What the duck?! Redux

By Stan Persky | December 21, 2013

Naturally, I’m pissed off about the big flap over Duck Dynasty. In case you’ve been sleeping in your own private duck blind for the last 72 hours, Phil Robertson, the shaggy-bearded, camoflauge-gear bedecked patriarch of the Duck Dynasty — a redneck, bible-thumping family of multi-millionaires living in rural Louisiana, and the stars of an A&E channel “reality”-TV show for the last four years – has temporarily been suspended from the show by the A&E honchos because of homophobic and racist remarks he made in a profile published in GQ magazine. (For those of you further out of it, A&E means “Arts & Entertainment” and GQ stands for Gentleman’s Quarterly.)

Duck Dynasty; Phil Robertson (2nd from r.)

Duck Dynasty; Phil Robertson (2nd from r.)


For the record, what 67-year-old Robertson said to GQ writer Drew Magary — as the two of them were riding around in an ATV in the outback and shooting up stuff with guns and a crossbow — when asked about sin, went like this: “Start with homosexual and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.” Paraphrasing the biblical book of Corinthians, he added, “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolators, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers – they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.” He also had stuff to say about how happy black people were in the pre-civil rights Jim Crow era in his patch of the Ol’ South, just singing and dancing in the cotton fields, do-dah, do-dah day. I can skip quoting the whole thing. Mr. Robertson is one of those garrulous wannabe preachers who tends to go on and on. (Oh yeah, an ATV is all All-Terrain Vehicule designed to tear up the eco-system. Hey, maybe this column should have a glossary.)

Well, once the buckshot hit the tail-feathers, it was all over the Internuts and the TV. CNN trotted out earnest “balanced” panels (that means it included some right-wing nut defending Robertson) to pontificate over free speech, censorship, and similar weighty topics. It was even an item on Diane Sawyer’s ABC news show, PBS and sundry other channels. Twitter filled with the cries of dying quails, and the Internut was crowded with right-wing petitions demanding the re-instatement of Robertson by A&E. Of course, representatives of the GLBT community got to throw in their two cents along with various front organizations for Jesus. (CNN, ABC, and PBS are the names of TV channels; ABC is owned by the Walt Disney Company which also owns A&E and several million other things; GLBT stands for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender, which I often confuse, even though I’m a member of GLBT, with BLT, which means Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato. Maybe this column will have not only a glossary, but a speaking-in-tongues Glossolalia section.)

What pissed me off about the whole thing wasn’t the “insensitive” remarks, or the outrage about “insensitivite” remarks or the bleatings about a man’s right to say what he wants to say in his own public swamp. No, the thing that got my goat and bestialized it is that I had never even heard of Duck Dynasty or Phil Robertson or the duck call devices upon which the family fortune was founded until it became a flap on mainstream TV. Obviously, I wasn’t just dozing in a duck blind, I was sleeping through the Apocalypse!

I had no idea that some 14 million viewers tuned in to Duck Dynasty weekly, not only enjoying it, but apparently identifying with its family values. And who knows what other weirdo stuff lurks in those 500 other “specialty” channels? How could I have missed it? I, who pride myself on my hipness in keeping up with the latest cultural tidbit. Gee, I was up to date on Beyonce’s “unadvertised” advertising for her latest album, which sold 650,00 copies the first weekend after its release; I could hum the “Perfect Day” jingle advertising the PS4 machine in all its splendid videogame gore; I knew GLBT’s Billie Jean King was heading the U.S. observer delegation to the Sochi Olympic Winter Games that President Obama wasn’t attending in order to protest Russian President Vladimir Putin’s anti-gay laws… how could I have missed all those quackery ducks? As for A&E suddenly stepping in to exercise adult supervision over the latest version of Beverly Hills Hillbillies, do you believe for a moment that A&E was unaware of Phil Robertson’s neolithic views? (PS4, by the by, refers to the latest Playstation device for playing video games and performing brain surgery; Billie Jean King was a champion tennis player; Beyonce is a pop singer, but this last you already knew, right?)

Oh well, better late than never. I still haven’t seen Duck Dynasty on TV, nor do I plan to, unless one of the Duck Dynasty teenage male children decides to come out as gay during a future episode.

Duck Dynasty children, assorted kin, spawn, etc.

Duck Dynasty children, assorted kin, spawn, etc.


As for the free speech stuff, that’s only a dilemma for the extremer wings of the left and right. The overly-politically correct left believes that “fascists have no right to speak” and it likes to decide who the fascists are and then prevent them from speaking at such public venues as universities. These days, the right likes to portray itself as a victim of the left, whose right to utter its reactionary religious and social views are being silenced by the left and its politically correct media minions, even though the right likes to make sure that free speech about evolution remains muted in school textbooks and that free speech sex education shouldn’t mention same-sex sex because that promotes same-sex sex among kids.

Fortunately, those of us hopelessly liberal civil libertarians have little problem with free speech. We believe that the cure for offensive or otherwise problematic free speech is more free speech. And we’re very firm about no hitting over the head, or punching in the nose, or using chemical weapons to kill thousands. Those of us who are Critical Theorist civil libertarians also know that the most dangerous free speech is not the various lettered words, like the F word or the N word, etc., or everyday free speech about taboo topics, but rather is the private property free speech which occupies more time and space than any other speech, namely, the commercial free speech blasting away night and day on your favourite device, selling mind-destroying stuff to people every two minutes, 24/7.



  • Stan Persky

    Stan Persky taught philosophy at Capilano University in N. Vancouver, B.C. He received the 2010 B.C. Lieutenant-Governor's Award for Literary Excellence. His most recent books are Reading the 21st Century: Books of the Decade, 2000-2009 (McGill-Queen's, 2011), Post-Communist Stories: About Cities, Politics, Desires (Cormorant, 2014), and Letter from Berlin: Essays 2015-2016 (Dooney's, 2017).

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