Why We Are No Better After the Manufactured, Predictable ‘Duck Dynasty’ Controversy

January 8, 2014

So on Monday, I started the year with a proverb about circuses and monkeys.


Well this is why.

I held my tongue (so to speak) during the whole debacle. The year ended with every other story in my timeline being a comment about the ‘Duck Dynasty’ controversy.   And if I’m being completely honest, I stepped off of social media for a few days, because I just couldn’t stand the sight of it all.

But it’s been a few weeks, and in the world of the internet, a few weeks is a lifetime…

…At least it’s enough time to gain a bit of perspective. I held out on commenting on the story, because I wanted to see how the story would end.  I wanted to see if my quiet suspicions were proven right…

…They were.

Because it doesn’t matter if you were on Phil Robertson’s side or A&E or whomever.





And we lost.  This is why we are no better off after falling for another manufactured American Uproar.

The New Template For An American Controversy

How, you ask, could I say that the Phil Robertson controversy was so completely predictable?

Because, I predicted it.  

The whole scenario played out like a bad horror movie.  Somehow, the audience knows all the horror movie tropes, but the characters have never seen a horror film, so they die very predictably.

So I watched…in horror. It was completely predictable that Phil Robertson would make the comments he made to GQ.  The mag knew if they got him on that subject, he would make comments like that.  They predicted they could make a story out of this and sell magazines.

A&E knew the Robertson’s opinions too.  So of course, it was completely predictable that they would come up with a canned, manufactured statement with a bunch of placating buzzwords (as if they were surprised by Robertson’s comments).  If I were in the gay community, I would be just as offended by A&E’s canned, phony remarks as I would be over Phil Robertson’s.

Everyone, Over Here!  It’s a Controversy!

And then the dam broke and there came a flood of completely predictable statements from every possible angle.

Did anyone else notice that every news outlet simply summarized Phil’s remarks as “anti-gay?”  I’m not saying his comments weren’t anti-gay.  I’m just saying that any time a controversy surfaces, the lazy, copy-and-paste reporting that passes for “journalism” is rampant.  How could every media organization come up with the same adjectives by coincidence?

And every public reaction was someone “speaking out,” another term I wish would be banished, or at least rested.  And everyone’s version of “speaking out” was completely predictable.  Did we really need Sarah Palin to “speak out” on the issue?  Could anyone not guess Sarah Palin beliefs?

The feeding frenzy of public reaction told me that, like a plague of locusts, so many people were just using this short-lived controversy as a platform to grab some attention for themselves. There is nothing wrong with bloggers blogging and posting on Facebook and whatnot.  I don’t think any of us have reached that saturation point where people can guess our beliefs (or even know who we are.)  But the public figures and celebrities who feel the constant need to tell us what they think makes me unplug and shut down all my lines of communication.

Turns Out, It Was Just About Money

Things continued to unfold completely predictably.  I was not surprised when Facebook pages supporting Robertson got hundreds of thousands of Likes.  I was not surprised when people started watching the show to “stand with Phil.”  I was not surprised because Christians showed the same kind of mass-motivation to show up to Chik-Fil-A (as if that accomplished anything of value.)

But what was sadly the most predictable is the utter and complete lack of true principle that so many corporations revealed over the issue.

Take Cracker Barrel for instance.  They immediately tweeted that they were pulling all their ‘Duck Dynasty’ crap off their shelves.  Okay, fine.  Oh, but wait, because just a couple of days later, they reversed their decision, saying they “made a mistake.”

No, they didn’t “make a mistake.”  They just didn’t have the guts to follow through on their decision when a bunch of customers yelled at them.  They revealed that as a corporation, they don’t believe anything, except whatever will make the most money and produce the least amount of public scrutiny.

Meanwhile, A&E publicly “distanced” themselves from the Robertsons, but ran a veritable ‘Duck Dynasty’ marathon.  Why?  Because suddenly the hottest show on cable is ten times hotter.  The only thing I got wrong was how quickly it would end.  I didn’t think Phil Robertson’s public whipping would end so quickly.  But he’s back on the show (as if he ever left) and now more people are watching than ever.

