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Jim Bennett: Free speech doesn't guarantee you a TV show

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  • uwishtoo MESA, AZ
    Jan. 7, 2014 5:01 p.m.

    And a TV show also doesn't guarantee you the right to bash people either.

  • Truthseeker SLO, CA
    Jan. 4, 2014 10:07 a.m.

    What happened to Bill Maher's show and what often happens in these types of situations is that sponsors of the programs-those who run advertisement/commercials on the programs--drop their sponsorship. Perhaps A&E acted to prevent a loss of sponsorship--or not. But ultimately it appears they discovered it was in their financial best interest to keep Phil Robertson on the show.

    That said
    What surprises me is that being a "Christian" used to mean being polite, civil, sensitive to the feelings of others, well-mannered etc. I thought Christian people were all about setting high standards of apppropriate behavior. Now? Not so much.
    So I don't get why the proudly-in-your-face Christians of today rush to defend the vulgar, crass, comments made by Mr. Robertson, whether the show continues or not.

  • Pasmith St Petersburg, FL
    Jan. 4, 2014 7:53 a.m.

    Here's the thing...television networks need viewers. They get viewers by putting on TV the things people want to watch. Therefor, if we feel strongly about something, we need to let them know. The outrage expressed over their decisions prompts them to act. Apparently the moral majority is still alive and well because Duck Dynasty was reinstalled and Politically Incorrect was canceled. I agree with what you say. People have a right to speak any truth they choose and not be arrested for it but the court of public opinion has a power all its own...even if it interprets law incorrectly.

  • killpack Sandy, UT
    Jan. 3, 2014 4:36 p.m.

    Eliyahu,

    So, when I fail to pay income taxes, like General Electric, what crime have I committed? Whose rights have I infringed upon? The truth is, tax evasion is a crime made up by IRS agents, prosecutors and judges against political enemies and those too poor to afford a lawyer/accountant. But there is nothing inherently criminal in not paying taxes. Millions of the politically connected elite do it every day and get away with it. Why shouldn't everyone?

  • TheProudDuck Newport Beach, CA
    Jan. 3, 2014 1:18 p.m.

    No, free speech doesn't guarantee you a TV show. The First Amendment, according to the letter of the law, only applies to state action. But the principle the First Amendment is designed to uphold, is the principle of the open society -- the idea that ideas should compete against open ideas in an open forum, with bad arguments (if they are bad) being corrected by *better* arguments. Not force or extortion.

    If your response to hearing an opinion you disagree with is not to answer it by stating and defending your own opinion, but rather to try and make bad things happen to the man whose words you didn't like, then you are not, at heart, a friend of freedom of conscience. And so you're no friend of mine, either.

  • CharityPureLove Honolulu, HI
    Jan. 3, 2014 12:42 p.m.

    Freedom of Speech or any kinds of freedom comes with responsibility and accountability, and when any person chooses not to be responsible or accountable for their words, actions and thoughts thereafter, the natural or logical consequences will follow. TRUE FREEDOM IS NOT FREE, IT WAS PAID WITH A PRICE.. There were thousands, and thousands to men, women and children died for the cause of true freedom. Thus, as we learn to focus on what is our duties and responsibility to God and our fellow beings, and live by them, then true freedom will be established.

  • patriot Cedar Hills, UT
    Jan. 3, 2014 11:41 a.m.

    Bill Maher - militant atheist, hates US constitution, hates US history including vets, loves Communism, thinks adultery should be normal behavior in marriage.

    Phil Robertson - Christian, loves US constitution, his brother is a Vietnam vet, conservative, understands the evils of Communism. Is a great moral example to his kids and grandkids.

    So - we are comparing a man of God vs a man of Satan. This is ridiculous.....free speech aside.

  • OlderGreg USA, CA
    Jan. 3, 2014 11:20 a.m.

    djc nailed it. It was an effective no-cost PR stunt. They knew what Phil was when he was hired -- in fact, that is *why* he was hired.

    If you do a bit of research, you'll find lots of pseudo conflicts regarding bleeps, prayer, the use of the name of JC, and more. It's called "marketing", folks.

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Jan. 3, 2014 11:05 a.m.

    Wadyaknow,
    The Dixie Chicks was not the same thing. Their label didn't blackball them, their fans were offended by their behavior and threw their CDs out. There's a difference. I seriously doubt any Duck Dynasty viewers were going to stop watching because of the GQ interview.

