It seems there are several controversies whirling around, most specifically about a person from Louisiana featured on a television show, who has been rather outspoken up to this point. Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty responds to an interview with answers equivalent to stepping into a mine field. Phil doesn’t seem to think too highly of homosexuality. “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.”
He also offers an opinion on why hunting is authorized by God… “Look at this,” he says, gesturing to the surrounding wilderness. “The Almighty gave us this. Genesis 9 is where the animals went wild, and God gave them wildness. After the flood, that’s when he made animals wild. Up until that time, everybody was vegetarian. After the flood, he said, ‘I’m giving you everything now. Animals are wild.’”
So, with just this sampling of comments, you understand Phil isn’t exactly a wallflower when it comes to having an opinion. Here’s the problem I have with the decision by A&E to remove the family head, the Duck Commander himself from the series, it’s called freedom of speech. You don’t need to agree with all of the opinions of the people you put before us on television. I don’t even agree with some of the opinions of people who claim to be spouting fact. The whole idea behind freedom of speech or expression, people are allowed to express or act out without being squelched by mega-corporations like A&E or even the federal government.
Freedom of speech isn’t a play for favorites or a message of convenience. It’s sometimes ignorant, foolish or in your face, but that’s how it’s got to be if we want it to be a fundamental unassailable right. Once we start picking and choosing, the repercussions are unavoidably negative. It’s a two edge sword that cuts both ways. Yes, we have heard from the legal beagles talk about “Hate Speech”, but that line is so wide and so gray it’s difficult to suggest this would fall under that definition.
I may not like the lyrics in some rap songs about shooting cops or beating on women but because of the Constitution, they get to write it, package and sell it as music. My choices are avoid buying & listening but that’s as far as it goes.
A&E in their infinite wisdom decided to curtail involving the lead person in this reality show of 14+ million viewers because he said something their executives don’t agree with what he thinks or says. Welcome to the real world A&E. Then again, A&E may be dragged into this reality by messing with a formula which has given them a lot of exposure and earned them a lot of revenue. Perhaps in the end, money will be too big of a reason to reject the principle of freedom of speech. After all, it worked on behalf of Larry Flynt, and I’m not overly fond of what he has to say, either.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Freedom of speech is a fundamental right in a free society. It prohibits the limitation of speech, art and music. This has been tested many times and in many ways through court decisions. Our Constitution carefully outlines our rights as inalienable(1) and allows us to say, write, paint or listen to things deemed by others to be offensive. The amendment goes further than just freedom of speech, it specifically declares the press can write stories without limits in its articles, we have the right to assemble or gather and to petition the government for a grievances, and the implied rights of association and belief.
Notes: (1) inalienable means not transferable to another or capable of being revoked. It also means absolute, inherent or without question. So, if you hear that our fundamental rights include freedom of speech, it assumes you know it’s without question a fundamental right.
(2) Read More about this interview with Phil Robertson
- First Amendment (Cornell Law School)
- The Duck Goes Wild (tarpon.wordpress.com)
- First Amendment to the United States Constitution (Wikipedia)
- Constitutional What? (The Bang Switch)
- Who was Thomas Nast? (A history of Thomas Nast)
- War on Christmas (John Stewart has some fun with Christmas Controversy)