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Duck Dynasty Bigots Will Fade Into Obscurity

Memo Pad Politics

Duck Dynasty Bigots Will Fade Into Obscurity


Now that I’ve actually seen a few episodes, Duck Dynasty is relatively harmless entertainment. Whatever “reality TV” means, it’s definitely not that. It’s a semi-scripted sitcom, basically cornball self-parody. Think Hee Haw without the music. I find it utterly inane, but then I don’t watch TV with children.

The “tell” is the show’s women; cute Southern sorority girls turned mommies. In real life, no way would those women tolerate their “menfolk” running around looking like a truckload of ZZ Top impersonators. They’re also not going on TV with hay in their hair like some Hollywood director’s idea of a country girl. Every comedy needs a straight man; on Duck Dynasty it’s the women.

But realism? Please. The beards, hair and overalls are costumes every bit as theatrical as the outfits the Rolling Stones wear onstage. In the rural Arkansas county where I live, you could hang around the feed store for a month without seeing anybody like Duck Dynasty “patriarch” (and head bigot) Phil Robertson. And if you did, his wife wouldn’t have any teeth.

The Robertsons are country-clubbers posing as rednecks. Duck hunting itself — requiring, as it does, quite a bit of expensive gear and pricey leases — is mainly a rich man’s pastime in the South. Deer hunting makes economic sense; duck hunting’s a luxury. It’s what doctors, lawyers and bankers do when the weather’s too lousy for golf. Bill Clinton used to go duck hunting once a year to prove he loved guns.

(My own most recent—and final—duck hunting trip began with me tasked with lugging an outboard motor across a muddy soybean field at 5:30 AM. Never again.)

But I digress. Although many Southerners wince at yokel stereotypes, the basic Duck Dynasty joke is that every redneck is a Peter Pan at heart. The Robertson men spend their time bickering like children and making mischief with pickup trucks, ATVs, shotguns, handguns, deer rifles, chainsaws, outboard motors, dynamite, etc. Basically anything that makes loud noises and/or throws mud around.

How long, I wonder, before the Duck Dynasty boys endorse the “Bad Boy” brand of riding mowers? Currently represented by a half-clothed model urging guys to “Get a Bad Boy, Baby!” these machines have the magical capacity to convert a tax accountant mowing a suburban half-acre under his wife’s supervision to a daredevil NASCAR racer. Yee Haw!

But the laughter ended abruptly when “Duck Commander” Phil Robertson inserted himself into the nation’s vituperative culture wars. The whole thing looked like a publicity stunt gone wrong—possibly successful in the short run, but almost certain to prove destructive in the end.

Concerning which, a few thoughts:

First, Sarah Palin and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal notwithstanding, nobody has a First Amendment right to appear on TV. Make controversial public pronouncements deeply offensive to your employers, and you’d better have a backup plan.

Gene Lyons

Gene Lyons is a political columnist and author. Lyons writes a column for the Arkansas Times that is nationally syndicated by United Media. He was previously a general editor at Newsweek as wells an associate editor at Texas Monthly where he won a National Magazine Award in 1980. He contributes to Salon.com and has written for such magazines as Harper's, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Review of Books, Entertainment Weekly, Washington Monthly, The Nation, Esquire, and Slate. A graduate of Rutgers University with a Ph.D. in English from the University of Virginia, Lyons taught at the Universities of Massachusetts, Arkansas and Texas before becoming a full-time writer in 1976. A native of New Jersey, Lyons has lived in Arkansas with his wife Diane since 1972. The Lyons live on a cattle farm near Houston, Ark., with a half-dozen dogs, several cats, three horses, and a growing herd of Fleckvieh Simmental cows. Lyons has written several books including The Higher Illiteracy (University of Arkansas, 1988), Widow's Web (Simon & Schuster, 1993), Fools for Scandal (Franklin Square, 1996) as well as The Hunting Of The President: The 10 Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton, which he co-authored with National Memo Editor-in-Chief Joe Conason.

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  1. Budjob December 26, 2013

    Hypocritical bastards,everyone of them!

