So today I learned that there is a wildly popular A&E reality television program called Duck Dynasty and that a principal member of its cast, Phil Robertson, was suspended indefinitely from the show for making bigoted comments about LGBT people in a GQ interview. One of the comments is that homosexual behavior is a gateway to bestiality.
As charming as that is, that’s not what this post is about.
What it is about is the insidious defense of these sorts of comments by the likes of Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal and former-something-yet-still-somehow-relevant Sarah Palin.
Bobby Jindal’s statement:
Phil Robertson and his family are great citizens of the State of Louisiana. The politically correct crowd is tolerant of all viewpoints, except those they disagree with. I don’t agree with quite a bit of stuff I read in magazine interviews or see on TV. In fact, come to think of it, I find a good bit of it offensive. But I also acknowledge that this is a free country and everyone is entitled to express their views. In fact, I remember when TV networks believed in the First Amendment. It is a messed up situation when Miley Cyrus gets a laugh, and Phil Robertson gets suspended.
From Sarah Palin’s Facebook page:
Free speech is an endangered species. Those ‘intolerants’ hatin’ and taking on the Duck Dynasty patriarch for voicing his personal opinion are taking on all of us.
I would really like to know how Ms. Palin characterizes the group she refers to as “us.” Probably, “You know, not ‘them’.”
Bobby Jindal attempts to put the vapid antics of Miley Cyrus on the same basis as hate speech because each is offensive to somebody (although the latter is often characterized not as hate speech but as “biblical views”), and both Jindal and Palin confuse freedom of speech with freedom from the consequences of that speech.
Defending Phil Robertson’s comments on the grounds of free speech appears to be part of a growing disingenuous and cynical agenda to place all statements of belief on an equal footing with respect to inclusion or tolerance. If you make “All people, regardless of sexual orientation, are entitled to equal protection under the law,” equivalent to “Homosexuality is a [sin|mental illness|abomination]. Oh, and everyone was happier before slavery was abolished,” then you can cry hypocrite when a person or organization reacts harshly to the latter while affirming the former.
The truth is that they are equivalent (in that they are both statements) and Americans citizens are completely free to say either, with as much amplification as they can muster.
So, Phil Robertson is free to utter whatever bigoted, ignorant, medieval hate beard thought comes into his head. A&E is also free to align itself with whatever set of values it chooses and to insist that those values are not contradicted by its employees in the public eye. If I write or state in a public venue that the managers of the company for whom I work are a bunch of unethical scumbags (which, guys, you’re tooootally not), my company is free and justified to fire me.
The First Amendment protects free speech from being abridged by the government. It does not protect me from being kicked in the balls after I advise my neighbor that his mother is a filthy whore (which she tooootally is).