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Rights, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and Ducks

So, some guy on a TV show I never saw said some stuff I don’t agree with about homosexuality. He thinks it’s a sin akin to a whole bunch of other sex-related sins. After the affair blew up, he responded, “I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity.” In the original interview he also described his experience as “white trash” working alongside African-Americans, saying that he never saw them mistreated. I believe him. He never saw that. Ok.

I don’t much care about the details of the incident, so if you want to tell me that I’m not understanding the horribleness of what he said, I’m not going to argue with you. I really haven’t researched it. But the debate is irking me.

I am reading too many of my compatriots — and, by the way, welcome to marriage equality, New Mexico! — saying that it was ok for A&E to fire Phil Robertson (the Duck Dynasty guy in question) because the First Amendment constrains the actions only of the government. So, I assume A&E had every legal and Constitutional right to fire Robertson for what he said.

So what? The question isn’t what A&E is allowed to do and what the First Amendment forbids. The question is: What makes this country a better place in which to live? Do we want to live in a place where you can’t state your opinion without worrying that you may be fired? How much variance from the orthodoxy are we willing to permit? And, yes, I feel the same way about not buying from a local store that has a political sign in its window that you disagree with. Your Republican hardware store owner has a right to make a living!

Do we really think America is better if the many people who think homosexuality is a sin are forbidden from saying so? The ironic revenge of Don’t ask, don’t tell?

Jeez. We need some room for disagreement here!

Just to anticipate the comments: Yes, I would feel the same way if he had said, “Everyone knows the Jews own the banks.” And, yes, there are things he could say that would make him so toxic that I’d agree that the network should fire him. For example, if he had threatened violence, or had used language so inflammatory that it could lead to violence. There are lines. We’re just drawing them wrong. IMO.

5 Responses to “Rights, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and Ducks”

  1. There’s plenty of room for disagreement. (Like, say, on this blog.)

    But what, now I have a duty to monetarily support every viewpoint that exists? Slippery slopes are dangerous things.

    A&E made a business decision, pure and simple. I’m sure Joe the Duck Hunter will have his own show on Fox News before long. Rush Limbaugh can be a guest and they can cry together over how they’ve been “censored” because people didn’t want to listen to them.

    Because that’s my right–not to buy from idiots.

    The Constitution doesn’t guarantee anyone an audience.

  2. You don’t have a duty to support every or any viewpoint. But I was trying to replace the question of rights and duties with instead the question of what makes America a better democracy and a better place to live. If people are punishing each other financially (via de facto boycotts) because of differences in opinions, then before you can say “Yay marriage equality!” or “I’m not comfortable with same sex marriage!” you have to worry how much it’s going to cost you.

    I personally would like to see a lowering of the consequences for holding views that are not popular, not increase them.

  3. You’re assuming that his toxic opinions don’t have an effect on the violence that queer people and people of color experience. A celebrity reiterating beliefs that perpetuate the systemic marginalization of any group is not an action free of violence.

  4. Insightful as always, David. and the “afraid to speak your mind because you might get fired” facet is an intriguing one.
    To continue the line of reasoning, though, how is this different from A&E looking at a list of potential shows to fund and air and saying “we don’t want to give *that* guy a show!” – such that the show never happens?
    Presumably that’s OK and unobjectionable for them to do?
    Why does the instantiation of a particular platform for speech change the calculus?

  5. If the store owner puts a “Palin for President” sign on his lawn, it might affect my opinion of the hardware advice he hands out, but I’d like to think it wouldn’t affect my or others’ decisions re whether to patronize his store. But if he puts that sign in his store window, he’s made the conscious decision to make shopping there a political act… in which case I’m not going to feel guilty about taking my business elsewhere.

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