Last December, we saw a cultural showdown unfold before our very eyes. On one side stood Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the red-neck, millionaire TV stars that the country has come to love as Duck Dynasty. On the other side stood the network that gave them their platform, A&E.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know the essentials of this showdown already, but let me provide a brief recap: It all began when GQ Magazine, a publication not known for its delicate sensibilities, ran an interview piece on Robertson Sr. They sent a reporter to spend the day with the Duck clan, shooting, boating and getting a little mud on his shirt in the process. As usual, Phil was not shy about sharing his faith and the moral foundations of it, specifically relating to sexuality. When the interviewer asked Phil point-blank what he considered to be sinful, Phil sketched out various deviant behaviors, beginning with homosexual activity. He also shared what we might call his own perception of the natural light on the matter. His chosen form of expression was a bit too frank to be quoted on this site, and it was hardly what anyone would call a fully fleshed-out case. But it was a clear, concise summing-up of God’s created order for sexuality, expressed as only Phil could express it. “It’s not logical my man. It’s just not logical.” You can read his remarks in full here, though be advised, the writer uses some casual foul language.
At the same time, Phil was brutally honest about his own promiscuous past, making it crystal clear that it was by God’s grace alone that he himself had received forgiveness. At the end of the interview, he eyed the reporter and offered his condensed version of the altar call:
If you simply put your faith in Jesus coming down in flesh, through a human being, God becoming flesh living on the earth, dying on the cross for the sins of the world, being buried, and being raised from the dead—yours and mine and everybody else’s problems will be solved. And the next time we see you, we will say: ‘You are now a brother. Our brother.’ So then we look at you totally different then. See what I’m saying?
The interviewer walked away amused, bemused, and sheepishly envious of the freedom he saw in the Robertson family’s lifestyle. Phil went back to his life and quietly continued serving his community. But, as we all know, the mainstream media hears what it wants to hear and disregards the rest. Within a few days, the mad, mad world of political correctness was going haywire over Phil’s supposedly outrageous, bigoted comments about homosexuality. The ghouls from GLAAD had an offended spokesperson on the ground stat. Liberal talking heads the nation o’er were shocked, shocked at the Duck Commander’s blunt statement of heterosexual preference and his conviction that homosexual behavior is sinful. Such comments, naturally they assumed, would be perceived as patently unacceptable in any civilized society. A&E agreed, and they made the stunning decision to suspend Phil from the show indefinitely.
It didn’t take long for them to regret it.
Conservatives like Bobby Jindal and Sarah Palin (whom I like much better now that she’s not a politician anymore) smacked A&E down sharply and swiftly. A protest petition demanding that Robertson be reinstated garnered not hundreds, not thousands, but hundreds of thousands of signatures. Numerous fans rallied around the slogan “I Stand With Phil” on social media. GLAAD was deluged with callers, and they were not happy, happy, happy. The message was loud, and the message was clear: You’re offending us. And there are a heck of a lot more of us than you bargained for. Curiously, the support for Robertson included people who were not even conservative Christians, but simply resented A&E’s blithely arrogant assumption that the whole country is just as invested in the homosexual agenda as they are. That was what A&E was banking on, and their judgment turned out to be wildly, embarrassingly off.
Nevertheless, it was a telling, chilling decision. One must keep in mind the scale of this show’s success. It’s not just the most popular show among rednecks, or Christians. It’s not just the most popular show on A&E. It’s the most popular reality show of all time. And yet there were apparently enough ideologues on staff at A&E willing to risk the goose laying the golden egg, if you will, for the sake of this agenda. That’s actually scary to think about. It brings home the fact that we truly are fighting against a substitute religion in these culture wars.
There was much speculation over how the rest of the Robertson clan would respond. Would they keep their mouths shut or publicly stand with Phil? Thankfully, we didn’t have to wait long for the answer. The family released a joint statement that was polite but firm. “We can’t imagine continuing without our Commander,” they said, and more or less threatened to quit A&E altogether.
One can say that the Robertsons had nothing to lose by taking this stand. Phil and all the rest of them are, after all, independently wealthy. This isn’t like working-class Joe getting bullied and fired by his lesbian supervisor for not saying out loud that her “marriage” is a-OK. (True story.) In a rare turning of the tables, the good guys held all the trump cards here. So it could be fairly argued that their choice didn’t require a huge amount of courage or sacrifice. But that didn’t make it any less right or important. In fact, precisely because they have been given this power and this platform, they have a responsibility to be a public voice for people who do not have that advantage. The jack-booted thuggery of the left is no respecter of class. It runs all the way down the corporate ladder to crush people who have no recourse, no savings and no voice. If the Robertsons, by their very public example, can expose these bullies for who they truly are, that is an encouraging thing, a necessary thing.
When the dust settled, A&E had caved. They issued a statement saying that Phil was coming back on the show, though, pathetically, they couldn’t resist twisting the Robertson family’s remark that Phil’s comments were “coarse” into “regret that they were coarse.” They also whimpered something about “working with the family to promote tolerance” and writing some public service announcements. One needed only to look at GLAAD’s sullen, unsatisfied response to see who had really won the fight.
It was all over in nine days.
As far as I’m concerned, this is Merry Christmas and Happy New Year for Christian conservatives. For once, for once, a prominent Christian figure dared to puncture the illusion of normalcy that’s been constructed around the homosexual agenda and didn’t walk it back. There were no apologies, no regrets, no “wishing I could have re-phrased my words to be more sensitive.” He just said it and left it. Right there. And he won. Anyone who looks at this and sneers “It’s just a dumb TV show, what’s the big deal?” is culturally tone-deaf. The significance of this whole incident cannot be over-emphasized. Whether or not you personally would have used Phil’s colorful descriptive style to express the same opinion is not the point. The point is that the left let its tentacles show, and the American people were not fooled.
Folks who followed the flap may notice that I’ve left one loose end out of this commentary, and that’s Phil’s comments about race. There are two reasons for this: First, they were clearly not the central focus of the firestorm surrounding his suspension and the media’s outrage. There’s a new mascot group in town. Second, I don’t have much to say about them myself. GLAAD predictably lied and misquoted Phil as “praising Jim Crow laws,” when all he did was share a slice of eyewitness American history. Self-identifying as “white trash,” he related his personal observation of racial harmony between whites and blacks. Poor white workers like him bonded with decent, godly and equally poor black workers in the fields. Their dignity and inner joy impressed him deeply. Though he threw out terms like “pre-entitlement” and “pre-welfare,” possibly hinting that the modern black community’s insistence on federal thought-policing and contempt/hatred for innocent white people has made them (shocka) unhappy and shallow, he didn’t even go into details. And he certainly didn’t praise lynching, racial hatred or whatever else GLAAD tried to wring out of that statement. Be honest, can anyone picture the Robertsons patronizing a “No Blacks Allowed” business owner?
But, because Phil also didn’t qualify his words with the prescribed quota of breast-smiting (“Of course I realize I’m speaking only from my very limited experience, and of course I feel guilty for being white, and of course I recognize that black people are oppressed and discriminated against even unto this day, etc., etc.”) he is now being branded as a racist bigot.
So, yawn. Nothing new here folks. Moving on… I now yield the floor to you. Did you follow the flap? More importantly, have you purchased any Duck kitsch because of the flap? I’m just guessing that if my agnostic libertarian friend bought a Robertson tee in protest, I must have at least one reader who bought out the entire aisle at Walmart.