By now you’ve surely heard more than you ever, ever wanted to hear about the whole Duck Dynasty flap (if you live in The United States). But chances are you haven’t heard anything at all about the important lessons to be learned from it. So here are a few observations for your consideration.
1. Disapproval is NOT censorship.
It’s become an automatic response of anyone on the receiving end of a backlash for expressing bigotry or general idiocy to say, “Hey, you’re trying to censor me”. Or “you’re trying to suppress my First Amendment rights.” Poppycock, horsefeathers, balderdash and codswallop.
Duck Dynasty’s head mallard, Phil Robertson, expressed his mind (such as it is) and nobody tried to stop him. GLAAD and A&E expressed their disapproval. All were perfectly within their constitutional rights. So was the network’s decision to suspend Robertson temporarily while reassessing its relationship with him.
The constitutional protection of the right to free speech was never intended as a shield against fallout if your speech is cloddish. If you call a guy a rotten sonofabitch and say his mother is a whore, he just might punch you in the nose. It’s not censorship. It’s not unconstitutional. It’s not intolerance. It’s Newton’s third law.
2. Overreaction has become the standard American reaction.
Let’s face it, we live in the Golden Age of the tempest in the teapot, an age in which any dumb joke or offhand whimsical remark triggers a hoopla of seismic proportions. The formerly innocuous neologistic verb tweet has become a synonym for “invite an avalanche of distortion and negative publicity”.
So did people overreact to Robertson’s crass self-righteousness? Maybe. After all, there was far less outcry to his comments in the same interview to the effect that he thought African-Americans had been perfectly content with their social status in the pre-civil rights South, and that a non-Christian outlook leads to Nazism and genocide. (Hey, nobody ever accused him of being a history scholar.) And his remarks about homosexuality in the interview were really rather tame in comparison to his past sage utterances on the topic that also flew mostly under the radar.
But if the gay community and A&E were overreacting, their overreaction was blown to smithereens by the overreaction to that overreaction on the part of Robertson’s defenders.
Here’s GLAAD’s statement:
Phil and his family claim to be Christian, but Phil’s lies about an entire community fly in the face of what true Christians believe. He clearly knows nothing about gay people or the majority of Louisianans – and Americans – who support legal recognition for loving and committed gay and lesbian couples. Phil’s decision to push vile and extreme stereotypes is a stain on A&E and his sponsors who now need to reexamine their ties to someone with such public disdain for LGBT people and families.
As you can see, it’s much more elegant and civil than Robertson’s. As is the statement issued by A&E:
We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series ‘Duck Dynasty.’ His personal views in no way reflect those of A+E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community.
And it’s certainly far more elegant and civil than the over-the-top reaction from Duck-lings, as typified by Fox “News”:
A&E is apparently run by a bunch of anti-Christian, bigots. Duck Dynasty worships God. A&E worships GLAAD. If Phil had been twerking with a duck the network probably would’ve given him a contract extension. But because he espoused beliefs held by many Christians, he’s been silenced. Perhaps A&E could provide the nation with a list of what they believe is politically correct speech. Maybe they could tell us what Americans can say, think and do. Should the U.S. Constitution be amended to prevent Americans from holding personal beliefs that others might not agree with?… It’s not about capitalism. It’s about driving an agenda and shoving it down the throats of the American public. And Hollywood is beholden to an agenda that is anti-Christian and anti-family.
Good grief. They forgot to mention the “Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids”.
You’ll notice that GLAAD and A&E (and most other people who objected to Robertson’s clueless crackerdom) limited their remarks to complaints about specific comments by a specific individual. They didn’t attack, insult, accuse or belittle him or anyone else. Not the rest of his family. Not duck hunters in general. Not Louisianans. Not guys who look like ZZ Top posing as GI Joe. And most certainly not Christians. But…
3. Americans desperately crave a narrative.
Have you noticed that people seem to find it increasingly difficult to view an incident as merely an incident? Everything has to be part of a trend, a movement, a plot, a conspiracy. Of course, the media do all they can to feed this attitude, and we could have an interesting chicken-and-egg debate about whether it’s more a matter of the media dictating or catering to the mindset; but in any case it’s pretty hard to deny that the mindset does exist.
