I almost made it through 2013 without a making a political comment on Facebook. I generally don’t like to engage in these conversations. They don’t change anyone’s mind. They just make the poster feel good for a minute or two.
This Duck Dynasty thing has me riled up though, not because I give a rat’s arse about that show or what any of those hillbillies or their fans think, but because the social argument taking place right now over this topic completely misses the point.
The old man deserved to get fired. Alec Baldwin deserved to get fired. So did Don Imus, Michael Richards, and every other idiot that could not exercise a modicum of self-control, given their position of privilege and relative power due to the bully pulpit the media provides for them.
This is not about free speech. The First Amendment protects individuals from persecution by the government for things that they say. This means as a society we accept all speech without fear of reprisal from a government that might not agree with our view and want to silence us. It is one of the last true things that makes the USA great. We can say what we want to say, and we won’t go to jail. That’s it.
So because of this, the Left gets to says what it wants to say. The Right gets to say what it wants to say. So do the weirdoes, kooks, and nutjobs. The skinheads, anarchists, tree-huggers, fascists, and socialists all get their say, plus a lot of other groups we might find personally disgusting. We accept the fact that this is a function of our free society, that people are going to say things with which we disagree, that we are going to hate it, and that it will sometimes repulse us. We ourselves might say things that repulse other people. We will, however, not go to jail for saying them. That is Free Speech.
What happened here is not about free speech. The guy, Phil, said something really stupid — or maybe it was really great — it depends on your view. He has a right to say what he wants, to express his personal, closely-held values and beliefs. Many people agree with him. Many people do not. However, it is important to note that the government did not arrest him for saying such things. That is Free Speech. The system is still working. We should all be very pleased.
What did happen is that a private employer decided that it did not want Phil to represent their company and their brand any more. Just like Paula Deen, the aforementioned Alec Baldwin, Glenn Beck, Keith Olbermann, and countless other media yahoos whose personally-held beliefs got them fired. What is the common denominator? That they are media personalities? Poor judgment? Poor impulse control? Bad handlers? Raging narcissism? It does not matter. Their employer, not the government, took action. Phil is not going to jail. Free enterprise made the call. Capitalism did what it does. So the system, such as it is, is still working.
We 99% will probably never have a job where comments we make can influence a company’s stock price. Phil had one of those jobs. If I had one and said something like Phil, I would fully expect to be fired too. I know that. Phil, Paula, Alec, and Don should sure-as-hell have known that too.