Why the suspension of Phil Robertson is far from a 1st Amendment violation
The controversy surrounding the suspension of Phil Robertson from the A&E show “Duck Dynasty” has been spurring many arguments over free speech rights. Many conservatives are saying that A&E suspending Phil Robertson is a violation of his freedom of speech. Let’s make this very clear; this is not a free speech issue.
Before we explore the issue of why conservatives are so upset about this, we should recap what it was that Phil Robertson said that caused his suspension in the first place. Phil Robertson was being interviewed by GQ Magazine, in which he was asked about his opinions on gay marriage. Robertson gave a rather typical, yet very offensive, conservative reply.
Robertson stated that being gay basically led to adultery and bestiality. Robertson lumped being gay in the same category of being a terrorist or a drunk. Robertson also touted traditional conservative jargon by stating that “Jesus is the answer.” Obviously, the content of what Robertson said angered many people in favor of LGBT rights.
It must be stated that the only reason why this spat over the Duck Dynasty patriarch is getting so much press is the fact that, unfortunately, the show and its franchise is rather popular. Apparently the show has an annual audience of 14 million viewers.
As much as I despise so-called “reality” television, there are millions of Americans that are enthralled with these shows and take them way too seriously. It has to be understood that the reason Phil Robertson received the reaction he did is because he is a TV star, and his words could impact the millions of viewers that watch his show.
Now let’s approach the “free-speech” violation argument. Since A&E has put Robertson on temporary suspension, conservatives have been screaming about how Robertson’s 1st Amendment rights were violated. Well, Robertson’s situation has nothing to do with his constitutional rights being violated, it has everything to do with free-enterprise.
A&E is a private network, and has discretion to hire or fire anyone they choose if they feel that person hurts the network’s brand. Businesses in general tend to reserve that right for themselves. Especially in the case of the star of one of network’s most popular shows, who says something very defamatory. Last I checked, I’m pretty sure A&E has LGBT viewers who more than likely found Robertson’s comments very offensive.
Phil Robertson was not arrested or charged with a crime by the government for what he said. The 1st Amendment right to free-speech is guaranteed to protect against legal persecution by the government for said speech. The 1st Amendment however, does not give citizens a right to avoid the consequences of what they say. In essence, the conservatives are arguing exactly that; free-speech also means avoiding responsibility for what one says. That is of course unless you are liberal or left-leaning.
The Constitution, for better or worse, does not guarantee right to employment. Phil Robertson has a right to say whatever he wants, yet does not have a right to avoid responsibility for what he says. It’s so ironic how the conservatives, who always go on about the free market and personal responsibility, somehow think none of that applies in this case. The market reacted to the negative views of what Robertson said, and A&E as a private company acted accordingly. Are conservatives now saying the free market is wrong? I thought the market was never wrong?
This is not a free-speech issue, this is a free market issue. 1st Amendment guarantees that the government cannot persecute free speech, it says nothing about private companies controlling their employees. Honestly, I’ve seen people get fired at jobs over less than what Robertson was suspended for. As a parting shot, I also must state that the show Duck Dynasty is about as fake as it comes.
To conclude my statements on this matter, I am including a video which sums up my feelings in a nutshell. The video was made by atheist comedian Dusty Smith, through his personal YouTube channel CultOfDusty. WARNING; if you can’t take swearing, don’t watch the video. The opinions are sharp and to the point.