This Phil Robertson thing is making me want to bang my head on the keyboard. It has NOTHING to do with free speech. The government did not storm in and shut down the interview, nor did they put Phil in jail for what he said. (When the government was encouraging people to report neighbors who were telling “lies” about Obamacare…that’s getting awfully close.) It’s about business, economics, and contracts.The first amendment does not protect you from consequences of your speech, nor does it guarantee you a platform from which to speak.
Phil is not a victim; he’s an astute businessman. He was wealthy long before the show, and he didn’t get that way by being an idiot. I’m sure he was well aware of what was in his contract. Unless there’s more going on than I know about (and there probably is), he gambled that he was too valuable to be cut loose and lost. Or he genuinely wanted to stand up for his beliefs and didn’t care about the consequences.
As for A&E, they’re perfectly within their rights to enforce their contracts. I think it was a stupid business decision, but it’s theirs to make.
Now…Cracker Barrel. This has got to be one of the biggest marketing flubs ever. Either some executive got up on his high horse and refused to listen to marketing, or the marketing department has absolutely no clue who their customers are. We’ll have to see if they can recoup the damage now that they’ve reversed decisions.
It often seems that the people who squawk the loudest about free speech are also the ones who squawk the loudest about the free market. We need to keep the issues straight; this has nothing to do with free speech and everything to do with the free market. Just as Phil Robertson has the freedom to deal with the consequences of his speech, A&E and Cracker Barrell will have to deal with the consequences of their decisions. But that’s very different than not being allowed to make those decisions.