“Newsworks” columnist Dick Polman nailed the reality. He noted that GOPers weren’t too concerned about free speech in 2003 when the Dixie Chicks’ Natalie Maines, while criticizing the Iraq war, said “we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.” Republicans denounced them, helped get their music off the air, and tried to ruin their careers.
“Partisans love free speech only when derisive speech is aimed at a president whom they hate; partisans hate free speech when derisive speech is aimed at a president whom they love,” Polman wrote. “And both sides play this game. [Republicans] love the clown, but hated the [Dixie] Chicks. Obama fans hate the clown, but loved the Chicks — as well as the other musicians who dissed Bush back in the day (including Eddie Vedder, who used to hang a Bush mask on his microphone).”
He then offered advice that will surely be ignored:
“Can all partisans, on the left as well as the right, please take a chill pill? Those free speech values go both ways. If the Dixie Chicks want to say they’re ashamed of Bush, fine. And if the rodeo clown and the rodeo announcer want to mock Obama, fine. It’s all in the spirit of our brutish American tradition.”
But the underlying issue is this: most fairs are government funded and don’t want politics mixed into their general entertainment.
Yes, rodeo clowns have used dummies of sitting Presidents, and candidates and political party activists meet voters at fairs to press the flesh. But the staffs, boards, directors and volunteers at fairs work all year long to create an event pleasing to ALL audience members. If a political riff is done at all, it should be quick and done gingerly -- and the entertainer is always taking a risk of offending someone.