We should allow for the free exchange of ideas--as long as we are responsible with our words and don't use them to try to harm others.
The goal of free speech should always be to enlighten, bring forth new ideas, and gain new perspectives through our words and conversation. But the moment a person starts rattling off bigoted claims left and right, then you're not practicing free speech, because freedom of speech CANNOT thrive when you oppress others by holding them to outmoded stereotypes and unfair accusations on top of dismissing their opinion altogether (which is why it makes it bigoted).
It amounts to labeling people for the wrong reasons, then pigeon holing everyone who fits that label. That's wrong in my opinion. Obviously the patriarch of Duck Dynasty disagrees, but he's wrong to do so. Not wrong because I feel he's wrong, but wrong because his bigoted views do actually cause gays, blacks, and other minorities emotional damage--and for what? Because the guy carelessly throws around antiquated labels and doesn't seem to know the genuine hurt that lingers behind them? Or because he thinks it's okay to mistreat others as long as he has a good God-fearing biblical excuse to do so?
Those who know me know my anti-censorship stance. On my blog, for example, I don't have a comments posting policy, because I don't believe in them.
But when you attack people directly--by calling out their looks, their gender, their sexual preference, their race... whatever... then such an attack is unwarranted. Always.
In my view, your right to speech doesn't include the right to slander, shame, bring humiliation, or spread oppressive and insular ideologies which would seek to harm others. That's not what the freedom of speech is about.
I fully agree with A&E reneging his public forum in which he can espouse his sinister and poisonous ideologies. After all, they're a private company, and they have the right to terminate your business if you begin misrepresenting them or tarnish their image by saying stupid, racist, homophobic, not to mention ignorant things.
Phil Robertson still allowed his stupid, racist, homophobic, and ignorant beliefs, mind you. He can tell them to himself all the day long. We just don't have to listen to him is all, and it's not an attack on his freedom of speech to tell him to shut the hell up. He already said his piece. It annoyed people, and the company he worked for realize that the show he was on reaches out to 14 million viewers, and that's a big enough audience that when they get disgruntled, ratings are affected. And A&E was wise enough to realize the impact Phil Robertson's words may have had on that substantial viewership and, to their benefit, they weren't having it.
When your words become blunt instruments to repress and keep others down, then you loose the privilege of being allowed to speak your mind. Not because you don't have the right to speech, but because your mind is cruel, depraved, and simply not tolerant enough to be tolerated by civilized people.
If you want to act like a fucking caveman, then go live in a fucking cave. Leave civilized society up to the rest of us.
And the moral of the story is... THINK before you speak. Because words carry with them real consequences. Something to keep in mind--even for people who often take their freedom of speech for granted.
Okay. Rant over.