Last week, social media were overwhelmed with the Duck Dynasty scandal after the program’s “star,” Phil Robertson likened homosexuality to bestiality and talked glowingly about the days of Jim Crow. In an interview with GQ, he said, “I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once … They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”
It seems that Robertson missed the Fifties and Sixties when black people were beaten or lynched for being “uppity.” Apparently he missed the entire civil rights movement when dogs and fire hoses were aimed at those participating in peaceful marches; when black churches were bombed or burned; when organizers were murdered for registering African-Americans to vote.
But Robertson’s failed memory isn’t the real scandal here. Neither is the fact that a ZZ Top lookalike said something stupid, insensitive and hateful. Nor is the fact that his employer chose to “suspend” him for his statements. It is somewhat more scandalous that the program is on a network named Arts & Entertainment, and that Robertson was interviewed by a magazine named Gentleman’s Quarterly. But none of those things represent a real scandal.
The real scandal is that anyone actually cares.
Contrary to the beliefs of its supporters, Duck Dynasty is not a reality show. Most of it is as phony as the family member’s beards which were grown just for the program. It doesn’t represent the South or American family “values.” What it actually represents is the further dumbing down of America. Centered on a family that made a fortune by making and selling duck calls, the program’s alleged entertainment comes from watching a wealthy family act like spoiled, overgrown children imparting hillbilly homilies. It is, in fact, a prime example of what former Federal Communications Commission Chairman, Newton Minow once condemned as television’s “vast wasteland.”
As for conservatives who have their tighty whities in a bunch over A&E’s “suspension” of Robertson, they can relax. The network has already announced that Robertson will not miss a single episode, and publicity of the controversy will likely only increase the program’s ratings. Further, the “suspension” was not a violation of Robertson’s First Amendment right to free speech. He was admonished by his employer, not the government. (Get back to me if he’s ever arrested for making dumb statements.)
Don Imus, Keith Olbermann, Martin Bashir, Alec Baldwin and many others have been removed from the air and lost substantial income as the result of making insensitive statements in public. On the other hand, Robertson, Rush Limbaugh, the pundits of Fox News Channel and other conservative icons never seem to face any real consequences for being chronically and publicly stupid.