Fair warning: This is about the Duck Dynasty controversy. Yes, I know. I’m sick of it, too.
Still, relying upon my First Amendment right to freedom of speech, I will make a few observations about Phil Robertson, the grizzled Louisiana duck hunter-turned-reality TV star whose comments about black and gay people recently got him suspended — and then unsuspended — by A&E. If you find my observations disagreeable you may, relying upon your own First Amendment rights, protest to my employer. Assuming enough of you bring enough pressure, my employer may dump me. Feeling angry and betrayed, I might — here’s that First Amendment again — blast my now-former bosses for defects of character, courage or cognition.
But one thing I could not say — at least not credibly — is that they’d violated my First Amendment rights. There is nothing in the First Amendment that says a private company can’t fire you.
We’ll return to the First Amendment in a second. Right now, let me offer the promised observations about Mr. Robertson: Man really needs to wake up and smell the 21st century.
His comments, made in an interview with GQ, are almost cartoonish in their stupidity. They sound less like they were made by a backwoods ignoramus than by someone doing a takeoff on a backwoods ignoramus.
For instance, Robertson explains his aversion to homosexuality by discoursing on the comparative merits of the male anus and the vagina. For good measure, he invokes bestiality and the Bible. He also notes how black people were “singing and happy” when he was young. “Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare … they were godly, they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”
So anyway, A&E was shocked — shocked, I say, shocked! — to learn that a self-described redneck from the Louisiana woods harbored such illiberal views. It suspended Robertson, thereby igniting a scrum of conservative pols jockeying to express newfound love for the First Amendment.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal says he can “remember” when TV networks still believed in it. Sarah Palin calls free speech “an endangered species.” Mike Huckabee says, “Stand with Phil and support free speech.”
Yeah. Because freedom of speech means you can say any asinine thing you want and nobody can call you on it or punish you for it. Right?
Um … actually, no.