Phil Robertson vs. A&E: I’m Offended! Well, so what!

Dec 19, 2013

Now that the proverbial shit has hit the fan about Phil Robertson, a devout Christian, expressing his devoutly Christian views on homosexuals to a writer from GQ Magazine, I would like to take a step back and point out the depressing stupidity of A&E and those who agree with them.

Phil Robertson

After the author writes “He is a man who preaches the gospel of the outdoors and, to my great envy, practices what he preaches.”  He then turns suddenly and writes “…here’s where things get a bit uncomfortable … he thumps that Bible hard enough to ring the bell at a county-fair test of strength.”  Now perhaps I do not find Bible thumping uncomfortable because I was raised in Phil’s religion but the author is a journalist, his personal feelings are irrelevant.  I suspect he inserted this tidbit to distance himself from the ideas he seems to think are criminal to express.

The author then writes something which, coming from a journalist, is entirely hypocritical.  “Out here in these woods, without any cameras around, Phil is free to say what he wants. Maybe a little too free.”  That’s right, too free, as in Phil’s freedom to express himself has crossed some sort of imaginary line and should be curtailed.  I wonder if the author of the article would appreciate being told that his freedom to write what he wants is a little too free.  This brings me to the gravamen of my case, free expression being trampled by political correctness.

Sarah Kate Ellis – GLADD

Nancy Dubac – A&E

With the congratulatory praise of GLADD, A&E responded to the article by removing Phil from the “reality show” based on his family.  What part of the article prompted this hard-handed response?  Well it wasn’t the creationist nonsense, it wasn’t even his anecdotal denial that blacks were mistreated during the civil rights era, it was the fact that Phil Robertson had the [audacity!] to SAY he thought homosexual sex was revolting to him; that he did not understand why a man would not prefer sex with woman.  Phil merely expressed in words his own ignorance concerning the person sex drive of other humans, not one mention of committing violence against homosexuals, which if he were true to what his religion actually says would be a given, just that he personally didn’t understand why anyone would engage in homosexual coitus.  A view which fits perfectly with the other religious views, nothing surprising about this.  A&E and GLADD would have us think that any dislike or inability to understand homosexuality is equivalent to hate, it isn’t, but that is also irrelevant.

This mole hill, turned mountain, reminds me of a lecture by the late Christopher Hitchens on the subject of hate speech where he recommended everyone take a refresher course on the classic texts on the matter; John Milton’s Areopagitica, “Areopagitica” being the great hill of Athens for discussion and free expression; Thomas Paine’s introduction to The Age of Reason.  The most pertinent being John Stuart Mill’s essay On Liberty in which it is variously said that it is not just the right of the person who speaks to be heard, it is the right of everyone in the audience to listen, and to hear.

Every time you silence someone you make yourself a prisoner of your own action because you deny yourself the right to hear something.  In other words, your own right to hear and be exposed is as much involved in all these cases as is the right of the other to voice his or her view.  If all in society were agreed on the truth and beauty and value of one proposition, all except one person, it would be most important, in fact it would become even more important, that that one heretic be heard, because we would still benefit from his perhaps outrageous or appalling view.  As Rosa Luxembourg said, freedom of speech is meaningless unless it means the freedom of the person who thinks differently.

Archie Bunker – All in the Family

When I first read what was happening the look on my face mirrored that of Archie (right).  I’m an atheist, I don’t think for one second that we should base modern society on the archaic manuscripts which include such things as the death penalty for unruly children or working on the Sabbath.  I think that gay relationships harm nobody and that gay marriages should be recognized and treated no differently than so-called traditional marriage.  I think Phil Robertson, like the fictional Archie Bunker, is a product of the time and place in which he was raised and there isn’t very much anyone can do to change him.  Phil Robertson isn’t attempting to force his personal views on others or calling for homosexuals to be persecuted in any way, his words caused no actual harm.  The appropriate response should be the same as it was with All in the Family.  People laughed at Archie Bunker’s bigotry because bigotry doesn’t deserve serious consideration.  They did not raise hell, complain about being offended and then call for his removal from the show.

GLADD and A&E are justifying the removal of Phil with the claim that what he said was offensive to their LGBT views.  Well I’m with Steven Fry in that “[i]t’s now very common to hear people say, ‘I’m rather offended by that.’ As if that gives them certain rights.  It’s actually nothing more… than a wine. ‘I find that offensive.’ It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘I am offended by that.’ Well, so fucking what.”  Seriously GLADD, what Robertson thinks has ZERO effect on your members.

I’ll close with a suggestion to Phil and his family, stick together.  As a family, refuse to take part in any further production until they reverse their decision.  I may not agree with Phill but I’ll be damned if I’m going to support GLADD and A&E forbidding everyone else from hearing what he has to say.

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