John Ostrander: Shooting Off Your Mouth
This past week Phil Robertson, the patriarch on A&E’s Duck Dynasty (a show I will admit I’ve never watched) had an interview published in GQ (which I don’t read) in which he compared homosexuality to bestiality, among other things. And when he was growing up in the “pre-civil rights era,” he never saw an unhappy black person. Not one. “They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”
All this got him into a spot of trouble. A&E suspended him indefinitely from the show. The Robertson family has said they won’t film more episodes without the pater familias. The show is the most successful “reality” show on television – or so I’m told; remember, I don’t watch it.
There’s pushback now from the show’s supporters and right-wingnuts like Sarah Palin. La Palin said “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.”
Predictably all the Fox And Friends folks, never ones to pass up the opportunity to be victims or martyrs, are also pretty darned upset. Jim Pinkerton on Happening Now (which definitely should not be confused with the old black sitcom What’s Happenin’) said we’re seeing “A Purge Of Southern White Christian Patriotic Culture Out Of TV.” Geraldo Rivera said it was political correctness gone malignant. On his radio show, Sean Hannity opined that Robertson was just expressing “old fashioned traditional Christian sentiment and values.” And there are various people saying Robertson was being censored for speaking his mind and whatever happened to “Free Speech” and aren’t liberals a bunch of hypocrites and so on.
Okay, as has been pointed out by others, this isn’t a censorship matter. Censorship involves the government prohibiting speech. This is a TV cable network, not the government. I don’t think it’s a “Free Speech” matter, either. Robertson spoke his mind and there was a consequence. The cable company acted to protect its own perceived interests. That’s their right.
Was it Hate Speech? No, I don’t think so. It was boneheaded. He had other thoughts including saying that up until the time of the Great Flood, everyone was a vegetarian. (The nuns back at St. Jerome’s Elementary School never mentioned that when I was growing up. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention; that’s possible.) It all comes from a very literal reading of the Bible and interpreting it within your own prejudices.
Did Robertson have a right to say what he did? Sure. Just as GLAAD and the NAACP had a right to respond. Just as Palin et al have a right to their responses. “Free Speech” doesn’t protect you from hearing things that you don’t like. I remember when the American Nazi party marched in Skokie, Illinois; it was allowed under Free Speech – as was a counter-demonstration by those who opposed them. Both came under protected speech.
This is mostly a tempest in a duck pond. All the episodes for the new season of Duck Dynasty have been filmed save one. What will happen is that A&E’s “indefinite suspension” will be that episode. If they’re smart, that episode will be the last episode and will cover the “furor,” it will be a “cliffhanger” and then Robertson will be back for the following season and that premiere will score even larger ratings for the show than usual. A&E will claim they made their point, The Fauxes et al will claim victory, Phil Robertson will have had his soapbox and all involved with the show will make a ton of money. That’s America.
To tell the truth, Robertson’s view on gays (or anything else) doesn’t really bother me. They’re not going to have much affect on anyone that doesn’t already agree with him. He’s preaching to the choir. Vladimir Putin’s views on homosexuality do bother me; he’s the head of state over in Russia and his views get made into policy and laws.
Just a little proportion on the matter.
MONDAY MORNING: Mindy Newell
TUESDAY MORNING: Jen Krueger