Speak Out: How Far Is Too Far When Musicians Talk Politics?
Imagine this: You go to a concert to see one of your favorite artists. Suddenly, mid-show, he or she starts spewing political rhetoric. You disagree with his or her ideas, so you and many others leave.
Photo by Groovehouse
Free speech is something we claim to value in this country, but we are biased against opposing viewpoints. Rarely do we show favor towards those who hold a different point of view.
This happens often with artists regarding their fans: Should they speak their political opinions and risk losing their audience? Is the potential backlash worth their right to free speech?
In March 2003, when Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines told a London audience "we're ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas" just before the Iraq war, country music fans were outraged. They held rallies to destroy the band's paraphernalia, and country stations nationwide banned their music. The Chicks also received death threats.
Maines' comments looked even worse because she said them in another country. Some people even thought what she said was treasonous. Perhaps instead of using loaded words like "ashamed," she could have said, "just so you know, we're on the good side with y'all, and we don't want this war in Iraq." It might have have fared better with conservative-leaning country listeners.
Conservative musicians can also use some pretty inflammatory words. Rocker Ted Nugent has repeatedly threatened democratic candidates and President Obama, among others. In one case, he told them to "suck on my machine gun."