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Commentary Last Updated: Oct 6th, 2006 - 00:58:50

�Shut up and sing!� -- conservatives stifle patriotism and disregard our Bill of Rights
By Nick Paccione
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Oct 6, 2006, 00:52

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�Shut up and sing� is a conservative�s acerbic advice to liberal entertainers who dare to speak about their political convictions.

It�s a phrase that�s been directed at Barbra Streisand and the Dixie Chicks. I heard it with my own ears when someone in the audience at an L.A. concert yelled it to Linda Ronstadt when she praised Michael Moore�s film �Fahrenheit 9/11.� Laura Ingraham, a bubble-headed Anne Coulter wannabe and rightie talk show host, went so far as to write a hypocritically one-sided, critically-lambasted book, titled �Shut Up and Sing,� rebuking public figures who disagree with her political views.

When Dick Cheney had a disagreement with Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy on the Senate floor, Cheney hollered, �Go f*#k yourself!� (It makes you wonder if the country�s number one censor, Mrs. Lynn Cheney, slapped an �expletives� warning label on her hubby�s forehead when he got home.)

As childish and crass as it may sound, �go f*#k yourself,� is actually more palatable and democratic than �shut up and sing.� �Go f*#k yourself� is a simple directive that basically means I don�t like you or what you�ve said or done. �Shut up and sing� implies that you are good at one thing and you should be silent about everything else especially when it comes to promoting liberal politics. Even though you are an American citizen, conservatives are saying you have no right to share your viewpoint because you are just a singer, just an actor or just a plumber for that matter.

It must be noted that conservatives have been historically petrified of artists expressing their opinions because they potentially have a huge following and a gigantic canvas for expressing themselves. In the documentary �The U.S. Verses John Lennon,� we get a good look at the measures that conservatives will take to silence folks with influence from the artistic community, including phone tapping, various forms of FBI spying and proceedings for deportation.

Because conservatives are the masters of public opinion manipulation, the �shut up and sing� perspective does trickle down. Everyday folks say �I like George Clooney as an actor but what qualifies him to speak about affairs of state?� Before answering this with my own touchy-feely explanation, let�s take that very question and substitute the names of your favorite conservative talking heads for �George Clooney.�

�I like Bill O�Reilly but what qualifies him to speak about affairs of state?� Well the reality is that O'Reilly�s resume has nothing about it that qualifies him as an expert on politics and even less that would please a conservative with functioning brain waves. He has a B.A. in History from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY,. He played semi-professional baseball for the Brooklyn Monarchs and followed that with an unsuccessful tryout for the New York Mets. He then worked for two years as a high school teacher and next inexplicably tried his hand as an entertainment writer and movie critic. He was a weatherman at WNEP-TV in Scranton, Pennsylvania, before rattling around as an investigative reporter in Denver, Portland, Hartford and Boston. In 1998 he wrote the sexually-explicit Those Who Trespass: A Novel of Television and Murder, depicting a television reporter who commits a series of graphically described ritualistic murders.

Ultimately, O�Reilly became famous as the host of �Inside Edition� -- a gossipy tabloid television show akin to the National Enquirer. O�Reilly was most recently humiliated by charges that he was soliciting phone sex from a producer of his hit show �The O�Reilly Factor.� He settled the case out of court amidst probable evidence that the victim of his harassment had audiotapes of O�Reilly�s shenanigans. Instead of recoiling in shame, O�Reilly has put on a braver, more untenable face and knighted himself the great defender of traditional values, with stepped up attacks on the ACLU and secular Americans who may or may not be into phone sex. You might agree with every word the man utters. He�s fairly articulate and pretty well informed, but he has far less experience in politics than talk-show host Jerry Springer (the former mayor of Cincinnati) and no more or less right to speak about his political opinions than any other citizen from Hollywood to Kalamazoo.

How about Rush Limbaugh�s qualifications? If he interviewed for his job as host of his own show, it might have gone like this:

�Nice to meet you Mr. Limbaugh. As you know we�re looking for a radio talk-show host who can sell the conservative agenda to listeners that will come to be known as dittoheads. We need them to worship you and believe your every word. Let�s take a look at your qualifications for this position. Ah yes, I see you attended Southeast Missouri State University. And in what subject did you get your degree?�

�I took two speech courses.�

Before earning your degree in political science?

