Duck Dynasty And The Religious Right’s Defense Of Bigotry

I would defend the right of Phil Robertson to express whatever opinions he has, however hateful. The creator of Duck Dynasty had this to say in an interview with GQ:

What, in your mind, is sinful?

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

Robertson has the right to express his views. However, this does not mean he has any right to be provided an outlet for his views or work, such as a cable network. I don’t really care either way whether A&E dumps his show, any more than I really care about MSNBC dumping Alec Baldwin. That is a decision each network has the right to make, but I’m not sure why anyone at A&E is all that surprised by the views expressed by someone from a redneck fundamentalist Christian reality show.

Despite uninformed cries from the right wing, which always loves to claim to be the victim of an injustice, this is not a First Amendment issue or an issue of free speech, regardless of what Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz might believe. This is hardly the first time Palin has showed a lack of understanding of the First Amendment, as I have pointed out here and here.

The religious right believes it is okay to express hatred based upon sexual orientation because they find support for their vile views in the Bible. The Bible is a work written by men, and interpreted in different ways by different men.  They are free to have whatever religious views they desire and attribute whatever significance they desire to the Bible or any other book. They cannot expect that everyone else will simply ignore their expressions of prejudice because this is their religious view or because their views are supported in the writings of their religion. The Bible is a book written by men in a different era, some of whom did not hold the same ethical views we hold in the modern world. Finding support for one’s views in a book does not legitimatize them. To use the Bible to support expressions of hatred toward homosexuals is no more legitimate than to use Mein Kampf to support expressions of hatred toward Jews. These evil and hateful views are evil, regardless of the source. They have the right to express their views, but should not be surprised by the reaction from those living in the modern world which the religious right rejects.

Some conservatives see this as a war against Christ and Christianity. If secular liberals are engaged in a war of ideas, it is a war in support of individual liberty and reason. This has been the war of ideas being waged by liberals since the age of enlightenment. If the religious right sees themselves as the opponents in such a war of ideas, so be it.

SciFi Weekend: Return of Tribbles, the Shadow, and Red Dwarf; and Sleeping With The Boss’s Daughter

J.J. Abrams was interviewed by The Los Angeles Times. Some excerpts:

GB: You know that no matter what you do, you’ll get an earful from hardcore fans.

JJA: The key is to appreciate that there are purists and fans of “Star Trek” who are going to be very vocal if they see things that aren’t what what they want. But I can’t make this movie for readers of Nacelles Monthly who are only concerned with what the ship’s engines look like. They’re going to find something they hate no matter what I do. And yet, the movie at its core is not only inspired by what has come before, it’s deeply true to what’s come before. The bottom line is we have different actors playing these parts and from that point on it’s literally not what they’ve seen before. It will be evident when people see this movie that it is true to what Roddenberry created and what those amazing actors did in the 1960s. At the same time, I think, it’s going to blow people’s minds because its  a completely different experience than what they expect.

GB: Last time I saw you, you mentioned there would be a tribble in the movie. That’s fun.

JAA: Yes! There is a tribble in there. But you have to look for it. And there’s that other surprise I told you about but please don’t write about that one.

GB: How much did you go back to the various “Trek” shows, films, novels, etc., to research the mythology? I imagine at some point sifting through all of it would become a counterproductive exercise.

JJA: I looked at a lot of the episodes of all the series that came after the original “Star Trek” but because we are focusing on the original series I didn’t really need to know every episode of “Deep Space Nine” or “Voyager” or even “Enterprise.” But, yeah, I watched episodes, I read up a lot, I watched the movies, I talked to people, whether it was our “Trek” consultant or one of the two writers [Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci] about what it would mean to do what we wanted to do. We have one producer, Bob [Orci], who is a complete Trekker and another in Bryan Burk who had never seen an episode of the show ever. And it was a great balance. We could make sure it passed the test of the ultimate fan and the ultimate neophyte and make sure that it was equally entertaining to both parties.

GB: It’s awkward to talk about sequels for a film that has not even been released but there is such a Hollywood emphasis on tent pole properties that it’s impossible to ignore. So, given that, where do you see yourself going if the movie this May is the success you hope for?

