Saturday, December 28, 2013

A&E Caves to Pressure from Robinsons & Fans - Including Christians - But...

GLAAD and Other Gay Advocacy Groups Suffer Stunning Defeat ...
But This ISN'T a Win for Christians

 A&E has reversed itself after ten days of twisting slowly, slowly in the wind, and has publicly reinstated Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robinson to the show.  With a mealy-mouthed and convoluted statement, A&E claimed a victory (of sorts) even as it admitted defeat.  The statement was a poor attempt at PR damage control, but given the situation they'd put themselves in, it was probably the best they could do.

This reversal was a huge and stunning defeat for GLAAD and all the other narrow-focus, one-issue, PC-enfolded fascist-tactic advocacy groups.  However, this defeat was not a victory for Christians who'd rallied to Robertson's support.

Let me repeat that.

This was NOT a victory for all of the Christians who'd rallied, in the hundreds of thousands, to  Phil Robertson's support.

This "victory" for Phil was prompted more by career-fear among A&E's top brass executives.  With good reason, the A&E suits' feared that they would go away because they'd destroyed the network's most profitable-ever franchise.  Hollywood, the entertainment media and it's read-headed stepchild, the broadcast news media - it's all a brutal business, driven by ratings and  profits.  Executives are paid ridiculous amounts of money for delivering hugely-profitable programming - but the minute something crashes and burns, jobs go on the block. 

In this case, it looked like the best-performing program A&E had ever put on the air was going away, and if that happened, heads would roll.  Board members and investors and "bigger suits" at the parent companies would have insisted on firing people who'd blown a multi-million-dollar profit center for no better point than appeasing a pressure group.

It's a corporate play, and here's how the players line up.  A&E Television Network us a joint venture of the Hearst Corporation and Disney-ABC Television Group, a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company.  That's a lot of corporate executives and board members who back A&E only because there is a lot of money to be made.  Lose some of that money and once high-flying execs will be out of work, and stigmatized for their failure as well. Nobody with a mortgage and an alimony, child support and a couple of kids in college is going to willingly risk firing over support for s single-issue pressure group, no matter how loud that group yells.  This applies to GLAAD, but it also applies to the Christians who backed Robertson.

The reason why A&E blinked is because the Robertson family stood behind their patriarch, making it clear that without Phil, there would be no show, no viewers, no ad revenues, no merchandising profits ... and no suits at A&E who had anything to do with getting into a game of chicken with a bunch of multi-millionaire rednecks who also have strong family values and rock-ribbed Christian beliefs.

Please don't misunderstand - without the support of hundreds of thousands of Christians and millions of fanatically-loyal viewers, A&E might have stared down the Robertsons.  It's hard to walk away from $2.5 million or so each season (with two seasons per year), even if you own a $400 million dollar business.  But the huge outpouring of support made it clear that the Robertsons could walk - away from A&E and into a new TV deal.  CBN and Glenn Beck's The Blaze had already made offers, and more would have come quickly.

Still, the final decision was influenced more by career-fear at the top of A&E  than it was by the rallying of the troops.  That rallying of outraged Christians and other fans was enough for Cracker Barrel - they quickly realized they were on the wrong side of the issue from their vocal target audience - but despite the online petitions and blogs and all the rest, A&E had no such realization.  Even in the face of the Robertson's apparent staunch faith, and even in the face of an outpouring of strong Christian and fan outrage, the suits at A&E do not take Christians - or duck hunters (i.e., bible-thumping red-necks) seriously.  We are the worst of the denizens of flyover country, and they're not even sure we exist.

Instead, those execs responsible for putting the most profitable franchise in the network's history at risk realized that they'd made a mistake in going to the mats with the Robertsons, and as a  result, they were about to lose, and if they lost, their jobs were at risk. 

Frankly, they realized that they might be fired for caving in to the demands of a small, vocal and fascist minority (GLAAD).  That was what happened to the NPR honcho lost her job after firing Juan Williams, except that instead of rolling over for GLAAD, she caved in to CAIR, a strident one-issue Muslim anti-defamation group. 

But the principle was the same - cave in, screw up, lose job.

At the bottom line (and it was really just a bottom-line issue for A&E), Duck just means too much Bucks to A&E to let the franchise go just to appease a pressure group, even one as powerful in Hollywood as GLAAD.

WIth this powerful reversal and repudiation of pressure group tactics - especially when accompanied by Cracker Barrel's own swift turn-around - executives at other businesses and media groups will now feel empowered to ignore GLAAD and other one-issue advocacy groups.  This will be especially true for those execs whose lavish lifestyles make them people who really can't afford risking their jobs. 

In the future, GLAAD will still be able to elicit meaningless platitudes, one akin to A&E's lame and confusing statement issued Friday, but GLAAD will not be able to force action that mean anything,  A&E's cave in has made it clear that supporting groups like GLAAD or CAIR risks costing shareholders money ... and executives their jobs.

However, despite the high-fives and self-congratulatory comments from many Christians who pushed hard to get A&E to cave, this is NOT a triumph for either religion or morality. Despite all of our best efforts - and they were good, good enough to get Cracker Barrel to cave - the A&E decision is all about pure economic power politics.  The fans - and most important, the Robinson's - willingness to tank the program and walk away, that was decisive. We Christians who spoke out helped, but we were not decisive.

A&E's leadership is still the same pro-gay/anti-Christian group they've always been.  It was the Robinsons (and, most importantly, their willingness to walk away) was decisive in persuading the decision-makers that it wasn't worth their jobs and their fabulous incomes to support GLAAD.

Allow me to conclude with the immortal words of Han Solo, just after Luke Skywalker destroyed his first Imperial fighter ...

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