Friday, December 20, 2013

duck dynasty, matt walsh & free speech 101

Apparently, I'm a "left-wing extremist." And/or a member of the "neo-liberal thought police." I don't really think of myself that way, but according to the Matt Walsh Blog, anyone who doesn't agree with his angry ramblings regarding the recent Duck Dynasty debacle is just that. So there ya go. Learn somethin' new every day. Good thing we're not in the McCarthy era or you'd be blacklisted just for reading this Commie Blog. 

So. I've never seen the show "Duck Dynasty." But I know it's very popular and I'm sure "Phil" and "Kay" and the rest of the bearded crew are swell. I am basically just responding, admittedly in knee jerk fashion, to what I feel to be a rather misguided blog post by Matt Walsh that has been making the rounds in the ether. Not to knock the guy. I've read some of his stuff before and though he sounds like a bit... how shall i say... hyperbolic, at times, he seems intelligent and well spoken and on occasion makes some points I agree with.* But anti-gay rhetoric really chaps my hide, especially when couched in terms of Jesus/God/The Bible. I just think it is a hot, steaming load of crap. I have close family and friends who are gay, lesbian, trans, and this issue affects me on a personal level. It hurts my stomach and it hurts my heart.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have spent portions of my life being incredibly distrustful of, if not outright hostile to, organized religion. There are many reasons for this, which I'm not going to get into here. But I've come around. These days, I try to take more of a live and let live approach. This article really resonated with me and my own experience as an agnostic, or at least, an unconventional believer. On a personal level, we need to go beyond "tolerance," to seek compassion, understanding, kindness, and love for one-another, regardless of our backgrounds and beliefs. We should all be able to believe what we want to believe, and act in the ways that we think are good and right and true, so long as our beliefs and actions don't infringe on the rights of others to do the same. THAT, for me, is where the rubber hits the road. And I'm not saying it's a perfectly defined line. It gets messy and I'm not claiming to have all of the answers. But even though he claims to, this Matt Walsh guy doesn't, either. [Note, while this post in particular really got me riled up, I don't mean to single him out as the only swill merchant on the internet. I read what he wrote, and I became enraged, and I have forbidden myself from conducting further google searches for "duck dynasty free speech" for fear my effing head will explode.]

Anyway. Read the post, or else this isn't going to make very much sense. Or don't. I will summarize. Apparently, Phil Robertson, the patriarch of Duck Dynasty, was interviewed in GQ and said homosexuality was a sin, referenced the infamous slippery slope to bestiality, and, for good measure, argued that blacks in the South during the Jim Crow era were "happy." In the same sermon on sin, he waxed poetic on the... er... spatial benefits of vaginal versus anal sex. A&E indefinitely suspended Robertson for his comments. Walsh claims that A&E "committed suicide," and proceeds to lambaste the network for hating the Bible, hating Christians, standing against free speech and against the views of a majority of humanity (p.s., i don't know if Gallup has polled all of humanity, but a majority of Americans actually support "gay rights" (sarcastic/smart-ass quotations in original)).

Now look. I have family members who say shit ten times worse than this duck dude during regular dinner conversation, and I usually just zip my lips, nod, smile, and start to drink heavily. I'm not saying I wouldn't sit down for a meal with the guy, or treat him with respect, or let him tell me stories and show me pictures of his grand kids. I believe that these types of attitudes are usually borne from ignorance, not evil or hatred. We do not spring forth from the womb with our biases and bigotry intact - that is learned behavior. I would certainly attempt, as I would with any fellow human, to find some thread of  understanding and connection. 

But that's not the issue here.

The real rub for me is how this guy is being painted as a poster boy for Free Speech and Christianity. Some Congressman called him "The Rosa Parks of our generation." You have GOT to be f*cking kidding me. Look, I'm no lawyer... oh wait, that's right, I am a lawyer. In that case, let me provide a quick primer. "Free Speech" under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States protects individual citizens from governmental intrusion upon free speech. (There are plenty of exceptions, including hate speech, but we won't get into that here.) And Duck Dude has that right. He is free to publicly denounce homosexuality-cum-bestiality [no pun intended] and male [not female?] prostitution and anal sex [with a man, no mention of whether or not it's cool with your wife?] and all that other sinny stuff until his face turns blue. Just like Paula Deen, Richie Incognito, and Don Imus have the right to go stand on the street corner and preach their prejudices to the world. In the words of Jon Stewart, you have the right to say idiotic shit. I also like how my uncle puts it: "The First Amendment protects your right to be an asshole. It's up to your parents to raise you not to be." (And again. I'm not necessarily saying they're bad people. I wouldn't know. I haven't met them. Why do I feel like I'm talking to my kids? You're not a bad boy. This is just bad behavior.)

But just like the Food Network, the Miami Dolphins, CBS, or any other employer -- A&E has the right to reprimand, suspend, or fire his ass. I'm not saying it was necessarily a good call. I don't know. I haven't heard both sides of the story, nor seen how it's all going to play out. I'm just saying, it's their prerogative. As Robyn Pennacchia of Death and Taxes writes, "As far as I know, no one has a constitutional right to a reality show about their life."

