Duck Dynasty and Freedom of Speech

Duck DynastyAll over Facebook, many people are talking about Duck Dynasty, freedom of speech, and what Phil Robertson’s comments mean to the gay community as well as to our society at large. People of every sexual orientation are weighing in, some supporting Robertson and others condemning him for his comments. Those in support of Robertson are focused on one battle cry: “freedom of speech.”

In order to examine the cultural significance of Robertson’s comments, it’s important to first examine what freedom of speech really means. Those supporting Robertson seem to think that freedom of speech means the freedom to say whatever we want, anytime, about anything or anyone, without suffering any consequences whatsoever. That’s where Robertson’s supporters are drastically mistaken.

Freedom of speech in America means that we can say most things without being thrown in jail. That’s it. That’s all that freedom of speech means, and that’s all it was ever intended to mean. Freedom of speech does not mean we can slam a group of people, use hate speech, compare gays to criminals or spread vitriol on national television and not face consequences from people who are offended by what we say.

It’s important to make that distinction because it provides the framework for a fair discussion of the consequences Robertson suffered by being suspended from A&E’s Duck Dynasty. Robertson’s champions, generally Christian, conservative and in support of private businesses being able to do whatever they want (remember the outcry over the bakery and the gay wedding cake?) have suddenly become in favor of private businesses not being able to do whatever they want. Wouldn’t that be called hypocrisy?

The fact is, A&E, as a private entity, can do whatever it wants when it comes to its employees saying offensive things, just as any other business in the United States can. Many businesses have strict anti-discrimination policies in place, and no one would raise an eyebrow over the enforcement of such a policy at any other privately owned company. Conversely, other companies welcome people to state their opinions no matter what that opinion is, including this newspaper, the Guardian Liberty Voice. Those companies also have the right to allow that without disciplining anyone for what they say.

Facebook commenter Rob Van Meter pointed out the hypocrisy of the community supporting Robertson; the same community who generally thinks private enterprises have the right to run their companies as they see fit, in a comment earlier today, saying:

CHECKMATE, REDNECKS. A&E owns their own Network…A&E is making their own decision based on their own business plan. Remember what you guys said about the “free market” and Chick Fil A? Now who are the whiny babies who want special rights?? The Duck Dynasty has every right to buy their own TV station and put out whatever they want. This is America, remember? And don’t forget your belief that Hobby Lobby cannot provide birth control in their health plans because of religious freedom… We can’t change the constitution every five minutes to fit the latest situation where you have offended someone or feel them having rights somehow affects yours. So let’s get this straight, are private companies allowed to conduct business how they want to or not? What’s it gonna be?

Other commenters spoke of how Robertson’s comments affected them personally. Kristin Baer Nelson said the comments were insulting to her friends and questioned the reason Robertson didn’t instead choose to attack other groups who actually deserved criticism:

No – I do NOT appreciate what Phil Robertson said…You see – THAT is what religion does to people – it makes them stupid & mean. You take an otherwise funny, intelligent person whom I really admired, then he spouts off about his religious beliefs & insults my friends…People like that are bigots & make me sick. Every anti-gay/Christian friend I have will be posting their “support” for his comments. I say shame on them! Why doesn’t he go after…the KKK? Or child molesters? No, he has to reserve his insults for innocent people just trying to live their lives & not bother anyone else. To me, hating gay people is the equivalent to being a racist. You are judging people off something they cannot control.

Others pointed out that Robertson didn’t seem to be practicing what he was preaching, and that his remarks have ruined their enjoyment of Duck Dynasty. Facebook commenter Linda Lopizzo explained:

I was not shocked. I’m surprised he didn’t say it earlier than he did. Religion is always mentioned as a huge part of their life in a “love and forgive” way, but you had to know it was lingering underneath. Phil’s age, his religion along with where and how he grew up makes me believe there is racism along with his anti-Gay views. I liked the show. I liked how close the family is and I liked the rags to riches story through education, hard work and ingenuity. I did know I was on borrowed time, though; that any minute Phil or Sy would start talking Tea Party. I did assume women’s issues would be his first offensive remarks. No, I was not surprised at his remarks, just saddened by them and the fact that with all his religious talk he was not able to practice all that love he was preaching.

Emotions run deep over Robertson’s comments, and those emotions are informing A&E’s decision to suspend Robertson from Duck Dynasty “indefinitely.” Society only progresses when the offense people feel at hate speech spills over into real consequences for such speech. Consequences, such as the steps A&E have taken to suspend Robertson, tell society that speaking against gays in a hateful way such as comparing them to people who engage in bestiality, simply isn’t acceptable anymore.

