There’s nothing new about sensational journalism. Media does its thing, releasing a story expressing just enough fact to be credible(ish), then seasoning it with enough spin to sink a hook into Twitter-feeders. The world goes crazy about Joe Schmo celebrity/politician/YouTube-sensation for a week. Lather, rinse, repeat. People move on to the next thing without a second glance.
But every once in a while, something different happens.
Everyone not living under a rock has heard by now about the Duck Commander’s “hiatus” from cable network A&E (for Arts & Entertainment…the “Arts” is silent), so there’s no need to rehash the details here. But I do think it appropriate to note the response from what I like to call the “silent majority” with regard to Phil Robertson’s treatment.
Since the network’s decision, Facebook pages, hashtag campaigns, and online petitions have seen immense success. How much, you ask? Well, the most popular Facebook cause had 942,000 likes, and its corresponding Change.org page had over 100,000 “signatures”. Others included the #StandWithPhil hashtag, which among others, I’d venture to guess at least, have been trending worldwide on Twitter since the situation arose.
The show AVERAGED 14 million viewers a week by one estimate, and back in August it officially passed the peak ratings of morally-uplifting Jersey Shore and the tabloid favorite Jon & Kate Plus 8 for the most-watched non-fiction cable show anywhere. Heck, it was even beating out most FICTION cable shows! Seems like all those folks, at least the ones on social media, are out in force to support Phil.
The outpouring of response from this silent majority reminded me of a different situation earlier this year that garnered a similar response, although it spoke to a different reality.
When small-scale news outlets starting circulating the story in March about the abortion doctor standing trial in Philadelphia for multiple murders, the uptick in popularity came through the silent majority, in spite of a media blackout that lasted OVER A MONTH.
Because ABC, NBC, and CBS refused to report on it, and because CNN and “news”papers USA Today, the NY Times had only put tiny stories buried amongst their other coverage, a couple guys organized a Twitter movement to get the word out. On April 12, more than a month after his trial for, among other things, seven counts of murder began, more than 600,000 tweets went out with the hashtag #gosnell. A second “TweetFest” was organized five days later that saw similar results, and, lo and behold, the media finally covered the story.
To get a few things straight, NO, I’m not equating gay marriage advocates with abortion doctors. Yes, I’m aware that the first story was voluntarily covered by the media and the other wasn’t. No, I don’t think gay marriage and abortion are on equal footing.
The reason I bring up the two stories in the same post is to indicate one thing: strength in numbers. In both instances, like they do in everyday stories that uphold the politically-correct status quo, the popular, outspoken culture warriors of the 21st Century had the numbers to make a stink about a “homophobic bearded individual” in the first case and collectively keep quiet in the second case (and, as it were, in the case of the now-former MSNBC host suggesting someone should, to put it politely, poop in Sarah Palin’s mouth (think I’m kidding?)).
What made these two stories particularly special, however, was that the silent majority decided to show their numbers and prove that they too have the power to raise a stink.
Strength in numbers has always been a good thing to have, and in the case of those who have backed Phil Robertson and stood up for proper coverage in the Gosnell trial, it’s not so much about changing the minds of those who so loudly proclaim their modern, progressive way of thinking and change the culture of the world. Instead, I see it as more of a “Hey, yeah, we’re still here” kind of thing, where those who would typically choose against arguing endlessly with illogical neo-liberals on a story’s comment string decide to collectively speak up.
To me, it’s like the bar bouncer who’ll let a lot of things slide, but steps out of the shadows and gives you a dirty look when things get a little too carried away. Or like a parent who hangs out inside while their kid goes looking for mischief around the neighborhood—most things are harmless, but dad’s there to set Johnny straight when it goes too far.
I call it the silent majority because I’ve come across a lot of people who are willing to uphold their traditional values in their lives without announcing it to the masses. They contribute to the common good when not many around them are even aware they’re doing so. In my own experience, these people far outnumber the ones who shout from the rooftops the things that society needs to do in order to work properly. The traditionalists practice while the modernists preach.
Chesterton once called tradition “the democracy of the dead”, asserting that it “refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.” It makes sense though, doesn’t it? I mean, who are we to come up with a “new” way of living when there’s ones that have been around FAR longer (and thriving for far longer, no less) than our short time on earth? After all, St. Peter is a household name, but I’d bet most don’t know anything about Pelagius, Arius, or Cornelius Jansen. But I digress.
Though I do believe those who carry traditional beliefs ought to be preaching more than modernists, this isn’t about wanting to shove everyone to one side or the other. After all, there are no sides—we’re all human, we’re all endowed with inalienable rights by our Creator, and we’re all imperfect. There’s gonna be tension, no matter how you slice it.
There is, however, a right and a wrong in the world. Though no one is perfect, rightness is something we can all strive for, and consistency in practicing right and wrong is something everyone is obligated to do. When you call someone hateful and bigoted for articulating their belief, especially when it’s qualified with a line about NOT hating those people in question, you are the one being hateful and bigoted.
It isn’t right to vilify Phil Robertson for speaking an opinion and keep silent on cases like Kermit Gosnell and his abortion factory, no matter whose interests are being served. It isn’t right to claim to be tolerant, only to turn around and call Christians hateful and bigoted. Things like that ARE black and white, whether people want them to be or not, and if, as Chesterton also said, bigotry is “an incapacity to conceive seriously the alternative to a proposition”, then its those feeling offended who ought to stop pointing the finger and ask themselves if they’re the bigoted ones.
Find me and start the discussion on Facebook.