You Gotta Be Kidding Me

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I just saw the Dixie Chicks on Bill Maher claiming that "corporate bans" on their music (i.e. stations deciding not to run their music for a while) were "against the Constitution." Can they possibly have been involved in this whole bruhaha for this long and not found one person to explain how the First Amendment works?

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  1. That’s funny.

  2. With (anti-war)friends like these…

  3. The dixie chicks? Ignorant?

    Surely you jest…

  4. The Dixie Chicks are from Texas, right? There must be something in the water.

  5. What about the faux libertarian Maher? Did he set them straight?

  6. Julian, I once heard that from some guy that celebrities can be self-absorbed semitards. Are you suggesting that’s true?

  7. Bill was fantastic throughout the entire show except that one moment, where he responded to her by saying “well said.”

    Of course, violating the first amendment (i.e. government action restricting speech/expression) and violating the spirit of the first amendment (a DJ refusing to play the song of a musician they disagree with politically are two totally different things, but both should strongly be avoided.

  8. There must be something in the water.

    There is, and it’s concentrated in the Austin water supply but is available all over Texas:
    Insecure Hayseed Liberal Overcompensation Syndrome, originally identified by a commenter on Blogcritics last year.

    I love the Chicks, but no one has ever accused them of being bookish.

  9. Bruce:
    A DJ is an entertainer too, they run a radio show. If they are forced to play a record they disagree with, how is the “spirit” of the 1st amendment preserved then? A DJ should have as much discretion to the records they spin as a performer has over the songs they sing. Does the Dixie Chicks choosing not to play Toby Kieth songs violate the spirit of the 1st amendment too?

    Anyway, discussing the “spirit” of an amendment is silly. That’s the kind of talk that supports the (false) assertation that the 2nd amendment is about hunting, so gun control that doesn’t prevent hunting is OK.

  10. Are Bruce and Guy (jeezus, what a gay porn flick that is) disagreeing? I can’t tell.

  11. Ok, granted – I’ve had a few beers. But – Guy:I don’t think so.

    A DJ might be an “entertainer” when s/he is working at a party or a club. But in the context of a radio station, a DJ is an employee – way more analagous to Vanna White or the girls who used to (still do? I don’t know) point at the appliances on The Price is Right.

    As for the “same discretion” as the performer who chooses the songs s/he sings – that’s just silly on its face. A DJ at a country music station isn’t going to play Britney or Usher or Nickelback or any of those perfomers with whom I’m not really familiar because I’m first generation MTV; a DJ for an oldies station isn’t going to play Celine Dion, etc. I don’t imagine there are very many stations, aside from college or community or pirate, that allow DJs to play whatever strikes their fancy at the moment.

    So no, the Dixie Chicks refusing to sing Toby Keith songs is in no way analogous to a DJ refusing to play Dixie Chicks songs.

  12. Bill Maher was semi libertarian a long time ago. Now he is just another Democrat 527 group along with CBS.

    Speaking of which why in the world did Bush’s people agree to having a CBS guy and an NPR guy as moderators?

  13. The Dixie Chicks are from Texas, right? There must be something in the water

    One’s from Texas, one’s from Massachusetts, and one’s from Pennsylvania.

    Bill Maher was semi libertarian a long time ago. Now he is just another Democrat 527 group along with CBS.

    I’ve never been clear on when, exactly, Bill Maher was supposedly a libertarian. He’s sounded like a run-of-the mill Hollywood Democrat for as long as I’ve been aware of him. His only significant break with the party is that he favors the death penalty — but so does Bill Clinton, so that one’s a wash.

  14. Holly: (I’ve also had a few)
    Can you further explain how a DJ isn’t an entertainer? Because they’re paid by the station they work for? Aren’t the Dixie Chicks paid by their label?
    Seriously, are you saying Howard Stern doesn’t have artistic discretion in his show? He is a mere employee, a tool of his employers? No, I don’t think so, and neither are the thousands of DJs on college radio and other free format radio stations. The fact is, lots of DJs out there have discretion about what they play, which is why so many of them chose to excercise their first amendment rights and choose not to play Dixie Chicks albums.

    A DJ at a country music station isn’t going to play Britney or Usher or Nickelback

    And a lounge singer isn’t going to perform hard-rock Metallica arrangements. The format a DJ conforms to is no different than an artist performing in a particular style.

    or the girls who…point at the appliances
    They have a NAME you know… Barker’s Beauties 🙂

    Dylan: Yes, we were disagreeing. No, I’m not a Gay Pornstar. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
    -Guy
    can’t believe I’m taking shit from a 90210 character.