    A&E was within it's rights to suspend him... but it's not the same thing as the Dixie Chicks. It would be the same think if Duck Dynasty fans were offended by his comment and quit watching (I don't think that happened). This was an executive decision. There was no executive decision to blackball the Dixie Chicks. Their fans just got turned off.

    Bill Maher is also a different story. His whole show was about offending people (not some interview about his faith).

    Bottom line... A&E has a right. The disgusting thing is... how intolerant some people are being about him expressing his personal beliefs.

  • Kaladin Greeley, CO
    Jan. 3, 2014 10:32 a.m.

    It's not a free speech issue per se, but it does feel like one. That is because of how it went down. He was asked very specific questions that he answered honestly. Special interest groups went nuts and lobbied to have him silenced. That is what is bothersome, that someone responds to questions honestly and faces losing an unrelated job because a few groups went bananas. I agree that A&E has the right to fire, but I get just as upset at conservative groups that try to silence people. If you don't like the show, don't watch it. If you don't like the person, don't buy their products. Don't call for their head though.

  • Eliyahu Pleasant Grove, UT
    Jan. 3, 2014 10:08 a.m.

    @killpack
    "So called tax evasion is NOT a crime. "

    I hate to be the bearer of bad news for you, but tax evasion is,indeed, a crime. The fact that you don't think it should be a crime won't be a very good defense if you're taken to court for it. Every one of us can point to some laws or statutes that we don't support, but we're still required to obey those laws unless and until we can get them repealed.

  • Say No to BO Mapleton, UT
    Jan. 3, 2014 10:04 a.m.

    There is a difference between saying something on your talk show and dragging a quote from a magazine to skewer someone.
    Similar to the Chick-fil-a "scandal" this was a liberal witch hunt in an effort to protect the narrative.
    If Robertson had made his comments part of an episode of Duck Dynasty it would have been an entirely different issue.

  • UtahBlueDevil Durham, NC
    Jan. 3, 2014 10:00 a.m.

    I love how people consider dissenting viewpoints being expressed as somehow someone denying you your rights to free speech. The way it works is you say something - the other persons argues another point - and it goes on back and forth. No one is denying anyone anything.

    Phil has no expressed right to work for A&E. In fact in Utah and other "right to work" states, it is an at will agreement between employer and employee and either can terminate the relationship for what ever reason. I am sure as long is the relationship is profitable for both, A&E and Phil will find a way to work it out.

    But please - lets stop the entitled spoiled child rants about loss of free speech. Someone disagreeing with you does not qualify of any preventing anyone else their rights - they are just expressing their own.

  • greatbam22 andrews afb, MD
    Jan. 3, 2014 9:53 a.m.

    "Both Phil and Bill have gotten into hot water for saying controversial things on national television."

    I thought the thing that got Phil in trouble was in a magazine article? I don't recall him getting into a lot of trouble with anything he has said during the duck dynasty show?

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Jan. 3, 2014 8:51 a.m.

    I think people already know freedom of speech doesn't guarantee you a TV show. I think what most people are disappointed in is... the lack of TOLERANCE of other opinions (when they are ultra-conservative) even when they were not intended to be offensive.

    I think the point is the hypocrisy. When ultra-liberal people in Hollywood or the recording industry do something outrageous or to say something very liberal... we are just supposed to be tolerant and just be glad there are other opinions out there, and we can express them without being blackballed. But if an ultra-conservative point of view is expressed... the same people PRAISE his being blackballed.

    I think THAT is the point. The hypocrisy, and lack of tolerance of somebody with a different point of view than yours.

  • Doklove Quincy, IL
    Jan. 3, 2014 8:50 a.m.

    I agree with the point of the article, however the thing that gets me about this is that the Robertson's are unabashedly conservative Christians. If you would have asked anyone who is familiar with the family or who watches the show what you thought their stance on Gay marriage was and I don't think anyone would be surprised to find out that they believed the bible stated that homosexuality is a sin. So why would A&E or anyone else react shocked at his statement? If you have a show about the lives of openly Christian people don't expect them to have anything but traditional Christian values.

  • BU52 Provo, ut
    Jan. 3, 2014 8:29 a.m.

