Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Treating Phil Robertson seriously means slouching toward ‘Idiocracy’

By David McElroy

Idiocracy-Ow My Balls

It finally occurred to me over the weekend why I hate the responses of people on both sides of the Phil Robertson controversy. I would object to pretty much any reaction to what Robertson said — because paying attention to him at all is treating something trivial as though it’s important.

I’m no more interested in what Robertson has to say about homosexuality than I would be if he weighed in on whether McDonald’s or Burger King has better burgers — or whether Ukraine should join the European Union. He’s just a random nobody who has been elevated to being a faux “somebody” because of “reality” television. His views should matter about as much as the views of any random person from the phone book.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that my biggest objection to this entire controversy isn’t what anyone says about homosexuality or sin or free speech or anything like that. I simply object that we as a society are going down a pop-culture road that leads to becoming “Idiocracy.” Taking the theological and political views of a star of “Duck Dynasty” seriously makes no sense. When do we put “Ow! My Balls” on the air?

When Miley Cyrus made herself into a spectacle four months ago and everybody seemed to be taking her seriously, I begged the culture to quit worshiping celebrities. I’m not going to repeat what I said there, but I’ve realized that the Robertson case is more of the same. It’s a matter of taking a carnival sideshow and pretending it matters to serious discussion.

So-called reality television has nothing to do with reality. It’s planned, scripted and edited. The people running the shows just want consumers to watch. They don’t care whether you love or hate the people on their shows. The creator of “Duck Dynasty” once starred in an indie film set in the gay porn industry, so it doesn’t seem as though he objected to being associated with the subject. It’s just entertainment. The people they’re putting on air are just carnival clowns for your entertainment.

As long as you treat them as carnival fare — whether it’s Robertson and Co. or the idiots from “Jersey Shore” or “Teen Mom” or whatever is on now — they’re not that dangerous. They’re only dangerous when you pretend they matter.

Phil Robertson’s views about gay people and sin matter about as much as the views of whoever voices the AFLAC duck or Flo the insurance woman. He doesn’t matter. We’re elevating junk to serious status — and further heading down the road toward making all public discourse about entertainment — when we take him seriously.

If you want to watch idiotic “reality” TV, that’s your call. I guess it’s no dumber than the episodes of “Gilligan’s Island” that I used to regularly watch. But don’t let Gilligan set the agenda for public debate. His views don’t matter. Neither do Phil Robertson’s.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that the movie starring “Duck Dynasty’s” creator was not gay porn, as the article originally stated. It was actually an independent film that was set in the gay porn industry.

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