Hypersensitive Culture

Did any of you hear about Duck Dynasty’s star being taken off the air for anti-gay and racist comments?  Maybe you’ve never heard of Duck Dynasty?  I hadn’t heard of it either, but then again, I don’t really watch TV.

I looked into it a little and it seems to be a sort of comedy reality show for rural audiences.  It’s about a group of self-described rednecks, with funny beards, who play pranks on one another, hunt and fish in the woods, and that sort of thing.  It’s the most popular show in the U.S. garnering something like 12 million viewers each time it airs.


LGBT activist groups have been pressuring A&E to take them off the air.  The network execs at A&E should just ignore any external pressure and allow Duck Dynasty to go on unhindered.

Conservatives have rightly been arguing that they can’t even express their views any longer without the thought police coming in to shut them down.  In this case, I do agree with them, they are being persecuted.  You can look at the Duck Dynasty cast and guess what sort of beliefs they’d hold.  The show’s star used to be a hippy but then tried to find God and became a Christian.  When he makes his remarks toward gays, it’s religion talking.

I wish fundamentalist Christianity wasn’t so harsh toward gays, but it is what it is.  How can we say we live in a society with freedom of religion and freedom of opinion when you get fired just for stating your beliefs?  Stupid beliefs, yes.  But should a person be fired for stating a religious belief held by most people in the country?  No, especially if it’s unrelated to the job.

People say this isn’t a free speech issue because A&E isn’t the government.  A&E is a private network and can do what it wants. That’s a good point, and I agree.  But let’s just dissolve all the fictional entities like the government or the corporations, and just think of us as people living together in a society.  We’re all neighbors, families, and communities wired together through electronic boxes which can share television shows.  We share the transmission lines because it’s convenient to do so.  From that vantage point, what I see is a group of people making a huge fuss because they disagree with the viewpoints of one of the actors, viewpoints might I add that aren’t even expressed in the show itself.

We have two groups of people who dislike each other, one a minority group of protesters, roughly 500,000 strong, who have been directly or indirectly insulted, and the other, roughly twelve million Duck Dynasty fans.  The minority group is trying to convince us to take the show off the air because they don’t like the actors or the way they see things.

For the moment I’ll put on my judge’s robe and assess this situation and try to be as fair as I can.  First, some considerations.  We all know the protesters do not watch the program to begin with.  It’s not their kind of show.  To top it off, nobody’s being forced to watch anything.  It’s not hard to avoid either – you just change the channel.  There’s no violence.  Nobody’s rights are being deprived.  Judge Summers rules there’s not a problem, case closed.

Wouldn’t it be nice if I ran the world?  🙂  I’d run things differently, I tell you!  *stands on podium*  Vote for me!

I wish our institutions were more democratic and we could solve these issues in a more thoughtful way.  It’d be nice to have a vote to settle this.  If that were to happen, twelve-million would vote to keep it on the air while probably five-hundred thousand would vote the other way, and Duck Dynasty would stay on the air.   Then we could all go our separate ways, and I think the outcome would be fair.  That’s not how the world works though.  With our legal system and method of ownership by corporations, this is all in the hands of A&E’s owners, who can do whatever they please.  Everything gets distorted.

This got to wondering if these LGBT groups protest TBN and Pat Robertson, because they speak against homosexuality.  It didn’t take me long realize that that wouldn’t have any impact.  In their case, the owners would tell the LGBT protesters to buzz off and would continue to air their programming.  But going back to our ideal world, if there was a vote for the Christian shows as well, I’d vote to keep them on TV.  Who knows, maybe one afternoon I’ll be interested in hearing what they have to say and I’ll turn to their channel.  Also, there’s a lot of Christians out there, and I am not one to tell them what to say, do, or think.  If I started hearing hate and nonsense, I’d just change the channel.  It’s not a big deal.

How I see it, GQ Magazine interviewed the star and asked his personal views on things.  Do we want to hear his ideas or not?  What is the message of our new hypersensitive age? Say what we want you to say or we’ll take everything from you?  I don’t like that at all. 