  2. disqus_ivSI3ByGmh December 26, 2013

    As long as they keep selling Duck Dynasty Chia Pets…

  3. Ann Snyder December 26, 2013

    I don’t find celebrations of stupidity amusing, so I’ve never been tempted by the commercials to watch the show. And after hearing one of the show’s supposed redneck idjits use perfect grammar in a complex sentence on one ad, I know they are more than they want to appear. They’ve certainly been pretty successful in turning the outrage over their racist and homophobic comments into a debate about freedom of religion, which shows a fair amount of PR sophistication.

  4. jointerjohn December 26, 2013

    I watched a few episodes. When i saw five of them sitting around a table in a small room making duck calls by hand I knew the whole thing was a fake. They didn’t make millions propped back with their feet on the checker table whittling out duck calls with Barlow knives! I did watch enough to figure out that old Phil is pretty shrewd, although his wife K is dumber than hell. I don’t mean down home country simple I’m talking about certifiably learning disabled. If it was just an act for the sake of the show it sure was a good one, that woman would have to study up just to take a Pap Test.

    1. Khoorla January 1, 2014

      How ever they happened ’round, what was stated in front of millions of folk should have some punishment. He had a pat on the back and then set free to continue to make the peoples money. There’s just too many slippage of the tongue of these celebrities that is telling about their true thoughts. GOD forbid if any of’em decide to act on their thoughts.

      1. leadvillexp January 2, 2014

        Like so many things in our society we find a wrong and take the correction to the extreme. We had Jim Crow so we attempt to correct it and outlaw the N word. We try to purge it from old books like Tom Sawyer. We see people killed by guns so we punish a 6 year old that chews a biscut into that shape and points it and says bang. There is no law against thoughts or for that matter speaking them as long as they are not a threat. I have know many good people that think like Phil and many that don’t. Many of the people I know that think like Phil know I think otherwise and they accept me as I believe. There is no cause for punishment.

      2. highpckts January 3, 2014

        This “bad” publicity has not hurt them at all! They are now coming out with their own line of guns! It seems that the more crude you are, the more people flock to you not to mention big money backer!!

  5. Lynda Groom December 26, 2013

    They’ve already done so in my neck of the woods.

  6. John Pigg December 27, 2013

    The “Duck Dynasty” controversy is largely a waste of time.

  7. Michael Kollmorgen December 27, 2013

    When the TV Elites endorse this type of programming it just lowers the quality of TV Viewing down a few more notches.

    Cater to the bottom line is all these creeps are doing. And, it seems to be working, gaining support from like-minded TV watching idiots who think its real.

    I suppose down in some of those hollers, that is real life. Wouldn’t surprise me. The quality of human being in the US has a wide diversity of lifestyles. I just hope their lifestyle is way in the minority of what most of us sane people consider extreme white trash being fantasy or real.

    Whatever they are, real or fantasy, our tv screens, whatever equipment you use to view it deserve better.

    1. Theodora30 December 27, 2013

      What is truly sad is that this show is on the “A&E” Channel, one of those for profit educational channels conservatives claimed would prove that public funding was not essential for truly educational television. The free market will take care of all our needs, don’t cha know?

      Try finding history on the History Channel. Ice Road Truckers is their Duck Dynasty. Sadly PBS funding has been cut so badly that it doesn’t do much great educational programming (particularly about history) either and gets most of its dramas from the publicly funded BBC.

      The Pope was exactly right that capitalism should serve humans, not vice versa. Gearing everything toward making a profit is deeply corrosive to peopl. it is also destructive to the health of democracy, which needs citizens who understand things like history. And being a fully developed human requires more than just having a job and mindless entertainment to fill the rest of your time. (Not that mindless entertainment doesn’t have its place.)

      1. Michael Kollmorgen December 27, 2013

        Conservatives have consistently lowered the funding for public education such as PBS (and public education in general) because its primary purpose was/is to “educate” the public. Education scares the crap out of conservatives. It rattles their bones to the core.

        It’s better to keep the public ignorant according to them.

