Friday, December 27, 2013

Wenzel, Sullivan, North and Mercer on 'Duck Dynasty'

I don't watch much television. I view some sports, the television shows The Good Wife and Suits, and I will watch the second season of the Netflix series, The House of Cards, when it will be released in February. That's pretty much it.

I have never watched Duck Dynasty.Watching a family of backwoods people live their lives, if indeed that is what is going on in the show, is not my idea of superior entertainment. There is a lot of bad television out there. On my radar Duck Dynasty is in that pile, though I don't know enough about the show to know if it is real bad or mildly bad. Like I said, they lost me with the backwoods.

That said, I find the current controversy over comments by show star Phil Robertson curious. I am pretty much a live and let live guy. I have no problem with fundamentalists or gays doing their thing, as long as they don't attempt to interfere with the way I want to run my life. Likewise, I am not going to attempt to convert gays to my heterosexual view of the world or attempt to convert fundamentalists to my views on religion and the cosmos. And, quite frankly, I don't care what gays, fundamentalists or anyone else thinks about my lifestyle. Therefore, it really boggles my mind that there is so much interest over what a fundamentalist thinks about a gay lifestyle. Duh, what the hell do people think a fundamentalist would think about a gay lifestyle?

This entire controversy appears to boil down once again to political correctness and some sort of attempt to manage what views can be expressed publicly. Friedrich Hayek had it right in his essay Why I Am Not a Conservative, lefties and conservatives both have a strong desire to control people. The Robertson controversy is an epic case of the left showing an incredible lack of tolerance to others views. Robertson is expressing his views but doesn't seem, from what I have seen, to demand that gays stop their practices, so at least he gets points for that, but the left is in an uproar about what he has said and wants to shut him down.

It really should be remembered what Hayek said in the above mentioned essay. (Note, Hayek is using the word liberal here in the classic sense, one that is in favor of a free society.)
It has to be admitted that in some respects the liberal is fundamentally a skeptic - but it seems to require a certain degree of diffidence to let others seek their happiness in their own fashion and to adhere consistently to that tolerance which is an essential characteristic of liberalism. 
Here is the openly gay Andrew Sullivan with his take on the controversy, the religious Gary North with his take and a take from Ilana Mercer.

Sullivan writes:
I have to say I’m befuddled by the firing of Phil Robertson, he of the amazing paterfamilias beard on Duck Dynasty (which I mainly see via The Soup). A&E has a reality show that depends on the hoariest stereotypes – and yet features hilariously captivating human beings – located in the deep South. It’s a show riddled with humor and charm and redneck silliness. The point of it, so far as I can tell, is a kind of celebration of a culture where duck hunting is the primary religion, but where fundamentalist Christianity is also completely pervasive. (Too pervasive for the producers, apparently, because they edited out the saying of grace to make it non-denominational and actually edited in fake beeps to make it seem like the bearded clan swore a lot, even though they don’t.) 
Now I seriously don’t know what A&E were expecting when the patriarch Phil Robertson was interviewed by GQ. But surely the same set of expectations that one might have of an ostensibly liberal host of a political show would not be extended to someone whose political incorrectness was the whole point of his stardom. He’s a reality show character, for Pete’s sake. Not an A&E spokesman. 
Read the rest of Sullivan'stake here.
 Here's North:
 What A&E has done was best described by astronaut Gus Grissom half a century ago, as recorded for posterity in The Right Stuff. It has committed a deviant act: symbolic bestiality. A&E has screwed the pooch. 
A&E has just lost a franchise that generates almost half a billion dollars a year in product sales.
Can you spell “dumb”? The only hope is that buyers do not figure out that they are making money for A&E.
Let’s see if Walmart follows A&E’s lead..
The Robertsons can cut a deal with Walmart or Target 12 months after the last Duck Dynasty show airs in a few months, if the family decides to start a new show. A&E will then get leftovers.
We see here a failure to honor a familiar principle: count the cost. Choose your tactics accordingly. Do not overplay your hand. The great master of this was the Leftist organizer, Saul Alinsky. He assessed his strength. He assessed his opponents’ strength. Then he adopted a plan of action. He understood what it takes for a tiny minority to gain leverage. In Rules for Radicals (1972), he wrote this:
We will start with the system because there is no other place to start from except political lunacy. It is most important for those of us who want revolutionary change to understand that revolution must be preceded by reformation. To assume that a political revolution can survive without a supporting base of popular reformation is to ask for the impossible in politics. Men don’t like to step abruptly out of the security of familiar experience; they need a bridge to cross from their own experience to a new way. A revolutionary organizer must shake up the prevailing patterns of their lives — agitate, create disenchantment and discontent with the current values, to produce, if not a passion for change, at least a passive, affirmative, non-challenging climate. “The revolution was effected before the war commenced; John Adams wrote. “The Revolution was in the hearts and minds of the people. . . . This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments and affections of the people was the real American Revolution.” A revolution without a prior reformation would collapse or become a totalitarian tyranny.
From day one, the people at A&E violated this tactical rule.
Phil Robertson is a curmudgeon’s curmudgeon. He is almost perfect. As the folks in Hollywood are said to say, it is as if he was sent by central casting.
If you have seen him on Duck Dynasty, you know that he is articulate. He has a peculiar way of speaking, which I noticed almost from the beginning. But his eloquence is unique. It is a strange eloquence. He grabs your attention, not simply because of what he says, but because of the way that he says it. It is no-frills speech. He does not waste a word. And he chooses his words carefully.
There is no question that A&E had no idea that this program would become the dominant cable show in history. There is no way that anybody could have predicted that. Robertson himself did not think it would work. But it did.
The producers of the show initially did their best to suppress its Christian overtones. As Robertson said before the recent flap, by removing references to Jesus whenever possible, the producers tried to make the family something it wasn’t. The editors bleeped out words, as if the men were using profanity. 
Read the rest of North's take here.
Mercer writes:
Duck Dynasty’: A Decoy For Dummies

