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Freedom of speech and property rights

There has been some laughs about Linda Ronstadt getting kicked out of a casino for her anti-Bush tirade. This happened because of confusion about the right to free speech and the right of private property to be enjoyed as the owner sees fit.

Casino owner Bill Timmans explained that:

We hired Ms. Ronstadt as an entertainer, not as a political activist. She went up in front of the stage and just let it out. This was not the correct forum for that.

This is all quite proper in my view. I have nothing against anti-Bush tirades, and I might make one myself soon (although I’m unlikely to dedicate it to Mike Moore), but there is a place for everything, and I would suggest that if you are paid as an entertainer, when you go to work, you entertain.

And the casino owners were right to evict her. It is like having a blogroach in Samizdata comments. A casino is private property, and the owners can admit whoever they like, and set guidelines for how guests should behave.

17 comments to Freedom of speech and property rights

  • billg

    Agreed. Ronstadt’s freedom to speak has not been infringed. She is at liberty to say what she wishes. If she says it on a stage owned by someone else who has contracted her to sing, then her presence on the stage — to sing or to talk — is subject to the terms of that contract. She can exercise her free speech rights on the public sidewalk outside the casino.

    In general, entertainers who use their fame as a platform to lecture on morality and politics are as offensive as politicians who try to sing and dance in public.

  • Yank Girl

    Please don’t forget the rights of “fans”. There was another “walk out” in a more recent Ronstadt concert. Yes, they should have known prior to going to the concert and got their money back. Maybe they didn’t hear the news. One person stated she didn’t pay $100 to hear someone’s political views.

    You are correct about Property Rights. You can protest at the steps of the Capital or almost anywhere else you like. You can write to your newspaper or write a oped piece in a magazine. Get a website. Advertise your concert with a warning that you will be espousing political views.

    If my plumber started in on some diatribe while fixing my sink I would boot him out the door. That’s not prohibitng free speech. That’s me expressing MY RIGHT not to have to hear his sh**.

  • James

    In situations like these, I’m always reminded of Heinlein’s Jubal Harshaw. A man who is clear on what he deems appropriate in his own household, and a man who is prepared to enforce it (as well as respecting this right in others).

    Same applies here. You’re freedom lies in your freedom to leave, not to act like you own the place.

  • Jon

    I watched Perot’s concession speech and, speaking as someone who’s been swing and ballroom dancing for 15 years, he danced pretty well with his wife. I wouldn’t have paid to watch him, but there was some frame and connection there.

  • David Crawfod

    Scott, I disagree with one of your points. Ms Ronstadt was not a “guest” of the casino, she was an employee. She was treated no differently than any other employee that, rather than do their job, chose to spout on about a subject unrelated to their job. (Think of a black-jack dealer who refused to deal the cards while they spouted their particular political view. Of course that dealer would be shown the door well before their shift is over.)

  • Dan

    Linda had a bunch of people walk out of a concert at a Winery near Livermore last night. Same reason and the quotes in the paper reflect pretty much what I said the Las Vegas incident.


  • Guy Herbert

    The Casino may have been well within its rights in choosing to terminate the engagement on the grounds it didn’t like the content of her performance. However it rather depends on the contract it has with Ms Rontstadt, doesn’t it? It’s not a property right reliant on the Casino being a private place.

  • Russ Willey

    As one commentator has already pointed out, Ms Ronstadt was not a guest, she was a performer. Performing is what she does. The stage is literally and figuratively her platform.

    How often does a performer express his or her views about something while on stage? It happens all the time. Mostly, such views are less contentious and are expressed with more brevity.

    Did the casino owner have the right to throw Miss Ronstadt out? Very probably.

    And newspaper owners have a right not to print letters that conflict with their views. And the lovely people who run Samizdata have a right to delete this comment. And, yes, if a plumber comes into my home and spouts views that I don’t want to hear, I can throw him out.

    Who knows? If enough of us take that kind of action when someone says something we don’t agree with, maybe we can stamp out free expression altogether?

  • And we might actually get some respect in society too. Here’s a tip, Russ. Set up your own blog, and you can free express until the cows come home. You might even learn that you do not in fact enjoy having your blog being trashed. (As per the casino.)

  • Guy Herbert

    Here’s an interesting thought about this case that has nothing to do with anybody’s rights.

    Casinos aren’t selling entertainment. Yes, they pay entertainers a lot to appear, but the function of the entertainers is to get people in who will then gamble. If people walk out of the performance it would ordinarily be to the Casino’s gain as long as they don’t walk out of the building without dropping some cash (at which point walk-outs would become just like those appalling–to the house–people who take in the show and go). Headline performers are publicity for the house; dropping them is publicity for the house, too. You don’t get to be a top casino manager without the ability to seize a commercial opportunity instantly.

  • The bottom-line is that Linda got sacked for making an arse out of herself on stage. She failed to live up to the Casino’s expectations of her employers and was fired.

  • R C Dean

    However it rather depends on the contract it has with Ms Rontstadt, doesn’t it? It’s not a property right reliant on the Casino being a private place.

    Actually, I think they can throw her out on either ground. As a property owner, you can throw anyone out for any damn reason you choose, generally speaking, regardless of whether they are your employee or not.

  • Guy Herbert

    Comforted (I think) to know that’s the law in Nevada. Not necessarily so in the EUSSR. Is it inconceivable she might have a right to complete the booked performances as part of the contract?

  • David Gillies

    Moot, Guy. Try to conceive of a situation in Europe in which someone would be booed off stage for being anti-Bush.

  • A_t

    Heh… People could get boo’d off for being pro-bush in Europe though. I take it no-one here would have any objection to that then?

  • Yank Girl

    A_t asks: “Heh… People could get boo’d off for being pro-bush in Europe though. I take it no-one here would have any objection to that then?”

    Actually, I would have no objection whatsoever. I understand that a good number of those people are spoon fed socialist crap from cradle to grave. They are saturated with anti-amercanism. I understand why they would boo. I understand why they quickly believe any propaganda as long as its anti-american. The truth doesn’t matter to them. If I objected to them booing any pro-Bush/American entertainer, that would indicate that I am concerned about them disliking me, my country or my ideology. Believe me, I am not concerned. If it makes you happy, boo to your hearts content! I doubt if you would hear many American Conservatives whining about censorship. 🙂

  • A_t

    Fair enough. Personally, I think all sides are being way oversensitive on this one; I agree it’s not censorship, but equally the portion of the audience that walked out were being dumbasses; like wow! an entertainer has (not uncommon, or partiucularly offensive) views that disagree with yours. You feel so threatened/pissed off by this you have to walk out? Lame.

    🙂 i love the way europeans would only boo ‘cos we’re all brainwashed too… yeah! that must be it. We’re all weak-minded cheese-saturated sociobots round here. Thank god we have strong independent-minded propaganda-free God-fearing ‘mericans to set us right. Actually, you’re probably right about many Europeans; their reactions will be based largely on what they’ve been told by the media/their irrational prejudices which have developed over time, but I have not found Americans to be any smarter in that respect.

    Personally, I’d sit & check out the artist’s songs regardless of whether they namechecked Moore or Bush; I dislike both individuals, but I’m not going to get all het up just because someone respects a liar.