The price for having this kind of society is that the Phil Robertsons of America can speak without social intimidation as well. I am willing to pay this price. Apparently you are not.
There have always been opposing voices, to any opinions, and there has always been opposition, and forms of intimidation, used to try to block any sort of significant social change, and it's never shut anyone up. And, certainly, anyone who lived through the civil rights era in this country knows that.
And gays were speaking up 60 years ago, it's just that people didn't pay attention to them, and many remained closeted for protective reasons. The fact that they are now more visible, and vocal, and activist, is what many anti-gay people object to--they see them as "flaunting" their homosexuality or "promoting" it, and those homophobes would be much happier if they shut up and went back in the closet.
I don't think the situation with Robertson has anything to do with "gay rights" I think the man holds a spectrum of views, on various issues, I feel are bigoted, and I find bigotry offensive, no matter which group it's aimed at.
I'm much more concerned about the ability of networks to run their own business, and make their own business decisions, in accord with their own interests and principles. Phil Robertson didn't chose to associate himself with one of the Christian cable networks, he's chosen to be employed by a network whose stance on social issues, and the values they want to promote and identify themselves with, may differ from his, and when his behavior or speech becomes something they don't want to support, they have every right to take them off their airwaves. Newspapers have every right to do the same with their columnists in similar situations.
This isn't about "freedom of speech" it's about private corporations, particularly media enterprises, exercising their independence to run their own businesses their own way, and making their own choices about who they want to promote and supply with a platform. It's about their freedom
You are overlooking the fact that this isn't really about "freedom of speech"--it's about whether people have a right to have a TV reality show, or any kind of show, on a particular network--a privately owned network--when their network considers them a liability, for any reason. That's really all this is about. The specifics of what Robertson said really don't matter--if the network feels he's a liability to them, for any reason, they should have the right to fire him. I don't see this situation as any different than the situation with Paula Dean and the Food Network, or the situation with Bashir and Baldwin with MSNBC.
To say you want to silence negative responses to Robertson, or negative reactions to A & E, or A & E's own voice in deciding what values they want to promote or not promote, in order to get rid of "social intimation" is exactly contrary to promoting the sort of "freedom' you claim you want to see.
When ABC allowed Ellen DeGeneres' character to "come out" on her "Ellen" comedy series show in 1997, there was plenty of backlash--from advertisers and religious groups--and a good deal of intimidation, including bomb threats, was directed against the network, the producers of the show, DeGeneres, and even against other actors who appeared in the episode, and subsequently found themselves blacklisted for a few years.
That intimidation didn't stop ABC from doing the episode, which was a huge ratings and critical success, and it didn't stop the next season of the show, which was how the consumers of the network's programing registered their opinions.
You can't eliminate the social pressures or even various forms of intimidation groups may use against a network, or its personalities, as long as those don't cross the line in terms of legality. And I don't want to see them eliminated. People have the right to express themselves, mainly by changing the channel or choosing not to buy the products of advertisers of shows they find offensive.
The first petition I ever signed in my life was to oppose the harassment and persecution of Lenny Bruce--which was a genuine "free speech" issue, because it was the government doing the harassment and persecution. Bruce, a comedian, was continually being arrested for "obscenity", and it was outrageous and appalling.
I'll strongly defend Robertson's right to freedom of expression, but I'm not going to defend his right to a TV show, or to an absence of consequences for the opinions he voices.
And consumers will register their opinions, about Robertson's remarks, and A & E's decision to continue to employ him, by whether the ratings for Duck Dynasty rise or fall next season.
All of the publicity about this entire business doesn't seem to have gotten many people in this thread to tune in and actually watch Duck Dynasty, so it may not help to boost ratings, and could even damage them. We'll have to wait and see about that. Even fans of Duck Dynasty may have been upset or angered by Robertson's comments, and that might affect whether they want to continue viewing the show.