No matter what happens after this, the Arts & Entertainment network has killed the goose that laid the golden egg. “Duck Dynasty” was beyond a doubt the best thing the network had going for it. This was the most popular show they had, maybe the most popular show on all of cable TV, in part because it made traditional values, especially Christianity, respectable again. Although I don’t have a TV set anymore, I’m familiar with the show after watching some episodes off the Internet.
Last Tuesday, I heard that Barbara Walters interviewed the “Duck Dynasty” cast. Most of them showed up, but Phil Robertson, the family patriarch, went duck hunting instead. There’s one TV star with his priorities right.
Then on Wednesday, we learned that Phil gave an interview to GQ Magazine, where among other things, he told us his views on Christianity and homosexuality. No surprises there; most of the churches I have attended over the years were full of people who felt exactly the same way. Nevertheless, gay activists cried foul, acted like they had never heard such opinions before, and called Mr. Robertson’s statements vile. They seem to be most offended that he mentioned homosexuality and bestiality in the same sentence, and called both sins. Well, it could have been worse; if GQ was interviewing me, I would have mentioned pedophilia and necrophilia, too. By the end of the day, A&E had fired Phil from the program. Several episodes have been filmed for “Duck Dynasty’s” fifth season so far, but if they film any more, Phil won’t be in them.
Big mistake. Big, fat mistake. Here are my thoughts about this, in no particular order:
1. It’s a safe bet that “Duck Dynasty” is finished, at least on A&E. The last I heard, the Robertson family does not want to do the show without their patriarch. Perhaps a more conservative network will pick up the program. If so, let’s see if A&E can survive when straight people don’t watch it anymore. Money talks in Hollywood, after all.
2. It is one thing to tick off a minority, another thing to offend the majority. About 250 million US citizens consider themselves Christian. By contrast, there are probably just 6 million gay and lesbian folks. I never believed the Kinsey Report figure that asserted the population was 10 percent queer; 2 percent, 3 percent at the most, is more likely. Even if the 10 percent figure is correct, that means 30 million gays, still far less than the number of Christians.
3. The liberal elite has just shown that they are less tolerant than those they call “intolerant.” If there is an anti-liberal, anti-gay backlash in this country, expect it to begin here.
4. On the other hand, if A&E apologizes and reinstates Phil, it will be seen as a victory for ordinary Americans, and a sign that A&E is weak. Will the liberal elite stand for that?
5. If you want to support the Robertsons’ right to free speech by buying their merchandise, stay away from the stuff at Wal-Mart that only says “Duck Dynasty” on it. Go for items marked “Duck Commander,” because they come directly from the Robertsons, not A&E. Earlier this week in a gas station, I saw a green plastic cup like the one Si always drinks tea from, that said “Duck Commander” on it; that would be all right.
6. It was a mistake to let homosexuals appropriate the word “gay” to describe themselves. Before the 1970s, “gay” meant happy, but away from gay pride parades, homosexuals don’t act happy at all; instead they have a constant chip on their shoulders. “Soreheaded” would be a better adjective for them; the “Duck Dynasty” affair is the latest example.
7. If I ever buy a cable service in the future, I will insist on an a la carte program, where I can choose which networks I get. I don’t want any package deal that will give me access to networks that oppose my values and way of life, like MSNBC or Al Jazeera. With a package, my money will go to them whether I watch them or not. It looks like A&E will be on that list, the way things are going.