October 20, 2003

LARRY LESSIG thinks that the Easterbrook firing is more evidence of the dangers of media concentration:

If ESPN fired Easterbrook because it overreacted to his comment, then that’s an injustice to Easterbrook, and a slight to society.

But it it fired Easterbrook because Easterbrook criticized the owner, that’s an offense to society, whatever the injustice to Easterbrook — at least when fewer and fewer control access to media. No doubt, anti-semitism has done infinitely greater harm than misused media mogul power. But if firing your critics becomes the norm in American media, then there will be much more than insensitivity to anti-semitism to worry about in the future.

Indeed. And that’s why I think that ESPN firing Easterbrook for dissing the head of its parent corporation is different from, say The New Republic firing Easterbrook for anti-semitism in the pages of TNR — which, interestingly, TNR has shown no disposition to do.

UPDATE: Reader Hunter McDaniel makes a good point:

If Easterbrook had worked for Fox and taken a shot at Rupert Murdoch, I don’t think anyone would have been surprised to see him fired. Notwithstanding its formal status as a public corporation, everyone knows that Murdoch’s empire is a family business.

The same is not true of Disney now, 40 years after Walt’s death. Eisner is just a hired hand, and for him to enforce a cult of personality within the business he has been entrusted to run is way out of line. This is as much about proper corporate governance as it is about free spech.

Indeed.

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