Tonawanda News

December 29, 2013

DUVALL: Duck Dynasty's free speech, free market lesson

By Eric DuVall
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — I’ve been loathe to talk about this topic, much less go on the record with my opinion because I think it’s beneath readers of this column and this newspaper — substantive readers of anything, for that matter.

The world of “OMG! Insider” disagrees. So does Fox News (and that should give you an idea of just where the Fox folks rank in terms of media credibility) so I’ll take the bait.

So here it goes: The guy from “Duck Dynasty” is an idiot. To me and the silent majority of Americans who support equal rights for gays and lesbians, his beliefs are backwards, inflammatory, bigoted. Whether they’re rooted in his religion or just good, old-fashioned ignorance matters not to me.

And I fully support his right to believe them. I even support his right to spout them to his heart’s content. It’s a free country, after all.

You think all gays are going to hell? Fine. I think you’re a moron. 

Hardly the sort of high-minded discourse the Founding Fathers envisioned when writing the First Amendment, but what did you expect when our starting point is the patriarch of a backwoods family who rose to prominence thanks to duck whistles, ridiculous facial hair and reality television?

Here’s the thing: Since when did the First Amendment protect speakers who say something stupid or offensive from the consequences?

By now we all know Paul Robertson was “suspended” from the show — even though it wasn’t filming at the time — for his remarks in a magazine interview. The Sarah Palin types jumped to his defense, crying foul that free speech was in peril. 

Excuse me? This dolt is elevated from obscurity to a national platform for no meritorious reason, uses it to spew inflammatory rhetoric about a minority group and you’re saying his rights have been violated?

Last I checked, the First Amendment (that document all those Tea Party troglodytes love to say we ignore) says: “Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech.” Did I miss an act of Congress prohibiting duck whistling dipsticks from expressing their opinions about gays?

Was Robertson jailed for his remarks? Did the police show up and raid his home? Did the FCC force A&E to cancel his show?

No, it was that pesky invisible hand of the free market — a conservative cause celebre to be preserved at all cost — at work. A&E feared a backlash from viewers who find Robertson’s opinions offensive so they suspended him. Just like what any employer might do if an employee did something to jeopardize profits.

And just as I’m satisfied by that outcome, I must also shrug my agreement with A&E’s decision to bring him back. 

Fans revolted and promised to boycott the show. The network recalculated its dollars-and-cents decision and brought him back (all while dimwitted fans bought “Duck Dynasty” merchandise in droves to show their support for Robertson — profits from which go to the employer who suspended him).

The free market has spoken. It’s a sad statement, but I’ll accept it. I profoundly disagree with his position but a rational conclusion is obvious: My rights are no more abridged whether that guy is on television or not.

And besides, if cable network executives are the ones we’re counting on to preserve for civil rights and civil discourse we’ve got much bigger problems than the future of “Duck Dynasty.”

I think Paul Robertson is stupid. I think his show is stupid. Neither of those facts separates him from a majority of stupid people on television and their right to say stupid things to other people stupid enough to watch their stupid shows. 

The “Duck Dynasty” quack can flap all he likes about gays, lesbians, heaven, hell — whatever is on his bird-sized brain.

And that’s the lasting beauty of the First Amendment in a media-saturated, contrived-crisis generating 21st century America: Just because you have the right to say something dumb doesn’t mean I have to listen to it. I’ll just change the channel.