meal?”.  Good restaurants ask — if something was wrong, they want to know so they can correct it.  Bad ones don’t — they already know their food or service is bad, and don’t want to hear about it.

In other words, feedback.

Dictionary.com defines feedback as (in part):

“the furnishing of data concerning the operation or output of a machine to an automatic control device or to the machine itself, so that subsequent or ongoing operations of the machine can be altered or corrected.”

We can extend that definition by changing the word “machine” to government, corporation, organization or whatever.  The really important part is “so that subsequent or ongoing operations of the [machine] can be altered or corrected.”

For example, many employers are now making employees sign “no disparagement” agreements.  Hmmm…. it seems to me that if a company has earned (and yes, it must be earned) such little loyalty from their employees that they feel the need to write blog posts, letters to the editor, or whatever that cast that company in a bad light, that maybe there’s a reason for it.  I’m not considering disgruntled ex-employees.  No matter how good the company, there will always be a few who need to rail on after getting fired, no matter how richly they deserved it.  I’m talking about current employees who have to put up with substandard wages, or poor treatment, or bad working conditions — whatever.  The thing is, these companies are then missing out on that feedback that would allow them to correct the issue, and stop the (public) complaints.

In some cases, this is specifically protected (Whistleblowers).  Frequently though, employees fear losing their jobs by complaining, especially if it’s a complaint to an official organization (like OSHA for instance).  Even a bad job is generally better than no job at all, and economic pressure is one way that companies use to keep people quiet.  Others just don’t want the hassle, so they simply move on to the next job.  Even when protections exist on paper, in practice they can be circumvented.

Another area that seems to happen frequently in my own industry, is that of secret settlements.  Trucking companies will often settle claims resulting from crashes, with the condition that the terms of the settlement not be publicly revealed.  Why would this be?  To me, the answer appears obvious.  Is it obvious to you too?  Monetary judgements are also a form of feedback.  Do something bad, and it costs you.  The more it happens, the more likely it is to happen again, and be even more expensive the next time around.  So, it appears that they’re trying to avoid that kind of feedback.

There are also quite a number of governments that attempt to restrict information. Restricting the internet, or particular internet applications seems to be a modern favorite tactic.  Some say it’s to “protect” their citizens, or a particular group, but in reality, it’s to “protect” them from seeing the truth.  If a government, corporation, group, or organization is in such great danger of imploding because of criticism, then it’s my view that it should not only be allowed to implode, it should be helped on it’s way.  Quickly.  Get rid of it, and replace it with something better.  At least, take the feedback to heart and make some improvements.

Those repressive governments that seem to think that they can survive forever are deluding themselves.  No matter how repressive the government, or how tightly they attempt to control the flow of information, eventually the people will find out whatever it is they’re hiding, and take action.  One has only to look at the “Arab Spring” (among others) to see their own personal handwriting on the wall.  Mene Mene….

Comments are always welcome.
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