Top Five Differences between Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson and Miley Cyrus

(By Juan Cole)

Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal last week defended Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson and slammed pop diva Miley Cyrus. He said,

“The politically correct crowd is tolerant of all viewpoints, except those they disagree with. I don’t agree with quite a bit of stuff I read in magazine interviews or see on TV. In fact, come to think of it, I find a good bit of it offensive. But I also acknowledge that this is a free country and everyone is entitled to express their views. In fact, I remember when TV networks believed in the First Amendment. It is a messed up situation when Miley Cyrus gets a laugh, and Phil Robertson gets suspended.”

Robertson has a thing against gays and has compared homosexuality to bestiality and to terrorism. He said of gays, “They’re full of murder, envy, strife, hatred. They are insolent, arrogant God haters. They are heartless. They are faithless. They are senseless. They are ruthless. They invent ways of doing evil.”

The thing Jindal appears to have difficulty understanding is that hate speech is not merely distasteful. It is hurtful.
The thing Jindal appears to have difficulty understanding is that hate speech is not merely distasteful. It is hurtful. If Robertson really could convince Americans that gays are terrorists, this belief would have profound implications for them. Terrorists are not treated very nicely.

That Robertson’s hate speech is rooted in religion is no excuse. The screed above is not required by the New Testament, which doesn’t mention gays. Christians in the South used to use religion to justify slavery and then Jim Crow. And the religious right in the US is all about how no Muslim beliefs justify any publicly expressed views at all. So is it only Christian beliefs that excuse any speech? If so, we’re out of the bounds of American law and practice.

No one has a “right” to be on television. A&E television is a private company, and therefore whether to put someone on is a corporate decision. When did the GOP start insisting that the private sector has to be regulated by Republican politicians? Not to mention that channels have to worry about consumer boycotts, what with being commercial enterprises. To the extent there is a public mandate, it is toward a principle of non-harm. The public airwaves are not infinite. With all the channels made possible by cable or satellite, there are still slots on both for which lots of channels and lots of programs compete. Since we can’t air everything (until everyone goes untethered and gets it over the Web), and since we make choices to air some things rather than others, that lays a responsibility on broadcasters to ensure that the programming is not actively harming a significant segment of the population. It would not be all right to have a character on the most popular show on cable television who spewed hatred of African-Americans or of of Asian-Americans. Look what happened to MSNBC’s Don Imus when he called young women basketball players a racially charged epithet. Would Jindal defend that, too?

So here are the top five differences between Phil Robertson and Miley Cyrus:

1. Phil Robertson thinks gays are terrorists based on his religious beliefs. Miley Cyrus is a Southern Baptist but she believes in gay rights.

2. Phil Robertson has a long beard. Miley Cyrus cut her hair short.

3. Phil Robertson took a wrecking ball to his television career. Miley Cyrus launched phase two of her career with a wrecking ball.

4. Miley Cyrus was Hannah Montana. Phil Robertson looks like he might be from Montana.

5. Miley Cyrus sang “We can’t stop.” Phil Robertson just can’t stop.

Related video:

Young Turks on Republican politicians & hypocrisy re: the suspension of Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty

17 Responses

  1. Jeb Lund had the aptest summation of this whole brouhaha that I’ve yet seen: “The fun paradox at work is that you can’t have a slavish devotion to the market and then cry foul when a rational actor makes a market decision in what they presume is their best interest. Rational actor theory is always amusing to hear from religious conservatives—you can’t find a worse example of it than Jesus—but it’s especially so here. Because it’s hard to avoid the sense that a lot of this outrage stems from people who style themselves as market players being told, summarily, that the market power of gay consumers is simply more important than they are.”

  2. “3. Phil Robertson took a wrecking ball to his television career. ”

    This doesn’t look like a good bet. Cracker Barrel, a company that got in hot water over anti-gay policies, has reportedly resumed selling Duck Dynasty products. Robertson just got millions of dollars worth of free publicity and there are probably millions of people who share his philosophy. If people can make money off him and his program, he’s safe and will be spouting his bigotry all the way to the bank.

    • As a union retail worker at a branch of America’s largest supermarket in a progressive city, the buyers way overloaded on Duck Dynasty products, they have been dying on the shelves since October. There’s no Christmas rush for them (though one 40-ish Black lady wanted one specifically for a “white elephant gift exchange” at her office). No money being made here.

  3. I am troubled about how to respond to this dichotomy: If A&E can fire an employee for public behavior, which I find fully appropriate, why can Hobby Lobby not restrict employees choice of health care providers? This is not a 1st Amendment issue but rather that of the 1964 Civil Rights act. Is a retail store not also a public accommodation in spirit if not letter? When I worked for a mega-NGO, I would be quickly terminated if I had made such comments in public in my own name, which would have been easily associated with the NGO. I did and continue to agree with their policy, but cannot quite parse the logic. Any help appreciated.

    • I agree there’s a problem here.

      Yes it’s amusing to point out right-wing hypocrisy (like, opposing affirmative action because you believe in freedom of association, but crying about A&E firing Phil), not to mention the spectacle of white Christian Americans acting persecuted when of course they’re about the most powerful people on the planet.

      But if A&E can fire Phil for his views (or indirectly for his views, which is what happens if they say they do it because he hurts their ratings…on account of his views), then can’t they fire non-Christians for expressing un-Christian views, lefty folks for expressing progressive views, and so on? As Corey Robin points out in his blog, in the US much of the actual oppression that’s taken place over the years has not been done by the government by by employers, who have free reign thanks to “at will” employment laws to fire people for most any reason or no reason at all. For every person jailed for being communist in the McCarthy era, many more were fired.

