“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.