Melissa Harris-Perry

Free speech: Phil Robertson vs Melissa Harris-Perry

Melissa Harris Perry

Free speech prevents governments from censuring their citizens for words they say or write. Modern jargon has broadened it to mean freedom from any consequences whatsoever for spoken or written words. However, in our jaded, cynical world, the application of this concept is often first filtered through a partisan lens.

Recently Phil Robertson, one of the stars of a reality show on A&E, said some things in a magazine interview that offended people. A&E decide to suspend him (but have since reversed). The public discourse, specifically the socially conservative quadrant, erupted, and a new front in the culture wars was launched. Some argued that what Robertson said wasn’t offensive, so his suspension was unwarranted.

Regardless of my personal opinion, this is at least a defensible position. A person may or may not find something offensive, regardless of the objective fact that it offended others, and so not see the need for disciplinary action. Many instead invoked Robertson’s free speech rights. This is an untenable position from any angle. No one was sanctioned by the government, so no rights were violated. However, A&E also has free speech rights, employer rights, and contract rights, which precious few conservatives stood up for at the time.

Harvard professor: “the children belong to all of us”

Paul Reville

In 1996, then-First Lady Hillary Clinton raised eyebrows with the released of her book, It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us. The theme of the book, as the title suggests, is that it takes the communities working together raise America’s children.

The book was met with outrage from the political right, with some pointing to far-leftist collectivist notions. Then-Republican presidential nominee Sen. Bob Dole (R-KS) was among those who blasted the notion presented by Clinton.

[A]fter the virtual devastation of the American family, the rock upon which this country was founded, we are told that it takes a village, that is collective, and thus the state, to raise a child,” said Dole in his acceptance speech at the 1996 Republican National Convention.

“The state is now more involved than it ever has been in the raising of children. And children are now more neglected, more abused and more mistreated than they have been in our time,” he said. “This is not a coincidence. This is not a coincidence. And with all due respect, I am here to tell you it does not take a village to raise a child. It takes a family to raise a child.”


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