By now, most Americans are aware of the unparalleled controversy surrounding cable network A&E’s decision to suspend one of its biggest stars based on the biblical beliefs he expressed during a recent interview. Various media outlets have been at the forefront of this debate by offering fans and supporters an easy opportunity to send a message directly to network executives.
Loyal fans and First Amendment defenders alike joined in the campaign to send A&E a clear message regarding its rash decision to cut “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson from the hit program.
The effort has been incredibly successful and, as of Monday morning, the huge influx of complaints was apparently too much for A&E’s email servers to handle. Campaigns originating at PetitionForPhil.com and elsewhere have bombarded the network’s dedicated viewer relations email address for several days, culminating in a “soft bounce” return of some of the emails early this morning.
Experts offer three primary reasons for such an error message; in this instance, the most likely scenario seems to be that A&E’s email inbox is full. Considering the level of email correspondences national networks must be prepared for, it would be a testament to the resolve of outraged Americans for the mailbox to reach its limit.
Other reasons for a soft bounce error include an email message that is too large – which seems unlikely given the brevity of most default petitions – and a recipient’s email server malfunctioning. Even under the latter conditions, A&E inability to keep the email server online as a response to the public outcry only signifies the effectiveness of the concerted petition drive.
Still, the most likely explanation remains the most rational: the network simply wasn’t prepared to receive such an enormous glut of emailed criticism. As of Monday afternoon, A&E had not yet responded to a request for comment.
Despite this development, the Western Center for Journalism is continuing its petition drive. As of this writing, online petitions are being sent to another executive-level email address.
“Duck Dynasty” opened A&E up to countless viewers who previously watched very little, if any, of the network’s other reality-dominated programming. The Robertsons express patriotism and traditional family values ignored by much of Hollywood. For that reason, along with the family’s undeniable charm, the show has become America’s highest-rated reality program.
A&E, however, put the sentiment of homosexual activists above the loyalty of the “Duck Dynasty” fan base and lost this very public debate.
Executives have yet to admit that their impetuous decision was ill-advised. Perhaps as more petitions flood their already beleaguered servers, these high-paid network bosses will realize what most of America already seems to know – Phil Robertson should not be punished for aligning himself with the Holy Bible’s teachings.
–B. Christopher Agee
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