  15. Thanks for the information, Dan, but somebody should call off the Water Control Board. Are you gonna give ’em the “all clear” or should I make the call?

  16. Bruce & Holly,

    If that station’s listeners wanted to hear the Dixie Chicks, they could (a) complain to the station, (b) boycott their advertisers, or (c) turn to a different station or turn the radio off. The fact that this didn’t happen indicates that either the listeners agree with the DJ’s politics or don’t like the Chicks enough to care.

    Which is why applying the 1st ammendment to private entities is unnecessary (as well as dangerous).

  17. Bill Maher expressed something akin to a consequentialist (pragmatic) libertarian sentiment a few weeks ago on Larry King. He blasted the prescription drug bill by pointing out that in a survey something like 90% of seniors said they had either no trouble or minor trouble affording their medications. He said it was stupid to create a giant government program for a rather small problem, and that it was an effort to buy votes at taxpayer expense.

    Now, that leaves a lot of wiggle room to support a smaller, means-tested prescription drug bill. But he got at the heart of one of the main critiques of government programs: That the “problems” our “leaders” are supposedly “solving” are frequently not even significant.

    Maher may not be a purist libertarian, and there is much on which I disagree with him, but he still has this libertarian streak that comes out now and then in stark contrast to his friends on the left.

  18. I’m far and away the coolest 90210 character.

  19. While your points about the First Amendment are, of course, technically correct, I think there are serious issues to be raised concerning broadcast media in an environment in which the government (1) controls the licenses and (2) shows an increasing willingness to influence content through threats and the imposition of fines. The Howard Stern Show is the most instructive example (although it is far from the only one).

    Moreover, arguments about how the listeners and advertisers have the final say are, unfortunately, naive in today’s environment. Going back to the Stern example, the local Clear Channnel station that carried his show here in the Orlando area was number one in the market. As a result of the government’s intimidation and threats, the station opted to drop the show and suffer the consequences in the marketplace. (Its ratings are now in free fall.)

    So, in theory, The Dixie Chicks were incorrect; that’s not how the First Amaendment works. In practice, however, I’d say they’re raising an issue that’s worth considering.

    And, by the way, I saw the interview in question. It was live television over a remote connection that was obviously not the best. To criticize their inelegant phrasing of the issue under those circumstances is really nit-picking, in my opinion. I’m sure that if you invite them to do an op-ed piece for Reason, they’ll do much better. I’m not sure, on the other hand, that you’d do as well as they did on live national television.

  20. The only issue here is who owns the radio stations. Is it the Dixie Chicks? No. So they have zero right to force stations to play their music.

  21. Rick Blaine,

    Did the FCC threaten stations for playing the Dixie Chicks? If not, then the only relevant considerations are those of the marketplace, and there are no 1st ammendment issues.

    The 1st Ammendment does apply to the FCC’s actions, so in the case of ClearChannel / Stern, where the FCC actually threatened stations carrying his program, there are freedom of speech issues. But that does not mean that every time a station drops a program or stops playing a song it’s a 1st ammendment issue.

  22. “Well said.”

  23. Rick-
    The point is well taken in general, but in this instance it’s hard to see the hand of the government behind the temporary lacuna in Dixie Chick airplay. As Jesse Walker pointed out, Clear Channel is more than happy to run Air America programming in markets where that’s what people want to hear.

    As for the live TV thing, I don’t know… it doesn’t sound like “inelegant phrasing” to say something is “against the Constitution” if you know full well that’s not the case. The DC’s aren’t exactly media neophytes, and it seems like an easy enough mistake to avoid if you actually understand the law. But hey, if they want to pen an op-ed for us, they’re surely welcome to. As for myself… my college debate record was pretty good; I’d take my chances.

  24. What I was trying to say last night is what Matt just said much more clearly and concisely.

    And Guy – the lounge singer/DJ analogy is also silly. If the DJ owns his own radio station, then he’s like the lounge singer who picks his own material. If not, not.

    And there’s a big ol difference between Howard Stern and a regular DJ who plays music and everyone knows this so there’s no point in belaboring it.

    Gotta go help a toddler go potty. Bye.

  25. Umm…what about all of those years when DJs at corporate stations were *forced* to play Dixie Chicks songs rather than other music they might have preferred to play. Wasn’t that censorship as well on the logic being used here?

    Or is it only corporate censorship when it’s *not* helping DC album sales?

