Thursday, December 19, 2013

Phil Roberston Says Words

As you all know, Phil Robertson gave an interview to GQ whereby he espoused his feelings about homosexuality.  His interview reads (in part):

“It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”

First of all, if you find yourself uttering the phrase “a man’s anus” during the course of a magazine interview you may want to rethink your talking points. Obviously, Phil was eloquently conveying a sentiment shared by all heterosexual males and he has the right to do so without having his constitutional rights violated. Unfortunately for Phil, his employer disagreed with his opinions and decided to suspend him without pay. This turn of events was remarkable only because he is a wealthy reality-television personality and not a local plumber. 

Let’s say that I own a liquor store and I hired Phil to work the counter. Now let’s say every time someone comes in to purchase something he informs them that they are going to rot in Hell. While Phil’s actions are a direct result of his religious convictions (namely that the consumption of alcohol is a sin) I still have the right as the owner of the establishment to fire Phil and hire someone who chooses not to remind my customers of their eternal damnation each time they wish to procure some Chardonnay.

Have I violated Phil’s right to free speech by firing him? No. The first amendment reads as follows:

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.

Let me give you an opposite scenario. Let’s say I was given a show on the Trinity Christian Broadcasting Network and during an interview with Rolling Stone I mentioned that God does not exist. Now it is highly likely that Trinity Broadcasting will disavow my comments and cancel my show because I expressed an opinion that is contrary to their business model and would offend many of their viewers. Does that mean my constitutional rights have been violated? No. Does that mean I exercised my right to free speech despite its detriment to my income? Yes.

A&E is a business and their objective is to create as large a viewership as possible to generate as much revenue as possible and when an employee jeopardizes that revenue stream they might find themselves on the business end of a pink slip. Were Phil to be charged with sedition and sent to a Federal penitentiary, then you would have an example of someone’s right to free speech being violated. There are people all over the world rotting in prison for daring to practice their religion or speak against a totalitarian regime so let’s not trivialize their struggle by placing Phil Robertson’s inability to appear on a television show in the same category.

That being said, anyone who agrees with Phil has the right to boycott A&E or the companies that control it. In A&E’s case that would mean avoiding any assets jointly owned by Disney and the Hearst Publishing Corporation like ESPN. These same individuals also have the right to identify his predicament as “religious persecution” and find themselves caught off-guard that the network responsible for Gene Simmons Family Jewels doesn’t adhere to higher moral standard.  

Either way this is a windfall for A&E and its parent corporations. All of this outrage does nothing but generate free publicity and increase viewership and, by extension, ad revenue. Once enough supporters sign enough online petitions and use enough hashtags, they will agree to bring him back. This “return” episode will be viewed by millions more than it would be under any other circumstance with many of them believing that by watching they are “supporting” Phil's views. All the while, both The Robertson’s and A&E will continue to line their pockets with fruits of a controversy that they themselves made possible. Ah, the beauty of capitalism.    


  1. I don't know who set up the interview, but if you ask a loaded question, then expect the answer to be equally loaded. Sounds like a set up. He can speak his mind, it's his right. In regards to your scenario about the liquor store - First off, as a Christian, he wouldn't be working in one, secondly if by some off chance he were, he would not tell everyone who walked in the door they were going to "rot in hell" unless they engaged him in a conversation about the afterlife - highly unlikely. He was asked a direct question and he answered it directly. I'm sure he doesn't go around asking people "hey are you gay, then your a sinner and blah blah blah". As far as a non believer having a show on Trinity network, I'm pretty sure they screen for that in the hiring process. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that A&E set up the interview to begin with. The media - whether print, radio, or television are always trying to bump up their ratings or increase circulation and this is, unfortunately how they do it, by creating conflict. A&E knew the content of the show before they aired it. They knew the family were Christians and as such did things of a Christian nature during the show, such as prayer time. If this bothered A&E's staff, then they should have never aired the show in the first place. To come out now and condemn him for his beliefs, knowing full well what they were when he was hired, is stupid and a cop out. In my opinion, they are trying to appease the liberals and homosexuals just like everybody else does.

  2. Exceptional MediocrityDecember 20, 2013 at 8:27 AM

    A. White,

    Allow me to address your concerns individually:

    1. It is highly likely that during the interview Phil was asked questions pertaining to his views. He chose to answer them the way he did. He could have said “read the Bible for yourself” or “I prefer not to comment at this time” but instead he said what he said which led us to where we are.

    2. I am curious as to your views on Christians never working at a liquor store. Do you feel that it is immoral for a Christian to work anywhere that sells alcohol such as Wal-Mart or a gas station? If that is the case, I suppose we must disagree since I am of the opinion that someone (Christian or otherwise) has nothing to be ashamed of holding a steady job and working hard. Just because they work at a liquor store does not mean they are obligated to drink the liquor. After all, Phil is employed by a network that pays Gene Simmons to elaborate on premarital sex and debauchery but that does not mean Phil must partake of these actions just because his employer “sells” them.

    3. I agree that him yelling that you are going to “rot in Hell” to customers is unlikely. However, it is no more unlikely than a sixty year old man who makes duck calls for a living getting a lengthy interview in GQ magazine.

    4. If it makes the Trinity Broadcasting hypothetical more palatable, let’s assume that I was a Christian when I signed the contract but had since lost my faith.

    5. I am sure A&E did know the religious beliefs of the Robertson’s before the show aired and as a business decision it has been, and continues to be, a wise course of action to have done so. One could also ask why The Robertson’s did not simply go to a Christian channel like Trinity to air their show. This would ensure their views would be heard and they could bring much needed publicity to a network that shares their values.

    6. I would disagree that their primary motivation is appeasing the “liberals and homosexuals”. Their primary motivation is generating revenue.


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