View Full Version : The Founders Almost Forgot It, and We’re About to Forget It

07-16-03, 05:43 AM
The Founders Almost Forgot It, and We’re About to Forget It

Exclusive commentary by Jan Ireland

Jul 14, 2003

I’m sure I saw something about the First Amendment in my little personal copy of the Constitution. To be precise it’s Amendment I, and thereby the basis of our Bill of Rights. Even the Founders almost forgot it, and we’re about to forget it today.

Witness Dem…uh, Republican Senator John McCain holding senate hearings about whether a group (in this case the Dixie Chicks) can have their First Amendment rights violated by having their songs banned on radio stations.

Actually, I think you’d actually have to stretch things a bit to call it a political statement. Saying you’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from your same state seems to me to be more evidence of a poor up-bringing than political commentary. However you see it, the Dixie Chicks made the statement before an audience in England. More evidence of a poor up-bringing. You know, when you’re away from home, use your best manners. Or, if you can’t say something good about somebody, say nothing at all. The Dixie Chicks could have avoided every bit of this controversy if they had read a little more Miss Manners.

But, happen it did. And blown all out of proportion, it is.

This was a case in which American citizens (read customers) made it clear that anything by the Dixie Chicks was absolutely something they didn’t want to hear. There was no mistaking their message. Dixie Chick albums met non-returnable fates.

The capitalistic radio station conglomerate, almighty dollar sign in mind, decided not to play any of the Dixie Chicks songs.

Well, that kind of decision has a direct effect on the Dixie Chicks’ pocketbook, but their First Amendment rights? I don’t think so.

I worked at a radio station when I was in college, more years ago than I’m going to admit. It opened as a rock station. They played rock songs, and had deejays who made rock comments. They “walked up” the songs with the latest slang. They said what were, for the times, outrageous things. We college students loved the shakeup of our small southern town, where our all-girls school was located.

But the citizens in the town refused to listen. The stores in the town refused to advertise.

Did the station managers go to elected officials complaining about their First Amendment rights being violated? Did they try to get Dianne or Katie or Barbara to feature them on TV, so they could give carefully rehearsed answers to carefully spontaneous questions?

No. They changed the format to religious.

It profited immediately.

Earning dollars is not a right. Losing a $20,000 speaking fee (to tell people they ought to volunteer more, no less) as Susan Sarandon did; losing the publicity and freebies of a film celebration, as she and non-hubby Tim Robbins did; being booed off a stage, as Stupid White Man Michael Moore was; these are not violations of First Amendment rights. They are the American people clearly and freely stating preferences.

Dictators tell you who to clap for, what to read, how loud your laugh can be. They regulate every particle that goes over the airwaves in their fiefdoms. We don’t want that here in America.

Long may the free air waves, surely fashioned by providence for free speech, wave.

It’s right there in the Constitution.