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Jason Holliston
Tuesday, May 13, 2003  
Sean Penn and American Capitalism

I was just in bed, listening to Scarborough Country on MSNBC. Joe was interviewing a friend of Sean Penn’s concerning the actor’s lawsuit claiming that he was kicked out of a movie due to his political views concerning the war. The friend said that no one in America should be punished whatsoever for their political views, even if it means that the person bankrolling the movie though they were going to lose money due to Sean’s views. He talked a good game, and if you take it on its surface, it sounds like a plausible argument.

I’ve found that sometimes analogies are an excellent way of showing clarity. So, think about this scenario: a major television network’s CEO is exposed as having racist beliefs, and he doesn’t publicly deny it. After a couple weeks of public uproar, advertisers began to pull spots from the network. The network begins to lose millions of dollars, so the board decides to separate ways with the CEO. Now, having racist beliefs aren’t illegal – millions of Americans still have them. Should the network sue the advertisers for "censoring" their CEO? Should the CEO sue the network for "censoring" his views?

This analogy essentially illustrates the same thought process behind the Sean Penn case. Does it should ridiculous to you? I’m not saying that Sean can’t sue if he’s willing to pay his lawyer’s fees – you can sue for just about anything in this country. What I’m saying is that he needs to take responsibility for his actions. Less than 30% of the country were against the war in Iraq, and much less than this were virulently against the war. So, it’s not surprising that the actors that took the highest profile against the war are now undergoing a backlash against their actions before and during the war by the public. While they have a right to their views and the right to speak those views without fear of government intervention, they do not have a right to speak those views without fear of public intervention.

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