Republican Patriot Police Protect Bush from Critics
   by Gene Lyons

 First, the Patriot Police came for the Dixie Chicks, and I said nothing because I'm fed up
 with the predigested mush that passes for country music these days. I wouldn't include the
 Chicks in that category, but flag-waving deejays and war-loving singers in cowboy hats
 strike me as an enormous bore.

 At a Texas rodeo recently, somebody remained seated when the loudspeaker played
 Lee Greenwood's cornball ballad "Proud to Be an American." The man said he didn't
 have to stand for no damn country song, and fisticuffs ensued.

 So Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines ought to have known she was asking for
 trouble by telling a London audience, "Just so you know, we're ashamed the president
 of the United States is from Texas." After all, she grew up in Lubbock. Even after a
 carefully-orchestrated uproar broke out--radio stations dropped the Chicks from their
 playlist and held CD-smashing rallies after an e-mail and telephone campaign reportedly
 originating with the Republican National Committee--Maines briefly hung in there.
"One of the privileges of being an American," she said "is you are free to voice your own point of view."

 Not if you want your songs on the radio, sweetheart. With the music business, like the
 news business, increasingly dominated by huge corporations such as Clear Channel
 Communications, the San Antonio giant that owns 1200 stations, uses its muscle to
 manage and promote concert tours, stages pro-war rallies, and has direct political ties
 to President Junior, artists exercise those rights at their peril. Within days, the Chicks
 were back in harness.

"As a concerned American citizen," Maines said "I apologize to President Bush because
 my remark was disrespectful. I feel that whoever holds that office should be treated
 with the utmost respect."

 The satirical website finished the statement for her.
"I'm just a young girl who grew up in Texas," they wrote. "As far back as I can remember,
 I heard people say they were ashamed of President Clinton. I saw bumper stickers
 calling him everything from a pothead to a murderer. I heard people on the radio and TV
 ...bad mouthing the President and ridiculing his wife and daughter at every opportunity.
 I heard LOTS of people disrespecting the President. So I guess I just assumed it was
 acceptable behavior."

 Next the Patriot Police came for a CBS TV producer who spoke too frankly about his
 forthcoming miniseries "Hitler: The Rise of Evil," and I didn't say anything because hyperbolic
 analogies to Hitler are a dime a dozen. People making them deserve to lose the argument.
 According to the Washington post, Ed Gernon told TV Guide that "fear fueled both the
 Bush administration's adoption of a preemptive-strike policy and the public's acceptance of it....
 Gernon said a similar fearfulness in a devastated post-World War I Germany was 'absolutely'
 behind that nation's acceptance of Hitler's extremism."

 Both TV Guide and the New York Post, which made a big issue of Gernon's remark, are
 owned by right-wing Australian magnate Rupert Murdoch. CBS abruptly fired the veteran
 producer before too loud a clamor arose.

 Next the Patriot Police came after actors Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins, and I was
 tempted to keep quiet because Sarandon inexplicably sets my teeth on edge. Her presence
 almost ruined Bull Durham for me, an otherwise near-perfect baseball movie. Baseball Hall
 of Fame president Dale Petroskey launched a pre-emptive strike on free speech because he
 feared what the outspoken couple might say at a scheduled 15th anniversary celebration of
 the popular film at Cooperstown later this month. Instead, Petroskey cancelled the event.

 A one-time press flack for President Reagan and Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC), Petroskey
 informed Robbins that criticizing Junior was tantamount to treason. "We believe your very
 public criticism of President Bush at this important--and sensitive--time in our nation's history
 helps undermine the U.S. position, which ultimately could put our troops in even more danger.
 As an institution, we stand behind our president and our troops in this conflict."

 Robbins responded with appropriate anger. "To suggest that my criticism of the President put
 the troops in danger is absurd," he wrote in an open letter to Petroskey. "I had been unaware,
 that baseball is a Republican sport....You invoke patriotism and use words like freedom in an
 attempt to intimidate and bully. In doing so, you dishonor the words patriotism and freedom
 and dishonor the men and women who have fought wars to keep this nation a place where one
 can freely express their opinion without fear of reprisal or punishment."

 Like most serious fans, Robbins regards baseball as an oasis beyond politics, and said he'd had
 no intention of dragging Bush into it.  Alas, to the GOP Patriot Police, there's no such thing.
 Major League Baseball quickly disassociated itself from Petroskey's action. Former Texas Rangers
"owner" George W. Bush should too, unless the right to criticize him isn't  among the freedoms he values.

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