JJA: I’d rather not be presumptuous that this will go on — I mean we’re still finishing up this movie. I have to say I sort of feel like I’m in the middle of lunch and someone asks, “What do you want for dinner?” I have no idea. But I gotta say that the idea of seeing this cast and these characters live on and go on further adventures — it’d be a shame not to do. Obviously the story would need to be great. But the beauty of what Roddenberry created is there is such an abundance of opportunities with these characters and [deciding] which elements of the original series we want to revisit. There’s this great opportunity there for further stories and I would definitely be involved in that. Whether I’m directing or producing, whether Bob or Alex are writing, obviously all that remains to be seen. Paramount is hungry to get going on that, but we’re still finishing up the first one.

GB: “Star Wars” vs. “Star Trek” is sort of a classic Beatles vs. Stones debate for sci-fi fans of a certain age. You have said you wanted to infuse your “Trek” revival with some lessons learned from the George Lucas universe. Can you talk about that?

JJA: Well, I’m just a fan of “Star Wars.” As a kid, “Star Wars” was much more my thing than “Star Trek” was. If you look at the last three “Star Wars” films and what technology allowed them to do, they covered so much terrain in terms of design, locations, characters, aliens, ships — so much of the spectacle has been done and it seems like every aspect has been covered, whether it’s geography or design of culture or weather system or character or ship type. Everything has been tapped in those movies. The challenge of doing “Star Trek” — despite the fact that it existed before “Star Wars” — is that we are clearly in the shadow of what George Lucas has done.

GB: How do you overcome that?

JJA: The key to me is to not ever try to outdo them because it’s a no-win situation. Those movies are so extraordinarily rendered that it felt to me that the key to “Star Trek” was to go from the inside-out: Be as true to the characters as possible, be as real and as emotional and as exciting as possible and not be distracted by the specter of all that the “Star Wars” film accomplished. For instance, we needed to establish that there are aliens in this universe and yet I didn’t want it to feel like every scene had four new multi-colored characters in it. That is something “Star Wars” did so well with its amazing creature design. The question is how do you subtly introduce the idea that there are different species here. And to also do it differently than the [“Trek”] TV shows, which basically had someone wearing a mask sitting in a chair [in the background]. It was the balance of doing what the story needed us to do but also not feeling like we were trying to rip off or out-do what Lucas did.

GB: It is a challenge. There’s an early scene in your film where you have a crowded bar, music is playing and your callow young hero walks in, rubs shoulders with aliens, and then ends up in a brawl. You have to know that a chunk of your audience will be thinking about the “Star Wars” cantina scene…

JJA: That cantina scene is obviously one of the classic scenes in “Star Wars” and it was such a wonderful introduction to how amazing, how diverse and how full of possibility this “Star Wars” universe was going to be. In the subsequent films, especially the last three, so many scenes have that feeling, that they are just expanding and expanding the worlds. That was definitely something where I felt the burden of “My God, they’ve done it all.” And the challenge is how do you do it where it feels real and meaningful and not like you’re borrowing from someone else. That’s just one of our challenges.

Another remake of The Shadow is in the works which promises to be different from the 1994 attempt  staring Alec Baldwin.  MTV interviewed producer Michael Uslan:

“I think the one thing going in is we all see The Shadow as more of a force of nature than a specific person in a secret identity,” Uslan told MTV in an exclusive interview. “The Shadow may actually be many people.”

“We’ve gone back to the pulp roots, the comic book roots of The Shadow, with a dash of the radio roots,” added Uslan. “But we’ve deeply ensconced ourselves in the world of pulps and comics.”

Sounds cool to us, but that begged the question of when we’ll see this “Shadow” revamp hit the multiplex.

“Sam [Raimi] and Josh Donen are my partners and we have it set up Sony, and a wonderful writer named Siavash Farahani who has worked for me before is writing the screenplay,” Uslan said. “It’s coming along great, we’re very excited about it. You know, it takes time to nurture these things. You probably know all the stories. The first ‘Batman’ film took me 10 years to get made.”

