Free Speech in a Free Market

Phil Robertson (no relation–the only ducks we hunted in my household were electronic*), who appears on the popular A&E show Duck Dynasty, said some things:

It seems like, to me, a vagina — as a man — would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical[.]

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.

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.

I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once … 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[.]

This is all pretty dumb. A straight man who finds the idea of gay sex unappealing–well, duh. But instead of thinking: Well, I don’t find gay sex appealing, but maybe gay men do, he attributes his confusion to the illogicality of sin. And on from there–he expresses his biases, but claims a universality for them based on his understanding of Christianity. (A far cry from Pope Francis’ “Who am I to judge?”) Also put me down as unconvinced of the idyllic happiness of pre-Civil Rights Act black Southerners.

But you know, he said what he believes, it’s a free country.

And A&E exercised their own freedom:

We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series Duck Dynasty, … His personal views in no way reflect those of A+E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely.

As a private company, A&E is free to hire, fire, lay off, or I guess “put under hiatus” an employee–assuming Phil Robertson isn’t in a union (ha ha!).

But this series of events has some people leaping to the barricades. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is shocked:

Phil Robertson and his family are great citizens of the State of Louisiana. The politically correct crowd is tolerant of all viewpoints, except those they disagree with. I don’t agree with quite a bit of stuff I read in magazine interviews or see on TV, … In fact, come to think of it, I find a good bit of it offensive. But I also acknowledge that this is a free country and everyone is entitled to express their views. In fact, I remember when TV networks believed in the First Amendment. It is a messed up situation when Miley Cyrus gets a laugh, and Phil Robertson gets suspended.

Sarah Palin is so mad she’s dropping consonants:

Free Speech is an endangered species. … Those ‘intolerants’ hatin’ and taking on the Duck Dynasty patriarch for voicing his personal opinion are taking on all of us.

But so now my question is: Aren’t these the people who say that corporations have free speech rights, and who are about to argue at the Supreme Court that they have religious freedoms as well? If A&E has such freedom of conscience, how can we blame them for, you know, exercising it?

Or, to look from another angle, 21% of LGBT employees “report having been discriminated against in hiring, promotions and pay.” And yet, I do not recall Bobby Jindal and Sarah Palin objecting to cases of anti-LGBT discrimination.

Instead, it seems like there is a group of people who would like certain views to be privileged. A certain interpretation of Christianity must never be criticized. But free speech doesn’t guarantee any privileges beyond itself–you can say what you like. Phil Robertson has not been charged with any crime. If A&E feels that his comments make him a poor fit for his current work situation, well, that’s their prerogative. No constitutional issue I can see.

*Who am I kidding, I was mostly laughed at by the dog.