Sunday, December 22, 2013
My Sunday Feeling
I suppose this dreary Sunday is as good as any to discuss, and perhaps put in some perspective, the latest dust up concerning the piece on Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson in next month's GQ magazine. As we all know by now, Robertson was suspended by the Arts and Entertainment Network (which probably should drop the first word of its brand name since A&E is running a show like Duck Dynasty) for certain awkward remarks about, and I paraphrase, the relative merits concerning the mechanics of gay and straight copulation, the Bible's alleged condemnation of homosexuality, how the absence of Christianity in Japan and Germany (or "no Jesus" as Robertson succinctly put it) was the putative cause of World War II, and how black folks were "happy" "pre-welfare." He also lumped gay folks in with "drunks and terrorists" as the sort of folks that he prays for.
Of course, these remarks were offensive to gay folks. They were probably offensive to drunks and terrorists as well.
This has produced the predictable firestorm of protest from Christian conservatives who claim that Robertson is being sacrificed on the altar of political correctness and that his "rights to free speech" are being violated.
This of course, leads me inescapably to Nolan Richardson. You may recall that Mr. Richardson, who formerly held the Chair of Basketball at the University of Arkansas, once dared UA to fire him in a post-game interview. They obliged him.
He sued the State of Arkansas claiming that his firing was an act of discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He also claimed that he was fired for exercising his right to free speech under the 1st Amendment. UA claimed they fired him because his popping off damaged the basketball program. UA won.
What has this got to do with Duck Dynasty? This. And my license to practice law is up on the wall to my right as I type this. There is no such thing as "free speech." Robertson, Nolan, Sarah Palin and you and I have the 1st Amendment right to believe and say anything we want to. But the 1st Amendment does not inoculate you against the consequences of the free exercise of that right. And, the 1st Amendment can only be violated by the government. Not a cable television network.
Which brings me back to Nolan Richardson. He was fired by a governmental entity after the free and unfettered exercise of his right to hate Frank Broyles. And he lost.
But I do agree with Robertson's supporters. This situation is all about freedom. He is free to run his mouth as he sees fit. And A & E is free to discipline him according to the contract that binds them both. Paula Deen got fired by the Food Network. Alec Baldwin got cashiered by MSNBC. It happens. And the folks that are threatening to boycott the show's sponsors are free to do that.
At the end of the day, it will come down to nothing more principled than money. A & E will make the business decision on how much the backlash will hurt. The Robertson family will decide if they want to continue to do business with the network. And this will all be forgotten in 6 months.
I think the better question is why does junk like "reality TV," which is to "reality" as televangelists are to Christianity, have such a purchase on American culture? I read the GQ piece. Phil Robertson comes across more as strange and low-stupid than he does as a flat-out bigot. But who gives two hoots in Hell about Phil Robertson's opinion on anything outside of duck hunting anyway?
I mean, c'mon.