Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson has been under fire - and on "indefinite hiatus" from A&E - after his interview in GQ magazine was published in its January 2014 issue. While the article contained several statements that could be considered controversial, public and media outrage has been directed at his answer to the interviewer's question about what Robertson considers sinful:
Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.
Robertson is a self-proclaimed "Bible thumper," and is outspoken on the show about how traditional Christian values have shaped him and his family. He credits Christianity for transforming his life from one of alcoholism and drug abuse to the sober life he leads today.
The main protesters of Robertson's statements are the gay rights organization GLAAD and the civil rights organization NAACP. Their letters and supporters are the main reason A&E put Robertson on hiatus. GLAAD spokesperson Wilson Cruz had this to say about Robertson's remarks:
Phil and his family claim to be Christian, but Phil's lies about an entire community fly in the face of what true Christians believe. He clearly knows nothing about gay people or the majority of Louisianans — and Americans — who support legal recognition for loving and committed gay and lesbian couples. Phil's decision to push vile and extreme stereotypes is a stain on A&E and his sponsors who now need to reexamine their ties to someone with such public disdain for LGBT people and families.
A portion of the NAACP's joint letter with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is excerpted here:
As you may know, Phil attacked both African Americans and LGBT people in a recent GQ interview (January 2014) – saying that African Americans were happier under Jim Crow laws, and equating being gay with bestiality and promiscuity," the groups wrote, adding, "These remarks go beyond being outlandishly inaccurate and offensive. They are dangerous and revisionist, appealing to those in our society who wish to repeat patterns of discrimination ... Mr. Robertson claims that, from what he saw, African Americans were happier under Jim Crow. What he didn’t see were lynching and beatings of black men and women for attempting to vote or simply walking down the street.
While the American constitution gives everyone a right to free speech, it wouldn't be right to examine this issue without looking at all sides of it. Moreover, why would a popular mainstream magazine like GQ even publish such statements at all? From a HUMAN RACE perspective and by looking at the greater picture, this particular question seems to be more important than what Robertson and his opposition have said.
Unfortunately, modern society is media driven. Most of the hundreds of thousands of media outlets on television, radio, print and the Internet are owned by a handful of mega-corporations: Comcast, Newscorp, Disney, Viacom, Time-Warner and CBS (for the full story and an educational graphic, visit Business Insider). So basically, these six corporations control the vast majority of what is put out there for public consumption. According to Business Insider, approximately 230 business executives decide most of what is considered newsworthy.
Corporations, small businesses and "mom and pop" stores have one thing in common: they want to make money. When you have six conglomerates basically running the media show, it only makes sense that they would want to broadcast, print and stream things that will bring consumers (and their wallets) running. From a business sense, GQ made a genius move by publishing Robertson's comments! Just like Miley Cyrus's recent escapades, it brings public attention. Attention is publicity, no matter whether the reaction is positive or negative.
Attention also perpetuates problems, especially when two or three groups of people hold vastly different opposing opinions on an issue. Christians support Robertson; gay people, their advocates and many African-Americans condemn him. The real problem here is that all of them are technically "right" because opinions can't be wrong. So, here's another America divided! This just makes the conglomerates' wallets fatter and perpetuates an atmosphere of social fear.
It's natural to feel passionate about certain issues and it's everyone's right to express that passion. The problem starts when "opposing" passions collide, bringing negative attention to the issue at hand. The most powerful tool Americans have to stop these futile clashes is silence. It may be tough to not say anything, especially on social media where "discussions" can get very heated, but if more people thought about the consequences of what they say before they say it, the country would be less divided on some major issues. And a country (or world) united is way more powerful than any conglomerate, political party or corporation.
Research shows that not one single American has changed political parties, their stance on religion, gay rights, civil rights or any other major issue that divides us because of a post or comment on social media.* It would behoove all Americans to keep this in mind and to remember that by posting, commenting, writing letters, emails or blog posts about one side of a coin, they are just bringing attention (and power) to the controversy itself. That's just what the conglomerates want! The phrase silence is golden is the absolute best advice available in order to promote peace and tolerance on a human level.
*The research referenced above is based on the author's personal experiences with social media. The author encourages readers to cite opposing research.