Duck Dynasty and its constitutionally ignorant fans | Arkansas Blog

Friday, December 20, 2013

Duck Dynasty and its constitutionally ignorant fans

Posted By on Fri, Dec 20, 2013 at 10:08 AM

click to enlarge sterling.png

Here's another one I probably should pass. But ....

David Sterling is a Religious Right candidate for Arkansas attorney general. (Republican, naturally.) Gun nut. Supports unconstitutional abortion bans. And so on.

Now he's joined Mike Huckabee and many other Republican politicians in capitalizing on the Duck Dynasty fan base, which is considerable and dovetails  with the base of the Southern White Angry Man Party (SWAMP/GOP). A message from Sterling:

Did you read about the liberal media attack on Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson for exercising his First Amendment rights? The "politically correct" police are at it again! The left wing media believes freedom of speech only applies to liberals.

We must stand up for our right to express our beliefs, especially ones so fundamental to the freedoms and liberties we enjoy as Americans.

As Attorney General I will always defend Arkansans’ freedom of speech. If you stand with Phil Robertson and me, will you donate $25 or even $10 to help defend our constitutional rights?

This argument is getting a workout all over the right-wing noise machine. It just happens to be constitutionally illiterate. Since Sterling hopes to be the state's chief legal officer, his legal ignorance merits a mention.

The First Amendment says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Note those first words: Congress shall make no law.

Your 1st Amendment rights are not violated if your employer fires you for saying something objectionable. UNLESS, your employer is the government. Then you might have a claim, though not a categorical protection.

Duckhead Phil Robertson can say whatever he wants about ragheads, queers and Nigras. His employer A&E can do whatever it wants in response, within the bounds of whatever employment contract he might have. Nobody. I repeat NOBODY, has said Duckhead isn't entitled to say whatever he wants to say. What his defenders like Sterling seem to say is that others have no right to criticize him. Many of them are, of course, the same people who thought the Dixie Chicks should be put out of business for criticizing George W. Bush.

Robertson can say whatever. I can say whatever about what he said. Both our employers can react however. That is the spirit of the 1st Amendment in full flower. In short, however, nowhere does the Constitution require me to employ a blustering  asshole, even if it is good for TV ratings or newspaper sales. I was actually surprised A&E suspended him. Ratings ought to skyrocket on the strength of his GQ interview, at least in the target demographic.

But a man with a law degree ought to know better than to be so dishonest in his pitches for money as to misstate the 1st Amendment. The pitch tells you plenty about David Sterling's qualifications to enforce the law.

Brought to you by the First Amendment.

UPDATE: Good piece by Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic on a subject I addressed yesterday. Those happy black folk of yore who never had cause to sing the blues in Phil Robertson's boyhood Louisiana. Excerpt:

The black people who Phil Robertson knew were warred upon. If they valued their lives, and the lives of their families, the last thing they would have done was voiced a complaint about "white people" to a man like Robertson. Ignorance is no great sin and one can forgive the good-natured white person for not knowing how all that cannibal sausage was truly made. But having been presented with a set of facts, Robertson's response is to cite "welfare" and "entitlement" as the true culprits.

The belief that black people were at their best when they were being hunted down like dogs for the sin of insisting on citizenship is a persistent strain of thought in this country. This belief reflects the inability to cope with an America that is, at least rhetorically, committed to equality. 

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