If I hear one more conservative whine that the A&E Network violated Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson’s free speech rights by suspending him from the show, I’m going to choke them with a duck whistle.
Here’s a primer for conservatives who have dedicated themselves to becoming experts on the Second Amendment while abdicating the First to liberals: Freedom of speech means the government can’t stop you from saying what you want, or force you to support what you don’t believe. It doesn’t mean you can avoid the consequences of people’s responses to your speech. It doesn’t prohibit others from choosing not to give you a forum for your views.
Conservatives have been leaping in front of bullets to defend Robertson’s First Amendment rights. What about A&E’s First Amendment rights?
In an interview with GQ magazine several months ago, Robertson declared that gays, fornicators, drunks, terrorists, and people who commit bestiality—you know, kissing cousins—won’t make it to heaven. In a 2010 sermon, he thundered that gays are “full of murder, envy, strife, hatred. They are insolent, arrogant, God-haters. They are heartless, they are faithless, they are senseless, they are ruthless. They invent ways of doing evil.” A&E subsequently announced that they would no longer bankroll Robertson’s cable TV stardom—a decision they have since reversed.
The way some Christian groups reacted, you’d think A&E had successfully lobbied the President to sign an executive order mandating that adherents of the country’s largest and most powerful religion communicate only via duck whistle.
The Duck Dynasty brouhaha isn’t about “tolerance,” as Robertson supporters claim. Pro-Robertson conservatives aren’t particularly tolerant of A&E’s right to express its views by declining to pay Robertson millions of dollars and give him airtime on their network.
In National Review Mark Steyn complained, “The forces of ‘tolerance’ are intolerant of anything less than full-blown celebratory approval.” I don’t know, lumping in members of committed, decades-long relationships with sheep buggerers and people who fly passenger jets into skyscrapers, and generously letting God decide who will spend eternity in a lake of fire, is rather far removed from “full-blown celebratory approval.” I think most same-sex marriage supporters would settle for “grudging acceptance of the law.”
You could just as easily say Steyn is intolerant of “anything less than full-blown celebratory approval” of Christianity and gay marriage opposition. Why does Steyn’s stance get to be the default position and support for gay marriage have to be the upstart one?
In a series of hyperventilating exaggerations, Steyn compared A&E’s business decision to Muslims in London bullying shopkeepers into not selling alcohol; chess players in the former Soviet Union politicizing the game; and French Revolutionaries hanging political enemies to set an example. How are any of these situations analogous to A&E’s private business decision?
Other false pro-Robertson arguments abound: Liberals are upset about Robertson but didn’t complain at the nasty things Martin Bashir said about Sarah Palin. Liberals are outraged over Robertson’s views but don’t balk when Muslim countries execute gays. Liberals support A&E’s right to fire Robertson but don’t favor the right of Christian bakers not to decorate wedding cakes for gays.
But “Liberals are hypocrites” is not an argument against A&E’s decision. Liberals are hypocrites—so? MSNBC made a defensible decision to fire Bashir. Iran’s virulently anti-gay leaders deserve condemnation. Owners of private shops shouldn’t be forced to cater to groups they don’t want to.
And A&E has the right to deny a platform to someone whose views it finds repugnant.
Other conservatives argue that Robertson is simply parroting his religion’s beliefs. Really? So because the holy text for his religion includes vile, dehumanizing statements about large subgroups of people, he’s allowed to repeat them at will without having to worry about his job security? Don’t most conservatives criticize Islamic extremists for similar behavior?
It’s embarrassing to see Christian groups leaping to Robertson’s defense the way they leapt to the defense of Chick-fil-A after gay groups boycotted the fast food chain over CEO Dan Cathy’s anti-gay views. I’m guessing those who jumped to Cathy’s defense thought the boycott was over his opposition to gay marriage, and weren’t aware of his comparison of homosexuality to pedophilia, his view that homosexuality should be illegal, his donation to groups that support “conversion therapy,” his preference for “exporting” gays out of the country, and his solidarity with anti-gay groups that opposed the U.S. condemning Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill. Similarly, I notice that Robertson supporters haven’t been quite so vocal in their defense of him since the revelation of his belief that African Americans were happier under Jim Crow.
Conservatives rightly denounce the moral relativist stance of “non-judgmentalism.” So why don’t they condone letting us use our brains to judge whether Robertson’s comments about gays and blacks are reasonable in this day and age?
Westboro Baptist Church members—they of the “God Hates Fags” and “God Loves Dead American Soldiers” funeral pickets—announced their solidarity with Robertson. That tells you about all you need to know. The group that condemns the American military for protecting a country that “embraces homosexuality” is A-OK with Robertson’s views.
If the head of Duck Dynasty espouses views that tickle the fancy of the most despised family dynasty in America, I think A&E is allowed to tell him to duck off.
Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics
- Response to Phil Robertson Article Attacks (robertmonteroblog.wordpress.com)
- Freedom of Speech? Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson quacks about homosexuals and “the blacks” (southinpopculture.com)
- What does free speech actually mean? (matteroffactsblog.wordpress.com)
- Weekly Thoughts: Phil Robertson (thetruthhasabias.wordpress.com)
- Henderson: ‘Duck Dynasty’ flap all about business (TBO.com)