The governor of Louisiana has come to the defense of persecuted Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson. Looking out for the interests of a constituent, and no doubt hoping to win favor with the Republican primary base, where Robertson's views are likely to be popular, Gov. Jindal has denounced the A&E channel for suspending Robertson from his program. He described it as "a messed-up situation when Miley Cyrus gets a laugh and Phil Robertson gets suspended."
The governor appears to propose a moral equivalence of offensiveness. In the most charitable reading, Jindal means that no one find Robertson's sayings more offensive than the former Hannah Montana's buttheaded exhibitionism. A less charitable reading might infer that Jindal considers Cyrus more censurable than Robertson. For the sake of arguments, let's concede that Cyrus's recent TV appearances have driven standards of taste to a new low. Does that make her a moral equivalent of the Duck Commander? Some people may well feel more offended after watching one of her performances, either morally or aesthetically, than after reading the Robertson interview in GQ magazine. But whom has Cyrus insulted? Whom has she attacked? I don't have to endorse A&E's action to insist on a qualitative difference between offenses that renders Jindal's opinion trivial.
Robertson's defenders may claim that he, too, has attacked no one and insulted people only unintentionally, in the course of exercising his right to speak his mind. His suspension, from this perspective, looks like an Orwellian crackdown on thoughtcrime by the ever-dreaded "PC" police. Worse, because homophobia is now seen by many as essential to their religious identity, A&E's action is taken as an insult to civil liberty on two fronts. But between the time the GQ interview appeared and A&E's action these same champions had already declared their intolerance of anyone who dared say their hero was wrong. While my post from last night was meant to remind readers that Robertson offended more than homosexuals, this debate boils down to whether people can say in public,without fear of punishment, that homosexuality is "wrong." For one side, homosexuality remains a behavior as liable to criticism as any behavior; for the other, criticizing homosexuality is equivalent to asserting the innate inferiority of an entire race. If we could all agree to disagree on this topic I wouldn't have a post to write right now. We can only wait for public opinion to follow the path trod fifty years ago, when it became unacceptable in public to assert racial inferiority. It never became illegal to do so, but a form of private-sector censorship arguably took effect and will most likely take effect again against homophobia, unless the Supreme Court affirms sometime that the Fred-Phelpsification of Christianity is protected by law.