By MANIFESTO JOE
Glenn Beck's new CNN show appears to be the network's latest pathetic bid to compete with Fox as a source of crypto-fascist pseudo-news. And, Beck hasn't wasted any time reaching out to the redneck fan base.
Beck devoted a segment of his May 15 show to trashing Natalie Maines and The Dixie Chicks, who have already endured much graylisting and some death threats since Maines told a London audience 3 years ago that she was ashamed that George W. Bush is from her home state.
In the first place, it's an insult to CNN's more serious viewers to put a one-man commentary program on in this time slot (6 p.m. CST). This is a time when relatively serious viewers are looking for real news, not a rabies case with a Rush Limbaugh-style, omnipotent format.
But, to the point -- in trashing Maines and The Chicks, the TV Beck went straight for the hate-radio fan base. Basically saying Maines is condescending to country-music fans, he self-righteously explained that this musical genre is "about values."
Being from a part of the world where country is "king," I felt I had to comment. Sorry, Glenn, but it's really more about culture -- or, if you've heard the country numbers that push right-wing politics, perhaps the lack thereof.
This is not to say there haven't been many fine country-Western artists. I'm not much of a fan, but I find a surprising number of C&W classics very listenable. Names like Johnny Cash, Charley Pride, Merle Haggard (right-wing jingo songs excepted), Patsy Cline, Marty Robbins, Willie Nelson, Jerry Jeff Walker, Bob Wills, Jimmie Rodgers, Kris Kristofferson, Ronnie Milsap, and even Ernest Tubb (though a little goes a long way) come to mind.
Nor is this to say that all culture need be highbrow. A good way to torture me would be to lock me in a room with nothing but the sterile, mathematical monotony of baroque-style classical.
But in C&W, artists like the aforementioned are exceptional. Growing up in Texas, I was exposed to my share of C&W radio during the heyday of "The Nashville Sound." Between the occasional patriotic opus or gospel-influenced number, I learned one hell of a lot about honky-tonkin', alcoholic, ignorant-and-proud-of-it men and women who cheat on each other and wreck their livers to an interminable soundtrack of weepy, affected hokiness. A whole lot of this stuff was musically juvenile and just damn depressing. You know -- cry in your (cheap-ass) beer stuff.
Family values? Well, maybe -- if your family is beer-guzzling trailer trash. Culture? Sometimes, yes -- but this is one of the easiest musical genres to outgrow.
For many of us, life is too short to listen to Darryl Worley putting Bush disinformation to music. (Worley's 2003 hit, "Have You Forgotten," links the Iraq war with 9-11, despite clear proof that this is false.) This jingoism is old-hat in country. Ever since I can remember, the emergence of any foreign villain spawns several "We Gonna Kick Their Ass" novelty songs on the country charts.
And then there's the longtime double standard on morals. When Keith Whitley, Hank Williams Sr., or Elvis (a rockabilly patriot) drink or dope themselves to death, it's a tragedy. Don't say that about Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin or Jimi Hendrix -- them wuz just skanky hippies.
I seriously wonder if Glenn Beck is a country music fan -- but he plays one on TV. And it's a calculated move, because he knows his target audience. He's perfect for much of country music's fan base. His tirade against Maines, complete with carefully selected and slightly distorted soundbites from the "60 Minutes" interview (I saw the whole interview) was Limbaugh-inspired bashing at its worst. The Chicks-hating Bubbas love it.
But hey, Maines isn't the only left-leaning country star around, Glenn. Willie and Kris are rumored to be lefties. Could it be that they really understand more about the problems of common folks than you do?
MANIFESTO JOE IS AN UNDERGROUND WRITER LIVING IN TEXAS.