Is It Still "Patriotic" to Hate the Dixie Chicks?

I never really liked the Dixie Chicks that much, so when all the radio stations started boycotting them in 2003, I didn't really think much about it. I now see the real point, though, that if someone's livelihood can be destroyed in the blink of an eye for speaking out against something they wish their nation was not doing, that we ought to be worried about our own freedoms.

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.


  1. That's interesting. I would have guessed that you would have cared more at the time that their freedoms was being trampled.

  2. It was likely that I felt that "numb" about it because I couldn't afford to feel conflicted as I planned to leave for the Iraq War. That would have been mental torture.

  3. "they lost their right to freedom of speech"

    How so? As you stated, they continued to tour, to make and sell music, and to speak about their views as much as they desired. Celebrities speaking against the war became an industry unto itself.

  4. As a popular band, their songs were being played on a regular basis until they made the comment. Suddenly, the Clear Channel oligarchy wouldn't let their DJs choose to play Dixie Chicks songs anymore. At least one guy (that I talk about in the article) got fired.

    It may not be an utter loss of freedom of speech, but it is a substantial loss just the same.

  5. I admittedly don't know the inner workings of Clear Channel or their role in Dixie Chick airplay. But the group did lose a lot of public support for their words. As you noted, their concert attendance fell by half. It seems that reflects a true public opposition. On a very basic level, to many it was shocking that an American figure would go to another country to bash our president personally. So they stopped buying their music. I don't necessarily see a direct link between not listening to music and loss of freedom of speech. As this post showcases, the Dixie Chicks are more famous for their outspokenness than they ever were for their music.

  6. What I meant to convey, but probably didn't very well, is that the cart was before the horse on this one: I think people didn't immediately react negatively to their comments, but it was only after Clear Channel stirred up the controversy that their popularity went down. Thus I think Clear Channel created a me-too attitude where about half of Dixie Chicks' concert attendees went away.

  7. I think the Clear Channel issue shows more about the hazard of allowing a small oligopoly to dominate a given sector of the economy, especially one involving information dissemination. I don't like the way local stations, newspapers, etc are dying off and a handful of corporations are holding more and more.

    I have no particular opinion about the Dixie Chicks other than my general distaste for the country genre. But I agree that it is reprehensible the way the conservative noise machine was able to tar the Dixie Chicks as unpatriotic based on their unpopular statement. I despise how often "unpatriotic" is bandied about to stifle dissent, because dissent is such a crucial part of the US tradition and of a vital republic.

  8. I agree about the problem with oligopolies. I haven't followed the issue closely, but I think that many conservatives call any attempt to fix this problem a return to the "Fairness Doctrine". From what I can tell, the issues are completely separate.

  9. I don't see a connection between the Fairness Doctrine and dispersion of media ownership either.


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