This week the media is full of coverage about some inflammatory remarks made by the head of a family who leads a reality show on a well-known cable network in an interview for an equally well-known magazine. I don’t need to name any of them, as you would have to have been living under a rock to not hear a sound-byte or see printed outrage and backlash about this person’s ‘freedom of speech’ being infringed upon as he has been censored and suspended by his cable network employer for his remarks. They do not endorse his personal beliefs, which is exactly what they are; personal beliefs. The problem here is that he made them as a ‘representative’ of his employer. That’s one of the (many) downfalls of being a celebrity or a public figure. Everything you say, every move you make, every opinion you offer reflects upon your employer and whereas it’s all about revenue, ratings, and return on investment….if you do or say something that will reflect poorly upon them…..you open them, and yourself, up to potential liability….and therefore YOU become a liability, and your employer has to make a decision on whether or not you are too great a liability to remain in their employ.
The entertainment industry is just that…an industry. It’s a business. Actors, actresses, directors, writers, producers, and reality show figures all are contracted employees. In all likelihood (though I have zero real authority in saying this because I have not read his contract) this person’s employment and the continuation thereof contains a clause in his contract that he upholds the beliefs and standards of his employer as a representative of their ‘business’.
Freedom of Speech, and the protection thereof, is not a freedom from outrage, anger, or reprisal from an employer when you represent their business. True, what this man said cannot be legally prosecuted under U.S. Law, but that is where his ‘protection’ ends under the law. He is free to say whatever, whenever, wherever – and he will not face legal prosecution unless his words endanger or otherwise slander an individual or group of persons. His employer, sensing a potential threat to their business, has chosen to suspend him from broadcast…for now. It’s undetermined how long this suspension will last, or what ‘limitations’ may carry over into the future with respect to what this person can or cannot say or express in an interview as a representative of his employer. Any time this man gives an interview based upon and where he is described as being the public figure he is, whenever the show, network, or anything to do with them are mentioned, he is representing his employer. That’s the life he has chosen in being a public figure. He, to me, has no responsibility to like anyone or anything he doesn’t like….he’s not, to me, expected to be a role-model of any sort. I don’t personally watch his show as it holds no interest for me, and likely never will. That is MY freedom…to avoid him and his show. Unfortunately with such far-flung media resources as we have today…television, radio, internet news, social media, etc. – there’s really not a way to escape it entirely unless I wish to hide out in a cave with no Wi-Fi or satellite reception and no news delivery service. Some days I think that might be preferable to the constant bombardment of celebrity news, gossip, and scandal that appears everywhere. But all in all….I do think the network he works for were absolutely justified in suspending him. He is, presently, a liability to them and their image. There is no infringement upon his ‘freedom of speech’ presently. That’s not what the law does. I recommend anyone take the time to do some reading on what certain laws do and do not protect. It’s eye opening and enlightening.
He is within his rights to say what he said, and to continue to say it, anywhere or any time he chooses. It’s his opinion and his belief. And about one thing I’d like to set the record straight (not that my opinion really matters, but this is, after all, my blog). I’ve seen numerous internet memes in the past few days calling him ‘stupid’ – he’s an educated (if not enlightened) man. He has a Bachelors degree in physical education and a Masters in education with a concentration in English. He obtained this level of education to prove to people (in his own words) that he’s ‘not as stupid as he acts.’
Reportedly he is a recovering alcoholic who, while separated from his wife of 40+ years, found Christ and accepted him as his ‘higher power.’ I don’t purport to be anything of an expert or authority on alcoholism or alcoholics, but I suspect at least that a certain segment of the population who are alcoholics, when they decide to become sober, simply transfer their addiction from one thing to another. For some it’s food…or exercise….or drugs…or work….or religion. This man, this alleged recovering alcoholic, speaks as if he has very strong faith and conviction in his religion, or at least believes he does. Of course his beliefs and interpretation of scripture differs greatly from that of others. In his zeal to ‘spread his message of love’ (again his words, slightly paraphrased). He seems to be overlooking the fact that his beliefs and opinions have the potential to offend and insult others..
Several years ago I had invited a friend and his then boyfriend to have Easter Dinner with my family. This also was to include my mother, my sister, and my sister’s fiancé. I was not particularly close to my sister. She called me a few days before Easter and said that she and her fiancé would not be attending as ‘he didn’t feel comfortable around all those gay people’…..all those being 3. Three polite, kind, well-spoken individuals who had no flag to fly, and would not be arriving for dinner on a Pride parade float or dancing on the table in fishnet stockings and marabou boas….they simply wished to sit down at the same table and have a meal. It was his loss (and my sisters)….dinner went on without them….and it was three gay men and my mother. We had a great time.
Not long after that my sister was hosting a party. Surprisingly, based upon our all but complete estrangement, she invited me to the party. It was their engagement party. I asked her who would be attending. She listed several of her friends’ names, none of which I really knew. I thanked her for the invitation but informed her I would not be attending as I ‘didn’t feel comfortable around all those straight people.’ She asked me what the hell that was supposed to mean. I replied, ‘probably the same thing your fiancé meant about being uncomfortable around so many gay people at Easter.’ She told me I was being ignorant. I replied it’s too bad she didn’t feel that way about what her fiancé said, as they both missed a good time. She hung up on me and we never discussed it further.