It’s worth flipping the situation as well.  I could see David Attenborough’s nature programs coming on the air and people in the south getting angry because he talks about evolution and how the different species evolved.  In some cases conservative groups have went into an uproar, but his shows are still on the air.  Nobody has been fired.  Why are the programs we like special?  A free society allows free discourse and a free flow of ideas.  Good ideas and bad ideas.  Good shows, bad shows.  Whatever people want to view, they should be able to view, as long as they’re not infringing on the rights of others.

When you don’t like things people are saying, you don’t silence them.  That just fuels a persecution complex and doesn’t fix the problem.  A lot of people in the south and in rural areas feel very strongly that the Bible condemns homosexuality as a sin.  Something like 80% of Americans consider themselves Christian, and there’s a very large portion of them who think homosexuals are bound for hell.  They’re still there, even if you try to take away their favorite TV shows just because you don’t like the actors.  They’re not going away, and in a free society, they’re free to have their beliefs too.

Voltaire once said, “I do not agree with what you say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”  That describes my sentiments toward all of this.  I don’t agree with his position at all, and I hate to see how gays are treated.  I support all gay rights.  I’m not a religious man, but I believe in freedom.  Freedom protects the people you don’t like.  The people you don’t agree with.  The opinions you don’t share.

This doesn’t just apply to television.  I hate seeing Youtube videos taken down because they’re accused of “hate” speech.  One Youtuber was speaking out pretty harshly against religion and a bunch of Muslims came in and flagged it as hate and the video was taken down.  The Youtuber’s account was temporarily suspended and he had to fight to get it back.

Youtube was initially supposed to be a place where people could get out their webcams and have discussions with one another.  Any time serious discourse takes place, things get heated.  That’s the point of it all.  But if we continue down this road we’re on, all that’s going to be left to view is random stupidity and girls putting on make-up.  Everyone will be afraid to express a serious opinion because if they do, they could lose their job.

Sometimes I feel I’ve limited some of my own job prospects because I’m so vocal and open with my opinions here on this blog.  But I know that people have to do what I do.  Somebody has to take the risk and let the discussion take place.  That’s how ideas develop.  That’s how we grow as human beings.

Ideally, it’s all about having respectful discussions with your adversaries.  You leave comments on their websites and forums, and try to get them to think about other ideas.  And though few realize this, the most effective tactic is to love your enemy.  You speak honestly and kindly to them, trying to teach them why you disagree with them.  But if you attack them with hatred, they will only dig deeper in their shell and hate you even more.

I’ve seen feminists on Youtube shutting down comments because of the flood of hate that comes in.  I don’t know if I blame them sometimes.  Mobs gang up on these women, just tearing them down personally, rarely even addressing the concerns in the video.

Women go through a lot if they post content on Youtube.  They make all sorts of serious points to think about and consider, and all the mostly male audience leaves in the comments is, “No tits, GTFO.”   Then you see really attractive women, making innane, thoughtless content, and they’re love-bombed.  “You’re so talented.  You’re so beautiful!”

Even attractive women can’t easily share things with the world.  I’ve been learning more about cooking lately, and a while back I was searching for recipes on Youtube and found a clip with a beautiful celebrity showing one of her favorite salad recipes.  She’s a gorgeous woman and I can’t say I didn’t notice, but I was disappointed by the comments.  Guys were talking about masturbating to the video, what they’d do to her if they had the chance, and on and on.  I just thought, “Geez.  Calm down guys.”

Atheists run into similar problems.  They make serious videos addressing religious belief and they get floods of hate mail.  And if the comments aren’t downright hateful, they’re more often than not filled with passive aggressive undertones.  It goes the other way too.  Religious people are attacked for sharing their ideas.  By attack, I don’t mean argument wise.  They’re just assaulted as a person.  They’re called called fat, ugly, bald, or whatever.  Their clothes are made fun of.  They insult the person’s voice if it’s too high pitched, or low pitched.  They attack the video quality.  Just whatever.

I respect those with thick skin, who just deal with it, though I don’t blame those can’t take the heat.  As my blog has gotten more popular, sometimes I feel this inner pressure not to post some of my thoughts on things.  Some of my posts have tens of thousands of hits over the course of a year.  You reach a point where you don’t want to share your inner feelings.  You want to be more objective and write about impersonal subjects.  Sharing your intimate feelings and then being attacked mercilessly is terrifying.

