A&E’s ‘Duck Dynasty’ Stunt is a Textbook Example of Media Manipulation


Here’s what happened:

A wealthy religious Southern man told GQ an interview that he believes homosexuality is a sin.

My initial response is who the f*&# cares. It’s not right, but does one person’s opinion have any bearing or effect on my life? No. But after witnessing the reactions, I thought I’d inform you on how you’re being manipulated.

First –

The quotes came from an interview. Not a random run-in with TMZ or drunk Charlie Sheen tirade, a scheduled interview. If for one second you think that Phil Robertson of ‘Duck Dynasty’ isn’t coached by a public relations team prior, you’re an idiot.

They knew what he was going to say and they embraced it.

This situation is a textbook example of feeding the monster, a form of media manipulation performed by expert marketers that may or may not have a conscience. It’s about the millionth time the stunt been done right in front of you this year.

Why does A&E want to to feed the media monster?

It’s because their business directly benefits from attention. They crave attention. They need attention to survive. And they always want more. There’s never enough attention, never enough viewers, never enough intrigue.

And it’s not only them. The NAACP wants attention. The human rights people want attention. The LGBT groups want attention. Because like A&E, they also benefit from feeding the monster and being seen as courageous, vigilant protectors of humanity. It’s only too bad that they’re protecting us from one person’s opinion.

This is a situation where everyone wins from feeding the monster. Everyone wins from the manipulation. A&E gets ratings, Human Rights Groups get to do their job, CNN/Fox/HuffingtonPost/Insertmediagrouphere gets something to report on and push pageviews and a few other people write crazy letters that get shared millions of times on Facebook.

You get the idea. This process gets rinsed and repeated as soon as the story fades.

Remember when Miley Cyrus caught fire with her twerking at the VMAs? She continued to feed the monster by delivering one ratchet stunt after the other. Network television shows debated, “news” outlets posted slideshows and blogs created more mindless fodder. Miley’s team knows how to manipulate the media. It lead to AEG and LIVE NATION fighting over who would promote her next tour, a tour that would pay her $500,000 per stop.

Media manipulators (marketers without souls) understand the ecosystem we live in and the complex relationship between blogs, buzzfeeds, foxnews, etc. They build these epic narratives based off of simple premises and people buy in. Just like the media needs a story to create, we need content to consume. It used to be Miley, now it’s Duck Dynasty. Neither have any impact on our lives, but we like to pretend that they do.

What happens when you don’t feed the monster?

If you don’t give the monster anything to eat, the story dies. The monster has to move onto something else. It cannot wait for you to give it something juicy, it will go find something else. However if you do throw something out there, it will find it and you’ll be right back in the spotlight.

That’s why the majority of “news” stories have someone benefiting. Someone keeps feeding the monster, riding it to get rich. There are of course deviations from the norm, like stories that are George Zimmerman crazy. But even things like typhoons or school shootings seem to garner less attention these days as their frequency and widespread reporting have rendered us desensitized.

What to do when you don’t want attention

Target just lost 40 million credit card numbers. The hackers came in the day before Thanksgiving, broke into the third largest U.S. retailers systems and stole everyone’s credit card who shopped in-store between November 25 and December 16. It’s the largest attack of its kind since 2007 and investigators still have no idea how they did it. So as an American citizen your personal information and credit card data is no longer safe shopping at a world renowned retailer during the holidays.

Let’s breakdown these events –

Target getting hacked: an act of cyber terrorism performed in the United States by an unknown enemy and carried out in such a sophisticated manner that has investigators fooled.

Phil Robertson: a Southern reality television star, make an anti-gay, racist remarks during an interview.

When you look at it that way, the Target getting hacked story seems like a much bigger deal… and it is. But Target doesn’t benefit from any attention. They don’t want people to know they got hacked! So they released one statement and that was it. The story dies and the monster moves on.

The Dolphins also did this when news broke of the Jonathan Martin versus Richie Icognito feud. They knew that if they tried to defend themselves, that they’re giving the media monster more things to report on. By being quiet, they allow the event to pass and process to play itself out.

A&E could have remained silent and this whole thing would have blown over. I doubt the readers of GQ Magazine would have launched any sort of protest. But now A&E is being discussed everywhere and at the forefront of a national debate… all because of one reality tv star’s opinion.