The reason I bring this story up in relation to the reality show person and his comments is this: In this day and age it seems as though intolerance of gays and lesbians is the last acceptable social bias. People make ‘fag jokes’ and then if they insult someone with them, they tell them to ‘lighten up and not be such a pussy.’ Men call one another ‘fag’ or ‘queer’ to insult and upset them…calling into question their masculinity with such derogatory names. Kids call each other ‘fag’ to refer to someone who is being strange or difficult or annoying….and no matter how much ‘education’ is being handed out about bullying and tolerance, there is so far still left to go.
In addition to claims of ‘freedom of speech’ infringements, there’s also a lot of rhetoric being spewed about being ‘heterophobic’ and how ‘some fags got insulted and are forcing their lifestyle down our throats. Being gay, I’ve heard many times over that for gay people to want equality under the law is ‘shoving our lifestyle down peoples throats’. Just imagine the reverse, when you hear everyone talking about ‘my girlfriend’ or ‘my husband’ or ‘our family’ and you are inclined to say something very similar to what they are saying, like ‘my husband and I are buying a house’ – and yet because you and your husband share the same gender as well as a life together…you are ‘shoving your lifestyle down someone’s throat’ to even speak of it. No one is being forced to like it. No one is being forced to celebrate it. You don’t have to. But aren’t you, when you say ‘my girlfriend’ or ‘my family’ and you are in an opposite gender couple, doing EXACTLY what you are ‘accusing’ gays of doing…forcing YOUR lifestyle down someone’s throat? When you really examine it, just because it seems ‘normal’ to you to lead a heterosexual life, when you speak of it and describe it and put it on display for everyone else….you’re doing the same thing. Just imagine if the gays and lesbians and bisexual and transgendered people outnumbered YOU…..and were telling you to keep your ‘disgusting lifestyle’ in the bedroom where it belongs…..how exactly would you feel, and how long would it take you to decide that enough was enough, and you needed to speak out against that kind of oppression?
I also want to say that I don’t agree with those who have called this reality figure a ‘bully.’ Bullying and intolerance are two very different things. A generalized distaste for or dislike of gays and lesbians is not bullying. It’s dislike and distaste. Making reference to and likening homosexuality to bestiality in the same sentence, and labeling it all as ‘sin’ are inflammatory remarks and potentially insulting to an entire segment of the population, and I may not know much about Christianity, but I do know enough to say that there are plenty of ‘true Christians’ out there who are equally aghast at the comments this person made while under the guise of being a person spreading a message of love and tolerance and peace in the name of ‘God.’ I’d love to see an end put to people hiding behind their Bibles to support and justify their personal distaste for things. The Bible was originally written in several different languages which are no longer used and no longer carry the same meaning as they used to. The words have been translated time and time and time again. Words, phrases, idioms, and colloquialisms carry entirely different meanings than they did during the original writing of the Bible. A simple placement (or moving) of punctuation can change the entire content and message of a sentence. Unless you are more than 2013 years of age and can attest to still having enough of your faculties to recall the meaning of your original, ancient, and now archaic language and society…..who amongst us really IS an authority of what the bible means? We are all, no matter how ‘holy’ we may consider ourselves to be….all just interpreters….as we were meant to be…of the lessons the Bible wishes to teach us. Anyone who claims to be an absolute authority on the word or intention of God and the Bible is the first person I call bullshit on….and suspect that the true agenda they are trying to spread is not God’s….it’s their own.
When you are dismissing someone being intolerant to another persons gender or sexual orientation – when you hear someone call another person a ‘fag’ or a ‘queer’ – imagine you just heard someone standing on a street corner calling someone ‘The N Word’ or any of the other racist epithets that have become far more socially UNacceptable to use. Better yet, imagine that you, yourself, are the recipient of these words. Imagine YOU are the one listening to someone insult who you are as a person to your very core just because they don’t ‘get it’. For every person that dismisses hearing someone called a ‘fag’ or a ‘queer’ and says ‘oh they need to lighten up’….walk even 50 feet in their shoes before you decide, for them, that it’s so easy to just ‘forget about it’…….or they are simply being too touchy….or telling them ‘the truth hurts’….and they are being too sensitive……too much of a ‘pussy’…..too big a ‘fag’. Nothing about being called an intentionally derogatory name and speaking out against this makes someone a ‘fag’….it’s a sign of strength to speak out against it.
Additionally, when you express your hatred and intolerance for people you simply deem ‘disgusting’ and ‘abnormal’ and ‘freakish’…..when you don’t know any of ‘them’ personally, or have never made any effort to try to know them….you say a lot more about yourself than you do about them, and there are just as many words, hateful words, that are used to describe you, too.
I am not personally offended by this ‘reality star’ and his words. I don’t, personally, feel any outrage or insult from his opinion. I suppose I’m being passive about it, but not passive aggressive. And I know that being passive won’t change anything. There are those who are a lot more vocal about this than I am. And they are, in reality, just exercising their right to express themselves in response to what was said.
I don’t feel ‘outraged’ at what this person did. I feel ‘sad’. Sad that an educated person can still seem to be so unenlightened. Sad that a person who claims to have such a desire to spread messages of love and peace for all can grossly misrepresent and malign an entire segment of the population. Sad that in the ‘season of peace’…he’s taken to print with words of intolerance that have caused such an uproar. And most of all sad that it just goes to show how much of a gap there still is left to bridge. That’s what I feel about it.
Not that my opinion counts for anything.