The Dixie Chicks and their marketing gurus clearly know publicity. They asked themselves: How can we get ourselves featured on the cover of Time and hailed on CBS’s "60 Minutes" just before the new CD comes out? Easy. Trash George W. Bush again.
Time’s cover had the three women framed in black with the celebratory title "Radical Chicks." They were famous not because of their music but because "They criticized the war and were labeled unpatriotic." That’s a bit off. They criticized George W. Bush, with lead singer Natalie Maines telling a London audience the band so despised him they were ashamed to be from the same home state. That isn’t exactly a brilliant anti-war policy statement that Madeleine Albright would crib. It was an insult.
But the New York Times, in its own Chicks cheerleading story, explained that once again, Time magazine has been caught awarding covers like back scratches to its friends and benefactors: The Chicks had performed at the party for this year’s "Time 100" issue. (That issue also featured a Chicks profile touting their "tart and tasty" new CD and their courage in the face of death threats from former fans.) This tactic is nothing new. Time awarded Bill and Melinda Gates its "Person of the Year" honors for 2005 after the Gates Foundation paid for the magazine’s summit on their global health summit a few weeks before. If you have a liberal viewpoint and something of value to offer Time magazine, you, too can rent that famous cover. The Dixie Chicks got it for a song, or two.
Time music writer Josh Tyrangiel spun like a top about how these country singers read the paper daily with a "solid understanding" of current events. How typically liberal. They hate Bush, therefore they are educated voters who know the issues that matter. Tyrangiel cooed over their failure to apologize for their Bush hatred: "apologies are for lapses of character, not revelations of it." Opposing the last president with consistency was a sign of a psychological disorder — "Clintonphobia," Time called it — but staunchly opposing this one is a sign of moral character.
Tyrangiel is probably still aglow from his article in 2004, attacking country star Toby Keith for his anti-terrorist anthem "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue," which promised a boot up the terrorists’ collective behind. In that article, Tyrangiel quoted — here she is again — wailing Natalie Maines: "I hate it. It’s ignorant, and it makes country music sound ignorant."
Keith was not to be lauded for producing this song, or hailed as a man of character. Instead liberal opposition "played right into Keith’s exaggerated sense of grievance." Time added that in the controversy over his song, Keith was reduced to "a caricature," an extreme. In 2002, Tyrangiel also sneered about how Toby Keith’s song came from "the Rush Limbaugh guide to foreign policy" and was "the catchiest song about vengeance since ‘The Caissons Go Rolling Along.’"
This, from the magazine that hypes the Dixie Chick death threats?
The new clarion call from the anti-Bush media is the demand that the Dixie Chicks be forgiven for trashing Bush, and country music’s audience in general, and proceed directly to the top of the charts because Bush’s poll numbers are low. As growing numbers of Americans sour on Bush, asks Tyrangiel, "shouldn’t there be a proportional feeling of forgiveness toward the Dixie Chicks?"
The New York Times finds a sanguine liberal trend at the top of the music charts. Citing the lowest poll number that could be found, the latest Harris poll pegging Bush’s approval at 29 percent, music writer Jon Pareles touted that the Dixie Chicks were on Amazon’s Top 10 sales likes with "albums with antiwar songs" by Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Paul Simon, and Pearl Jam.
On CBS’s "60 Minutes," reporter Steve Kroft insisted some critics think the new CD is the best Dixie Chicks work ever — smooch, smooch. Since the Bush-bashing incident in London, he insisted, "the only thing that’s changed is that nearly 70 percent of the American public now agrees with her, at least to some extent." He explained their newest single is "about the hatred and narrow-minded intolerance that they encountered for expressing an opinion."
In the midst of all this, and the inevitable focus on how pro-Bush rednecks wanted them dead, Maines explained, they weren’t about to wear "I Love Bush" T-shirts to pander to country-music audiences: "We’re not politicians. We’re musicians."
You could have fooled me. All the laudatory publicity they’re receiving is a direct results of a marketing strategy that is all about politics, not about the music. They are pitching themselves to the liberal media as musical McCains — love us as we courageously attack our conservative base.
The New York Times declared that for the Dixie Chicks, "free speech was costly." But the publicity their friends in the media are now showering on them is priceless.