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Land of the free...
This might be a rumor, mind you, but I heard yesterday that certain radio stations were refusing to play songs by the Dixie Chicks. This apparently occurred after one of the members had the guts to lay it on the line and speak her mind concerning our illustrious leader and our often insightful and oh-so-efficient currently governing administrative branch. (Basically, as I understand it, her statement effectively said that she was embarrassed that our leader was from her home state...) So feel free to correct the facts, but the question I have is this: The music industry theoretically serves the purpose of providing entertainment, not political criticism; is it in a position where it is qualified to institute the de facto censorship of ideas and curtail the rights and freedoms of individuals that work within its system? Furthermore, should a media company, ostensibly entrusted with duty of facilitating the distribution of ideas and news, be able, and if able, be willing, to essentially institute economic sanctions against an individual acting well within his or her rights as an American by voicing views, however unpopular? Lastly, I find it funny, sad, and ironic that country music fans, who are stereotypically so pro-American and who love their country and all that it stands for are so offended when someone actually exercises the right that is the cornerstone of American-ness: Freedom of Speech.
posted by Clint Phipps on Mar 18, 2003 02:13PM

I agree with everything here, absolutely, but I think that the deal was that it was the listeners' overwhelming reactions in the negative toward the music (basically, a bunch of people got together and said "call the radio stations and tell them we want to get rid of the dixie chicks cause of what they said in London") that made it happen. I think that it is ironic that people voicing their opinions about other people voicing their opinions has enough pull to make the music banners ban the band. And so here we are now voicing our opinions about people who voiced opinions of people who voiced their opinions in London. Its kind of like we're in some kind of infinitely repeating mirror image universe or something.

But seriously, spending time getting a bunch of people to tell someone to get rid of the music of someone who had the balls to voice an opinion is really a stupid waste of time - no wait, its more like something a governmental "regime" like the book burning Nazis or -- the American Government (a la media blackout during desert storm) -- would do...

In light of the three ring circus that we live in and have to deal with and belong to today, I'd like to say to all the people who want to ban me and my band (and ban anyone else, for that matter) for saying what they truly believe - a very American Ideal, by the way - FUCK YOU! Fuck anyone who thinks they have the right to put a sock in our right to freedom of speech, or stop someone's livelyhood just because they express a different point of view. This is the most hypocritical thing you can do as an American. So - if you really are American, DON'T FUCKING DO IT!

posted by Cody Phipps on Mar 18, 2003 02:43PM

There is no right or freedom to be played on a commercial radio station. If you think otherwise, I welcome you to go down to the nearest one and demand that they put your record on the air. If they refuse, call the police, and see how far that gets you.

There is no right to income, either. There is only a right not to be disqualified for a job based on certain things you ostensibly can't change, like (quoting from the federal poster on the bulletin board nearby) race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, and disability.

It doesn't mention your publicly voiced, offensive-to-customers personal opinion.

Do I think it's stupid that the Dixie Chicks were quickly forced to apologize for an insult to the president by a horde of redneck fans calling the radio stations? Yeah, it's stupid. Do I think they have some sort of right to be exempt from it? No, not really.

posted by Zach Beane on Mar 18, 2003 03:26PM

Did anyone say in our previous posts they had a right to be exempt? No. I think we said they had a right to voice an opinion, and that the American ideal is to debate ideas publicly, like this post and, not to censor or ban them.
posted by Cody Phipps on Mar 18, 2003 03:58PM

It seems to me the question is, "Can media companies choose not to play artists because they say controversial things?" Yes. "Should they do it?" I don't really see why not. There is no guaranteed access to the mass media. People who got their access through one means (playing catchy, non-political country pop) who decide to use that access for other purposes (political statements) shouldn't be surprised when that access becomes unstable. The Chicks can still get their opinions out like everyone else: by writing cranky letters to the editor!

It's not as though the idea presented in this particular case (that Bush is an embarrassment to certain Texans) is unavailable just because country radio stations don't play the Dixie Chicks. If anything, it's suddenly more widely known.

