Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Duck Dynasty, Phil Robertson & Tolerance

Until now, I've been something of a fan of the Duck Dynasty show and its' down home goodness - a family struggling, occasionally to a script, with the issues of daily life and the complications of mixing up wealth, humble origins and a self-proclaimed redneck view on life - all with a dollop of evangelical Christianity very delicately scattered throughout the background.

You can't help but see it when you read the Robertsons family members books - whether Miss Kay, Phil, Uncle Si or Willie is behind the pen a deep and abiding faith resonates from every chapter - a faith that seems to have comforted and strengthened them through good times and bad.

Thus it pains me to read the recent GQ article featuring Phil Robertson and spotlighting his rather...harsh...

“It seems like, to me, a vagina -- as a man -- would be more desirable than a man’s anus," Robertson says in the January issue of the men's magazine. "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.”
 “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 he paraphrases 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 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?”

views on those of us in the LGBT community, comparing us to terrorists and worse.

While balanced by the language in the third quote, the viewpoint is far from comforting to someone who has had friends bashed and has a more than passing familiarity with the history of the LGBT community - and is enough to fire up memories of Fred Phelps and his vile band.

Since the GQ story broke A&E Networks placed Robertson on "indefinite suspension" and many conservative and conservative-christian commenters have decried the action as the response of a "gay mafia," "viewpoint discrimination" and violation of Robertsons right to free speech.

Robertson also made the following public statement after the article impacted the rotary oscillator:

"My mission today is to go forth and tell people about why I follow Christ and also what the Bible teaches, and part of that teaching is that women and men are meant to be together," he said. "However, I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other."

To those decrying how horribly and unfairly Robertson is being mistreated? Poppycock.

First, to properly violate freedom of speech as state and federal constitutions define it - you need to be a governmental body or agent. There is absolutely no guarantee that employers, printers, broadcasters, critics or the general populace will not find your comments so execrable that they take action to either not hear them or distance themselves from them.

You have a right to say (broadly) what you will without getting sent to jail for it. You do not have the right not to be fired, evicted, harshly criticized, repudiated, ridiculed or generally told to take a flying leap. If the conservative movement is supposed to be the home of logic and fact - fundamental constitutional literacy might be a good first step for those engaging in this particular rant.

An example on the left who also got substantially less than a warm welcome to his comments would be Alec Baldwin - though I find it easier to believe that Robertson, at least, has redeeming virtues.

As far as the whole "gay mafia" accusation - I would suggest that nothing that organized is in play. Instead, over the last forty years or so the LGBT community has shifted viewpoints from "won't you pretty please not kick us in the teeth" as our activist branch to a view better described as "we've had quite enough crap, thank you. You can stop NOW. And by the way - we're not going back."

Next, it's not viewpoint discrimination to speak out when you observe someone busily engaging (for whatever reason) in an attack upon your community.

Now, to move right along to the hyper-ventilating kids over at GLAAD. Let's be very clear. I am not excusing Robertsons comments - at best, they are deeply regrettable and his later statement released by A&E (which, to my ear, sounds distinctly un-Phil-like and a lot more "PR Specialist") does not make them magically go away.

But come on! GLAAD's statement "some of the vilest and most extreme statements uttered against LGBT people in a mainstream publication" seems a little over the top - and if Robertson is ignorant about LGBT folks? Color me unsurprised. Let us consider the mans context before we hyperventilate.

Robertsons comments are deeply regrettable and demonstrate a deep ignorance of folks in the LGBT community and of that area of reality. He is not, however, trying to the best of my knowledge trying to inflict his judgement on the community or enact them into law.

So. A little balance might be called for here.

On the part of A&E, a public repudiation of Robertsons statement would likely have been enough. I tend towards the view that the "indefinite suspension," while well within the rights of A&E (hey, it's THEIR network, after all) might just be a bit over-enthusiastic for a first offense.

Conversely, this is (or was) an opportunity for GLAAD to educate rather than hyperventilate. I cannot say that I consider this their best-considered and wisest response to an incident - I'm actually rather disappointed.

As for Robertson? I continue to believe he is a good man with good intentions -  capable of learning, but with blind spots, occasional misinformation, and like all of us - occasionally, just plain wrong.

What I've seen of him (admittedly in an artificial environment of the series and various PR appearances) he seems a rough-hewn and painfully honest sort - and in this case, suffering from a bad case of diplomacy fail.

I, not surprisingly, believe him in error in his comments and that those comments were needlessly hurtful. On the other hand, I'm not cheer-leading for a witch-hunt or looking for tar and feathers.

He's been publicly spanked. Let's move on.


KevinC said...

1) We knew something like this was coming: If wasn't going to be about homosexuals, it would have been about $ETHNICGROUP. You can't live a life that's outside of what the coastal cultural mavens considers to be be "cool" and not cross a boundary they considered to be un-crossable.

