Gail (gailmarie) wrote,

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Only thing to do is jump over the moon

Gacked from the lovely dantana:

Wednesday, March 19, 2003
Winnipeg Free Press

What happened to free speech in America's fight for freedom?
Bartley Kives

THEY'RE burning books down in Missouri this week.
Well, not exactly books -- and they're not exactly burning -- but free speech is under attack across the American heartland.

Up until last weekend, The Dixie Chicks were the most popular country group in the U.S.A. Now, patriotic residents of Kansas City, Mo. are depositing the trio's CDs in trash cans outside of radio station WDAF-AM.

This destruction of music, a form of expression just like any other, is part of a wider U.S. boycott that began when The Dixie Chicks played London last week.

In the middle of the show, Texas-born singer Natalie Maines told the audience, "Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas."

Her point was pretty simple: She doesn't like the guy. She loves her country just like any other American -- she just doesn't agree with the warlike stance of its commander-in-chief. Now if The Dixie Chicks were an American punk or folk band, nobody back home would have cared. Punk bands and folkies are supposed to hate the U.S. president, no matter what he does.

But the Chicks' audience is comprised largely of people from the great American heartland, where recent polls indicate 50 per cent of the population has swallowed the spurious notion that secular megalomaniac Saddam Hussein is in bed with religious fanatic Osama Bin Laden.

As the war drums beat all sense of sanity out of American public discourse, it's just not OK to say anything remotely negative about George W. Bush, his administration or its decision to bulldoze its way past the UN and go medieval on Iraq's behind.

The boycott against the Dixie Chicks is part of a wider campaign of fear and intimidation being waged against American artists, commentators and public figures who dare to question U.S. foreign policy.

Talk show host Bill Maher, fired from network television shortly after 9/11, was only the first casualty of this new McCarthyism.

Since then, we've seen the Grammys tell its performers and presenters to shut up about the impending war, an official White House spokesman warn media outlets to watch what they say and the Academy Awards fret over how to handle documentary-maker and noted Dubya critic Michael Moore, who's bound to lay into his favourite presidential punching bag when Bowling For Columbine's Oscar win gives him podium time on Sunday night. In short, many artists and journalists are afraid to speak their minds.

"We should be able to say 'the president is a clown' and not get disappeared in the night like Joseph Stalin," says rock singer and spoken-word performer Henry Rollins, before his visit to Winnipeg last week.

"To me, the idea of not being able to say something is not the American way. Dissent is one of our great freedoms."

The irony, which isn't lost on anybody with any memory of Sen. Joe McCarthy's anti-Communist witch-hunts of the 1950s, is that freedom of speech is slipping away in the so-called Land Of The Free, one Orwellian "freedom fry" at a time.

And while it would be nice to think that only some of our neighbours to the south are succumbing to this mob mentality, the fact is that Canadians are taking the bait, too.

Here in Winnipeg, anti-war protesters have been attacked for speaking their minds by one of Canada's leading purveyors of the New McCarthyism, CJOB radio host Charles Adler.

Over the past month, Adler has waged a relentless campaign of scorn against anyone doesn't share his world view. Monday morning's rant was typical: He described anti-war protesters as "peaceniks who equate appeasement and surrender to peace" in yet another attempt to compare Saddam Hussein to Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and Mao.

Of course, Adler is entitled to his opinion. But there's no greater perversion of free speech than to use it to delegitimize other voices. The fact is, there are billions of people on Earth who consider Saddam a tyrant and think exile is too good for the man. But the majority of those same billions also view Dubya as a reckless cowboy with no regard for the stability of the world.

I can say that in a Canadian newspaper; in the United States, I likely could not.

Disagreeing with George W. Bush does not mean you endorse Saddam Hussein. To willingly write off all dissent as anti-Americanism is to engage in a dangerous form of reductionist propaganda.

What we've witnessed with the Dixie Chicks, Bill Maher and the Grammys is the beginning of a dangerous trend -- because if the creative class isn't allowed to speak its mind, then who will speak for you when it's your turn to be silenced?

I read the Michael Moore letter to the president, and didn't find it overly impressive with it's somewhat exaggerated facts and crude ultra-liberalism.

But the article above I can most definitely get behind, and it actually makes the point that I've been trying to get across recently.

"To me, the idea of not being able to say something is not the American way. Dissent is one of our great freedoms."
Of course, Adler is entitled to his opinion. But there's no greater perversion of free speech than to use it to delegitimize other voices.

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