“There may have been a good reason why classical tolerance of expression was summed up in the epigram: ‘I disagree with what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it!’ That has a different feel than: ‘I disagree with what you say, I think you are evil for having said it, I think no one should associate with you and you ought to lose your livelihood, and anyone who doesn’t agree with me about all that is skating on pretty thin ice as well, but hey, I don’t think you should be arrested for it.”
—– Reason Magazine’s Brian Doherty, writing about A&E choosing to punish its reality show star, Phil Robertson, for expressing his religious beliefs about homosexuality in response to a magazine interviewer’s question.
Nicely done, Mr. Doherty.
The progressive establishment has overplayed its hand badly on this one, I think, because the inherent contradiction in its position is pretty obvious, as illustrated by this tweet:
Comments Bryan Preston: “But discrimination against Christians is perfectly ok.”
Yes, that’s the political correctness way.
Desperately trying to defend unethical ground, the censorious wing of the Left—the group that wants to achieve its policy goals by demonizing dissent rather than by legitimate means—is predictably muddying the water by, for example, crying hypocrisy because conservatives cheered when Martin Bashir resigned from MSNBC. Martin Bashir, a supposedly professional broadcaster, breached all standards of professionalism and restraint when he composed and delivered a rant advocating that not only a crime, and a possibly fatal crime, but also a scatological, violent and disgusting assault, be committed on the person of a public figure purely on the basis that he disagreed with her opinion. This is outrageous workplace misconduct in professional broadcasting, and has nothing to do with Bashir’s expressed opinions. The misconduct is unprofessional language and hateful intent. Phil Robertson, who is a duck hunter and inventor, was honestly answering an interviewer’s question in a different medium. He didn’t use hateful words or images, he didn’t advocate that harm be done to any specific person or group of people. His opinion is held as religious faith and core morality by millions of Americans, and preached in churches to millions of Americans. The comparison between Bashir’s resignation (he was not even fired or suspended) and A&E’s unprincipled treatment of Robertson is desperate and intellectually dishonest.
The real issues uncovered by this incident—cultural tipping points come in the craziest places, but none crazier that reality television—are powerfully examined in this superb essay, also from Reason, by Jonathan Rauch.
Word is that the Robertson clan is prepared to pull its extremely popular and profitable show from A&E over the network’s treatment of Phil. This is a principled and courageous stand, and they should be applauded for it. A&E is trying to restrict their freedom to express their beliefs using financial restraints; the “Duck Dynasty” crew are asserting that some basic rights are worth more than money. Real liberals should be supporting them. It will be interesting to see who steps up.
14 thoughts on “Ethics Quote Of The Day (“Duck Dynasty” vs Political Correctness Division): Reason’s Brian Doherty”
I’ll say it again here: He has no First Amendment protection from A&E punishing him, as they are not government actors. However, the rush to demand “fire him because he said a thing I don’t like!” shows a worrying disregard for the IDEALS of the 1A on behalf of the American public.
We are on the same page, Luke, as you know. That’s exactly right. They can fire him. But it’s cowardly and hypocritical, and also, as you say, undermines our national ideals and liberties.
But I would also point out that behaviors have consequences. A&E’s knee-jerk reaction is very likely going to cost them a remarkably lucrative show. The Robertson’s, on the other hand, will continue making duck calls and getting rich, and may well wind up on another, less gutless, network. I can virtually guarantee that money is not a prime motivator for this family.
It’s not expensive to live in a swamp and eat frogs’ legs.
Which is apropos of what? Yes, they are deep country folks. Yes, they have deep religious beliefs (which I do not share, by the bye). And they also seem to be less than greedy, grasping Wall Street folks. What’s not to like?
I’m kind of curious. The 1st Amendment, naturally, only limits the government’s ability to censor speech. But the way it is worded (correctly, in my mind) states that each of us has an inalienable right to free speech. That is, it goes beyond simply ‘the government can’t stop speech’ but ‘individuals have a right to say what they like.’ And that any attempts to censor, chill, demonize, or quash speech are counter to that inalienable right, given to us by the creator.
Is Mr. Robertson still getting paid while on “hiatus”?
I haven’t seen any mention of this anywhere but it seems like an important question.
Disclosure: I’d describe myself as pretty left of center on most economic and social issues. This carries over to my politics: I voted for Walter Mondale in the first presidential election I ever voted in and would do so again. I also think Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” is not only a horrible, horrible novel, it’s the expositor of a very juvenile ethical system that’s no way to run a society; John Galt can go to hell as far as I’m concerned. I also don’t share the Robertson clan’s religious views, nor do I share his views on homosexuality. In fact, I find his views pretty repugnant. Just so’s you know my bona fides as a liberal who isn’t afraid of the label.
As a “real liberal”, I agree with the author from “Reason” on this issue. Sure, A&E has the right to fire or suspend Robertson, but it shouldn’t take action any more than, say, country radio stations should’ve held those moronic record crushings and bannings from airplay of Dixie Chicks albums about 10 years ago or so or the Baseball Hall of Fame should’ve excluded Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon from a Baseball Hall of Fame event marking the anniversary of the film “Bull Durham”.
Again, I don’t agree with Robertson on this, and I think he deserves to be pilloried for some not very well thought out views, especially lumping gays in with promiscuous people and people who practice bestiality. But if you argue that the Dixie Chicks or Robbins and Sarandon have the right to speak without having to worry about the equivalent of a blacklist, I think you have to argue against economic sanctions against Robertson as well. Pillory, yes. Suspend or fire, no.
There are lots of issues here; certainly the hypocrisy of the left is one. Another, however, is the restraints put on private enterprise.
Should A&E be prevented from firing someone? On what grounds? How’s that different from TV networks censoring programming for prime time viewership, or the blacklisting of advertisers in the 50s? Should the Methodist church be allowed to fire a minister because the minister won’t agree to not marry same sex couples?
What are the legitimate reasons to tell a non-governmental entity – corporation, religion, non-profit – that they cannot fire someone?
Thin ice, methinks.
Is anyone saying they can’t fire him, Charles? Certainly not me. Ethics is seldom about what someone can’t do, as you well know, but about what they shouldn’t do.
The Left in this country has decided that they are the conscience of the country, and that they can decide for others (like a wedding photographer in New Mexico, a baker in Colorado, or a florist in Washington state) what is right and wrong.
Therefore, the logical step is to suppress or crush any position that deviates form what they have deemed to be acceptable via coercion, thought control, and bullying. I once asked if those were “bugs” or “features” inherent in the push for same-sex marriage in particular.
We now have the answer. They are features of the gay rights movement in total, NOT just the push or same-sex marriage.
I don’t think the “Duck Dynasty” guys have much to worry about. Although, I don’t watch the show much, they were a bad match for A & E which has apparently adopted leftist “bully boy” tactic in dealing with political incorrectness. They’ll be happier at Fox or maybe the History Channel.
I’ll bet TRU TV is making an offer right now.
Another casualty of the be-offended-at-anything PC crowd:
A compliment of the Robertson’s family values has people in an uproar