Freedom of Speech?

phil robertson(Community Matters) So, as one of my favorite politicos said, I had no idea who Phil Robertson was until the last few days and could have lived without ever knowing. But, now I know what Duck Dynasty is too, and I know Mr. Robertson told GQ magazine that homosexuality is a perversion condemned by the Bible and that African Americans were happy under Jim Crow laws.

A&E network has suspended him due to these – to me – obscene comments. I’m glad they did – though admittedly I still will never watch Duck Dynasty. I’m not their market and my being mad at them would not have impacted them in any way – not even sure what else airs on A&E. I’m assuming the demographic upset about these comments matters to A&E or they wouldn’t have responded so quickly.

Does A&E’s suspension represent an infringement of his freedom of speech? I don’t think so. He was obviously being interviewed by a national magazine because of the role for which A&E employs him, and he did damage to the brand of the show as well as the company. Yes, he has a right to make these idiotic statements, and yes A&E has a right to fire him.

Why do so many people feel otherwise? Is it a political bias? Would they stand up for Rachel Maddow’s right to say (off air, let’s say in a NYTImes interview), to say that the religious right are terrorists, as much a threat to US national security as Al Qaeda? Or to say the NRA is a militia group that bullies and threatens lawmakers and should be outlawed by executive order? I’m being overly dramatic but trying to imagine what would be as offensive to the other side as what Mr. Robertson just said is to me.

I don’t know the answer but feel I should try to understand their perspective. We can’t make progress if we don’t try to understand each other. And, communications theory teaches us people aren’t persuadable to other ideas if they don’t first feel understood.

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