As you may know by now, Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty has been restored to the show. Fox News reports it this way:
The removal of the 67-year-old family patriarch triggered support from gay rights organizations but objections from many fans of the show, including such political figures as former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. …
The network added that “Duck Dynasty is not a show about one man’s views. It resonates with a large audience because it is a show about family, a family that America has come to love. As you might have seen in many episodes, they come together to reflect and pray for unity, tolerance and forgiveness. These are three values that we at A&E Networks also feel strongly about.
This is a good thing. As you may remember, I supported his right to say crude things outside his work context without being fired. I did, and do, see it as a freedom of speech issue. But, as a Christian, I continue to be embarrassed by the way in which he expressed what he believed. I continue to prefer the way in which Pope Francis expresses many of the beliefs that he actually holds in common with Phil Robertson. If you read the whole article, there does appear to be a subtle hint that the family does realize that the way in which Mr. Robertson expressed his beliefs was less than adequate.
Nevertheless, I am increasingly troubled by the growing trend toward employers firing employees based on howls by the online mob. And, I am not the only one. Just this year, there have been several editorials that have been increasingly worried about the effect of online mob behavior, not only on employment, but also on judicial proceedings. One of them had a strong editorial back in April of 2013 on a case involving juveniles. In that case, the juveniles were accused of being rapists, even though the case did not have to do with rape but with bullying. The online posters threatened to release the names, addresses, and telephone numbers OF MINORS, so that people could confront them (read: take revenge).
In England, an anti-pedophile group may have been responsible for the suicide of one probable pedophile. While many may not feel sorry for him, what happened next should make you gasp. Two women wrote in concerned about the methods used by the group. Not only were both women reviled, but one was accused of being a pedophile herself, while the other had her Facebook and Twitter usernames posted, along with the statement that she supported pedophiles. Because of statements that were posted on the accounts, she became afraid that her child would be molested to teach her a lesson.
These are but two stories. Trust me that I could post you story after story, editorial after editorial, of this type of mob behavior. One of the most troubling examples was earlier this year during the Boston Marathon bombing afterward. The police were looking to interview a couple of what turned out to be teenagers. They were not accused, but were being checked out. However, by the time the online Reddit community was finished with them, they were the terrorists. A mini-manhunt was started by the Reddit community. If you remember, once the teenagers found out that police wanted to speak to them, they promptly went to a nearby police station. They were also scared to death because of what was being posted online about what should be done to them before they were turned over to the police. Reddit pulled the plug, profoundly apologized, and promised never to allow such a post storm to take place again.
If you notice, not all the incidents were liberals being politically correct as with Duck Dynasty Phil. Some were conservative folks who wanted criminals caught and punished. In every case, both freedom of speech and the justice system were being undermined by both sides. And, while one side claims that it is those politically correct liberals, the other side claims that it is those hyper-conservative fascists. The truth is that both sides have tried to suppress freedom of speech and subvert justice during 2013. No, they have not done so officially. Rather, by not clearly stating that those from “their side” who engage in this type of behavior are wrong, they have encouraged the continuation of online vigilantism. This type of firestorm often helps their political fortunes. That it may also hurt freedoms seems to matter much less. After all, once the election is won, you convince yourself that your side will have all its freedoms, and that the evils of the other side will be suppressed. You never consider what type of damage you will be doing to fundamental freedoms.
Freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and a correct justice system, are only possible if we give those freedoms to all. That is the lesson that our Founding Fathers were actually trying to teach us. From Puritans to Deists, from Roman Catholic to Protestant, they managed to carve out a document full of freedoms that made it possible for all of them to live together. We are in danger of destroying the grand agreement for political gain. Or worse, we are in danger of the grand agreement being destroyed by an army of Internet trolls who think that they are supporting truth, justice, and the American way while, in reality, being part of destroying it.