    Property rights always trump free speech rights and that's what these two issues actually revolve around. Bill Mayer made a bone headed comment and his ratings tanked (partially due to the comment and partially due to his lack of appeal), therefore his show was cancelled. Papa Robertson made a comment and the producers got some blowback and thought they could calm the waters by releasing him, but the financial losses would have been too much to take, so they relented. It has very little to do with free speech or which side of the fence you happen to be on, its all about the Golden Rule....Them with the Gold RULE.

  • RBB Sandy, UT
    Jan. 3, 2014 8:20 a.m.

    The comparison between Bill and Phil is a flawed comparison. Bill routinely has made offensive comments ON HIS SHOWS. Phil made some comments to a magazine. I agree the producers have the right to fire either and the public has the right to stop watching if what was said offends them. That is the beauty of real freedom. You have the right to do what you want and the right to suffer the consequence - good or bad. I like to watch many entertainers whose beliefs I disagree with. If they stand up in that venue and start pushing those beliefs, I will stop watching. Likewise, I typically would not fire an employee for stating their personal views on their private time. If they go on a rampage at work, thats a different story.

  • .Atticus kaysville, Utah
    Jan. 3, 2014 8:14 a.m.

    Well said, Jim.

  • Ranch Here, UT
    Jan. 3, 2014 6:47 a.m.

    Oh, DN Subscriber 2, your comment is the perfect example of the author's point.

    Double standard.

  • Wadyaknow Baltimore, MD
    Jan. 3, 2014 6:25 a.m.

    And let us not forget the Dixie Chicks!

  • killpack Sandy, UT
    Jan. 3, 2014 12:50 a.m.

    We don't lock anyone up for free speech in this country. Yet. We do, however, lock up people for ALL KINDS of non-criminal offenses. Some things, seldom few things really, are inherently criminal. Murder, rape, theft, fraud, etc. So called tax evasion is NOT a crime. Not giving your money to corrupt, even criminal, government officials, who wreak all manner of havoc with it when they get their filthy hands on it, is NOT itself criminal. It certainly doesn't require police brutality and imprisonment, simply because you didn't get a good enough lawyer or accountant or because the IRS agent who drew your name out of a hat doesn't like you along with the prosecutor and judge partners in crime. Shame, shame, shame on us as a society, who have so cheaply sold our birthright as a free nation, in exchange for piddly food stamps, welfare checks, social security, and whatever financial opiates we so miserably rely.

  • JMH Provo, UT
    Jan. 2, 2014 9:30 p.m.

    First, you are correct that free speech does not give you the right to a TV show. A&E had every right to terminate Phil but they then had to face the economy consequences of their actions. They found that those were so onerous that they could accept his comments and his apology.

  • UtahBlueDevil Durham, NC
    Jan. 2, 2014 9:19 p.m.

    "Would the author suggest that the company could have fired me without any constitutional issues being raised?"

    Umm... yes, this happens all the time. Just a couple of months ago in Texas a teacher was fired for some pictures that came up that she had done years earlier in her less well thought out years. These photos were not taken while in the employment of the school district, she had not done anything while employeed by the schoold district against their rules, and this was not information she intentionally hid from them in the hiring process. But the district determined the fact that these pictures had come to light, caused a distraction from her ability to do her job in the class room.... and released her from her contract.

    People are fired all the time for expressing themselves on the web - whether it be in Facebook, or blogs or other postings. If an employer deems that person does not reflect the standards of their organization, they can and do fire people.

    Phil wasn't sanctioned because of his beliefs - but because of what he said about people who didn't share his beliefs.

  • DN Subscriber 2 SLC, UT
    Jan. 2, 2014 9:08 p.m.

    The author is philosophically correct.

    However, he ignores the fact that in the real world there is a tremendous double standard.

    The liberal view is "Unfettered free speech for me, but none for thee."

    Anything a liberal says, no matter how offensive, or even untrue is merely "free speech" or "expressing an opinion." Especially on matters of "political correctness." However, for any conservative to say the same words, but switching the object of their attention to a liberal target will instantly result in cries of "blasphemy, racism, homophobia, hatred for the poor, and many other sins. Of course, there is no explanation, excuse, or other discussion allowed, the liberals have spoken and the conservative offenders pronounced guilty and must be punished, banished, but most importantly silenced!

    Dissent from liberal orthodoxy is simply not permissible!
    Free speech for me, but not for the, indeed.