And in the world of media manipulation, that’s #winning.


PS – I strongly encourage you to read Trust Me I’m Lying.

  • Breeze

    You are definitely right..and to make things more..fiery..put one side of morality against another and you have an ‘epic’ battle of idiots adding their two cents worth of point of view ( like me !!!

  • http://www.elite-strategies.com/blog Patrick Coombe

    you couldn’t be more right, and I really think a lot of civilian (non-marketers) are getting hip to this fact, I know for one I’ve at least heard people say it was a “publicity stunt.”

  • Voice of Reason
    • ikt123

      Are you being ironic?

      “blogs created more mindless fodder”

      That’s you!

      You’re part of the monster which this very article decries.

      • taddevries

        Yep, and now so are you. And thanks but so am I now. Once you decide to jump in you became part of the beast with a thousand backs. So enjoy.

        • ikt123

          His blog post isn’t on media manipulation, it’s on the Duck Dynasty stunt.

          If the early focus of this article was on Miley Cyrus twerking with a big picture of miley twerking, he would say “Completely agree with you” and then link to his blog with his opinion on miley cyrus twerking stunt.

          That’s why I asked if he’s being ironic, because he’s agreeing with the article saying that part of the monster is mindless blog posts, to which he has contributed his own.

          • Aiolus

            Granted, but he is trying to explain the psychological and business factors of these sort of hyped stories.

  • JimBobble

    ” a Southern reality television star, make an anti-gay, racist remarks during an interview.”

    Racist? Please explain.

    • http://bartsbarometer.com/ Bart Breen

      Read the interview.

      • Chris

        Again, nothing he said was racist. Unless of course you’re trying to equate one’s behavior with one’s race which is the definition of a racial stereotype is it not?

        • Robyn Banks

          He said that blacks were better off during the Jim Crow laws… how is that NOT racist?

          • Brian Kelsey

            Because racism is the hatred of a group based on race. Phil simply discussed his personal observations. No hatred involved. You really should learn the real meanings of words before you throw them out there.

          • James Wetzel

            No, that is bigotry. Racism is the belief that one race is superior to another. You really should learn the real meanings of words before you throw them out there.

          • Robyn Banks

            Brian, okay, you fool yourself into believing what you’re saying… right, but you don’t fool us. There is no fool like the person fooling himself. I know the meaning of the word, you’re good with playing with it, but you’re still fooling yourself, fool.

          • Chris

            No that’s not what he said. He said he didn’t see any mistreatment of them during that period. Therefore, he believes they were better off during that period. It’s not inconceivable in a small rural area. So no it is not racist. Stop putting words into his mouth that he didn’t say. You’re doing exactly what your dear leader accuses his critics of doing whenever he misspeaks: taking words out of context.

          • Aiolus

            If not racist then inexcusably stupid, right lol.

      • JimBobble

        I did, thank you. What he said was that he personally never witnessed mistreatment while growing up. It’s not inconceivable in a small rural community.

        What an interesting, strange world we live in where we profess freedom of speech and religious equality with one breath and then condemn with the next based solely on a pulp magazine article designed to sell.

        • EricPoole

          What he said, specifically, was that black people were happier during segregation. In context, the statement that he never witnessed mistreatment toward black people while growing up is clearly an attempt to imply that there was no mistreatment anywhere simply because he didn’t see it.

          Taken together, Robertson effectively said that black people were better off with Jim Crow. Better off when they were legally deprived of their right to vote. Better off when they were routinely lynched. Better off when their rights weren’t regarded as valid.

          That’s racist.

          • Aiolus

            Couldn’t have said it better.

          • TobyU

            No it’s not. He was stating the way that he saw things in the past. May or may not have been accurate but he never said that black people should have been treated worse. That would have been racist.

          • bobbobberson

            He never said “happier” ..way to spin words

          • Brian Kelsey

            “is clearly an attempt to imply that there was no mistreatment anywhere simply because he didn’t see it.”

            You are delusional.

        • Aiolus

          He was free to be racist, granted he may be too dumb to know any history.

          Just as he was free to be racist and bigoted, others can complain about it.

          His free speech is not protected by private industry.

          • bobbobberson

            Here we go! This went from anti-gay to racism. Racism will never die as long as both sides continue to feed it. If whites had a version of the NAACP , the world will go nuts.. oh but its not racist if blacks hate whites huh? … so tired of this same old song and dance!

