Well folks, we find ourselves in the middle of another free speech controversy. This one hits home with the conservative base because it involves Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson. Phil recently said the following:
“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men. Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”
This quote from a GQ interview prompted the shows network, A&E, to suspend Robertson indefinitely, and they released the following statement:
“We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series Duck Dynasty. His personal views in no way reflect those of A+E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely.”
So that’s how we got ourselves into another national debate over free speech. So we need to look at this from a few different angles. I’d like to take a look at the legality of it first, then dive into some comparable cases.
We must first understand that the first amendment guarantees free speech, but it does so only in regards to prosecution from the government. It is vital to understand that free speech is not protected when it comes to private employers. Now, one may argue that free speech SHOULD be protected against retaliation from private employers, and that’s fine. But if you are going to argue that the Phil Robertson case is protected under the constitutional free speech amendment, you are wrong. So speaking from a legal standpoint, what has hall end to Robertson, as as happened to many others from his level of fame all the way down to someone mopping floors at a Taco Bell, is completely legal.
Now lets delve into the mind of a right winger on this issue. The conservatives in this country are up in arms over this development and are screaming on all of the social media sites that Robertson’s comments are him simply exercising his free speech and should, therefore, not be suspended or ultimately fired. They have one part correct…he was exercising his right to free speech, and has every right to do so in this great country. Where the first layer of their hypocrisy comes shining through is the fact that they claim that corporation are people, yet do not have their own right to free speech. If corporations are people, then do they not also have the right to exercise their free speech and terminate such an employee? Secondly, for a crowd that touts free market as much as they do, I would think they would understand that A&E has determined that such public talk from an extremely well known star of theirs could hurt their brand, and thus, effect the bottom line. Terminating Robertson is a free market solution to strengthening the bottom line of the company, should A&E determine it to be so. But lets be honest, this isn’t about the companies bottom line nor about the ludicrous claim that “corporations are people too”….this is about religion. This is about the Christian Right feeling they are under attack in this country, and this is one of their heroes being attacked. So on the grounds of religious free speech, they stand on the mountain top screaming about injustice for Phil. This leads us to our next layer of conservative hypocrisy, and that’s their stance on free speech in the private workplace when that speech differs from theirs. Before we get into these examples, lets set the record straight…I don’t condone what these people said. as a matter of fact, I’m one of those who says that your freedom if speech doesn’t cover you at work and if your employer feels your public comments have hurt their company or brand in any way, they absolutely have the right to punish you for it. What we are doing here is pointing out the hypocritical right for saying Robertson shouldn’t be fired for his free speech while advocating for, or not defending the cases I’m about to list. Some examples for you…
Bashir was an MSNBC host that said that Sarah Palin should try having someone shit in her mouth in regards to recent remarks she made in regards to slavery. Bashir was wrong, and MSNBC has every right to punish him for it (although he allegedly ‘resigned’ and wasn’t technically fired), but where are the right wing defenders of free speech to protect him? Where was his target, Sarah Palin, on this issue? Well here’s what she said after accepting his apology: “those with that platform, with a microphone, a camera in their face, they have to have some more responsibility taken”. Hmm….so no defense of Bashir’s free speech? Why? Could it be because it doesn’t jive with the rights ideals?
Dennis Miller, a conservative radio host and comedian, recently spoke to a small business owner who called in to his show. That business owner was complaining that he may have to let some people go due to obamacare, and he was frustrated because he is loyal to all his employees. Miller responded by telling the business owner how to go about picking those employees that should be let go.
“Go look around your parking lot. Fire anybody with an Obama/Biden number sticker in the parking lot. It’s the right thing to do. They a patriots. They will understand”.
Now I regularly listen to The Dennis Miller show and I can personally tell you that not one conservative….NOT ONE called in to say that was the wrong course of action. That such actions would be violating someone’s free speech. Quite the opposite as a matter of fact. Caller after caller dialed in to support such moves stating that if they supported Obama, they deserve to be the first on the chopping block. Now if an employer feels that is the best course of action for his company, he has every right to do so in my opinion, but where are the right wing defenders of free speech in this instance? Nowhere to be found.
MSU PROFESSOR WILLIAM PENN:
William Penn, a professor at Michigan State University, was recorded saying
“This country still is full of closet racists. What do you think is going on in South Carolina and North Carolina? Voter suppression. It’s about getting black people not to vote. Why? Because black people tend to vote Democratic. Why would Republicans want to do it? Because Republicans are not a majority in this country anymore. They are a bunch of dead white people. Or dying white people.”
This statement elicited immediate calls for his termination by Glenn Beck’s website, TheBlaze. The conservative watchdog group, Campus Reform, said the university should fire Penn immediately. Now i feel if the university felt his comments hurt the university in any way, they should absolutely get rid if him, but doesn’t Penn deserve the same level of conservative shielding against a violation of his fort amendment rights? Not according to conservatives he doesn’t.
GLENN BECK’S STAFF:
Glenn Beck, after returning from his 2012 holiday break, declared, live on air, that he would fire any employee who said Barack Obamas name in 2013. Yes…..you can be fired for literally saying the Presidents name. Now if he wants to run his company in such a dickish manner, it is his right, but where are the right wing crusaders of free speech here? Silent as usual.
Alec Baldwin has a history of saying really stupid things, and in one such instances a group of 25 conservative groups called on Capital One to fire Baldwin. Breitbart, Fox News, New York Daily News, The Washington Examiner, The Drudge Report, The San Francisco Gate, Gateway Pundit, Lucianne, Seattle PI, Mr. Conservative, Newsmax, MSN and even 3 Newspapers in New Zealand all called for his termination. Now i think Baldwin is a massive chump and an asshole of epic proportions and wouldn’t hire him if i could, but once again…where are the conservative free speech warriors to defend his freedom of speech in the workplace?
Once again, lets be clear, whether I support the overall political views of anyone listed above, each and every one of them deserved punishment for their public comments, if so deemed by their place of employment. In a recent conversation I had with a good friend, I was asked if my frequent public declarations of atheism and my decrying of any form of organized religion would be acceptable terms of termination from anyone I would be employed with who held differing views. My response is, yes. Absolutely. If an employer of mine felt that having my name be associated with their business, and then seeing me make comments they deemed would be viewed as their companies condoning such actions, would absolutely be within their rights to terminate me. We have, unfortunately, twisted the first amendment into some catch-all basket of verbal freedom in which we are completely protected. Such is not the case. People can, and will, get fired for publican views that differ from an employers.
So before you stand on the side of unfettered free speech in the private workplace, make sure you are ready to defend all free speech. If not, then it’s time to understand that every time a conservative calls for a company to fire a spokesperson or else they will boycott, or every time a radio personality calls for a liberal TV host to be fired because they didn’t like what they said, you are doing exactly what you decry about Phil Robertson’s case.