Civic Education and Media Failure

This AP article appearing in the Christian Science Monitor is an example of a missed opportunity for civic education.

While on Fox and Friends for some reason, Hank Williams Jr. made a comparison related to President Obama involving Hitler. The details of the comparison itself aren’t really that important. Pro tip for anyone near a microphone of some kind: unless your comparison involves a war of aggression, genocide, or other extremely literal comparison of Hitler, just look elsewhere for your metaphors. What if maybe your comparison is apt in some way? Doesn’t matter. Pick someone else in human history for your comparison. (Someone on the Internet suggested, “comparing Obama to Hitler is as ridiculous as comparing Hank Williams Jr. to his much, much more talented father.”)

But, that’s not what this post is about. As a consequence of his choice to use Hitler metaphors on television, ESPN decided to end its business relationship with Hank Jr. They no longer want to use him or his singing to introduce the Monday Night Football broadcast. Hank Jr. responded by saying that ESPN is violating his free speech rights.

“After reading hundreds of e-mails, I have made MY decision,” Williams said in a statement to The Associated Press. “By pulling my opening Oct 3rd, You (ESPN) stepped on the Toes of The First Amendment Freedom of Speech, so therefore Me, My Song, and All My Rowdy Friends are OUT OF HERE. It’s been a great run.”

This, in and of itself, isn’t a huge deal. Lots of people who wrap themselves in the flag don’t actually know much about the country’s founding document. (See, e.g., The Onion: “Area Man Passionate Defender Of What He Imagines Constitution To Be”)

The problem is that the First Amendment precludes government regulation of speech. It does not, contrary to what Hank Jr. seems to assert, guarantee the right to be lucratively compensated by a private entity for appearing on the entity’s television show regardless of what one says in other places.

The second problem is that it would have taken the AP very little space to point out that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution has no bearing on this situation. It would have been a factual observation, requiring no independent opinion, that the AP could have included without using a lot of space. It would have made Hank Jr. look foolish, of course. But that ought not be he AP’s concern. Another option for the AP would have been to not report on Hank Jr.’s mutterings about the Constitution at all.


  1. says

    And I just wish everyone could know that #101 on “The Stuff White People Like” blog is “being offended”. Especially at imagined racial slights to people who aren’t white.

    How do we know that Obama was Hitler in the analogy?

    Why is ESPN so damned politically correct? Do the jocks that run it feel so bad about themselves and the meaninglessness of what they do that they have to create these tempests in the teapot to make themselves feel important?

    Political correctness is a soft tyranny. Perhaps the first amendment doesn’t apply, but I can’t see raking the guy over the coals for a bad analogy.

  2. Don Sherfick says

    “Congress shall make no law preventing Hank Williams, Jr. from making a fool of himself and endurig the full consequences thereof. The foregoing shall be construed to permit in perpetuity, in the case of any attempt by the government to suppress his protected babble, his continued unfettered freedom to enter into private employment or contract and then, whereapon if such babble, having become unprotected, shall continue therein undiminished, to expect his sorry ass to be lawfully and summarily terminated.”

  3. says

    What’s America coming to when you can’t casually compare the President and/or the Speaker to Hitler? Makes you wonder why the Pilgrims bothered writing the Constitution.

  4. Don Sherfick says

    But they didn’t. The Pilgrims wrote the Declaration of Independence at Plymouth Rock. (It was called Pilgrimhead before they painted it over)

  5. says

    Williams Jr should be proud to live in a country where he can say anything he wants about our president (short of a physical threat) and not be hauled off by government thugs. THAT is the awesome power of the 1st Amendment.

  6. says

    After I type that, I realized that what he wants is bigger government, right?
    He wants the government to control what a private company can do.

  7. Paul C. says

    As a die-hard football fan, I am rejoicing that Williams is finally off of MNF. I am not a fan of Disney, but wonder if they had the same sentiment I did, and were just looking for a reason to terminate Williams while saving face.

    That being said, this is a pretty terrible reason to can someone with such a long affiliation with your program, and I would predict that a poll of MNF watchers would have lower approval ratings for our President than the current national polls do (which are extremely low as well).

    And for the record, the comparison was NOT Hitler and Obama, it was the Hitler/Netanyahu relationship vs. the Obama/Boehner relationship, i.e., being mortal enemies. And let’s take this a bit further and realize the comparison should have been ignored as being terribly stupid, considering Hitler and Netanyahu have not shared a single day under the son, as Hitler was dead years before Netanyahu was born.

  8. exhoosier says

    Perhaps many MNF viewers would have a low opinion of Obama, but I bet a lot more would have a lower opinion of that interminable Hank Jr. opening. As a goodwill gesture, MNF should go back to its original opening with its funky, funky organ:

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