The past 24 hours on Facebook, my News Feed has been attacked by the news of Phil being removed indefinitely from Duck Dynasty. “It’s awful he was removed,” “It’s disgusting,” “I’m never watching the show again,” were some of the many different exclamations found connected to peoples’ posting of the story. The one statement which I saw the most, usually in conjunction with the others was, “It is an attack on free speech.”
The most sure way to get the public on your side is to declare a state of “freedom emergency.” I think these “freedom emergencies” will soon become akin to “The boy who cried wolf,” because when everything is freedom stealing and worse than hitler, it loses it’s kick. This part is a topic for another day or time (More of my thoughts on this here). Back to the free speech emergency.
I cannot agree with the claim this is an editing of free speech. He was free to speak his piece. The writer was free to include it in his article, and the magazine was free to share Phil Robertson’s views with the world, or at least the portion who were willing to read it. Nobody has stopped a single thing from being said, written, or transmitted to the masses.
I cannot claim to have watched more than five minutes of the show, and I couldn’t care less about the fate of the show either. If it lasts for a year, or a decade, I do not care. So, please don’t read this as words from a fan or a disapproving critic.
Because the main outcry I have seen is Christian, I will use the following example:
If there was a church against homosexuality whose pastor began saying, “gay is ok,” the pastor would most likely be fired. The pastor has been fired because he/she was spreading a belief which didn’t fit the statement of faith held by the church. The pastor was free to say what they would like, without litigation, but it still had an effect on their future situation. Now, let’s pretend this church was taken to court over “wrongful dismissal.” The outcry by the church would be, how awful this persecution of the church, not, how awful for the pastor whose free speech was restricted.
This is the same situation, Phil Robertson said something against the beliefs of the A&E network. I am aware, not religious belief, but belief still. Just because their lines are drawn differently, doesn’t mean they aren’t allowed to have their own lines. Because he was in opposition to the network’s philosophy, they have opted to keep him out of their limelight for an indefinite period of time. If you disagree with his removal from the limelight, invite Mr. Robertson to have a television show on your network, which you are free to run how you would like.
This situation isn’t about free speech, it is about the right of a network, business, religious organization, etc… to control the message their employees are spreading. In the GQ interview, Phil Robertson talked about how recognized they are, and I think it would be safe to say they are currently the face of A&E. If he is one of the most recognizable faces of the network, then I feel they have the right to decide whether or not they would like him to continue to be their face.
They are not stupid, they know there will be kickback regarding this decision. In the end though, it is their decision to make, because it is their network.