  26. I can sympathize with the Dixie Chicks on this one — no one plays my music anymore either. What about my First Ammendment rights?!!!

  27. The funny thing is that the boycott started at small stations and only later spread to the chains. Most mom and pop stations are incorporated and thus almost all radio is technically “corporate,” but to the extent that the term implies a large corporation, they have it completely backwards. Ironically, if not for the Telecom Act of 1996, they might have been kicked off the radio even faster. I just published statistical evidence of this in a peer-reviewed journal (not online yet).

  28. Holly,
    Here’s some help with that toddler.

    As for the Chicks comment, I saw Tim Robbins make the same claim. The baseball hall of fame canceled the Bull Durham celebration over Tim exercising his free speech rights. He claimed his constitutional rights were violated from the podium of the National Press Club no less.

  29. Maher’s libertarian streak has been getting weaker ever since the mid 90s, and he has been more and more of a conventional liberal since that time. The Clinton impeachment saga, 9/11, and a decade’s worth of listening to 3 liberals gang up on one conservative seem to all be contributing factors. He still is fairly independent in his thinking but pushing for gun control, affirmative action, and artificially induced high gas prices, as well as ardent opposition to tax cuts put him well outside the libertarian camp.

  30. Warren:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. That is sublime. (As a matter of fact, the toddler asked me if the potty is poop and peepee’s home, and if that’s where their mommy and daddy live. My child anthropomorphizes human waste, Dr. Brazelton; is this normal?)

    How about a ditty that teaches her to wipe her own tush?

    And that’s my last poop post, promise.

  31. Free speech means saying what you like. It doesn’t mean being able to coerce soapbox subsidies out of the unwilling, or forcing others to listen to you.

    You can, of course, pay for your own soapbox.

  32. Maybe for the Dixie Chicks the constitution is something they want to work for them – when it’s cool and sort of helpful. Sigh and alas.

  33. Tom-

    I agree that Maher is well outside the territory of solid libertarians. But he’s one of those outsiders who has some definite sympathies and gets things right more frequently than his political label might suggest, even if he’s wrong much more frequently than I’d like.

  34. thoreau,

    The problem with the notion that Maher is a consequentialist is that he only applies that manner of reasoning to Republican-backed programs he doesn’t like. For example, Maher is a supporter of gun control, despite the fact that the costs are enormous and the problem — crimes committed with legally-purchased guns — is utterly trivial. I think you’re mistaking a standard party-hack tactic — pointing out the wastefulness of your *opponents’* spending — with consequentialist thinking.

  35. Dan-

    I’m not saying that Bill Maher belongs to our club, knows the secret handshake, or any of that. I’m saying that he seems to be closer to us than your typical Democrat.

    I remember that when he was still on ABC he was talking about a stupid ordinance in Santa Monica. (But I repeat myself… 😉 It said that if you’re remodeling your home you have to make it handicap accessible. Maher said (paraphrase) “Look, I can see the point if you’re remodeling a rental property. But this is your own home. Why should it be anybody else’s business if your bathroom is only accessible by climbing a tall ladder and punching a color-coded keypad, let alone if the hallways are wide enough for certain types of wheelchairs?”

    He didn’t do like some liberals might and wring his hands over costs, he just asked how the hell it’s anybody else’s business.

    I’m not saying he’s one of us, I certainly won’t be giving him our passwords or handshakes, I’m just saying that he seems like a genuinely sympathetic Democrat. That’s all.

  36. “Free speech means saying what you like. It doesn’t mean being able to coerce soapbox subsidies out of the unwilling, or forcing others to listen to you.”

    “”You can, of course, pay for your own soapbox.”

    Not exactly. This a tricky problem. If you place your own soapbox on the ‘public’ sidewalk outside my home and shout at me with a 50000 Watt megaphone your message is protected by the First Amendment, but you are probably violating a zoning ordinance. Some libertarians would complain that the sidewalk should be privately owned and zoning ordinances are therefore bogus. But even privately owned property has to be subject to easements lest you have people imprisoned on there own property, unable to take the actions required to sustain their own lives. Or in my case, unable to sleep which will eventually amount to the same thing.

    The Dixie Chicks are trying to claim a ‘right’ to use some else’s soapbox. This is obviously a violation of the soapbox owner’s right to use his own soapbox for his own purposes. But even if the DCs built there own soapbox the discord between property rights and free speech would remain.

