I got the gist of the “Duck Dynasty” thing after my first and only viewing: bunch of rural jackasses who somehow struck it rich get brought into our living rooms to be laughed at by the rest of us aristocrats.
Well, all right. When the archetype first appeared on television via the “Beverly Hillbillies” it was also enormously popular, but also taken as an illustration of how TV was living down to its condemnation by FCC Chairman Newton Minow as a “vast wasteland.”
In any event, A&E knew what it was doing when it put these people on the air, so its show of indignation in “suspending” one of them for speaking out against gays and the aspirations of African-Americans falls a little flat.
What’s truly ghastly, however, is the reaction of a couple of political figures. Sarah Palin’s opinion isn’t worth the 11 words I’ve just written to dismiss it.
But Bobby Jindal still holds office as the governor of Louisiana. That raises the question: Has it become acceptable again for an American politician to embrace unashamed bigotry?
In the old days, news that public funds (via the Louisiana state film and television incentive program) had helped finance racism and gay-bashing of the variety espoused by Phil Robertson, the outspoken duck dynast, would have presented a moral dilemma and created a political embarrassment for a governor.
Most self-respecting political leaders would have run away from association with such views; that’s the essence, after all, of the “leadership” part of the equation.
Not for Jindal. His only public statement on the matter thus far has praised Robertson as a member of a family of “great citizens of the state of Louisiana.” He defends Robertson’s views on the “it’s a free country” principle, which as a debating point generally gets dropped by most people before the fourth grade. “Everyone is entitled to express their views,” he says.
In Jindal’s seven-sentence statement, not a word of defense for gay people so crudely mocked by Robertson. Not a word to remind us that the life of black sharecroppers in Louisiana’s Jim Crow era was not “godly” or “happy.”
In January of this year, Jindal lectured his fellow Republicans on the need to “stop being the stupid party.” Remember?
He talked about how the Republican brand had been damaged by its candidates’ “offensive and bizarre comments.” That was supposed to represent the launch of a new GOP outreach to communities that had been excluded by Republican doctrine, including the gay and minority communities.
But that was 11 months ago. Now, according to Jindal, Republicans are supposed to embrace offensive and bizarre comments. The party’s transformation into a marginal and regional movement thus continues. Jindal has made himself the biggest jackass in the story, and his career as a national political figure the thing to be laughed at.
Michael Hiltzik is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times.