Ducking the Love of Money

The culture war goes total.

At first glance, the current national debate over Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson's recent remarks on the subject of homosexuality looks very much like something we've seen many times before: a "traditional American" from flyover country says something that 99.99% of everyone since forever would find totally obvious and non-noteworthy, but which contradicts current politically-correct dogma.  They get dog-piled on unanimously by the Dominant Liberal Media Culture, and are cast forthwith into outer darkness.  End of story - but it's not.

You might think that the real story about Mr. Robertson's travails is our dying First Amendment, but Freedom of Speech is not in the picture at all.  A&E is a private television network and they have an absolute right to employ or dis-employ whoever they darn well please, for fair reasons or foul, so long as they're following the terms of Mr. Robertson's contract which we haven't seen.  If they're breaking the contract he can sue, but neither government not censorship have anything to do with it.

No, what we're seeing is something far more important than a mere constitutional right: It gives us proof positive that the way conservatives have historically viewed the Dominant Liberal Media Culture, our cultural and business elites, and really, the Way the World Works - is fundamentally wrong.  We've totally misjudged our opponents, and when you do that, of course your attempts to fight them won't work.

For lo these many years, conservatives have assumed that the anti-values tilt of business and the media is driven by monetary greed.  Sex sells, so businesses sell sex regardless of the damage open debauchery does to the culture at large.  Miley Cyrus' gyrations were undignified and unartful, but in some sense they were titillating; they added to her celebrity, which added to her twitter following and to her bank account.  Paris Hilton's sex tape made her a celebrity in the first place, leading to reality shows, millions of dollars of income, etc.

Thus, conservatives thought that the only way to can hit back is to try to hit them in the pocketbook by boycotts, but since most people of a socially-conservative bent aren't big fans of Paris Hilton or Miley Cyrus (anymore), that won't have much effect.  As long as sex sells, someone will be selling it because it's all about the Benjamins.

The Love of Money Isn't Everything

The Duck Dynasty flap shows this simplistic view of the liberal elite mindset is just plain wrong.

Now, you could argue that the Hollywood executives at A&E never understood the appeal of the Robertson family; they'd intended to make yet another chronicle of redneck mockery that ridicules old-fashioned American values.  That's probably true, but once the show took off, it went in a totally different direction.  Fans of Duck Dynasty are not watching it to laugh at loser rednecks; they're enjoying a view of an America they thought lost and forgotten, and which they admire and respect.

Again, that was probably unexpected to A&E's suits, but they didn't get where they are by being complete cretins.  They know perfectly well who is watching Duck Dynasty and they are well aware that it's not footie-pajama-clad metrosexuals.  Nor is it lesbian biker gangs, nor yet Ivy League college professors.  It is the bitter clingers of flyover country.

Regardless: their dollars are as green as anyone else's.  A&E's management don't have to agree with the values of their watchers in order to provide shows they want to see.  They don't have to like the Robertsons to enjoy the dough rolling in.

They don't even have to guess at what all those alien creatures in middle Americans might prefer to watch; they know Duck Dynasty is a major hit.  The evidence shows up every night in the ratings, the ad sales, their corporate financials, and their own personal bonuses.  Like it or not, the executives at A&E are personally tied to the financial success of the show and its stars.

Yet - they chose to throw that away by suspending Phil Robertson for his supposedly anti-gay remarks, which in reality, were nothing more than an accurate medical description of the physical acts that homosexuality entails, and an observation that the Bible defines it as sin.

Yes, the gay mafia immediately started hollering about hate.  So what?  How many homosexuals does A&E suppose watch Duck Dynasty?  All they had to do was put out some mealy-mouthed but solidly American press release professing their appalled disgust at Mr. Robertson's retrograde views but defending his right to express them.

But no.  They consciously chose to kill the goose that laid the golden eggs.  The executives at A&E made this choice intentionally and after careful consideration, because bigshot executives don't do anything without careful consideration, otherwise they wouldn't be bigshot executives in the first place.  They made a fully-informed decision that will cost them personally many millions of dollars.

Forget their company, their financials, their careers in the future - they themselves will not receive the million-dollar bonuses that would have resulted from Duck Dynasty's ongoing success if the show ends.

The Corporate Tree: Rotten All The Way Up

This matters far more than it first appears.  It's unlikely but barely possible that the decision to suspend Phil Robertson was made by senior management at A&E.  As the channel's most popular and profitable show by far, it couldn't have been made by anyone less than corporate President Nancy Dubuc, whose bio credits her with launching "the #1 nonfiction show Duck Dynasty®".

Despite the exalted title of President, however, Ms. Dubuc is barely middle-management in the grand scheme of things.  Yes, she is in nominal charge of A&E Networks, but A&E Networks is one small piece of a far larger empire.  It is operated as an even partnership between the Hearst Corporation, owners of major glossy magazines, TV stations, and assorted other billionaire toys - and, as Wikipedia puts it, "Disney-ABC Television Group, a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company."

That's right: A&E is 50% owned by Disney, whose massive fortunes are almost entirely derived from family entertainment.

While it's marginally believable that Ms. Dubuc might have made the initial decision on her own, as soon as the flap hit the news it's inconceivable that the red phone didn't quickly ring with a Very Important Person on the line.  By now, a week into the contremps, Ms. Dubuc has certainly had conversations with Robert Iger, the CEO and Chairman of the Board of Walt Disney.  It's fairly likely that Mr. Iger has had conference calls with his entire Board of Directors, all of whom are millionaires many times over, all of whom know full well that their fortunes are based in large measure on pleasing families.

If they thought that Ms. Dubuc made a bad decision, it would have been reversed in a flash of lightning and Ms. Dubuc would be spending more time with her family.  Nothing of the sort has happened; indeed, there's been not the slightest hint of any shift in A&E's position.

Let's go further: The Disney Corporation isn't owned by Walt Disney's heirs anymore, as rich as they might be.  It's a publicly traded company; you can buy stock in it yourself if you like.  Disney's Board of Directors certainly won't care what you think if you buy a few shares, but there are major institutional investors with significant shareholdings and the Board has to listen to them.  Those guys are the wolves of Wall Street who live and die by the returns on their investments; again, they have a direct personal stake in the money flow from Duck Dynasty.

If the cold-hearted Wall Street moneymen who care about nothing save money picked up the phone to Bob Iger, Phil Robertson would be back at work tomorrow.  But he's not, so we know that they haven't.  They too are sacrificing what we've always assumed meant the most to them.

More than Mere Money

Therefore: For our elites in business, industry, Wall Street, entertainment, media - there is something more important than money.  They are not pushing filth because filth makes a buck, they're pushing filth because they believe in filth.  They are siding with homosexuality even when it costs them a great deal of money to do so.

That doesn't sound like the action of a greedy Ebenezer Scrooge.  That sounds more like something that religious believers are expected to do, but in America usually don't.

Our anti-religious atheist elites are acting like religious nuts.  They're not choosing mammon over God, they're siding with sodomy over mammon and God.

No wonder the Moral Majority's puny boycotts never worked!  Sure they cost the targeted companies money, but contrary to our assumptions, money wasn't the most important thing to them.  They wanted to have their filth and promote it, too.

No wonder conservative political appeals to rational self-interest don't work either.  Sure, rich people know that Democrats will steal more of their money through higher taxes, but it's not about the money.

No wonder the leftist lies pour forth from our media unquenched, despite the major newspapers losing billions of dollars for years on end and Fox News now out-draws all the rest of cable news combined.

For some decades now, the Left has defended the promotion of homosexuality as a moral imperative on a par with ending slavery.  The right has generally assumed that's a tactic of confusion and diversion.

Through his bold statement and willingness to accept the loss of his show, and through the admirable loyalty of the Robertson clan backing him up, Phil Robertson has now proven once and for all that the leftist secular elites aren't just trying to con the rubes.  They actually do believe their own press.

They really and truly do believe that public respect for sodomy is a moral imperative, worth paying any financial or political cost.  They honestly do believe that middle-American values are evil - not just wrong, or old-fashioned, or behind the times, but actively evil such that it is preferable not to take their money by appealing to them.

Most Americans would think poorly of a storekeeper that gladly sold sheets to Klansmen, even though sheets are perfectly legal and can't harm anybody.  Most Americans would rather refuse the Klan's money and keep the sheets on the shelf, and expect everyone else to do the same.

A&E, Disney, Wall Street, and apparently the entire structure of these corporate American titans feel exactly that way about traditional American values.  They'd rather go bankrupt than sell us sheets, as they see it.

With that kind of absolutist belief, no wonder we're not getting anywhere with calls for "tolerance"!

We always thought the term "culture war" was something of an exaggeration.  Phil Robertson has demonstrated that it's not.

The other side is demanding nothing less than unconditional surrender, no matter the cost they personally pay.  So - what price is our side willing to pay to stop them?

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Society.
Reader Comments

Very well written, interesting and profound. And sad.

December 26, 2013 1:14 PM

My comment today is twofold, one that Petrarch wrote a very interesting article with points that many Scragged readers were familiar with, other points that were a deeper insight into the problem that conservatives have with getting heard. He says that boycotts have failed which is true but mainly because conservatives, libertarians, constitutionalists, etc. don't like being told what to do and do not need a plantation owner to herd us around. We prefer to go it on our own. With this brilliant observation of mine what could we possibly do to combat the destruction of our country? I propose one that has not been tried on a broad scale yet. I propose that our candidates use a "In your face" type of campaign and call a spade a spade and quit worrying about being politically correct with our positions. The candidate should take a conservative position, his position, not one that is handed down by the Ivy League Rhinos, and fight the liberals tooth and nail on each little point. He/she should point out at every point in the campaign how destructive the democrats are for Joe Six Pack and why he should throw off the yoke of liberalism and enjoy his life the way he/she wants to live it. Appeal to their dignity, their self worth, their pride, their optimism, their concern for their family and tell them that better days are ahead if they will decide whose man they are, a slave to DC or a man/woman who is free to live their life. Remind them constantly what these liberal politicians have done to them and how they have hurt them. We are getting 48% of the vote and losing by tiptoeing through the tulips. The way to campaign is to plow through the tulips and bulldoze them underground and start over with a new society modeled after one that we know that works.

December 26, 2013 4:32 PM

I believe that Petrarch is right on the ball with his contention that the elite's reaction to Phil Robertson is NOT driven by greed for money, but rather by a genuine love for decadence. It is pretty widely recognized that a most of the garbage that pours out of Hollywood loses money, while the family-friendly films make money hand over fist. And yet, the garbage continues to be made. Petrarch is correct. These people are on a kind of degenerate crusade. Some people saw this coming years ago. In his 1921 poem, "The Second Coming", the Irish poet William Butler Yeats wrote, "The best lack all conviction, and the worst are full of passionate intensity". Yeats was right.

December 26, 2013 8:52 PM

The NY Times reports that A&E caved:

Money means something after all.

The suspension stirred an uproar among fans of the show and also conservative political and religious leaders. More than 250,000 signed a petition demanding Phil Robertson’s reinstatement. Cries of anti-Christian bias from famous Republicans like Sarah Palin and Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana also followed.

More ominously, the family issued a statement saying in effect there would be no show without their patriarch.

On Friday, A&E bowed to the pressure and released a new statement, accompanying the news that Mr. Robertson would miss no episodes. The statement cited Mr. Robertson’s later comments that his views were in no way intended to “incite or encourage hate,” as well as the way the Robertson family’s interaction in the show demonstrated values like “unity, tolerance and forgiveness.”

A&E also promised to initiate a public service campaign endorsing those values.

“Duck Dynasty” is by far the highest-rated show on A&E. It has also become a marketing powerhouse. Merchandise based on the show is sold in six departments in Walmart stores, and the “Duck Dynasty” Christmas album, “Duck the Halls,” which features Mr. Robertson, has sold more than 700,000 copies since it was released. Industry insiders predicted that the controversy would increase sales.

December 28, 2013 12:00 PM

Looks like A&E backed down and restored Phil to the show. But my gosh, did it really take a week before they found some VIP who cared more about his wallet than promoting perversion?

December 31, 2013 10:37 AM
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