The BBC reports that Red Dwarf will be returning for a two-part special airing Easter weekend entitled Red Dwarf: Back to Earth. I hope that their return to Earth turns out better than on Battlestar Galactica.

While Red Dwarf and Galactica are interested in returning to Earth, one couple might be leaving. There are plans to send the ashes of Gene  and Majel Roddenberry into deep space.

Life on Mars returned after a two month hiatus. The fall season ended with a cliff hanger in which Sam received a phone call to go down into the basement of the house he was in. Would this provide some clues as to why he is back in the 1970’s? Who knows. They returned by airing an episode out of order, saying nothing about this cliff hanger.

The episode was one of the lightest yet, but did add another potential complication to Sam’s life. Sam, without realizing it at the time, slept with his boss’s daughter. We also got a mini-Sopranos reunion with Johnny Sack joining series regular Michael Imperioli.

The idea might have been to return with a stand a lone episode so that new viewers would not have to know about the mythology of the show. Considering that Life on Mars was placed after Lost this made little sense. Lost fans would be far more intrigued by the question of how a cop from the present wound up in the 1970’s than in a standard police story.

As for Lost, in the present Desmond (now living happily with Penny and a child) starts a hunt for Daniel Faraday’s mother. This led to a connection to Charles Widmore, and Desmond is off to Los Angeles where he will presumably run into the others who left the island. Meanwhile back on the island, we had many pasts as the characters jumped around in time. We saw Richard Alpert appearing exactly the same regardless of year and a young Charles Whidmore who was living on the island as one of the Others. Knowing that Whidmore had been on the island when young gives some hints as to his interest in the island, but raises many questions. My suspicion is that Ben was responsible for Whidmore leaving he island and not being able to return.

Conservative Blogs Won’t Let Their Lie Die

Glenn Greenwald is perfectly capable of responding to this absurd attack, but since I quoted his post in question in one of my posts I’ll also comment. The issue was conservative blogs claiming that liberal bloggers were hoping that those who attempted to assassinate Dick Cheney had been successful. The response from myself, Glenn Greenwald, and several other liberal bloggers was to say this charge was absurd, and noted that this is based upon quoting some people who comment on blogs.

Patterico actually helps to prove our case in a rather weak attack directed at Glenn Greenwald. Rather than responding to the actual argument made by Greenwald he quotes him out of context and claims that Greenwald’s argument is that there is absolutely no talk involving any degree of violence from liberal leaders. He then argues with this straw man and ignores what Greenwald actually was arguing.

Even in trying to find any signs of violence in the speech of those on the left Patterico builds a weak case. His first example of “leftist hate” comes from Nina Totenberg saying ” [I]f there is retributive justice [Sen. Jesse Helms] will get AIDS from a transfusion, or one of his grandchildren will get it.” His other leftist leaders include people like Alec Baldwin, Spike Lee, and Chris Rock. When he quotes actual politicians he relies on quite old quotations. Trying to bring liberal bloggers into this he quotes Kos’s comments on the contractors who were killed in Iraq, but fails to note that Kos was widely criticized by other liberals for this comment, and his blog was removed from the blog roll of the official Kerry blog in response. He quotes Atrios who is being more humerous than violent by citing The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. For that matter, few of his quotes approach the level of violence in advocating the assassination of a political figure which is what Greenwald’s post was about.

Patterico fails to give a single example of a liberal leader or blogger who supported the recent attempt on Dick Cheney’s life. Neither Greenwald nor anyone else I’m aware of has ever claimed that there has never, ever been a single case of someone on the left saying something which could be seen as violent. If we are going to look at lines such as Patterico quoted going back over several years, and including some I would hardly consider to be liberal thought leaders, we could find far more in a very brief time in the conservative media.

The argument Greenwald and others of us made still holds. While some writing comments on blogs showed poor taste in cheering on the Taliban, this is not an attitude supported by liberal bloggers or other liberal leaders. Conservative bloggers who launched these dishonest attacks on liberal bloggers would look better if they simply admitted they were wrong rather than trying to keep this issue open by distorting what was said.