Duck Dynasty, Free Speech, and the American Collective Unconscious

After some reluctance, I decided it was important for me to weigh in on the Duck Dynasty controversy involving Phil Robertson and his off-the-cuff remarks regarding gays and African Americans. Robertson’s equation of homosexuality to bestiality is incorrect. The biblical passages dealing with homosexuality pertain to (1) homosexual rape, or (2) the sexual exploitation of male minors. The Bible has nothing to say about loving homosexual couples whatsoever. Such a social reality did not exist by the time the Bible was written.

“If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination.” (Leviticus 20:13). Note that the text does not say “if a male lies with a man …” I believe this is one of the first statements in the Torah against pedophilia.

“You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination. Nor shall you mate with any animal, to defile yourself with it. Nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it. It is perversion. ‘Do not defile yourselves with any of these things; for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you” (Leviticus 18:22-24.) This passage is reminiscent of what the Sodomites attempted to do to Lot’s angelic guests when he practiced hospitality. Such sexually exploitative behavior is indeed an “abomination.”

Phil Robertson is not a Bible scholar; he interprets the Bible literally like millions of Christians do. It is this writer’s opinion that people are entitled to believe what they wish when it comes to the  Bible. We do not have to agree or accept their interpretations.

Personally, I do not care for the Religious Right and their Christian agenda for America—especially whenever it involves the likes of Sarah Palin and her ilk. In my opinion, people like her give a bad name to conservatives and independents. The political left is actually making Robertson into a folk-hero. I think the religious right ought to think twice about making Robertson into one of their patron saints.

Secondly, I have never watched Duck Dynasty, nor do I have any plans for watching the redneck program in the future. Reality shows like Duck Dynasty and Jerry Springer have no appeal for me whatsoever.

What concerns me is the matter of free speech in our culture. The ACLU blog says it really best:

  • The First Amendment really was designed to protect a debate at the fringes. You don’t need the courts to protect speech that everybody agrees with, because that speech will be tolerated. You need a First Amendment to protect speech that people regard as intolerable or outrageous or offensive — because that is when the majority will wield its power to censor or suppress, and we have a First Amendment to prevent the government from doing that.[1]

Curiously, the ACLU has declined to weigh in on this topic, and frankly, that is surprising.

Some advocates of the A&E station claim that Robertson may have materially harmed the station with his comments from the Bible condemning homosexuality or his nostalgic memories for the Jim Crow era. I think the producers of the station should have apologized and announce that Robertson’s view about gays and blacks does not reflect the view of the station. Instead, they censored him—but they are having a holiday marathon of the Duck Dynasty program. It seems to me that they are attempting to profit from the publicity and that is immoral.

A&E’s behavior is more ethically problematic and cynical.

Most of us (I hope) strongly dislike Phil Robertson’s comments. However, when we consider his personal narrative, what else would we expect  from an American redneck? Clearly Robertson is not Yale or Harvard material.

Noam Chomsky once said, “The freedom of speech is worthless without the freedom of offensive speech. Goebbels and Himmler were for freedom of speech that was inoffensive to the state.”

Fortunately, the State is not involved in this controversy, but it seems to me that Robertson has every right to sound like a moron if he so chooses. We also have the choice not to watch his program either. As a member of the ACLU, I am reasonably certain that the ACLU would agree with my position.

One gay writer offered the following defense of Robertson:

  • Phil Robertson is the modern day Archie Bunker. He should make us uncomfortable. We should be disturbed by the show’s narrow gender views, flagrant gun worship and open hatred of anything refined and cultured. This doesn’t mean that it’s not entertaining or relevant. It’s funny precisely because it challenges some of our sacred beliefs and relevant because it confronts our opposing ideals of masculinity.[2]

Whether one wishes to psychoanalyze Robertson or not is a decision only the viewer can make.

Censoring offensive  ideas is not a solution to this problem; refusing to watch the program is and this course of action is  one that I heartily endorse.  If you do choose to watch the program, don’t be surprised that the character verbalizes what everyone has long suspected about the show and Robertson’s personal philosophy about life and people.


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