There is another story of an employee fired over her exercise of free speech in her private life. The speech itself is vile and upsetting. Erica Walker is a radical activist associated with the the New Black Panthers Party and extremist Eric Sheppard Jr. Sheppard is on the run after organizing a protest at Valdosta State University Campus in Georgia where he stomped on an American flag. A gun was found in his backpack and he is wanted by the police. Walker has staged her own protests in walking on the flag. However, after she was identified, her employer, 1380 WAOK The Voice of the Community, reportedly fired her. As we have previously discussed, there is a trend where private and public employees are being disciplined or terminated for their exercise of private speech. There is no indication that Walker associated her disgraceful action with 1380 WAOK The Voice of the Community.
Walker reportedly has a Facebook page filled with anti-White and racist statements. After a video of Walker stomping on the American flag was posted on social media. The video was picked up by many who denounced her for her accepting the “challenge” of Sheppard to stomp on the flag:
A reporter from the Ocala Post contacted her employer, 1380 WAOK The Voice of the Community, and asked if Walker would be disciplined for her actions. The organization later released a statement that “We appreciate your thoughts on this matter and taking the time to share them with us. Please note that Erica Walker is no longer with the station.”
Facebook also took down the images after it said that “We found that the material on Walker’s pages violated community standards, therefore we removed it.” That is a troubling decision based on the content of her views. The Supreme Court has reaffirmed the constitutional right to burn the American flag. Yet, Facebook took down images of someone exercising that right. Facebook later reinstated the account.
There is another even more disturbing site related to the “FukyoFlag” movement where activists desecrate the flag, including using the flag to wipe themselves. The photos are disgusting and infuriating. However, that does not alter the free speech question. This is protected speech. That does not mean that we cannot join in denouncing these people and their hateful, disrespectful messages. Yet, the solution to such bad speech is more speech, not sanctions like those we see on the rise in Europe.
The termination of people for their speech or associations outside of the workplace raised the “Little Brother” problem that we previously discussed. This is not government action under the first amendment but private actors terminating employees who may prove to be an embarrassment to their organization or customers or donors. With the advent of social media, however, employees are under far greater scrutiny, even those who do not actively seek notoriety. Where to draw a line is the difficult question in such cases. This organization (if it did in fact fire Walker) has a right to protect itself from scandals caused by employees. Yet, one can easily imagine a wide array of more modest political associations (even a simple affiliation with a party) or support for a cause could be cited as unacceptable.
What do you think?