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Understanding the difference between the Free Market and Free Speech

By   /   December 19, 2013  /   Comments

By now, even people who don’t watch Duck Dynasty know who Phil Robertson is.  The patriarch of the Duck Commander family recently got himself into a bit of controversy regarding an interview he gave to GQ regarding homosexuality.  Now, supporters of Robertson are yelling about free speech after A&E decided to put Robertson on hiatus.

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” told Drew Magary, the reporter conducting the interview. “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

Now, I’m not going to get into the meat of what Robertson said.  That’s a matter of theology, and I’m hardly worthy of debating that against a man who has most definitely read the Bible more than me.

However, what I do want to do is address the people screaming about Robertson’s First Amendment rights.

You see, Robertson’s rights haven’t been violated.  A&E, a television network, opted to not air more of Robertson as a means of protecting their profit margin, but Robertson still has the right to say whatever he wants.

What this is really about is a case of the free market, something most conservatives – the group most supportive of Robertson and his comments – say they agree with.  A television network is either a corporation or part of a corporation.  That means they need to make moves to protect their profit margin.  If they’re worried that a personalities comments will alienate a significant portion of their viewership, then they’re going to make moves to prevent that.

Honestly, that’s what happened here.

Now, I’m not saying they should have done it.  Frankly, anyone who knows much about Phil Robertson probably already knew what his view of homosexuality was.  I suspect that A&E’s move was preemptive to the point of stupidity.  Few regular viewers of the show were going to be offended by the man’s comments, and that’s who should have been considered.

Now, as for those who still insist on talking about Phil Robertson’s First Amendment rights, please shut up.  The First Amendment applies to government trying to censor someone.  Not a soul from any governmental agency is trying to make Robertson shut up.  Oh, I’m not saying that there aren’t plenty in the White House that would love to do just that, but they’re not and that’s the point.

Phil Robertson is free to keep saying exactly what he wants to say.  Duck hunters will still buy his company’s duck calls, and he and his family will still fair well financially.  I suspect their Outdoor Channel show, Duck Commander, will be fine as well.  In fact, in time, I suspect that Robertson will once again grace the A&E screen as well.

There is no censorship going on here.  If social conservatives don’t like the way A&E handled things, then step up and show the network that they stand to lose more by taking Robertson off the air than by leaving him on.  That is how you handle things in the free market, and that’s just what we have here.

Tom Knighton is the Editor and Publisher of the Albany Journal.

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