The latest in our litany of free speech debates comes to us courtesy of…Duck Dynasty?
Well, will wonders never cease.
For background: the patriarch of the Duck Dynasty family, Phil Robertson, made controversial remarks about homosexuals in the most recent edition of GQ magazine. In response, A&E television has suspended Robertson indefinitely.
Now, the character of his remarks, or if they were really offensive or not, does not interest me all that much. It is a matter of personal opinion, and let us leave it at that.
But the larger question that arises when we have these controversies is about the nature of the freedom of speech…and I am forever perplexed at how much people fail to understand what that freedom really means.
First and foremost is confusion regarding the 1st amendment. Why people don’t understand this really is beyond me: the 1st amendment, or in fact the entire Constitution, is about the government’s limitations in restricting the rights of free people. The First Amendment is not relevant here in the least, unless government gets involved at some later date.
But that, in turn, does not dismiss that this is, in fact, a debate about the freedom of speech and expression.
I think the basic confusion arises in the reality that many people don’t understand the difference between Constitutional rights, and natural rights. As stated above, Constitutional rights refer specifically to the freedoms you enjoy that the government cannot restrict or remove. Natural rights exist universally, regardless of laws, Constitutions, or governments.
Now, what bothers me most about this is not that Robertson was fired. I fully believe A&E is in their rights to fire whomever they want for whatever reason they wish. That is what free association is supposed to mean in a free society. I don’t believe this is substantially different than other major dismissals of media personalities in recent days, including the firings of Alec Baldwin and Martin Bashir at MSNBC. We can argue about the morality of each, but legally…the end result is the same.
What bothers me most is the gross hypocrisy of liberals when it comes to defining free association. That is not to say ‘all’ liberals, but look no further than today’s Democrat Party to understand where that hypocrisy lies.
Let us compare the Duck Dynasty fiasco to another major story that has been circulating. There have been a litany of cases, in New Mexico, Oregon, Colorado, and elsewhere, where private businesses have been told by courts that they must, under power of law and the government, do businesses with gay couples who are getting married. The businesses include bakers, photographers, and others. These businesses had moral opposition to gay marriage, and were theoretically using their freedom of speech, religion, and free association to choose not to business when they duly chose not to. The state, however, thought otherwise.
Both of these cases have to do with society’s understanding of freedom of speech and expression. Both, however, do not, have anything to do with the First Amendment; only that latter case is covered under the Constitution.
But it does go to show how the political Left is redefining what freedom of speech means. For liberals today, freedom of speech means the freedom to say and do as you wish…as long as that speech is acceptable, non-offensive, and within their vision of morality.
This is why free association is such an important concept, and cannot be separated from the greater vision of freedom of speech, expression, and religion. If you are not allowed to freely associate (or dissassociate, as the case may be), then your freedom of expression is inherently limited. One cannot be said to have freedom if those freedoms can be taken away when a specific issue of religion, marriage, or sexuality arises. That is by its very definition no freedom.
Furthermore, although A&E has every right to fire Robertson…let us also admit that such a firing, based on a religious belief, clearly demonstrates a lack of believing in freedom of speech. I, for one, would not fire anyone for these beliefs, or others, as long as they don’t directly interfere with their workplace ethic. It is hard for me to believe that A&E didn’t know that the Duck Dynasty family had some extreme social views; do they not watch their own show? Robertson himself has said on several occasions that he would quit if the T.V. show infringed on his belief in God and freedom. So these beliefs are nothing that should surprise the TV executives, or anyone else familiar with the show.
For A&E to now take offense shows, simply, that they are willing to accept the benefits of the Robertsons’ freedom of expression when it brings them easy money, but not willing to face the fire when that same expression is the least bit controversial.
But the mainstream media’s hypocrisy does not end there. Let us make several comparisons. What if Walmart decreeed that none of their employees could, publicly or privately, voice a pro-choice opinion, and if found to do so, would be fired? What if McDonald’s decreed that no woman wearing a Hijab would keep their job?
I personally believe that all the above examples are legal, and the companies have a right to do that. Liberals don’t, as our gay marriage example above clearly shows. They want to dictate when companies can be forced into businesses deals, and when they cannot. That is hypocritical to its very core.
What I believe is corporations and businesses should have every right to make decisions as they see fit, as A&E did here, and as the baker and photographer did in the gay marriage issue. The correct public response to such behavior is to react with your dollars; individuals at every level have the freedom to associate with whomever they wish, and as such, can hurt businesses who don’t abide by our individual moral standards.
Sure, this is not a perfect system. Some lewd people will offend others, and feelings will be hurt, families may even be damaged financially, and society will be outraged. But the concept of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and free association don’t come free. There is a price to everything, and this is the price we pay for freedom. True freedom.