Sausage Party Politics
A Commentary By John Stossel
Seth Rogen, co-writer, co-producer and co-star of the animated comedy "Sausage Party," is unhappy with me -- for defending him.
His movie was attacked by some online commentators for using ethnic and sexual stereotypes, as cartoons often do. What was remarkable is how incensed some people get over a cartoon, even one about talking food.
A reviewer for a site called Autostraddle at first praised the movie, including its depiction of a talking lesbian taco voiced by Salma Hayek.
But then the site replaced the review with a 2,600-word apology. Autostraddle calls itself a "progressively feminist online community for a new generation of kickass lesbian, bisexual & otherwise inclined ladies." Its endless apology said, "After we received feedback about (the "Sausage Party" review) from our Trans Editor (and others including Facebook commenters), we decided to un-publish the piece."
Un-publish. Last week, I did a show on free speech. A tweet I sent out plugging it said, "The attack on free speech even extends to silly movies like @SethRogen's Sausage Party."
Rogen sent my tweet to his 4 million Twitter followers. (Thanks for that, Seth!) But being a Hollywood leftist, he didn't thank me for defending his movie. Probably because I work for Fox, he tweeted that my tweet is what happens "(w)hen idiots use your movie to pretend that free speech is being attacked when it isn't at all."
Rogen's followers pounced, one saying, "It's baffling that some people can't comprehend that criticism is a part of free speech ... Everything is working as intended. Stossel is a tool."
Rogen tweeted again: "People tweeting that they hate your sh-- isn't an 'attack on free speech.' It's people using free speech to tell you they hate your sh--."
But wait! I agree! As I said, private organizations have the right to publish or "un-publish" just about anything.
Fortunately, commenters who read about this on the website Mediaite got it: "Rogen would have been wise to not say anything ... (L)ike a typical Hollywood star, he thought it was all about him. Stossel was making a point about the state of free speech in America today and mentioned the reactions a silly movie is getting to help make his point."
To clarify: Private individuals are free to criticize all they like, and the First Amendment forbids government to decide whether a taco is offensive to lesbians -- or to fundamentalist Christians for that matter.
It's an important rule. We have just one government. When government censors, we're all screwed.
Private citizens and private organizations, whether they're TV channels, universities or activist groups, can duke it out in the arena created by our right to free speech.
We should keep in mind, though, that the same people who get upset about lesbian tacos, irreverent depictions of Jesus, drug use in movies or whatever the controversy of the day is, sometimes become politicians. Some then try to use government force to shut their enemies up. Hillary Clinton wants to censor a movie that criticized her. Donald Trump promises to "rewrite" libel law.
I fear that the growing belief that no one should ever have to suffer being offended or hearing something that upsets them could come back to haunt us with calls for real censorship. That would be a real attack on free speech.
It's good to have a thick skin. In the free-for-all of public debate, people will get upset.
I can't order people to listen to their enemies any more than I can order my enemies to shut up. The best thing we can do when we hear upsetting ideas is respond with good counterarguments.
People who keep arguing with each other, even if they offend each other, are less likely to look for uncommunicative, violent ways to settle their disputes.
Keep making art, voicing opinions and expecting other people to tell you you're an idiot who should stay silent. That's the messy process by which we learn from each other.
I assume Seth Rogen agrees that's the best use of free speech there is.
John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on Fox News and author of "No They Can't! Why Government Fails -- But Individuals Succeed." For other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2016 BY JFS PRODUCTIONS INC.
DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM
See Other Political Commentaries.
See Other Commentaries by John Stossel.
Views expressed in this column are those of the author, not those of Rasmussen Reports. Comments about this content should be directed to the author or syndicate.
Rasmussen Reports is a media company specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion information.
We conduct public opinion polls on a variety of topics to inform our audience on events in the news and other topics of interest. To ensure editorial control and independence, we pay for the polls ourselves and generate revenue through the sale of subscriptions, sponsorships, and advertising. Nightly polling on politics, business and lifestyle topics provides the content to update the Rasmussen Reports web site many times each day. If it's in the news, it's in our polls. Additionally, the data drives a daily update newsletter and various media outlets across the country.
Some information, including the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll and commentaries are available for free to the general public. Subscriptions are available for $4.95 a month or 34.95 a year that provide subscribers with exclusive access to more than 20 stories per week on upcoming elections, consumer confidence, and issues that affect us all. For those who are really into the numbers, Platinum Members can review demographic crosstabs and a full history of our data.
To learn more about our methodology, click here.