First, the obligatory disclaimer: I don’t watch much in the way of reality TV. (Actually, these days, compared with my misspent OCD-meets-CRT youth, I don’t watch much TV at all.) Perhaps the most reality TV I’ve ever seen is Top Shot, because my wife used to occasionally watch it at night, and more recently, Car Chasers, which I’ve literally only seen — there’s a TV set in the gym that seems to be always be tuned to CNBC, and that show seems to always be on when I’m there at night on the treadmill that’s underneath that particular TV, so I’ve watched it with subtitles, but no sound. As I’ve mentioned before, increasingly I feel like my big band, Crosby and Sinatra-obsessed father after the Beatles arrived; for him mid-century pop culture sort cross-dissolved into nothingness during the period between 1963 through 1967. For me, with a few exceptions, increasingly, 9/11 seems to be the dividing line between tolerable and “What the…?” when it comes to popular entertainment.
But I do know that the A&E network, which began in the 1980s airing shows such as Biography, and assorted WWII-themed documentaries, ended up becoming far too dissipated by the end of the following decade, when it shuffled first their war-themed material off to the History channel, and then spun-off a separate Biography channel. They were extremely lucky to stumble onto a hit with the Duck Dynasty series.
If you need the back story on what the mess that the A&E created for themselves by placing series star Phil Robertson on “indefinite hiatus,” click over to Mary Katharine Ham at Hot Air, but right now, to paraphrase Pyrrhus of Epirus, one more victory like this, and A&E is doomed. Or actually, if A&E is victorious in permanently banishing Robertson to Siberia, the network could well be doomed.
But in sharp contradistinction, for Robertson, unlike in earlier decades, when television celebrities committed crimethink, there really is no Siberia. I think John Nolte is very much spot-on at Big Hollywood, when he writes that “For Duck Dynasty, Many Options Exist Outside Anti-Christian Hollywood:”
If the show survives, it will only grow in popularity with mainstream Americans. This shrill non-troversy is already upping the show’s profile and tens of millions of Christian conservatives in America are likely to now see “Duck Dynasty” as something even bigger than it was before. We all know in our hearts that, in the wolf’s clothing of tolerance, this attack on “Duck Dynasty” is in reality nothing less than an attack on us, our Christian faith, and who we are. So we now have a personal stake in the success of “Duck Dynasty” we did not have just 48 hours ago.
If, however, the show is cancelled and therefore driven out of Hollywood (no established Big Entertainment companies will dare pick it up), only Hollywood loses — and more than just millions of dollars.
To begin with, like James Bond, Harry Potter and Jack Ryan, “Duck Dynasty” is its own brand and franchise; a bona fide cultural phenomenon that doesn’t need A&E to survive. Moreover, Phil Robertson and his clan do not even need Hollywood to survive. Left-wing Hollywood no longer owns and can bottleneck distribution of content.
There is online streaming, the Internet, and a number of upstart cable networks that are not beholden to the New McCarthyism. Fox News, for instance.
Last week, millions upon millions of Americans would have followed “Duck Dynasty” anywhere the show decide to go, including online.
This week, that fact has only intensified.
Furthermore, any smart burgeoning Hollywood player looking to break out of the pack would be insane to not make “Duck Dynasty” the foundation of a new network.
Like Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” anti-Christian Hollywood has two options: it can either put its prejudices aside and get on board, or launch their own worst nightmare: Upstart competition.
Think Glenn Beck wouldn’t mind having Duck Dynasty as part of The Blaze subscription package? Or Roger Ailes have the show under the Fox News rubric to shore up an otherwise low-rated block in the Saturday or Sunday night schedule?
As for PC A&E, Ace writes that yes, the cable network “has the right to suspend Phil Robinson. A&E also has the right to stand up for a broad and generous principle of Freedom of Thought and Expression:”
Why does no one speak of that right? Sure, they have the right to act hostilely towards the spirit of the First Amendment and use coercive power to hammer people into only speaking the Officially Approved Institutional Corporate Slogans.
They also have the right to stick up for people’s right to dissent, to be “weird,” to have unpopular thoughts and heterodox beliefs. And as a media company, they really ought to have an interest in doing so.
Why does no one ever mention this? Why does no one ever push companies to recognize that right, rather than the other one?
It is well-conceded that an employer has the right to fire you for some heterodox belief or some oddball sexual habit, but an employer similarly has the right to foster an environment of self-expression and freedom, and yet no one seems to talk about a company’s capacity to be a Good Actor in the realm of free expression.
There should be pushback against this idea that of course the people with direct authority over us — our employers — can and should fire us or otherwise inflict serious economic consequences of it for daring to live as Free Americans.
This is obvious, but apparently it’s not obvious enough: We do not need a freedom to express popular or polite thought. Thoughts which are popular and polite (and approved by the state and its supporting institutions) have never been in jeopardy.
Not even in Nazi Germany. The popular, state-approved thought — that Hitler would bring “Greater Germany” (i.e., Nazi-dominated Europe) back to greatness — was never forbidden by the Nazis.
Unpopular thoughts were threatened– such as anti-Naziism.
See also, definition of the gleichschaltung, which brings new meaning to the old Saturday Night Live joke from the early 1990s, when the original A&E network still showed loads of World War II documentaries, and Mike Myers’ character on “Wayne’s World” dubbed the channel the Aryan Entertainment network.
When even USA Today has a column titled “A&E fowls up ‘Duck’ flap: The ‘tolerance’ society demands from Christians really is silent compliance,” you know the network has likely gone too far.
So what happens next?
Update: At Twitchy, “‘Duck Dynasty’s’ Korie Robertson announces family’s statement on suspension; ‘We cannot imagine the show going forward without our patriarch.’” Or as one person tweets, “Your move, A&E.”
Plus: “Camille Paglia: Our PC nation has become ‘utterly fascist and utterly Stalinist.’”