Sunday, December 29, 2013

On the Duck Dynasty Guy

I didn't want to post over the controversy about Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson, because it seems to largely be sucking up media oxygen that could be devoted to real stories. But I can't resist hitting a few quick points.

1) The things Robertson said in the GQ profile ranged from extremely dumb to stealthily dangerous. Ta-Nehisi Coates is excellent on the latter, and you should definitely read his view.

2) I'm indifferent on whether Robertson should have been suspended from his show — a real suspension, not the fake one that A&E actually did. A suspension isn't going to change his mind; it's not going to change the mind of anyone with similar beliefs; and it's going to give the right more fuel for their silly and historically ridiculous belief that white Christians are the only persecuted group in this country. On a more theoretical level, I'm uneasy with the idea that people should be punished for expressing politically or morally questionable beliefs. (And yes, I understand the First Amendment only applies to government suppression for such beliefs.) We live in a country where the internet mob can cause lasting and disproportionate harm for people, whether they're making a brief public mistake or expressing a hateful opinion. That's not going to happen to Robertson, who will have plenty of fans and money for the rest of his life, but the more comfortable we get used to the idea of harm as a normal result of exercising speech, the greater the chance it'll be used abusively.

3) Where were all these fervent free speech advocates who are so eager to defend Robertson when the Dixie Chicks were being threatened for expressing a mild political view, I wonder?