The all-time, number-one Academy Award winners for whining liberals being called “brave” are the members of the country music group the Dixie Chicks. According to Nexis, the Dixie Chicks have been mentioned in the same sentence as “courageous” or “brave” hundreds of times in the past few years. Meanwhile, Ron Silver, the actor-turned-patriot after 9/11, who then saw his acting career stall, has been called brave once.
Lead singer Natalie Maines's bold defiance came in 2003, the year of the Dixie Chicks’ sixty-city world tour, when Maines sucked up to her Bush-hating London audience by saying, “Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas.” What an odd coincidence that the only city Maines attacked Bush in was London! In a way, it was lucky for the group that Maines claimed to be embarrassed by Bush in London and not in Asheville, North Carolina. Hey—maybe … no it couldn't be …
Attacking Bush in London was courageous in the sense that it is courageous when performing in Chicago to openly defy the crowd by shouting, “How about them Bears?!!!” It shows the same raw guts as performers in Gainesville, Florida, wearing hats emblazoned “Go Gators!” It's the sort of crazy let-the-chips-fall-where-they-may valor that stand-up comics exhibit in New York when they say, “Anybody here from Brooklyn?”
Here's a little bravery chart I've worked up:
Insulting President Bush in Fort Worth: Heroic
Insulting President Bush in Missouri: Possibly brave
Insulting President Bush in Austin: Not brave
Insulting President Bush in London: Gushy suck-up
Please, America, don't hate the Dixie Chicks for being anti-Bush. Hate them for being hacks.
Just to be completely clear that there was not one ounce of valor in what Maines did: When she was telling her London audience she was embarrassed about the U.S. president, she had absolutely no reason to imagine anyone in America would ever hear about it. Unlike Jimmy Carter, who can always expect his anti-American remarks abroad to make news back home, a girl band's onstage chitchat doesn't generally receive international coverage. As the New York Times reported, for the first several days after the concert, no one mentioned Maines's nasty remark about the president. Bush's ambassador to Great Britain, William S. Farish, attended the show and warmly greeted the Dixie Chicks afterward. Only after the Drudge Report published Maines's America-hating crowd-pleaser about a week later did Americans find out about it. Ten years earlier, Maines could have sucked up to her leftist European audience without anyone in America ever knowing.
Fans were so appalled at Maines for entertaining the antiwar Brits by attacking the U.S. president on the eve of war that country music stations began treating the Chicks the same way the establishment media treats conservatives. Album sales dropped by 42 percent in one week. In response, Maines apologized to Bush for being disrespectful, but explained that, in Europe, they hate Americans: “We are currently in Europe and witnessing a huge anti-American sentiment as a result of the perceived rush to war.”95 So her defense was that it wasn't her fault because she was just telling the audience what it wanted to hear. That, my friends, is what we call “speaking truth to power.”
People in small-town America have no access to media bullhorns but exercised their freedom of speech by calling in to country music radio stations. So naturally the Dixie Chicks became First Amendment heroes in places like New York and Los Angeles for defying these tacky Americans. A Los Angeles Times columnist primly declared that those protesting Maines's remark were “violating her most important right and the foundation of this country—her freedom of speech.”96 In January 2004, MTV's Rock the Vote awarded the Chicks the Patrick Lippert Award for their “enduring commitment to preserving and protecting freedom of expression.”97 To liberals, our precious right to speak means rich celebrities get to say whatever they want without being criticized.
Woeful tales of the Dixie Chicks’ suffering at the hands of jack-booted Americans living in small towns across the nation turned out to be good for business. The group had the eighth-highest-grossing concert tour of 2003, and “the most lucrative country tour of all time,” according to the Associated Press's David Bauder, who then added, incongruously, “despite being dogged by controversy over a remark made about President Bush.”98 No, the word is not “despite;” it's “because.”
The deluge of television profiles, magazine cover stories, and newspaper articles about Maines's dauntless courage was irritating enough the first time around. But then Maines did the exact same thing again in 2005—uncannily, just before the release of the Dixie Chicks’ next album! This time, she announced to Time magazine—oh yes, she got another interview with Time magazine for bravely attacking Bush— she was taking back her apology to Bush from two years earlier.
Maines was like the character played by Lili Taylor in the movie Say Anything, who wrote sixty-three songs denouncing her ex-boyfriend Joe. Bush didn't know who Maines was, but years later, Maines was still neurotically writing songs about him—“Joe lies. Joe lies. Joe lies. When he cries. When he cries. Joe lies….”
Maines called her 2005 song to her imaginary ex-boyfriend George Bush “Not Ready to Make Nice.” In the song she lamented her martyrdom—“I've paid a price / And I'll keep paying”—and also touted her own courage and resilience: “I'm not ready to back down / I'm still mad as hell.”