2) Is there a Gay Mafia? No, no more than there's a conservative Christian mafia (although the concept of a Lutheran hit squad has me giggling right now... I digress). There are, however, cultural norms and those norms vary with things other than sexual orientation. Consider how Alec Baldwin (a man who espouses all the right causes) was treated for his first homophobic rant versus this. Acting the "right way" counts for a lot, not matter what your community is.

3) Lost in this hullabaloo was the total nothing-burger of Chris Cheng coming out. Maybe there's more tolerance out there than the people calling for Phil's head are aware of...

4) “We never, ever judge someone on who’s going to heaven, hell. That’s the Almighty’s job. We just love ’em." - Phil Robertson

5) "If all our sins were known to each other, the only shocking thing would be our lack of originality." - Me

Yrro said...

I think there's two things people talk about with regard to free speech- government enforced censorship, and the social norm of a free exchange of ideas.

It is incredibly important for people to be able to call Robertson out for intolerant remarks. We do need to ask ourselves, though, whether we want to encourage a social norm of getting anyone who espouses an unpopular thought immediately driven from the public sphere. That's not consistent with the idea of free speech as a social good.

Anonymous said...

PR said: "My mission today is to go forth and tell people about why I follow Christ..."

Having watched and enjoyed his show since it aired, I was under the impression that PR's mission was to trespass whenever and where ever possible in pursuit of any creature that walks or crawls while using the umbrella of religion to avoid accusations of wrongdoing or prosecutions by the law.

I'm fairly certain PR would take a dim view of anyone trespassing on "the Robertson land" in pursuit of game.

I spent much of my adult life searching for truth in many different christian churches and I met many "deeply faithful" men who each thought his own particular sin was in some way a virtue and my inability to find comfort in the church was proof of abject unworthiness.

I took me a long time to realize that the louder a christian preaches, the more closely I should watch my wallet, my woman, and my children.

shovelDriver said...

I think you miss the point. Perhaps, deliberately?

The point is not that his employer is censoring his free speech. Rather, it is that anytime a pro-NAMBLA or ILGA viewpoint is espoused, it is praised to the skies as "fair, balanced, inherently right", and so on. While anytime an opposing viewpoint is made, the viewpoint is ignored while personal attacks on the speakers are initiated without regard to what was actually said, and what the context and circumstances were.

I for one - as well as the majority of people I interact with - all feel the same way. We want to see "fair and balanced" work both ways.

In fact, I demand it. And every time I see a post such as yours, It just makes me more obstinate in my demands, and every time I see your tactics repeated, I get closer and closer to the point where nothing you say or do will make any difference.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who reacts that way. To paraphrase somebody or other: When the tide turns, you'll have no one other than yourselves to blame.

I commend to you for understanding two books. First, George Orwell's '1984'. Next, Dr. Robert A. Heinlein's 'Revolt In 2100'. You may be surprised at how closely Heinlein's novel forecasts what is happening today. Only time will tell if his story holds true. But the indicators seem to be holding true so far . . .

the pawnbroker said...

Ironically, the only party here to which my go-to explanation for most everything ("Follow. The. Money.") does not apply is the subject himself.

He is following his heart, his mind, and his be damned. Good for him.

perlhaqr said...

As vulgar as Mr Robertson's comments were, no quote from that interview that I've seen indicated that he thought the government should enforce his opinions on anyone. And frankly, that's the real kicker for me.

GLAAD, as you say, hyperventilated like mad. I'd say they come off sounding worse than Robertson did.

And of course, A&E has the absolute right to stop spending their money to put him on TV if they want. *shrug*

Anonymous said...

A prognostication,
The public flogging of Robertson will continue, the family will stand behind Phil, and announce that they are interested in having a show that includes all of the family on another network. A & E will begin to scramble backwards and at the same time threaten legal action, as a bidding war breaks out between Discovery Channel, History Channel, and a half dozen others! The lead storyline will be whether the family moves to a new channel or decides they have more money than their grandchildren can spend never liked the celebrity status anyway, thus declaring retirement.

Tam said...

A bidding war will break out between A&E and History? Do tell how that one works!

Gay_Cynic said...

A point.

There is this funny thing called "the marketplace of ideas." In a free society, you put your ideas out there - and folks either praise or deride them, often with economic consequence.

As anyone who knows me can attest, I'm far from a leftist. But folks in the LGBT community and their supporters have *every bit* as much right to speak (and employ whatever other influence they might or might not have)as Robertson or anyone else.

So. "How dare they speak up for themselves" isn't exactly a compelling argument.

Comrade Misfit said...

Shoveldriver: "ProNAMBLA?"

Really? You can't distinguish between "sex between consenting adults" and "child molestation"?

Mo said...

Is Phil's answer a surprise to anyone?

Phil has every right to say what he thinks and A&E has every right to say they don't want someone on their channel who would publicly express that sentiment.

I don't get the hysteria. I'm a Christian and I don't worry about how other folks are wired.

I've seen the show and found it to be rather sappy. It's popularity amazes me, but not nearly as much as the Kardashian tv show...

Maybe TV really does rot your brain...

Good post as usual.