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“Duck Call Is The New Dog Whistle”: What Conservatives Support Is Not “Freedom”, But “Conformity” To A Conservative Culture

Put those dog whistles away. Judging by the hordes of red neck fans who rose up in angry protest after the star of the popular reality show Duck Dynasty was pulled from the airwaves for saying offensive things about blacks and gays, maybe we ought to start referring to these periodic eruptions of right wing agitation as “duck call politics.”

The reactions to duck call politics are as predictable as they are dispiriting. One Facebook friend of mine professed disbelief that her “liberal friends” had not instantaneously rallied around Phil Robertson once the embattled patriarch of Duck Dynasty was temporarily suspended for his tirade against gays which appeared in GQ earlier this month.

“When did America become a Gestapo State?” my friend wanted to know. “Come on people, this has to stop. Regardless of whether you agree with Phil, the America we love has to support his right to his personal convictions and his FREEDOM to say them.”

Sarah Palin has never let the facts stand in the way of an opportunity to stir up the perpetually resentful populist mob. And so, undeterred by the fact she’d never actually read or saw what Robertson had to say about gays and blacks, Palin nevertheless felt competent to weigh in that: “Those offended by what Phil Robertson said are offended by the Gospel.”

Shortly after the Duck Dynasty controversy began on December 18, Palin wrote on her Facebook page that: “Free speech is an endangered species. Those ‘intolerants’ hatin and taking on the Duck Dynasty patriarch for voicing his personal opinion are taking on all of us.”

Palin’s comment drew over 428,000 “likes.”

Now, let’s be clear. When former Pope Benedict said that “tradition” based on Sacred Scripture “has always declared that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered,” he was expressing a religious opinion. It may have been hurtful, or wrongheaded, or even un-Christian in my view. But when Benedict said that homosexual acts are “contrary to the natural law” because they “close the sexual act to the gift of life” and do not proceed “from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity” and so “under no circumstances can they be approved” he was still expressing his interpretation of what Catholic doctrine requires.

What Phil Robertson did was altogether different. Robertson was just being crude and hateful when he told a reporter for GQ: “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men. Don’t be deceived (he said paraphrasing Corinthians) neither the adulterers, the idolaters, 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.”

Robertson then went further: “It seems like, to me, a vagina — as a man — would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying?  But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”

Not content to confine his tastelessness to gays, Robertson also resurrected the embarrassing minstrel show fixture of the “Happy Negro,” a stock character whose origins go all the way back to Southern slave apologists like George Fitzhugh, who said “the negro slaves of the South are the happiest and, in some sense, the freest people in the world.”

Fitzhugh was one of those Southern “fire-eaters” who believed the condition of the Southern slave compared favorably to that of the wage earner in the North since, as he said, slaves were “capital” whose “owners” paid dearly for them. And so “when slaves are worth $1,000 a head they will be cared for and well provided for” – unlike, he inferred, the expendable, exploitable and readily disposable wage slaves of the North.

Brought up-to-date by the likes of Phil Robertson, Fitzhugh’s repulsive idea sounds something like this: “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.”

For the relatively minor consequences he faced for these boorish remarks, Phil Robertson has become a celebrated martyr on the right and their latest cause célèbre. Conservatives have hoisted Robertson up on their shoulders as a cultural icon whose “brave” words are what other right wingers wish they could voice but for one reason or another can’t bring themselves to say out loud.

Nevertheless, if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it probably is a duck. And what Phil Robertson said to GQ was anti-gay bigotry, plain and simple, whose open hostility towards these minorities is precisely why conservatives are now retroactively trying to dignify Robertson’s ugly hatefulness by wrapping it in the holy vestments of religious expression and free speech.

But the argument is hollow because Robertson’s fans are no more concerned with free speech than was the Tea Party with debts and deficits as they stood immobile and mute for eight long years while Republicans under George W. Bush doubled both until the Tea Party rose up in spontaneous and righteous anger the moment the American people had the effrontery to elect a black man as their President.

Right wing conservatives are not rallying around Robertson because they are the principled advocates of free speech or dedicated students of John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty and John Milton’s Areopagitica.

There were no angry outcries from conservatives a decade ago when the Dixie Chicks were being banned from one country music station after another, or having their records burned, once the superstar group said some contrarian things about President Bush and his baseless invasion of Iraq way back in 2003 when such anti-war opposition was unpopular but really mattered.

Country stations pulled the Dixie Chicks after lead singer Natalie Maines told a London audience she was “ashamed” that Bush hailed from Texas, where the Chicks are also from.

Soon, station managers were flooded with calls from angry listeners who thought the Chick’s criticism of Bush was “unpatriotic.” One station in Kansas City even held a Dixie “chicken toss” party where listeners were encouraged to dump the group’s tapes, CDs and concert tickets into trash cans.

“We’ve got them off the air for right now,” said Jeff Garrison, program director at KILT in Texas. “People are shocked. They cannot believe Texas’ own have attacked the state and the president.”

When the Dixie Chicks were preparing for their nationwide Top of the World Tour, death threats caused promoters to install metal detectors at the shows. In Dallas, fears for the safety of the group led police to provide an escort from the show to the airport.

A Colorado radio station suspended two of its disc jockeys for playing music by the Dixie Chicks. When the group was nominated for Entertainer of the Year at the Academy of Country Music awards in Las Vegas, host Vince Gill had to remind the booing audience that everyone is entitled to freedom of speech.

Even President Bush weighed in, telling Tom Brokow: “the Dixie Chicks are free to speak their mind. They can say what they want to say. They shouldn’t have their feelings hurt just because some people don’t want to buy their records when they speak out. Freedom is a two-way street.”

Yes, freedom is a two-way street. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion just not their own TV show. People are free to speak their mind and other people are free to retaliate by writing letters, organizing boycotts or taking offensive people off the air.

But what the Dixie Chicks did, it’s important to keep in mind, was criticize President Bush for the political acts he took while in office. Phil Robertson, on the other hand, was merely insulting gays and blacks for being who they are. Then he and his supporters used religion to hide their sin.

The idea that conservatives are civil libertarians who support free speech and diversity is a comic farce in any case, for what conservatives support is not “freedom” but “conformity” to a conservative culture where people have sex in the missionary position with members of the opposite sex or not at all, and where country music groups don’t criticize  God-fearing Republican presidents, especially if they are from Texas, for waging wars against the non-Christian infidel.

And if accomplishing this agenda means banning celebrities from the airwaves one minute and then attacking TV networks for doing the same thing to other celebrities the next, then so be it.


By: Ted Frier, Open Salon, December 26, 2013

December 30, 2013 Posted by | Bigotry, Conservatives, Racism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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