Some of you can’t imagine what it’s like to be attacked by a legion of people for sharing your views on things.  Imagine putting your heart and soul into a speech, getting on stage in front of ten thousand people, and then they erupt, start throwing things at you, boo’ing, drowning out your voice.   I see Youtubers who make their videos and practically have to run for cover to avoid the maelstrom of hate.

There’s a wide range of issues which are difficult to discuss objectively.  Take whether or not there’s any differences, on average, between men and women.  Are there real differences in how we think, our emotions, and so on.  Many of us guys wonder why we go to graduate school in theoretical physics and there’s no women around.  Every class we take, all men.  No women.  Is that the case all over?  Who knows, but we’re all too scared to ask.  Who wants to be accused of being sexist?

If you share thoughts of loneliness or emotional vulnerability, lots of people roll their eyes and think you’re weak.  You’re just after attention!  You’re feeling down and out, reaching for people who may identify with your feelings, and instead this black cloud of hate comes your way.  

If you have thoughts that there may be more to a human being than just our physical bodies, your secular audience rolls their eyes and thinks you’re leaning on an imaginary crutch because you fear death.   Your religious audience doesn’t like it either, because you don’t agree with their sacred views.  They more often than not just pity you.  You haven’t found the “truth”, and oh how miserable you must be without their God!  

If you advocate fiscally conservative ideas, your progressive audience thinks you’re a heartless bastard.  If you argue for a stronger social safety net, libertarians say you have no principles.  You offend half of your audience no matter what political position you take.

If you want to end the drug war, you must be a dead beat addict of some sort.  If you question the American Dream, half of your audience thinks you’re just lazy and have given up on life.  Or they’ll label you a communist.  You’re just scared to step up and compete.  If you worry about the environment, you’re a tree hugging, socialist, liberal.  Save the whales, save those snails!  Some will even accuse you of hating humanity.

If you lament some of the stupidities in human love, people think you’re just pitiful and must either be ugly, fat, or in some way unlovable.  And what’s worse than being fat?  If you share concerns that it’s important to exercise and eat right, your overweight audience thinks you’re targeting them, and they think you’re shallow.  You haven’t learned how to love yourself, regardless of your body type.  And if you’re a guy who tells women they’re beautiful, even if they have extra weight on them, other men look at you suspecting you’re just trying to get in good with the pretty girls.  You don’t really believe that!  You just can’t win.

If you question what the government is saying, you may be lumped in with conspiracy theorists and often discredited.  When I posted about the NSA, before it really blew up, people sent me hateful messages, saying I was a conspiracy nut, and on and on.

If you come against failures in our school system, or think we’re spending too much money on it all, you’re accused of not valuing education.  If you share feelings you’ve had of oneness with everything, and possibly even spiritual experiences, people think you’re psychotic and crazy.  In my case, I’m often attacked that I only have some of the views I do because I grew up in such a religious home.

And God forbid you have an ill-informed view on something.  You’ll get floods of hate, more than you would otherwise.  How could you be so stupid!  Oftentimes you blog to flesh out your ideas, but once you get a bigger audience, you can’t really do that any longer.  You write one stupid thing and it’s on the internet forever.  People are unforgiving.  They’ll make it into memes and plaster your face on it, then broadcast it all over Facebook, Tumblr, and the web.  Who wants to be the face of an ignorant viewpoint?  You’re better off not sharing your ideas at all.

A hateful world is also a world where you can’t develop your ideas.  Only love fosters growth.  To give people freedom to think and grow is a form of love.  Hate destroys free thought.  Everyone’s too scared to think and discuss things.  Who wants to end up alienated from everyone around you?  Sadly, in this sort of world, the people most willing to share their inner-most thoughts are those who already feel alienated to begin with.   Is it any wonder that the most vocal are those spewing hate themselves?  Everyone else becomes “fake”, and we all question what we all really believe.

3 thoughts on “Hypersensitive Culture”

  1. Thank you for this amazing essay. And showing how the quickness to label and dismiss has led to a very narrow space for personal and intellectual expression. Keep writing…we’ll keep reading.

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