�Well no I just took two speech courses and then I dropped out.�

�I see.�

�That would have made you eligible for the draft back in those days. And I�ll bet that�s how you learned so much about politics when you fought in Vietnam.�

�I�d rather not talk about my medical condition but, uh, it kept me out of the draft and the military.�

�Well, let�s see -- it says here you became a top 40 disc jockey in Pittsburgh. Good market. You weren�t there long. Why is that?�

�Well, I got fired.�

�And then you changed your name to Jeff Christie? And let�s see, you worked at KQV in Pittsburgh, KUDL, KFIX and KBZ in Kansas City. You were spinning the hits but you sure moved around a lot.�

�Fired, fired, fired and then fired again.�

�So music radio wasn�t your forte.�

�Yes, but then I got an excellent job in promotions for the Kansas City Royals.�

�Mom, baseball and apple pie! And that must be how you became an expert on American politics?�

�I learned a lot about spinning stuff when I spun those hit records.�

�And for whom did you cast your first vote when you turned 21?�

�Actually, I�ve never voted. I�m not registered.�

�Well the Federal Communications Commission just repealed the Fairness Doctrine, so, basically, if you get this job as political commentator you can say anything you want and we don�t have to worry about airing an opposing view. But frankly Mr. Limbaugh you have absolutely nothing in your resume that qualifies you to be a spokesperson for conservative values. As a matter of fact, your proclivity for job switching and irresponsibility paints a picture of someone who will more than likely be prone to illegal drug use and multiple divorces. You�re hired.� And the rest is dittohead history.

Sean Hannity has similar credentials to Rush -- college dropout, no political experience, religious provocateur, fiercely opinionated, arrogant, shameless self-promoter and fired from previous jobs. There�s nothing in his resume that qualifies him as an expert on anything, but if people choose to listen to him for their news or information, hey, that�s America.

Tucker Carlson is the son of Richard W. Carlson, who was president and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting from 1992 to 1997 and former U.S. Ambassador to the Seychelles. His stepmother, Patricia Carlson, is heiress to the Swanson frozen-food fortune. Silver spoon in mouth, little Tucker didn�t have any reason to stay in college with parents who could pull all the strings he�d ever need. He has no degree and has absolutely no qualifications that make his opinion on politics any more relevant than Paris Hilton�s.

Quite ironically, the most qualified of all the conservative pundits is none other than flamethrower Ann Coulter. Her resume is packed with great substance, including a top-notch education and scads of excellent political experience, albeit all extreme right wing, born again fundie stuff. If anything disqualifies her from being a credible voice it might be that teensy-weensy little feeling in almost everyone�s gut that Coulter is probably certifiably insane, as she regularly expresses her disdain for American ideals of equality and honest dissent through some of the nastiest attacks in recent memory.

USA Today hired her and then refused to print her article covering the Democratic National Convention because of its vile content. She was terminated from the �National Review Online� with this quote from her ultra-conservative editor Jonah Goldberg: "We did not 'fire' Ann for what she wrote . . . we ended the relationship because she behaved with a total lack of professionalism, friendship, and loyalty." Scores of problems have swirled around Coulter. Her nasty, shrill brand of journalism has been rejected by large numbers of U.S. newspapers due to complaints of plagiarism and reader revulsion. Anti-Ann mania reached its peak after she stated that a group of New Jersey widows, whose husbands perished in the World Trade Center, �act as if the terrorist attacks happened only to them.� She added, �I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much.�

In a nutshell, it would make just as much sense to tell the conservative talking heads to abide by their own slogan. �Shut up and write an obscene novel� to O�Reilly; or �shut up and take your Viagra and sign your divorce papers� to Rush; or �shut up and go eat a Swanson�s chicken pot pie� to Carlson; or �shut up and go howl at the other clawing cats in the alley� to Coulter. But I would never tell them to shut up. I am a firm believer in the maxim �if you give�m enough rope, they�ll hang themselves.� Yes, liberals are good at this too but it�s never as fun and juicy as Coulter all but admitting that she�s a nut through her commentary; or O�Reilly threatening police intervention to adversary callers to his radio show that move stealthily past his screeners; or Sean Hannity acting like a hormone-flooded school girl by camping in front of the hospital where Terri Schiavo lay dying; or Bill Frist diagnosing Ms. Schiavo via a video-tape and then denying it after the autopsy revealed that he was 100 percent wrong; or Jerry Falwell proclaiming that the purple Teletubbie is gay; or Pat Robertson calling for the assassination of Hugo Chavez; etc. etc. ad nauseam. You get the point. I say, sing out you conservatives, so reasonable people can see and hear who you really are.

