A Dynasty Falls

And good riddance.

Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the Duck Dynasty reality television show, recently did an interview in GQ — yes, Gentlemen’s Quarterly — wherein he described how his evangelical Christian beliefs come into conflict with the idea that some people might be gay in an absolutely offensive display of what many Christians really do believe. His TV show on A&E about his family of conservative rednecks — who became rich after he built an empire on the Duck Commander duck lures — now faces the terrible wrath of public opinion.

When my sister heard the news that he’d given his interview in GQ, and that GLAAD had publicly denounced his words, she posted a link on her Facebook wall. One of her friends — an ex co-worker apparently — swanned in to drop this steaming pile of opinion on her wall about how terrible it was… that anyone was asking A&E to reconsider hosting this douchenozzle’s opinion.

He said:

This seems a bit….puffed up. The comments he made are not even close to being “the vilest and most extreme statements uttered against LGBT people in a mainstream publication.” that I have seen.

Furthermore, this next one isn’t even hateful, it is just a statement of opinion.

“It seems like, to me, a vagina — as a man — would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”

He even states that it is not his or anyone elses place to judge peopel on it, that only God has that right.

“We never, ever judge someone on who’s going to heaven, hell. That’s the Almighty’s job. We just love ’em, give ’em the good news about Jesus — whether they’re homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort ’em out later, you see what I’m saying?”

Yea, he lumps homosexuals in with drunks and terrorists, but in his mind they are all equally wrong. I am not saying that I agree with him, but this man has an opinion admits that it is not his place to judge people with differing opinions, and is true to “his” religion and faith. This man has done absolutely nothing wrong other than disagree with GLAAD.

Now to speak of GLAAD with regard to this. Attacking A&E for showing him and his stereotypes, calling them a “stain”. FUCK THAT. KUDOS TO A&E for not sugar coating it. A&E is all about biographys and the like, the fact that they show something like this in it’s bald truth. KUDOS TO A&E.

This article makes GLAAD look like morons. Like whiney bitches upset that someone is out there disagreeing with thiem.

This really, really tweaked me. Beyond the total stranger (and ostensibly my sister’s friend!) defending another asshole’s right to say bigoted things about people like my sister without any consequences, beyond the casual slur of “whiney bitches”, beyond this guy’s reaching far past the limits of his own vocabulary to seem like he’s got some sort of moral high ground, the only harsh words the guy had for anyone involved was for the people speaking up against bigotry. On my sister’s wall. Where she’s been personally subject to that same bigotry that GLAAD speaks up against.

So I absolutely had to step in. What’s a big brother for if not to kneecap little sister’s aggressors?

My sister recognized where things were going after my very first comment. Except for later putting us back on topic because we were both repeatedly making a mistake about who said what about whom and where, her only comment — right after my first — was “oh this should be beautiful.” I think she gets some sick pleasure from watching me rant.

The argument lasted several hours, timeshifting between other things as internet arguments do, and I did as I often do, attempting to explore too many topics at once. On the flip side of the argument, though, all this dudebro had to offer was a total misunderstanding of the concept of free speech.

Sound familiar?

In a display of complete misapprehension of what the First Amendment of the US Constitution attempted to enshrine, some random guy on the internet proclaimed that an anti-bigotry organization criticizing a bigoted statement by a very popular television personality made said organization look like “whiney bitches”, and that A&E was to be lauded for showing that person and all his bigotry (we were both under the misunderstanding that the statements had made it to air, not just in the magazine, at that point). He proclaimed that Robertson should not be “censored” by having his platform taken away, as though he built the platform that A&E was loaning him. He proclaimed that GLAAD was in the wrong because they “have an agenda” whereas Robertson was just “giving his opinions”.

To be absolutely clear, his opinions weren’t all that he gave in that statement. His opinion is that a woman’s vagina is more desirable than a man’s anus. Barring all the gender essentialism inherent in that statement (women can have penises too!), or the inherent implication that males who have sex with males can only do so by involving an anus in the equation, that is a valid opinion. It is both personal preference and does not depend on matters of fact that are actually false.

