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Newsflash: Rednecks gonna redneck

Okay, am I the only one who's not shocked and appalled that a Bible-thumping redneck from Louisiana probably doesn't even know what "GLBT" stands for?

Duck Dynasty

GLBT? Is that a kind of duck?

The Internets are aflame with outrage because the star of Duck Dynasty (a show I've never watched and until now was barely even aware of) said some gay-unpositive things in an interview in GQ.

I read the interview. Yeah, he's... basically your typical conservative Christian. Actually, fairly mild. He thinks homosexuality is a sin. Okay, whatever dude. Most Christians do. Most Christians also believe (in theory) that sex outside of marriage, and a whole bunch of other things, are sins.

I disagree with him, but maybe because I have a number of Christian friends and family members, some of them fairly conservative, I cannot see someone who expresses mildly traditional Christian beliefs as someone who wants to stone homosexuals and return to Jim Crow. He has not even, like Orson Scott Card, advocated that homosexuality remain criminalized.

To be clear: I don't have a problem with people disagreeing with him so much as what I consider to be the insincere faux-outrage generated because he expressed views in a magazine interview that were more direct than what a cable TV show would normally allow. From what I've read, the Robertson family has always been very open about being strongly Christian, and even made showing prayers around their dinner table at the end of the show a condition of their contract. So I have to wonder about all those millions of fans and, in particular, the A&E execs who are shocked — shocked! — that Phil Robertson said homosexuality is a sin. They are Bible-thumping rednecks from Louisiana. You made a show about them because they are Bible-thumping rednecks from Louisiana. What exactly did you think they would say if you asked them about gays off-camera?

I feel no urge to "support" the Robertson family (umm, they were rich even before the A&E show), and the people rallying in their defense now are the ones who want to give a middle finger to the homos, just like the mouth-breathing supporters of Chic-fil-A Day.

But I think it behooves people, from Social Justice activists to those who are generally apolitical, to give a closer reading to what people actually say and not categorize them into black and white boxes, good and evil, With Me or Against Me.



( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 20th, 2013 05:38 pm (UTC)
I haven't been surprised that Robertson's comments have stirred up controversy. As a fairly conservative Christian who has struggled to figure out how homosexuality fits into the teachings of Christ and the Bible, I know that some of my conclusions don't gel with those of many Americans in my generation.

But I am really surprised that people are shocked by his words. It seems fairly consistent with what I understand about his "on screen" character. A&E's decision to suspend him for his words off-camera seems very silly to me, a sort of non-punishment since he'll be back on the show sooner or later.
Dec. 21st, 2013 07:03 pm (UTC)
What I'm more surprised about is that people (and lots of them, by the look of it) actually watch that show.
Dec. 21st, 2013 11:28 pm (UTC)
I wasn't particularly shocked either. I was more shocked when I heard he said this, about Jim Crow-era Louisiana:

I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field .... They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word! ... Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.

So yeah, to be quite honest I'm perfectly comfortable categorizing him. He's not "evil," duh, but is certainly "against" much of what I believe.
Dec. 21st, 2013 11:54 pm (UTC)
That didn't shock me either - it's what you'll hear from a lot of white Southerners. Not much changed since Margaret Mitchell's day. I don't doubt Phil Robertson has never personally mistreated or acted maliciously towards black people, he just assumes that since he never saw any racial hostility, racial hostility didn't exist.

Ta-Nehisi Coates addressed that pretty well.

He's misguided and tone-deaf, but people like that are more likely to respond to someone like a Ta-Nehisi Coates sitting them down and saying, "Look, dude..." than the Internets screaming at them and calling for their head.
Dec. 22nd, 2013 12:20 am (UTC)
We've had this conversation before, but the point of internet outrage over someone's comments is not actually to convince anyone, but to make people not want to say these things in public for fear of getting similar treatment, and to send a cultural message that these beliefs are Not Okay. Whatever issues you might have with this tactic, it's certainly not ineffective (the right wing has been throwing fake hissy fits for decades to devastating effect).

Speaking personally, while I certainly don't know the man, in my experience people like him aren't going to respond at all; they have their beliefs and facts aren't going to change them. There are always excuses that can be given ("That was just a few bad apples," etc). And hell, even if the internet did respond with a bunch of reasonable, well-thought out posts about why he's wrong, it's not like he'd probably ever read any of them anyway.
Dec. 22nd, 2013 12:32 am (UTC)
Well, yeah, it is effective, and now we have both sides using the Outrage Machine to make fake points with hissy fits.

