The First Amendment, in its entirety, states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
What that essentially says is that the government cannot arrest or prosecute you for practicing religion, assembling peacefully, or speaking your mind. What it does not say is that there will be no consequences for your words or actions.
Certainly, anyone has the right to voice their opinion. But if that opinion is demeaning or offensive to many others, the First Amendment does not protect you from any political, social or financial consequences that may result. Anyone has the right to be offensive, but that does not mean that the rest of us need to put up with it.
And that is exactly what ABC was saying when it made the decision to cancel her popular show. But that decision could not have been an easy one.
By reviving Roseanne, ABC recognized a niche in the market. Donald Trump rose to the presidency because of a sense of disenfranchisement felt by many Americans toward its government. And that sense of disconnect has now extended to Hollywood. In its heyday, Rosanne and the Connor family presented the everyday struggles of a middle-class family that reflected what many Americans live through on a daily basis. Clearly, the market that made the show a hit in the first place still existed.
Did it ever. The show averaged around 10 million viewers per episode. And the advertisers were paying attention.
The problem is the advertisers were also paying attention when Barr sent out a racist tweet. It was only a matter of time before the network saw a backlash not only from viewers but advertisers as well. If anything was learned with the mass exodus of advertisers from Fox News programs due to the controversial statements and behaviors of their show hosts, it is that advertising money speaks louder than ratings.
Immediately, the cries of injustice were heard throughout the country, including calls to boycott ABC and questions as to why Bill Maher, the host of Real Time on HBO, has been able to continue despite his offensive statements, and calls for cancellation of ABC's The View because of the anti-Trump sentiment the show regularly addresses.
First of all, let me state that I have no respect for Bill Maher or anyone who refers to any woman by the "c-word." The difference, however, is that Bill Maher is on a cable show which can only be viewed by subscribers. He is not in a prime-time spot on a major network. And being that HBO is a subscription channel, they have no advertisers to which they must answer.
Secondly, The View is a talk show which touches on many issues, including political. And as far as I know, none of them have ever made a racially-charged statement. I am sure, however, that if any of the women on that show were to refer to a person of color as a Muslim ape, they too would immediately get the boot. I used to be a viewer (although I have not watched the show in years) and never once heard a racist slur directed at anyone. They are anti-Trump, but unless the president has somehow found a way to cancel out the First Amendment, their right to speak out against him is protected by the constitution.
I also find it interesting that many who find The View offensive have no problem devoting blind loyalty to a man who openly mocks the handicapped, brags about grabbing women by a certain part of their anatomy, and declares that "really great people" willingly participate in rallies alongside neo-nazis, white nationalists and KKK members. And when violence or even death is inflicted upon those who oppose their hateful messages, well, they brought it upon themselves.
Even the Supreme Court has declared that not all speech is protected. The court has ruled on several occasions that First Amendment rights are not absolute. Examples of what the courts have left unprotected include:
- Speech that incites illegal activity or imminent violence
- Defamation and libel
- Threats and intimidation
- False advertising
I believe ABC had no choice but to cancel Rosanne given the backlash they were facing. That does not mean I am happy to see it go. I was a fan of the show and watched it since the beginning (although they lost me when they won the lottery near the end of the show's original run) and enjoyed the series' revival. I had reservations at first given Rosanne Barr's fondness for Trump that the show would focus on that issue, but that was not the case. It was a show about a family which, like many Americans, was one medical emergency, job layoff or household disaster away from financial catastrophe. It was as relevant today as it was back in the 1990s.
Perhaps we should all take a lesson from Rosanne. Even freedom of speech comes at a price. Be careful what you say lest you pay a penalty for your words. The cost could be devastating.