What is NOT a valid opinion — because it is not predicated on fact, and it is not a matter of personal preference — is that there is a creator deity who considers men having sex with men to be “sinful”, e.g. hated by God (and thus, despite dudebro’s protests, is actually “hateful” by the dictionary definition!), and therefore proscribed against.

What is NOT a valid opinion, is that “sin isn’t logical”, because it only works if you assume the speaker is suggesting that the concept of sin is illogical, predicated as it is on facts not in evidence, like a deity’s existence.

What is NOT a valid opinion, is that homosexuality has anything to do with drunkenness or terrorism, or that either of those are even necessarily universally bad — those are matters of fact that are not in evidence. And remember, one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter. It’s the context of the act that makes an act moral or immoral, dependent on whether it hurts or helps society in general.

The actual problems with bestiality and pedophilia are the inability to obtain meaningful, informed consent from the other parties. Find me a dog that understands and can sign and be legally bound by a contract, and as far as I’m concerned, you can marry him.

And that’s where the problem lies. Robertson’s bloviating about things he believes because he thinks his Bible says so, actually helps propagate the demonstrably damaging memetics of anti-homosexual bigotry. Anyone accepting or walking past this standard, helps those memes spread. In order to fight bigotry, you have to fight every instance of bigotry you witness and have the resources to fight. GLAAD as an organization was built expressly to help pick these sorts of fights, and their “agenda” is one of confronting casual or endemic bigotry against gays. It is therefore an agenda with which I am completely comfortable supporting. Especially when it involves fighting back against a culture of religious proscription against otherwise completely innocuous acts. Society incurs absolutely no damage in general by two gay dudes fucking, even anally.

The culture that GLAAD is fighting back against, is one wherein a very popular and very old set of religious tenets makes taboo a bunch of things that don’t actually have a demonstrable net harm on society. There are no valid underpinnings to these taboos other than some person responsible for authorship having themselves found it icky. In amongst those taboos are shrimp, touching pig skin, touching a woman while she’s on her period, and (apparently, depending on your interpretation of the texts) homosexuality.

The bugaboo of buggery has long been associated by the religious right with terrorism, bestiality, pedophilia, et cetera. The GQ interview is no exception — Robertson tied homosexuality to bestiality directly. So the problem here is, a bunch of stuff is prohibited “by fiat” by a holy book or long millenia of tradition, without a sound underpinning of WHY it’s prohibited, and people — yes, even celebrities who are given a voice because they are otherwise interesting — get suckered in by this tradition or holy book.

But it isn’t just because they got tricked into believing in a book that says these things are icky. When arguing against something you don’t like, “because I think it’s icky” is insufficient cause for banning. “Because my god thinks its icky” is a way of trying to say “because I think it’s icky” with more clout than you actually have. It is a facet of the concept of Self Projection As God that someone who happens to dislike homosexuality would also assume that their god dislikes homosexuality — remember, in the LGBTQNation article linked at the top, a group of Christians decry Robertson’s interpretation of the Bible as vociferously as the anti-bigotry activists that my sister’s “friend” excoriated as “whiney bitches”. These folks are less bigoted against gays, and these folks are therefore likewise projecting their lack of bigotry onto their god as well.

Fighting this culture of ignorance will take attacking the roots of that culture, and challenging the individuals when they espouse those beliefs that come from it. If you don’t challenge those beliefs, they become acceptable. While GLAAD’s case that this is the “vilest” is questionable, challenging it is important, and in fact, fundamental to creating change. You do not stop trolling by ignoring the trolls. You stop it by feeding them to bursting, and making it cost to troll thereafter.