I don't deny its tactical effectiveness. But as someone who has in the past been guilty of using rather too much inflammatory rhetoric for effect in preference to cold, hard analysis and honest inquiry, I've decided I don't like it, and I don't like it whether it's "my" side who does it or the other side.
Dec. 22nd, 2013 01:01 am (UTC)
I think each has its place. Inflammatory rhetoric is very inappropriate in an academic setting, for example, and you are right that oftentimes it causes unnecessary fights. At the same time, though, it can do many things "cold, hard analysis and honest inquiry" can't, including (1) building a community/movement; (2) making the importance of the issue clear for a casual viewer; (3) giving a feeling of power and agency. Since you brought him up, I think Ta-Nehisi Coates does an excellent job of using each when each is appropriate, even in the post you linked (about Robertson's homophobic remarks):

"This is not just ignorance; it is a willful retreat into myth."

This is certainly inflammatory rhetoric, but it's inflammatory rhetoric for a useful purpose. You're allowed to personally not like it, of course, but at least recognize there are legitimate reasons for it.

(And this is nitpicking, but it's the hissy fits that are fake, not the points. Both the right and [perhaps increasingly] the left use exaggerated outrage, but on both sides it's in the service of very real and very influential causes.)
Dec. 22nd, 2013 01:21 am (UTC)
Actually, I think the points are fake too, inasmuch as Robertson has been accused of "vile slander" against homosexuals and wanting a return to Jim Crow.

My problem is not with arguing against "homosexuality is a sin" (a proposition I obviously do not agree with) or "black folks were happier back in the good old days" (eyeroll) - but with equating anyone with illiberal views as part of one undifferentiated and irredeemable mass of wrongbadevil for whom the only appropriate response is to throw hissy fits until they're made to shut up.

Yes, conservatives do it too. They're disingenuous, anti-intellectual assholes. All I see when liberals use the same tactic is... disingenuous, anti-intellectual assholes who vote the same way I do.
Dec. 22nd, 2013 01:50 am (UTC)
Well, he said homosexuality leads to bestiality; whether that's "vile slander" or not seems somewhat subjective. And while he didn't explicitly call for a return to Jim Crow, saying that black people were happier during Jim Crow isn't much different from if he had.

My biggest problem with your stance here, though, is that I think you're strawman-ing. Thinking that the appropriate response, in some cases at least, toward people saying bigoted things in public is to shut them up, does not mean you think everyone with bigoted views--much less anyone with illiberal views--is an undifferentiated mass of "wrongbadevil." It just means thinking that rational argumentation alone is not enough to stop bigotry.

Now, is this tactic "disingenuous" and/or "anti-intellectual"? Perhaps. But I submit that bigotry is also disingenuous and anti-intellectual to a much greater degree, and if the tactic is effective at fighting it (which you seem to agree it is), I think the price is worth it. It's not that the ends justify the means, it's that the means in this case just aren't that bad. You don't have to like it, you don't have to like the people doing it, but it plays a useful social role nonetheless.
Dec. 22nd, 2013 02:08 am (UTC)
In advance: I thank you for the discussion, and I am using this as practice for my resolution to wean myself off of snark or anything that is less that rigorously honest. (Hence "straw-manning" pissed me off - I had to spend a little time thinking about it.)

I don't think he said homosexuality leads to bestiality. He did unfortunately toss them into the same category, as Christian conservatives are wont to do - all sexual sins being more or less alike to them.

Not sure about straw-manning. I may be reacting too strongly to what I have seen from some quarters, and the loudest.

I don't think rational arguments alone are enough to stop bigotry, but I'm trying to pin down the root cause of why I do not like the reaction to Phil Robertson.

I think my objection is this: he's a conservative Christian. Conservative Christians believe homosexuality is a sin. Almost all of them believe pretty much what Phil Robertson said (though most wouldn't put it so crudely).

So, it seems you are arguing that it is Not Okay to be a conservative Christian.

Now, you know what I think of conservative Christian beliefs. But the categorical rejection of all expressions of belief of what amounts to a very large segment of the population does not sit well with me.

In short, I think Robertson has some hidebound, bigoted views. I do not think he is a Bigot (tm). There are certainly views and sentiments so repulsive that I would support social sanctions against anyone expressing them, but Robertson has not met that threshold, for me. Obviously, my threshold isn't the same as yours. I am not sure if I have a logical (as opposed to gut-feeling) argument for why I think he differs from, say, Fred Phelps other than in degree yet, but I'm working on it. I could perhaps be convinced that yes, we should shout down anyone who publicly admits to believing that homosexuality is a sin, but it's going to take some convincing.
Dec. 22nd, 2013 03:15 am (UTC)
(Edit: Fixed some spelling/grammar issues.)

(I'm sorry for pissing you off. I'm trying to be honest and non-sarcastic here too--the straw-manning comment was not meant to be an insult. I'm also glad for the discussion; it's helping my clarify my own views on these matters as well.)

