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How to ruin Christmas: A holiday guide to arguing with conservative relatives

Holiday rule #1: Never, ever argue politics. But if you must, here’s how to beat your right-wing relatives


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Alex Pareene
December 25, 2013 12:45pm (UTC)

Happy holidays, fellow soldiers in the War on Christmas. It is the time of year when many Americans are expected to spend some time with people they are related to. Maybe some of the people you are related to listen to talk radio or read Twitchy. That doesn't have to be a problem — as always, the first rule of arguing politics over the holidays is never ever do it ever — but if some things come up, and you want to have your say, perhaps you need some help countering the easily digestible sound bytes of the conservative media machine. Here is a guide.

It has only been a few weeks since the last holiday argument guide, but in those weeks the right has moved on from criticizing the nationwide launch of a complex series of health insurance markets to ... complaining about the persecution of a homophobic television character and making fun of a stock photo model. So let's move on with them, I guess.

The Duck guys have been silenced by liberal fascism

Well, let's just get this bit out of the way: No, the First Amendment does not apply to private corporations, like A&E Networks. The "Duck Dynasty" guy has a contract with a corporation that allows them to suspend or fire him if they feel like it. That's how private contracts work, and private contracts are what modern capitalism is built on. A&E felt that the best thing they could do from a business perspective is suspend the duck guy after he said a bunch of offensive things. Sorry, if that makes you mad, you are mad at the free market, not liberals.

Maybe you think Phil Robertson's remarks — essentially that butts are gross — are in fact a brave statement of an endangered point of view. They sort of are! But much of America has decided that that particular point of view deserves to become an anachronism, and they did not come to that conclusion because the liberal media has silenced those who argue that butts are gross. In fact it is quite easy to hear variations on that sentiment, from prominent political and media figures who are under no threat of being silenced. But the message just isn't resonating anymore, because it's stupid.

It is also maybe worthwhile to remember that in addition to his sophisticated musings on sexuality, the duck guy effectively endorsed racial segregation and Jim Crow.

It is actually the case that there are a lot of potential and actual problems with a system in which employees can be punished by their bosses for the expression of certain beliefs outside the workplace. But just as celebrities don't have the same reasonable expectation of privacy that normal civilians are supposed to enjoy under the law, they also can't expect the same freedom to express unpopular or controversial opinions without fear of economic reprisal. I mean, if your wealth and status depend on appealing to the broadest swath of Americans possible, most people would tell you to avoid controversy. (It is obviously also possible to have fame that depends on the generation of controversy, and it seems like the duck people might switch over to that line of work sooner or later.)

But let's think about these duck guys, this Robertson family with the television show that millions of people watch. Maybe this is the north enforcing its cultural hegemony at the expense of an innocent southern man, tarred as a bigot and kicked off his own television show just for saying what he thinks. But if you are southern, maybe you should think some more about the Robertsons and their television show and what message it sends to the rest of the country.

The Robertson family is a gang of college-educated millionaires pretending to be backwoods hillbillies. The beards and camo are literally costumes. Before they had a television show they were clean-shaven yuppies in polo shirts and cargo shorts. The Robertsons are performing a pantomime of southernness, and it is making them even richer than they were before. They are performing for a nationwide audience that is probably not mostly southern, and that is definitely not mostly rural and southern. No one on reality television — especially in this era, when it's more staged than ever — is being their authentic self. That's not in and of itself a problem; entertainment is entertainment. But the Duck Dynasty guys are essentially doing a hillbilly minstrel act, filmed and aired by a network jointly owned by the Hearst Corporation and Disney. Maybe that doesn't offend you. But for much of America, these people are the most prominent modern representatives of white southernness, and the duck guy just confirmed for them the stereotype that white southerners are bible-thumping bigots with twisted racist delusions.

Pajama guy represents the death of masculinity in the Obama era plus he is gay lol

What is even wrong with you that you are so obsessed with a stock photo model. He is a guy in a stock photo. Get over it.


Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at apareene@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @pareene

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