Once again, a company that is in effect punishing an American for his or her views on a complex social or political issue is being excused as simply “watching out for the bottom line.” This time, it is cable network HGTV, which cancelled a planned cable show about home repair because one of the prospective stars expressed an opinion adverse to gay activists. Last week, it was the NBA; before that, the agent of activist vengeance was Mozilla, and before that, A&E, until it decided that it was more profitable to do one “right thing” (not punish the duck call eccentrics for being open about who the network and its viewers always knew they were) rather than what it had decided earlier was the “right thing” (“STONE THE BIGOTS!!!”). None of these profit-making organizations are the least bit interested in what is right or wrong, of course, and probably don’t give the ethical implications of their acts a moment’s thought. All they are worried about is money, and what they will grandstand as their “principled decision” will always, amazingly, coincide with whose bullying tactics are more likely to succeed.
For this, they are excused. On a CNN “debate” this morning about the fairness of dumping a home repair show because an anti-conservative website posted comments by one of the Benham brothers—who were set to star in the show—that could not rationally be called “bigoted” (saying one opposes “the gay agenda” is a political statement, nothing more), the media expert defending HGTV kept saying that it was a rational business decision, because the suits have seen what happened in similar cases—Paula Dean at the Food Network, and Bill Maher on Comedy Central, to name just two. He also kept saying that it’s not a “free speech issue.”
It is a free speech issue: it just isn’t a First Amendment issue. If our right to have differing views from gay, black, female, anti-religious, pro-illegal immigrant and extreme political correctness zealots becomes impossible to exercise because various mobs and boycotts intimidate our communities and employers, then we don’t have free speech, and the right guaranteed in the Constitution is worth nothing at all.
Free speech, and the determination to tolerate and encourage it even when the ideas expressed are repulsive, shocking, or <gasp!> offensive, requires a nation, a people and its institutions and business entities to possess principle, sacrifice, fortitude and guts, the latter being the most important. A democratic republic is a form of government that depends on courage, and the culture appears to be doing an efficient job of purging this essential element from the character of the nation, from the smallest situation—a child facing down a social media bully—to systemic rot–elected representatives doing what is necessary in the best interests of the nation, rather than what is expedient to keep their jobs—to the abdication of international responsibility—the United States intervening to save the lives of innocents from murderous despots. This celebration of self-preservation, protection from discomfort and sacrifice, and aversion to disagreement and conflict eventually guarantees the destruction of the cultural features that have made this nation unique, virtuous and successful, and the first and most devastating casualty is the loss of free speech and thought.
This morning, I heard an advocate for Donald Sterling’s wife, a demonstrably awful women (she did marry him, after all) who is manipulating this ethics train wreck for her own gain, argue that she, unlike her husband, should be allowed to keep the NBA team they jointly own because she has expressed her strong disapproval of her husband’s views. So now, in America, the only way you are allowed to keep what you own is if you disavow what your husband said, is that it?
Hmmm…where was it that denouncing loved ones was required to keep your property, indeed. your life? It’s right on the tip of my tongue…
But this is OK, don’t you see? Because it is only a private company, and behind them, Al Sharpton and David Gregory and the NAACP and the NBA players and all the touchy, cowardly sponsors insisting that it is only acceptable to think what are considered happy, non-subversive thoughts, not the government!
It is not OK, however. Because these companies are without principle, and are not willing to take their proper place with every other citizen who cares about liberty in fighting the slow suffocation of free thought and dissent, free speech as a cultural value is being threatened. They are not passive bystanders, they are active participants, and “Gee, we’re not trying to hurt anyone, we’re just protecting our profits!” is a rationalization that gives political correctness bullies, speech censors and boycott specialists power over all of us that they should not and must not have.
I don’t believe in organized boycotts: they are the problem here, not the solution. I also, however, believe that we need to make companies whose abject cowardice is destroying the core American commitment to free speech recognize that there is a cost to that as well. “We’re punishing the expression of social and political views because all we care about is money” is not an acceptable excuse. These companies—the NBA, Cracker Barrel, HGTV, Comedy Central, A&E, Mozilla—are de facto foes of free speech, and should be designated as such, loudly, clearly, and relentlessly.
Let’s see what that does to the bottom line.