OK, you're right he didn't say homosexuality leads to bestiality (I misread it). Equating them is still pretty bad, though.

To be fair, I haven't exactly been following this matter because I don't care, but I do doubt there are many who think Robertson is an Evil Person who's morally equivalent to Fred Phelps.

So, it seems you are arguing that it is Not Okay to be a conservative Christian.

It's fine to disapprove of dancing and pre-marital sex, vote Republican, believe in a flat tax, want to eliminate all regulations, etc. I mean, I disagree with all that strongly, but I'm not going to say anyone who advocates those things ought to be shouted down via mass hissy fit. But bigotry--whether it be against women, racial minorities, or homosexuals--does cross a line for me. So yes, I am arguing it's Not Okay to have bigoted views; or at least, it's Not Okay to publicly advocate them.

Does that mean I think it's Not Okay to be a conservative Christian? Only if you think being anti-guy anti-gay is essential to the conservative Christian worldview. I don't think it is. The Bible prohibits tons of stuff (such as usury) conservative Christians accept; I think it's entirely possible to reject the idea that homosexuality is a sin and remain a conservative Christian.

In other words, I don't want this: "the categorical rejection of all expressions of belief of what amounts to a very large segment of the population." I have no problems with conservative Christians expressing most of what they believe (well, I'll argue with them of course). I only have a problem with them expressing bigoted beliefs.

In short, I think Robertson has some hidebound, bigoted views. I do not think he is a Bigot (tm).

I'll reply to this, and end my comment, by linking to my own Ta-Nehisi Coates post:

Very few white people in the 19th century—indeed very few slave-holders—were without conflict and without doubt when considering black people. Many of them were persuadable and akratic. (A great word, by the way.) Some manumitted the enslaved. Others taught them to read, even though it was against the law. Others bore children by them, and sometimes even loved those children. And others still argued that white people should be enslaved too. These people were conflicted, complicated and bigoted. I suspect that the same is true for many homophobic "love the sinner, hate the sin" bigots today.

Perhaps we are now entering a new age wherein we will do violence to our language and Osama Bin Laden will no longer be a terrorist, but "a person who enjoyed a career killing innocent people." Rush Limbaugh will not be a racist, but "a man who has made a career saying racist things." Nathan Bedford Forrest will not have been a white supremacist but "someone who seemed to believe that things would be better if white people held most of the power in our society." Louis Farrakhan will not be an anti-Semite but "someone who exhibits a pattern of making comments against people who identify themselves as Jewish."

I am doubtful that such an age is dawning. In the meantime, I hope a self-identified "self-critiquing liberal" like Alwan--and I mean this--will see that while some people reach for labels simply to conduct a mythical witch-hunt, others reach for labels because in their world witches are very real, and are not the hunted, but the hunters. We will see whether being labeled a "bigot" is ultimately toxic to Alec Baldwin's job prospects. There is no such need to wait on the toxicity of being labeled a "cock-sucking faggot."

Edited at 2013-12-22 03:18 am (UTC)
Dec. 22nd, 2013 03:50 am (UTC)
Only if you think being anti-guy anti-gay is essential to the conservative Christian worldview. I don't think it is. The Bible prohibits tons of stuff (such as usury) conservative Christians accept; I think it's entirely possible to reject the idea that homosexuality is a sin and remain a conservative Christian.

That's the argument liberal Christians make. I think it very unlikely that social pressure will lead to conservative Christians accepting homosexuality as non-sinful but remaining conservative about everything else.

You (and Ta-Nehisi Coates) make a good point, but I guess semantics about how bigoted Phil Robertson is (and whether he has bigoted views or is a Bigot) are beside the point. The issue is which views should be added to the list of Unacceptable to Hold in Public. If Phil Robertson had said "I think gays should be put to death," well, yeah, I would have no problem seeing him shouted off the airwaves. Should "homosexuality is a sin" be on that same list? I'm not convinced. Bearing in mind that those same people generally believe you and I are also going to hell because we're atheists, so it's not entirely a "This doesn't affect me" issue.

Conveniently, Ken White of Popehat just put up a post on this topic, and while I only agree with the Popehat folks about 60% of the time (more like 10% of the time when it's Clark), I find that post (and his follow-up comments) summarizes my feelings very well.
Dec. 22nd, 2013 04:16 am (UTC)
Well, I happen to think liberal Christians are right. Conservative Christians used to think slavery was sanctioned by the Bible, and now they don't. Views change.

