Thursday, January 2, 2014

Duck and Cover

Arts and Entertainment Television (A&E)  announced the return to filming of Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson. In a lengthy statement to The Hollywood Reporter, A&E explained that the network's commitment to "inclusion and mutual respect" led them to suspend filming because of controversial comments about homosexuality made by Robertson in GQ magazine. This decision created more outcry than Robertson's theological views. Duck Dynasty is the most popular cable television show in history. Its debut episode attracted 12 million viewers.

In a quick reassessment of its financial bottom line, A&E explained that its other core values, "Unity, tolerance, and acceptance among all people"--values it says are shared by the Robertson family--compelled them to rescind the suspension.

This decision followed on the heals of Cracker Barrel's decision to restore Duck Dynasty themed merchandise in its gift shops, in response to a similar outcry in support of  Robertson. The restaurant had pulled the merchandise while it "evaluated" the situation. 

Companies such as A&E and Cracker Barrel these days crafts "mission statements" and lists of "core values." They attempt to operate with those values in mind. The most fundamental value of any commercial enterprise, however, is to stay in business. 

Of more interest are the values of the those Americans who have aligned themselves on one side or the other of this controversy.

Those who support Phil Robertson framed the controversy around freedom of speech and freedom of religion. For some reason, many religiously oriented Americans believe that when free speech is exercised as an expression of one's religious convictions, it assumes an import not possessed by speech expressing one's political views, aesthetic tastes, or other nonreligious sentiments. No one explains why this is so. Perhaps this belief simply  reflects the cumulative effect of asserting multiple provisions of the Bill of Rights. 

Of course, the Bill of Rights protects one's right to speech from government interference.

It does not protect one from interference from employers or contractors. It does not mean that Phil Robertson possesses some constitutional right to a television show. Americans who support him, however, can  mobilize pressure on A&E to keep his on the airwaves, er, on the fiber optic trunk line. They have successfully done so.

Those who oppose Phil Robertson unwittingly raise the more fundamental--and frightening--question about free speech: should  speech expressing disapproval of homosexuality be suppressed or even criminalized?

Over at Ross Murray, news director at GLAAD,  described Robertson's comments as "the vilest and most extreme statements uttered against LGBT people in a mainstream publication . . . . "

What did Cruz find so vile?

First, this quote:

“It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical."

Robertson states he prefers a woman's vagina to a male's anus.

Roberts states that to have contrary preferences is a sin.

Robertson states that such preferences are not logical.

Then there's this:

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,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “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.”

He mentions bestiality, describes general sexual promiscuity, and quotes the Bible.

Murray never explains why these are the "vilest and most extreme" comments. He only counters that they conflict with majority public opinion in Robertson's home state of Louisiana.

Is expressing views contrary to popular opinion now vile and extreme?

The article concludes with the note that "GLAAD reached out to A&E to speak about if the network stands behind Robertson's comments." The expression reach out is an idiom for making a special effort to communicate with someone, usually on in a positive way in order to secure an agreement. What GLAAD apparently meant, however, is to communicate a threat in order to secure an agreement from A&E to fire Robertson and cancel the show.

Readers recall that Robertson did not make these comments on the Duck Dynasty television show; he made them in an interview for GQ magazine. Whatever controversial comments Robertson or any other cast members may have made about homosexuals on the show ended up on the cutting room floor. But apparently Murray, and other members of GLAAD,  believe that no negative comments about should be allowed to be uttered by anyone anywhere. Expressing disapproval for homosexuality, whether  on religious grounds or simply on the "ick" factor, or even expressing a preference for heterosexual intercourse is now verboten. 

Slippery slope arguments are not logically valid. But a glance at Canada and Europe portend what's next on the frontiers of "gay rights"--criminalization of pejorative expression regarding homosexuality. The "legal" argument for this is summed up in the placards sometimes seen carried by activists: 

"Hate speech is not free speech."

1 comment:

CW said...

"Hate speech is not free speech."

And I guess only those on the Left get to decide what qualifies as "hate speech."

Great post, V.L.! I read this on a friends blog the other day:

"Homosexuality: The love that dare not speak its name has become the love that won't shut up."