Academics have long maintained they have a “freedom of speech” to pursue whatever they want to pursue in terms of research; this freedom extends to political opinions.
Reporters assert a freedom of speech, that they have more rights to freedom of speech than ordinary citizens. In this column, DOJ Investigated Journalists for Insider Trading, Stalking and Worse – Rolling Stone Rolling Stone implies that investigating journalists for actual crimes may constitute a threat to their journalistic freedom.
In my state, by state law, all public employees are protected from any retaliation over their non-work-related political activities. This means an employee cannot receive a performance review that might be tainted by a boss’s view of their politics, nor be disciplined or fired – even if the evidence for a link to their political view is weak.
Citizens – the rest of us have no such protections. Our bosses can (and have) fired workers for having differing political views. I once had a boss walk the hallways and tell us how to vote on a initiative that would give him extraordinary financial benefits with the implication that if we didn’t vote correctly, it might affect our future.
This creates an asymmetry in public discourse when academics, government employees and journalists have greater free speech rights than do citizens. Citizens may put their livelihood at risk merely for contesting the speech of the “speech protected elite”. This creates a public environment where everyone is equal except some are more equal than others.