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The Pendulum of Free Speech

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The dust is still trying to settle over last’s week’s repercussions of Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson’s suspension and then recent reinstatement back on the A&E network. The initial cause of this live soap opera were comments that he made in GQ magazine saying,

“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.”

He also made other controversial comments in reference to Black people in pre-Civil Rights Louisiana,

"I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once…Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I'm with the blacks, because we're white trash. We're going across the field ... 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!."

The LGBT group, GLAAD, immediately protested, saying that Phil’s comments should not be acceptable on the show. This resulted in Phil’s suspension from the show. Then surprisingly, there was an equally strong reaction against GLAAD’s position from supporters of the show. Many said that the suspension was a violation of First Amendment rights, some even going as far as calling it religious persecution. Recently, A&E ended the Dynasty’s star’s suspension, much to the infatuation of GLAAD who accused the network of choosing profit over conscious.

The reaction from all sides does point to a disturbing trend. The right to protest has become an effective weapon in a free market economy to getting what you want. Naturally it’s called a stand for justice or some other high cause, but then it’s a rare thing to have an evil person say he is doing an evil act because it’s evil. In their own eyes, righteousness is on their side.

This has been the technique since the Civil Rights period of the 1960’s. What makes that time different than now? To start with, back then the struggle was against actual laws and actions in place. People were being harassed, killed, and kept from opportunities. Today, it’s more often just someone expressing an opinion or belief, nothing more. This is why what happened with Duck Dynasty and GLAAD is dangerous.

Activist groups who are self –proclaimed protectors of their communities and ‘justice’ need to be wary of what is actual discrimination. While perhaps predictable, GLAAD overplayed their hand. The powerful reaction from the Dynasty’s supporters, while not entirely logical in itself, was still not anticipated. People did not just roll over and accept GLAAD’s interpretation of Phil’s comments as gospel truth.

The Civil Rights era was about people fighting for the same opportunities other Americans had. What America is in danger of becoming now is not being able to have equal opportunities, but whose voice decides what equal opportunity is, and shutting out any alternative view.

We have become afraid of the potential power of what someone of differing opinion might say. However, if we truly value free speech, this risk cannot be avoided. I doubt any person who underwent real discrimination would describe one’s opinion as discrimination. Prejudice, maybe, but discrimination, no. What are they being kept from after all? There is a danger of becoming the enemy you fight.

There are people out there who still want to truly discriminate, though they would call it something else. Activist groups need to be careful about which battles they are picking. Otherwise, they risk the reaction that GLAAD got when pushing for Phil Robertson’s suspension: backlash, lose of influence, and bad press for their representative communities.



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