        The jury is going to be out on the Pope for a long time. He’s packaging catholic dogma very nicely at the moment and is very appealing. The Substance of what is done is going to be way more important than what he says.

        I like the guy basically. He’s got good intentions, but the politics of it is probably going to ruin what he wants to do. And, assassinations have happened to Popes in the past. He’s got to watch his back very carefully. This is my greatest fear for him.

        The Catholic Church has a lot to do before any major changes can take place. It took them over 2000 years to get where Christianity is today. It might take another 2000 years to clean it up.

        Personally, I don’t think the planet Earth has that long to wait.

        1. Theodora30 December 27, 2013

          I basically agree with your assessment of the Pope but he has reframed the debate to one about the value of ordinary individuals not just those with money.

          Given the respect he receives from the mainstream media cowards as well as the number of powerful conservative Catholics – Scalia, Thomas, Alito, Roberts and Kennedy on the Supreme Court and the Ayn Rand loving Paul Ryan to name a few – this is a golden opportunity to hold their feet to the fire by challenging their decidedly un-Christian disdain for ordinary people.

        2. KarenJ December 30, 2013

          Pope Francis excommunicated a priest in September because the priest refused to stop “public teaching on the ordination of women contrary to the teaching of the Church and [because of] his public celebration of the Eucharist when he did not hold faculties to act publicly as a priest.”

          “Fr Reynolds is also a supporter of same-sex marriage and has attended rallies in favour of changing the definition of marriage. He has even reportedly presided at same-sex ceremonies.”


          The Catholic Church still has a few centuries to catch up on.

          1. Michael Kollmorgen December 30, 2013

            How could the Pope excommunicate a priest who didn’t act as a Priest publicly?

            Aren’t all ordained Priest able to act Publicly?

            And, how could a priest act as a priest (officially) if they weren’t ordained?

            Yea, I’d say they have a loooonnnggg way to go.

  8. paganheart December 27, 2013

    I find it supremely ironic that (at least among people in my family and community) the same people who can’t shut up about how Duck Dynasty is “the best show on TV” because the Robertson clan show “how real, God-fearing folk in real America live their lives,” are also the same ones who also can’t shut up about how “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” is nothing but “shallow, superficial, immoral trash” and complain about how the Kardashian clan, and their “trashy liberal California values” are “everything that’s wrong with America.”

    They do not seem to realize that the Robertsons, while they may have come from nothing, are now millionaires many times over thanks to their duck call business. They have likely made millions more thanks to all of the licensing deals their show has spawned. In fact, they might even be worth more than the Kardashian clan. “Real Folks,” the Robertsons are not. They just play them on TV in what the author rightly describes as little more than a “Hee Haw” update. (More like “The Beverly Hillbillies,” IMO.) It is an act, every bit as shallow, superficial and phony as the one the Kardashians put on. It just plays to a different audience.

    But really, is there that much difference between Kim Kardashian, who despite growing up amidst wealth and affluence still decided to get attention by making her own porno flick; and Willie Robertson, who apparently found himself so bored after his family business became successful that he spent his time trying to get himself and his clan on shows like Survivor, The Amazing Race, and Big Brother before finally getting A&E to take the bait? In both cases, all I can see are people with giant, gaping holes in their souls that no amount of success or riches can fill, so they seek out celebrity and fame. And it usually does not end well. Phil Robertson’s quotes may well mark the beginning of the end of Duck Dynasty.

    As far as Phil Robertson goes, why is anyone actually surprised that a man who grew up as self-described “white trash” in the Jim Crow south would hold such racist and homophobic beliefs? I’m not. Several of my own family grew up as Phil Robertson did, and hold the same beliefs he does. Few people of that place and era transcend beyond their narrow views of the world. The only thing surprising to me is that he actually answered the question when the GQ writers posed it. The writers had to have known what the answer would be, and it will likely just further cement in the minds of Duck Dynasty fans the idea that the “liberal media” is out to get them.

    And all “Reality TV” IMO is a blight on humanity, and is the main reason I’ve all but stopped watching TV in my own home. The world would be a better place if it all disappeared from the airwaves.