      A&E’s right to fire Phil, then, represents a wider right of all employers to fire anyone they’re uncomfortable with (with some statutory exceptions, like race).

  4. The DDynasty folks are reminiscent of ZZ Top from years gone by, about thirty of them, at least. Nothing against the originals, but the knock-offs seem to have let time pass them by without realising that most of the rest of us have kept up with the times. Louisiana is a place where not everyone lives, especially those with sufficient education to be able to make informed comments about social issues.* Louisiana has a reputation for being among the least successful at graduating students from high school and we have to wonder (not much, not long though) where the major part of their “upbringing” comes from. The Southers tend to fall into the category of marginal learning and then – even when they do succeed – one wonders the criteria and measures for success. Many of us recall the “Beverly Hillbillies” from decades gone by and the Bob-sons need to be seen in the same light. Not bad people but not really keeping up with the times, once again. Yet, as with other programming that highlights the simpler life, I wonder if the attraction is to make the viewers feel better, even superior to a bunch of lucky backwoodsies …

    * link to americashealthrankings.org

  5. Gov. Jindhal and Sarah Palin seem not to notice the very clear difference between the US Constitution’s guarantee of free speech (not that that document means much any more) and the right of capitalists to do what they want with their private property. A&E profits flow from advertisers assured that A&E is attracting the viewers they covet. If the characters or content on A&E alienates many or even some viewers that reduces the network’s revenue and profit. Then their executives will act to improve those profits by eliminating the offensive content or characters including firing bigoted people from their shows.

    If Gov. Jindahl and Sarah Palin disagree with this right of capitalist private property owners, then they have more in common with the left than they would ever care to realize..

  6. I am lucky enough to know nothing of this bearded loon, but what have ducks got to do with human sexuality, which is an obsession with US law enforcers? Is sin really a topic for such a hero?

    • Ducks are an old euphemism for sexuality.and are Interchangeable with deer in that sense. The analogy is a consequence of their behavior in nature. It goes a little further in that both drakes and bucks are more or less dominated by females. Drakes typically will follow the hens around during the season and the hens will make it as difficult as possible for them to stay in their place. Female deer are under the auspices of a matriarch who controls breeding. The bucks are mindless about it during the rut. You can probably find videos on You Tube where some fool spreads scent on himself and thereby attracts a buck–who will try to mount the person or even pickup truck. that smells right

      When I was very young, I was given three male ducklings. Grown up, with no females around they made use of each other, my sisters little french poodle at least once, and the chickens (it could be fatal to the chicken if they managed to catch one). At any rate, at least since the middle ages people have made the supposed ambiguous analogy of “duck” for primitive, sexually so, people.
      I believe the idea of Duck Dynasty is that these folks have or had a small business selling duck calls–but I have never watched the show either. But the analogy would mean that A&E is floating an analogy meant to be taken publicly by the lower echelon as positive and, at the same time, is a private joke amongst the elite in the know. This is why I suggested that this is likely a produced controversy meant to take advantage of certain folk likely as an attempt to revitalize sagging ratings amongst their target market.

  7. Without arguing with your overall points, I have to take some issue with the statement: “The screed above is not required by the New Testament, which doesn’t mention gays.” This isn’t actually true. The current claim is that we’ve misinterpreted words in the NT that we’ve taken to mean ‘homosexual’ in the past. This is a very debatable argument, and not at all proven. It’s a claim made by pro-gay NT scholars, but by no means by all NT scholars.

    • Ever given any consideration to viewing the entire NT as a constructed fallacy? One that was perhaps created to control and NOT enlighten?
      good luck in life.

  8. True, Ms. Cyrus says all the correct things, just as she does all the incorrect things correctly so to better her income. And also true, I would probably disagree with Mr. Duck more than I agreed with him. However, he says what he believes whereas Ms. Cyrus says what she thinks she should believe in order to garner more acclaim, or financially rewarding notoriety. Mr. Duck has beliefs, whereas Ms. Cyrus has PR.

    In a pinch, I would prefer Mr. Duck as a neighbor for two reasons, at least. I know where he stands, and he may be a little bit more reliable, too.

  9. …And ‘We Can’t Stop’ is a wonderful tribute to the differences between people and a rebuke to haters like you-know-who!

  10. “Usually, if we hate, it is the shadow of the person that we hate, rather than the substance. We may hate a person because he reminds us of someone we feared and disliked when younger; or because we see in him some gross caricature of what we find repugnant in ourself; or because he symbolizes an attitude that seems to threaten us.” Sydney J. Harris

  11. We should keep in mind that Duck Dynasty is a PRODUCED “reality tv” program. It has been noted that firing Robertson at this time could have no consequences as they are finished taping all the upcoming shows for the near future and will not resume until this happening may very well have timed itself out.

  12. Just looking at photos of them both next to each other I can come up with a dozen ‘more top’ differences between ‘em than yours!! ;-)

  13. Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks spoke out during a London show on the eve of the war in Iraq, saying “Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas.”

    When media reports about the concert got back to the United States, country radio stations across the U.S. pulled them from circulation, with radio network giant Cumulus banning the Dixie Chicks from its more than 250 local stations.

    President Bush: “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. ”

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