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Published: Sunday, 3/23/2003

Music mob out to fry Dixie Chicks

Some items while wishing the NCAA would confine “March Madness” to March (it wraps up on April 7 this year):

SUPPRESSION: WKKO-FM (99.9) is the most popular radio station in Toledo, by far. So when it decided to stop playing songs by the Dixie Chicks, a chill when down my spine.

(That's the first symptom of the John Ashcroft Syndrome, from what I've been told.)

Cumulus Media owns 42 country stations, including WKKO, and you won't hear a song by the Dixie Chicks on any of them “until further notice.” Never mind the all-female trio had the No. 1 country song -- “Travelin' Soldier” -- at the time the ban went into effect.

WKKO claimed it was only doing what its listeners wanted.

During a March 10 concert in London, Natalie Maines, lead singer of the Texas-based group, told the audience: “Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas.”

Predictably, there was a backlash. And, as often happens, it mushroomed into a form of vigilantism by those who were offended.

Tell the music vigilantes that Ms. Maines has the constitutional right to say what's on her mind, and, invariably, they'll respond with this: Free speech has “consequences.”

In theory, I agree. But forced suppression, as dictated by what is tantamount to mob rule, should not be a consequence.

Ms. Maines is not a robot. She is an American. We are allowed to express our personal opinions of government officials, including President Bush.

In turn, anyone who was offended by Ms. Maines' comment is free to criticize her in any (legal) way he or she sees fit, including a boycott. In this case, however, angry individuals formed an angry mob. In effect, these music vigilantes told Ms. Maines that if she publicly expresses an opinion that they don't agree with, her livelihood will be affected.

Ms. Maines did issue an apology, albeit in the form of a press release, but it was an apology nevertheless. That wasn't good enough to satisfy the most vocal critics -- because they deemed it wasn't from the heart.

Then, the music vigilantes turned their attention to radio stations across the country. Stop playing music by the Dixie Chicks, they warned, or they will stop listening to the station.

Gulp.

WKKO, which takes great pride in customer service, felt obligated to abide by what it perceived to be the overwhelming sentiment of its listeners. Other Cumulus stations followed WKKO's lead.

Just asking: If the Dixie Chicks aren't free to voice their opinions about our government, then aren't we just as bad as Iraq?

Yes, she has the freedom to say what she wants, but it's certainly not “true” freedom. Not if the only way they can be a commercial success is to toe the line of the music vigilantes.

An angry individual would forgive Ms. Maines and move on. An angry mob is incapable of forgiveness ... at least until their conditions are met.

TWIN PACK: Two slanted questions this week. I'm offering 1,776 points to all participants.

1) Inspired by a comment from Bruce Springsteen: Hasn't the Bush administration taken Sept. 11 and used it as a blank check?

2) Inspired by the lyrics from John Mellencamp's new “anti-war” song: What is the thought process to take a human's life? What would be the reason to think that this is right?



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