There�s the predictable conservative hypocrisy that needs to be a cornerstone of this discussion. Conservatives only shout �shut up and sing� at Democrats. In other words Barbra Streisand, Linda Ronstadt, The Dixie Chicks, Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon, George Clooney and other liberal voices must be trampled and ridiculed for speaking up. But Charlie Daniels, Patricia Heaton, Bo Derek, Mel Gibson, Toby Keith, Pat Boone, Ted Nugent and Dennis Miller are heroes when they spew their conservative values in public forums. And if there�s a chance that you can use your Hollywood celebrity status to become an electable Republican, then for God�s sake, get out there -- sing, dance, act, or whatever it takes. Conservatives welcomed candidates Ronald Reagan, Clint Eastwood, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sonny Bono and Fred Thompson with open arms in a recurring Republican climate where winning is more important than principle or consistency.

Conservative talking heads would love Americans to accept that liberal entertainers have no credentials for speaking out about the war in Iraq, immigration, torture or wiretapping. They try to convince you that entertainers only take a position for the publicity, but that makes little or no sense. Acting and recording artists live like kings and queens on salaries that could put a man on Pluto. Why would they decide to put the source of their income at risk by stating a political opinion that�s more than likely to offend at least half of their fan base? Are they all Coulter cuckoo? No. In most cases, they passionately believe they can make a difference by shedding some light on an issue. And in most cases, they run a high risk of hurting sales of their music or films. Ask The Dixie Chicks about profits from their latest tour through the �red states.� And their fans have every right to approve or disapprove of the Chicks� comments about Bush by attending or not attending a concert. That is radically more American than telling them to �shut up and sing.�

George Clooney is a self-proclaimed liberal who has frequently woven his political opinions into his work. Most recently he�s been active in advocating a resolution for the Darfur conflict. When asked why he went to Darfur, he pragmatically replied that the paparazzi is always following him everywhere, so he decided to use them to bring some much needed exposure to the ethnic cleansing in the region that has resulted in 400,000 deaths (according to the Coalition for International Justice). He went to Darfur and the media followed him. His involvement is definitely making a difference.

It�s healthy for America to hear an artist�s point of view. Sure sometimes that opinion might sound like it�s lacking in common sense, but that�s because it�s usually a heartfelt and passionate position that left-brained business-only types can�t fully understand or tolerate. It�s not like Clooney or Springsteen is going to become the ultimate decision maker. They don�t have all the answers. Who does? But if they were in charge would, we be any worse off than where we are today after letting the CEOs and corporate oil men have all the influence on American policy?

A little heart can�t hurt. That brings us to this touchy-feely conclusion. Right-wing politics have never been embraced by artists with the kind of extraordinary talent that powers a Meryl Streep, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Nicholson, Robert DeNiro, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen or Barbra Streisand. Their passion and inability to shut up in the face of injustice is at the core of who they are as human beings. I know that these are words that are easily mocked, but it�s an artist�s capacity to empathize and feel the pain of others that is the key that lets them excel at their craft. If you take that away, you have no artist and you are left with Republican performers like Anita Bryant, Chuck Norris, Paris Hilton and Brittney Spears. You might as well forget about artistic revelation of any kind and spend your time wandering through a gallery of repetitive paintings by Thomas Kinkade. True artistry is rarely, if ever, present without compassion and empathy and that almost always comes with a liberal point of view and vice versa. Conservatives will try to claim Sinatra and Ronald Reagan but in their heyday as artists, both were outspoken liberals.

Finally, there�s the best reason for America and conservatives to graciously listen when liberal entertainers have something to say. It�s a great opportunity to show genuine patriotism and reverence for this great country and our Bill of Rights. As American citizens, we should respect the other person�s right to speak out anytime with as much gusto and conviction as Limbaugh, O�Reilly, Coulter and their rag-tag team of prospective clones. If you hate what he or she is saying and you lose your composure, then just take a page from big Dick�s hymnal and say �go f*#k yourself.� Repulsive? Yes! But it�s so much more patriotic than �shut up and sing.�

Nick Paccione is a freelance writer who has written several articles on U.S. cultural trends and politics.

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