Cognitive Dissonance: Armchair Activists, Duck Dynasty, Chick-Fil-A, and YOU.

Two days ago, my Assistant Manager came to work with multiple bags of Chick-Fil-A. They were her lunch. (She eats quite a bit and is blessed with an unholy metabolism.) She offered me a few pieces of chicken, and I declined saying that I don't spend money where I'm not wanted. A look of understanding came over her, and she immediately said, "I just really like the chicken!" As though I were going to fire her or something for eating at an establishment that actively uses money to limit my civil rights. I believe the technical term for that is: that shit be cray.

I smiled and let her know that she can eat wherever she wants. That's her prerogative and none of my business, especially in a professional setting. But, she wouldn't let up. She continued on about how she knows that they have a bad reputation, however have I ever had their chicken? It's just the most delicious thing on Earth! And, really, she supports gay people and has lots of gay friends, but mmm....chicken.

This dialogue got me thinking about the cognitive dissonance between knowing your money is going to a cause you say you are against, and spending your money there anyway because you like their products.

But, then...Duck Dynasty happened.

The man pictured above is one of the biggest stars in television history. His name is Phil Robertson, and he is the patriarch of the family that makes up the cast of a reality TV show on the A&E network called Duck Dynasty. Their show is going on their 5th season, and their 4th season premiere was the most watched nonfiction cable show in all of television history. 14 million people tune in to see he and his family going about their day making duck calls and living in the luxury that their incredibly prosperous business grants them.

They also pride themselves on being Bible-thumpers (Robertson's words). Now, why Phil Robertson ever thought it was a good idea to give an interview to GQ magazine is beyond my ability to comprehend, but he did. And it's a doozy. (I very much encourage you to go read the entire article for yourself as there are a LOT of misunderstandings on all sides of the argument about to be discussed due to people getting their information from social media rather than the source article.)

In the article, Robertson offers up his opinion on things like Jim Crow era civil rights (for no apparent reason):

I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field.... They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!... Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.

So, things were just great for black people during the 50s and 60s in the south, because Phil Robertson said so. 

However, I'd like to allow for the proper context for some of the upcoming comments. Robertson begins his discussion of sin and religion and how Bible/Christian-centric his family is with this statement:

We’re Bible-thumpers who just happened to end up on television. You put in your article that the Robertson family really believes strongly that if the human race loved each other and they loved God, we would just be better off. We ought to just be repentant, turn to God, and let’s get on with it, and everything will turn around.

In the article, Robertson apparently goes on about how America was founded on Christian values, but that they have been diluted or all together lost. He tells the article's author, Drew Magary, that, “Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong,” he says. “Sin becomes fine.”

Then Magary asks him what is 'sinful'. His response:
“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

Robertson then recounts a time where he beat up a bar owner and his wife for reasons untold, then his wife paid them off with their life savings, and they left Arkansas. When asked if he felt he should track down that bar owner and make amends, he said he didn't want to dredge anything up and that he put the incident behind him. I guess that makes it okay to beat people up, as long as you can pay them off and put it behind you.

I encourage you, again, to read the rest of the article. He goes into why insurance is a terrible scheme and that you should favor prayer over healthcare. He makes Islamophobic (among other religious groups) statements, and says that his end goal is to use his platform to 'convert souls'. When asked, his son says that the next generation of Robertson's agrees with what their patriarch says and that they proselytize whenever the opportunity presents itself.

All of this has sparked a nasty debate.

Of course.

I'm sure from reading the article and the major quotes listed here you can guess at the finer points of the arguments for the many sides of the debate raging on a social media presence near you. What I'm more concerned about in this article is the tacit agreement that I've seen from people who, in the past, openly declared their status as an ally to the gay community.

See, there are lots of people saying things like 'What he said was terrible, and I support gay people, but the show is entertaining, so I'm still going to watch it.' (Paraphrased very badly from the combined statements I've seen across Twitter and Facebook.)

To me, this is like the chicken sandwich from my co-worker. She says that she is pro-gay rights. That she knows Chick-Fil-A actively works against gay rights. But, the chicken is delicious, so she will continue to eat there because she likes it.

Let's define something, shall we?
cog·ni·tive dis·so·nance
noun: cognitive dissonance
  1. 1.
    the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, esp. as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.

Cognitive dissonance is when you attempt to hold two inconsistent ideas in your head, but create this magical wall between the two so that you can continue to do the thing you want to do by ignoring how it relates to the uncomfortable idea.

Example 1: I was told by my doctor that I need to eat healthier to live longer. I love to eat five pieces of pizza every night for dinner. I choose to ignore the uncomfortable thoughts about how unhealthy it is to eat that much pizza every day and continue doing the thing I want to do in opposition to the advice of my doctor.

Example 2: I love my gay friends, and I believe they should have the right to get married. I love eating at Chick-Fil-A. I find out that Chick-Fil-A's profits go, in part, to organizations that actively work against my gay friends' right to get married. I choose to ignore the comfortable thought that my money is partially going to keep my friends from getting married, because I like the chicken sandwich and want to continue to do the thing I like.

