Having a Right Does Not Mean Without Consequences

There’s a big uproar in the conservative media about “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson’s suspension by A&E for his comments in an interview.  Although much of the press coverage is devoted to his homophobic comments, those were only a part of them.

“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.

Honestly?  I’m not surprised that someone who proudly touts himself as a redneck southern boy would have these views.  But what’s interesting is how many people on the Right are suddenly “free speech advocates.”  Sort of.

Why yes, it’s awful that someone like Phil would have … consequencesto expressing his views!

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal:

“Phil Robertson and his family are great citizens of the State of Louisiana. The politically correct crowd is tolerant of all viewpoints, except those they disagree with. I don’t agree with quite a bit of stuff I read in magazine interviews or see on TV.  In fact, come to think of it, I find a good bit of it offensive. But I also acknowledge that this is a free country and everyone is entitled to express their views.  In fact, I remember when TV networks believed in the First Amendment. It is a messed up situation when Miley Cyrus gets a laugh, and Phil Robertson gets suspended “

Sarah Palin:

“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.”

Funny, but I remember all of these same people raging against Martin Bashir and demanding his ouster from MSNBC for voicing his personal opinion, and celebrating when he was.  It’s also remarkable how many people really don’t understand something very basic about “freedom of speech:”  You can say it, but that does not mean you’re free of consequences for what you said.   No one, not the press, not A&E is stopping Phil Robertson from saying anything.  He can run his mouth all he wants.  That doesn’t mean that he gets a free pass for it, and he hasn’t.

I can’t think of a single employer I’ve had over the years that hasn’t had some form of “stricture” on my “free speech.”  Particularly when it came to identifying myself with that employer, or when my speech reflected on them.  Most of them had formal policies in an employee handbook, but some would just make it clear up front.  I’ve never been allowed to run around my workplaces stumping for a candidate, I most definitely wouldn’t have been allowed to proselytize a religion, or announce any racial or sexual preference opinions.  Could I have done so?  Absolutely.  What would have happened?  I’d have been shown the door in very short order.  Outside of work was (and is) my business, as long as I didn’t involve my employer.  There are consequences to my “freedom of speech,” and most of us get that in our personal lives.  If we’re not willing to face those consequences, we keep our opinions to ourselves, or at least do so in a way that doesn’t come back to our employer.

If there’s one thing that has become crystal clear over the past few years, it’s that people seem to think having a right means that they shouldn’t have any consequences for exercising that right.  That’s never been the case, and both sides seem to miss it when the person suffering the consequences is saying something they agree with.  If they disagree, then it’s “justice.”   There’s another word for it:  Hypocrisy.

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One response to “Having a Right Does Not Mean Without Consequences

  1. This is exactly it. When did “tolerance” come to mean that we’d look the other way when someone voices a racist, bigoted, sexist or homophobic viewpoint? Our right to free speech doesn’t mean it has a right to be left ignored by those of us who disagree with what’s said. Over and over again I see the religious right and a lot of conservatives demonstrating their extreme hypocrisy over issues. It was okay for them to denounce President Obama as a being a Muslim and not a U.S. citizen, to call women sluts, but they cannot seem to wear the shoe when it’s on the other foot. And if A&E wants to take the corporate response to the guy’s comments, then that’s fine, too.