Ducking Stupidity

I’ve heard over the past week that A&E has violated Phil Robertson’s First Amendment rights by suspending him for his recent comments about homosexuality being a sin.

They didn’t.

The First Amendment stands as a shield between citizens and the government. It does not and should not interfere with private individuals. If you work for a company and in the privacy of your own home take to Twitter, Facebook, and various social media to share with the world how much your employer (by name) sucks, you do not have a right to keep your job. Now we know that Mr. Robertson wasn’t saying anything bad about A&E, so don’t confuse the point we’re making here–the example is to illustrate how the First Amendment protects citizens from the government.

This means that government has no business getting involved in the A&E/Duck Dynasty brouhaha, and people saying “there outta be a law” or “A&E can’t do that” don’t know what they’re talking about.

This says nothing of the fact that A&E has bungled this incident with all the grace of the figurative bull in a china shop. It created a reality TV show—with unparalleled success—out of a Christian family that likes to spend time hunting (with guns even! OH NOES!) in the swamps of Louisiana. It then heard a comment from the family patriarch—who is known for being gruffly honest—that an interest group convinced the network was so offensive as to require immediate action.The network then painstakingly considered the situation for about 15 seconds and then decided to suspend one of the stars of arguably the only show on the network that a sizable audience deemed worth watching..

In our view, the dispute is playing itself out largely the way it should: Phil exercised his free speech rights and shared in an interview what he thought was “a sin” these days in response to an interview question.  Phil’s employer made a decision that such views were not in line with their network’s values, and that they did not want to be tolerant of views that were different from their own.  So they indefinitely suspended him. The show’s fan base is, in turn, holding A&E responsible for its decision, with calls, emails, tweets, messages, threats of boycotts, buying or not buying merchandise, etc. In the end, A&E must decide how it will respond—either to stand behind its original decision, or admit that it made a mistake and reverse its decision.  Either way, it’s hard to believe that the network will make a decision outside of its economic interests.

The only legitimate role for government in this case would be for a civil court to settle any contract disputes that may arise from the incident. No new laws needed. No new regulations needed. No government intervention and no ducking stupidity is needed.