Example 3: I love my gay and/or black friends. I believe they should have equal civil rights. I also love the show Duck Dynasty. I find out that one of the main characters on the show, as well as other cast members, does an interview in which he gives bigoted statements against my gay friends and/or my black friends' civil rights history. I choose to continue watching Duck Dynasty, because I think the show is entertaining, and choose to ignore the uncomfortable feelings that my support will continue to allow them a platform and funds with which to spread those statements to millions of people.

Cognitive dissonance is a strange lie that we tell ourselves. It is our way to make us feel better about doing something we know goes against what we believe or how we feel we should behave. But, more than that, in many instances it can be dangerous. The smoker whose CD keeps them smoking, because they ignore the warnings and science. The cheater whose CD keeps them unfaithful, because they ignore the potential consequences of getting caught.

The 'friend' or ally of an individual in a minority group who outwardly says they support their friend's cause, but then patronizes businesses because they like the products.

The feminist who ignores how Hobby Lobby treats its female employees, because they don't want to find another place to buy craft supplies.

And I think therein lies my exasperation. The idea that you, the supposed ally, simply cannot be bothered to change your habits, because it's uncomfortable. It might take something away from you. You might never get to eat your favorite fast food chicken sandwich again. You might not see the rest of next season's Duck Dynasty. You might have to order your craft supplies online. You might be somewhat inconvenienced in order to support your friend or cause or group by not giving your money to a business that actively uses that money and platform to work against that friend or cause or group.

Remember, TV shows are businesses, too. Viewers = Ratings = Ad Dollars = Paychecks for people on the show. Watching the show is helping to line the pockets and supports the views of the people on the show.

Allies, you might need to start getting a little uncomfortable. The hoops I have to go through in order to make sure my Partner can be covered on my insurance are embarrassing.  You don't have to go through them. Affidavits have to be signed. Statements have to be given. Additional forms have to be filled out. I have to let my employer know how long I've been in my gay relationship with my gay partner in my gay life. And, still, because I'm not family, issues can arise. Much of my life is inconvenienced by being gay.

You can find somewhere else to get a damn chicken sandwich. There is another TV show on one of the thousands of channels out there you can enjoy. There is another craft store, or there is the internet for all your crafty needs.

Allies need to realize that your tacit approval of these businesses, shows, and public figures makes us wonder just how far your support really goes. You support your gay friends, but do you support them enough to go to a different drive-thru when that craving for a chicken nugget comes? Do you support your friends enough to find a different television show to watch?

If you can't even change the channel or find a different fast food restaurant or patronize a different business, how much of an ally can you call yourself?

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte


  1. I am a child of the sixties, as was my late husband. I was raised by a VERY liberal mother who always "put her money where her mouth was". We don't shop Walmart, we don't by shit that makes Paula Dean or Martha Stewart (or hosts of others) money. We don't watch shows/movies or buy music of folks that stand for what we do not. We don't shop at Hobby Lobby or eat at Chick a whatever ... We also don't eat fast food because of their poor wages. If you believe in something, you must stand by that and do what you can to make a difference. Saying you support something is just lip service unless you take action. In fact, you are NOT an activist at all if you take no actions whatsoever. I don't want to hear what you say you believe or support ... EVER ... I want you to show me. My children are the same way, raised right. Don't just bitch and moan, don't say what you believe if you're not willing to back that up by boycotting, protesting, voting, and ... whatever else will make change happen. The world is run by those who show up. It's up to us to show up and make the changes happen. Saying how much you support one cause or another means NOTHING if you aren't willing to take what actions you can. I mean, really, how hard is it to change where you shop? How hard is it to keep a list of businesses and people you won't support? How much do you want to live in a free and equal world? Because, unless we take action change will not occur. Kudos to the author. THIS. NOW! :-)

  2. The one concern I have is that some companies may be doing the same things that companies like Chik FIl-A and Hobby Lobby are doing, but not having reports published by the media. I didn't even know that Hobby Lobby was Christian-owned until very recently, and it's probably been kept quiet by the management there to keep a wider clientele.

    Say that you don't like one store's practices when it comes to employee treatment, political and legislative contributions, etc. As a result, you decide to patronize their competitor. How can you as a consumer be certain that the second store isn't doing the exact same thing, but not being loud about it?

    I can't say that I agree with the politics of certain stores, television personalities, or youth organizations. But my concern is if there is any of the above that actually share philosophies I can get behind.

    (BTW, to Phil Robertson, I must add this: We can all get along without having to follow the same spiritual path.)

  3. BRAVA!!!!!!!!!! *thunderous applause* Brilliantly written piece!

  4. At the very core, believing in something, anything, against the Western "norm" is going to be uncomfortable if you truly put your habits and money where your beliefs are. Speaking from years of experience in quietly bucking the system, not incorporating racism and homophobia into my life despite being raised with it at the forefront of my community, not getting married, not having kids, not being a Christian, being a vegetarian and then a vegan… It is indeed a slippery slope when you really start to dig into mass media, manufacturing and consumerism to get to the bottom of what you support, believe and contribute to unwittingly.

