Today it was revealed that TV Land – the Viacom-owned cable channel dedicated to classic TV shows, has stopped airing the ‘80s series, “Dukes of Hazzard” in the wake of recent controversy surrounding the continued use of the Confederate flag in public spaces. The iconic Dodge Charger called the “General Lee” and driven by Bo and Luke Duke in the series features a confederate flag on the roof.
Just to be clear, we are not opposing TV Land’s decision to pull the series, nor are we wading into the broader national debate over the use of the confederate flag. We do, however, take issue with Viacom – and other media companies – for their blatant hypocrisy.
When media companies are criticized for marketing programs that glamorize drug and alcohol use, or for sexualizing minors in television programs and movies, or for selling violent entertainment to children – despite overwhelming evidence of harm – or for trivializing rape, child sex abuse and pedophilia, all in the name of “entertainment,” they are quick to wrap themselves in the banner of Free Speech. “If you don’t like it, change the channel,” they tell us.
Restraint and responsibility do not infringe on the First Amendment and do not encroach on Free Speech rights. If TV Land is willing to pull “The Dukes of Hazzard,” out of concern for its harmful impact on our society (and it is good that Viacom is publicly acknowledging its programming can have a harmful impact on our society), they cannot then hide behind the First Amendment to refute the compelling evidence of harm from the violent and sexualized media content they continue to produce and air with impunity.
So, Viacom, which one is it? You can’t have it both ways.