About that First Amendment: a contrarian take on Duck Dynasty

I thought about using my first diary to comment on something big, but maybe it’s just better to get it out of the way.

I understand the commotion that this has raised. Well, I understand part of it – the part where political correctness makes your skin crawl.

But that’s all this is. Inevitably, the first amendment has been trotted out and suited up for battle, despite its utter irrelevance to the situation. Nobody arrested Phil Robertson. He is as free to express himself today as he was last week as he was last year. The right to be broadcast on basic cable is neither God-given nor can it be found in the Constitution, as far as I’m aware.

Cable networks are a business. Evidently, A&E has made a calculated decision that their bottom-line will be better served by responding to the GQ interview by taking Robertson off the air. Temporarily? Permanently? I have no idea.

Given the backlash, it might seem that A&E is making a mistake. But that’s probably wrong. Who watches A&E? After Bravo, it’s probably the artsy-fartsy-est channel on basic cable. Their viewership is not a randomly-drawn sample of the U.S. population (to put it mildly). If you polled them, they probably agree with the decision. In other words, A&E is catering to their viewers — much like they were when they put Duck Dynasty on the air in the first place (more on that, below).

Which brings me to my main argument. Why are people getting upset now? This show didn’t air on network TV or on a bland cable channel like USA or TBS. It aired on A&E, and I can only imagine one explanation for that. The entire premise of the show was for effete elites to mock the cast. A&E put the Duck Dynasty folks on TV to be carnival freaks for their viewers. To me, that’s the most offensive part of this entire situation.

Robertson was OK with playing the fool for A&E because it got him paid. I’m not outraged by the fact that A&E decided it had milked its cash cow enough. That part’s a foregone conclusion. Almost all TV shows, and reality shows in particular, overstay their welcome.

So what’s a conservative to do? I defer to chieftain’s excellent diary post regarding a la carte cable subscriptions.

I didn’t watch A&E before, and I’m no more inclined to watch it now. I don’t want to pay for it, but there’s no good way to express that preference, given the current cable/satellite business model. I know that the few channels that I do watch cost more than the channels that I don’t. I could probably pick seven channels and end up with a bill that’s 90%+ of my current bill, for more than 100 channels.

I don’t care. It’s pretty simple, really. Let me pay for what I want, and don’t ask me to subsidize what I don’t want.

Update: It seems my impression of A&E is drastically out of date. I was accurately describing the channel as it existed before its re-org in 2002. Since 2002, it’s become a different channel entirely. My mistake.