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Performance Art For The Lobotomized
by Judson Cox
8 August 2003The Dixie Chicks

Why does Senator John McCain, who masquerades as a supporter of free speech, wish to force Clear Channel Communications to play the Dixie Chicks?


There is nothing that I find less interesting than celebrity news and gossip. Well, there is math; in fact, anything having to do with math. The first mention of numbers has me humming "100 Bottles Of Beer On The Wall," and drooling in a Homer Simpsonesque fantasy of endless pints of Guinness Stout being "taken down and passed around." I'll chalk that up to an organic disorder stemming from my Celtic heritage. Nevertheless, I hereby attest that I have never read an issue of People magazine, nor do I peruse the tabloids, except while in the checkout line at the grocery store...except, however, to see whether "Bat Boy" and the aliens are giving advice to any of our political leaders. As much as I dislike the thought of revisiting the Dixie Chicks debacle, events render inaction unconscionable.

I wrote a column a few months back on the subject of (lead singing Dixie Chick) Natalie Maines' comments that she was embarrassed to be from the same state as President Bush. She made these comments in Europe, and in opposition to the impending war in Iraq. I placed her comments in context of my own encounter with the Chicks, drawing two conclusions: 1) The intellectual depth of the Chicks is not sufficient for their commentary on geo-political events to be given any credence, and 2) The Chicks are really just pop singers, whose opinions on politics really should be of no concern to anyone. Cicero is credited with the notion that leaders should lead the people; you may credit me with the idea that the likes of the Dixie Chicks should do what they get paid for; i.e. look pretty, sing their vapid pop songs and refrain from supporting Stalinist dictators who fill mass graves, gas their own people, starve children and threaten the world with weapons of mass destruction. Of course, Maines enjoys the right of all Americans to say moronic things. However, country fans and country radio also enjoyed the right not to support singers who sympathize with murderous dictators. Or, so I thought.

Since Maines made her comments, and the Chicks appeared on a magazine cover in what can best be described as a cross between soft core porn and performance art for the lobotomized, their record sales have suffered. No longer are their songs climbing higher than the mid forties on the charts. The sales of their newest album, "Home," have declined to one-tenth of their pre-idiotic comment numbers. As the Chicks' popularity has declined, the hard core Left in America has embraced them. The Left is following the pattern that they have employed, at least since the age of Stalin and Hitler, siding with anyone who makes comments in support of America's enemies or in contempt of those who would challenge America's enemies. The Dixie Chicks have become the darlings of the National Organization of Women and of Howard Dean supporters; yes, all five of them.

All of this simply confirms the positions I took in my column. The Chicks have been embraced by the "blame America first" crowd and have been rejected by reasonable Americans. Of course, I wish that their music would have been enough to garner the widespread rejection they now receive. With the exception of their most recent album, the sum of their offerings can be summed up in the title of a Dale Watson song, "That's Country My Ass!" But my personal tastes in music have little to do with politics. Indeed, music need have little or nothing to do with politics of any stripe. The mass rejection of American music consumers of the radical politics of the Chicks should have served as a much needed correction to American popular culture. However, this correction was negated (perhaps spurring John Kerry to pull out old pictures of himself along side John Lennon from a scrap book that should have remained forgotten in a decade best repudiated) when John McCain entered into the cultural fray.

For those of my readers who have better things to do than follow the minutia of regulations imposed by the many committees run by over-the-hill, grand-standing relics and failed presidential candidates, I will explain. John McCain sits on a committee whose job it is to ensure that the airwaves (a supposed public commodity) are regulated in a manner that serves the public interest. The Federal Communications Committee, as it is properly known, applies the laws that secure the use of specific frequencies by specific radio stations, ensures that public service messages and the Emergency Broadcast Signal are delivered to the listening public and keeps National Public Radio (and television as VHF and UHF frequencies are in the same category as FM and AM) boring, obsolete and liberal. Although the FCC does much more, it has essentially been rendered obsolete by cable and satellite technology. The ever increasing irrelevance of the FCC led to deregulatory moves by the Reagan administration. Since that time, this committee has served as little more than a tool by partisans to try to hinder the rise of conservative media. Whether it is the Fairness Doctrine (which states that liberal commentators be given equal time and audience access as Rush Limbaugh and other conservative talk show hosts, regardless of their popularity or profitability), or the many attempts to hinder the growth of companies such as Clear Channel and News Corp (providers of much of the conservative programming on radio and television), the actions of this committee have attempted to subvert the choices of consumers. In typical Washington fashion, the FCC knows what is best.

As the nation was reeling from his attempt to undermine our First Amendment (aka "Campaign Finance Reform"), Senator John McCain (R-AZ) wielded the sword of federal regulation again. It seems that John McCain is a Dixie Chicks fan, or else saw this event as yet another opportunity to put a nail in the coffin of free speech. McCain berated the head of Clear Channel Communications who, in response to overwhelming customer sentiment, banned the Dixie Chicks from being played on Clear Channel Stations. In the kind of hissy fit that only John McCain can do justice to, McCain threatened the very existence of Clear Channel Communications with the monopoly busting power of the government. McCain said that Clear Channel's business decision amounted to "censorship," apparently unaware that only a government can practice censorship. Whether or not Senator McCain knows the definition of the word censorship, it is clear that he does not intend to honor the meaning of the words, "Congress shall make no law..."

In a later interview with talk show host Sean Hannity, Senator McCain claimed that he was following the intentions of the Framers in seeking to protect the right of free speech for the Dixie Chicks. He seemed unconcerned that Mr. Hannity rightly worried that the laws and regulations urged by Senator McCain might one day be used to silence talk show hosts such as himself, if a powerful FCC member were to take offense at what he said. Senator McCain dismissed his concerns, if he addressed them at all. It is indeed fortunate for Senator McCain that our Founding Fathers no longer share the chambers from which he seeks to compel Clear Channel Communications to play Dixie Chicks music. The men who wrote the Constitution fled totalitarian regimes and fought for a system of government that placed limits on the powers of government as opposed to the rights of the people. Many of these men sacrificed fortunes, died, and watched their families murdered to secure the freedoms enshrined in the document that Senator McCain so blithely disregards. Is it any wonder that fist fights were once common in both houses of Congress, and that occasionally duels were fought over the principles that John McCain laughs off?

How I wish that such men still filled our Capitol, and stood for our freedoms so dear. As it is now, sodomy may soon be compulsory, pedophilia may become optional, but Constitutionally approved, and Americans may be forced to buy the records of anyone who supports our enemies. It occurs to me that Osama bin Laden probably has a lot of time on his hands in whatever cave he is cowering in; perhaps the words of Senator McCain will spur him to take up an instrument. If someone does not check the power of these purveyors of the public trust, our airwaves may soon be filled with the sounds of Osama and The 72 Virgins playing the "Death To America Boogie." Is it any wonder that the most frightening phrase in the American lexicon is, "We are from the government and we are here to help?"

Judson Cox is a college student and political columnist
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