Jonah Goldberg
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So rednecks need to be politically correct now?

Wait, before the National Association of Rednecked Persons attacks me, let me be clear that I don't mean "redneck" as an insult. Indeed, Redneck Pride has been on the rise ever since Jeff Foxworthy got rich informing people they "might be a redneck."

(Some clues: if your school fight song was "Dueling Banjos"; if you've ever raked leaves in your kitchen; if your boat hasn't left your driveway for 15 years; if birds are attracted to your beard, etc.)

Redneck reality shows have been all the rage: "Rocket City Rednecks," "My Big Redneck Vacation," "Hillbilly Handfishin'" and, of course, "Swamp People."

But the gold standard is "Duck Dynasty," which follows the Robertsons, a family that struck it rich selling duck calls. It's like a real-life version of "The Beverly Hillbillies." All of the men look like they stepped out of the Hatfield-McCoy conflict to smoke a corncob pipe.

What all of these -- and countless other -- reality shows have in common is their shock value. And guess what? Sometimes the shock is manufactured. If the cameras weren't on, the silicone life forms on the various "Real Housewives" shows probably wouldn't be throwing wine in each other's faces as much as they do. TLC's awful reality show "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" tries its hardest to turn an uncouth Southern white family with a children's beauty pageant fixation into the sort of genetic and cultural horror show that sparked the progressives to advocate eugenics. And everyone everywhere mugs for the camera.

But here's a twist. Phil Robertson (who -- shhh! -- has a master's degree from Louisiana Tech) gave an interview to GQ in which he said that, as a Christian, he has problems with homosexuality. He got a bit too detailed with his anatomical analysis. But his real sin was calling homosexuality a sin comparable with bestiality.

In response, A&E has suspended him from the reality show about his own family. That right there should give you a sense of how real this reality show is. If it's about the family, some producer in New York can't decide who's in or out of the family. If NBC News decided it simply didn't like the Republican Party anymore (not altogether implausible), it could decide not to report on the GOP. But it would stop being a news organization in the process. Instead, it would be producing a kind of "reality show" for which it makes up its own version of reality (like "Top Chef" or MSNBC).

Sarah Palin jumped into the fray. "Free speech is an endangered species," she warned on her Facebook page. "Those 'intolerants' hatin' and taking on the 'Duck Dynasty' patriarch for voicing his personal opinion are taking on all of us."

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Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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