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December 27, 2013

A&E Announces It's Welcoming Back Phil Robertson, and He'll Be Rejoining the Show

Our long national nightmare is only warming up, I'm afraid.

Robertson only gets to speak his mind without punishment because he has millions of fans.

The rest of us are not so fortunate.

The network and the Robertson family announced Friday that Phil will still be part of the series -- and since he didn't miss any filming, his temporary suspension will have no effect on the upcoming fifth season.

Maet liked this mention of a special contractual rider:

The entire Robertson family has been on hiatus for duck hunting season, a contractual stipulation, which continues through Jan. 26 in their native Louisiana.

Here's A&E's statement:

As a global media content company, A+E Networks’ core values are centered around creativity, inclusion and mutual respect. We believe it is a privilege for our brands to be invited into people’s home and we operate with a strong sense of integrity and deep commitment to these principals.

That is why we reacted so quickly and strongly to a recent interview with Phil Robertson.

Wait, because you're a media company you have a special obligation to squelch speech you disagree with? Shouldn't your obligation run in precisely the opposite direction?

While Phil’s comments made in the interview reflect his personal views based on his own beliefs, and his own personal journey, he and his family have publicly stated they regret the “coarse language” he used and the mis-interpretation of his core beliefs based only on the article. He also made it clear he would “never incite or encourage hate.” We at A+E Networks expressed our disappointment with his statements in the article, and reiterate that they are not views we hold.

Isn't this enough? If these statements do not reflect A&E's views -- and I'm quite certain they don't -- why is it not enough to simply say "These statements do not reflect our views"?

We have reached a curious pass in the conception of free speech. First it was widely pushed by the Left that any comment it didn't like had to be "denounced" by every single person aligned with the right.

But simple denunciation turned out to be an appetizer; now it is further demanded that every person and every entity use all of its power to actively discourage, punish, and arrest disapproved thoughts.

But Duck Dynasty is not a show about one man's views. It resonates with a large audience because it is a show about family… a family that America has come to love. As you might have seen in many episodes, they come together to reflect and pray for unity, tolerance and forgiveness. These are three values that we at A+E Networks also feel strongly about.

How about we all behave like grown-ups and accept the fact that other people are going to occasionally say things we find "offensive" and that there should not be any sanction expected in such cases?

So after discussions with the Robertson family, as well as consulting with numerous advocacy groups, A&E has decided to resume filming Duck Dynasty later this spring with the entire Robertson family.

"Advocacy groups."

We will also use this moment to launch a national public service campaign (PSA) promoting unity, tolerance and acceptance among all people, a message that supports our core values as a company, and the values found in Duck Dynasty. These PSAs will air across our entire portfolio.

They always could have done this if they felt it was necessary to rebut Robertson. Why did they not simply avail themselves of such a simple (and non-coercive) means of fighting speech with, get this, other speech?

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.


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posted by Ace at 05:31 PM

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