MEDIA WATCH: Dixie Chick's criticism of Bush hits sour note with band's fans

Here's a quick question for the Dixie Chicks: What's free and costly at the same time? Lead singer Natalie Maines might not have known the answer a month ago, but it's a pretty safe bet she now knows that exercising her freedom of speech can have expensive consequences.

Here's a quick question for the Dixie Chicks: What's free and costly at the same time? Lead singer Natalie Maines might not have known the answer a month ago, but it's a pretty safe bet she now knows that exercising her freedom of speech can have expensive consequences.

On the eve of war with Iraq, Maines told her London audience, "We're ashamed the President of the US is from Texas." Well, that audience might have cheered, but many stateside fans were shocked and outraged. A front-page article in the Fort Worth Star Telegram (March 15) read, "The Grammy-winning trio [has] found itself engulfed in a PR nightmare." CNN (March 17) reported "a big backlash" against the group, which was reflected in media coverage around the US. Coverage focused heavily on the reaction of country-music radio stations, which began a boycott of the group's music. Reports indicated that many stations across the US were involved, although primarily in the heartland. Two-thirds of the coverage discussing the boycotts indicated that station managers had done so at the request of angry fans. Reports also noted that the e-mails and calls that stations received from fans ranged from 72% to 95% in favor of a boycott. The Boston Herald (March 15) quoted veteran country-music consultant Rusty Walker as approving of the radio stations' decisions. Walker argued that the customer is always right: "I think they have to, because whether the reason listeners don't want to hear the Chicks' music is misguided anger or not, they just don't want to hear them. Our job is to play the music listeners want to hear, and not play the music they don't." The media also widely covered rallies and bonfires to destroy Dixie Chicks CDs. A Louisiana radio station's use of a tractor to demolish the CDs was a novelty that numerous papers picked up. Just over half of the coverage acknowledged that Maines had apologized for her outburst. A number of media outlets noted that her first statement to address the problem was somewhat wishy-washy, and that it took a second statement for her to issue a clearer, fuller apology. But even then, many media outlets assessed from fans' reactions that it wasn't enough. In her first statement, Maines had argued that one of the rights of being an American was being able to speak your point of view. These comments were carried by several publications, but few others echoed her sentiments. Several articles observed that the Dixie Chicks have risen to prominence - they're arguably the hottest country music group today - primarily due to the support of conservative Texans. In effect, they argued, Maines was biting the hand that feeds her. One Texas DJ said, "It wasn't just a dig at Bush politically. It was a dig at her home state and her own people. She took a speaking role not only for herself, but as a Texan. From all the calls and e-mails I've had, she does not speak for Texans" (Fort Worth Star Telegram, March 15). The Dixie Chicks are scheduled to return from Europe and start their US tour on May 1 in conservative Greenville, SC. Time will tell if fans have forgiven the Chicks by then. -----
  • Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International. Media Watch can be found at www.carma.com.

  • Have you registered with us yet?

    Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

    Register
    Already registered?
    Sign in

    Would you like to post a comment?

    Please Sign in or register.