What price had she paid again? The Dixie Chicks had been a nationally recognized group since 1998, when they released a slew of chart-topping songs, winning a Grammy Award for best country album in 1999 and many more awards over the years. But until they insulted Bush in London, they had been mentioned in the New York Times only in passing, making only two headlines in the Arts and Business sections—and never on the op-ed page. After insulting Bush, the Dixie Chicks’ coverage in the Times doubled overnight. They were in seven headlines, at least two editorials, and roughly 7 million op-ed columns praising them for their bravery. On the op-ed page alone, the Dixie Chicks were mentioned in articles by Maureen Dowd, Tom Friedman, Paul Krugman, Brent Staples, Bob Herbert (twice), and Frank Rich (three times). One Times editorial about the brave Dixie Chicks asserted that they “caused trouble (and ultimately earned greater respect).”99
Grandstanders are not born, they're made. It's learned behavior. After watching the Dixie Chicks get attention cheaply, soon all sorts of has-been musical groups were trying to outdo one another in the venom they could hurl at President Bush.
A few weeks after Maines made her anti-Bush remarks in London, Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam smashed a Bush mask onto the stage and stomped on it. Then Madonna made a music video in which she threw a grenade at a President Bush look-alike.100 Before the year was up, Bruce Springsteen had told a concert audience, “It's time to impeach the president and put in somebody that knows what they're doing.”101 John Mellencamp, R.E.M., Lenny Kravitz, and the Beastie Boys jumped to release antiwar songs.
Madonna later withdrew the grenade video, but quickly made up for lost time with a stream of Bush-bashing in her tour the next year, including a video of Bush and Saddam Hussein impersonators sharing a cigar. This was “true to her rebellious nature,” as one newspaper put it.102 A few years later, Madonna's tour included a video presentation comparing Republican presidential candidate John McCain to Adolf Hitler, while comparing Barack Obama to Gandhi.103 What will such a rebel do next? Take on … global warming? Her courage takes my breath away.
Just before this orgy of anti-Bush mock violence began, the Chicago Daily Herald had solemnly intoned, “Fear is in the air.”104 Yes, there was fear that celebrities would not get on the nightly news. Fear that music columnists across the nation would not call them brave. There was deep fear, my friends, that they would not make a bold anti-Bush statement fast enough to make their fellow musicians look like squares. These celebrity suck-ups would claim to be appalled by Abu Ghraib, but they were perfectly willing to torture the rest of us with their bottomless self-righteousness. The cover of the June 2006 issue of the
Forget gulags—these thin-skinned liberal narcissists can't survive sixty seconds without someone telling them they're fabulous. When a fan booed Pearl Jam's Vedder as he was demonstrating his way with words by stomping on the Bush mask, Vedder was completely taken aback. Then Vedder shouted down the dissenters with a microphone and 50,000 amps, saying, “I don't know if you heard about this thing called freedom of speech, man.” This qualified as one of the most profound public statements ever punctuated with the term “man.” While complaining that his free-speech rights were being infringed, he announced—in a worldwide exclusive—that the following year Americans would no longer be allowed to speak! “It's worth thinking about [freedom of speech], because it's going away,” Vedder said. “In the last year of being able to use it, we're sure as [expletive] going to use it and I'm not gonna apologize.”106
Soon, Vedder was backpedaling faster than a Dixie Chick. He later said, “Just to clarify … we support the troops.” To prove it, he cited his short haircut: “How could we not be for the military? I mean, look at this [expletive] haircut.” Vedder also said his remarks had been “misconstrued.” The band issued a statement saying Vedder had just been talking about “freedom of speech.”
Like the Dixie Chicks, Vedder folded like a house of cards at the first note of dissent. Even with the entire mainstream media ready to hail airhead entertainers for their fearless Bush-bashing, the airheads can't take a few boos from the audience. A few years later, Barbra Streisand responded to a lone heckler responding to her anti-Bush sketch by exploding in rage. “Shut the f—k up, would you?” she wittily retorted. “Shut the f—k up if you can't take a joke.”107 These touchy celebrities demand to be simultaneously showered with praise their every waking moment—and also have trumpets blare for their courage. There is only one way to pull that off in America, and that is to be a liberal.
Having been taught by liberal celebrities to seek attention without risking anything, in 2006 a student speaker at the New School's commencement proceedings bravely insulted the official commencement speaker, Senator John McCain. The world gasped in awe at the raw heroism of Jean Rohe for being rude to an invited guest who also happened to be a Republican, a U.S. senator, and a decorated war hero. Not least of those hailing her bravery was Rohe herself—and really, who was in a better position to judge?
Describing her decision to attack the invited guest, Rohe said that as she talked to people on campus the day before her speech, she discovered how overwhelmingly popular it would be to attack McCain. Everywhere Rohe went that day she ran into students and faculty fashioning armbands and preparing to protest McCain. Her mother wept when Rohe read her illiterate speech over the phone. Literally every person Rohe talked to the day before the ceremony opposed the Iraq War and hated McCain with blind fury. At two graduation ceremonies a day earlier, attacks on McCain had brought wild cheers from the audience.
Rohe's resolve to tell the audience what it wanted to hear was only hardened when she was told there would be media at the event. “The situation seemed pretty serious,” she said. “It was something I didn't want to do, but knew I had to out of an obligation to my own values”— such as the value of being popular, getting a standing ovation, and being praised for her courage.108 Liberals’ idea of questioning authority is to check with the authorities to see if a “Question Authority” bumper sticker would be popular. See, where I come from, sucking up to the audience is not called “courageous.”