GLAAD fed this troll by “taking the bait”, by challenging what the troll had to say. Only the troll doesn’t think he’s a troll, he thinks he’s a right-minded and logical individual in espousing these leaps of logic necessary to believe in the very old holy books and what they say (supposedly) about homosexuality.

And in doing so, GLAAD succeeded in costing the Robertsons for espousing their bigoted beliefs, because A&E had suspended Phil Robertson from the show. The rest of the family responded by saying the show would not happen without the homophobic patriarch, that he “is” the show. By their actions in response to Phil Robertson’s free speech, A&E is expressing their own freedom of speech by choosing what to air. It is evident by these actions that A&E would rather keep gays and humanists and right-minded, less-bigoted Christians as their viewers, than side with the fundamentalist Christians fighting against the Gay Menace. Fundamentalist Christians like those supporters now petitioning for A&E to reinstate Duck Dynasty while calling GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign “gay lobby bullies”.

Surely if one statement by a group dedicated to fighting bigotry is bullying, then counter-statements by Sarah Palin, National Organization for (Only Straight) Marriage’s Brian Brown, and Parents Television Council are an organized campaign of bullying by a simulacrum of the Mafia, by comparison.

Why is one set of free speech — Phil Robertson’s — acceptable, while another — A&E’s, or GLAAD’s, humanists’, or heavens forefend, actual gay folks’! — unacceptable? Why does A&E no longer get to choose whom they associate themselves with when someone says some popular but extraordinarily hateful things?

People crying “free speech” all too often don’t have the first clue what it is (thus the meme, “freeze peach” — they don’t know what it means, but they sure like the sound of it). It doesn’t mean freedom to a platform, and it certainly doesn’t mean freedom from criticism or repercussions. You are not guaranteed an audience, and if the person who has the audience decides that audience would be harmed by your message, the person with that audience has every right to deny you it — if you had any entitlement to that audience to begin with. The only thing the right of free speech guarantees you is that you won’t be black-bagged and deprived of an ability to make a living by a governmental entity that has the overwhelming power to be able to destroy your life forever. If any government made a law demanding that A&E be forced to continue to air Phil Robertson after discovering his values don’t align with theirs, that government would be the one impinging on free speech. The censorious ones are certainly not the people criticizing A&E, Robertson, or religion in general!

Shades of the blogosphere. It’s like I’ve talked about this a billion times already.

A Dynasty Falls

29 thoughts on “A Dynasty Falls

  1. 1

    Everything you said five times over.
    In the last few days I’ve gotten into very short spats with people on FB over this topic. It’s maddening to see people:
    1- criticizedme for using bad words to describe Phil Robertson–while making a larger point,
    2- treat Free Speech as only going one way,
    3- criticize me for calling out Phil, but fail to call his words out,
    4- that don’t see the problem with what he said, b/c they’re his religious beliefs and as such, they’re someone immune to criticism (or they’re right and fair b/c they’re religious…I’m shaky on which one).


  2. 2

    Like any person who signs a contract with a network, he signed an agreement which gives the network the right to fire him or discipline him for statements or actions which are at odds with the values of the network or brings the network or the product into disrepute. Whether or not “whatever he said wasn’t the vilest thing” ever said about homosexuals, he made comments which were bigoted and offensive and they had every right to take whatever action they chose.

    And good riddance to him.

  3. 3

    Wait, A&E was surprised he’d said something like that? You’d think after so many seasons they’d know he was a “culture warrior” and would say anti-gay and borderline racist comments.

    I read that Phil wanted off the show. Now he gets to leave and be a martyr at the same time.

  4. 4

    Hm, if he wanted to stop the show, that might put him in a hilariously awkward position. I’m sure that there are going to be Christian-owned stations falling over themselves to try to host the family in a new show where they can say as many bigoted things as they like, and he’ll have to figure out how to turn them down without abandoning the martyr act.

  5. 5

    Fighting this culture of ignorance will take attacking the roots of that culture, and challenging the individuals when they espouse those beliefs that come from it.

