Saturday, December 21, 2013

Ducks, chicks, and the speed of Time on the internet

The Duck Dynasty "controversy" remains in full speed ahead mode. People and pundits on the Right are continuing to stir up outrage over the treatment of Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson by the A&E network (which airs the show). They are trying very hard to frame this all as some sort of First Amendment issue, suggesting--nay, insisting--that Robertson's right to express his views is being trampled in the name of "political correctness" or the like. And in response, people and pundits on the Left are arguing--quite rightly--that A&E is fully within its rights to take the actions is has taken, that Robertson is not being denied his right to express his views and opinions, at all.

I've already addressed this at length in a previous piece. I noted that politicians and pundits on the Right who are trying to make hay with this issue probably know they're being inconsistent, if not dishonest, with their arguments. For their hypocrisy is easy to demonstrate. My overall conclusions:
Most likely, Robertson and Duck Dynasty will not suffer much from any of this. Hell, ratings will probably increase, given how much people like controversy, manufactured or otherwise. And those on the Right who leaped to Robertson's defense will probably get away with their hypocrisy, by and large. But see, that's the problem: this was an opportunity to demonstrate that conservatism proper can be separated from such ignorance, an opportunity to actually better the image, as opposed to just maintaining the status quo. And it was missed. Like far too many other ones have been.
Really, I didn't think there'd be any reason for me to revisit this issue. Jindal, Cruz, Palin, and others were steadily making bigger and bigger asses of themselves. All the Left needed to do was to keep feeding them rope; there'd have been a hanging soon enough. But I guess I gave the Left too much credit, or at least failed to appreciate just how stupid social media makes people. Because the current popular response from the Left--on Facebook, Google+, and elsewhere--is the creation, sharing, and "liking" of posters comparing the Duck Dynasty situation to that of the Dixie Chicks. A sample from Google+:

Generally, the posters come with some sort of dig at the Right for their flip-flopping here. And frankly, in and of itself, that's completely fair. The problem is, most of the people distributing and sharing these posters were probably part of the "outrage train" back in 2003/2004, were railing against the treatment of the Dixie Chicks after Natalie Maines opened her mouth and inserted her foot. To put it another way, these posters serve to highlight the hypocrisy of both groups involved in these dust-ups.

When the Dixie Chicks were taking it on the chin back in those days, when stores were choosing to not sell their albums, when radio stations were refusing to play their music, people and pundits on the Left were beside themselves with anger, were insisting that the Dixie Chicks' right to express their views was being trampled. And as far as I know, the people making these arguments never relented. So in effect, the message from these posters should be "the Right is as wrong now as the Left was then."

But that doesn't seem to be the case, at all. Which I guess really demonstrates just how politically dependent people's opinions and views really are (a sad commentary, that). But I think it is also evidence of how different our perception of time is becoming, thanks to the prevalence of the internet. I've discussed theories of time--philosophy-wise--previously, but that's not really what I'm referencing here. What I'm suggesting is that we are now imagining the more or less recent past as being far more distant than it actually is and thus are unable to recall as many specifics--or are seeing those specifics hazily--about a given past time.

And I think the internet is playing a huge part in this regard, because people are constantly being bombarded with information related to the present, to the moment. This internet meme posters are a perfect example of this, as they represent things in an easy-to-digest format that puts a quick spin on the past with reference to the present. The past is, in effect, "summoned" in service to the present. But what past? Not the real one, complete with details and nuance, but rather a chopped up version, where the events happened to and were witnessed by other people, who are somehow no longer participating in the current world. It's the kind of description of a past event we might find in a brief encyclopedia entry, like this one on the Battle of the Colline Gate.

Such an entry may be sufficient as a means of understanding the basics of the event. And given that this one happened so long ago, there are limited reasons to really know any more about it (though it was far more important than most realize). The Dixie Chicks controversy, however, did not happen that long ago, just a decade or so. And the people who opined on it then are--many of them--still around today. They should remember the events more clearly, in my opinion. But they don't. Hence, they can freely imagine things in a different context, where the event then happened apart from their actual selves, allowing the above kind of posters to flourish from people unable to see their own inconsistencies.

And it appears to me that this kind of thing is increasing in frequency, independent of political or ideological persuasion.

Cheers, all.

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