Ted Cruz and the Quran-Burning Guy Are Right About Duck Dynasty

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Dec. 19 2013 4:16 PM

Ted Cruz and the Quran-Burning Guy Are Right About Duck Dynasty

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Duck Dynasty: fun show, or theater of (culture) war?

Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for A&E Networks

Perhaps the Feiler Faster Thesis can explain why our usual December tradition, the War on Christmas, has been supplanted by a daily Internet outrage about something new. Phil Robertson, one of the stars of Duck Dynasty, participated in a fun GQ profile about his family and the show. He said, at one point, that gay sex was sinful and that he had never personally seen mistreatment of black people in the South. "Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there," he said. "Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men."

As far as I knew, Duck Dynasty was a show about loveable Southern stereotypes who had adventures. Why people were surprised that a 67-year-old white Southerner would be disapproving of homosexuality—look, I have no idea. But A&E pulled Robertson from its show, and conservative politicians immediately took umbrage. Ted Cruz was one of the first with an opinion.

If you believe in free speech or religious liberty, you should be deeply dismayed over the treatment of Phil Robertson. Phil expressed his personal views and his own religious faith; for that, he was suspended from his job. In a free society, anyone is free to disagree with him--but the mainstream media should not behave as the thought police censoring the views with which they disagree.
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Someone named Sarah Palin, who I believe was governor of a state for a while in the last decade, also weighed in, but it was Quran-burning pastor Terry Jones who got me interested.

If a homosexual expresses his opinion, he is praised. When Muslims demand that we appease them in their religious traditions, our country bends over backwards to do that. When people are in our country illegally, they demand benefits that they should not have and do not deserve, again we appease them. And when a United States citizen exercises his first amendment rights, he is immediately condemned by the political system and the news media, with the goal of silencing him, thus stopping him from exercising his first amendment rights.

Apart from the usual fallacy about "the First Amendment" protecting anyone from any consequences for what they say, ever, isn't that basically right? The Duck Dynasty cast was a little island in the great culture war ocean, a collection of white Southerners whom liberals could love. They were even invited to the 2012 White House Correspondents' Dinner! They didn't sign up for this on the condition that they moderate their beliefs. But they got punished anyway, and presto, yet another semi-enjoyable aspect of life becomes tinder for culture warfare and fundraising. First chicken sandwiches, then duck calls—what next?

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.