In defense of “Duck Dynasty”

The following is a guest post submitted at my invitation by commenter David Dickinson. I believe we both had some degree of expectation that his post would express an “opposing view” to what one of our regular authors might have said about the “Duck Dynasty” drama, had we said anything about it. -Epluribusunum

“I think that this intolerance by gay activists toward the full spectrum of human beliefs is a sign of immaturity, juvenility….This is not the mark of a true intellectual life.” So said Camille Paglia, professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, social critic, and lesbian activist.

“utterly fascist and utterly Stalinist” is another way she put it.

She was, of course, referring to the treatment “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson has received for expressing biblical views in his now infamous GQ interview.

And she is completely correct.

Many fascinating events have transpired since Phil Robertson’s words ignited a maelstrom of events. There was, or course, the knee-jerk condemnation from the Left followed by the counter-condemnation from the Right. Par for the course. More interesting was Cracker Barrel removing Duck Dynasty gear, only to put it back on the shelves a few days later after observing the strength of the backlash and, I’m sure, noting that Wal-Mart was quickly selling out of Duck Dynasty merchandise. Conservative politicians praised Phil Robertson. It seemed like a repeat of Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy’s remarks supporting traditional marriage.

But this time it is different. This time the liberal machine is starting to crack.

Phil Robertson supporters came out quickly and they came out strong and they – much to peoples’ surprise – came from both sides of the aisle.

It seems that maybe, just maybe, the libertarian wing of the Left has finally had enough. Perhaps it was the NSA spying on our own citizens, perhaps it was the Obamacare falsehoods filtering through to the reality of higher premiums and policy cancellations, perhaps having the IRS target “undesirable” political groups was too Nixonian, or maybe it is a bit of all of the above that has finally pushed these folks to speak out.

There are still many old-school liberals who recall fighting for equal rights for everyone. And by “everyone” they meant everyone, whether they agreed with them or not. These liberals fully embrace Voltaire’s famous quote, “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” They fully embrace the 1st Amendment of the Constitution and put its free speech clause to good use. These classical liberals have been pushed aside by political players whose main pursuit is power for the sake of power and doling out favors (and money) to political friends. Finally, these classical liberals have had enough of left-wing hard-liners who belie the liberal ethos purely for political gain.

Whether you agree with Phil Robertson isn’t the issue. Whether you believe that Phil Robertson has a right to express his views without fear of reprisal is.

The coercion of citizens to suppress their right to free speech must stop. Let the battle for hearts and minds be waged with the intellectual weapon of choice: words.

44 thoughts on “In defense of “Duck Dynasty”

  1. David Dickinson

    I agree with the author of the article Dave Butler posted.

    Other than that, my opinions are:

    1. Don Sterling. Never heard of him until a couple of days ago.
    2. NBA. Boring. Never watch it. Couldn’t care less what they do.
    3. Race relations. Way better than they used to be. Won’t ever be perfect.

  2. Epluribusunum Post author

    Again, I’m not sure who it is you’re trying to address here. What is “your side the carpet” supposed to represent? You do understand that Sullivan is a conservative, a devout Catholic, and a gay man. You seem to be all over the place here with the labels and buzzwords. People are considerably more complicated than you want to give them credit for, I think.

  3. David Dickinson

    The link should be read by anyone with a sincere interest in the subject. Many great lines:

    “When people’s lives and careers are subject to litmus tests, and fired if they do not publicly renounce what may well be their sincere conviction, we have crossed a line. This is McCarthyism applied by civil actors. This is the definition of intolerance. If a socially conservative private entity fired someone because they discovered he had donated against Prop 8, how would you feel? It’s staggering to me that a minority long persecuted for holding unpopular views can now turn around and persecute others for the exact same reason. If we cannot live and work alongside people with whom we deeply disagree, we are finished as a liberal society.”

    “This is absolutely McCarthyism from an increasingly McCarthyite left.”

    “It’s a reminder of just how closed-minded and vicious so much of the identity-politics left can be. ”

    “Our opponents must be humiliated, ridiculed and “isolated as perverts”. I mean “bigots”, excuse me.

    Orwell wept.”

    As I originally stated, “This time the liberal machine is starting to crack.” It is long past due that the sentient beings on the Left start calling the radicalized elements of your side the carpet.

  4. Epluribusunum Post author

    One of the many admirable qualities of Andrew Sullivan is that, as a devout (and authentic) Christian, he is inclined to begin from a position of grace, forgiveness and reconciliation. I personally would like to have seen a thoughtful dialogue with Eich about his donation; what was he thinking in 2008? Has his thinking changed? People make mistakes, and it appears (to me, at least) that Ok Cupid (another commercial enterprise) launched its boycott before Eich even had the opportunity to explain what happened. A little moderation would have been nice.

    Here’s what Eich did say: “I can only ask for your support to have the time to ‘show, not tell’; and in the meantime express my sorrow at having caused pain.” I would like to have heard what his perceptions of the Prop 8 campaign were at the time. I think it would have been helpful for everyone involved to understand how he saw it, and what prevented him from understanding that the underlying driver of the Frank Schubert campaign was pure animus. We will probably not get to have that conversation now, which is a shame.

    Sullivan makes some very good points, and his dissenters do also. I share many of his views about knee-jerk identity politics. I’d recommend reading the ongoing conversation with readers at The Dish – although I realize that’s more intellectually challenging than leaving quotes from the Washington Times 🙂

  5. Pariahdog


    Thanks for the update. I use Mozilla products and I was concerned when Eich was appointed. I wasn’t concerned enough to write a letter or sign a petition, but was thinking about searching for alternate products.

    Mozilla is an open source product and 40% of the code was built for free by contributors. The development community is very diverse, and independent. If you followed the Prop 8 campaign and all of Frank Shubert campaigns, you will find a legacy of propaganda and dehumanization. Eich contributed $1000 to one of those campaigns. He never explained why he made the contribution. As the head of a large and diverse organization, he had a responsibility to explain what he did, and why.

