What is the difference between the individual's right to protest and
the duty to support one's nation? It's a dilemma not easily
defined, but one the Dixie Chicks, Madonna, Susan Sarandon, the
Smothers Brothers and other star entertainers must face when they don
political garb on or off the stage, and risk alienating their
audiences. When they exit their roles as entertainers,
they often wake the Beast of Protest who turns on them and bites the
hands that feed them. Find out when individual
rights and collective duties clash what the costs are and whether the
price of admission is worth it.
24, 2003—Ground Zero Plus 589
Dixie Chicks & Sarandon Terrorized By The "Beast Of Protest"
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZER0, NEW YORK, NY--Mixing politics and
entertainment leads to a dead-end road, at least that's the case at
hand for the Dixie Chicks, a three-woman country western singing group
suffering the torment of Terrorism afflicting them after a March 10
comment to a British audience attacking President George Bush.
The group is
being Terrorized by the "Beast of Protest," an angry backlash to what
many Americans view as a violation of mixing "business" and
On the eve of the war against Iraq, lead
singer Natalie Maines told her British audience at a London concert:
"Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is
Her comment flamed headlines
throughout the United States and the world, plummeting the
popular group's record sales and creating boycotts and even death
According to AP, the Chicks' song
"Travelin' Soldier" was No. 1 on Billboard magazine's country
music charts around the time Maines made the remark, but tumbled
completely off the charts afterward.
Numerous radio stations pulled the
Tonight, Diane Sawyer will interview
the group on ABC. In addition to Maines, the all-woman singing
team includes sisters Emily Robison and Martie Maguire --all from
Following the flap, Maines posted an
apology on the group's website. She said her comments were taken
out of context. "I'm not truly embarrassed that, you know,
President Bush is from my state, that's not really what I care about,"
Maines told Sawyer. "It was the wrong wording with genuine emotion and
questions and concern behind it." Maines then asked, "Am I sorry that
I asked questions and that I just don't follow? No."
In Milwaukee, a major newspaper web
poll asked readers if they intend to boycott the group or support it,
65 percent, a total of 89,474 respondents, said they would.
Thirty-five percent, a total of 47,891, claimed support for the group.
(link to survey and article)
perform a 'naked protest'
Entertainment Weekly hosts the country western trio on the cover.
The group is nude, with various protest sayings painted on their
naked bodies. The words include epithets like "Traitors,"
"Saddam's Angels," "Peace" and "Boycott." In the issue, the
Dixie Chicks will reportedly take on their critics.
In a similar case, famed singer Madonna
altered her latest anti-war, anti-Bush albumen, "American Life."
The controversial video showed Iraqi children being blown to pieces.
In the early release of the video, the famed "Material Girl" threw a
hand grenade at a likeness of President Bush. Forbes magazine
listed Madonna as the 17th most money-earning entertainer last year,
accruing more than $42 million in earnings.
"American Life" video was pulled and altered
the controversial video and altered it after initial flack about its
grotesque nature. She said she made the changes because it
wasn't appropriate on the eve of war to release such a video, and
calmed down some of the most objectionable scenes.
In another case, well-known anti-war activist,
Susan Sarandon, was given a slap in the face for her voicing protest
against the Bush Administration and her anti-war statements by the
Baseball Hall of Fame. Officials cancelled a 15th
anniversary celebration of the famed baseball movie, Bull Durham, as
an anti-protest against Sarandon and her long-term partner, Tim
Robbins', who vocalized their dissent against both the war and
Robbins, who starred as rookie 'Nuke' LaLoosh in Bull Durham, was
reportedly "dismayed" by the decision to nix the celluloid celebration
and drafted his own poison pen letter to Baseball's Hall of Fame
President Dale Petroskey, saying: "You belong with the cowards and
ideologues in a hall of infamy and shame."
Tim Robbins starred in "Bull Durham" - The Baseball Hall of Fame
cancelled its 15th anniversary celebration
A copy of Petroskey's letter criticizing the actors was released
in early April. It read: "In a free country such as ours, every
American has the right to his or her own opinions and to express them.