  • Outside-View Federal Way, WA
    Jan. 2, 2014 9:07 p.m.

    I understand the writers point but one thing that I think makes a big difference is that Mr Robinson didnt make his comments as part of his TV show. He made them as part of an interview.

    If you only have freedome of speech if you are willing to accept the punishment that comes with it that doesnt sound very good. The same would apply to those who say this is more of a civil rights violation (freeddom of relgion) against MR Robinson than freedome of speech. I am sure A&E would say that MR Robison can exercise his religous beliefs all he wants but that doesnt mean they have employ him. The result would be the same.

  • a_voice_of_reason Woods Cross, UT
    Jan. 2, 2014 5:08 p.m.

    I agree almost completely with the author. Free speech does not protect you from representing your employer in a way they don't want to be represented. Wouldn't KSL fire radio personalities who used repeated profanities? However, the one area I do not agree with the author is context. Bill Maher made his controversial remarks on the air. On the station's airwaves. Phil Robertson made his in another setting - not private, but not under the station's representation. Had he made those comments during the taping of a show the network could have chosen to edit that out. Had they not suspended him most of us never would have known about the comments. I do not think an employer has the right to fire an individual who publicly represented their personal beliefs with absolutely no representation of their employer in mind. I was previously employed by a company that supports the gay/lesbian movement very publicly. However, I personally oppose the movement in almost all of its facets. However, I never represented my employer in my personal opposition. Would the author suggest that the company could have fired me without any constitutional issues being raised? I think not.

  • djc Stansbury Park, Ut
    Jan. 2, 2014 4:29 p.m.

    I believe that Mr Robertson had the right to say what he said. I believe A & E had the right to fire him. What I don't believe is that A & E actually fired Mr Robertson for his comments or anything else. All shows for the upcoming season are already in the can. I'm sure A & E knew this. I believe that it was all a publicity gimmick. As a publicity gimmick it worked very well. Here we are talking about it weeks later. This whole event happened during a lackadaisical Christmas shopping season when there was great displays of Duck Dynasty merchandise in many if not most stores. I'll bet it helped move a lot of junk at Wal Mart and other stores. Color me cynical, but .......

  • daviscoug Syracuse, UT
    Jan. 2, 2014 4:26 p.m.

    @ GuiseppgG

    You nailed that one right on the head!!

  • liberty or ...? Ogden, UT
    Jan. 2, 2014 4:07 p.m.

    I am afraid Jim Bennett and Christopher B are quite wrong. The speech police have been more in force the last 10 years than ever before. And although I agree that free speech doesn't gaurantee you a television show it should also not get you fired from it either. The dirty little truth is that what was started during the Bush years and put on steroids during the Obama administration is to target and shut up any one with a dissenting voice to whichever greivance group is the loudest by waging economic terrorism against them and their sponsors whether it is CARE, GLADD, NAACP,la raza, NBC, FOX ,CNN ABC, etc.Its all brown shirt thug tactics. When one person says something careless and is held to different standards than someone else. you don't have freedom of speech. You have Communist PC (Origin Josef Stalin.) I say Death to it. you don't have a right not to be offended. as the Eagles say GET OVER IT

  • GiuseppeG Murray, Utah
    Jan. 2, 2014 3:52 p.m.

    Jim, I believe that it's really the Civil Rights Act, which protects employees from being discriminated against based on, among other things, their religious beliefs, that folks are referring to. And since, I imagine, A&E engages in interstate commerce, they are subject to Federal authority there.

    However, I believe that the coals that should be heaped on A&E are for buttering their bread on a fare of "redneck" shows, paying their actors for either being or acting like "rednecks", then feigning offence when they act like "rednecks" to try to appease another segment of society, and then being surprised when their "redneck" audience gets upset about that.

    That's a special kind of stupid.

  • Hutterite American Fork, UT
    Jan. 2, 2014 3:45 p.m.

    I agree wholeheartedly. There's some of what Phil said, however inelegantly, with which this liberal agrees. Quite a bit, actually. But I also steadfastly believe I make choices for myself and not others.

  • Christopher B Ogden, UT
    Jan. 2, 2014 3:35 p.m.

    Well said. If a tv channel owned by a conservative group fired someone for speaking in favor of same sex marriage I highly doubt the liberals would be responding the same way.