Now that the whole Duck Dynasty fiasco has had its 15 minutes, I feel like it’s sort of a good time to say that maybe a lot of people out there have no fucking clue what the 1st Amendment guarantees citizens of the US.
I can’t tell you how many articles and social media posts touting “Protect the First Amendment!” or “Freedom of Speech Violation!” or “I Don’t Really Know What I’m Talking About But Fox News Said It So It Must Be True!” flooded my feeds last week. It would appear a large majority of Americans believe the 1st Amendment guarantees people the right to say stupid shit and keep their jobs.
The 1st Amendment guarantees the following:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Just to recap, nowhere in there does it say famous citizens get to go to media outlets and say ignorant things and that the TV network that airs a show on which these famous citizens appear has to let them continue getting on TV and representing said network. It doesn’t say that anywhere. Not even between the lines.
What it does say, however, is that Congress can’t curtail citizens’ freedom to say what they want. (And even that has limits. For example, you can’t scream “FIRE!” or any other panic-inducing tidbit that might result in, I don’t know, mass trampling of others in a crowded building when there isn’t one. It’s called Endangerment, and it’s illegal.) Congress. As in the government. Not a TV network or a factory or a public school. The government.
As far as I know (disclaimer: I don’t care to know much about Duck Dynasty), no one in the government has arrested the asshole from Duck Dynasty or otherwise fined, punished, or tarred and feathered him. The media has, for sure (and rightly so, but I digress), but to my knowledge, Barack Obama has yet to infringe upon this guy’s right to say African Americans were happier when they were legally treated like less than second class citizens or that gay people might not be so gay when they’re all burning in Hell together for eternity (I’m paraphrasing here).
Do I agree with this guy’s beliefs? Hell no. Do I believe he has the right to publicly voice his beliefs? Hell yes. Do I think he should get to keep his job after doing so? Only if every other person who was fired or asked to resign for posting topless pics of themselves on their Facebook timelines or tweeting politically incorrect crap gets to keep theirs as well.
Simply put, you can’t say a bunch of hateful things and expect everything to be the same the next day. It doesn’t work like that. While the 1st Amendment guarantees Uncle Sam won’t haul you off to jail for being a bigot (for shame, really), it doesn’t guarantee your employer and the rest of the world will extend the same courtesy.
NOTE: I heard somewhere (the radio?) that the dude got his position back on Duck Dynasty. Awesome. I’m guessing the network decided even with all the blow back, featuring a racist homophobe on one of their shows sells.