Public figures, such as you, have platforms much larger than the
average American's, which provides you an extraordinary opportunity to
have your views heard--and an equally large obligation to act and
"We believe your very public criticism of President
Bush at this important--and sensitive--time in our nation's history
helps undermine the U.S. position, which ultimately could put our
troops in even more danger. As an institution, we stand behind our
president and our troops in this conflict," added Petroskey.
The United Way in Florida also cancelled
Sarandon's appearance at a major fund raiser.
The legacy of the Beast of Protest's retaliation
against actors who use their fame to flame other issues isn't limited
to the current situation in Iraq.
Brothers were fired by CBS for their anti-war protest comments
decades ago another flap occurred that ended the career of two well
known artists--the Smothers Brothers. Tommy and Dick Smothers
hosted a number one-ranked variety show in the late Sixties where top
stars today such as Steve Martin, Bob Einstein and Rob Reiner cut
their teeth. The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour lasted 72
episodes and two-and-a-half years before CBS fired them in April 1969
for their war protest comments. They took the case
to the Supreme Court and in 1973 the ruling was issued that their
First Amendment Rights had been violated, but the damage had been
done. Their careers fell like a JDAM toward one of Saddam
The Beast of Protest chewed them to pieces.
And then, spat them out.
Americans confused over the right of Free Speech
often think it is wrong to punish those who speak their minds.
Most forget that nothing is ultimately "free." There is a price
for everything, and it isn't always profit.
In the entertainment world, actors, singers and
performers are elevated by the public upon pedestals not because of
their political views, but because of their ability to act, to
entertain, to stir the emotions of their audience with music or
greatly delivered lines, or skits that take us away from the mundane
world and thrust us into an ether, into a world of escape in which we
either laugh or cry, applaud or boo.
Entertainment is a vehicle that whisks us from
reality. It is a drug of sorts, anesthetizing reality for
a moment or hour, so we can "forget" the tensions of life, the stress
and strain of pushing the rock up the hill only to have it roll back
down, waiting for us to shove our shoulder against it, grunt and shove
it up again.
When we pay money to escape--either at a theater
or play, or buying a CD--we are buying a token on the Subway to
Serenity, to escape the madding crowd into some niche of humor, drama,
or music in which we can bathe our minds and untie the Gordian Knot of
attacked environment-mongers and his movie flopped
Steven Segal violated
his duty as a entertainer when he began to make non-action movies.
The "kick-butt" action hero leapt on a bandwagon of political
commentary, and started to make his movies bully pulpits for his own
causes. He attacked the environment-mongers in "On Deadly
Ground," and ended it with himself standing at a pulpit giving a
discourse on how to protect the world from Exxon oil spills. The
audience booed. They had come to see him crack bones and thump
heads, not to listen to his politics.
Perhaps the one survivor of the entertainment
world impervious to political backlash for his protestations is Marlon
Brando. In support of the violation of Indian rights, he
refused to accept an Academy Award. He may be the only
actor in Hollywood with Teflon skin, however.
The issue for all of us is timing.
When it is time for us to stand up for what we believe?
And, when it is wrong to use a false platform for issuing our beliefs?
The public holds the currency for these answers.
... has asked me to tell you, in a very long speech which I cannot
share with you presently—because of time—but I will be glad to
share with the press afterward, that he must... very regretfully
cannot accept this very generous award. And the reason for this
being... are the treatment of American Indians today by the film
industry… excuse me… and on television in movie re-runs, and also
the recent happenings at Wounded Knee. I beg at this time that I
have not intruded upon this evening and that we will, in the
future…our hearts and our understanding will meet with love and
generosity. Thank you on behalf of
Littlefeather refusing Oscar for Marlon Brando
the case of the Dixie Chicks, they have built their fame and fortune
in country music. Country music fans are generally "red-necked
Americans." That is, they are mostly fundamentalists when it
comes to patriotism, and while many on the left side of the fence
accuse them of blind followings, they chose to support America--good
or bad--on the principle that the overall strength of the nation
supercedes its flaws, and that will of the people in the long-run is
far more important than the whims and wiles of its critics.
Conservatism, by nature, is long-range.
Radicalism is short-range.
The Dixie Chicks big error was robbing their fans of
their politics--stealing from their audience the muscle of
America--the belief in the leader.