    1. ayungclas December 27, 2013

      Thank you for putting my thoughts into words, I couldn’t have done it so well. I too have quit watching TV except for an occasional Packers game. As I think, Alfonso Cuarón, once said, “TV is not reality”. I have found many books to read at our local libraby.

      1. 1olderbutwiser1 January 1, 2014

        Yeah, TV, certainly including major network news, is not reality. Of all these books you read, how many are reality? Most books are fiction. very few are reality, and the ones except accurate??/ historical accounts, are usually very dry techno material.

    2. leadvillexp December 29, 2013

      I have to agree with alot of what you said. I have stuck up for Phils right to say what he he said. I don’t think he should be punished for speaking his beliefs. As for the Kardashians I don’t believe that they are real. They are playing for the TV. The Duck Dynasty people are real. They may be bigoted and anti gay but they are real. I think Ms. Kay said it best when she said they would rather loose all than go on without their patriarch. Reality TV stinks. Duck Dynasty is funny so I keep on watching. If you want reality you have to take the ugly along with the good.

      1. mrcondo December 30, 2013

        The Duck dynasty people are not real, there’s many photo’s of their past when none wore camo and all wore Hawian shirts and Kaki’s instead. The duck call business wasn’t a million dollar story. It was a regular old family business until the Duck Dynasty show launched it off the planet. They had their family members shoot a bunch of footage of them all geared up and doing dumb redneck stuff and it took off and launched the business. THE REALITY IS; they had a good “idea for a show” that promoted their business at the same time and they ran with it. The whole show is just a glorified superbowl commercial and the people watching it are just too damn dumb to realize different.

      2. 1olderbutwiser1 January 1, 2014

        Well presented. Phil spoke his mind, and the weenies were offended. Better they be offended than freedom of speech be squelched by the weenies, who practice their freedom of speech and then some.

        1. leadvillexp January 1, 2014

          I don’t agree with Phil on his anti gay or Jim Crow stance. I will stand up for his right to have them and speak his mind without having to loose his job. A free society works best when all can speak their differences with out fear. This means both sides, not just one. If people don’t like him they can stop watching the show and let the ratings decide.

      3. 1olderbutwiser1 January 1, 2014

        Being anti-gay is not being bigoted. The Big Brothers have convinced you to be politically correct, you now have lost your common sense. Phil is a God-fearing man, something a welfare state has shoved aside. Have you heard the joke about father’s day in Harlem? I give Obama some credit for his one statement he made…..parenthood does not end with conception.

  9. pisces63 December 27, 2013

    I’m sorry!! These are REAL people??? Are you kidding me. I have never watched the show and never will, any more than i will the ones who ‘rassle’ alligators in the swamps. As my youngest daughter would put it, they look like they ‘stank’!! Monroe, huh? My family is from Farmerville. I love TV but not this type. I watch history, ID, Food channel, especially, Chopped, triple D, Iron Chef America. I love to study WWII and watch the military channel, H2. I prefer movies on Turner or on the movie channels like Cloud Atlas, etc. REALITY. Only American idol. Now I am waiting for Game of Thrones, Vikings, to start up. Witches of East End, ended. Once Upon a Time is on hiatus until March and will include ‘Wicked’. NOW, THAT is a smart show and I love the fact i know every story and character portrayed. My regular programs include Criminal Minds, Arrow, Sleepy Hollow, Agents of Shield and I am a 64, soon to be 65 year old black woman. My reading is just as diverse. I added my race to let people know i am not in a box. I am open to what is good. I love Bon Jovi along with my Temptations. Santana, Prince, Elton John, George Michael, Billy Joel, Boz Scaggs, Katy Perry makes me ‘ROAR’. Just love it and her. Cannot stand rap anything or much of any hip hop. Tina Turner said it best, give me something with life and energy.

    1. Michael Kollmorgen December 28, 2013

      You are a very enlightened lady.

      My congrats to you:)

      Yea, the Temptations, Supremes, Earth Wind n Fire, KC and the Sunshine Band, Chicago and many many more really rock the house around here:) I’m white, going on 65 this June and these bands were the best around when I was growing up into young adult.

