Bobby Jindal doesn’t understand the First Amendment

2016 presidential hopeful’s defense of Duck Dynasty star’s homophobic comments suggests a deep misunderstanding of what the Constitution says.

Here we go again.

The great thing about Duck Dynasty-style blowups is that they provide dumbasses a chance to trot their dumbassery out for public display. Take Louisiana governor (and prospective 2016 presidential candidate) Bobby Jindal, whose comments this morning suggest that he doesn’t understand Constitution even a little bit.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal jumped to the defense of Phil Robertson, the star of the A&E megahit “Duck Dynasty” who was indefinitely suspended from the program Wednesday after making graphic statements about homosexuality.

In a statement, Jindal praised Robertson and his family as “great citizens” of his home state, where the lucrative show is filmed, and he slammed the “politically correct crowd” for criticizing his comments.

“I don’t agree with quite a bit of stuff I read in magazine interviews or see on TV.  In fact, come to think of it, I find a good bit of it offensive,” Jindal said. “But I also acknowledge that this is a free country and everyone is entitled to express their views.  In fact, I remember when TV networks believed in the First Amendment. It is a messed up situation when Miley Cyrus gets a laugh, and Phil Robertson gets suspended.” [emphasis added]

Look, I’d be thrilled to see and hear less Miley Cyrus (and by “less” I mean none at all). But we’ve covered this issue before and it’s clear that Jindal doesn’t read S&R. Also, he apparently slept through PoliSci 101. See, Governor, the Phil Robertson case is not about the First Amendment. At. All. Let’s review.

The First Amendment is a specific codification forbidding the government from restricting the exercise of free speech. As … in the Williams/ESPN case, there’s no 1A implication because there’s no government action, and the Constitution has nothing to say about corporate suppression of speech (or the suppression of speech by anybody except the government…)

I realize this is pretty nuanced stuff by Louisiana public education standards, but you, Governor, were a top-flight student. And now you’re, you know, a governor. And you may want to be president. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for us to expect from you at least a basic grasp of what the motherfucking Constitution says.

Sorry. That was uncalled for. The point is this:

…neither the basic principle of freedom of speech or the First Amendment says the following:

  • you have the right to be heard (you have the right to speak, but nobody has an obligation to listen – the right to hear or not to hear is the unwritten right upon which it’s all based)

  • you have the right not to be disagreed with (nope, just the opposite – freedom to speak exposes you to other people’s right to speak and subjects you to the judgment of the community)

  • other people have an obligation to provide you a forum in which to speak (nope – you have a right to speak, but you have no right to speak in my yard)

  • others have an obligation to sponsor or finance your speech (no – choosing to advertise or otherwise patronize your speech is a function of the other party’s freedom and they have the right to turn the faucet on and off as they wish and for whatever reasons they wish)

  • you have a right to be free from the consequences of your speech (no – if you offend the community, they have the right to end their association with you; they have the right to speak freely to your sponsors, if you have any, and to ask said sponsor to cease supporting you)

  • you have the right to be opposed only by those whose values mirror yours (duh, no – people have the right to oppose you for the noblest of reasons or the most despicable; if they opt for the latter, then they become subject to the rights of others within the community to speak and act against them)

I can’t stress this enough, Bobby – this is not complicated. So please, stop acting like a cynical, grandstanding, pandering GOP yokelmonger and act like you have some damned sense.

21 replies »

  1. Thanks for this post! I was just getting wound up to write an explainer about the First Amendment when this hit my Facebook feed. And I will add, that even if the First Amendment did somehow apply to the networks, Jindal’s statement would still be factually incorrect, because we have a pretty well-documented history of broadcast censorship in the U.S. I agree with you that he is obviously pandering, and I think comments like his do nothing but reinforce ignorance, which is just bad for everyone.

    • The Constitution has never applied to public airwaves the way it does other media because they were a limited resource. Lots of policy on that one. But even that doesn’t apply here because A&E is cable, and cable is not a limited public resource. So Jindal is even wronger, I suppose.

