The Slippery Slope That is Freedom of Expression

Phil Robertson’s anti-gay comments in a GQ article have swirled up a storm of controversy because he has been suspended from filming on the show “Duck Dynasty”.  There are people screaming about how he is being denied freedom of speech and that it is ridiculous that he is being banned from his own show.  The memes are popping up fast and furious.  I took umbrage at his comments, being a pretty verbal supporter of gay rights.  But in no way, shape, or form am I implying that he should have kept his thoughts to himself.

My bachelor’s degree is in English, and I have to believe that a lot of English majors are pretty staunch supporters of freedom of speech.  Censorship is a bad, bad thing in the world of writing.  I am no exception.  My favorite book is Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, and I live in mortal dread of our society becoming the one portrayed in that novel.  Actually, I don’t see us being all that far off (seashell radios = earbuds, does anyone else see that????), and the more people in society talk about removing or restricting material they find offensive, the closer and closer we get to the world of Fahrenheit 451.

So when Phil Robertson says, “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,”  (Read More      http://www.gq.com/entertainment/television/201401/duck-dynasty-phil-robertson#ixzz2nw3ZZ1ex) I wonder how people would react if the quote instead read something more like this:

“It seems like, to me, a white woman — as a white man — would be more desirable than a black woman.  That’s just me.  I’m just thinking: There’s more there!  The white woman has more to offer.  I mean, come on white folks!  You know what I’m saying?  But hey, marrying outside your race: It’s not logical, my man.  It’s just not logical.”

Or what if the quote sounded like this:

“It seems like, to me, a man for the job — as a man — would be more desirable than a woman.  That’s just me.  I’m just thinking: There’s more there!  The man has more to offer the company.  I mean, come on, guys!  You know what I’m saying?  But hey, hiring a woman to do a man’s job: it’s not logical, my man.  It’s just not logical.”

Would people be jumping up and down screaming about his freedom of speech?  I would hope so, because Phil Robertson is free to speak his mind on any topic he chooses!  But I think what is really happening with the reaction to his statement isn’t outrage at restriction of his speech (because NOBODY has restricted his speech); it’s outrage at being suspended from filming the show because of his comments.  Would people think he deserves to be suspended if he made the comments I made up that were racist or sexist?  I would hope so.  Racist speech and sexist speech — any derogatory speech for that matter — should not be squelched.  But with freedom of expression comes consequences.  And Robertson is facing consequences.  He isn’t suspended from HIS show.  He’s suspended from a show ABOUT him and his family.  “Duck Dynasty” belongs to A & E, if I’m not mistaken.  And that network needs to protect its ratings and its profits, and if it fears losing those things based on Robertson’s anti-gay comments, A & E has every right to suspend him to protect its assets, not just “Duck Dynasty” but all the other shows on their network as well.  After all, consumers may decide that they don’t want to watch ANY show on A & E because “Duck Dynasty” is on that network, and maybe advertisers don’t want to advertise on that network, either.  A & E has to protect its investment.  Maybe Robertson has the rights to the show and he can therefore peddle his show to another network if he’s unhappy with his treatment by A & E.  It is a free country, as everyone is quick to point out.  This is all about the almighty dollar.  A & E doesn’t care what Phil Robertson has to say about gay people; A & E cares about making money off “Duck Dynasty”.  And don’t be mistaken — Phil Robertson doesn’t care about making sure “Duck Dynasty” is high quality television programming; he cares about making money off “Duck Dynasty” — despite the fact that he’s already got plenty,plenty, plenty of money!  But getting as much money is also quite American, isn’t it?

Everybody should have their own opinion — if they choose to have one — about this new thing to argue about and pit friends and family against each other.  Goodness knows there simply isn’t enough to argue about and hate each other about right now.  But make your opinion clear: Phil Robertson is NOT having his freedom of expression denied.  He is facing consequences for making a public statement about a controversial topic that some people have found offensive, and A & E is reacting in a way to protect its financial interests.  So have your opinion — if you choose to have one — about how you feel personally about his comments or how you feel personally about the way A & E has handled this.

My opinion — because I choose to have one — is that Phil Robertson made remarks publicly that are discriminatory and therefore offensive, and he is receiving justifiable backlash from A & E.  I do not believe or ever, ever want anyone to prevent Phil Robertson from speaking his mind, no matter how disgusting I find his opinion to be.

About renbog

I have opinions and I have passions and I like to write.
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2 Responses to The Slippery Slope That is Freedom of Expression

  1. Eric Davisson says:

    Renee,
    I have no skin in this game. I don’t watch much on A & E. I could care less one way or another what Phil or anyone else things about gays. One thing I do know, that the overwhelming points of view I see on social media sites, are to back/support Phil, at least his right to say what he said. This comes from all “sexual” persuasions that I’ve seen, straight, gay and everything else out there. But I would wager a $2 bill the pro’s for Robertson far outnumber the pro’s for A & E and that silly GQ article that stirred up this fecal matter to begin with. Like I said in the Facebook post, A & E is taking a calculated risk also, by the stance they are taking because of what was reported on a totally different “venue”. The phrase….self-inflicted wound comes to mind, but we will see. Or maybe this story will just die out like the Megyn Kelly, White Santa 24 hour tiff on many liberal media sites. Things like this stuff don’t last too long when people are hurting out there……91 million unemployed, $17 trillion+ in federal deficits, $92 trillion in unfunded liabilities, over 50 million on welfare…….this story too, shall pass probably sooner rather than later.

    Like

  2. renbog says:

    I have backed Phil Robertson’s right to say what he said, emphatically. And yes, this story will die away like so many others. A & E could lose viewers and advertisers if they didn’t suspend Robertson; A & E could lose viewers and advertisers for suspending him. Any action or inaction is a calculated risk. Of course the overwhelming majority of people on social media support his freedom of speech. That’s not even a question in my mind. But how many people share his point of view on gays? The tide is turning in favor of gay rights as evidenced by the crawl toward marriage equality. I assume this is what prompted A & E to suspend Robertson, fear of offending those who are gay and gay supporters. Nobody has stifled his freedom of speech and nobody wants to stifle his freedom of speech — at least I hope not. But I am going to stand by my opinion that Phil Robertson is clothing himself in mistaken Christianity and that he has bigoted views on gay people. And I hope he stands on his opinions as well because he has a right to them.

    Now, on another note…. you have so much to say, Eric. YOU should start your own blog!!!!!!!! I can help you if you want!!!!!!!

    Like

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