    Dehumanizing propaganda is a red line. He fueled it with his small contribution. I’m glad he’s gone.

    p.s. – Thank you for quoting the word “Christianists.”
    p.s.s. – Links won’t cause your comments to disappear. If there are too many links in a comment, it goes into moderation. We’ll release it.

  6. David Dickinson

    “Andrew Sullivan, who more or less began the public campaign for same-sex marriage in the 1990s, erupted with an article warning gays and liberals about “becoming just as intolerant of others’ views as the Christianists.” (Associated Press)”

    I will say it: I told you so.

  7. David Dickinson

    “Some gay activists fear same-sex supporters are becoming intolerant: Pushing out Mozilla executive a step too far?” On Washington Times. I’d post the link, but that tends to delete my posts here.


    “Bill Maher: ‘Gay mafia’ will take your career down ‘if you cross them’” Also on Washington Times

    ““I think there is a gay mafia,” the Real Time host said during a panel discussion. “I think if you cross them, you do get whacked.” The comments came after Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich stepped down over controversy that he had donated $1,000 to a group that supported California’s Proposition 8 banning gay marriage.”

    It’s about time the media caught up with the reality on the ground.

  8. Epluribusunum Post author

    This is all kinds of hilarious on so many levels:

    A day after Washington, DC, lobbyist Jack Burkman announced that he would push for legislation to prohibit the National Football League from employing gay players, one of his clients has severed all ties with him.

    First, the attempt to legislatively prohibit a private enterprise from employing members of a class of person (as opposed to civil rights law, which prohibits discriminating against a class of person).

    Second, the client choosing to kick this fool to the curb. Will the lobbyist now complain that his freedom of speech was abridged? Will he, should he, now call for legislation prohibiting clients from firing lobbyists who make embarrassing proposals, because it “coerces” lobbyists like him into not expressing their deeply held beliefs? I wouldn’t be a bit surprised. Religious Liberty! Have at it.

  9. David Dickinson

    So many questions, so little time.

    “What if an employee – let’s say he’s a straight guy – is fired from a company because he wrote a letter to the editor in support of marriage equality? ”

    Is that not now protected free speech? If you could prove that the employer fired him directly because he wrote a letter, couldn’t he bring a civil suit? Of course, the employer could say it was for some other reason or no reason at all and nothing could be done.

    “You’ve said you think the government should intervene in a case like Robertson’s”

    Not exactly. I said there clauses in contracts that limit free speech should be invalid and then added to that “as long as it isn’t directly related to the job.”

    “Phil engaged in constitutionally protected speech. No one has suggested that his speech is not constitutionally protected. ”

    Liberals keep saying this. You are free to say and think whatever you want….but there are “consequences” by which you mean coercion. It is coercing people that is wrong. Arguing is fine.

    “You are trying to demand, by claiming that it’s something other than speech, that the speech of Phil’s critics be suppressed.”

    No, I’m not. I’m saying the exact opposite. I’m saying a war of words is a war of words and should be left in the realm of intellectual and verbal arguments. I’m stating that taking it to another level (i.e. the “consequences” just mentioned is wrong)

    My critique of A&E is that Phil’s comments have nothing to do directly with the show and therefore they should leave him alone.

  10. Epluribusunum Post author

    David D., is there a reason you haven’t answered my question: What if an employee – let’s say he’s a straight guy – is fired from a company because he wrote a letter to the editor in support of marriage equality?

    You’ve said you think the government should intervene in a case like Robertson’s, where he was apparently fired for the expression of ideas some found offensive, but with which you seem to agree. What if someone is fired under similar circumstances for the expression of ideas with which you disagree? Should the government intervene? This is a straightforward question in direct response to your own assertions, and I’d like an answer. Either the principle applies no matter what the ideas are, or you need to explain why there should be disparate treatment.

    You said:

    Phil didn’t even do anything all he did was make a statement and the LGBT community brought out the daggers. So, the LGBT-ers [I assume what you mean by this is ‘LGBT people,’ although straight allies are greater in number], if you SAY anything we don’t like, then we will DO something bad to you.

    You keep making the same categorization error. Phil engaged in constitutionally protected speech. No one has suggested that his speech is not constitutionally protected. And the only thing that anyone else, other than A&E, “did” with regard to Phil was to also engage in constitutionally protected speech. No one in the LGBT or any other community has the power to do anything to Phil, only to say things.

    What you are doing is in effect claiming that certain speech (for instance, asserting that A&E should disassociate themselves from Phil) is really “action,” “doing something” to Phil, while other speech (Phil’s) is merely speech, merely “saying something.” In fact, they are exactly the same thing: constitutionally protected speech. You are trying to demand, by claiming that it’s something other than speech, that the speech of Phil’s critics be suppressed. And you don’t get to do that.

    We’re not going to pretend that there’s any point in arguing about what is or isn’t “clearly spelled out as sin.” There is passionate disagreement among Christians over this question today with regard to gender and sexuality, just as there was passionate disagreement in the time of slavery and abolition. Those Christians who defended slavery and white supremacy as biblical and part of God’s design are judged harshly by history, as they should be. You’re right – it was and is sinful. It was as wrong then as it is now, though almost no one recognized it. There may be some new things under the sun, but theological disagreement isn’t one of them.

  11. David Dickinson

    There is so much wrong in that post:

    “We don’t send these people to jail for their beliefs–unless their beliefs turn into action. Action that involves discrimination or hurting someone or infringing upon their rights as a citizen of this country.”

