1. Duck Dynasty is on television. Reality television in general has been a depressing development, and it makes for some of the lowest quality viewing available. Nothing happens during these shows, there is no plot, no reason to watch except to giggle at people bumbling along with their lives. A&E started out with a focus on biographies, dramas and arts coverage and has basically thrown in the towel and gone all in for reality TV. Is this show any better than the various House Wives spin offs or Honey Boo Boo?
2. GQ interviews Phil Robertson. Whether or not you respect everyone who has been interviewed by GQ, up until now, they have been people who have done something. Our media industry has been too quick to embrace the reality TV genre and assign its stars celebrity status. The article starts by describing Robertson and his clan as “a family of squirrel-eating, Bible-thumping, catchphrase-spouting duck hunters “. They got exactly what they expected to get, and were much too gleeful about their coup.
3. Phil Robertson’s comments. I view these as the least problematic aspect of this story. That does not mean Robertson is not willfully ignorant about the world around him. He comes across as an ignorant ass, although maybe not a hateful one. The bit about the vaginas and anuses is just that, it’s a bit. It sounds like something any vulgar stand-up comedian might say, especially pre-2000, when the mocking of gays by comedians was standard. The thing about Phil is, he can’t help mixing religion into everything, so it is half about sin, half a comedy routine about sex. The more troubling quote is about the civil rights era, and his claims that blacks were happy back then. This is willful ignorance and rationalization of the South's ugly past, versions of which I have heard from many a southerner. No one could have lived through that era in the south and not seen some things which troubled them. Again, not hateful, or even racist, unless denying the existence of racism is racism (a topic for someone else). Phil, of course, can’t resist throwing some religion in there, so it becomes about god, they had God back then so they were happy, with no comment on whether he thinks they have God and are happy now.
4. The liberal reaction. Let’s face it, many of us don’t like reality TV, bible thumping or guns. How excited were the blogs to learn that Phil was a racist homophobe. Instead of going after the guy with the beard, how about asking why A&E keeps producing this crap and why GQ is chasing down hicks in Louisiana and asking them for their perspective on civil rights (Next week, the swamp men talk about LGBT issues! Hold on to your Seat!). I really think this guy is a symptom.
5. The conservative reaction to the liberal reaction. Leave it to an idiot like Sara Palin make us all feel smart. First, she stands up for Phil, because he was speaking his mind, without actually reading his comments. Then, she defends her initial statement by saying that she didn’t need to read his comments, because Phil was talking scripture, and if we don’t like what he said, our problem is with the Bible. By the same logic, anything anyone says about the Bible must be true, which is of course impossible. Beyond her, there has been a lot of general rallying around the Phil. I can see someone feeling he has been treated unfairly, I myself lean that way a little, but when you hold him up as some kind of hero for making jokes about gays and Jim Crow denialism, you are telling us a lot about yourself. It’s like sending guns to George Zimmerman, which they have also been doing. The other big problem is their clear misunderstanding (or selective understanding) of the 1st amendment. The government cannot restrict free speech, but A&E can. In this case, they probably have been all along. I suspect Phil does his bit about anuses at least twice a day for anyone who will listen. He probably thinks it’s his best material.