Politics

“Duck Dynasty” star suspended by A&E for his religious beliefs

"Duck Dynasty" star suspended by A&E for his religious beliefs

Perhaps we will one day evolve into the sort of tolerant society where Christians can come out of the closet and openly discuss their beliefs.  Today is not that day.  Phil Robertson of A&E’s “Duck Dynasty” has been either indefinitely suspended or fired (depending on which report you read, and how Robertson and his family ultimately react to the decision) for saying this, during an interview with GQ magazine, in response to the question “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 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.”

Not only did Robertson quote from the Bible, but he engaged in rampant out-and-proud heterosexuality, earlier in the same interview:

“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 activist group GLAAD, which was only mildly perturbed with hyper-liberal Alec Baldwin screaming anti-gay slurs in a fit of rage and actually helped him repair his reputation, snapped its fingers and got Robertson instantly suspended by A&E, even though “Duck Dynasty” is not only their top show, but the most popular show on cable television.  Contrast that with the three weeks it took MSNBC to sack Martin Bashir after he suggested – live on the air, not in a magazine interview with an entirely unrelated publication – that someone should defecate in Sarah Palin’s mouth.

Perhaps the day will come that A&E executives take a stand in favor of free speech and the free exercise of religion, and against totalitarianism… but again, today is not that day.  From the Hollywood Reporter:

“We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series Duck Dynasty,” A&E said in a statement. “His personal views in no way reflect those of A+E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely.”

[...] GLAAD on Wednesday condemned his remarks as “some of the vilest and most extreme statements uttered against LGBT people in a mainstream publication” and said “his quote was littered with outdated stereotypes and blatant misinformation.”

“Phil and his family claim to be Christian, but Phil’s lies about an entire community fly in the face of what true Christians believe,” GLAAD spokesperson Wilson Cruz said. “He clearly knows nothing about gay people or the majority of Louisianans — and Americans — who support legal recognition for loving and committed gay and lesbian couples. Phil’s decision to push vile and extreme stereotypes is a stain on A&E and his sponsors, who now need to re-examine their ties to someone with such public disdain for LGBT people and families.”

Actually, even liberal polling outfits find overwhelming opposition to gay marriage in Louisiana – it only polls around 28 percent support – but it’s comical to expect honesty out of a group like GLAAD, just as it would be absurd to accept their characterization of “what true Christians believe.”  Their strategy is to make everyone who disagrees with their agenda feel marginalized and intimidated, not engage in reasoned arguments.  Like much of the Left, they think “discourse” is a game you win when everyone who disagrees with you has been silenced, or regulated into captivity.

The Hollywood Reporter also claims Robertson “compared homosexuality to bestiality” in his remarks, which isn’t true – he said he thinks homosexuality is a sin that leads down a slippery slope to bestiality, which would therefore be both different and worse in his mind – but again, when the jackboots start clicking on the pavement, it’s foolish to expect fair consideration or honest representation.  It should be possible to strongly disagree with Robertson without either distorting his words, or censoring him, but those are not the rules of engagement here.

Thus, Phil Robertson was instantly transformed into an “anti-gay” hate fetish in the headlines of every major media outlet.  I can’t recall any examples of the many entertainment figures who routinely mock or insult Christians, or elements of their faith, getting headline treatment as “anti-Christian.”  John Nolte at Breitbart News seeks to distinguish Robertson’s description of homosexual behavior from animosity towards gay people themselves, which is a distinction modern culture will not allow anyone to make:

Robertson listed more than a half-dozen sins other than homosexual behavior, including a number of heterosexual behaviors, and “the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers”.

It is certainly possible to try and disguise anti-gay bigotry as Christianity. Singling out gay people and not distinguishing between homosexuals as people and homosexual behavior, are two of the most glaring examples.

But Robertson did neither. What he did do was to speak a Christian truth about various sins, and the media know this.

Anti-sin is not anti-gay.

But personalizing behavior is a major tactic of the totalitarian Left.  Every criticism of anything they believe in or support is interpreted as personal “hatred.”  It’s not only impossible to separate behavior from individuals in the case of homosexuality; you can’t even criticize their political agenda without being labeled an anti-gay “hater.”  Needless to say, no Christian is permitted to make the same argument about causes they support.  We’re in the middle of major court battles over whether a Christian should be forced to obey government when it seeks to impose the agenda of the Ruling Class in violation of their deeply-held religious beliefs.  You are not allowed to say that the people who support or enforce those mandates are “anti-Christian” or “hate Catholics” or anything of the sort.  You certainly won’t see such a characterization made offhandedly in major media news headlines.

I also can’t help noticing that both media personalities and left-wing government officials feel free to use a gay slur, “teabagger,” when referring to members of the Tea Party.  If GLAAD objected to this term, or called for the firing of anyone who uses it – which would arguably have required them to call for the impeachment of President Barack Obama, who allegedly used the term in a handwritten letter to a constituent – I must have missed it.

Robertson didn’t make his remarks on his show, so the network is not objecting to the abuse of its air time, contrary to its editorial policies.  Let’s be clear about what this is: an effort to suppress free speech by punishing someone for making politically incorrect remarks in a candid interview.  The punishment is not coming from the government, so it’s at least a conceptual stretch to invoke the First Amendment… although, as always when principles become law, I wouldn’t venture to predict what will happen if Robertson and the network end up in court.  As I see it, A&E is allowed to employ anyone it wishes, and audience members are likewise free to express their displeasure with whatever decision the executives make.  You can be hostile toward free speech and religion, earning passionate criticism for that hostility, without breaking any laws.