In this instance, the overreaction to the overreaction tended to follow what has become a very popular narrative: that rejection of intolerance is more intolerant than intolerance itself. There was an explosion of rants about the oppressiveness of “political correctness”, whatever that is, on the part of the “Hollywood elites”. And always, such narratives absolutely and inevitably MUST lead to a scathing indictment of them librulz. This, the official spin goes, was another shining example of that ever-sought chimera, liberal intolerance. And oh yeah, it was a “war on Christian values”, as if all Christians were homophobic. (Quick, what did Jesus have to say about homosexuality?) But in fact some of them are actually too busy trying to improve the world to go around proclaiming that God is going to punish people for being the way He made them. And then there are the others…
4. Many Christians desperately want to feel persecuted.
They want it so much that they’re more than willing to pick a fight as often as possible in order to justify the paranoia. One group they love to pick a fight with is gays. (See previous posts on Gay Activism and the Christian Persecution Complex: “Playing Chikin“, “A Tale of Two Legal Judgments” and “The Kirk Cameron/ Anita Bryant Delusion“.) But they’ll settle for other groups as well.
Not long before the GQ story broke, another Internet narrative began circulating about Phil Robertson, to the effect that Duck Dynasty producers had asked him not to pray on the show, at the insistence of “atheists and liberals” — a claim which turns out to be quite unfounded . In another interview, he specifically mentioned that they frowned on his ending prayers with “in Jesus’ name”, possibly because it could offend Muslims. There’s no substantiation of this claim either, nor any reason to believe that in fact Muslims would be offended by such a thing.
It’s also interesting to note that this controversy erupted at time of year when the Christian persecution complex was already operating at full throttle. Every winter, one of the most inane of narratives, the “war on Christmas“, is as predictably conspicuous as eggnog and candy canes. Whenever someone says “happy holidays” or anything else except “Merry Christmas”, it’s taken as a sure sign that they’re out to eradicate the holiday altogether and ship all Christians off to a gulag in Siberia.
At about the same time the Duck Dynasty brouhaha was brewing, a woman in Phoenix who was collecting donations for The Salvation Army (which, lest we forget, is itself a Christian organization) was allegedly assaulted for expressing good will in an unauthorized fashion to a Good Christian. Is that censorship? Persecution? Political correctness? We don’t know, because The Indignant Guardians Of Liberty And Tolerance tend to become eerily silent about occurrences of this type. But maybe if Christians really are at war with the rest of the world, it’s because they’ve fired the first 5000 shots.
5. Many Christians try to duck responsibility for their own beliefs.
As we discussed in the previous post, they try to blame God for their bigoted and unenlightened doctrines, and quote cherry-picked biblical passages to buttress those beliefs. But this doesn’t work because (1) it’s very difficult to know exactly what the Bible says or intends; (2) the Bible often seems to contradict itself, and (3) you can find something in the Bible to justify anything you choose to believe.
One scriptural snippet the gay-bashing fundamentalists love to dredge up is Leviticus 18:22. What they fail to mention, however, is that the same book also states some other laws issued by the Almighty that most Christians wouldn’t want to live by. (At least let’s hope not.) And the Bible devotes even more wordage instructing you to sell your daughters into slavery, for instance. It’s the believers themselves who pick some biblical passages to live by and ignore others. And if there is a Guy Upstairs, he’s probably getting mighty annoyed at taking the rap for so long.
6. Americans love the lowbrow.
The above photo depicts the Robertson family in its pre-DD days. Chances are they wouldn’t have created such a media buzz if they’d continued grooming themselves like this. But fortunately for them, they underwent a savvy PR makeover, relinquishing an image that suggested the stereotype of the Homogenized Yuppie for one that suggests the stereotype of the Inbred Goober. And subsequently, their popularity has taken off like a skeet.
Americans have a fondness for, an infatuation for, an obsession with, the severely unsophisticated personality — not just the non-intellectual, but the anti-intellectual. Most people (hopefully) recognize that pop culture icons like Homer Simpson and Archie Bunker are meant to be satirical rather than exemplary. But there are real-life characters who are almost equally satirical, and they often end up in positions of power and influence: e.g., Sarah Palin, George W. Bush, and Dan Quayle. And did we mention Sarah Palin?
