Friday, December 20, 2013

Get the Duck Out

And you thought the "War" on Christmas was bad, as far as imaginary grievances go. This is one of those pseudo-cultural eructations that gives me the urge to shoot out the teevee and the computer, and head for a nice cabin deep in the woods. This country has lost whatever it had left for a mind.

For the record, I don't much care one way or the other about what Phil Robertson had to say about anything, anymore that I would care about what Spongebob Squarepants or the bottle blonde from The Big Bang Theory had to say about anything. (But you should read the entire article for yourself, simply because it's an interesting story, and Drew Magary, originally "Big Daddy Drew" at Kissing Suzy Kolber, is a damn good writer.) What Magary noted in his follow-up to the now-infamous article is about what I would have assumed -- that the Robertsons are essentially decent folk, a bit different, but we're all a bit different in our own way, I suppose.

The difference is that most of us don't have an employee-employer relationship with a cable network. Remember way back when last weekend, where we talked about how everything you see on teevee, no matter how much you lurve it, no matter how much integrity you might think it has, exists mainly to sell you shit? That, in spades. Maybe the Robertsons seriously think that the show is just a harmless bit of fun, where they get to goof around, make sure the world knows how much they love them some Jebus, and soak the rubes for swag and hundred-dollar duck calls.

But A&E -- you know, the network that airs the show and has a vested interest in protecting the brand -- just wants to keep the gravy train on the tracks. So when the lead character of its hillbilly sitcom goes and starts speaking his mind in a way that might make sponsors nervous, it's a bidness problem, pure and simple.

But to the Duckheads, this is deep dog-whistle cultcha stuff. They do not see the show as schtick, but rather as a slightly schticky affirmation of their beliefs. And so the suspension of Phil Robertson turns into a free speech issue, though the barricades were notably empty just a couple weeks ago, when MSNBC dumped Alec Baldwin and Martin Bashir for their verbal transgressions.

Nine times out of ten, when you hear someone championing the cause of "free speech," you can bet they have no fucking clue what they're talking about, or at the very least they're extremely selective in the application of that sanctified phrase. The First Amendment means that the government can't throw your dumb ass in the gulag for speaking your mind. It says nothing about you having the right to proselytize and insult minorities when you're at your job. If you think it does, maybe you should go test that out with your boss, let the rest of us know how your unemployment benefits work out.

I recall an anecdote, perhaps apocryphal but still useful, regarding Michael Jordan during the 2008 presidential campaign. Someone supposedly asked the famously apolitical Jordan why, as a famous black guy, he wasn't out there beating the pavement for Obama. Jordan replied, "Republicans buy underwear, too."

Sure, there are probably notable exceptions to that rule (I'm looking at you, Jonah Goldberg), but the point remains valid -- A&E's sponsors exist by the premise of expanding their markets as far as they can, and if that means selling a Willie chia pet to a gay person, they don't want to alienate that potential sales lead. People can fool themselves with all the culture-vulture chunder they want, this is fucking dollars and cents, yo. This is not about free speech, it's about free market. Capitalism, bitches!

These stupid little pop-culture rashes fascinate and infuriate me, as everyone decides to scratch all at once. It's amazing the way they take on lives of their own (stoked by a dopey, complaisant media, of course). But it's also frustrating to think about the bigger picture -- that the financial system has been caught rigging the world's interest rates, throwing people out of their houses with bogus robo-signed documents, lawn-darting the world's economy, gutting American jobs and sending them overseas, and nobody says a fucking word. Or any number of other, greater transgressions. But an old, wealthy fool who clearly wants out of his job in the first place says something dumb and gets suspended, and people come un-fucking-glued. And of course Saint Sarah floats in with her two cents, so what you have in the end there is one fake hillbilly millionaire defending another fake hillbilly millionaire, and a couple million regular broke-ass schmucks sticking up for both of them. Ah, but ain't that America?

Willie and family, pre-beard
Five years from now -- hell, probably three -- no one will remember this bullshit, or these people, any more than they wax nostalgic for The Simple Life, or the first forty "seasons" of Survivor. Maybe the Robertsons will do some half-assed showcase in Branson, and it will be wildly popular with folks who use Hoverounds and haven't seen their knees in twenty years, but that's about it. There will be some other dumb shiny thing to rally around, while the big stuff whizzes past their heads.

Which proves what, after nearly a decade(!) of spelunking the cultural and political nether regions of this clusterfuck of a society, has become this blog's grand unified field theory:  more often than not, people get exactly what they deserve out of life.

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