Duck Dynasty: A Final Word

Truthout readers have been provided a few comments on the suspension of the “Duck Dynasty” patriarch for extremely bigoted comments regarding gay and black people. In the wider “news” world this has become a recurring topic. In this short piece I would like to point out several key elements of the ensuing debate.

This is not a freedom of speech issue! The Constitution, in Amendment 1, states that Congress shall make no law restricting this freedom. Under the doctrine of incorporation, the Supreme Court has held this prohibition also applies to state and local government. Robertson had every right to say what he did. He will not be arrested for doing so.

A&E has certain contractual rights in dealing with the people who produce and sell a show to them. These may include, I am not privy to the contract, the right to suspend a performer who, in their opinion, does harm to the show’s popularity or standing with advertisers. This kind of action, including saying certain things, could then reduce commercial revenue to A&E. Making money is the general goal of any business.

Robertson may also have contractual rights which would prohibit this suspension by A&E. If he believes this is true he would, of course, turn to the government, the judicial system, for redress. He can bring a civil case calling on the government to support his contractual rights. Enforcement of private contracts is one of the many things which government does to make the country work correctly.

The normal conservative position is to support the rights of employers to manage their employees. If the employee harms the company, conservatives and most other people believe the company may take action. In this case, a suspension is rather a minimal penalty for Robertson. I do not recall Sarah Palin complaining when MSNBC parted company with Martin Bashar over his extremely tasteless comments directed at her.

Thus most of the discussion over this minor incident seems to revolve around a, fairly prevalent, misunderstanding of the First Amendment and typical Republican hypocrisy. (Think Dick Cheney criticizing President Obama for lying to the American public.) I do sincerely wish that Conservatives/Republicans would take labor’s side against management more often.

I hope this is enough about Duck Dynasty.

Postscript: Since this article was written A&E Network has lifted the suspension of Mr. Robertson. This was apparently in response to both the reaction of fans of the show and the threat by the other cast members to discontinue the show without Mr. Robertson. This threat asserts a contractual right which the Duck Dynasty production team would expect the courts (government) to uphold. As I stated, above, this has never been a “free speech” issue. Rather, it has been a contractual issue.