Being ashamed of President Bush before a foreign
audience was insult upon injury. To many, it was a gutless act
of seeking audience support, and totally unnecessary. It
was also slinging mud not only at the president and the nation, but at
the core of the fans who supported the Dixie Chicks and their music on
the way to the top.
Now, in the fans' view, the Dixie Chicks turned on
them. Thus, the Beast of Protest was released.
Retaliation was necessary, if for no other reason than to pull back
the currency that made the Dixie Chicks famous.
Sarandon's violation was against a similar
group--baseball lovers. Sports and politics don't mix.
Like any entertainment, the more neutral the players, the greater the
potential audience. When you only invite Republicans or
Democrats to a ball game, you cut the potential attendance in half,
you divide and conquer.
Baseball is neutral with one exception--it is the
American Pie of sports. Nothing is more patriotic in American
legacy than going to a ballgame, saluting the flag, listening to the
National Anthem being played. It is a place where the
red-white-and-blue shines. Sarandon and Robbins desecrated
that image, and while fully right in their ability to do it, they
suffered the price of freedom--to be ostracized for doing it.
The Beast of Protest ate them too.
The same is true of the Smothers Brothers and
Segal. They stepped over the line. Some might say
that they were frequent in their use of the public.
Famous stars don't climb the ladder of fame by
They wait until they get to the top, and, once
safe atop the roof, start shouting out their private politics assuming
their past fame will form a safety net, protecting them.
Madonna might be the only figure not to fit this
formula. Her fame has been based on controversy and
confrontation. Her rise to the top has been by attacking
But the Dixie Chicks, the Sarandon's, the
Robbins', the Seagals, and Smothers Brothers used the fame platform to
launch their "Weapons Of Mass Destruction" against the administration,
the political heads.
They basically forged their currency of fame into
currency of protest.
Now, they suffer.
The Beast of Protest has taken a big bite out
In a way, a star who uses the starlight to shine
Terror on his or her fans is ultimately a Terrorist. A
child, for example, who loves the Dixie Chicks music, who is a member
of the fan club, who cherishes their every word and follows them
religiously based on their music and image, is suddenly faced with the
fact they are "disgusted with their President." The child now
thinks, "well, should I be too? Should I hate America too, if
the Dixie Chicks do?"
It's kind of like the
anti-American war protestor who takes his kids to a ballgame and when
the National Anthem is being played, refuses to stand up and salute
the flag. His children look around at 49,999 other people
standing and putting their hands to their hearts and reciting the
Pledge, and note how their father scowls and defiantly folds his hands
across his chest.
The father thinks he has a right to protest.
And, he does. But he also has a duty to his fans--to his
children. That duty is to preserve the respect for their
country--right or wrong--and, if considered wrong, to work to change
the wrong rather than to defy the wrong. To defy the wrong
is nothing more than an act of cowardice, a childish, immature way of
dropping your pants and exposing your backside at what you don't like.
Instead of selfishly refusing to salute the
flag, the father can rise and salute with his children for no other
reason than reminding himself and his children the duty of
selflessness is more important than the right of selfishness.
The Dixie Chicks refused to salute the
American Flag in London. They dropped their trousers and
exposed their backsides. They showed disrespect for the
most successful democracy in the world, successful not because it was
perfect, but because it was flawed, and the flaws always have ironed
fans--America, more right than wrong
The country music fans
know America is more right than wrong, in the long run.
While the fans may not all agree with the President or the Flag on all
issues, they do on them overall.
That's the point all the entertainers who
use their power to protest miss.
They never talk about or support their
"duty to respect" America first, and secondly, their right to protest
its wrongs secondly.
They miss the big picture.
The big picture is if they weren't in America, odds are they wouldn't
have the rights they enjoy to dissent, and pay no respect to those.
Like the father who refuses to salute the flag in the presence of his
children, he denies his children the right of respect for their right
It might have been much better
if the Dixie Chicks saluted the American Flag first, and the office of
the President second, and then told the audience how disgusted they
were that the President was from Texas.
Had they done that, odds are the
Beast of Protest would have just kept sleeping.
23--Ripping Terrorism From The Headlines
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