    It’s just like playing Gauntlet, if you don’t shoot the pile of bones in the corner, you’ll be besieged by ghosts for the rest of time.

  6. 6

    To be absolutely clear, his opinions weren’t all that he gave in that statement. His opinion is that a woman’s vagina is more desirable than a man’s anus.

    To me it seems almost infinitely creepy when people refer (as many often do) to sexual inclination/attraction as attraction to a generic disembodied archetype of orifice or organ. It’s dehumanizing, degrading and, all too often, speaks volumes about the speaker. When some random homophobe barks about “Men who like cock” I presume that it’s because they see women as nothing more than ambulatory penis scabbards and see themselves as “Man who like cunt” and that they’re merely projecting their own appalling perception of human sexuality onto everyone else.

  7. 7

    You may have addressed this part and I just missed it (it’s still pretty early for me) but another way the supposed statement of opinion is anything but is when he says:

    It seems like, to me, a vagina — as a man — would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.

    The bolded part is not what someone says when they are just giving their opinion, especially when they follow it up by characterizing it as not logical. He’s making a specific appeal to other men, presumably even to gay men, that what he is saying is what all men believe even if they don’t act otherwise. Robertson isn’t offering what he thinks is just his opinion, he is saying something he believes is a fact.

  8. 9

    Too, it is deeply ironic (while also quite unsurprising) that Palin would be complaining so bitterly about A&E suspending (not firing) this fellow, given her outrage and spluttering demands for action when Martin Bashir said mean (and, IMO, bullying) things about her. She was all over the corporate right to cut off access to their platform when someone says something deeply inappropriate, as long as it was about the guy who was bullying her.

    But when the guy is bullying gay men, well, that’s FREEZE PEACH YOU MOTHERFUDGER, GOSH DARN IT ALL TO HECK!

    Funny how that works.

  9. 11

    this is particularly interesting since the premise underlying the 1st Amdt was that without the gummint being able to control speech, the marketplace of ideas would reveal the stupid ones. the marketplace of ideas has spoken…..

  10. 13

    pianoman, that’s the Old Covenant, or something. Jesus got rid of it, so Christians don’t have to obey Leviticus.

    Except for the parts that agree with their bigotry, of course.

    I wouldn’t count on Robertson not being back on the show at some point, assuming of course the rest of them don’t jump ship from A&E. They brought back Dog the Bounty Hunter, after he got in trouble for using that nasty word that begins with n, after he grovelled enough.

  11. 14

    Yeah, that was all abrogated in Acts (can’t be arsed to look up chapter and verse right now). The cynic in me says it was done to make the new religion sell better in the Gentile market, and the appropriate stories (particularly St. Peter’s vision) written up to give Apostolic authority to the product redesign. Be that as it may, it’s been standard on almost all releases of Christianity* for 19 centuries now, so you can’t really fault Robertson for just going along with that bit.

    * Ie. excepting variants like Seventh Day Adventism.

  12. 15

    Yea, he lumps homosexuals in with drunks and terrorists, but in his mind they are all equally wrong. I am not saying that I agree with him, but this man has an opinion admits that it is not his place to judge…

    Except…he did judge. He judged that homosexuals are equally wrong as drunks and terrorists. But, this does not surprise me. I have figured out long ago that Christians tend to have a different meaning for the word “judge”.

  13. 16

    KUDOS TO A&E for not sugar coating it.

    I liked the post Amanda Marcotte has on Pandagon. Essentially, she’s saying the opposite — A&E had been sugar coating it, presenting the Robertson clan as being more respectable than they actually are. I’ve never seen the show, but I suspect she’s correct in that. Otherwise Phil likely would have been in the news for saying something bigoted a looooong time ago.

  14. 17

    @Eamon Knight

    Yeah, that was all abrogated in Acts (can’t be arsed to look up chapter and verse right now).

    Well, when you eventually can be arsed I would appreciate that citation.