Bottom line. Phil Robertson is in a legally binding contract with A&E. He is, for all intents and purposes, their employee, and a de facto representative of their network. I haven't read the contract, but it probably says something along the lines of "A&E can terminate your contract for whatever reason they damn well please, including but not limited to, spouting off at the mouth in a manner they feel affects the public's perception of their network and/or their bottom line." Now. Maybe, as Matt Walsh suggests, A&E has gravely misjudged public reaction to this type of thing, a la Chik-Fil-A. Maybe Ducky McDuckerson fan clubs will be sprouting up left and right, and FX network will snatch that gold mine of a show up so fast it'll make A&E's head spin. But. Just because they made a [potentially poor] business decision to publicly disapprove of Duck Dynamo's anti-gay rhetoric does not mean that they are anti-Christian [I'll leave aside the question of how a corporation is capable of "hating" anything or anyone]. That, along with this "Free Speech except for Christians" BS, is just specious nonsense intended to inflame people who don't know any better.

I'm not even going to entertain the notion that this guy is somehow being "persecuted" for his "religious beliefs." (Two can play the snarky quotes game.) The man was being interviewed by GQ magazine, and, in the context of his religious beliefs vis-a-vis homosexuality-as-sin, he describes in detail how a female vagina is infinitely more accommodating than a male anus. I'm sorry, but please, I dare you to take that shit to court. 

Walsh did make a valid(ish) point about A&E supposedly defending some moral high ground ("gay rights") while simultaneously peddling swill every other hour of the day (hoarders, housewives, trophy wives, whatever). But I could make the same general argument (i.e. hypocrisy) about Christians. Walsh accuses A&E of "hating Christians who have the audacity to believe the entire Bible, rather than just a few segments that pass the modern PC litmus test." I know an awful lot of Christians, and I have yet to meet a single one who follows the Bible to the letter. I've gone down Leviticus road before so I won't go into too much detail here, but you know what I mean. No one is spewing mouth sewage, penning vitriolic blog posts, and defending their constitutional right to publicly denounce divorcees, bacon-eaters, tattoos, premarital sex, etc.... This is a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black. Not just because Christians often cherry pick their biblical commandments in the same way that A&E prioritizes its PR messaging. But because, at the end of the day, isn't Christianity supposed to be about love and forgiveness? "Love the sinner, hate the sin?" The notion that I either have to hate gay people and what they stand for, or hate God/Christians/Christianity, is just absolutely absurd to me!* Not to mention, completely counter to my understanding of what that God and Christianity are all about. Where is the LOVE, people?!?!

Oh, also, one other small issue. When Jesus died, did he make you the sheriff of scripture? Why do people act like it is their personal mission in life to eradicate the world of sin? Why don't you just handle your own shit and let me and The Gays and God work it out amongst ourselves? 

Along the lines of using the Bible as cannon fodder in the quote-unquote-gay-rights debate, check out this interesting old post on CNN's Belief Blog about how the Bible was used to support both slavery and abolitionism. The point being, you can probably use the Bible in favor of just about any argument you want to make. That doesn't mean that you should. 

* I take back what I was going to say about this guy being reasonable and intelligent after seeing this post on his FB page:


What a douche box.

Sincerely,

The Christian-hating, left-wing-extremist-thought-police-Nazi (Matt Walsh definition), otherwise known as a normal human who has a whole slew of super christian family that she loves and respects, but also doesn't like when people disparage the lifestyle of her gay brother and family and friends in the name of religion.

The End.

Psyche! Sorry for getting political. I know I'm not saying anything earth shattering to people who already agree with me, and I'm not going to change the minds of the people who don't, so basically this was just a big fat waste of my time, but hey, since when has that ever stopped me?! ;)

On a lighter note - two of my favorite funny guys on the subject:



and this.

Googliography:

The Matt Walsh Blog - Dear A&E, congratulations, you just committed suicide.

Our Land - We are all living in a relationship with mystery, by Sarah at Left Brain Buddha.

GQ - What the Duck? by Drew Magary

Death and Taxes Mag - Enough Rope: Why suspending 'Duck Dynasty' star Phil Robertson over homophobic remarks wasn't the answer - by Robyn Pennacchia

CNN Belief Blog - How the Bible was used to justify slavery, abolitionism - by John Blake

4 comments:

  1. Yeah, someone else sees through his bigotry and is calling him on it! We've been doing it since Aug 19, 2010.

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    1. Thanks! What happened Aug. 19, 2010??

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    2. He was DJ at WZBH, our local (and only) mainstream rock station on Delmarva. On Aug 19, 2010, he and his cohost, Crank, spent two hours (half their show) blasting gays as mentally ill perverts, explaining why women should be stay-at-home Moms raising the kids and taking care of the husband, and chastising Blacks for being coke and welfare addicts instead of trying to get a job.

      The next day, after a lot of calls to the station were made by listeners, Matt and Crank boldly proclaimed on their show they had nothing to apologize for just because they spoke the truth no one wanted to hear and then they challenged their listeners to go ahead and call the station and try to get them fired.

      We took him up on his challenge, started a blog to document their bigotry, and while they had fun on air ridiculing our blog as being composed by a 40-year-old man living in Mom's basement playing video games all day - GLAAD, NAACP, NOW, and ADL started taking notice. Almost a year later, Matt was unceremoniously fired from WZBH.

      He moved to a local conservative talk radio station and lasted less than a year there. Then he moved to WLAP in KY, and lasted about a year there. He claimed his contract expired, but through an email, the program director simply said "His show was being cancelled." That's not a contract expiration.

      Anyway, he's out of radio for good, at least he claims. Three jobs in as many years...the man obviously can't hold a job down.

      I don't want to pollute your blog with shameless promotion, but if you want to read (and hear) what he was like on WZBH, simply Google "WZBH critics page". We vowed we would never let that page disappear into the dead zone of the Internet as long as any one of us were alive until he apologized for that particularly offensive show. Besides, Crank is still there, although much, much more toned down. Until he apologizes, we'll keep the reviews coming.

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    3. F that guy. Thanks for the background!

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