Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, right; says so in the First Amendment. So what’s all this fuss about A&E’s Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson sharing his opinions with a few million Americans?
Well, if you’re A&E, the cable network jointly owned by the Hearst Corporation and Disney/ABC, you might want to step back and consider the impact Phil’s “opinions” have on your customers… not to mention plain, ordinary common sense.
The media outlet Phil chose to spout his believes happened to be GQ (Jan. 2014), the high-brow men’s quarterly with a circulation of almost a million. When you speak your opinion in a national outlet like that, and that word is more than a little controversial, you will get attention. So, what did Phil have to say that’s got everyone riled up and booted from the show for awhile? Let’s go to the clip:
“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once…. They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”
That’s Phil on what it was like growing up in pre-civil-rights era Louisiana.
Considering social conditions in the South – and I’m just spit-balling here – maybe blacks appeared happy and godly because they knew what would happen if they dared utter a single word against the white people they worked for.
Growing up in the 60s, Phil must have missed the 1964 story of the murders of three civil rights workers in Mississippi – a story that not only generated national media attention, but launched a federal investigation. But then again, that’s a whole different state… some three hours away. And besides, all that happened way before Phil got religion.
” ‘We’re Bible-thumpers who just happened to end up on television,’ Phil tells writer Drew Magary. ‘You put in your article that the Robertson family really believes strongly that if the human race loved each other and they loved God, we would just be better off.
“Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong,” Phil says. “Sin becomes fine.”
“What, in your mind, is sinful?”Magary asks.
” ‘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.’ ”
However, three graphs later, Phil says: “We never, ever judge someone on who’s going to heaven, hell. That’s the Almighty’s job. We just love ’em, give ’em the good news about Jesus.”
Phil, you just said those folks won’t inherit the kingdom of God?
Let’s move on. According to Phil, Duck Dynasty “…is merely the platform. The end goal is to save souls – to spread the good word.”
The good word according to Phil, that is.
” ‘All you have to do is look at any society where there is no Jesus. I’ll give you four: Nazis, no Jesus…. Uh, Shintos? They started this thing in Pearl Harbor. Any Jesus among them? None. Communists? None. Islamists? Zero. That’s eighty years of ideologies that have popped up where no Jesus was allowed among those four groups. Just look at the records as far as murder goes among those four groups. ‘ ”
“…actually,” Magary writes, “…the violent-crime rate here in America has plummeted since 1990, even as church attendance has stayed the same. And, of course, Phil is conveniently ignoring centuries upon centuries of war, bloodshed, and human enslavement committed in the name of Christ.”
Since Phil came out (in a manner of speaking) with his beliefs, A&E began to cringe, releasing a statement that read: “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 L.G.B.T. community.”
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal tweeted: “I remember when TV networks believed in the First Amendment.”
Time magazine’s James Poniewozik summarized it best. “I can’t believe we have to explain this, over and over, every time a media figure loses a job (or just gets a for-show suspension) over saying something stupid, but: Losing your job for saying something that embarrasses your private employer–even if that is a media outlet–is not a free speech issue. It is not a First Amendment issue. It may be dumb, it may be justified, but it is not a constitutional violation.
“It is not for Phil Robertson, Alec Baldwin, Martin Bashir, Don Imus, The Dixie Chicks, Rush Limbaugh, or anyone else. People changing the channel or not buying your products because of what you said is not ‘censorship’; nor is losing a business deal for same.”
From an ethical perspective Robertson’s opinions legitimizes intolerance and prejudice. Phil is fond of quoting the Bible, particularly those passages that he paraphrases to fit his beliefs. So, I’ll pick one that isn’t paraphrased; a passage he might want to re-read. It comes from Ephesians 4:2 –
“With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love…”