I managed to watch 10 torturous minutes of "Duck Dynasty" so as to catch up on the controversy.

In the tradition of American pop-theology—light on doctrine; heavy on hellfire and damnation—the ostensibly devout and "educated" Dynastic patriarch, Phil Robertson, phrased his abhorrence of homosexuality thus:
‘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?
How profound. How refined.

The rest of this reality show's stars are unsharpened pencils too–dull, not particularly witty and plenty vulgar. Yet 12 million Americans draw spiritual sustenance from watching hours packed with dumb, Duck-Dynasty vignettes.

Easily the phoniest, most contrived of characters is Si Robertson. During the brief penance I served in front of the teli, Uncle Si voiced a Vietnam-era fondness for booster injections—Vitamin B he called this military mainlining. Si then proceeded to fondle and fall atop a mannequin in a clothing store. The lewd old man is, of course, a preacher too. Lovely.

Then again, this column was assailed when, in 2008, it judged Miley Cyrus to be a precocious, brassy, none-too-bright exhibitionist, singularly propelled by fame. Miley was "wholesome," I was told—even as she nestled in the arms of father Billy Ray Cyrus in various states of undress.

Ditto the Duck detritus: they are the new wholesome in America.

Give them a few months, and the Ducksters' downmarket flourishes will include "Dancing With the Stars" and a teen pregnancy. The dynasty has already been conferred with the Barbara-Walters Mark of Cain. That dumbo added "Duck Dynasty" to her annual lineup of cretin, otherwise known as America's most fascinating personalities.

"Duck Dynasty" represents "the best of America," came the angry retort from readers on Facebook. Oy vey!

Somehow, I think H.L. Mencken would disagree. Southerners, to paraphrase that great American, had been drained of their best blood by the War of Northern Aggression.

Although vestiges of good breeding, charm and civility remain in many a Southern man, the uncouth Duck hunters from down South are not it.

What would the Duck-Dynasty debate be without "lite-libertarian reductionism"? The Ducksters are capitalists, they scolded. As a capitalist yourself, a critique of this cultural product ought to be beyond the pale.

Indeed, there is nothing wrong with making a good living catering to the base, voyeuristic demand created by many millions of Americans, as do the Ducksters. But are capitalists compelled to like their product because it makes money? No. It is perfectly productive, if far from lucrative, for me to criticize all aspects of the puerile Duck production.

