Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Duck Duck Duck...DYNASTY!

Q (Editor): What are your thoughts on the Duck Dynasty controversy that blew up last week? Was A&E right to suspend Phil from the show?
A: I've been doing a lot of thinking about this topic. To catch people up, Phil Robertson gave an interview to GQ magazine (the full text of which can be seen here) several months ago in which he said a number of, well, colorful things. Early in the article the author pulls this bit of opinion out of Phil:
“It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”
I've been reading that this quote is homophobic. I can see how someone would interpret it that way, but to me that's an uncharitable reading. Phil is saying that he prefers heterosexual sex to homosexual sex. Does that make him a homophobe? No, it doesn't. He's stating a preference. But the reaction to it tells me that we've reached a point in the public discussion on homosexuality where it's no longer acceptable to tolerate. Now you must celebrate and champion, and anything less is considered to be denigration and hatred. Like it or not, that's where we are, and I'm not happy with this development.

Later Phil was asked this question by the author:
What, in your mind, is 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.”
Like the first quote I can see how people would overreact to this if they chose to. But here's the thing: Phil was talking about sin, and in Christianity there's a lot of sin out there. Bestiality, homosexual behavior, stealing, being drunk, all sins. You can like that or not like it, but that's what the church teaches.

The specific issue people have is that they think Phil was equating homosexuality with bestiality. I'm interested in what leads people to come to that conclusion. Let's try this thought experiment: In a lecture to a group of students a professor says that arson, burglary, and manslaughter are all felonies. Does that mean that the professor is equating arson with manslaughter? Yes, in the sense that both are felonies, but not in the sense of the morality of the acts. Phil is quoting what Christianity says about morality in general. I think that the bigger morality point he was making was about promiscuity in general, be it with men, women, animal, whatever.

The other controversial thing that has emerged from the article was Phil's comments about his observations on race relations in America while he was growing up:
“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field.... They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!... Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”
First, notice the qualifier at the start of the quote: "I never, with my eyes..." Now, is this a cop-out? Maybe. But let's assume for a second that he's being truthful about his recollections. Does this mean that he cast a blind eye towards the racism that was going on around him? I don't know, because he didn't say so. As I read it he was talking about the moral state of the community, not about the legal state. I think it's self-evident that blacks are better off without slavery and Jim Crow laws, but the critics of Phil seem to be saying that he doesn't think so. I think that this is an interesting debating tactic. Nothing in the quote says anything about slavery or Jim Crow. I wonder what the reaction would have been if he'd said that slavery and Jim Crow were bad things before opining on the morality question. I think that the critics would have ignored the preamble and raked him over the coals anyway, because he's from the south and probably a racist and, well, you know, right?

As an aside, the topic of morality is an interesting conversation about race relations in America that would be good to have. Were blacks in America better off "pre-entitlement, pre-welfare" like Phil says? But if a person who even brings up the topic is immediately shouted down with cries of "Racist! RACIST!", how can a conversation take place? It can't, and that's the point of the critics.

The common theme I'm seeing here is one of judgement. I need to think a little more about this but watch that space.

So was A&E right to suspend Phil from the show? That's a question that only the executives at A&E can answer. I can tell you that I would not have suspended him. In fact, I would have risen to his defense against the bullies in mainstream society. But I am not in charge of a cable channel. I can tell you that Duck Dynasty will likely be canceled and find a new home in cable, grow more popular, then fade out just as quickly because that's how things go in television. The next new thing will come along and Duck Dynasty will be a footnote in television history.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Relaunch

[Editor's Note: It's been two and a half years since I last heard from Tim. Two and a half glorious, editing-free years. I kept tabs on him, of course, which is easy to do in these days of oversharing on social media sites. Thanks to Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Instagram I knew that he'd met a lovely young woman named Katie and that they are recently married. He looked happier than I'd ever seen him and from what I can tell the old cliché, "she's the best thing that ever happened to him" applies.

So when I got an email from Tim a few weeks ago I was a little surprised. I figured that he was happily settled into married life and that his other pursuits were keeping him busy. And they are, but what he told me was that he wanted to dust off the old site and use it to re-enter the public discussion.
In short, my days of editing Tim's rambling, incoherent writings are back. And to be honest, I'm excited. He seems motivated and enthusiastic about his writing again and that means that this might just be a fun job. Or it could flame out spectacularly. At this point I'll take either one.] 

For those of you just joining us, let me recap. Actually, I won't re-cap. I'll let my editor help me out with this.

Q: Hi, Tim. Welcome back.
A: Thanks.

Q: So what is this exactly?
A: This is the Internet. It's basically a series of tubes.

A: Sorry. This is an online question-and-answer site that I began back in 2006 under the name "Ask Mitssob."

Q: Who or what is "mitssob"?
A: Mitssob is a nickname I was given in college. It's my name spelled backwards.

Q: Why did you decide to come back now?

Q: (pauses) Um, what?
A: Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch? Right?

Q: Actually it was LL Cool J, but I get your point.
A: The reason I'm coming back now is that the itch to resume has gotten too big for me to scratch. Or something.

Q: Huh?
A: How about this: I missed writing "Ask Mitssob". I've spent some time reading back over the questions and answers from years gone by and I remembered how much fun it was. So I decided to re-launch.

Q: Now that we've gotten that out of the way, what do you want to do here?
A: First and foremost I want to keep true to the original mission of "Ask Mitssob": taking random questions and giving random answers. It was a lot of fun and gave me a chance to learn and explore, so I want to keep doing that. I also want to start answering questions that I see in daily life and use those questions to tackle the news of the day and give my opinions on them.

Q: Will this be more political than the old "Ask Mitssob"?
A: Yes. In the old days I answered questions about some political topics, including elections, neoconservatism, and climate change hysteria. I enjoyed the chance to think through topics and develop my own personal ideology and beliefs. Lately I've had the urge to chime in on the public political discourse, but I also didn't want to clutter up my other personal social media. This brand and platform solves that problem. I've got both this blog and a twitter account, and will expand further as I develop the brand more.

Q: Why the name change? "Ask Mitssob" had a certain simple ring to it.
A: I know, but I also felt like it was time for a change. Like I said, I wanted to create a brand across multiple platforms, one that lets me separate my opinions from my other social media. I already use "mitssob" for my personal social media so I wanted to create a split. After thinking and trying various combinations on a piece of paper I finally came up with "Answer Boss". Simple, descriptive, and it works my name into it. Everybody wins.

Q: Except for people who loved the old name. You've kind of screwed them.
A: Well as the saying goes, you can't make an omelet without pissing people off.

Q: I see that your gift for rhetorical flourish needs as much work as it ever did.
A: And that you haven't lost your sense of humor.

Q: What other things are you going to use this site for?
A: The first side project I'm going to tackle is writing a review of a new book by Hugh Hewitt called "The Happiest Life". I've been a fan of Hugh and his eponymous radio show for many years. In fact, part of why I'm creating this platform is so that I can take a more active part in the Hughniverse. When Hugh announced that he was writing a new book and that he was looking for a "Street Team" I eagerly jumped on. Members get an advance e-copy of the book, and in exchange they have to write a review and promote the book on their social media network. It's a good first use of this new platform and I'm excited to try it out.

Q: Last question: can we expect to see an increase the quality of your writing?
A: Yes, but it will take time so please bear with me. I'm a bit rusty at this.

Q: Well good luck to both of us.
A: Likewise? Thanks? Not sure how I'm supposed to respond to that.

Q: Just sign off already. I've got other things to do.
A: OK. Thanks for coming back.