19 December 2013

If It Talks Like a Duck; or, the difference between Jerks and Twerks

The governor of Louisiana has come to the defense of persecuted Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson. Looking out for the interests of a constituent, and no doubt hoping to win favor with the Republican primary base, where Robertson's views are likely to be popular, Gov. Jindal has denounced the A&E channel for suspending Robertson from his program. He described it as "a messed-up situation when Miley Cyrus gets a laugh and Phil Robertson gets suspended."

The governor appears to propose a moral equivalence of offensiveness. In the most charitable reading, Jindal means that no one find Robertson's sayings more offensive than the former Hannah Montana's buttheaded exhibitionism. A less charitable reading might infer that Jindal considers Cyrus more censurable than Robertson. For the sake of arguments, let's concede that Cyrus's recent TV appearances have driven standards of taste to a new low. Does that make her a moral equivalent of the Duck Commander? Some people may well feel more offended after watching one of her performances, either morally or aesthetically, than after reading the Robertson interview in GQ magazine. But whom has Cyrus insulted? Whom has she attacked? I don't have to endorse A&E's action to insist on a qualitative difference between offenses that renders Jindal's opinion trivial.

Robertson's defenders may claim that he, too, has attacked no one and insulted people only unintentionally, in the course of exercising his right to speak his mind. His suspension, from this perspective, looks like an Orwellian crackdown on thoughtcrime by the ever-dreaded "PC" police. Worse, because homophobia is now seen by many as essential to their religious identity, A&E's action is taken as an insult to civil liberty on two fronts. But between the time the GQ interview appeared and A&E's action these same champions had already declared their intolerance of anyone who dared say their hero was wrong. While my post from last night was meant to remind readers that Robertson offended more than homosexuals, this debate boils down to whether people can say in public,without fear of punishment, that homosexuality is "wrong." For one side, homosexuality remains a behavior as liable to criticism as any behavior; for the other, criticizing homosexuality is equivalent to asserting the innate inferiority of an entire race. If we could all agree to disagree on this topic I wouldn't have a post to write right now. We can only wait for public opinion to follow the path trod fifty years ago, when it became unacceptable in public to assert racial inferiority. It never became illegal to do so, but a form of private-sector censorship arguably took effect and will most likely take effect again against homophobia, unless the Supreme Court affirms sometime that the Fred-Phelpsification of Christianity is protected by law.


Anonymous said...

Miley Cyrus offends intelligence and attacks good taste. Pretty much like the Duck Dynasty and every other (sur)reality show. She is in the same class: white trash.

What I find offensive is that this is what the average American finds entertaining and considers role models.

Anonymous said...

So if I, as an EMPLOYEE, do something that offends my boss's customers, he has a right to fire me - according to trash like Jindal, but an employer who employs white trash has no right to suspend them for offending customers and advertisers? Repugnicans lose all credibility the moment they start slamming A&E for exercising their "employers rights".

Anonymous said...

Finally, Jinal's opinion is trivial because he's trying to suck up to white trash. People whose standards are so low, they may as well be non-existent.

Samuel Wilson said...

At times like these people tend to forget that the Bill of Rights only protects "freedom of speech" from the government, not from our employers. But the Duck fans are really putting values over rights; the issue for them isn't A&E's right to suspend Robertson but that he was suspended for criticizing homosexuality. Had he advocated communism, few of the same people would complain if A&E fired him outright. Many would more likely insist on it.

As for the popularity of the Duck show, I suspect half of it is people identifying with the likes of Robertson and half of it is people treating it like a freakshow. I don't know if either half of the audience will really be turned off by the current scandal.

Anonymous said...

Had he been on Fox, he wouldn't have been fired. So perhaps A&E should rethink their position and sell that show to the station it belongs on.

I must point at there is nothing artful or entertaining about white trash acting like white trash.

hobbyfan said...

40 years ago, Robertson & his family would've been profiled on The American Sportsman and have Curt Gowdy hang out with them. Today, because reality TV has become so prevalent, networks don't even consider the viewpoints of their "stars" when sudden fame has them doing interviews like this.

Funny you should mention senile ol' Fred Phelps and his cult of idiots. They're planning to picket A & E's NYC office in February, but it'll be another case of crying wolf, since they won't show up.

A & E took action, according to what I've read, because the network has gay employees who took offense with Robertson's stance. What else could they do?

Samuel Wilson said...

Hobbyfan, I dispute your claim. Forty years ago no one in their right mind would have promoted Phil Robertson into the sort of celebrity who appeared on the American Sportsman show. Deliverance was too fresh in people's minds, for one thing -- and to be a celebrity you still, for the most part, needed some talent for entertaining people.

Anonymous said...

"Bend over and squeeeeeeeel like a duck, boy."

If only Duck Dynasty would share an ending with Deliverance.

hobbyfan said...

Bah, the worst that could happen is Robertson being reduced to shilling for a certain brand of cough drops (Smith Bros.).