Saturday, May 19, 2012

nugent, dixie chicks, and politics in music

It's been a while since Ted Nugent's rant about the President (video following this paragraph) and I've been meaning to write about it. But I've been taking a while to come to a conclusion. I'm still not really sure, but I'll take a stab at it.

First, a few random thoughts:
  • Ted Nugent is a loon.
  • I've never understood why people take seriously the political ramblings of a loon.
  • I think it's wrongheaded (and in many cases purposely so) to point to the head-chopping-off rhetoric as a real threat. It was very clear in context that he was talking metaphorically. I would be willing to bet that, when the Secret Service met with him afterwards about those comments, what they had to say was something along the lines of "Uh, we know you weren't really threatening the President, but will you tone it down some?"
  • While I don't think those comments can correctly be construed as threats, they were clearly over the top.
When I first heard about the rant, and went to see the video, my reaction was kind of a combination head-shaking and shoulder-shrugging, along with a sigh. It's a free country, he has a first ammendment right to say what he wants. Yes, I know that that doesn't include explicit threats. But as I noted above I don't think Nugent's comments can correctly be taken as threats. As an aside, it does remind me of Axe Cop.

But what's significant is that I didn't react as strongly as I did when Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks proclaimed her embarrasment that George W. Bush was from the same state as they were. To be sure, I didn't call for boycotts, or go and trash CDs, or anything like that. similarly shrugged, shook my head, and acknowledged her first ammendment rights (she was, of course, not in the US at the time, so I don't know how that affects the calculus, but the principle is the same. But the difference is that since then I have a visceral dislike of Natalie Maines and the Dixie Chicks, which I just have to admit I don't have about Ted Nugent. Not that any of that has any effect on my CD-purchasing decisions. I don't have any Dixie Chicks CDs in my collection, though that's not due to any boycott. The only Ted Nugent CD I have is a compilation that I got off of Freecycle.

So, what can explain my different visceral reaction? The obvious answer is politics. A case of whose ox is gored. Without going into detail (this is not meant to be a political blog), I think it suffices to say that I generally liked Bush and that I am less than enthusiastic about Obama.  That affects my perception of insults aimed at either of these men. It's a normal human failing, that one sees often -- especially if one reads political blogs and the comments sections in them: Politicans A and B both do essentially the same thing. Commenters Fa (who likes A and detests B) and Fb (who likes B and detests A) come up with all sorts of distinctions to explain why what A and B did are not essentially the same. Fa argues that, in light of those differences, A was justified and B was not. Fb argues that B was justified and A was not. Let me be clear here: I am not saying that Fa or Fb is being dishonest. Each believes what he is saying. It's just that each is letting feelings influence thought more than he wants to admit.

So, what are the differences that could possibly explain why Nugent is OK and Maines is not?

Everyone knows that Nugent is a kook. That's true enough. But does that mean that if one guy is a putz all the time and the other is rarely a putz we forgive the all-around putz (it's in his nature; he can't help it) and hold a grudge against the occaisonal putz? It kind of reminds me of schoolkids. The genius who should ace everything put gets a C because he doesn't apply himself gets punished for not performing up to potential, while the not-so-bright kid gets praised for his C. But I don't think that should apply here.

Maines made her comments during a concert. The point of that distinction is that people go to concerts to hear music. They don't go to speeches or interviews at NRA conventions. Thus, it was a little more unfair of Maines to subject her audience to her politics than it was for Nugent to subject his audience to his. There is something to that. I would have been less bothered by Maines' comments if she had made them during a political rally or some other venue that is not what should be a no-politics zone -- like when Whoopi Goldberg and Margaret Cho made their rants during comedy routines.

On the other hand, I've seen footage of Nugent making political comments at his rallies, and they didn't bother me as much. Whose ox is gored? Not sure. The fact is, since political positioning is a big part of Ted's persona, that's not really a case of bait and switch. Similarly, I am more put off by what Maines said in concert than I would beby more-pointed anti-Bush comments.

Maines was not in the US. The point here is that she wasn't engaging in internal debate -- she was airing our dirty laundry in a foreign country. I try to cling to that argument. But in this shrinking world with the intertubes transmitting everything everywhere, I'm not sure that it holds water. Would I have been less bothered had Maines said that during a concert in New York? I must admit not.

Hollywood is (as a whole) leftist. This doesn't really affect what Maines said, or what Nugent said, or who has the right to say what or how over the top this is or that is. But it does affect how much patience I have for any given thing. It does get tiresome that so much of the entertainment industry is on the left, and -- more importantly -- convinced that anyone with conservative views (mine tend to be not so much conservative as libertarian, but that's another issue) isn't just wrong, but "other" and "bad." It does affect what is shown on TV and in the movies, and how believers in political philosophies are portrayed. And I remember a bunch of years back that Linda Ronstadt (or was it Barbra Streisand?) commenting that she would feel uncomfortable with the idea of Republicans being in her audience.

Looking at all of these, there may be some validity to some of them. But I think when it comes right down to it, this is largely a case of the ox-goring thing.

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