Phil Robertson was hired to be a buffoon, so nobody should be surprised by his comments in GQ. Or comments like this:
Look, you wait ’til they (women) get to be 20 years old, the only picking that’s going to take place is your pocket. You got to marry these girls when they are about 15 or 16. They’ll pick your ducks.
Really, Christians? You feel morally superior for standing behind someone like this?
It’s also no surprise that he was reinstated on the Arts and Entertainment network, though he is neither very artful nor, for many of us, very entertaining. His supporters rallied to his defense, and he probably picked up quite a few more troops along the way — which is one reason why it’s probably not a good idea to make such a fuss about his comments in the first place. In fact, it wouldn’t be a big surprise to learn that the whole thing was a publicity stunt cooked up by the Robertsons and the network.
But the real question is, why do so many people even give a shit at all about what someone like Phil says? That they do surely reveals something significant about contemporary American “culture” — something that, like the Robertson clan decked out in its waterfowl-slaughtering regalia, ain’t very pretty.
Another post already in January—and another good one at that. But, lately although I have seen plenty of articles with forum discussions discussing Duck dynasties “head mallard,” I have been hesitant to read and comment on those forums because watching, much less commenting, on what a group of “Deliverance,” (the famous movie) type redneck guys do as they rule the world of duck hunting, just hasn’t seemed very appealing. Now after reading your article, I have a better understanding of why!
I had vaguely heard mention of some gay bashing statements made by Robertson, but those types of comments are so frequent today that, once you’ve heard one you’ve heard each unpleasant subsequent one made after. I still haven’t read or commented on this type of article. But the five major points you make in regards to the common components of the Christian persecution complex held my interest concerning your article, and I did read IT.
One of the most amazing utterances made by Robertson, is his bizarre claim that black people in the pre-civil war period were perfectly satisfied with their role in society? Either comments like this really are part of a crazy publicity stunt, or Robertson is totally oblivious of the Jim Crow type of society existing in the south for many years. Is he really thinking something like, “those darkies looked so happy singing hymns as they picked cotton and they were so content to be good slaves for Massa? The guy has to be kidding, crazy or both! If black Americans during the JIm Crow era, seemed happy at all, its because feining complacency, was a good way to ensure survival in a society so completely and utterly repressive and cruel!
Another person who must be meant only to represent a satirical stereotype is the raging conservative played by Ann Coulter, who makes Sarah Palin look like little miss sunshine. I know they are probably fishing for people who might become enraged by their ignorant statements, but whatever their motivations they are still being mostly ignorant and offensive.
But yes, a good point that, disapproval is not censorship, and company executives and viewers who may have felt it, were also completely within their first Amendment rights. And, we can likely assume that DD will return to business as usual anyway, right after its sponsors realize how it enhances their businesses as usual! Many things boil down to money rather than strong moral convictions.
When Christians embrace the feeling of being persecuted (basically because others find their narrow focus too offensive) It probably has something to do with Christ’s promise that “blessed are you when others hate you and curse you in my name”–or words to that effect. When one doesn’t want to honestly assess, the feelings of others, it is so easy to believe in your absolute “rightness,” rather than face the unsettling realization that you also might be to blame for the disharmony in a personally overzealous disagreement with others. It’s much easier to believe that you are the person with all the answers–the chosen one, who is just misunderstood by the sinful masses. This feeling exonerates you from any self doubt or blame. At least, this is my impression after examining my own feelings and the probable feelings of those who have tried to lower the theological boom on me. They seldom seem to realize that the really persecuted people, are those who are imprisoned for political or moral beliefs, tortured for holding any strong moral convictions, or just for being of the wrong race, religion, sexual orientation, creed or philosophical persuasion!
One of the most cruel position held by many “Christians” who claim a special relationship with God, is that they “don’t hate the sinner, just the sin.” You have brought this up in previous posts, and it is also a polite way to say, “We consider your sexual orientation to be something so sinful, that you should embrace our faith in order to become mentally healthy again. But we don’t hate you—only one of the most basic and primary aspects of your personality, which we will self-righteously cure with an attitude of benevolent condescension.