Sources: CNN, Deadline Hollywood
9 thoughts on “HGTV And Corporate Cowardice: Hold Companies Accountable For Stifling Speech, Opinion, And Thought”
What, exactly, was HGTV trying to accomplish?
Whether it was initially intended or not, one thing has become clear based on what we have seen over the last few years:
The advancement of gay rights has now resulted in the de facto legitimization of religious discrimination, something once outlawed by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. If anything, the gay-rights movement has literally assured that in some ways, their opponents have FEWER constitutional protections.
Whether it is New Mexico embracing coerced expression in the Elane Photography case, or the pattern of threats I outlined last year in what became a Comment of the Day (https://ethicsalarms.com/2013/03/28/comment-of-the-day-the-same-sex-marriage-wars/), the pattern is clear.
To some extent, Jack, in two cases (Dr. Angela McCaskill), I think you have contributed to situations like HGTV.
In the case of Dr. McCaskill, you helped send the following message:
Any Mormon, Catholic, evangelical Christian, Eastern Orthodox Christian, or Seventh-Day Adventist (among others) who remains faithful to their religion’s teachings about marriage or defends them in the public sphere is, according to your own blog here (as recently as 17 April of this year), incapable of serving as a Chief Diversity Officer (or in a similar position).
In the case of Elane Photogaphy, you celebrated the ruling that in essence, forces a Christian photographer to photograph certain events or face thousands of fines. In essence, you have sided with those who claimed a right to coerce expression – and chipped away at the First Amendment/free speech protections, which by definition includes the right to NOT speak.
I do not consider as bad as Andrew Sullivan in terms of the witch-hunt going on, but you have, in my opinion, been quite inconsistent in terms of standing against it.
Nope. In the McCaskill incident, she foolishly publicized a view that materially undermined her ability to do her job. I have taken the same position with teachers who proclaim intolerance for gays. The duty is to the constituency being served. The issue isn’t that the view is wrong, it is that the view is incompatible with the duties she has to fulfill. If HGTV was looking at a show about building gay self-esteem and the same hosts were involved, it would be irresponsible NOT to fire them. Moreover, McCaskill was not fired. She was transferred to another job. When HGTV has another gig for the brothers, the analogy will be closer to validity.
Here’s the real parallel: in the post about the lawyer who said “all police lie,” such a statement mandates firing for any assistant district attorney. Freedom of speech has nothing to do with it (which is why even the government could do this). Some statements undermine the ability to do a job, and an employer has ever right to take action.. Remodeling houses does not remotely require supporting pro-gay issues (or not opposing them).
Or a better one: A Minority Recruitment Officer in a University admissions department announces his opposition to affirmative action. Now, that opinion doesn’t necessarily mean he can’t do his job, but the statement undermines the institution’s credibility on its dedication to mission: he has to go. If an Mozilla executive makes the same statement of opinion? Irrelevant to his job, and the company has a duty to stand firm. Outside of zealots, do Mozilla users care more about the service, or the political views of its leadership?
HGTV has done a cowardly thing to the Benham Brothers. To say that you are ok with gays but opposed to the gay agenda seems to me to be pretty non controversial. Unfortunately the guys are just two guys trying to make a living and probably don’t have to clout to fight HGTV without help. Maybe FOX will at least interview them. Sounds like CNN tried to do something about this but really just provided a platform for the “media expert”. Is there free speech anymore? The world wonders!
Don’t forget, Wayne, that they were exposed as (shudder) Christians! And not only that, but Christians who don’t compromise on biblical ethics for the sake of the pop culture. What this amounts to is HGTV kowtowing to the “gay agenda” which includes as a core factor the literal persecution of all who will not do likewise. This means Christians.
We’ve come to a point where a 2% block vote from the most degraded group of voters possible has successfully trumped the rights and livelihoods of those who were once the finest and most productive of American citizens. This was done with the connivance of hard core secular leftists who, for their own reasons, also must marginalize the Christian ethic. An unholy alliance, indeed.
This is why I stand so firmly against the deviant agenda. It’s not so much the depravity of spirit that they define themselves by, but the evil force for power they have become in their plan to subjugate all others. And then there’s the children.
The motivation of the left-leadership is to destroy America.
And let us not think the leftist leadership would not turn on gays if it suited their agenda.
Sure they would. They’ve already turned on the coal miners’ union- once one of their most important constituencies.