    We hear this from liberals all the time. You can think any way you want to think…as long as you don’t actually do anything about it. As long as you don’t put your beliefs into action, then you are AOK. In the case in point, Phil didn’t even do anything all he did was make a statement and the LGBT community brought out the daggers. So, the LGBT-ers, if you SAY anything we don’t like, then we will DO something bad to you. Seems like the LGBT community needs to read the blog and apply it to themselves because they obviously aren’t following it.

    “You may not care where black people sit on the bus. You may not even care if a black person and a white person get married. But before those things became the law, there were a lot of people just out there claiming that those things violated the tenets of the Christian religion”

    Wrong. Homosexuality is clearly spelled out as sin. Racism was and is sinful too. Anyone trying to justify racism biblically doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

    “May I just take a moment here and point out that George Orwell was a leftist? That he was, in fact, a dreaded Socialist?”

    George Orwell is often cited because he was prescient, not because of however he aligned politically at the time. In a day an age when Government is creeping into every aspect of our lives, I find it difficult to believe that you don’t see how correct Mr. Orwell was. Need evidence of the “thought police?” Then look at the existence of hate crime legislation, or pushing “common core” in the government school system, or every time the LGBT community tries to knee-cap a Phil Robertson for uttering words.

  12. Pariahdog

    The deathandtaxes blog has a great piece and the latest breathless NOM mailing.

    NOM says:

    This is what our country is facing if the same-sex ‘marriage’ movement gets its way: a society in which not just Phil and other celebrities who voice Christian values are put in the crosshairs and targeted for persecution, but any ordinary citizen who believes in traditional values — ordinary citizens like you and me — will be liable to sanction.

    And the author, Robyn Pennacchia, replies:

    This is categorically untrue, and it’s not even what you’re really afraid of. What you don’t like is the fact that your “traditional values” are no longer in the mainstream. You don’t just want to be allowed to have your own beliefs and go about your own lives, you want everyone to congratulate you on how wonderful they are.

    Please read the complete post and take note of the quote from Orwell. How do you feel about the label “categorically untrue?”

  13. Epluribusunum Post author

    Maybe what is actually crumbling here is your reliance on the easy categories of “left” and “right,” “liberal” and “conservative.”

    Hopefully, what we all want is governance that works, equality for everyone under the law, to have our privacy respected, payment in exchange for honest work that’s adequate to sustain life. What those of us who are not part of the corporatocracy have in common with each other far outweighs our differences, I would think.

    With regard to the general universe of human sexuality, I wonder what it would look like to you – specifically – for companies to “stay out of it.” Stay out of what, exactly? Are we talking about freedom of expression for individuals? Political donations? Employment non-discrimination policies? Corporate benefit packages?

    What if an employee is fired from a company because he writes a letter to the editor in support of marriage equality? What if he travels to a neighboring state to marry his male partner, and is fired because the owner of the company disapproves of gay people getting married? I presume that you would take the same position you did with Phil Robertson with regard to his right to not lose his job for exercising his right to free speech, right?

  14. David Dickinson

    On freedom of speech….

    The line has been debated and continues to move. In general, someone should not be penalized for speaking out on something not directly related to their employment. That is, a guy on a “reality TV” show should not be sanctioned for speaking his mind on unrelated topics to the show. You can argue what is related and unrelated until you are blue in the face.

  15. David Dickinson

    I completely agree that A&E voted for money, money, money. I don’t think there is anything moralistic in either decision they made. In this case, it was a case of who cried loudest. As I stated, the dissent to the original suspension came from both sides, thus showing weakness to the Left and, consequently, the Right won this one (that being said, a counter-reversal would not entirely surprise me). And I’m sure all the attention just boosted revenue even more. “There is no such thing as bad publicity.” I don’t think it was staged, but the timing was fortuitous for A&E with all the Christmas shopping.

    I am also not surprised by the “sour grapes” we are now hearing from the Left.

    I’m more interested to watch how the next iteration of someone expression their views on homosexuality will go. Will companies finally just stay out of it? I don’t know, but I think this was a significant event in that the Left was beaten back.

    Maybe it is the start of a broader movement? Michael Moore’s op-ed in the NYT critical of Obamacare was a very public rebuke. Other liberals have already been vocal on drone strikes and NSA surveillance. I see Democrats crumbling from here, especially if Obamacare face-plants out of the gate.

  16. Epluribusunum Post author

    David, I’m glad you got what you wanted from A&E – but you understand that their reversal was a business decision by the “corporatocracy” just as the original Robertson suspension was a business decision, right? You certainly can’t believe that it was based on principle (which would be what, exactly – that the terms written into every contract like this are suddenly wrong and abhorrent?) and not the almighty dollar. For that reason, as I said earlier, the fact that A&E suspended Robertson in the first place was highly suspicious. The entire premise and appeal of the show is that this is a non-mainstream family that says and does non-mainstream things (however artificial it is – as everyone now knows, the beards and rural attire are part of the contract, too). That’s the point of the show. Whether people for whom this is exotic tune in to gawk, or people for whom it is not tune in because it’s a rare opportunity to see people more like themselves represented on television, people do tune in. As Sullivan said the first day, “What Phil Robertson has given A&E is a dose of redneck reality. Why on earth would they fire him for giving some more?” It only made business sense as a faux “controversy” that was staged, with the correct assumption that all involved would play their parts as predicted.

    Another observation about the timing: While you and your friends were conveniently busy shouting about the non-problem of Duck Dynasty, demanding a result that had likely been pre-ordained by executives months ago, the very real problem of the National Defense Authorization Act being fast-tracked through the Senate happened.

    There are issues, David D., on which we happen to enjoy substantial agreement. In my opinion, you have been played – because an entity you otherwise view as not on your side has managed to exploit your tendency to turn off your brain and forget about your own interests when “biblical” views about sexuality are involved. So much so that you would invite the government – the government – to regulate what can be included in contracts presumably entered into by free and willing participants.