The real shame is that what's-her-name was so quick to back off her statement. If anything, I think she should have stuck by it. But I'm sure she has a family to feed and debts to her record company to pay off.

posted by Zach Beane on Mar 18, 2003 04:10PM

Actually, I was asking a question aimed squarely at restraint on the part of the record companies, radio stations, and other entertainment companies, not about the law, not about corporate rights or lack thereof. If you read the questions, they do not talk about "cans" (that's a fairly simple research question) but rather "shoulds." This is a question concerning a purely retaliatory act by a media entertainment company that we're talking about. The questions were posed to examine the moral basis for the decision, the moral implications of it and the underlying conceptual incongruities of what they have done and what they were trying to accomplish. No doubt they have the *right* to prevent distribution via their network of anything they feel like. That is entirely uncontested. However, the point is just because they have the right, are they "qualified" to exercise it when it impacts many others? Basically: should they even if they can?
One of the things that should immediately become apparent when one talks about law is that what is "law" is not necessarily equivalent to good and that "rights" are not necessarily equivalent to right. There still exists the necessity for a bit of good judgment and common sense within the framework of our laws and our designated (and shrinking) rights. So in this case, it seems that the issue is whether it is morally (broadly defined) acceptable to impose a de facto restriction another's right to do something. Granted the speech in question was different in character than other content that had come before. Just because you haven’t spoken on a subject before are you eternally foreclosed from doing so? And if you do, and say something unpopular, should everything you’ve said be censored regardless of the character of the previous content? If Frank Zappa had issues with “some sick fucker with a razor blade,” this is a case of some sick fucker with a bulldozer.

This post wasn't originally about law and rights, save the right to express yourself and the right to live under an essentially free, nontotalitarian system of government. But, if you want to talk law and rights on a broader scale, my personal opinion is that too many people justify things based on that, "well, it's within their rights to do it," argument. At the very core of a right, at the very core of a law is a philisophical ideal, a conceptual abstraction, a value judgment made either arbitrarily or based all that has come before and what is desired in the future. (Yes, some elements of law are purely arbitrary.) But that does not end when the words are set to the paper. There still exists the reason for the law, underlying the words, in legal parlance: the spirit of the statute. In theory, we all have rights and may exercise them as we wish, however in this complex individualistic and privatized society, rights can clash. The right to run your radio station as you want to vs. the right of other people to speak their mind. If all of everyones' rights clashed with all of everyone elses' rights, no one would have any rights because we'd all try to restrict others' rights to our own benefit. A few would win, and a totalitarian-esqe restrictive state would result where a priveleged few would have rights and most would have none. No government needed to enforce the restrictions. This is a far fetched hypothetical (or maybe not so far fetched), but it demonstrates the point that some restraint is not misplaced, regardless of what the law is. At higher intellectual levels, beyond that “huh huh, you broke the law” level, the law is often viewed as a minimum bar, things that comply with the law are OK, but not necessarily good. Think of corporate America. It's within the parameters of the law, but not really good for the fabric of American society on the level of everyday life. No one really likes working for corporate America, the Man, and if it changed a few things it'd be better, but it's not illegal (at the moment) as it is. What I'm saying is, when you do something in society that affects people, real people not imaginary statistical people, you should do so with a conscience. That seems to be lacking in what the radio stations did in regard to the Dixie Chicks. That is sad, I think, and given the character of their content, ironic on several levels. But the real shame is that it is not unexpected, especially coming from the entertainment industry, this business of show, because that sort of manipulation and exploitation happens so often.
posted by Clint Phipps on Mar 18, 2003 05:39PM

I believe there are instances when there is a proper time and place to say something - be it insulting towards another person or persons. (Enter the commonly heard expression, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.") While Natalie Maines has the right to say as she pleases, I think it's too bad that she chose to slam the President on a stage in London, where she was there for her musical talent and to perform, not for her political opinion. While she CAN speak freely and chose to do so, I don't think that she SHOULD have. Because I am in a neutral position as far as my personal feelings regarding the President and a war that seems inevitable, my opinions of her or the Dixie Chicks were not altered on account of her public comment. However, I think it's unfortunate that she chose to say it in a place where she was performing for her fans, and in a time where such a gutsy comment would obviously be offensive to many and have a major impact on those who heard it (and those who were soon to hear about it).

Personally it has made me wonder about what her underlying reason was for making her comment on stage - whether she thought those listening would find her humorous or if it was to gain further popularity or acceptance in such a time where people feel so strongly against America and the President's actions and steps towards bringing our country to war. Or, maybe she just, at that moment, felt compelled to share her personal opinion, regardless of whom it may offend. She should have known that such a comment would elicit severe consequences for herself and her band. Her quick apology and by stating her comment as disrespectful are obvious examples of her regret. But that is all off topic anyway...

