Sunday, December 22, 2013

Thoughts on Michael J. Hurd's "Duck Dynasty: A Controversy For A Nation of Children"

An Objectivist psychologist, Michael J. Hurd, Ph.D, has weighed in on the DUCK DYNASTY/A&E flap, with this article, "Duck Dynasty: A Controversy for a Nation of Children" (a title that fits in with his recurring refrain of his books to "Grow Up, America!".)

Dr. Hurd invokes Voltaire in his argument, captured in these excerpts:

I wish A&E were as blunt and direct as their star. I wish they’d simply say the truth, “A lot of us here find his remarks offensive and even disgusting. But the show is highly rated, and we’re first and foremost a business committed to pleasing our customers. We’ll leave it to viewers to decide if they wish to keep watching the show, or not. Remember that the actor speaks for himself, not for his character.”

The proper response by gay and lesbian groups would be to use the actor’s ignorant remarks to educate the public about the errors they see in his statements.  Beyond that, any lover of equal individual rights should say [and mean], “I detest his remarks, but I will fight to the death for his right to say them.”
That’s no longer the world in which we live. The world in which we now live is, “I have a right not to be offended.” It’s truly a world of children, mentally and psychologically, on both the cultural “left” and “right.” Sarah Palin or GLAAD…they’re all children, in this respect.

 Reading this piece, from an Objectivist point of view, reminds me of the controversy surrounding Rand's comments about homosexuality being "immoral" and "disgusting". On that, she also said it's of no one's business except for the people involved, and called for no boycotts or interventions by government. The matter of Rand's views on homosexuality for modern-day admirers of her philosophy is something of a parallel between the recent DUCK DYNASTY flap, with many people still taking her side, while others repudiate it (the difference being that while Christians see homosexuality as an affront to their god, Rand's disapproval was secular, based on her understanding of male/female psychology.)

(The negative treatment of homosexuality in Objectivism has already been documented in Chris Sciabarra's Ayn Rand, Homosexuality, and Human Liberation. But here, I will point out that I do not associate Dr. Hurd with Rand's statement, as he has gone on the record with as disagreeing with Rand on the issue. His thoughts on the matter can be read here, and, as a homosexual myself I share and appreciate the same.)

Anyway, back to Rand...Yes, when it came to homosexuality, it was "live and let live." However, when it came to the issue of communism in Hollywood, she was rather vocally opposed, and participated not only in the HUAC hearings, but put together the "Screen Guide For Americans." While Rand didn't push for government censorship, and also said (at least I believe so, but can't find the exact quote, at the moment) that she might detest a view but "fight to the death for the right to say it", she still supported boycotts and offered opposition to those ideas she detested. Though some people may take things too far, there's certainly a place and time to speak up.

But the specifics of this drama, the reality being more real than the "reality show" it rode in on, raises a more universal problem, leaving Objectivists and the "objectivish" with an interesting question: at what point does one "live and let live", and at what point does one speak out? What's the line between being concerned about the cultural direction versus a "childish" tantrum? The obvious starting point (for Objectivists, anyway), is to differentiate between freedom of speech and freedom of property, as stated in the argument that "the right to free speech does not mean that others are required to provide a platform for speech they don't agree with." And that is a larger battle that still needs to be fought in the mainstream, one that, just like this post, has only scratched the surface...