A&E reverses course, allows Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson to rejoin his own show. But as Ace notes, “Robertson only gets to speak his mind without punishment because he has millions of fans. The rest of us are not so fortunate”:
Our current social understanding of free speech is this: You can speak your mind freely if you have a large enough army of supporters to pressure a company into resisting pressure from a large army of Speech Police.
This is not free speech. This is free speech as an exceptional thing — only for those with a wide, passionate following — not as a routine thing.
A&E is a cowardly organization. First it puts Robertson on “indefinite hiatus” under pressure from one group of people, then it puts him back on the air because they’ve been pressured by a somewhat larger group of people.
At no point did they trip over anything resembling a general principle of speech free from “consequences” of broad application.
While starring in a “reality” show, Robertson’s reality in terms of dealing with the legacy media isn’t that far removed from a star or producer who waits until his career has sufficient critical mass before coming out as a conservative, a la Kelsey Grammer or Jon Voight.
On the other hand, Deneen Borelli of The Blaze looks at the other side of the equation: at least A&E restored the show before Jesse Jackson could shakedown the network with his ambulance-chasing tactics:
A&E caving to public pressure shows the power that resides with Americans. Armed with social media, Duck Dynasty fans were able to overcome left-wing activists like Jesse Jackson and GLAAD, forcing Cracker Barrel restaurants and A&E to reverse their initial positions.
Moreover, it’s extremely gratifying to see that Jackson and the NAACP are losing influence. Their race card dealings failed showing their waning ability to force change through baseless claims and meaningless press releases.
Still, the bottom line is that regardless of what A&E says to provide cover for itself, Disney, or the Hearst Corporation, Robertson was reinstated only nine days after being indefinitely suspended. Throughout his suspension he did not cower down to A&E. Rather, he said he had simply quoted the Bible in his comments to GQ and made clear that he would not apologize for doing so.
Bill O’Reilly is a big loser here as well. He too kicked Robertson while he was down, criticizing him for quoting the Bible in a way that singled out one group of people.
Phil Robertson won. A&E, Disney, the Hearst Corporation, and O’Reilly lost — and lost big.
“Robertson-1, Media Industrial Complex-Ø,” Kate writes at Small Dead Animals.