I don't think there are any hard and fast rules about...well, anything, but definitely there aren't any about which views are Unacceptable to Hold in Public. Generally speaking, though, I think bigoted views of all sorts are on that list. I think of it like this--it's a lot less socially acceptable to be openly racist or sexist now than it was in the 60's, and part of the reason is that people who say explicitly racist or sexist things get shouted down. And while it may not be nearly as extreme as wanting gay people to be killed, the belief that homosexuality is a sin has been the justification, both historically and in the present day, for a lot of pain and suffering, certainly much more than Phil Robertson is feeling right now.

(Indeed, the issue does affect us somewhat. If Robertson had said bigoted things about atheists, I wouldn't have had a problem with any resultant hissy-fit. Though these days, most of the religious bigotry is anti-Islam...)

I actually agree with most of that Popehat post. The part I somewhat disagree with is when he says a lot are using this to promote the view that their political opponents are horrible people (again, though, I haven't really been following it because I don't really care). Part of that, though, is that I don't know what it means to be a "horrible person," and indeed I think the entire framework of people themselves (as opposed to actions) being good/evil is highly questionable. However, this affair certainly is about consolidating power. I just don't see anything wrong with that.
Dec. 24th, 2013 09:30 pm (UTC)
I somehow missed this entire conversation, but I'm going to say this. The Outrage machine does nothing but tear down and does the opposite of what 'great' leaders do.

Outrage is about getting 51% mad at the other guy, getting your side up and ready to fight, and then reigning with 51% majority. Since the other side is so mad they will not let you 'rule' and common civility goes out the window. And while the right started it IMHO, it doesn't make it right that the left has followed suit.

One form of greatness, in many ways is about getting a enough of a society on board do do difficult things. With Mandela recently dead, I remember how the whites did something difficult in giving up power, and Mandela encouraged the black majority to not seek revenge, which was also a difficult thing.

The Outrage machine, I've come to believe, encourages us to reach for the lesser demons of our nature, creating ongoing round of recrimination and animosity.
Dec. 25th, 2013 03:07 am (UTC)
I don't think the Mandela example shows what you want to to show. The whites didn't give up power because of rational argumentation or civility. They gave up power because they were made into international pariahs--oh, and let's not forget the decades-long violent resistance movement by the blacks, which Mandela was a prominent member of. Apartheid only ended after decades of struggle and conflict far more severe, and far more acrimonious, than anything the "Outrage machine" has dreamed of doing.

Similarly, black people in general and Mandela in particular did not forgive the whites out of the goodness of their hearts, but because...well, I don't like citing Wikipedia, but:

Having seen other post-colonial African economies damaged by the departure of white elites, Mandela worked to reassure South Africa's white population that they were protected and represented in "the Rainbow Nation".

I don't mean to denigrate Mandela or his achievement at all--quite the opposite. Because getting your side ready to fight and angry at the other guy is politics. It always has been and always will be. Especially in America, where the divisions run long and deep. Ongoing rounds of recrimination and animosity are not exactly new:

Granting the existence of cultural differences between the North and South, can we assume that they would necessarily lead to a Civil War? Obviously not. Such differences lead to animosity and war only if one side develops a national inferiority complex, begins to blame all its shortcomings on the other side, enforces a rigid conformity on its own people, and tries to make up for its own sins of omission and commission by name-calling, by nursing an exaggerated pride and sensitiveness, and by cultivating a reckless aggressiveness as a substitute for reason. And this was the refuge of the South.

Refusing to play the game of outrage, rhetoric, and inflammatory polemics is, IMO, tantamount to refusing to play the game of politics itself. Continuing on my Civil War theme, I'll end with some words from Abraham Lincoln, a person you may consider a great leader:

These natural, and apparently adequate means all failing, what will convince them [Southerners]? This, and this only: cease to call slavery wrong, and join them in calling it right. And this must be done thoroughly - done in acts as well as in words. Silence will not be tolerated - we must place ourselves avowedly with them. Senator Douglas' new sedition law must be enacted and enforced, suppressing all declarations that slavery is wrong, whether made in politics, in presses, in pulpits, or in private. We must arrest and return their fugitive slaves with greedy pleasure. We must pull down our Free State constitutions. The whole atmosphere must be disinfected from all taint of opposition to slavery, before they will cease to believe that all their troubles proceed from us.

(Edit: This post came out harsher than I had intended. I am not saying that modern-say southerners are like Apartheid-era white South Africans, or that they're like the Confederacy. Hell, most actual Southerners at the time opposed secession. What I'm saying, or attempting to say, is that fundamental political divisions which lead to acrimony and recrimination are already there, they're not anyone's creations, and thinking that the main goal of any political leader, including Mandela, Lincoln, or George Washington, is to somehow overcome these differences is mistaking a symptom for the cause.)

Edited at 2013-12-25 03:18 am (UTC)
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