  37. Hmm! “spirit of the first ammendment” what a concept.

    I wonder if it would also apply to major news networks who studiously ignore any and all information sources which might be damaging to their political favorite (think Swift Boat vets.) while trumpeting any and all forms of gossip, lies, innuendo and need I say forgery to prop up the same?

    Yeah. I didn’t think so.

    At any rate it is a source of continual entertainment to watch these woe-begone products of the our fine Department of Education cement their claim to the appelation “Ditzy Twits”.

  38. Hmm! “spirit of the first ammendment” what a concept.

    I wonder if it would also apply to major news networks who studiously ignore any and all information sources which might be damaging to their political favorite (think Swift Boat vets.) while trumpeting any and all forms of gossip, lies, innuendo and need I say forgery to prop up the same?

    Yeah. I didn’t think so.

    At any rate it is a source of continual entertainment to watch these woe-begone products of the our fine Department of Education cement their claim to the appelation “Ditzy Twits”.

  39. If the owners of the radio stations deem playing DC songs to be damaging to their financial operations (i.e. listeners complain, threaten boycotts), then they are free stop playing those songs. They have the right to exercise their 1st Amendment right to free speech, too. In this case, they’re exercising their free speech through silence.

    If flag burning has been deemed free speech, surely silence is also protected. So long as that silence is not imposed by government sanction, it’s perfectly legal and legitimate.

    The Dixie Chicks are simply whining because they got themselves into something they can’t get out of. Instead of engaging the brain before putting their mouths into gear, so to speak.

    Certainly, they are guilty of firing off the first round in a war of words and ideas where they are hopelessly out numbered and seriously out gunned.

    These narrowminded people think the 1st Amendment is a priceless gift of freedom, so long as they’re the only ones who get to do the talking. They think it protects them from criticism as well as government sanctioned censorship.

    Fundamentally flawed thinking, that.

    I wonder, did all three of them fail civics class?

  40. We like Bill just as we sometimes like Dennis “I am pretty much pro choice accross the board” Miller. Sometimes telling the truth works for some laughs and at the same time appeals to Libers. It is rare when we hear the truth on the air and as refreshing as it is, we go too far and try to co-opt it in our own belief systems.

  41. I work for a radio station group as “air talent”. Admittedly I no longer work for the country station but at least I am an insider. The guys at the country station did the democratic thing and polled the listeners. Immediately after their controversial comments and the results were solidly ‘nix the chicks’. They took another poll three months later with the question Dixie Chicks; Bring em back or gone for good. The result was again a solid gone for good. So guess what, they’re gone for good bu listener demand. Fact is as a group we have to play what the lsiteners want or they tune to someone who does and we don’t get advertisers.

    Constitutional rights are great but, along with rights come responsibilities. Natalie, engage your brain before putting your mouth in drive.

  42. Ohhhhh, I get it now, it’s free speech to diss the president but censorship to not play or buy Dixie Chick records.

    Toby Keith was right.

  43. If you place your own soapbox on the ‘public’ sidewalk outside my home and shout at me with a 50000 Watt megaphone your message is protected by the First Amendment, but you are probably violating a zoning ordinance.

    That’s a bad analogy — there’s a big difference between broadcasting your music so that people can listen to it if they choose, and forcing them to listen to it by shouting in front of their house.

  44. The Twits committed the fundamental error of forgetting who their fan base was. I understand they are in the process of crossing over now.

  45. The Twits committed the fundamental error of forgetting who their fan base was. I understand they are in the process of crossing over now.

  46. Dan,

    All three of the Dixie Chicks are from Texas. Emily and Martie are from Dallas, which I happen to know because they went to my high school. Natalie is from Lubbock.

  47. I’m still trying to recover from my fit of laughing at the idea of a disc jocky as an “artist.”

    For a publisher to refuse to publish a certain book is not censorship; it is a business decision. As noted, the First Amendment simply says that the government shall not abridge the author’s right to write or the publisher’s right to publish. What happens between authors and publishers are private affairs best governed by private contracts and the laws of the marketplace.

    I agree that the government should not encourage or discourage the playing of Dixie Chicks music. I agree with Mr. Sanchez, the Dixie Chicks are the ones who alienated their fan base. The smoking gun held by the three dimwits is the one which with they shot themselves in the foot.

  48. With freedom come responsibilities, eh? Which ones are these, exactly? Does it include the responsibility to not criticize the president? What kind of horseshit is that? The group’s 1st Amendment rights were definitely not violated, but I’m lost as to how the group was being irresponsible here. (And a country station uses a straw poll as marketing research? God, how stupid.)

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