Defending Free Speech Means Defending Speech You Don’t Like.

by Pitt Griffin on December 19, 2013 · 0 comments

in Constitution, Free speech, Religion

“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” – Voltaire

“Duck Dynasty” star, Phil Robertson, expressed his bemusement over homosexuality in a very direct manner, saying, “It seems like, to me, a vagina — as a man — would be more desirable than a man’s anus”. He has been suspended from the show.

Free speech in action.

Free speech in action.

Robertson also expressed a Paula Dean vision of happy blacks pre-civil rights, who have been ruined by the current state of affairs. “Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they [blacks] happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

In New York City atheists have a billboard displaying the message, “Who needs Christ  in Christmas – Nobody”. A New York State Senator, Adam Lanza, was so offended he said the billboard represented, “Religious persecution of the kind that similarly lead to the Holocaust began with small evil baby steps of ridicule and hatred of the religious beliefs of others.”

Robertson is a bigot. The atheists are confrontational. Both are entitled to their opinions. Even Lanza is entitled to his inflammatory comparison.

More free speech

More free speech

Freedom from religion and the free exercise of religion, free speech, and a free press were so important to the Founders that these rights are enshrined in the very first amendment – as well as freedom of assembly and the right of petition.

The holocaust was not caused because atheists expressed an opinion, but because the German regime stripped away individual rights. Lanza should be far more concerned if the atheists were denied their billboard.

Should Robertson have been suspended? Yes, because that is what A&E decided to do. As a business they are entitled to make what ever decisions they believe best for their bottom line – within the limits of the law. And the law does not protect people who make vile remarks from losing their job.

Conservatives have done a “180” on free speech. The same crowd – which was outraged at Martin Bashir’s foul remarks regarding Sarah Palin – cannot understand why Robertson was suspended. It is always easier to defend someone’s free speech when you agree with what they say. True constitutionalists would defend free speech when it is hard.

Palin - "Free speech for my friends, my enemies should just shut up"

Palin – “Free speech for my friends, my enemies should just shut up”

Even Palin herself has joined the fray, writing,

“Free speech is an endangered species. Those ‘intolerants’ hatin’ and taking on the Duck Dynasty patriarch for voicing his personal opinion are taking on all of us.”

When did she defend Bashir for voicing a personal opinion?

On the other hand Robertson is well within his rights to rent a billboard and put up whatever message he wants – within the law. Which is to say that he cannot put up words such as “fuck” and the like, if local law prohibits it.

Which brings us to Justin Kraemer, an erstwhile anchorman at Wichita’s KSNW. Kraemer was fired for saying after the newscast was over – “lets get the fuck out of here”  – believing the microphones to be turned off. The station was within its rights to fire him. But it seems harsh that a casual f-bomb might ruin a man’s career.

The first amendment guarantees free speech, but it does not guarantee that you can say whatever you want and keep your job.

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: