The suspension of Duck Dynasty “patriarch” Phil Robertson by the Arts and Entertainment Network, following the publication of a story in the men’s magazine GQ that quoted Robertson’s fundamentalist Christian rejection of homosexuality and sins to follow via the slippery slope, has dominated the chatter on Fox and other mass media.
This blog takes issue with the undue emphasis on such issues as free speech versus rights of corporations to control speech, or the public relations failure of A & E, or whether GLAAD –part of the gay rights movement– came on too strong (Mark Steyn). In other words, the event has been covered as yet another over-the-top episode in the Great American Culture Wars.
What virtually everyone I have heard misses is the content of the original article by Drew Magary. (See http://www.gq.com/entertainment/television/201401/duck-dynasty-phil-Robertson. Those who have emphasized Robertson’s “racism” are oblivious to the fact that the comments on happy blacks was set off from the piece almost as an inset, and was possibly derived from a ghost-written autobiography that Robertson claims he never read. In any case, he was a poor white working alongside black farm labor, not spurning their company.)
First, Magary was both attracted and repelled by the Louisiana “rednecks” and their way of life. What the observant reader might have noticed is the style of the piece: Magary is a “gonzo” journalist, drawing upon the fashionable Hunter Thompson innovation, in which subjectivity replaced any attempt to describe with minimum personal bias, the object of one’s reportage. Even a casual reader might have noticed Magary’s ambivalence, perhaps the result of an urban, effete reporter getting down with American primitives in their native habitat. We used to call this primitivism, or a test of manhood and a retreat from feminized American culture. (Ernest Hemingway did it most famously, and will be ever adored by the literati.)
Second, given Robertson’s counter-culture youth, it might have been useful to reflect on the journey from 1960s pseudo-romanticism (anarchism and the lack of boundaries) to family reunification as provided by evangelical Christianity. I have written before about those moderate conservatives who feared that an overly harsh superego would drive children into the arms of either fascist or communist extremists, so proposed a more gentle or “balanced” nurture (see https://clarespark.com/2009/08/25/t-w-adorno-and-his-funny-idea-of-genuine-liberalism/). But the moderate men of even such “rightist” refuges as Fox News or The Wall Street Journal are structurally precluded from reporting their own adherence to “fairness and balance”.
In the interest of attracting maximum readers and viewers, we can’t talk about ambivalence or primitivism. For a partial index to my blogs on primitivism see https://clarespark.com/2013/04/16/blogs-on-anarchismpunkprimitivism/.