Sensing that grandiosity and fake heroism were within her grasp, Rohe lectured McCain, bravely telling him, “We have nothing to fear from anyone on this living planet.”109 Except Osama bin Laden, apparently: Rohe was furious with Bush for not catching him. So I guess she thought we had something to fear from him. Still, she was brave. I know that because she got a standing ovation.
Rohe then fulfilled her final obligation as a brave liberal by bitterly complaining that those who criticized her behavior were trying “to hurt my feelings.”110
But to be a true ace at the game, Rohe will have to learn to be an utterly opportunistic grandstander and make a living at it. For that, we turn to John Kerry, who has managed to secure a Senate career by passing off his antiwar activism as raw courage, rather than the naked self-promotion that it was.
After spending three months in Vietnam, and then returning to discover that that military service would not boost a political career, Kerry did an about-face and became America's most famous antiwar protester. His 1971 Senate testimony against the war catapulted him to media stardom with a virulently antiwar press. He was awarded a long segment on CBS's 60 Minutes a few weeks later—in which he was asked if he wanted to run for president.
His fellow antiwar activists “viewed Kerry as a power-grabbing elitist.”111 Kerry's undisguised ambition in the antiwar movement turned him into a regular character in Garry Trudeau's “Doonesbury” comic strip. In a 1971 cartoon published in the Yale Daily News, a character walks up to two men talking about John Kerry and says, “If you care about this country at all you better go listen to that John Kerry fellow.” Next box: “He speaks with a rare eloquence and astonishing conviction. If you see no one else this year, you must see John Kerry!” Last box: “Who was that?” one man asks. “John Kerry,” the other says.
And yet, in 2004, liberal columnist Tom Oliphant converted Kerry's grasping antiwar activism into an act of staggering courage. Oliphant wrote, “What Kerry did in the spring of 1971 still amazes me. The power and eloquence of his statement to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee [blah, blah, blah] … At the time, Kerry told me that he assumed his actions had precluded a political career, a sentiment experience had taught me to share.”112
It was such a brazen inversion of the truth, one almost admired Oliphant for allowing those lines to be published under his name. It certainly showed more audacity than anything Kerry had ever done.
As the Boston Globe said, Kerry's Senate testimony “made possible his political career.”113 For Kerry and his acolytes in the press to claim that he was spitting into the wind with his antiwar testimony would be like Britney Spears claiming that appearing on stage wearing only a bra would hurt her performing career, but dammit, she had to do it!
It would be one thing if liberal suck-ups said, Okay, gimme a break. I have to make a living here. But they demand that their most whoring behavior be described as “brave.” Wearing just a bra on stage is just something I have to do to be true to myself! These are goody two-shoes apple-polishers—the kids who volunteer for extra work after school and turn in their classmates who talk when the teacher leaves the room. Okay, fine. There have always been wienies groveling toward authority figures, and in modern America the most powerful authority figure is the liberal establishment. But this may be the first time in history that we ever had to suffer the effrontery of the bootlickers telling us, “I'm bad—I clean erasers for teachers after class because I'm baaad.”
I don't care what liberals believe, but don't tell me they're courageous when they are saying exactly what every powerful institution in America wants to hear. These people would have collaborated with Hitler. This is not an exact science, but if you've just been on the cover of a magazine or received a standing ovation, you're not being courageous. There's a different word for it— What's the word I'm searching for? Oh yes, it's “ass-kissing.”
MOST HILARIOUS ARE LIBERALS WHO COMPLAIN ABOUT “DEATH threats.” In the Dixie Chicks’ 2005 song “Not Ready to Make Nice,” Maines sang:
And how in the world can the words that I said
Send somebody so over the edge
That they'D write me a letter?
Sayin’ that I better shut up and sing
Or my life will be over….
My life will be over? I gather Maines is not talking
Someone has got to make liberals stop telling us their “lives were threatened.” Every public figure's life has been threatened. If more than fifty people know your name, you have been proposed to, propositioned, and insulted and have had threats on your life.
Any public figure who complains about hate mail is a scaredy-cat sissy. My proof:
“I know from experience that I have guaranteed myself a barrage of hate mail.” —Paul Krugman, wearing women's underwear, January 23, 2000
“Psychoanalyzing a political movement guarantees a fresh wave of hate mail.” —Paul Krugman, wearing women's underwear, May 23, 2001
“Spare me the hate mail.” —Paul Krugman, wearing women's underwear, May 28, 2004
“After 9/11, if you were thinking of saying anything negative about the president, you had to be prepared for an avalanche of hate mail.” —Paul Krugman, wearing women's underwear, May 6, 2003
Krugman probably writes his own hate mail.
The preeminent security specialist Gavin de Becker says attacks on public figures are almost never preceded by a warning,115 so you're really pathetic if you're whining about “death threats.” John Lennon, Ronald Reagan, and Gianni Versace did not receive any warning before they were shot. The “death threats” liberals constantly wail about are less than nothing. On the other hand, publicizing a public figure's address is intentionally putting that person's life in danger. Noticeably, liberals go out of their way to publicize the addresses of conservative public figures.