Liberal Elites, PC Crowd, “Intolerants” Responsible for A&E Indefinitely Suspending “Duck Dynasty” Reality Show Star Over Anti-Gay Comments, Part of War on Christians, Religious Liberty, or Free Speech, Duck Dynasty Supporters Allege

they probably say merry christmasIf you haven’t heard of Duck
before, you probably have today. That’s because Phil
Robertson, the star of the A&E reality TV show that follows a
family in the duck hunting business, was suspended indefinitelyfor
making comment perceived to be anti-gay in a
GQ profile
that asked “ How in the world did a family of
squirrel-eating, Bible-thumping, catchphrase-spouting duck hunters
become the biggest TV stars in America?” Here is the original
relevant excerpt, where Robertson appears to be comparing
homosexuality to bestiality:

“We’re Bible-thumpers who just happened to end up on
television,” he [Phil Robertson] tells me. “You put in your article
that the Robertson family really believes strongly that if the
human race loved each other and they loved God, we would just be
better off. We ought to just be repentant, turn to God, and let’s
get on with it, and everything will turn around.”

What does repentance entail? Well, in Robertson’s worldview,
America was a country founded upon Christian values (Thou shalt not
kill, etc.), and he believes that the gradual removal of Christian
symbolism from public spaces has diluted those founding principles.
(He and Si take turns going on about why the Ten Commandments ought
to be displayed outside courthouses.) He sees the popularity
of Duck Dynasty as a small corrective to all
that we have lost.

“Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong,” he says.
“Sin becomes fine.”

What, in your mind, is sinful?

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from
there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman
and that woman and those men,” he says. Then heparaphrases
Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the
idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the
greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t
inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not

In the profile, Robertson complains that the more
“controversial” statements he makes in his religion-laden show
about hunting ducks get cut by A&E. He opines to GQ about how a
vagina should just be “more desirable” to a man than an anus.
“That’s just me.” It’s a show about a duck hunter operating in the
Louisiana backwoods, who says the kinds of things you might expect
a duck hunter from the Louisiana backwoods to say. In deciding to
suspend Robertson indefinitely, A&E sought to make sure people
understood “[h]is personal views in no way reflect those of A&E
Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of
the LGBT community.”  I don’t know who could confuse the
things said by a man who stars in a reality show about duck hunting
with things the executives at the network might believe.
Nevertheless, A&E made the decision the controversy stirred up
by Robertson was something they wanted to distance themselves from.
They haven’t pulled episodes of Duck Dynasty, and I expect
they’ll get a decent ratings bump because of all the people who’ve
never heard of Phil Robertson or Duck Dynasty before this
story broke.

Mediaite’s Andrew Kirrell rightly called A&E’s decision

“a gross misstep.”
After all, it should not have surprised
A&E that Phil Robertson would say the things he did. Engaging
and challenging Robertson’s ideas is a more effective response to
those ideas than trying to silence Robertson, which Kirrel notes,
only provides “culture warriors” more ammo.  

And has it. Todd Starnes, who Kirrell singled out as one of
those culture warriors,
A&E declared a war on Christian values. It hasn’t.
It decided to appear to penalize one of its stars for making a
comment it believes some of its viewers (though probably not of
Duck Dynasty itself) might take offense to in an effort to
limit its liabilities in an incident it had nothing to do with.

Sarah Palin
Robertson’s suspension on “intolerants” and called it an
“attack on free speech.” It’s not. A & E has the right to
choose to associate or not with Robertson, and should be able to
base that decision on anything it wants. Labor laws may prohibit
them from some forms of discrimination, but not for punishing
someone who says he’s just espousing his religion’s views. Ideally,
laws wouldn’t constrict A&E’s freedom of association at

Bobby Jindal
“political correctness.” Maybe. He tried to frame it as
a first amendment issue too, claiming to “remember when TV networks
believed” in such a thing, going on to call it “a messed up
situation when Miley Cyrus gets a laugh, and Phil Robertson gets
suspended.” I wouldn’t put it past Jindal to pull Cyrus and other
performers who say things offensive to him off the air if he

Ted Cruz
to channel his inner TV critic, suggesting Duck Dynasty
was popular “because it represents the America usually ignored or
mocked by liberal elites: a family that loves and cares for each
other, believes in God, and speaks openly about their faith.” Cruz
went on to pay lip service to the freedom to disagree in a free
society, but followed up by saying “the mainstream media should not
behave as the thought police censoring the views with which they
disagree.” A&E, though, writes the checks Phil Robertson
cashes, so it can certainly “censor” him for views they disagree
with. To borrow a framing beloved by statists, the mainstream media
is “just us,” a reflection of what Americans want to watch and
hear. People who disagree with Robertson want to tune in to hear
him condemned. People who agree with Robertson want to tune in to
hear him defended.

A&E’s suspension of Robertson is within their right. If
their aim, however, is actually to be “strong supporters and
champions of the LGBT community,” their application of the Streisand
to Robertson’s views couldn’t possible have helped. In
this month’s issue of Reason, Jonathan Rauch
explains why
the argument for restricting speech to promote
tolerance is even weaker than it was twenty years ago, when his
book Kindly Inquisitors, a defense of free speech and the
public criticism necessary to build knowledge that it fosters, was
first published. An updated version for the twentieth anniversary
released this year
. Watch a Reason TV Q&A with Rauch

from Hit & Run

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.