There’s talk of boycotting A&E over the suspension of Robertson.  I’m not a big fan of boycott tactics in general, and I’m not sure how you go about boycotting a packaged cable TV network – you’re still forced to pay for A&E as part of your cable or satellite deal, whether you like them or not.  It’s possible to bring their ratings down by refusing to watch them, something that will happen with historic sweep if the Robertson family decides to take “Duck Dynasty” elsewhere, and its immense audience decamps to follow them.

At this point, however, it’s just about inconceivable that A&E would reverse its decision, because the powerful gay-agenda pressure groups that hold them in thrall would go absolutely ballistic if network executives are seen as knuckling under to the vastly larger but politically disfavored Robertson fan base.  Iron political discipline is key to projecting influence far beyond your numbers.  The point of the Robertson jihad is to intimidate other Christians and make them feel subdued, something that’s not going to happen if they can push back effectively.  The only acceptable way for Phil Robertson to get back on the air would be to apologize for his beliefs and retract his comments… in which case, from a “subdue Christians” standpoint, mission accomplished, plus A&E gets to keep its cash cow (or duck) on the air.

As quoted at NewsBusters, Robertson has clarified his remarks and expressed regret for anyone who took offense, but of course that’s not going to be good enough coming from someone with his beliefs, because he didn’t recant them:

I myself am a product of the 60s; I centered my life around sex, drugs and rock and roll until I hit rock bottom and accepted Jesus as my Savior. 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. 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.

The Left has been coiled to strike at “Duck Dynasty,” whose astounding popularity – extending into an empire of merchandise, from which I suppose Phil Robertson’s face will have to be airbrushed – is a troubling reminder of a large and vibrant culture that exists in opposition to the preferred liberal culture imposed by media and government policy.  The GQ interview with Phil lays out everything that liberals find disturbing about his family’s success:

It’s easy to see the appeal. The Robertsons are immensely likable. They’re funny. They look cool. They’re “smarter than they look,” says sportswriter Mark Schlabach, who co-writes the family’s books. And they are remarkably honest both with one another and with the viewing audience: Phil’s old hell-raising, Si’s traumatic stint in Vietnam, the intervention that the family staged for Jep when he was boozing and doing drugs in college (Phil placed him under house arrest for three months)—all of it is out in the open. The more they reveal, the more people feel connected to them.

And then, of course, there is their faith, which plays no small role here. During the family’s initial negotiations about the show with A&E, Jase told me, “the three no-compromises were faith, betrayal of family members, and duck season.” That refusal to betray their faith or one another has been a staple of every media article about the Robertson family. It’s their elevator pitch, and it has made them into ideal Christian icons: beloved for staking out a bit of holy ground within the mostly secular, often downright sinful, pop culture of America.

It looks as if the Left’s power players have had about all they can stomach of that “refusal to betray their faith or one another.”  It’s not that hard to set up an honest, outspoken Christian for culture-crimes violation in a candid interview.  It happens quite often, as Senator Marco Rubio could tell you, based on what happened after he did an interview with GQ.  It’s considered acceptable to mock and impugn everything a Christian believes, in the most vicious possible terms, implying they’re all either hatemongers, blind fanatics, or idiots.

The most obvious way to avoid this trap is to avoid discussing matters of faith in public… but that runs contrary to the tenets of that very faith, to say nothing of being unfair to people with deep religious convictions, and unworthy of a nation that prides itself on “tolerance” as the ultimate virtue.  Phil Robertson didn’t call for any action against homosexuals, or demand discrimination against them.  He expressed an opinion, and that should not be considered dangerous in a truly “tolerant” society that places a high value on the freedom of expression.

Every time one of these free-speech tempests blows up, I find myself remembering how the right of Nazis to march in Skokie, Illinois was considered the acid test of commitment to the freedom of expression in my youth.  That story came up again and again in school, as an object lesson in the importance of respecting the right of even the most odious individuals – quite literally enemies of the civilization that tolerates them! – to organize and express themselves in a lawful way.  The correct response is more free speech – argument, not suppression.  Frankly, if your civilization can’t answer the challenge posed by Nazis, it desperately needs a tune-up.  Isn’t that really true of every belief system?  If it can only survive by forcibly silencing and marginalizing its critics, convincing dissenters they stand alone instead of responding to their ideas, then maybe it’s not such a great belief system.  There was a time that homosexuals leveled that charge against the common culture.  It wasn’t very long ago, but some of them already seem to have forgotten it.

It shouldn’t matter whether or not you agree with anything Phil Robertson said, to defend his right to say it – indeed, under the Nazis-in-Skokie principle, it counts for even more if you defend him while disagreeing with him.  For the record, I’m a consistent defender of the traditional understanding of marriage, but I don’t think homosexuality is sinful, so I guess I’ll have to be chalked up as someone who disagrees with Phil but defends his right to speak candidly.  I’m with him on drunkards, slanderers, swindlers, idolaters, greed, and vaginas, however.

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