I guess I could go on forever, but my contentious attitude will invariably fall prey to a narrative of my own persecution or the insistence of others that I take hold of their own self-righteous narrative including the apparent belief that they are being persecuted by others who stil have not submitted to accepting biblical truth. But if I yield, does that mean I must be executed for mowing the lawn on Sunday, or should seek to sell my daughters into slavery? Who was the one who said EVERYTHING IN THE BIBLE—EVERYTHING—IS LITERALLY TRUE? I am waiting for a list of divinely granted loopholes next! they better get on it!
There is a much more basic and easily understandable reason behind all of these brazen spiritual edicts and it has nothing to do with yours, mine, or anyone elses sinful disobedience. It has to do with tradition—that, and the thousands of years of human history when those who slept with those that they loved and who happen to be members of the same sex, have been seen as confusingly different and therefore threatening to those who are “normal.” It has nothing to do with sin, virtue, disobedience, or wickedness! These are primarily terms invented by men, to justify and rationalize their fears of those who are different, as well as to explain the great unknowns in life!
I’d like to keep writing but someone from the westboro Baptist Church has offered to “open mindedly” tell me exactly where I have been wrong in the above statement and patiently explain to me, the things I must now believe. How wonderfully holy of him!
[…] (See previous posts on Gay Activism and the Christian Persecution Complex: Playing Chikin, A Tale of Two Legal Judgments, The Kirk Cameron/ Anita Bryant Delusion, and Ducking Responsibility.) […]
I have never been to Rhode Island and have never been to any of the New England states. I support free speech including those who have views which I differ with. With the firemen, if their job was to make sure no fires happen and to give emergency help if something happened, then it’s free speech, though they differ with the paraders views. For eg., let’s say that you have a KKK or neo-Nazi parade. It would be the job of police & fire dept., including Black cops and fire dept. to see that the Klan members free speech rights were protected though they differed, to stop any crimes which happen and to arrest those who commit crimes & also to take care of any emergencies which happen during the parade. But if the Black cops and firemen & firewomen (firefighters) were reqd. to march in the KKK parade being forced to carry signs which say Adolf Hitler was right or White Power, then that is wrong as it’s not part of job.
With this case-is driving a firetruck during the gay pride parade a part of the job to take care of emergencies if they happen or could emergency services be given if they happen w/o the firetruck in the gay pride parade? If it’s the latter, then it’s wrong. Somehow I think the Fire & Police Dept. could have defended the homosexual paraders free speech rights and taken care of any emergencies w/o the firetruck being driven in the parade. Also for homosexuals to harass the 2 firemen by calling them & make obscene phone calls is a crime which must be punished, so those homosexuals should go to jail for what they did.
My reasons for being against gay/lesbian behaviors and being against sex changes (transsexuals are mutilated gays/lesbians) are unrelated to any religion. With homosexuality, if 2 knowing and willing adults want to do gay/lesbian conduct but not tell others what to think, then it’s their life, their choice. But gay/lesbian conduct must be marginalized like smoking. They must abolish sex change maimings-they must make it a crime to do sex changes as that’s medically maiming a person to make them a fake opposite sex member and I am against sex changes for the same reason as I am against trying to change a person’s skin color because they think they’re a White person trapped in a Black person’s body or vice versa.
With homosexuality, lesbianism /tobacco use, it’s best for people to not do gay/lesbian conduct just as it’s best for people to not use tobacco. You can be secular as I am and see the harms of homosexual and lesbian behavior as you can see the harms of tobacco use. Gay/lesbian conduct must be marginalized like smoking/tobacco use.If knowing and willing adults want to do gay/lesbian conduct & not harass others, then it’s their life but it needs to be treated like tobacco use by adults. It’s best to find cure for gay/lesbian behaviors, no matter why it happens just as it’s best to help tobacco users be cured-of course, they must want to be helped. If homosexual/lesbian conductand tobacco use were to disappear eventually, then it’s fine with me and I wouldn’t lose sleep over it.
