Commentary Magazine


Topic: Castro

Approval of Mob Rule on Speech Depends on Which Mob is to Rule

It was perhaps predictable that the New York Times editorial page would leap to the defense of embattled Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen. The Times takes a dim view of the Marlins’ decision to suspend their now contrite field boss for telling Time Magazine how much he loved Fidel Castro. Guillen, they believe, is being penalized for exercising his constitutional right to engage in political speech. The paper thinks the team is bowing to the dictates of a “mob,” and rightly note this wouldn’t have happened anywhere else but in South Florida where Cuban-Americans–who have good reason to view any love given Castro as deeply offensive–predominate.

But the question here is neither one of law (the Times concedes the team is within its right to discipline any employee for statements that embarrass the franchise) nor of double standards (because other sports figures have been punished, sometimes far more harshly for saying things that others believe to be offensive). Rather, it is one of which mob is crying for Guillen’s blood. Because the Times and the rest of the liberal media establishment has nothing but contempt for the desire of Cuban-Americans to overthrow the Castro-led Communist dictatorship of their homeland, they are quick to characterize those calling for Guillen’s head as censors. But though the newspaper attempts to draw a distinction between Guillen and others who have been punished for expressing other hateful sentiments, the only thing different here is whose feathers have been ruffled.

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It was perhaps predictable that the New York Times editorial page would leap to the defense of embattled Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen. The Times takes a dim view of the Marlins’ decision to suspend their now contrite field boss for telling Time Magazine how much he loved Fidel Castro. Guillen, they believe, is being penalized for exercising his constitutional right to engage in political speech. The paper thinks the team is bowing to the dictates of a “mob,” and rightly note this wouldn’t have happened anywhere else but in South Florida where Cuban-Americans–who have good reason to view any love given Castro as deeply offensive–predominate.

But the question here is neither one of law (the Times concedes the team is within its right to discipline any employee for statements that embarrass the franchise) nor of double standards (because other sports figures have been punished, sometimes far more harshly for saying things that others believe to be offensive). Rather, it is one of which mob is crying for Guillen’s blood. Because the Times and the rest of the liberal media establishment has nothing but contempt for the desire of Cuban-Americans to overthrow the Castro-led Communist dictatorship of their homeland, they are quick to characterize those calling for Guillen’s head as censors. But though the newspaper attempts to draw a distinction between Guillen and others who have been punished for expressing other hateful sentiments, the only thing different here is whose feathers have been ruffled.

There is, in fact, little difference between Guillen and the case (cited by the Times) of Marge Schott, the equally outrageous former owner of the Cincinnati Reds who was suspended by baseball for expressing praise of Hitler after a long career of uttering slurs against various groups. Like Guillen’s disavowal of any endorsement of Castro’s enormities, Schott claimed her statement, “Hitler was good in the beginning” shouldn’t have been considered signifying her approval of the Holocaust. When baseball suspended Schott they weren’t violating her right of free speech anymore than the Marlins violated Guillen’s rights. They were free to say what they liked, but the terms of their employment were such that their employers were under no obligation to countenance associating baseball with hateful sentiments.

As I noted earlier this week, I think ending Guillen’s career for his comments, much as baseball terminated the life’s work of Dodgers executive Al Campanis for a maladroit answer about African-Americans in 1982, would be unfair. The Times’ disapproval of the Marlins’ somewhat lenient punishment of their manager has nothing to do with principle or the free exercise of political speech. It has everything to do with the politics of what he said. The Times has no problem condemning comments about race or gender, and it is an advocate of severe restrictions on political speech in the form of campaign contributions. What it has no patience for is intolerance of those, like Guillen, who regard Communist murderers with affection. It is that lamentable but all too prevalent point of view these days that is truly regrettable.

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