Duck, Duck: A&E Fails to Kill Its Own Golden Goose and Some Parrots Get Caught
So, the kerfuffle instigated by GLAAD (another counterfactual acronym in the pantheon of American interest groups) and carried out by cable network A&E is over. A&E capitulated to the force of public opinion.
"Phil Robertson should look African American and gay people in the eyes and hear about the hurtful impact of praising Jim Crow laws and comparing gay people to terrorists," the organization said in a statement. "If dialogue with Phil is not part of next steps then A+E has chosen profits over African American and gay people -- especially its employees and viewers."
Variety slammed the incompetence of the A&E executives. Although as one might expect the author of the piece, Bryan Lowry, continues to use GLAAD's misrepresentation of what Phil Robertson said -- can't depart from the script the entire media seems to work from , after all -- he is right about the incompetence the network heads displayed:
A&E put itself between a "Duck" and a hard place. And having backtracked from its temporary lack of quack, let the public-relations scrambling begin.
The network might have acted precipitously in suspending Phil Robertson for his inflammatory remarks regarding gays (and equally insensitive ones about African-Americans in the Jim Crow-era South), but it clearly didn't have an end game in mind. And once the network demonstrated that it was displeased with Robertson's statements, unless it was truly willing to strangle its golden goose, there was really nowhere to go from there.
I don't know how significantly this will diminish GLAAD's capacity to shut out dissenters from media access -- they certainly have had a successful run at isolating and silencing those they choose to blacklist for holding dissenting views. But perhaps if more people display the Robertsons' straight forward "nuts to you, media" attitide, the media viewers will have an opportunity to watch some real dialogue instead of the homogenized approved pap of the day. Maybe TV and cable news would once again be engaging. Who knows? Surely I lack the genius of the big bucks guys in the executive suites.
A&E's statement of surrender remains, however, a testament to the continuing cluelessness of media executives:
"After discussions with the Robertson family, as well as consulting with numerous advocacy groups, A&E has decided to resume filming Duck Dynasty later this spring with the entire Robertson Family. We will also use this moment to launch a national public service campaign promoting unity, tolerance and acceptance among all people."
Just One Minute poster "Ignatz" nailed the point:
"Unity, tolerance and acceptance"--
Could you get any more Orwellian?
Unity = unity of thought.
Tolerance = intolerance of a lack of unity of thought.
Acceptance = rejection of anyone who refuses to unify their thoughts with the collective.
We have available to us today incredible communications systems, making it possible for any person so inclined to learn almost everything about anything in which they are interested. My eight-year-old granddaughter, "the Wolverine " told me last December, "I use Google about a thousand times a day for my research."
Discussing a work by Virginia Postrel on this technological and cultural phenomenon, the Speculist observes:
Everybody has access to a lot more information than they used to. Ray Kurzweil points out that today an African kid with a smart phone has access to more information than was available to the President of the United States 20 years ago. The fact that I have thousands of instant movies to choose from on Netflix and Amazon is a quality-of-life improvement for me. The fact that that kid can access Khan academy and tens of thousands of other learning resources that didn't use to exist is a much bigger deal.
How many of us are availing ourselves of this and how many are simply opening their homes to an endless stream of pabulum and propaganda? I turned off my TV years ago and have not missed it at all. But I understand those who after a trying day turn it to unwind and learn about the day's events. We usually read the morning news while preoccupied with other things as we head out to busy days and watch the evening news with our thinking caps doffed which makes it so much easier for the blather to find a home in our heads. In fact, there is so much airtime to be filled and so little budgeted for newsgathering by real journalists. Media budgets seem to go to big, well-connected names -- think Chelsea Clinton, Andrea Mitchell, and Chris Matthews, for example -- and not-too-bright executives who by means beyond my understanding got out of the mail rooms and into the corner suites.
Conan O'Brien ran a brilliant video on his show demonstrating beyond peradventure of doubt that the local newsreaders are all parroting the same idiocy from sea to shining sea, courtesy of the AP's television news content service:
The example used was a fluffy feature but there are organizations with close ties to TV producers who regularly provide the copy newsreaders parrot without editing to people sitting on their comfy couches with their heads turned off.
I used to marvel at the AP health, consumer and environmental propaganda which seemed to me simply an echo of handouts from interested "non-profits", particularly scarifying around the groups' fundraising time. I suspect that organizations like Fenton Communications and Glover Park Group tossed this stuff over the transoms with some candy bars to content-starved 20-year-olds in the AP offices looking for something to send out between Starbucks assignations.
Fenton does more than just promote the organizations it represents in traditional ways. Through its connections with the American Communications Foundation it can feed content straight to CBS radio (and into your heads as you weave through traffic).
Its methods are now being utilized by others. Glover Park is quite frank about its approach:
Old lines between public and private sector, journalist and civilian, outside agitator and inside power broker are blurring.
GPG was built to help organizations navigate this shifting landscape. We combine substantive understanding of complex issues with disciplined execution of crisp influence campaigns that shape the way critical audiences view our clients and their goals. In a fast-changing world where the stakes have never been higher, nothing less will do.
The short version of this approach description is -- we cultivate buddies in the media and get your stuff on air and in the press as news which influences public opinion in your favor.
This year, protect your brain from geese, parrots, and Orwellian Animal Farm style "non-profit" tyrants. Make this year's New Years Resolution to turn off the television news, read some worthwhile books, engage in something creative, enriching and helpful to yourself and others. Be a duck, not a goose or a parrot's audience.