As far as media companies banning the music of the Dixie Chicks - I don't feel that it's necessarily appropriate or should be done as a form of punishment, retaliation, or whatever their motives may be. While I don't think that is was an appropriate place for Maines to so boldly make her comment, I still enjoy her music, and personally get annoyed when I hear relentless arguments over whether her and the Dixie Chicks music should be banned from the radio - which I frequently listen to, and have the right to listen to.

If you don't like it, then that's fine, but don't try to control what others want to hear because you're pissed off. Change your damn station. It's as simple as that.

posted by Beckie Seeley on Mar 18, 2003 09:05PM

I can definatly respect those who are anti-war, as long as they can back up their opinion. Example of one that cant: Someone will say, "War kills people." - well yes, you are right about that, war kills.

then you might hear "War destroys land" - well yeah, you are right about that too.

Then they will ask, "well if you agree with me on both of those, why arent you anti war?"

well man, sometimes you just getted backed into a corner and you have no other choice but to fight. Their comes a time in every situation where you cant keep backing up forever. Its like playing on the playground in 1st grade, if you let the school bully steal your lunch money, he will be back everyday for it.
Of course inocent people will die if we go to war,,, it happens. But, do you fail to realize that a large number are dying at Saddams feet daily? You never hear anti war protestors talking about that. I dont know the exact facts, but i believe Saddam killed two of his own children, and shot the legs off another. And a little while back he gassed a couple hundred, or was it a thousand? - My point being, Inocent Iraq people are dying ANYWAY, us taking action may harm some, but its to save the ones that will continually die in the future.
Dont get me wrong, I am not "Hooray war" but i simply realize that we are in a very tight position and that we have no other choice. thats my 2 cents

posted by James Greene on Mar 18, 2003 09:50PM

I keep hearing this peace-niks saying stuff like "we should just leave him alone, it's none of our business he hasn't actually attacked US yet..." Well all I can say about that is the last time something like that happened, we wound up with a little something called "World War II" in our history books.
posted by Jon Look on Mar 19, 2003 09:29AM

Comparisons to World War II are a little farfetched. In 1939, Germany had the most powerful and advanced military in the world. Who has the most powerful and advanced military in the world in 2003? It ain't Iraq.
posted by Zach Beane on Mar 19, 2003 09:59AM

James, do you really think that America is backed into a corner? Please elaborate.
posted by Clint Phipps on Mar 19, 2003 01:36PM

Yes, I absolutly believe we are "backed into a corner" in some senses. In the sense that either decision we make is going to have a massive effect on not just America, but on the world as a whole. There are about a million pros and cons for going to war, and not going to war. - And we are faced with this decision.
posted by James Greene on Mar 19, 2003 03:56PM

No, dude, elaborate.
As in: e·lab·o·rat, e·lab·o·rat·ed, e·lab·o·rat·ing, e·lab·o·rates (-lb-rt) v. tr. 1. To work out with care and detail; develop thoroughly. 2. To produce by effort; create. v. intr. 1. To become elaborate. 2. To express at greater length or in greater detail: "He asked me to elaborate on my proposal."
Just saying that there are reasons, even if there are "a million," doesn't count.
posted by Clint Phipps on Mar 20, 2003 10:04AM

Alas, we stray from the Dixie dilemma. Personally I think the Dixie Chicks may have been in a unique situation that made them well qualified to comment on the current political problems. How many of us can say that we've been in Europe in the last 6 months? And mind you that this comment was made from a stage in the largest city of our closest ally. Just because a government or nation does something, it doesn't mean that the citizens have to support it. Does anyone here think the Iraqi people, in the name of patriotism, should unwaveringly support their government even if they disagree and even if it is to their disadvantage?
posted by Clint Phipps on Mar 20, 2003 10:15AM

Here are a couple interesting links:

Plastic's discussion of this issue

Fuckedcompany's internal memo from MTV Europe...they want to avoid playing "Bombs over Baghdad"...go figure...