  15. 19

    @Nathair: Acts 10:1 thru 11:18 for the Peter story, and Acts 15:1-30 for something like an Official Policy Pronouncement (this time involving St. Paul). Also verses here and there in the Pauline Epistles, with which I’m less familiar and couldn’t find again without somewhat more work — basically, a bunch of theology adding up to what timgueguen said. Jewish observance does seem to have been an item of contention in the proto-Church.

  16. 20

    I second all of the above. Additionally, I’m happy GLAAD has some actual defamation to go after – they’ve been devoting far too much time recently to attacking queer folks for self-identifying as terms on GLAAD’s naughty list. (While that’s a discussion that does need to be had, I don’t really think a large, well-funded organization handing out dictates on normative queerness – seriously, that should be an oxymoron – is the right approach at all.)

  17. 21

    I am so very, very tired of the histrionics from the unhinged right wingnuts. Robertson was perfectly free to say what he thought–and every other American citizen is perfectly free to say what THEY thought about what he said. That’s how it works here. Moreover, his employer is perfectly free to suspend him for violating a contract that he signed so that he could take their money. There is no law that his employer must employ him no matter how he behaves–and it’s the right wingnuts who are most adamant about ‘right to work’ laws.

  18. Oob

    This Duck Dynasty thing has got me a bit confused, because above all else I want a consistency in my world view (noting inconsistencies was the only way I broke away from Christianity).

    I never watched that show, and I care nothing for a racist and gay-bashing person from that show. As such, I was ever so willing to defend his removal as NOT an action that gets in the way of free speech, because “no one deserves a platform”. Fair enough, until Taslima’s recent incident occured.

    Her show was banned. Now the details are complicated here, in that the channel that would have hosted the show was actually pressured (though not specificallly required) by government officials to remove the show. That CERTAINLY makes things different. However, it got me thinking. What if, sans any police requests, they STILL cancelled the show due to viewer protests? Would we still be outraged? I kinda would be, still seeing it as “cowtowing” to pubic sentiment, because such things still happen in the US.

    So this leads me to the contradiction. So long as I’m angry at things like that under the banner of “censorship”, how can I say that viewpoints that are frankly abhorrent aren’t also being censored? Perhaps we shouldn’t be complaining about the censorship, but be completely bare about things and admit that frankly, we want this view put out because it is the RIGHT one, and it has nothing to do with censorship. We want racists to be stricken from TV if possible because their views are abhorrent, and cries of censorship, even if true, be damned.

    I don’t know, I’m still trying to resolve an apparent contradiction, but the only way out, it seems to me, is to stop arguing for one or against the other in terms of censorship, to ignore censorship and free speech entirely in service of higher causes.

  19. 23

    Oob: the event with Taslima involved the government, banning things that were against the state-sanctioned religion. “Freedom of speech” almost exclusively limits governmental action. A&E is not a government, but a private corporation that itself has the right to express what and associate with whom it chooses — though corporations are powerful, they are not as powerful as governments. At least not yet.

  20. 24

    How’s this for an analogy: if you have a tune you’re just sure the whole word will love the bestest ever, you have a right to play it on your own accordion.

    You don’t have a right to insist I must play your tune using my accordion, because we both have free speech. I may choose to play it or not. If I play it and later find out that, unknowingly, I’d been playing the little-known Rhett’s DGAD Chorus from Dixie!, the slavery-loving new Broadway musical , I can say I don’t want to play it anymore. This affects your freedom of speech not at all. You may continue to play the piece to your heart’s content. In this way, both our freedoms of speech are protected.

    Your neighbours, of course, are free to encourage you not to play it by the use of their own freedom of speech, namely: “Shut that bloody bazouki accordion up, you racist!” This is criticism, not censorship. This is explicitly allowed. Just as Mr. Robertson was allowed to have his interview with GQ, which published it and has faced no calls to retract it. Freedom of speech at work! W00-hoo! If, however, your neighbours tried to force you to stop it, and your calls to the government to protect your right to freedom of speech went unanswered, this might actually be sort of censorship, because the government is involved, in the negative sense that they should have been but weren’t.

