The Duck—and the Dynasty!

I imagine everyone reading this has heard about the fireworks triggered when Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty (a reality show on A&E about a Louisiana family that hunts ducks and markets duck calls) told GQ recently that homosexuality is a sin and in his entire life in the South, he’s never seen black people abused or heard any of them talk about discrimination (Defeating the Dragons points out the improbability of the latter point for someone old enough to remember Jim Crow). A&E has suspended him; conservatives (some of whom embrace the show as Great Conservative Television) have freaked out over the oppression, violation of the First Amendment and how this presages the imminent fascist destruction of all Christianity (I had a lengthy argument over that last view on Facebook).
Taking it from the top, this is not a First Amendment issue. That applies to the government, not to A&E or any other private company.
But should it? I must admit I’m divided on that point. The principal that your employer can fire you for anything you do and say in your private life (assuming you’re not, in fact, doing anything illegal) is not a good one. The University of Kansas’ announced recently, for instance, that it now has the right to fire staff for use of social media that’s “contrary to the best interests of the university.” Pretty much anything beyond OMG I Love My Masters could fall into that category.
On the other hand what you do and say while on the job is fair game. If you go to a church that preaches homosexuality is a sin, that’s your business; if you refuse to serve homosexuals on the job, it’s your employer’s. Likewise if you work in Barnes & Noble and refuse to sell Bibles because you’re an atheist or Korans because you’re a fundamentalist (a Pat Robertson-affiliated legal group has tried for years to give Christian employees the right not to sell skin mags).
So is Robertson speaking his mind a matter of private or public life? After all, he’s only in GQ because he’s a star on a successful A&E show—it’s not like a random man-on-the-street interview.
And it’s really hard to argue that a TV channel, or a publisher, or a bookstore doesn’t have the right to reject books or shows with a particular point of view they disagree with. Some YA agents are still squeamish about books with gay characters, for instance. I think that’s narrow-minded as hell, but no question they have the right not to represent a book they’re not comfortable with, nor does a publisher have an obligation to market a book if she disagrees with the message.
Does Robertson’s interview fall into that category? Again, not sure.
It is worth noting, as Roy Edroso does, that a lot of the outrage comes from people who normally claim that businesses have power absolute and workers none. And Slacktivist points out that a Christian group recently revoked an invitation to one of the Robertsons to speak because the family plans to market its own wine line. Astonishingly, nobody on the right seems to feel this is a huge violation of anyone’s rights.
Like I said, I’m still conflicted, even though Robertson’s views are still appalling bullshit. But there are mine, for whatever they’re worth.


Filed under economics, Politics

3 responses to “The Duck—and the Dynasty!

  1. Pingback: Because I could not stop for dinner– | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  2. Pingback: Sunday morning links | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  3. Pingback: Free speech does not mean what he thinks it does | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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