Angry New Yorker

Sunday, April 27, 2003
Bruce Springsteen's Comment on The Dixie Chicks
I respect Bruce Springsteen a great deal. He's been consistent through out the years and his music is a rarity in that it's both good and generally contains a message deeper than boy meets girl. A friend recently forward Bruce's comment regarding the Dixie Chicks' hulabaloo ongoing. Now I don't care about the Dixie Chicks, and don't particularly care what they said. But while Bruce is a great musician, he's no First Amendment scholar. Contrary to Bruce, The Dixie Chicks are NOT taking a hit for exercising their 1st amendment right to speech. They are, instead, taking a hit for the content of that speech which others don't agree with. There's a significant distinction therein.

The 1st amendment does not mandate agreement with your position. Nor does it directly protect circumstances other than those where state action is present. Rather, the 1st amendment merely safeguards one's ability to speak so that public discourse remains "uninhibited, robust and wide-open". What happens after you've spoken is not a 1st amendment issue.

As the Supreme Court has noted: "The constitutional protection does not turn upon 'the truth, popularity, or social utility of the ideas and beliefs which are offered.' NY Times v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 270 (1964), quoting N. A. A. C. P. v. Button, 371 U.S. 415, 445 (1963).
So, while the first amendment protects the right to "unpopular" speech, it doesn't protect you from others' non-violent actions responding to the content of your speech. Got that, Bruce?

4/22/03: A Comment from Bruce Springsteen
The Dixie Chicks have taken a big hit lately for exercising their basic right to express themselves. To me, they're terrific American artists expressing American values by using their American right to free speech. For them to be banished wholesale from radio stations, and even entire radio networks, for speaking out is un-American.
The pressure coming from the government and big business to enforce conformity of thought concerning the war and politics goes against everything that this country is about - namely freedom. Right now, we are supposedly fighting to create freedom in Iraq, at the same time that some are trying to intimidate and punish people for using that same freedom here at home. I don't know what happens next, but I do want to add my voice to those who think that the Dixie Chicks are getting a raw deal, and an un-American one to boot. I send them my support.

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