    Where “censorship” happens is when the government comes along and says, “No, no-one may play that song on their accordions!”, or “No-one may have accordions except the glorious State!”

    Arguably, there are intellectual property facets to these little scenarios which render them imperfect, as analogies generally are. However, I hope it’s made the concepts more clear, and thus made today’s incidental volubility on my part the fortunate instrument of enlightenment.

  21. Oob

    Thank you, that does clarify things and in this case the distinction is very important.

    I still worry about this though. We’ve got issues with Youtube taking things down whenever a company demands it, claiming copyright violation even when that is not the case. I’ve heard people here call that “censorship” (while I would classify it under a different sort of rights violation). I wonder, Youtube is such an essential platform now that I had to ask one question. At what point does a web site cease to be just any old web site and start to become an essential, perhaps even definitive platform for expression? If Youtube, as a company, decided to ban any videos that insulted the religious beliefs of others, what would our position be? Would we say that anyone that complains about that is in the wrong, because Youtube is free to ban any videos they want for whatever reason they want? In a sense, that’s true. Though, on the other side of that, I doubt anyone that did complain would demand legal action, resorting instead to protesting such action, and wouldn’t that be perfectly acceptable? Wouldn’t part of such protesting be that Youtube has “silenced” a certain point of view? Then comes the last little wrinkle in this case. The magazine article itself was actually published, no one demanded the magazine article retracted. Instead, this bigot was removed from a TV show where he, to the best of my knowledge, was not actively expressing this view. Do I think that this bigot deserved to keep the show? Not at all, I’m just kinda weird about this and feel something’s a bit odd about the situation, though I can’t put my finger on it. (In other words, I have no actual argument, it just seems odd to go after the show and NOT the article with the hate speech in it.)

    I’m “contrary” by nature, so I suppose I tend to be the one who comes along and says “life is complicated” as though that’s a philosophy, but still, I wonder these things.

  22. 28

    If people here call that Youtube gamesmanship “censorship”, they’re probably using the word in the more colloquial sense where it includes someone doing anything to silence someone else. However, as with this case, that sense is absolutely wrong, because that equivocation leads to the “free speech” claims which are themselves patently wrong. It’s entirely a language problem, and that’s what you’re probably sensing as odd and slippery about this, Oob. (I’m guessing.)

    The reason we find it morally reprehensible that people can falsely claim copyright infringement when the thing in question is actually fair use, or better still, entirely original content, is because it’s someone trying to power-grab the ability to shut down someone else’s fairly-won audience on a platform that has a loophole for taking things down in case copyright actually IS being violated. The cries against “false flagging” campaigns on Youtube — when a Christian flags an atheist video as containing copyrighted material when it contains no such thing, for instance, or is entirely fair use — is markedly different from a song rights owner complaining when someone posts the entirety of that song on Youtube. It’s also different from when a photo or other artwork copyright owner complains that someone has used the entirety of their work, untransformed, within a larger work — post something from an art gallery without attribution or transformation, even if it isn’t the entirety of YOUR work, and since the video is a discrete unit, the whole video has to come down until you can remake it without that image and republish.

    Likewise with blog posts that use copyrighted images. Someone can rightly file a DMCA on you if you’re on a shared host that has a system for such complaints, and your blog post will get taken down until you replace the image. Some people wrongly call this too “censorship”, even though the speech was not the target, and if you remove the image, the speech can go back up without legal restrictions.

    People don’t understand this because not everything about “censorship” is illegal nor against the First Amendment, unless it’s a government entity making sure you can never say a thing on penalty of having your life ripped apart in retribution (see: Pussy Riot being chucked in jail for protesting Putin, for instance).

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