  2. Nice post…I work for a company that has rules about what its employees can put on social media. They remind us once a year. The government is not stopping me from saying anything nor is the company. but, the company has informed me of consequences if I mention them negatively.

  3. What I’m interested in is how there are so few people talking about the racist statements he’s making about happy, singing field workers.

    This crap, and Honey Boo Boo…They make me sad for a world that is smothering itself in hate, and they make me mad that they’re even on TV where they get turned into representatives for an entire area of the country.

    • No, Diana, this is good. This nasty racist, evangelical culture doesn’t appear as horrible as it really is when put forward by an affable sort like Mike Huckabee. I think showing people the real South is a good thing.

      • Actually…As a Southerner speaking…This isn’t the “real South.” It can be this way, but, much like every place else, it isn’t always the way it comes across on TV.

        • The “real South” is about as complex a concept as you’ll find in all of American cultural history, isn’t it? All the racism and narrow religious bigotry is certainly the real South – it occurs in such volume from one end of Dixie to the other that it’s impossible to suggest it’s anything else. At the same time, the real South has given us passionate warriors for social justice, the Civil Rights movement, Faulkner, O’Connor and Welty and Hunter Thompson and Tom Wolfe and Thomas Wolfe and brilliant scientists and artists and so much more.

          It’s not an either/or, in other words, but a maddening both/and. The problem is that the wrong impulse has been dominant throughout our history. It’s frustrating for those of us born and raised there, because “the South” has come to be an epithet. The broad stereotype has a lot of Duck Dynasty about it. On the one hand, we want to defend the “other South,” but it isn’t like we don’t know that hateful hillbilly beast even better than the non-Southerners making fun of it.

        • It’s also worth noting just how many Southerners you’ll find around here. Diana and Gene’O are Louisianans, I believe, as is our own Frank Balsinger (who lives in exile in Montana). I’m from NC, as is Jim Booth. Otherwise is from Georgia. Our buddy Frank D is from West Virginia, which isn’t in the South technically but certainly is culturally.

          I think the tensest discussions I have seen about the South at S&R have been between the Southerners themselves. It isn’t just a battle to define ourselves and to defend that which is good about our heritage. It’s a battle we all wage within ourselves as we try to come to grips with the nastiness from which we emerged (and in some cases, ran screaming). That’s key, too. Some of us have left while others have stayed. Some who leave want to go back while others wouldn’t go back at gunpoint.

          As I said, complex.

        • Yes, and I don’t think I expressed that quite as well as I could’ve. We are that place of conservativism, fundamentalism, and absolutism. But we’re other things, too. We’re as complex as other areas of the country: perhaps even more so because of the baggage of the past. And that’s part of what makes it worth being here.

        • I know folks who are committed to staying. I have friends in NC, for instance, who are determined not to cede their home to the neo-feudalists and the Puritans. I admire their backbone. On the other hand, there are people like me, and I ain’t going back. Never. The South is where I’m from, but it hasn’t been home for a long time. I respect those dedicated to the fight, but I’m so weary of it.

        • One of the things I often wonder about is how people define the borders of the American South. Some folks will tell you it’s anything South of the Mason/Dixon line; some will take out Florida and/or Texas; some really only mean MS, AL, GA, and LA.

          It’s not a homogeneous area, which is how it’s often depicted.

          I stay because this is my home. I stay because this is where my family and friends are. I stay because I like the climate (even when I complain about it), the music, the food, and the way the area insists on bouncing back despite disaster after disaster. I’ve recently moved to New Orleans, which is one of the epicenters of liberal thought here, of course, and I’m also a graduate student. The two things together give me a sort of insulation. But that’s broken just by my family’s existence and our relationship.

          Anywhere I move, there’ll be bigots and idiots. I figure I’ll try and dilute their concentration in this area by being one less stereotypical southerner.