How one interview enforced a lack of tolerance in modern society
By now, you have all heard about the events surrounding TV star Phil Robertson. Whether you are a fan of Duck Dynasty or not, everyone seems to be talking about the indefinite hiatus placed on Robertson, one of the show’s stars. The suspension, led by the channel that host Duck Dynasty, A&E, came as a result of an interview Robertson had with GQ magazine. When asked on what he considered sinful behaviors against core Christian values, Robertson said, “Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong… 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.” Robertson then added, “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.”
However, nothing that can be deemed truly hateful or cruel was said by “the Duck Commander” about gays. He didn’t say that he hated those who were different than him, and never wished any harm on those who participate in the gay lifestyle. He just believes that homosexuality, among other sinful acts, are wrong and will punished in the afterlife. I can understand Robertson’s viewpoint as his own personal religious position. Once again, it is a harmless viewpoint based on his own religious views.
But alas, the world does not work in a way of easily understanding differences. After that quote was released, the reaction by certain individuals can simply be summarized as absolute hysteria. The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, or GLAAD, released a statement saying that, “Phil’s decision to push vile and extreme stereotypes is a stain on A&E and his sponsors who now need to reexamine their ties to someone with such public disdain for LGBT people and families.” Even Piers Morgan, whose show has surprisingly not been cut from CNN’s lineup due to its poor ratings, called Robertson “a victim of his own repulsively racist, homophobic bigotry.” After all of the outcry, A&E cut Robertson, and covered themselves by saying, “His personal views in no way reflect those of A+E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community.” Robertson, however, stood his ground, saying he “would never treat anyone with disrespect” because of their differences, and that he would continue to teach his principles. Now, there is a threat of the family ending the show and cutting ties with A&E if the patriarch is completely abandoned from the show, and even a Facebook page (completely unaffiliated with the Robertson family’s personal efforts) that calls for the boycott of A&E until Robertson’s reinstatement.
First of all, was anyone really that surprised about Robertson’s comments? If you know even the tiniest amount of information about the Robertson family or the show, you know that the family has centered themselves around Christian and traditional family values. All of their episodes are based on the family interacting with each other, and at the end of every episode they end with a prayer. In fact, some episodes even take place at the White’s Ferry Road Church of Christ, where the eldest of the four Robertson sons, Alan, preached for over twenty years. Anyone who is shocked by what was said by Phil Robertson obviously does not understand the background of the family well enough or at all.
But, onto the discussion. The comments Robertson made were not as evil as they are being portrayed by people like Morgan. They reflect a belief that a lot of Christians have. They disagree and frown upon certain things, but they do not wish harm to these individuals. This attitude of disagreeing yet peacefully living with other differences is something that is also not limited for those who practice Christianity, and is rather a character trait most individuals have. We all have certain attitudes that we do not morally agree with. However, we treat each other like human beings and respect those who have a different moral understanding than us. If people like Morgan had any bit of humanity in them, then they would learn to just disagree with Robertson and accept the spectrum of religious beliefs this nation fosters.
On a side note, if most journalists actually knew how to do their jobs, there would have been a large outcry against Russian Actor Ivan Okhlobystin. Last week, Okhlobystin, a former Orthodox priest, said to a crowd in the town of Novosibirsk, “I would put all the gays alive into an oven.” That is true bigotry and hate. However, it is Robertson who is getting dragged through the mud, while very few people have even heard of Okhlobystin’s comments.
With this action, A&E has changed the game on what can and cannot be said in public. If a comment does not fit into a certain criteria, then, based on the precedent that is now set, they should not be allowed in the first place. This can have a dangerous effect on future cases, as entertainment stars (and people in general) will be less willing to share their honest views with the public, as it may result in getting axed.
Because of this possible precedent, A&E should be embarrassed with the choices they made. Yet, as a private company, A&E has the right to shut Robertson down. Whether we agree with it or not, if an employee does not properly represent the values of his business partner, the partner has a right to cut ties. A&E made a move that best suits their interest and values as a corporation.
This does bring up the question of if A&E knew the Robertson family had traditional Christian values (and possibly currently pressuring them to hide their beliefs while on television), why on Earth did they partner with the family in the first place? This may show A&E’s lack of standing strong on what they believe in, a lack of knowledge of their clients in the first place, or the fear A&E has about losing viewers and sponsorship. Whatever the case may be, A&E would’ve felt backlash with either decision, failing to please everyone.
While I and many others disagree with the choice, A&E’s choice is indeed private and business related, and it must be respected as such. That does not mean fans should not fight against it, but it does mean if we do not like the choice that was made, we support a separate network or the Robertsons directly. That’s the beauty of the capitalistic world we live in. Either A&E will change their decision, or a new product will rise to replace them. Who knows? Maybe the Robertsons will move their talents to a totally different network that better represents their views.
A&E was placed into a tough situation that they have an undeniable right to make a decision upon. However, their response to the situation was poor and possibly damaging to the future of entertainment. People like Robertson, who share their morality with the public but do not wish harm on those who have conflicting morals, should not be forced out of the public eye. As a society, we need to learn that we live in a time where a spectrum of ideas can flourish. If two people have opposing ideas, that is absolutely acceptable. Let us have a discussion with those we oppose rather than cast them away. If the least we can do is respect others’ differences, then the world will truly be a “happy happy happy”-er place.
Also, if only people acted with as much anger towards important issues (like the overarching spying by the government) as they do about Robertson, then maybe most of the world’s problems would have been solved by now.