The Kiddies Get Played Again


The Duck Dynasty brouhaha is over, and for that we can be thankful. Many of those who got excited over it are somewhat embarrassed now. At least they should be. The way it ended — with the show’s resumption just as A&E was almost out of reruns — reveals it to have been a PR stunt and largely a sham. As a commenter on one of my favorite blogs put it, “Merry Christmas! We’ve been played!”

I wasn’t as entertained, or as exercised, as a lot of people. I was watching not the media-manufactured drama, but America’s reaction to it. Those on both the political Left and the political Right who usually get taken in by such nonsense were sucked in yet again. What I found reassuring was that so many others weren’t.

Americans may be waking up from their long, hypnotic daze. They now hear the show’s star, Phil Robertson, pontificating about the virtues of menmarrying 15-year-old girls, and even those who rah-rahed his anatomically-explicit anti-gay tirade in GQ magazine are revolted. This may be another Terri Schiavo moment, when the social right overplays its hand so grossly that its fraudulence is exposed for all to see. That people who’ve expended so much effort trying to get the government to censor others are now rushing to the barricades to defend their “religious freedom,” and that they’re so confused about what censorship is or isn’t that they think a business has no right to suspend an employee, is rich indeed.

It is high time we woke up. Those who blur the line between free speech and censorship most likely do so because they intend to cross it themselves. This is a sorry crowd to be lecturing anybody about the freedom of anything. Not that their political adversaries conducted themselves any more nobly. To their credit, many in the public recognized this, too.

Those who fancy they’ve “taught A&E a lesson” are apparently too dull-witted to realize that they did exactly what the network wanted them to do.

All the predictable people did all the predictable things, and a good portion of the audience is getting bored with the act. GLAAD, which fancies itself something of a gay Anti-Defamation League, leapt in immediately after the GQ article came out, demanding that Robertson be punished. If they could have called in the troopers to kick in the door to the family mansion and drag the entire clan off to jail, they probably would have. I got emails from several gay rights groups, telling me how outraged I should be — and shilling for donations.

Though I’m reassured that many people were sensible enough to see the mummery for what it was, I’m worried that so many others weren’t. Activist organizations on both sides of the controversy raked in piles of money. Several politicians — some of whom I would have expected to behave with more restraint — seized the chance to grandstand. There is no one I would vote for now that I wouldn’t have before, but there are about a handful I might have supported, but now, as a matter of principle, would vote against.

What is wrong with those who permitted themselves to be so cynically played? Are they really so hollow inside, and do they truly have so little sense of themselves, that they can be trained to salivate, like one of Pavlov’s dogs, at the ding-ding of a bell? Those who fancy they’ve “taught A&E a lesson” are apparently too dull-witted to realize that they did exactly what the network wanted them to do.

I would feel sorry for them, if I weren’t rather frightened. I don’t think that Jefferson, or Adams, or Franklin ever envisioned the possibility that 230-odd years into the future, so many Americans would be so childish, shallow, gullible, and grasping. They probably wouldn’t fall for the charms of a bellowing little man with a funny mustache and a swastika armband, but anybody who makes them feel like godly patriots, or evolved progressives — depending on their illusion of choice — could seduce them into following him (or her) anywhere.

Are there enough grownups left in this country to run it? Liberty presupposes that citizens who have reached the age of majority are capable of functioning as adults. A media-manufactured controversy like the Duck Dynasty blowup demonstrates, with stark clarity, who belongs at the big table and who should be sitting with the kiddies.

Perhaps Duck Dynasty should become a watchword — a shorthand warning — for every time the bell again goes ding-ding-ding. It may be enough to jerk some people into adulthood, or at the very least to jerk them awake.

Share This


Russell Hasan

I think that you are confusing two separate issues here, Lori. First, there is the question of the First Amendment. It is obvious to any libertarian that the First Amendment protects Duck Dynasty from the government, but not from A&E or GLAAD, and at no time was censorship an issue in this event. Second, there is a separate issue, namely, whether what the Duck Dynasty star said was true or false, right or wrong, ethical or evil. I find his bigotry to be vile and repulsive, and I take issue with you for saying that both Left and Right were wrong on this issue. The Left stood up for gay rights, and the Right made it clear that they are homophobic. I have disagreed with Mr. Stephen Cox on this very issue, and now I must disagree with you too. Say what you will about the Left, but they stand up for gay rights, and I support the public cry of outrage against Duck Dynasty, which is the only thing that is ever going to teach people, especially the young people you so casually refer to, that it is not okay to hate gay people. I think this was not a PR stunt staged by A&E, instead A&E tried to take a stand for ethics and then caved in to the pressure of the Right. Let me be crystal clear: the Right has the freedom to hate if they so choose, but the freedom to do something does not imply that the behavior is good. The Right deserves the freedom to be homophobic, nonetheless, homophobia is pure evil.


Some people disapprove of cigarette-smoking, or whiskey-drinking, or meat-eating. Are there words ending in -phobe, -phobia, or -phobic that describe such people or their beliefs? Can such beliefs be fairly characterized as vile and repulsive bigotry or pure evil? Does it logically follow that people who disapprove of such behavior hate those who engage in it?

I no longer smoke cigarettes, but I regularly drink whiskey and eat meat. If I invoke the coercive power of the state to compel a person who disapproves of my behavior to celebrate or memorialize it, I am the evil one, not he. If I attempt to persuade such a person’s employer to terminate his employment because he had the temerity to express his disapproval of my behavior, I am the evil one, not he.

Mr. Hasan’s serial invective hyperbole suggests to me that it is he, not Phil Robertson, whose mind has been clouded by hate.

© Copyright 2020 Liberty Foundation. All rights reserved.

Opinions expressed in Liberty are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Liberty Foundation.

All letters to the editor are assumed to be for publication unless otherwise indicated.