I’ve seen the term “Freedom of Speech” thrown around haphazardly lately, mostly by people that obviously don’t have any grasp as to what it means. This is mostly a response to the recent debacle regarding Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson, and his suspension from A&E Networks. I’m here to make the facts clear.
First, let’s look at the allegations. On the record, in an interview for GQ Magazine and in other videos and interviews in recent years, he has said the following:
- “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,”…“Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”
- “Women with women, men with men, they committed indecent acts with one another, and they received in themselves the due penalty for their perversions. They’re full of murder, envy, strife, hatred. They are insolent, arrogant, God-haters. They are heartless, they are faithless, they are senseless, they are ruthless. They invent ways of doing evil. That’s what you have 235 years, roughly, after your forefathers founded the country.”
- (regarding Muslims and Socialists) “Why do they murder and why do they hate us? Because all of them … 80 years of history, they all want to conquer the world, they all rejected Jesus and they’re all famous for murder. Nazis, Shintoists, Communists and the Mohammedists. Every one of them the same way.” (Nazis were openly Christian, by the way.)
- [A good woman is] “hard to find. Mainly because these boys are waiting until they get to be about 20 years old before they marry ’em. Look, you wait till they get to be about 20 years old, the only picking that’s going to take place is your pocket. You gotta marry these girls when they’re 15 or 16, they’ll pick your ducks. You need to check with mom and dad about that, of course.”
- (implying that African Americans had it better before Jim Crow laws) “Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field … They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’ — not a word!”… “Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”
Now, remember, Phil Robertson’s primary job was as a hunter. A&E Networks gave him an opportunity to further his financial career and raise his profile by giving him a reality show to front. This being said, ANY AND ALL such arrangements include the star signing contracts, part of which outlines their responsibilities as a face for the corporation. Gilbert Gottfried was fired by Aflac for Tsunami jokes, Lil Wayne was fired by Mountain Dew for his offensive lyrics, and Justine Sacco was just fired by IAC for a racist tweet. Phil Robertson’s job was to promote his show, and conduct himself publicly in a way compliant with A&E’s desired social image. It is understood that if at any time, he can no longer fulfill those duties, he can be let go by the corporation. They have an image to protect, and have to distance themselves from the backlash of negative affiliations, of which his statements clearly make him. They have gone on record in the past as being supportive of LGBT issues, and see themselves as a socially progressive company. The last thing they want is to be represented in the media by a bigot, nor having their logo become synonymous with exclusionary ignorance. They have shareholders to please, and a responsibility to protect their image. After all, ignorance has a channel to watch. It’s called Fox News.
Freedom of Speech entitles Americans with the freedom to speak their views and opinions without fear of government harassment, either by detention, fines, or execution. NONE OF THESE REPERCUSSIONS HAVE HAPPENED. Freedom of Speech does not, however, free you of any societal consequences nor exempt you of any contractual obligations to your employer. If you want to share negative views, expect not only to become a pariah, but also be sure you know your employer’s policies on negative publicity. This being thoroughly explained, let me illustrate the differences between the United States (with Free Speech) and countries with limited speech.
I hope the differences are clear enough. But here, let’s simplify the issue.
A&E Networks is a privately owned company. They do not belong to the public, and do not owe a pulpit to any individual wanting to espouse a litany of racist homophobia. They have a responsibility to their shareholders to protect their company image and to distance themselves from those that speak against the company’s political stances. Every private company has that right, no matter which side of the politics they fall on, and risks the outcome of taking a stand.
Any person that throws a fit over cold fries forgets the obscene gluttony we as Americans are afforded.
Any person that complains about the quality of their entertainment forgets that we are privileged to have uncensored access to the web, books, and film.
Any person that takes it upon themselves to preach against what consenting adults do in their own bedroom, has forgotten the basic human rights our forefathers gave their lives to leave us as a legacy. They have forgotten all of the freedoms and liberties that blood bought them, and they take this nation for granted. They are the worst patriots of all for wanting to enjoy freedom while consciously robbing other citizens of it. How dare they pick and choose convenient Bible verses to support their backwards bigotry and use the American flag as a disguise for xenophobia.
HOW. DARE. THEY.
They dare, because speech is free. Just as mine is. And that’s how Freedom of Speech works.