      Though I have to admit, I have a soft spot for the Big Band Era; Benny Goodman, Glen Miller, Cab Callaway, Lucky Millinder and many others.

      Of course, Frank Sinatra (Ole Blue Eyes), Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. were fantastic. Up here around the Cleveland area there is a chain italian restaurant called Danny Boys, sponsoring everything Rat Pack. Brought a tear to my eye the first time I was in the place:)

      1. pisces63 December 31, 2013

        Michael, join the club. big band!!!! Glen Miller, especially. There is something so hauntingly wonderful about his music. I was born out of my time. I would have been on the ballroom floor and dressed to the max. Whenever the movie is shown, I watch. I have him, Sinatra( the music from Pal Joey bewitches, bothers and bewilders me, LOLOLOL), The count, Duke, Rosemary Clooney, Dinah Washington, etc., you name it. My Christmas ring tone was Santa Baby by Eartha Kitt. Those days at work are the Big Band days and it is all I listen to while working. I also have blues day. My people are from Louisiana and my late husband from Mississippi, in fact Muddy Waters sang about his little town in a song, Rolling Fork. My favorite is Jimmy Reed. All my music is at work and when I retire, i will have a truck load to take home. I am in Cleveland, my dear.

        1. pisces63 December 31, 2013

          Meant to add, Chicago since they were the Chicago Transit Authority. The elements(EWF), even my children love them and my son’s first music collection was stevie Wonder. He would wake us up every morning playing ‘I Wish’ at 3 years old, he is now 40. can we also add Louis Prima BEFORE he was the voice of the Monkey King in the Jungle Book. We can add jazz with Eddie Harris and Les McCann(Compared to What).

        2. Michael Kollmorgen December 31, 2013

          I’m born out of my age as well.

          This is especially true in the area of the type of music I like. I have a music background, forced to play Accordion between 6 and 13 and gave it up, now up to this day gives me a great appreciation for fine music and good quality stereo systems.

          Glass Audio Rocks:) My favorite music these days is Pink Floyde, Moody Blues, ELO, alternative mood music. You must investigate Movie Sountrack CDs. They are fantastic:) I like bands and singers who have full orchestras backing them.

          Those days are gone for the most part:(

          I also lived in Cleveland, in particular, Maple Hts. I moved out of Cleveland down to Canton – never to return!

          1. pisces63 December 31, 2013

            I won 40 years of John Williams, Beverly Hills Cop, Broadway from Wiz to Wicked to Ragtime to Porgy and Bess, old and new, West Side Story, I played piano and when there were any number of sheet music stores downtown, i would buy what i wanted to learn from Rhapsody in Blue by Gerswhin, Born Free, Exodus, you name it.

          2. pisces63 December 31, 2013

            Own John Williams and it is amazing what he has scored, from John Wayne’s the Cowboys to the Rare Breed, Witches of Eastwick, Presumed Innocent, Frank Langella’s Dracula, not just Star Wars, ET, Raiders, Jaws, Amistad, etc. I’m also a BIIIIIIG movie buff.

          3. Michael Kollmorgen December 31, 2013

            I think my parents would have done me a lot better by letting me decide what I was to learn. I think I might have chosen either Piano or Guitar. I probably would have enjoyed Piano a lot more.

            I have a friend who switched from Accordion to Piano and now has his own band and was playing the Holiday Inns, the last time I saw him, probably 10 years ago.

            By the time I was 13, I had won several state competitions and my teacher told me he couldn’t teach me anymore. I might have been dam good at it. But, at the expense of a lost childhood, it wasn’t worth it. Though the entire affair was pure hell to me, it did leave me with a deep appreciation for good music.

            I tried picking up both recently and learning them. But, never really got motivated enough to settle down to it. I might try again some day. But, at 64, I think that is rather foolish.

            Oh well, maybe better luck in the next life:)

  10. JDavidS December 27, 2013

    Anyone who’s IQ was larger than their shoe size never watched these buffoons to begin with.

