The Dixie Chicks have a few good songs. But that one about throwing Earl's dead body in the trunk of the car about did me in. That, coupled with the scanty way in which the Chicks often dress, made me not much of a fan. So it really didn't matter much to me when the Dixie Chicks got banned from the radio for speaking out against George Bush and the Iraq War. It should have.
In the lead up to the Iraq War in early 2003, Chicks' lead singer Natalie Maines said "We don't want this war, this violence, and we're ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas." That's all it took. Suddenly there was overwhelming listener demand to remove the Dixie Chicks from the air.
Or was there?
I was in Fort Carson, Colorado, at the time, getting prepared for what I thought would be my first tour of duty in Iraq (we stayed stateside; in 2005 my field artillery battalion served in Iraq for a year). I distinctly remember the Dixie Chicks ban going into effect. That's probably because there was a radio station DJ in the area that locked himself in the studio and blasted non-stop Dixie Chicks music over the airwaves in protest for the entire day (or two?) until he was fired.
So, how was there suddenly so much demand to remove the Dixie Chicks from the broadcast airwaves? Two words: "Clear Channel". Clear Channel Communications, which at the time owned about 1,200 radio stations across the country (probably more by now), required its radio stations to immediately remove all Dixie Chicks material from their playlists. At the same time, Clear Channel supported a plethora of pro-military rallies across the United States.
Clear Channel was joined by another (although not quite so big) media conglomerate called Cumulus Media, who also "pulled the plug" on the Dixie Chicks' music. Cumulus sponsored at least one pro-war rally at which a bulldozer pulverized a stack of Dixie Chicks albums.
Well, now that sounds patriotic--if by "patriotic" you mean supporting the Nazi-style curtailment of freedoms!
Was it really listener demand that spelled broadcast doom for the Dixie Chicks? Hardly. Concert attendance eventually went down by nearly half, but the group was still very popular among the other half, and their albums continued for quite some time thereafter to sell at a brisk pace.
Hermann Goring of Adolf Hitler/Nazi infamy said
All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for their lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country.It worked against the Dixie Chicks. And, despite the claims by some that George W. Bush's actions have been proven correct due to the fact that we haven't had another 9/11-style attack, America is a much more dangerous place than it was then. Draconian curtailment of speech is far more dangerous than the worst terrorist attack could ever be.
I think the Dixie Chicks are the real patriots here. I wish I would have cared at the time that they lost their right to freedom of speech. I do now.