The Un-Happy, Happy, Happy Truth about Freedom of Speech

There’s this little show called Duck Dynasty. I’m sure by now you’ve all heard of it. The patriarch and inventor of a certain duck whistle, Phil Robertson, made remarks during a GQ interview that have caused a huge stir. In fact, I’m just going to link to that interview so you can read it for yourself.

Back? Okay. Now we can talk.

Here’s the thing. Phil Robertson is welcome to his own opinion. He is welcome to believe whatever he wants and say whatever he wants. First Amendment. Freedom of speech. Freedom of religion.

But that’s where it gets complicated. The First Amendment allows you the freedom of speech, but it does not protect you from the consequences. You can SAY whatever you like, but that doesn’t mean there is no price to pay for what you say, when you say it.

Phil Robertson made these remarks on an interview for Duck Dynasty, which means that he is not spouting anti-gay or selective history comments on his own time and dime. No, he’s doing this under the auspices of the show. It’s a work-related interview. And his employers are not happy.

When Phil Robertson and his family signed a contract with A&E, they willingly allowed cameras into their lives and to script certain things to create a show. This, in effect, makes them employees of A&E. They have WILLINGLY ceded control of their lives to A&E, for a not-at-all-small sum of money, and they agree to let A&E script/edit the show as A&E sees appropriate. This means that what they say and do under the show’s umbrella makes it a product of A&E. But again, they get money for it, so their acceptance of the money means they agree to the terms and conditions of their contract.

This is very much akin to just about any work situation, except that most of us make a lot less money and don’t have a camera inside our home. When I worked at Culver’s at the ripe old age of 14, I made an agreement in my contract that I would not slander the company and I would not disclose procedures of food preparation or ingredients for two years. When my friend K worked at Bath and Body Works, she signed a non-disclosure agreement as well, which meant she could not mention the name of the store on any of her personal social media forums. All employers have something. I am very careful not to complain about my job here on this blog or on Facebook. Once, I made a remark about getting an article rejected, that was critical of the unnamed reviewer, and then I deleted it. You have to be careful in public. You don’t want careless comments to turn around and hurt your career.

I’m fairly certain that this is not the first time Phil Robertson has said crazy things, as a newly-resurfaced 2010 sermon can attest. In fact, I am certain that A&E made specific cuts to protect the family and to protect the show and the show’s image. Now, however, Phil has gone off script. He has made inappropriate public remarks while at work, and now work wants to collect. In fact, if work doesn’t collect, they may face legal action from anti-discrimination groups.

It’s like the case of Angus T. Jones (the kid from Two and a Half Men). While still a contracted, salaried employee of the show, he decided to air his newly-found beliefs and made disparaging remarks about the show. Child, you can’t do that. Not as an employee. The honorable thing to do would have been to gracefully resign and THEN say those things.

If Phil Robertson and co. are unhappy with the constrictions of their contract, they should bow out gracefully and find another broadcaster that will let them do their thing.

Freedom of speech is not endangered, THANK YOU, SARAH PALIN. Phil Robertson is not a martyr for freedom. He’s an old, ignorant man who made crazy remarks, and now his employers are having to take action to prevent further damage to their moneymaker, and to their own image.

The point I’m trying to make is simple: you can believe and say whatever you want in this country. But if you signed a contract and you embarrass your employer, don’t expect to keep your job.

*I will not get into those remarks. I won’t. I can’t. That black people comment almost killed me, as it was. Seriously, we JUST GOT DONE talking about Paula Deen. This is not removing any of my prejudices about the South.*

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1 Comment

Filed under Celebrity, Culture, State of mind, Television

One response to “The Un-Happy, Happy, Happy Truth about Freedom of Speech

  1. Kelsey Westfall

    I love everything you said. Perfectly stated.

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