The Real Winners and Losers of the Phil Robertson Fiasco and Other Online Debates

Real Winners and Losers of the Duck Dynasty and Phil Robertson Fiasco and Other Online Social Debating

I’ll admit, I’ve not read the original GQ article where Phil, from Duck Dynasty apparently makes some polarizing remarks. I’ve not read even any of the many blogs that have been written about  this already from people in one of the many camps debating free speech, or homophobia…Seriously, there are more camps around this than there are in Game of Thrones…who has the time to keep up?

So, what I have seen are the ways that people have been quick to jump onto social media and join the debate. The hashtag #duckdynasty was trending away on Twitter and my facebook feed was a running commentary of people’s opinions on the issue.

It made me think…Who are the real winners and losers when topics ‘trend’ that cause people to set up camp?

 Let’s look at the winners first…

The real winners of all of this drama are the people that can figure a way to make a bit of profit from the publicity. In this case it would be: Facebook, GQ, A&E, and even the Duck Dynasty Brand.

Whenever we turn to Facebook to share our opinions and the ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ are a-flying, Facebook is seeing dollar signs in the form of people’s addiction to the network increase because of the ‘real life’ drama that’s unfolding on their wall. The more we’re tuning into Facebook to follow the action, the more they win because they can sell more advertising!

As I said earlier, I’m not commenting here about the article…But GQ is a winner because they published an article that ended up trending on all social media outlets.  it’s a huge win for a media outlet that still runs print copies. Well played Gentlemen’s Quarterly…you did it!

 By cutting Phil out of the show for his remarks (once again, I’m not commenting here about those remarks), A&E managed to marginalize only one small slice of the American demographic that may love Duck Dynasty and the flavor of religion those folks represent. Decisions like this are really about the bottom line. No seriously, they are about the bottom line. I’m not kidding, they don’t care about politics, faith, opinions, or what the Bible says…it’s about the bottom line. Minimize losses. Maximize profits. That’s the play here.

You’d think that the Duck Dynasty crew would come out of this smelling like duck doo. But this whole thing is creating more brand loyalty for the Dynasty among the people who already liked their shtick. It may even win over more ‘fringe’ fans who feel the need to protect an aspect of what they stood for.

Now Let’s take a look at the losers…

The losers of these online dramas are you and me.

Those of us who have social media accounts login and can’t help but see what all of our ‘friends’ think about this stuff (and other cultural hot buttons). We see each other’s opinions and links and we think, “Oh, they’re like me….but they’re not like me.” We comment away. We share links. We browse through the ocean of opinions and allow our little clicks here and there to say more about what camp we’re in than we might think.

And we end up divided because we can so quickly figure out who is in our camp…and who isn’t by who is ‘liking’ what.

Whether it be fast food chicken, firearms, war, healthcare, and now a guy who has made millions of dollars on duck calls…we can’t stay away from being both united with, or divided from, our ‘friends’ according to what they ‘like’.

It’s crazy that all of this is happening outside of the context of what would have been considered real relationship 10 years ago.

My wife and I were sitting and talking about today’s Duck Drama on Facebook and we realized that we were doing this ugly judgmental dance and how it really was impacting how we felt about relationships in the real world. And we realized that the our honest pursuit of relationship was the real loser in all of this.

We had allowed the opinions of an event that I don’t really care about to impact our feelings about relationships that actually matter. Maybe we’re just shallow and vain. Or maybe we’re just the only ones who judge like this…I’m a “judge and jury” in recovery…so I’m not afraid to admit it. That’s part of the healing process, right?

What I’m getting at is this: We (many of us) have allowed for our shared opinions online to further define us and our camps, while marginalizing those whom we don’t agree with. Social media is here to stay, and if we can’t figure out how to minimize these polarizing online behaviors (and the unhealthy response) it will continue to drive us into communities with people who only reflect ourselves back to us…and that’s a dangerous place to be as a culture.

Maybe we should call this a draw? 

How do we fix this? Do we abandon social media because it’s the devil and Mark Zuckerberg is making billions? No…because I don’t think that fixes the heart of the issue. And because I believe that social media can be used for good too!

Fixing the heart of the issue is about deciding what is really important to our ‘personal brand’ online. We must realize that everything we share and do online is forming our brand. Our online actions create the persona by which others, whom you most likely don’t even interact with in real life, will come to know and judge you by.

We have to ask ourselves: If someone who didn’t know me saw my posts, shares, tweets, retweets, pluses, pins, instagrams, and likes, would they get an accurate view of what is really most important to me? Or do we just end up posting a bunch of stuff that creates some sort of caricature of who we are? Do we only write and share things that polarize and draw lines in the sand? Or do we make efforts to communicate what is good and true about our real life? That restores, draws in, and connects?

When all is said and done, we are more than the sum of our opinions. Yet, how we communicate ourselves online can make it tough for others to believe that.


  1. Cara on December 20, 2013 at 9:57 am

    Poignant as usual my friend. Nicely put.

  2. Wendy Mains on December 20, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    Althought I personally think A&E made a strategic error for many reasons, I totally agree with you final conclusion. As someone who has ‘friends’ of many faiths and beliefs, political leanings and lifestyles I find it infuriating when social media is used as a political platform rather than a social one….

    Thanks for articulating this so well:)

  3. Justin on December 20, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    Thanks Wendy and Cara!

  4. Lesley on December 20, 2013 at 11:41 pm

    Yes, and right on. All day long I wanted to post this status on Facebook: “If you’re a believer, just come over to my house for dinner and we can talk about all this Duck Dynasty stuff…Facebook is not the place for such a discussion.” I have a handful of gay friends in my network on Facebook who might feel very unloved by how Christians are discussing this whole thing…and I know for certain they will never consider stepping foot inside a church if they don’t feel loved.

    Thanks for the post!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: