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A Base Canard


I don’t quite see what all the fuss is about with the Duck Dynasty guy. I’ll admit that I haven’t watched television in quite a while; the last time I checked, every show was about shlumpy men and beautiful women in offices lobbing wisecracks back and forth, and since I get that every day at National Review, there’s no need for me to watch it at home. It is entirely beyond my 1970s-era comprehension how it can be possible to make a television show, let alone the most popular one in the history of civilization, about duck-hunting equipment. But apparently that has happened.

Now, I have great admiration for my colleague Charlie Cooke, who on a bad day writes better than I do on my best day. But I don’t quite follow his reasoning in today’s piece. Like Ace of Spades, another favorite blogger of mine, he adopts the debater’s trick of mentioning the other side’s best argument at the start and then impatiently waving it off, as if that settled the matter. But it doesn’t.

As should be obvious to anyone, A&E is in the business of being popular, and if someone says something that will make it unpopular — by alienating viewers or attracting criticism or a boycott — it is completely right to suspend that person. Mr. Robertson’s job, I gather, is to say interesting things, and if he fails to do that, or if they are interesting in the wrong way, he is doing a bad job. Ace and Charlie admit this but still go on to say things like “Shame on you, A&E.” What shame? Why shame? A&E is doing exactly what any business should do to protect itself.

I am more in sympathy with his “Shame on you, GLAAD” — but again, can you blame that organization? Remember, for all the talk of encouraging unpopular ideas, there are some views so repugnant that they will get you in trouble no matter where you work. Charlie links to a few of these in his piece, and we’ve all heard about Bill Buckley reading anti-Semites and the John Birch Society out of the conservative movement (and there have been more recent examples, on the right and the left). GLAAD wants comments that they consider anti-gay to become unacceptable, so they use the weapons they have at their disposal to nudge “homophobia” toward the same category as (for example) racism. I don’t think their tactics are fair or conduce to the intelligent exchange of thought, but the marketplace of ideas is no more efficient than the marketplace of cars or soft drinks.

I guess what it boils down to is that if Mr. Robertson wants to say whatever he feels like, without repercussions, he should not have signed up to do a TV show. When you work for someone, you have to follow their rules. Like Charlie, I wish that pressure groups of all kinds would lighten up; but when they don’t, I don’t consider it to violate some emanation or penumbra of the First Amendment, but to be the very essence of it.


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