Unless you actually live in the Louisiana backwater that the Robertson Clan resides in, by now you’ve probably heard about the big Duck Dynasty Controversy. Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson uttered his opinion about gays (among other things) during an interview with GQ.
In a likely damage control move, A+E then suspended him from the popular cable show indefinitely. And if that wasn’t enough, civil rights groups chimed in. And then more conservative figures also weigh in. Soon they all sang a Katy Perry Christmas carol cover while dancing in a style that is a little Bollywood and a little Hip-hop. Okay that last part didn’t happen. Here’s what did:
The Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBT civil rights group in the U.S., is demanding an apology from Phil Robertson and for A+E Networks to denounce his comments. “These remarks go beyond being outlandishly inaccurate and offensive,” the group said in a long and detailed statement. “They are dangerous and revisionist, appealing to those in our society who wish to repeat patterns of discrimination. We urge A+E to immediately denounce and repudiate Robertson’s comments. Furthermore, we call on you to see that Phil Robertson apologizes for his vitriolic comments. —source
While I don’t get the appeal of Duck Dynasty, somebody – a lot of somebodies since it is one of the most popular cable shows out there with 14 million fervent – does. I also don’t think Robertson should have been suspended by A&E**. The guy voiced his opinion about something he admittedly knows nothing about. (He also paraphrases the book of Genesis from the Bible I must have missed the part about everyone being a vegetarian until the Flood in my Sunday school learnins’).
“It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.” —Source
Was this an ignorant statement. Of course. Is he in need of some enlightenment and perhaps a homophobic reality check? No doubt. But we shouldn’t have a society where someone is punitively punished by their employer for voicing their opinion especially outside the confines of that employment. Even if that opinion doesn’t reflect the majority (or growing majority) or popular belief. He didn’t call for the gay people to be executed or hunted like ducks or even treated differently. He even went on to say in a statement to Fox News:
“…I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other.”
Now for a quick Civics review for those saying his first amendment rights are being violated. The first amendment protects you from having the government come in and arrest you for something you said. It doesn’t grant you impunity from breaking the law, such as committing slander or Defamation. It also limits obscenity and pornography, but doesn’t outright restrict them. One other thing the First Amendment doesn’t do: prevent someone else from speaking out or acting within the law against you.
In other words if you say you don’t like the color blue, the government isn’t going to knock on your door and arrest you. But they also aren’t gonna do anything if I decide I hate people who don’t like blue and I don’t buy your kids girl scout cookies, or loan you bus fare or do any of the thousands of minor passive-aggressive things I can to make your life more difficult if I have the power to do so.
So when Sarah Palin Sarah Palin tweeted: “Free speech is endangered species; those ‘intolerants’ hatin’ & taking on Duck Dynasty patriarch for voicing personal opinion take on us all.”
She was being her usual combination of dramatic and attention whoring. The United States Government, even the one with so-called socialist Barack Obama, isn’t going to endanger Robertson’s freedom of speech. In fact, I doubt Obama even watches Duck Dynasty and if he does, it’s probably to feel better about himself. [Hey that might be the draw of the show after all!] There is however, nothing stopping A&E from deeming Robertson’s comments a threat to its brand and executing any contract clauses Robertson and A&E agreed to for the $200K per episode.
Here’s where the Human Rights Campaign might be going a bit too far:
“We urge A+E to immediately denounce and repudiate Robertson’s comments. Furthermore, we call on you to see that Phil Robertson apologizes for his vitriolic comments.” — source
Translation: we don’t like what he said, make him stop and make him believe what we believe. This is a dangerous path to go down. It’s one thing to solicit an outfit like A+E to limit Robertson’s access to an audience to share his opinions. It’s quite another to try and force him to revise his belief system and apologize for it. At best you’re gonna get one of those non-apology apologies where the person says “if I did anything to offend anyone I’m sorry for that.”
Here’s the thing though: you don’t want a world where people like Robertson feel they cannot say what they believe. I’d rather know who these people are from the get go so I can avoid them and the only way to know that is to let them spew their garbage. Because restricting them from saying it isn’t the same as getting them to reconsider their belief system. All The Human Rights Campaign will accomplish is getting people LIKE Robertson to keep quiet while secretly harboring ill will toward homosexuals.
**Personally, I kinda think this is one of those No Such Thing as Bad Publicity scenarios where Star/Celebrity/Public Figure says something controversial, there’s backlash, there’s backlash to the backlash. There is clarification or apology for the comment and then everyone goes back to what they were doing but now you have even more viewers and fans than you did before. But that is just my opinion and hopefully ChicagoNow won’t suspend me for it.
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