          • chrisgriswold

            That’s because you don’t understand how race works.

          • Whatthebuck

            Please enlighten me. All hypothetically speaking, if a group of white guys beats up a black guy it’s viewed as a racial hate crime. If a group of black guys beats up a white guy, it’s assault. Where’s the justice in that?

          • chrisgriswold

            My apologies for being so dismissive. I gave in to the allure of being a jerk on a comment. I used to dislike the idea of hate crimes, too, but then I came to understand the concept better. When a crime is motivated by race, the idea is that it’s not just a crime inflicted on the victim at hand, but also the group that was targeted, as well as the peace of society at hand. Crime is crime, yes, but there’s an extra trauma inflicted on our culture when not just a person is attacked, but a race or a sexuality.

            This does include whites, Christians, men, etc. People have been convicted of hate crimes in those instances, but honestly, I’m in all of those groups, and we’re the majority, so we’re actually doing pretty well.

          • Brian Kelsey

            Hate crimes are thought crimes. Only tyrants punish thoughts. And your assertion is not accurate. Just this week Eric Holder brought federal charges against a white guy for playing the knockout game on a black person. At the same time Holder ignores all the black on white crime. THAT is racism.

          • dkat

            Actually you are wrong. If it were shown that the black guys were beating up the white guy because of his race then it would be a hate crime.

          • Whatthebuck

            That’s not how the media would portray it because somehow it is politically incorrect to call a black person racist.

          • Aiolus

            If someone does commits a crime based on race. Blacks beat a white guy cause he is white = hate crime. Go look up the definition online.

          • Whatthebuck

            I know the definition. And I know it would technically be a hate crime. That’s why I worded my statement the way I did. However, the media would not make it a hate crime. See my response to dkat

          • Brian Kelsey

            Or maybe you don’t know what racism really is.

          • dkat

            White Christians have had a version of the NAACP for generations. It just was so pervasive that it did not need a name. Country clubs that did not allow in Jews, or anyone of color (Hispanics, blacks, Asians, etc.) still exist; schools that until recently could keep you from enrolling even if you had a better record and grades because of your race (Jew and Asian quota); Employers who continue to pay men more than women for the same work. It continues to day. Whites using drugs get a slap on the wrist. Blacks being caught with even a small amount of a drug, even MJ get sent to prison for a very long time. Blacks are a small percentage of the population but they are more likely to get pulled over when driving a care (or shot and killed for walking down a street). Real sorry that it inconvenient you this terrible thing of fighting for the civil rights of those who do not look like you. I can see how exhausting it is for you by this post.

            And how does the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People represent hating whites?

          • Aiolus

            Well said, sadly it will fall on deaf ears. The world to them is made for white Christians.

          • Aiolus

            tsk tsk…

          • Brian Kelsey

            Or maybe you are too dumb to understand what he actually said. But you are free to be an idiot.

          • Aiolus

            You continue to demonstrate your… naivety, malice, and general petty spite. If seeing the world like you is smart I would be glad to be an idiot.

            At least you seem to think racism is wrong.

            We will never see eye to eye, I have read some of your comments. At best you are ignorant. Maybe a troll. So excuse me for not replying in the future.

        • Ian Redman

          Honestly, if you’re going to talk about freedom of speech and freedom of religion then you really should understand what they even mean. Freedom of speech means we’re free to express our beliefs and ideas without restriction from the government. Freedom of religion simply states that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. It doesn’t mean their public beliefs, ideas, or opinions are free from any consequence by citizens or employers. Employers have rights too, they have the right to choose who represents their company. If you cause your employer to lose profit, damage their image or bring them unwarranted public scrutiny due to statements you made publicly then they absolutely have the right to fire you.

          • Peter Chesky

            If you hire someone and know that they have certain religious belief and you know that a good portion of your viewers do not agree with it and ask the man to speak at an interview knowing that it is possible he will speak his religious mind than you fire him for doing something expected then that is wrong. Jesus our savior was born today long ago. He died on the cross for all our sins. Even your sins A&E, he has already forgiven you.

          • Brian Kelsey

            Actually, the bulk of A&E viewers are DD fans. Most of their viewers do, in fact, agree with Phil. The people that complained most likely have never even watched the show.