Never have I heard straights blame childhood sex abuse for reasons a man has sex with a woman and fathers children with her. Yet sometimes have heard gays and lesbians say childhood sex abuse is reason they do same sex behaviors. Behavior including sexual behavior can be learned. If a boy is homosexually raped repeatedly, it’s more likely he will do gay conduct in adulthood because sex abuse damaged his mind and caused him to behave in ways he wouldn’t. If the boy had not been molested, then it’s less likely he would do gay conduct in adulthood. Only those who are dishonest or deluded deny it. While they have not conclusively proven same sex behaviors are genes-if that is true, it would be same as alcoholic gene. There are people who become alcoholics because they learn becoming drunkards by seeing this, emulating and getting addicted. Then some people are alcoholics because they have alcoholic gene.
With what mental health experts say on homosexuality, Mainstream psychology/medicine is not to be trusted on gay/lesbian topic and too many people accept what is said w/o challenging or having doubts. You can pay experts to say things which agree with gay/lesbian agenda and that is has happened with psychology/medicine since 1973-experts can say things to support gay agenda or any agenda. That happened in Jodi Ann Arias trial where there were paid experts who said that the convicted murderess had transit amnesia, that she was a domestic assault & battery victim (when in fact it was her boyfriend who was the victim of her abuse) and that the victim really was not dead when he was shot in head. Jury did not believe the Drs. who testified for Jodi Ann Arias (they did it for $ and did not care about truth) and they convicted her of Murder 1.
Most Christians aren’t against store employees saying Happy Holidays-what they are against are stores forbidding workers from saying Merry Christmas.Main reason there has been controversy since 1989 over Christmas is because of anti-Christian hostility. With Christmas, which is a Christian holiday, it’s my view people should not be offended by Merry Christmas. Yes, Christmas is celebrating Jesus Christ’s birth but there is no reason why atheists should be offended by Merry Christmas. Most Hindus, Muslims and other faiths do not get offended by Merry Christmas. Mostly Hindu India has Christmas decorations with the word Christmas though most Hindus do not give much thought to fact Christmas is about Jesus. Most Hindus in India aren’t being offended by Merry Christmas.
There are atheists who are not offended by Merry Christmas. Companies should not forbid employees from saying Merry Christmas-but if you aren’t going to allow Merry Christmas to be said, then don’t allow Happy Holidays or Season’s Greetings. Just say hello, goodbye and thanks for shopping. Don’t put a Christmas tree up and insult it by calling it a Holiday tree. Just have no Christmas tree. There is no reason why atheists should be offended by Merry Christmas or calling it a Christmas tree, but if people are going to be offended by this, then just be neutral.
If the store is forbidding workers from saying Merry Christmas, then I agree with the boycott. With boycotting, customers have a right to shop in places they think are friendly to them. If you don’t like a store, then you don’t shop there. Customers including Christians have a right to do their business in companies they think are friendly to them. It’s their money and they have a right to spend it as they want as long as it’s legal.
Religion aside, my guess is that you aren’t offended by how I now spend my money. After May 2012, I decided that I will no longer drive a Japanese car (Japanese make nice cars and most are fine people but Japan’s trade policy when it comes to cars is 1 sided in favor of Japan). My view with cars is that people should either drive an American car or if they buy an import car, either get a German car, Korean car or an Italian car. I’m against Mercedes and Audis and I believe German cars should be limited to Volkswagen, Porsches and the BMW Formula 1 race car. If it were up to me, they would no longer import foreign trucks & SUV, because if you’re going to buy a truck or SUV, it must be American.
Anyhow, I’m guessing that you aren’t offended by how I spend my money when it comes to cars. I have been driving a 2011 VW Jetta since 2011 and before that I had a 1999 Chevrolet Cavalier. I don’t think how I buy things as a customer is offensive, yet people are offended by Christians urging stores to have Merry Christmas and how they spend their money. It’s their money & it’s their right to decide how they legally spend it. If they want to tell businesses that if they don’t recognize Christmas, that they won’t shop there, then it’s their right. Businesses want to make $ and keep their customers happy and if businesses think that they can make more money from their Christian customers by saying Merry Christmas, well that’s what businesses will do.
[…] readers. There is, for example, the Christian Right’s Nazi-flavored campaign to marginalize gays. (No, “Nazi-flavored” is not an exaggeration.) There’s the way a shamelessly […]