And in my gut, I think it was part of the plan all along.  The controversy fed on Americans’ prejudices and fears, whipped us into a frenzy, and the best part for A&E is that no matter what happened, they would win.  Because in the end, it’s not about principles.  It’s just about money.  And we are not better, but worse for letting ourselves get played again.

What do you think?  Was the whole controversy contrived and manufactured?  What was the most shocking part of the story to you?

9 responses to Why We Are No Better After the Manufactured, Predictable ‘Duck Dynasty’ Controversy

  1. I have no doubt this was manufactured. One of my coworkers called it in a cynical FB post that this was just a scheme to get ratings and money. It’s such an easy button, and people keep pushing it to make a profit. And every time we, full aware of the button pushing, delude ourselves with “I usually don’t comment, but THIS is the hill to die on.” Like everyone else, I know it’s happening and yet I get sucked in every time. This time it’s Ken Ham and Bill Nye, and I got suckered again. We’ve got to stop caring about things just because the media tells us to.

  2. The entire controversy was reality tv played out in real life. Or, what passes for real life these days
    Fred recently posted..Blast From the Past: The Truth Hurts?

  3. With all the people who tune into reality shows to see arguing instead of co-operation, how is this surprising?

  4. Nailed it. I was on the “with Phil” bandwagon for about 5 seconds and then took a huge step back. The whole thing was a contrived mess and you’re right. We all got played.

    There really is a sucker born every minute. With social media, it’s even faster.
    ThatGuyKC recently posted..Advice From Honest Abe for Anyone

  5. I’m with you… I don’t get into the reality shows anyway…. I mean, “reality” shows… When it first broke I wondered how the network couldn’t see this coming, and why anyone who knows anything about the Robertson family would expect any other view or comment. (I don’t watch the show but have heard enough to know.) I didn’t get into any of the conversations either… Yep, all a little too “convenient” and contrived for my liking.

  6. I had to comment ;-). I hadn’t thought of this angle, but considering the fact that people in show biz agree to interviews to plug their shows, it doesn’t surprise me. What was interesting to me was how the language changed from the time the original story was posted. All the initial headlines said that Mr. Robertson compared homosexuality to beastiality. When A&E reversed its decision, the headlines were more muted and conciliatory rather than saying, “Phil Robertson to stay on despite linking homosexuality to beastiality.” It is the stuff of bread and circuses (to keep the circus theme going).

    Great job, Matt!

  7. I didn’t even know who this guy was until this controversy started. Love what you said, particularly the part about Cracker Barrel and A&E – they make me want to puke. Makes me not want to go to Cracker Barrel anymore…except their eggs and bacon are so stinking good and you get that cute little bottle of fake maple syrup at your table – I love that.
    Kate Hall recently posted..I Attract Toothless Men and Not-So-Smart People, Apparently

  8. It wasn’t just this controversy that was contrived and manufactured. It’s the whole show. America (and, forgive me for saying this, but I think especially American conservatives/conservative Christians) wants to see “real Americans” doing “real American” things like hunting and pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and shooting guns and reading their Bibles and hunting some more … so that’s what sells, and TV producers will create the fantasy for us even if it’s not out there in actually-real America to be filmed in its natural state.

    I honestly know nothing about this program except for what’s been in the news lately — I don’t subscribe to TV service anymore, so I mostly watch old Star Trek episodes on Netflix 😉 — but it’s clear from those pictures, and the many articles you can find if you Google “Duck Dynasty fake,” that the life these people are representing in the television program looks nothing at all like the life they were living before they became reality TV stars.

  9. As you have demonstrated so well things can be presented in almost any way you want. I, however, disagree with your “take”. At least from the part after the GQ interview.

    I believe the issue finally got Christians to stand up for what they believe in. It took Way Too Many things (government actions should gave been more than sufficient.) I hope and pray that they will see this as a victory and gather the strength they need to stand up and save our country. I hope they see now that there is power in Christians standing together.