    Maybe that is why I tend to shrug off the “excuses as – well, OK you call it something more classy – cognitive dissidence. I call it – people are just too f8cking lazy to care enough to change. And if you are – too lazy that is – I will accept that. But stop hiding behind excuses. Just say you don’t care.
    You don’t care that Chic-fil-A lobbies against gay people and uses factory farmed chickens and other ingredients, by all means eat! But, I don’t want to hear your excuses. You don’t care about daddy duck and his uber conservative Christian views and you think the show is great, by all means, keep watching. But, don’t expect me to be standing in line at Walmart with the rest of the dumbass rednecks buying DD gear.

    Oh, by the way, world - I guess that last year when someone jumped my ass on FB when I called them a bunch of “dumbass rednecks” because I was being “out of line” and a bunch of other rhetoric meant to insinuate that I was bigoted against dumbass rednecks, I now get to finally ask: Did I call that one right or what?

    And by the way again – you can blatantly tell by listening to this family EXACLTY what they are about. Although I don’t watch the show, you can’t avoid seeing clips and hearing things in the media. There is virtually NO WAY that a bunch of white, very red, camo wearing, zz top bearded, “good Christian” people are not racist and homophobic and right wing to the point of one step away from creepy, compound living nutjobs. Really people was all of this not already fairly obvious?
    This “family” is about what every other (in mass generality) group in this country with money and no real sense is about. Money, stuff, commercialism, THEIR god and not knowing when to keep their mouths shut. Look at them! Do you really think that any of these guys could have married those spit and polished women in “real” small town America? Do you really think that any of those spit and polished women have not been “surgically blessed” in many ways? One of the daughters is “an aspiring model” - do you really think THAT life is available to all the little girls running around Walmart in their DD tshirts?

    This is consumerism and entertainment folks. Put your damn money where your beliefs are or just say you don’t give a f&ck

  5. Thank you. There's a mistaken notion out there that the only vote that counts is at the ballot box, when in fact, the votes that really count are the ones we make with our dollars. We can't profess to actually care about our fellow human beings, while monetarily supporting organizations doing everything in their power to cut them off at the knees. I've taken a lot of flak over the years for refusing to shop at WalMart, for instance, and the argument usually goes something like "but their prices are really good, and one customer is only a drop in the bucket", etc etc...That may be true, but it's MY drop, and collective drops can make a body of water, and make a difference.

    I've never seen Duck Dynasty (don't have television), but this Robertson guy sounds like....well, like the reason I don't have television.

    When Chick-Fil-A is considered a meal, and redneck, racist homophobes are considered entertainment, it makes me fear we are really and truly circling the drain.

  6. Cognitive dissonance. That was a very interesting, thought provoking piece. It got me thinking that we’re constantly immersed in cognitive dissonance. It’s like the lens that we view everything through from our position of comfortable privilege. In many ways it is necessary in order just go get through the day. I’m not saying that’s a good thing, but it is certainly a thing. On a sliding scale between good and evil most people would consider themselves fairly near the ‘good’ end. It’s the cognitive dissonance that prevents people from realising how far down the other end they really are, by tacitly accepting that dark things have happened, and are continuing to happen that ensure they maintain the quality of life that they believe they are entitled to.

    You’re all good people probably against cruelty, exploitation, abuse, etc. Yet you’re reading this on a device that was most likely produced in foreign conditions that you would find unacceptable. So what do you do about it? Feel bad? Feel angry? Do nothing? Don’t give a toss about other people as long as you’ve got an iPhone?
    It’s cognitive dissonance that keeps us from drowning in our own hypocrisy. I hate the way that the manipulation of money around the world chains mere mortals to crushing debt for most of our working lives just to keep a roof over our heads, yet I keep paying the mortgage. My need to be comfortable and privileged and warm outweighs my need to be principled and living on the streets. I suspect we’re all the same. There may be some holier-than-thou people that reject the trappings of materialistic society, and by so doing reject society itself. But if you’re on the outside how can you fix it?

    I think we need to look at the bigger picture. All ideologies and groups, even nations are all fictions. The illusion is that there is an ‘us’ and a 'them', and naturally the ‘us’ is better because we are in it, and the ‘them’ is worse because ‘they’ are in it. Really it’s all just ‘us’.

    Here’s another thought. Fracking: one of the most short-sighted, greed-driven acts of ecocide foisted on our landscape short of actual war. There aren’t many people who are ‘for’ it, maybe the shareholders and the owners. It’s one thing to be against it, but are you far enough against it to switch off every electrical device you own and keep them all off forever to reduce demand for power?

    Still reading? check your dissonance level. Hypocrite signing off.

  7. Last week we had our customary "team Christmas dinner" at work. My wife was not able to make the home made mac and cheese as was requested, so I was in a bind to find something. My first thought was to go by a local grocery with a deli inside, but none are around where I work. Then I hit on the idea, " hey there's a chick fil a just up from work, I can get a lot of food there,". Then I thought, " No, I would rather go in empty handed and just not eat as bring in chicken smothered in tasty hatred,". so I went into a nice friendly Chinese takeout place near where i worked and got some of their wonderful house Lo mein. Everyone enjoyed the lo mein, tho, not a trad Christmas food, but my conscience was clear.


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