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Gag Me With a Flag

Just in case you missed hearing this on your local Clear Channel Communications station, let me pass it along:

Apology from Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks:

As a concerned American citizen, I apologize to President Bush because my remark was disrespectful. I now realize that whoever holds that office should be treated with the utmost respect.

I hope everyone understands, I’m just a young girl who grew up in Texas. As far back as I can remember, I heard people say they were ashamed of President Clinton. I saw bumper stickers calling him everything from a pothead to a murderer. I heard people on the radio and TV like Rush Limbaugh, Pat Robertson, Newt Gingrich and Trent Lott bad-mouthing the president and ridiculing his wife and daughter at every opportunity.

I heard lots of people disrespecting the president. So I guess I just assumed it was acceptable behavior.

But now, thanks to the thousands of angry people who want radio stations to boycott our music because criticizing the president is unpatriotic, I realize it’s wrong to have a liberal opinion if you’re a country-music artist. I guess I should have thought about that before deciding to play music that attracts hypocritical rednecks.

I also realize now that I’m supposed to just sing and look cute so our fans won’t have anything to upset them while they’re cheating on their wives or getting in drunken bar fights or driving around in their pickup trucks shooting highway signs and small animals.

And most important of all, I realize that it’s wrong for a celebrity to voice a political opinion, unless they’re Charlie Daniels, Clint Black, Merle Haggard, Barbara Mandrell, Loretta Lynn, Ricky Skaggs, Travis Tritt, Hank Williams Jr., Amy Grant, Larry Gatlin, Crystal Gayle, Reba McEntire, Lee Greenwood, Lorrie Morgan, Anita Bryant, Mike Oldfield, Ted Nugent, Wayne Newton, Dick Clark, Jay Leno, Drew Carey, Dixie Carter, Victoria Jackson, Charlton Heston, Fred Thompson, Ben Stein, Bruce Willis, Kevin Costner, Arnold Schwartzenegger, Bo Derek, Rick Schroeder, George Will, Pat Buchanan, Bill O’Reilly, Joe Rogan, Delta Burke, Robert Conrad or Jesse Ventura.

God bless America,


Wouldn’t it be great if Natalie Maines actually had written that?

Of course, she couldn’t have written it. Because the earning potential of the Dixie Chicks is insignificant compared to the power wielded by Clear Channel Communications, the nation’s largest radio broadcaster.

Still, wouldn’t you like to have heard it on the radio?

But unless it’s a smaller, independent radio station—and thank God for them—you wouldn’t.

The claim made by the radio conglomerates, specifically Clear Channel, is that they have no political agenda.

“We’re in the business of having the largest possible audience,” says John Hogan, president and CEO of Clear Channel’s radio division.

We’re supposed to believe that those big, corporate-owned radio stations strive to keep themselves out of any kind of political volley.

Sure doesn’t seem that way.

Clear Channel has been able to wiggle out of charges that its concert promoters threatened to pull Ani DiFranco off stage at a venue in New Jersey if she allowed any antiwar talk. And while another large radio broadcaster, Cumulous Media, put a gag order on the Dixie Chicks, Cox Radio and Clear Channel Communications simply cited audience preference for why the Dixie Chicks disappeared from playlists. (“Country music is a very patriotic format,” reports Michael Cruise, a program director for Cox Radio stations in Houston.)

But Clear Channel Communications is under fire for its 18 “Rally for America!” events, engineered by radio personality Glenn Beck, who claimed the rallies were a response to his call to “Mr. and Mrs. America” to hold rallies.

“There is not a corporate conspiracy, hidden agenda or grand design,” he wrote, claiming that criticism of these events was part of a “concerted media effort to marginalize the voices of patriotic Americans.”

That’s an interesting defense to ponder in the wake of Peter Arnett’s dismissal by both NBC and National Geographic after his ill-advised interview on Iraqi television.

NBC, initially defending Arnett, decided to let him go after criticism of his interview became intense.

“The right-wing media and politicians are looking for any opportunity to be critical of the reporters who are here,” Arnett wrote in his first column for Britain’s Daily Mirror.

But if that’s true and NBC was trying to make Arnett’s dismissal some show of patriot judgment, then it’s the American public that loses out.

Along with Richard Engel, hired by contract after ABC pulled its regular correspondents out of Baghdad for safety reasons, Arnett was the only other correspondent reporting for American networks. And with his history of covering the Gulf War in 1991—he was the only journalist for a major American news organization allowed to remain in Baghdad then—the quality and quantity of reporting will suffer.

Of course, NBC might have simply acknowledged Arnett’s error in judgment and kept a willing reporter in a dangerous zone where, nonetheless, there was news to gather.

Instead NBC opted to can him, trading off a reputable source for the image of unwavering commitment to the American cause in Iraq.

It’s a funny world we’re living in when dissent is allowed from the right wing and seen as subversion when it come from left—or even centrist—convictions.

On the other hand, there does exist a Web site that actually lists traitors to the American cause (with pictures). And who are these traitors? Check it out for yourself at

I’ll name just a few: Al Gore, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Ben Cohen, Jimmy Carter, Jesse Jackson, Susan Sarandon and—did you doubt it for a minute?—Peter Arnett and the Dixie Chicks.

—Jo Page

You can contact Jo Page at

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