          • Soylent Green Is People

            I watched about 15 minutes of one episode before turning it off because it was so fucking retarded. Does that count?

          • Aiolus

            Whew! Well said! Thank god for that. (I have never watched the show)

          • Aiolus

            I think he was allowed to speak religiously on the show. (never seen it so don’t take me completely seriously) The issue came in when he spoke hatefully. Also Jesus was born in the spring. Also his dad literally sent (key word is sent) him to die on the cross… having done so it is daddys fault. Also as god he knew what would happen before he created the world. Freewill would only be an illusion in a world where someone is omniscient as our future would be mapped (known) and we couldn’t deviate from it. So in short, god knew we would need saving (he set us up! it’s a trap!). He knew about the whole thing and orchestrated it.

        • Joe Vigliatura

          Some people can’t comprehend everything they read. I read the article and didn’t see anything racist or bad.

  • mitch

    I read the book “Trust me I’m Lying”. Ryan Holiday hits the nail on the head. I think his appraoch is the best way to go about it.

  • Susan Major West

    another idiot that doesn’t know what he is talking about. GET THE FACTS STRAIGHT! Phil made a statement of HIS beliefs and WHERE he got his beliefs from!

  • Joe Vigliatura

    How does A&E get more viewers when it is being boycotted by over a million people? (Nice theory about the media monster) I am sure it’s true in some cases, but not all.

    • frozen01

      How many of those million people watched it in the first place?
      And how many people are now watching the show out of curiosity?

  • steph fangswandsandfairydust

    Brilliant! Thanks for explaining that. Could you repeat it every time it happens, please. You just need to put up a picture of the recent stupidity and a link back to this.
    And, you need to be in a dozen places, daily, reminding us of this.

    Until this week, I thought Duck Dynasty was a Donald Duck cartoon on Disney. And, as one of the people affected by the Target thing, I paid a lot more attention to that.

  • whosright….

    When do I get to play my “female card”…. Back in the day when women couldn’t vote, it was wrong for us to work…. blah blah blah but everyone else can do it? It was the past, let it go, who cares what some guy said, is he your leader? If so you have bigger issues!!! If we put wrongness in the world it only causes more wrongness…. Let God judge if you believe and want to live in sin, if you don’t then don’t worry your becoming one with the earth in a 6 foot hole right?

  • Greg Webster

    Check CNN for a video of him from 2010, where he spouted off the same homophobic crap.

    • Brian Kelsey

      A phobia is a fear. Phil does not fear homosexuals. He disagrees with them. Nothing homophobic about it. Why can’t Leftists use words correctly?

    • Aiolus

      People fear what they do not understand. This is the story of history.

  • Brian Kelsey

    Dear Leftists,

    A phobia is an irrational fear of something.
    Racism is hatred based on the race of a person or group.

    Phil does not fear homosexuals, he disagrees with their lifestyle.

    Phil said nothing about hating blacks, or anyone else.

    Phil even said it was not his place to judge others. That was for God.

    Phil spoke his opinion and now that haters are twisting the meaning of words to make themselves feel superior.

    • James Wetzel

      Racism has nothing inherently to do with “hatred”. The word you’re looking for is bigotry. This may help:

      Bigotry: intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself.

      Racism: the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, esp. so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.

      • Aiolus

        People probably could use bigotry but in America it is somewhat synonymous with racism. The line is heavily blurred in the common vernacular.

        I am not sure if you left out the other part of the definition with any intent, good or bad, but it goes like this;

        – prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone
        of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.

    • Jim A. Wright

      Well said Brian!

    • Alice

      And you just proved you didn’t read the article. This article had nothing at all to do with anything you said.

  • Mike Lombard

    It is the same old thing, like gawking at a car wreck, or watching Maury Povich or Jerry Springer….all they have to do is “create” an “incident’ and fan the flames of curiosity, bigotry or ignorance and they get ratings, which translate to money, lots of money. And in the end 99 times out of 100 it has no real impact on our lives or families. It is fodder for tabloids and what now passes itself off as “news” which has degenerated to hyped up infotainment.

  • http://spiritnewsdaily.com/ Donovan Moore

    Well said. Another example is when celebrities such as Kim Kardaishian and Kanye tussle with the paparazzi at the public terminal at LAX. They could easily afford to fly on a private jet and avoid it all if they wanted. hmmmmm