  11. jdwilli09 December 27, 2013

    I don’t watch the show and wasn’t suckered in by A&E’s attempt to drum up viewers for the Christmas marathon. People do realize that these guys had beards and millions long before the show right? That’s WHY they got the show. Sure now they have more millions. They say Duck Dynasty products sold over 400 million last year. Just shows that the writer of this article did no real research, just watched a couple episodes if even that. Then, wrote what he wanted to write. He had his opinion and article and maybe watched an episode or two in order to legitimize his thoughts. Phil is an ignorant redneck no doubt. I’m not sure he really runs around claiming to be much else though. Other than a Christian. Which, on a site like this might be more off-putting than being ignorant. Or some will say one in the same. Anyways, good luck folks, right now it is ignorance screaming at ignorance.

    1. Grant Rohr December 28, 2013

      Talk is cheap: claiming that you are a Christian does not make you one; how you treat those around you is the “true test”. Read Matthew 25: verses 31-40, to hear what Jesus himself had to say about what it takes to be a part of the Kingdom of God.

  12. mrcondo December 30, 2013

    The Duck dynasty people are not real but characters. There’s many photo’s of their past when none wore camo or had beards and all wore Hawaiian shirts and Kaki’s instead. The duck call business wasn’t a million dollar story. It was a regular old family business until the Duck Dynasty show launched it off the planet. They had their family members shoot a bunch of footage of them all geared up and doing dumb redneck stuff and it took off and launched the business. THE REALITY IS; they had a good “idea for a show” that promoted their business at the same time and they ran with it. The whole show is just a glorified superbowl commercial and the people watching it are just too damn dumb to realize different.

  13. neeceoooo December 30, 2013

    The fact that many people watch this show and follow the lives of these idiots speaks volumes for the mentality of this country which is the sad truth.

  14. 1olderbutwiser1 January 1, 2014

    I watch TV for entertainment, news, weather. While DD is not educational, it is entertaining. It’s as honest a lifestyle as portrayed, being about the same honesty as biased major network news. Squeaky wheels get major news coverage in a manner to create public controversy and enhance their bottom line with atrocious advertising rates. At one time in their company history, these guys may have well whittled their own duck calls. that’s how industry starts. They are icons of free enterprise, the people who resent them are the ones who are simply jealous of their success. Anyone with a brain in their head realizes their portrayed lifestyle is a ruse. Look at the portrayed fathers whose profession of knowledge and wisdom, and fairness and rational exuberance as portrayed on TV and the silver screen were actually perverts looking for little boys’ anuses to place their male member. Absolute sicko people. DD represents monogamous relationships where work is rewarded, success is earned, not granted to entitlement people by faceless benevolents, …and the show doesn’t need laughtracks, applause signs lit up, and a dozen makeup artists and lighting specialists hiding just out of view of the cameras. And it accurately portrays the trappings of wealth, referred to as the “subdivision yuppies”, which as more and more high-priced homes in these subdivisions are foreclosed on, is a rather accurate portrayal of modern life. The rules in subdivisions are designed to promote postcard presentations of living there in a manner to enhance the tax collectors coffers, and when credit is tight, the assessments continue to rise anyway, since gov people (govpee) always feel they are entitled to more. The goal of a degenerating public would be for the successful to have to give up their wealth to a few thieving attorneys who have found some way they can sue, and even though not really a viable case, force the DD people to start doling substantial portions of their accrued and well-earned wealth to the thieves perpetrating a fraud by bringing a case. We need serious and permanent tort reform. It may well be, and then proven irrefutably that the Shakespearian approach will be the only approach that can work, who knows? Normal everyday people like a good belly laugh, the meanest and wealthiest prefer grandeur. It’s the normal everyday people who like DD, the harshest of critic would prefer a presentation of delusional power, murder, blackmail, thievery, police authority and brutality, lawyers winning against all odds, constant undercover law enforcement, perversions of all types, sympathy and overt generosity for underachievers, etc.as being the normal and correct ??????? way to live. I find DD refreshing and honest.


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