Just as it is no longer acceptable to spew racist comments, so it is not acceptable to down the gay community with false and unfair comparisons. That’s called progress. We have come together, collectively, as a society to say “No. Speaking with hatred against gays is wrong, and it is offensive, and we don’t accept it. You can do it, but if you do it, there will be cultural consequences.”

Phil Robertson has been suspended from Duck Dynasty, but make no mistake-he has enjoyed, and will continue to enjoy, freedom of speech. He won’t be jailed for his comments, nor should he be; but yes, he will suffer consequences, and rightly so, because we don’t want to hear vitriol against gays anymore, and it’s just too bad for those who disagree.

An Editorial By: Rebecca Savastio


Chicago Tribune


New York Post

17 Responses to "Duck Dynasty and Freedom of Speech"

  1. come on people   December 22, 2013 at 9:18 am

    You can’t go to work and call your boss an idiot, tell him he’s going to hell and expect to keep your job. It is within your RIGHTS to say those things and it is within your employers RIGHTS to fire you. It has nothing to do with expressing his religious views and A&E trying to silence him. I’m sure there are plenty of people at A&E who agree with his views. However, Duck Dynasty isn’t the only show on their network and eventually Duck Dynasty will be pulled from production when the number of people watching it declines, just like EVERY OTHER SERIES, EVER! It was a business decision plain and simple.Keeley

  2. notpartofyourcults   December 21, 2013 at 8:50 am

    Freedom of speech does NOT excuse freedom from thought. People hide their TAUGHT bigotry behind religion. Good old greedy, murderous, hate mongering religion.

  3. Sean   December 20, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    Will the people who mention how Mr. Robertson voiced or demonstrated hate please! Re read the interview. He was quoting what the bible scriptures read. Homosexual offenders, as he stated is an offense against the teachings of Gods Word. Do not treat it like he was calling Gay people some horrible name. He said he showed no ill will towards his brothers and sisters. He would show them the same love as he would his own family. God loves all, man woman and child, but there are consequences for ALL our actions. Being homosexual has its consequences as the bible states. Why is it ok for the gay community to say how people who disagree with their sexual orientation are deemed bigots, racist, homophobes……..frankly I find that as racist as the other is perceived. Do not compare God fearing people or anyone for that matter who disapprove with the real racism and bigotry in our world. Let’s be honest, how many people are out there who are so offended by what Mr. Robertson said and will voice it publicly around their pro gay friends, but really are to afraid to disagree because they will be shunned and persecuted by those same friends. God bless all, but if you do not believe in God and his word then don’t take the scriptures out of contest for your own political views and sexual orientation beliefs.

  4. Shannon   December 20, 2013 at 5:54 am

    Chris, I just so happened to have stumble upon a 1,001 year old book yesterday! I know, unbelievable. The scientific community is beside itself. What was most surprising, however, is that it actually states that heterosexuals are going against the laws of nature. That “god” had actually intended for all intimate relationships to be between man and man or woman and woman. Don’t worry, it still asks us to love one another equally. I sorry to report, however, that you are not allowed to marry a woman, join her insurance plan, make medical decisions on her behalf, etc. So effective today all same sex couples that are married are no longer. Now don’t get all easily offended and dramatic. Bunch of straight babies.

    You’ll notice that not one pro-gay commenter has argued freedom of speech. Not one. Phil, you do you and you will not get arrested, charged with any sort of crime, fined, etc. What I am arguing is that there may be consequences. This isn’t because we want to impede freedom of speech. For example, I chose to drink a 12 pack of beer last night. Totally legal and it was delicious. Unfortunately, though, I paid the price today. Legal actions do not equal zero consequences.

  5. kevin   December 20, 2013 at 1:45 am

    im always so amused with the religious.
    in a religion thats about peace and forgiveness they feel its their religious right to offend others.
    but as soon as you get counterarguments you act like crybabies shouting about religious intolerance.

    • notpartofyourcults   December 21, 2013 at 8:52 am

      You hit it right on the head. Religion was created by men to control the thought process of those incapable of independent thought. Sheeple. They herd together at any cost. Pitiful.

  6. Joey W   December 19, 2013 at 11:56 pm

    It would appear that many folks think A&E has every right to censor Phil. They are right, of course –

    Just like I have a right to contact ALL of A&E’s advertisers and advise them that I will no longer purchase their products, because of A&E’s position.

    Freedom works both ways; those who wish to censor opinions may, in fact, find themselves being boycotted.

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