Okay, I like the Dixie Chicks. I don't love them, but I like them. I own all of their CDs and I'll continue to buy them as long as they make decent music. But this notion that they're somehow "victims" of anything other than their own intemperance is obnoxious.
Actually, this post isn't even really aboutthe Dixie Chicks. It's about something that's been on my mind for a while now, and the Dixie Chicks' Grammy win just reminded me of it, as did Charlize Theron's recent inane comparison of the U.S. and Cuba.
(For those of you who missed it, Theron was nattering on about political oppression in Cuba, and then seemed to make the point that the U.S. was no freer. When challenged by the interviewer to defend this claim, she muttered about how she "seemed to recall... some time ago some reporters being fired from their jobs for speaking up on television about how they felt about the war."
Ah well, who needs specifics when you're making a political point against the United States? The point is that some reporter could have been fired for editorializing, even if Theron can't remember it, and that's sufficient to equate the United States with a Caribbean dictatorship's half-century unbroken track record of political oppression and wholesale abrogation of human rights, right?)
Anyway, I digress. Theron is just another air-brained Hollywood idiot. So what? The point is that I'm sick of people like the Dixie Chicks and Charlize Theron's imaginary friend claiming that their "freedoms" have been violated because they learn that their words have consequences.
The First Amendment gives you the right to speak your mind, but it does not guarantee that you can say whatever the hell you want and be immune from criticism of consequence. Reducing the concept of "free speech" to "license without responsibility" is a thoroughly infantile interpretation. Not surprisingly, however, it's one that resonates with a lot of liberals in the entertainment industry.
I'm a libertarian with a pretty expansive view of free speech, and I typically believe in wide latitude for people to do and say as they damn well please. But if you're going to say something deliberately provocative, you can't seriously expect your words to have no consequence. I could storm into my boss's office right now or call my wife on the phone and say anything I damn well wanted, but I have to be prepared to accept the fallout from so doing. Perhaps I won't go to jail, but I could sure as hell negatively impact my life with a few ill-chosen words.
It's ludicrous that this "we're not allowed to criticize the government" meme is still alive. It was without merit even as far back in 2002, but is just complete and utter horse crap in 2007. Go into your nearest Barnes and Noble and take a quick gander at the "New in Non-Fiction" table and tell me what you see. Or pick up the editorial page of the "New York Times," for that matter, or read high-traffic blogs like Kos or Atrios. And none of these are new developments. They've all obtained practically since the beginning of the Bush administration.
This is hardly censorship, by any stretch of the imagination, and to say otherwise is both stupid and offensive. Comparisons to Cuba are completely beyond the pale, but also self-negating. The very fact that Charlize Theron was free to spew her puerile nonsense invalidates her entire stupid premise.
Yeah, the Dixie Chicks haven't been selling as many tickets as they'd like, and they don't get a lot of airplay on country radio, but that hardly makes America a gulag. And you know what else? This is a complete aside, and the subject of a whole other rant, but the fact is that they don't play anyone good on country radio these days. Geniuses like George Jones and Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson are not only still alive, but still doing terrific music, but unless you have a satellite radio (which should be the subject of yet a third rant) you won't hear any of them. Ditto the younger heroes of the alt-country circuit, like Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, and the like, whose music is insufficiently bland for commercial country. Join the club, Natalie. The company is stellar.
And Natalie, I'm not one of these "shut up and sing types" either. You may sing if you like, or not, it's up to you. I will buy your records if you do. You may also shut up or not -- it's your call. But please understand that you have no special immunity from criticism should you decide to hold forth from the stage on controversial issues.
And you know what? That's what really bothers the media and entertainment elite. They're nostalgic for the good old days, before the rise of the new media, in which they could savage Dan Quayle 24/7 and no one would ever hit back. Well sorry, but those days are gone. The other side has a voice too now, and if you don't want to be hit back, then don't throw the first punch. I understand that you're not exactly fond of these new realities, but don't call them "censorship." That just makes you look like a whiny, spoiled idiot.