    You seem to be answering ‘yes’ to the question from Pariahdog above: “If an athlete has a sponsorship contract with Nike, and then in an interview, he says, ‘Nike sucks. Adidas is better,’ can Nike terminate the contract? Should the government intervene to prohibit such speech restrictions in a contract?” Is this actually your position?

    I think that you are mistaken about what the First Amendment protects. In this context, where the individual exercises his or her right to free speech is in choosing whether or not to enter into a binding agreement not to say certain things. If an athlete truly prefers Adidas to Nike, and keeping that preference private is too much of a burden, he or she has the freedom to decline that agreement. Wanting the government to come in and “protect” the individual from that freedom of choice just screams Nanny State to me. There is a reason that only competent adults can sign contracts. They are presumed to know what they are doing and shouldn’t be treated like infants. I’m surprised you call yourself a libertarian and think otherwise.

  17. Dave Butler

    He can eat it. But as a spokesman for the company, he can’t say he likes them better than Big Macs. You’re hired to help a company, not damage it. If you want to greatly accelerate the transfer of jobs overseas and have companies like McDonalds automate the hell out of everyone they can, just implement your rule.

    I can tell you that if I couldn’t fire a campaign manager for saying (s)he thinks my opponent is a better candidate, then I’m never hiring a campaign manager (or anyone else for that matter) again. Unless it’s my wife. Maybe.

    Once again, a radical, radical idea.

  18. David Dickinson

    Dave Butler said, “no matter how damaging the exercise of which may be to an employer”

    I interpreted that as libel or slander, which is not protected.

    But, if Ronald wants to eat a Whopper, then yes by all means he should be allowed to eat what he wants without the fear or reprisal. That is exactly what I’m talking about.

  19. Dave Butler

    Again, that’s an awfully radical opinion.

    1. I never said anything had to be libel or slander. I just said that saying something that damages your employer has to be actionable. How long do you think “Ronald McDonald” would have a job if he said if he preferred Whoppers over Big Mac’s? Goodbye! Nice knowing you!

    2. This doesn’t have anything to do with Corporations having any “individual” rights at all. It’s just simply that if you want, at your option, to accept employment or join any other institution, you have to play by their rules. The Constitution is about the institution of government and putting limits on the rules that IT can have, not other institutions.

    It’s really pretty simple. Corporations have rules. To be or stay employed, you have to follow them. Churches have rules. To become or stay a member, you have to follow them. Private clubs have rules. To join or stay a member you have to follow them. The only basic exceptions are that corporations can’t discriminate (as I said above) and the government has a constitution to follow. Other than that, the rules can be pretty much whatever they want them to be. Other than the discrimination part, that’s been the case since the nation has been founded.

  20. David Dickinson

    Dave Butler:

    1. Bad mouthing an employer is not that same thing as expressing an honest opinion. I’m not stating that you can commit libel or slander and get away with it. I am stating that if you have an honest disagreement over something, related or unrelated, that you can state your grievance without fear of persecution.
    2. The idea that a corporation has all the rights as an individual citizen was not put into law until after the founding of the country and, in my opinion, was a huge mistake. Rights should only be accorded to individual citizens.

  21. Dave Butler

    Well, that has to be one of the most radical, non-libertarian things I’ve heard in quite a long time. When one enters employment with, or without, a contract, almost ALL of one’s rights are suppressed. In fact, most states are employment-at-will, so without any contract, employers can fire someone for almost any reason, including being gay or being a bigot. In fact, in those states, they don’t even have a have a reason. They only have to show (if challenged) that the reason was not discriminatory.

    Now, your intention seems to be that in any employment contract, all individual rights, no matter how damaging the exercise of which may be to an employer, cannot be used for an employment action? Wow! Just wow! First, who is qualified to enumerate all of these rights? If it’s the government, that’s significant overreach, in my opinion. And the potential for policitcal games that would be played to come up with that list is breathtaking.

    Now don’t think that the Bill of Rights is in any way a list of individual rights, despite the name. What it does is spell out rights that the Federal Government isn’t allowed to suppress (or deny, or abridge, etc.). The Constitution says nothing about a comprehensive list of individual rights (though the Declaration of Independence does state “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as a guide), nor does it say anything about whether your rights can be suppressed by employers, parents, churches, or any other non-governmental institution.

    Even the laws against discriminatory practices are only meant to prevent non-employment of an individual by non-work-related membership in a religion or because of inherent membership in a group. I’ve never heard of a serious proposal, other than related to criminal whistleblowing, to prevent an employment action due to a person’s speech that damaged an employer. The idea that i could go out and bad-mouth my employer or its products, or, as a voice of the company, alienate its customers, and not be subject to any ramifications is a mind-blowing assertion.

  22. David Dickinson

    On the point of corporate contracts and individual liberty and government.

    Government, bowing to the almighty dollar, has allowed the corporatocracy to undermine the fundamental rights of American citizens by curbing individual rights to free speech, etc. as long as it benefits the corporation. It is a fundamental obligation of government to ensure that individual rights are not suppressed. No contract should put a muzzle on an individual regarding what they can or can’t say.

  23. David Dickinson

    As you all probably know by now, A&E reinstated Phil Robertson thus proving one of the two key points of my post namely, “But this time it is different. This time the liberal machine is starting to crack.”

    Perhaps it is more than cracked, and splintered and collapsed.

    A&E got back to being a business and dropped the LGBT crusader junk.

  24. Epluribusunum Post author

    With all the talk of “persecution” because a private entity is “allowed” by the government to specify contractual obligations, it may be time to reflect on why David D didn’t find a post about Duck Dynasty in the first place when he visited here seeking one: We didn’t care about it.

    I couldn’t possibly express the context of this better than Peter Montgomery did, and I highly recommend reading his essay What Persecution Looks Like in its entirety:

    At the end of a week in which Religious Right leaders, cable TV pundits, and conservative politicians acted as if freedom were being destroyed because a rich TV star was suspended for making offensive racist and anti-gay comments, the Parliament in Uganda passed a bill that threatens gay people with life in prison.

