All over the news right now is the story of Duck Dynasty patriach Phil Robertson saying nasty things about gays and others and then having A&E, the network that puts on the show, suspend him.
There are plenty of others writing about Robertson and his views, so I feel no particular reason to yell “me too!” I don’t like writing those kinds of posts.
I write instead about the predictable fallout of the usual screaming matches that come up whenever a social issue rears its head, the old left v. right kind of thing, though perhaps when it comes to gay rights it’s more accurate to speak of those who favor greater government intervention against those who want the government to keep its nose out of the citizenry’s private business.
In any event, Sarah Palin, in her wisdom, sees this as a “free speech” matter:
And cable talk show legal analyst Arthur Aidala, when the issue was being “debated” on Fox News’s Megyn Kelly show:
Arthur Aidala and Monica Crowley vehemently disagreed, and all three got in a heated back-and-forth about the free speech issues here. Aidala cried, “There’s something called the First Amendment!”
Who is Arthur Aidala? A criminal defense lawyer.
Now I understand when those who are less educated misunderstand the First Amendment. I don’t criticize too heavily when there are folks who have not had the benefits I’ve had of a good education, though this is the kind of thing anyone with a high school education ought to have a grasp of.
But if you ran for Vice President of the United States, or if you are an attorney volunteering to be the talking head legal analyst on a cable show, then you really can’t claim ignorance as an excuse. You ought to know that the issue of free speech applies to the government, not a private cable television channel. The First Amendment is pretty clear on that, and I added a touch of emphasis for their benefit:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
To be clear: Robertson has every right to say idiotic things. A&E has every right to say it doesn’t want someone who spouts idiotic things on its show. (At least for awhile, until the tug of money and ratings makes them say all is forgiven.)
I have a right to publish idiotic comments. Palin and Aidala have the right to spout stupidity.
But the government isn’t involved in any of this, because it has’t tried to make a law that prohibits any of us saying our piece. Bellyache all you want, but this isn’t a free speech issue.
To quote from the movie Billy Madison, regarding those trying to raise the banner of free speech:
Mr. Madison, what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.