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...


  1. Regarding this comment by Hurd:

    "Think about it. If gays and lesbians have a moral, and even political, “right” not to be offended, then how long before those on the other side assert the same right? (They’re already starting to do so.) How long before people with this actor’s attitudes about homosexuality start to assert, 'Hey, I have a right not to live in a world where other’s sexual practices and preferences disgust me'?"

    I can anticipate the argument about the Marxist "homosexual agenda", and that Rand's guide would be better directed towards that; but that could be flipped, as well, pointing towards an agenda pushing a "Christian theocracy" that Leonard Peikoff warned of...which reminds me of Kira's infamously edited line in WE THE LIVING: "I loathe your goals. I admire your methods." Relatedly, Michael Stuart Kelly, on his Objectivist Living site, brings up something similar, in his discussion on their DUCK DYNASTY post, regarding a book outlining the marketing of gay issues in the nineties called After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the 90's by Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen).)There's a lot that could be discussed about this, but that's enough for me. For myself, the question above, the larger abstraction, was enough to get me out of a blogging drought. As to the specific controversy in question? Less so; as an atheist homosexual, I'm not trying to get into heaven, so I'm not particularly concerned about about moral judgments based on beliefs in an imaginary deity. That said, I don't want to make too light of the still-existent support for governmental legislation against homosexuals, either, despite the huffy attitudes of some people I've read (some "objectivish", some not, even some who are well-meaning, otherwise) who are "exhausted" with homosexuals who don't see "just how good they have it." (Which sounds just like that duck guy when he says that blacks were "happy" before the Civil Rights movement living under the Jim Crow laws...)

    "And the beat goes on..."

  2. "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?"

    I would say speak up if it affects your survival.