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Real Words Have Real Consequences


Gregory J. Rummo

The other day while doing my usual 47-minute workout in the gym, “Madonna Rewind” happened to be on VH1 on one of the flat screen televisions hanging from the ceiling.

I’m no fan of VH1 or Madonna. But on the screen where I was watching ESPN Sports Center, a commercial was running and my attention was momentarily diverted to her new war video on the adjacent monitor. She claims she delayed its release because of the US’s involvement in Iraq.

I was curious to see what she had to say so I pressed the “Up” button on the station selector. I listened just long enough to hear her whine about how ironic it was that we fought a war to bring democracy to Iraq, yet there isn’t real democracy here in America because show people are being punished for their criticism of this country’s involvement in the war.

I assume the show people to which she was referring were the likes of the Dixie Chicks, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins whose recent anti-Bush, anti-America tirades had some very unpleasant consequences.

Dixie Chicks band member Natalie Maines said at a performance in London: “Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas.” Now the group is suffering from reduced record sales and outraged deejays refusing to play their music.

Similarly, when the Baseball Hall of Fame got wind of Robbins' venomous anti-war rhetoric, they cancelled his appearance at Cooperstown where he was scheduled to appear with Sarandon for a 15-year anniversary celebration of the movie Bull Durham. Robbins complained of censorship, telling attendees at a National Press Club luncheon, “A chill wind is blowing in this nation. Every day the airwaves are filled with warnings, veiled and unveiled threats, spewed invective and hatred directed at any voice of dissent.”

Dale Petroskey, president of the Hall wrote, “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.”

Time for a history lesson folks.

The First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Last time I checked, there weren’t any new laws passed by Congress limiting anyone’s free speech. There were no knocks at Tim Robbins’s or Madonna’s door in the middle of the night to take them away for speaking out against the government.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the real world, where not everyone agrees with your point of view, especially when you choose to disparage the land that has afforded you the opportunities for which gratitude not vilification should be on your tongue.

It must be tough for these outspoken liberals in show biz. To date, their biggest angst has been a critic’s pan or a sleight from the Academy Awards. But these slaps in the face are all aimed at the performer, not the person. It’s different when you drop the mask and bare your soul only to have your words rammed back down your throat by a public that has finally grown sick of listening to you.

There’s been no “chill wind” of censorship. To listen to Robbins’s diatribe, you’d think we were in Nazi Germany c.1938 or Saddam Hussein’s Iraq or Cuba where Fidel Castro has recently jailed dozens of journalists.

The way it works in the good old, democratic, capitalistic United States of America is like this: People have a right to speak and other people have a right to listen—or to not listen. Sometimes they hear something so outrageous, that if it is in their power to prevent others from having to listen, they take those matters into their own hands.

And sometimes, if they really get mad, they vote with their pocketbooks and wallets. The Dixie Chicks know this feeling all too well right now.

That’s not a “chill wind.” It’s called the free market.

Jesus said, “By your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Or, in other words, when big shot performers think their fame automatically gives them a stage on which to speak their minds on any topic, they need to be reminded that words—real words, not like the ones they read from a Hollywood script—have real consequences.

Gregory J. Rummo is a syndicated columnist. Visit his website,

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