When we think of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and other civil liberties, we usually think of the way the government has violated or could potentially violate them. The Bill of Rights limits what the government can do and thus is an important safe guard of its citizens’ freedom. And yet, the government is not the only institution that can quench civil liberties, as we see in the Duck Dynasty controversy. Phil Robertson’s freedom of speech and his freedom of religion were punished not by the government but by the Arts & Entertainment Network, along with the corporations that sponsor his show.
Corporations are not restricted by the Bill of Rights. Nor is the more generalized “social pressure” that comes from cultural disapproval. But individuals who are silenced by corporations–which in some ways have more power than the government–are not free. Individuals whose religion is persecuted by the society–whether from mobs or cultural sanctions–are not free. [Read more…]