    And with that vote, all the alarmist bluster about persecution from Sarah Palin, Bobby Jindal and every Religious Right leader who saw a chance to boost year-end fundraising by jumping on the martyrdom bandwagon was made to look ridiculous.

    We had more important matters to pursue than the latest manufactured outrage (and I do mean by both sides) over some ignorant and self-absorbed remarks made by a “reality television” personality. It’s almost as if David D is completely unaware of actual events in the world: While privileged American scam artists like Eugene Delgaudio exploit his ignorance of the history of discrimination, criminal persecution and violence perpetrated against LGBTI people in the US, fundraising by claiming dubious-at-best “death threats,” LGBTI people in Uganda, Russia, Jamaica, Ethiopia, and elsewhere are currently being hunted, imprisoned, and actually dying at the hands of government forces or government-enabled vigilantes.

    How do American conservative religious and political figures respond to this kind of persecution? Not with shouts of outrage but with enthusiastic cheering. It is no small irony that many of those most loudly screaming “persecution” over Robertson’s suspension have been equally vocal supporters of international efforts to literally criminalize homosexuality.

    Everyone participating in this little drama has behaved exactly as they would be expected to, which is why so many people have suspected the whole thing of being staged. When I read the excerpt of Robertson’s anti-gay tirade as it started its trip around social media, I shrugged. The part where he lists “homosexuality” in common with “bestiality” and “adultery”? That’s boilerplate talk for that demographic. It’s no different from what’s preached every Sunday in hundreds of churches serving that demographic (it’s also not a “biblical view,” but that’s a different conversation).

    However, the fact that I shrugged, or that the idea is commonly held among a certain demographic, doesn’t mean that the idea isn’t defamatory. Look to this recent post for comparison: The idea that “Jews are perceived as economically successful” pales in comparison to the idea that being gay is comparable to the sexual use of animals, or to cheating on your spouse – yet the Anti-Defamation League took it quite seriously. Failing to take defamation seriously has consequences that the targets can’t afford to ignore. That’s why there are anti-defamation groups. GLAAD did exactly what it exists to do.

    To the David Dickinsons of the world: Yes, the work the LGBTI community in the US has done to refute ideas that are harmful to us, that are defamatory, that are sometimes lethal, has led to a new situation for those who continue to hold those ideas: You are in the minority, and you are not viewed favorably. That isn’t uncomfortable because the government is menacing you (unlike what the reality was for us when it was literally a criminal offense to exist in this country as an LGBTI person), it’s uncomfortable because you don’t get to live in a world with everything the way you want it. Sometimes people even call you mean names. I’m sorry, but that’s really all it is. Nobody wants to put you in prison for thinking that gay people are “sinners,” or for believing that we could change into heterosexuals if we wanted to. Nobody wants to put you in prison even for thinking that we should be put in prison, or even for thinking that we should be rounded up and put to death, like these guys – although if you agree with these guys you can be sure we’re watching you very closely, and with good reason.

    I don’t doubt that some anonymous commenters from the LGBTI community have said hateful things about you on websites. But no one from our community could say that people opposed to our equality should be criminalized and imprisoned – or executed – and still be treated as credible – whereas Bryan Fischer, who does say such things about LGBTI people, appears on television in his official capacity as spokesman for a national advocacy organization, and is treated as if he represents a legitimate point of view. That’s quite a difference, don’t you think? Can you honestly say that’s something we should “tolerate”?

    What was more interesting to me about Phil Robertson’s musings was his apparent inability to imagine another person having a legitimate experience that differs from his own. The common thread between his vulgar remarks about “a vagina” being “more desirable,” and his racist cluelessness about Jim Crow is that total self-absorption (my emphases): “It seems like, to me…” “I never, with my eyes…” “I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

    See what’s happening here? If someone else’s experience doesn’t match Phil’s experience, it doesn’t matter. If he were actually just talking about himself, that would be fine – in fact it would be wonderful; Phil is the undisputed authority on who Phil is, Phil’s relationship with God, and how Phil experiences the world. Unfortunately, he insists on talking about how other people do or should experience the world, and those people, not Phil, are the authorities on that. All of us would do well to remember this.

  25. Pariahdog

    David D,

    I have another question. If an athlete has a sponsorship contract with Nike, and then in an interview, he says, “Nike sucks. Adidas is better,” can Nike terminate the contract? Should the government intervene?

  26. Zach Pruckowski

    Suppose a local restauranteur publicly called your sister a dirty whore. You’re not going to patronize that restaurant and neither is anyone who knows and likes your sister. If I came along and said “you have a moral obligation to continue to go to that restaurant despite the nasty things they said” you would ignore me (and probably call me a moron). It’s completely understandable (and practically expected) that you would want nothing to do with the restaurant in question.

    Suppose you’re a restauranteur and your bartender is driving away customers. People openly say “I’d come to your restaurant but I can’t stand that jackass bartender”. People leave your restaurant and say “the bartender spent the whole meal leering at me and making crude jokes, I’m never eating here again”. That bartender is costing you business, and you want to get rid of him. If I say you should be legally prevented from firing that bartender because his crude jokes and jackassery are Free Speech, that would be absurd.

    The above are (slightly different) metaphorical examples that explain the “liberal” and A&E positions on the issue. If you want to make the case that what’s happening in the Duck Dynasty case should be illegal, you’ve got to argue the correctness of at least one of the above – either it should be morally/legally wrong for the customer to refuse to patronize someone who slandered a family member, or it should be against the law to fire jackass bartenders who cost your customers.

