Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Television, Duck Dynasty, & Free Speech...What The Duck...?

Outside of the news and programs that are political, historical, or current-events-oriented (as well as one or two guilty pleasures), there is very little on television which interest me enough to waste my valuable time watching. This goes double for anything that fits into the so-called “reality television” genre of programming; I for the life of me cannot begin to fathom why such mental junk food is so appealing. I suppose it represents the dumbing down of America on the whole. At any rate, it is an issue regarding reality television’s current breakout hit that has me posting yet again an issue that begs discussion.
The issue at hand surrounds the unexplainable-to-sophisticated-minds popularity of the Arts and Entertainment cable network’s “Duck Dynasty” reality television series. Dynasty follows the “day-to-day” life of a mostly backwoods Louisiana living-off-the-land-type redneck family, who happen to run a successful a duck-call manufacturer (if you can believe that). Being dyed-in-the-wool, God-fearing, hard-patriotic, hard-hunting, hard-drinking, hard-fun-loving types of individuals, you can imagine that the family—and their members—might just harbor some attitudes and ideas about life that simply don’t conform to the all-inclusiveness aspirations of a society hell-bent on making everyone happy. Just looking at the family, any such ideas shouldn’t come as a surprise (at the risk of prejudging). But strangely enough, the words and thoughts of an elder from the television-spotlighted family actually shocked a large portion of sensitive Americans.

The cast of "Duck Dynasty"

As a result, once again as a nation we’re forced to confront not only another serving of numbskullery from television network producers, but the fallout from yet another case whereby a television personality is forced to endure the barbs and arrows of those who would seek to police the thinking of those of us who would dare to speak our minds. The issue this time around centers on remarks made by an elder-family member from the mind-numbing weekly show.
In an interview with GQ magazine (here), Phil Robertson, the elder of the now-famous Robertson family the show follows and founder of the family business candidly gave his opinions about—among other things—his thoughts on homosexuality. In responding to the question “what in your mind is sinful,” posed by GQ reporter Drew Magary, the unapologetic conservative Southern Christian responded:

“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.”

Needless to say, this set off a furor in both the press and society at large. The sanctions came fast and furious; Robertson was suspended from being part of the filming of further episodes of the show. Keep in mind that this was an interview about Robertson’s personal thoughts and views, not a man running for public office or calling a press conference to shout out his beliefs.
More and more, it seems the First Amendment guarantee of Free Speech without government impediments is becoming irrelevant in a society where private enterprise and public interest groups are able to level socioeconomic sanctions that not only attempt to enforce political correctness of thought, but punish words and personal opinions. In fact, given the ubiquity of such policies in the public and private sectors, the way these institutions are able to enforce and impose “corrections” for daring to speak out has more than the force of law itself.  This social policy is more of a threat to our collective civil liberties relating to Free Speech than anything the government is doing at the moment.

Now in the interest of full-disclosure, before this issue came to light, I hadn’t even heard of “Duck Dynasty.” And being agnostic, I can honestly say that I do not purport to know or even predict where a person’s soul goes in the Hereafter due to their actions in the Herenow. But I’ll wager that that “God” is not in the cell phone contacts of anyone presumptuous (and arrogant) enough to inform another person that they are doomed to Hell (or some other spiritual torment) for not embracing someone else’s dogma—I know He/She isn’t in mine. However, I am of the mindset that whenever someone says something stupid, unreasonable, or judgmental, the best means to deal with it is to either ignore it or say something more intelligent and reasonable as a counter. Imposed censorship and/or sanctions, especially whereas they affect a person’s livelihood is not the way to counter a person’s right to express their opinions and thoughts. Regardless of what someone believes, everyone deserves their say—without being forced to the carpet for it.
Any sanctions for expressing one’s personal opinions should come naturally. If a CEO of a major corporation says something offensive to a particular group, then people have a right not to purchase what that firm produces as a natural consequence. If you don’t like what you read here, you have every right to leave a response with something more reasonable to say as a counter to the postings...or you can ignore it altogether and leave. But contacting my employer and telling him that I should be fired for offending your “sensitivities” is not a valid, or even a civilized response. Such actions prevent the free exchange of ideas and thoughts, which is how policies and laws are formed. It is also how we evolve overall as a species.


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