ClearChannel sponsors rallies in favor of Bush, war, the USA, etc.

posted by Zach Beane on Mar 20, 2003 11:13AM

Clear Channel. Just a corporate mouthpiece.
posted by Cody Phipps on Mar 20, 2003 08:38PM

Just giving my basic opinion.
posted by James Greene on Mar 22, 2003 12:09AM

In London, Maines stated "Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas." To the extent in which country music listeners took this statement (as anti-american) only goes to show for their own stupidity.

What we are dealing with here is a large volume of under-educated people overreacting to a public statement. Without critically analyzing anything, they react and try to hit the Dixie Chicks where it hurts by trying to have their music banned - as if to put them out of business by doing so. "She says she ashamed of President Bush," rants Bubba, "Why that's treason! The Dixie Chicks is in cahoots with Bin Laden! I'll take care of them!"

I don't mean to generalize all country music listeners as under-educated. Perhaps there are a select number of them who are and who aren't. I am referring to American citizens who are under-educated as its own general group. We can see the same types of overreactions from people over other issues. Prior to operation Iraqi Freedom, for example, the Bush administration tried to convince the members of the United Nations of why we need to use force in Iraq. France refuses to agree to Bush's proposals, and how do American citizens react? A select few decide to ban the word french from american cuisine. No more french dressing, french crullers, or french fries. Take that France!

I say good for Ms. Maines for speaking her mind. Any good American should be willing to state their views freely. Personally, I think it would be nice if the rest of the world could know that not everyone in America agrees with the steps President Bush has taken. Perhaps then our country wouldn't have quite so many enemies.

Albert Einstein was once quoted for saying, "Great spirits have often encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds." In a society where anyone can state their views freely (outside of yelling "fire!" in a crowded theater), regardless of how intelligent or ridiculous their views may be, we just have to deal with knowing that there will always be some idiot, somewhere, who will flip out after hearing something that somebody said, and then try to do something stupid about it.

posted by Kevin N. Thompson on Mar 22, 2003 04:49PM

Bravo, Kevin.
posted by Cody Phipps on Mar 25, 2003 01:08PM

Heh, I find it ironic that in spite of all the banning and the slippage on the radio charts, the Dixie Chicks' album sales have actually increased... I forget who said of the music industry, "Any publicity is good publicity."
posted by Clint Phipps on Mar 25, 2003 11:22PM

However, it was not only "country music listeners" who took Maines' comment to heart and tried to make her pay for her words. While trying to ban the Dixie Chicks' music is a rather ridiculous step to make your resentment about the initial statement known, I will disagree with calling them all under-educated based upon their actions. "Under-educated" in comparison to whom?
posted by Beckie Seeley on Mar 25, 2003 11:26PM

True patriots know that a price of freedom is periodic submission to the will of our leaders—especially when the liberties granted us by the Constitution are at stake. What good is our right to free speech if our soldiers are too demoralized to defend that right, thanks to disparaging remarks made about their commander-in-chief by the Dixie Chicks?
posted by sam aritan on Apr 02, 2003 11:41AM

Funny, true puritans seem to think the same thing.
posted by Clint Phipps on Apr 03, 2003 05:33PM

Refusing to play the Dixie Chicks and voicing your negative opinion about the President are both allowed by the same Bill of Rights. You can't have one without the other. If you are arguing against the radio stations refusal to play the Dixie Chicks, then you are also arguing against the Dixie Chicks being able to express their negative opinions about the President. If someone actually argued and lobbied enough to obtain a injunction against the refusal to play the Dixie Chicks, then another order would soon follow which would ban the Dixie Chicks from expressing their negative opinions about the President. So yes, a media company can censor whatever artist they want.
posted by -- on Apr 04, 2003 04:25PM

I would very much like to hear how America isn't backed into a corner.
posted by -- on Apr 04, 2003 04:26PM

Just to stir this up again...

I just read an opinion piece, It's not a free-speech issue!, about this topic. While the author is too mean-spirited, I think he does make some interesting points.

Of course, for a different take, I also read an interview with Roger Ebert. I think he's probably wrong about general fan opinion (I'm sure a lot of Dixie Chicks fans are the type to put "America: LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT!" bumper stickers on their minivans), he also brings up the specter of corporate sponsorship of the "spontaneous" outcry.

posted by Zach Beane on Apr 28, 2003 09:48AM

OK, so where does this debate stand now? What is the latest from the people and corporations who hold power over who gets to listen to what and when?
posted by Cody Phipps on Jun 17, 2003 04:46PM