    I think a lot of this controversy comes from the unique circumstance of “reality TV” as an entertainment medium. In reality TV, the stars are quite literally selling themselves. In scripted media it’s easier to separate an actor’s personal opinions from the show and the studio/network, but here the entire selling point of Duck Dynasty is that it’s the real life and times of the Robertson clan and their family business. This eliminates the safe middle ground of “yes, he’s a bigot but I don’t really care about his personal views” because there’s no veil of separation between the show and the actor.

  27. Pariahdog

    David D,

    I was still working on the post, proper. Having read your latest comment, can you substantiate the assertion below:

    I propose that the Government has acquiesced to businesses (and money) on this by allowing the restriction of the freedom of speech by inserting clauses into contracts that restrict individual free speech in violation of the 1st Amendment.”

  28. Pariahdog

    These types of manufactured controversies are not unique to the U.S. Here is an example of a Lithuanian anti-Semite who doesn’t want to spend tax dollars to help 200 Lithuanian heroes who saved Jews during WWII. His remarks were apparently not “tolerated” by his own party. But we know that anti-Semitism is growing both here in the U.S. and abroad. Was the reaction to his remarks “fascist?” How should a culture react to remarks that have been used historically to harm minority groups?

  29. Epluribusunum Post author

    David D, I hope that you and your family had a Merry Christmas, and likewise to all our readers.

    Do I understand you to be saying that the government should intervene in private business contracts with individuals? Wouldn’t that in turn be a violation of a business’ freedom to establish its branding and protect its image? Again, I don’t see how there could be a better solution to disagreement than what we have right now: All parties having an equal right to expression, with no one’s freedom of speech being abridged. As you say, this right is immutable and can’t be signed away. If it could be signed away – if his freedom of speech were actually abridged – Mr. Robertson would be facing criminal prosecution, not social opprobrium.

    If you have been reading my thoughts on this site or on Equality Loudoun for any length of time, you know that I have discussed many boycott efforts by anti-gay groups targeting private businesses and organizations that they perceive as failing to punish LGBTI people, including Home Depot, JC Penney, Campbell’s Soup, General Mills, Starbucks, Girl Scout cookies, etc. I have never, in my reporting on these boycott promotions, suggested that groups like the American Family Association have no right to or shouldn’t be engaging in this behavior. I have instead employed my own freedom of speech to criticize their ideas, and to encourage people to respond to the attempted boycott by, for example, buying more Girl Scout cookies or more soup.

    I wonder why this approach is not acceptable to you, in this situation, and why you would propose government intervention to force a result that the free market isn’t producing?

  30. Pariahdog


    Over the next year, I’m going to be writing quite a bit about modern fascism. For background see Mussolini Doctrine of Fascism (1932). As part of that exercise, I’ll try to develop a conformance matrix in order to qualify and quantify whether a particular ideology is or isn’t like fascism. In the case of Duck Dynasty, the triggering actor was GLAAD, and not any other GLBT equality organization. After Mr. Robertson was suspended, the blowback was pretty broad spectrum. If you examine how GLAAD’s ideology conforms to fascism, also look at and the ideologies of the organizations involved in petitions, outrage and demands for reinstatement.

    Regarding the blowback, the idolization of Phil Robertson as a prototypical “guy just like you and me” is quite stark. If a well-known liberal commentator had said “Hey, I really like vagina and don’t like ass” in a widely read magazine interview, can you imagine the reaction?

    “Why is he giving a sex-ed lesson to children? Why is he talking about body parts? How am I going to explain this to my children? Why does the TV station get to decide when I have this conversation with my children… “

    The reaction seems to be slanted based on a rather crude decomposition of society into “good guys” and “bad guys” who will be treated differently, not based on what they say, but based on whether they are “liked” culturally.

  31. Barbara Munsey

    If one disagrees with Mr. Robertson, they too can change the channel. However, they are certainly within their rights as well to demand he be fired, boycott merchandise, seek out others who do business with him and threaten them as well (as long as they don’t threaten anything beyond economic boycott).

    Professor Paglia has become more and more vocal on the tactics of acitivists, and while I do not agree with everything she has said and written in her storied career, I do applaud her for saying enough is enough.

    “Tolerance” is not synonymous with applause, celebration, promotion. It means that you allow the differing viewpoint the respect of existing in the same space as your own. The preferred definition of the word has yes, edged into territory that plays with totalitarian viewpoints.

    Apparently some are incapable of truly tolerating that diversity such as Mr. Roberton’s exists in the same public plane as their own preferred Diversity(TM). They have every right to hold that opinion.

    However, they also need to be prepared for disagreement with that opinion.

    I’m quite tempted to make it my stock response in the New Year to say “I disagree with some of your positions and opinions. And I do not engage in your demanded support of them not because I “hate” or “fear” you, but because you are a stridently whiny obnoxious ******* about them.”

    Something Ms. Paglia may be too polite to lay bluntly on the line.

    Hope all here managed to find something to enjoy over the holidays.

  32. Liz

    Again, you’re ignoring the racist part of robertson’s statements, which I am sure contributed just as much to his suspension, if not more. (See Paula Deen’s ouster from the cooking channel)

    Delgaudio gets death threats? So did Jeanne West when she ran against him. So do I. What does that have to do with A&E exercising their right not to have a blathering bigot as an on-camera personality on their channel?

    You want him on the air? Start your own channel and hire him. You disagree with A&E? Stop watching them. Your team wanted deregulation of broadcasters and a free market? You got it. Too bad you don’t like what the free market gets you.

  33. David Dickinson

    On homosexuality as sin. Sin is a violation of religious law. As such, neither you nor I can say something is or is not sinful apart from what is written in Scriptures. I may argue that I don’t like that something is or is not sinful but I don’t get to define what sin is. Homosexuality is clearly sinful to Christianity, as is all other sexual activity that is not between a married man and woman.