The Ducksters are part of a debased culture—the right-wing answer to Kim Kardashian, whose deformed figure and ass elephantiasis you can ogle online and on late-night Leno (1.21 minutes in).

Then there is the matter of Duck-Dynasty religiosity.

"I think you’re missing an important point, Ilana," said one perceptive Facebook Friend. "The [Ducksters] were selected for the show because they are how you describe them. Duck Dynasty was meant to be a redneck minstrel show. They were supposed to be objects of ridicule for cosmopolitan America. They are what blue-state America imagines religiosity to be."

Arguably, this is precisely what being devout looks like in the USA.

Delve more deeply, and you'll discover that Christianity in our country is a lot like what the Ducksters profess. No longer doctrinaire or demanding, the mishmash of pop-religion practiced in churches across America is an extension of the therapeutic culture: festooned with feelings, mostly misdirected. Untempered by intelligent interpretation of scripture.

As for the Ducksters' occupation. I'll leave you with Proverbs 12:10:

Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.


  1. Secularists are afraid of Fundies, and Fundies are afraid of Secularists. Why? Because there's this two-party paradigm and a centralized government and economy that everybody wants to control. Take away this central power, and you'll take away the fears of both sides. Otherwise, they'll embolden both sides to go against each other and we'll be stuck with more stupid drivel arguments just like abortion and letting the federal government be the head dealer of both sides. Stupid. It's stupid because the federal government is playing both sides, and both sides are stupid enough to keep falling for it.

    There's been preachers (radio talk show hosts and pastors) out there because of this event stating "we must choose a side; no longer should we do this live and let live mentality because they're not staying on there side of the line". Idiots. They can't even see what they're doing. "...they know not what they are doing." They're only contributing to the whole "us" against "them" because they're trying to take over the central power. In reality, it's "all of us" against "them", the state.

    I think this whole Duck Dynasty thing was to fan the flames of the two-party paradigm since everybody was starting to get bored and look at the state as the real cause of our troubles (not homosexuals).

    - JS

  2. Duck Dynesty is a modern I Love Lucy - Father Knows Best morality play. Not quite a minstrel. The Robertsons take some family event from the past and exagerate their personality traits to assemble a "reality" show. And they are laughing while four-wheeling to their community bank. The Robertsons own 20,000 acres of land. Not too shabby for a bunch of goofballs.

    There are way worse TV shows out there.

    I think Ms. Mercer is being a little too harsh. And, Mencken would like them while assailing some of their stated beliefs.

  3. As a gay man, I'm offended by what Phil said.

    I would NEVER call for a boycott, and thnk that A&E is being spineless for pulling him from the show. My cousins LOVE this show, and the few minutes I've seen were both touching and funny.

    I'm more offended that the MSM has descended on him as some racist bigot, and I'm thrilled by the blowback against them by people who think they are spineless wimps. The word "Fag" was invented for people like that. Gay, straight, black, white, Christian, Muslim--- we can all live together PEACEFULLY if we just agree to disagree, and support the right of the people who disagree--- as long as they agree not to force, or threaten, one or the other.

  4. Contra Gary, by stoking the crisis by firing Robertson and then again by rehiring him days later, A&E got much greater publicity than they would have by sitting on their hands with his suggested statement. It is hard to believe this was not their calculation in the first place.

  5. "I think this whole Duck Dynasty thing was to fan the flames of the two-party paradigm since everybody was starting to get bored and look at the state as the real cause of our troubles (not homosexuals)."
    Smartest comment.

    Not just two-party paradigm - the culture war thing. Seems it's being stoked all around the globe.

    As for DD, don't watch TV, so don't know what they're like.

    But hell-fire and damnation isn't pop theology by any means. It comes straight from Cotton Mather and Jonathan Edwards (sorry is spellings are wrong).
    Didn't Pascal hedge his bets out of fear of hell-fire?

    And I do believe J**** did mention Gehenna and the "outer darkness," with weeping and gnashing of teeth.

    He couldn't have meant BLHers, could he?

  6. I think that Lila has hit the nail squarely on the head. Misdirection is the only hope for the modern surveillance state.