    But homosexuality as sin is not the point of my post. To be 100% clear, the point of my post is that some members of the LGBT community have gone too far in requiring people to think as they think, or be punished. It is the blatant coercion that I object to, much as Professor Paglia stated.

    As I originally stated, there are those of the classic liberal stripe who welcome diversity of thought and opinion and there are those that don’t. Dave Butler has demonstrated on a local level those that don’t. It is one thing to promote an agenda, it is another to falsely ascribe “bigot” to those that have a legitimate opposition to your viewpoint. “Shouting down bigotry is a time-honored tactic” as is the time honored tactic of demonizing your opposition with name calling and labeling.

    On the point that the Government isn’t the one curtailing 1st amendment rights, I disagree. Constitutionally guaranteed rights are immutable. You can’t sign them away or lose them except through due process. I propose that the Government has acquiesced to businesses (and money) on this by allowing the restriction of the freedom of speech by inserting clauses into contracts that restrict individual free speech in violation of the 1st Amendment. Entertainers, athletes, etc. should not be restricted in their speech for the benefit of businesses. I recognize that it is legal to do so, but I take a civil libertarian stand on it by stating that it should not be part of their contracts.

  34. Dave Butler

    Mr. Dickenson, a few thought if I may:

    1. Assessing homosexuality as a sin is not mainstream, not when a majority of Americans agree with their right to marry. Perhaps it used to be, but welcome to 2013.

    2. It’s hard to see this as a religious argument unless Mr. Robertson also believes slaves should obey their masters (Ephesians 6:5), women should submit to men (Ephesians 5:22-23) and women should not attempt to teach men (1 Timothy 2:12). Certainly I would not consider those “mainstream”. Although they used to be! But society evolved. And society continues to do so.

    3. Mr. Robertson was not suspended because of his religious beliefs. He was suspended because he publically (in a magazine no less) uttered vile, despicable comments that his employer thought would reflect badly on its business. A&E had a perfectly reasonable reaction to his comments, and I’m confident my employer would have a similar one.

    4. The only “homosexual agenda” that I know of is to champion equal rights for gays. That certainly seems to be as American an agenda as one can have. (Note especially Blacks and Women).

    5. If you recall Fascism, a major tenet was that minorities (especially Jews) should be disdained (or worse) by the “master race”. So the “homosexual agenda” seems to be quite anti-Fascist.

    6. Shouting down bigotry is a time-honored tactic. Just state publically something like “I don’t believe Women and Blacks should vote. It’s against the Bible and, in any case, they’re too dumb to vote properly,” and seem how fast you get shouted down.

    7. Ascribing all manner of ulterior motives to me, or those like me, is utter hogwash. This is not about power, money, or anything other than supporting equal rights.

    8. It’s unfathomable how you can defend Delgaudio. HE is one that continually pursues money, power, and elected office through bigotry and hate speech. I certainly would not condone death threats against him, but when a campaign mailer includes “gay blood” running under a door, it’s not hard to understand why some people might be driven to that.

    10. I had no idea I was “chic”! That’s not a word that’s used to describe me very often. 🙂

  35. David Dickinson

    So much to discuss.

    First, let’s talk about the “fascist” part. Is it fascist in the sense that Mussolini is in charge and is going to destroy everything that opposes him? No. But it does smack of fascism in the sense that no divergent point of view will be tolerated and, if you oppose the “homosexual agenda” then you will be targeted in nasty ways beyond words. The LGBT community has found considerable success in using financial tactics to silence opposition, and I think that is unfair. Ask Eugene Delgaudio how many times he has gotten actual death threats. Are those threats to be tolerated? Of course not.

    But what Phil Robertson said is that homosexuality is sin. And it is sin. Should he be punished for that in any way either directly or indirectly? How free is speech or how free is religion if you are going to receive some kind of punitive action for expressing mainstream beliefs?

    What the posters so far have demonstrated is that this is a power play they agree with. Folks like Dave Butler exemplify the part where I stated, “These classical liberals have been pushed aside by political players whose main pursuit is power for the sake of power and doling out favors (and money) to political friends…left-wing hard-liners who belie the liberal ethos purely for political gain.” To folks like Dave Butler, it is about forcing you to think like he thinks, and he aptly personifies the nouveau liberal that is so chic in modern “liberal” circles.

    Nobody’s job should be threatened for their beliefs. Nobody should get death threats. People should not be harassed. Is that really such a tall standard that our modern society can’t achieve it?

  36. David Dickinson


    1. Yes, I agree with the term “fascist.”
    2. A&E can broadcast whatever show they want or don’t want to broadcast. I’m sure another network will be happy to pick up the most popular cable based reality show in history if they drop it.

    More to follow

  37. Epluribusunum Post author

    Re: the notion that anyone is being “coerced,” I don’t think this can be repeated too often: “The alternative to working through these very real and very tough issues privately is that the government works them out for you.”

  38. Dave Butler

    This column is, unfortunately, well below the normally erudite nature of Loudoun Progress. So far below, in fact, that I feel a need to comment.

    First, calling “intolerance…toward the full spectrum of human beliefs” fascist and Stalinist simply shows ignorance of what the words fascist and Stalinist mean. NO ONE has tolerance towards the full spectrum of human beliefs. Thinking otherwise is utter nonsense.

    Second, Mr. Dickinson is completely wrong in his final two paragraphs. Anyone who has no fear of reprisal for expressing their views is a fool. If they don’t like you expressing your views, relatives are free to disown you, friends are free to ignore you, employers are free to fire you, and individuals in society are free to shout you down. Fear of reprisal for expressing your views is the key to civil discourse. Any time I express, or act on, any of my views, I EXPECT reactions. Some positive, some negative. Potential reprisal is always a concern. And it should be. The only expectation one should have is no fear of reprisal from the state. There is no indication that anyone is getting arrested or fined because of any racist, homophobic comments. Therefore, there are no “fascist” or “Stalinist” reprisals, and “freedom of speech” is not being violated in any way.

    Thinking that anyone is being “coerced” into suppressing their right to free speech is ridiculous. Has Robertson’s family been threatened if he continues to speak out against gays? Has he been tortured until he repudiates his views? Is he in chains? No. His entire “punishment” is by his employer who believes that Robertson’s public comments hurt the employer’s image. That’s perfectly reasonable, responsible, and, frankly, not uncommon. As in the early 70’s (in a famous case) wear a “F*** the draft” T-shirt. You will not be arrested, but if you wear it into your workplace don’t be surprised if your employer demands you remove it. This is basic, “what the hell are you thinking” stuff.

    Finally, it is exactly the right thing for “society” (as a collection of individuals) to shout down views seen by the society in general as hateful, bigoted, and intolerant. That’s normal. And it should be. That’s how communities have always operated. In short, if you say dumb-ass things, you should be prepared for all manner of consequences, even if they don’t include arrests and fines.

    This entire episode is not, really, about “free speech”, “Fascism”, “Stalinism”, “coercion”, or anything else related. It doesn’t even have anything to do with Robertson. (Though he does get some sympathy because he’s perceived as a “hick” who doesn’t know any better.) It’s more about hateful, bigoted people being pissed off that those views are no longer tolerated in “polite society”. Well, too bad. Get over it.

  39. Zach Pruckowski

    What I haven’t heard anyone say as they condemn the backlash to Phil Robertson’s comments is what they think SHOULD be happening.

    Most people evaluate their economic decisions in light their beliefs – we tend to be more likely to consume things which align with or support our values and vice-versa. Rational, self-interested corporations make commercial decisions based on sales (or in this case, viewership). When A&E makes decisions about whether to continue to film with Phil Robertson, it’s going to take into account how that will impact their viewership. Originally they suspected it would be a net-negative to their viewership and so suspended him, but they may change their minds based on their reading of the public mood.

    What I don’t understand from this is what should change. Is it (a) consumers shouldn’t consider their values in economic decisions, (b) companies shouldn’t make commercial decisions based on total expected profit, or what? And how are we expected to implement this change? There’s basically no chance that you’re going to promote a culture in which corporations reject profit-making to stand by business partners’ principles, and no group is going to advocate (much less successfully) for citizens not to worry about who their dollars end up supporting in the marketplace. So if this won’t get solved socially, do you guys propose a legislative solution? Are you actually advocating for a law that says that people can’t take their values into account in what they buy, and/or companies can’t take profit into account in what they sell?
    Imagine that a popular female entertainer with a largely conservative fanbase publicly and openly gets an abortion, and then becomes a prominent abortion advocate. Is it your position that it is somehow wrong for her fans to chose to stop supporting her or that it would be wrong if her record label took action to preserve its profits in the face of any controversy? In this circumstance, what moral or legal repercussions should their be for her fans or her record label? Should we fine anyone who denounces her? Should we sanction the company if it doesn’t produce another album with her? Should prominent Republicans oppose any pro-life group that tries to boycott her?

  40. Epluribusunum Post author

    There’s much here that I agree with, which shouldn’t be surprising.

    Voltaire; full embrace of the First Amendment? Check and check. “Let the battle for hearts and minds be waged with the intellectual weapon of choice: words;” I agree. But…that is exactly what’s happening.

    Phil Robertson does have “a right to express his views without fear of reprisal,” and that right has not been abridged. The First Amendment protects the right to say anything, no matter how noxious, without fear of government reprisal. It does not – and how could it? – control the consequences that naturally flow from disagreement with co-citizens who share the exact same rights. Some of that disagreement may be principled, and some of it may be noxious – but all are exercising the same freedom of speech that means Phil Robertson isn’t subject to government reprisals for his speech. No one who is now criticizing Phil Robertson, however noxiously, is subject to government reprisals either, and neither are those who in turn are criticizing the critics of Phil Robertson.

    So no one’s freedom of speech has been abridged, which is very different from there being no consequences for speech. Let me ask you this: By claiming a right to speak “without reprisals,” what precisely are you asking for? That no one express disagreement, or anger? That there be some sort of guarantee that disagreement not have economic consequences? That A&E ignore the contract entered into with Robertson? I don’t understand what would better serve the interest of protecting everyone’s equal right to speak than what is currently happening.

    I think that what we’re seeing is that certain views that used to be mainstream have become marginalized, and it’s an unpleasant experience to hold unpopular views. We could all do with a bit more civility in general, and I can empathize with wanting not to be personally attacked by people with obvious animus toward the group of which you’re a member. I’ve been in that position too. The ideal would be for everyone to treat everyone else the way they would like to be treated, but the reality is that (even if we try) we all miss the mark.

    Please try to understand this. A viewpoint that holds another group of people to be inferior, as much as it’s constitutionally protected, causes real harm to members of that group. I don’t think it’s fair to expect members of a group to not react with anger toward expression of a viewpoint that a) holds them to be inferior, and b) leads to them being treated unfairly or unkindly, whether by the government or elsewhere. I hope the quote from Camille Paglia was intended by her as a bit of hyperbole. I’m sure she’s aware of what “the full spectrum of human beliefs” includes, and would not expect, for example, a person targeted for extermination to be tolerant of a belief in the moral righteousness of their genocide. All ideas are protected, but not all ideas are equal, and not all ideas are harmless. And that is why there are anti-defamation organizations.

    This is not the entirety of my response, but I think it’s enough for now.

  41. liz

    David D., do you feel that A&E, as a corporation, has the right to decide what shows they want to air, whose views they wish to broadcast?

    Also, I am really tired of people pretending this is all about the anti-gay views expressed by this doofus. He also made some outrageously stupid racist remarks, ala Paula Deen. I’m pretty sure that that was a contributing factor to his suspension.

Comments are closed.