Can A Corporation Infringe On Freedom Of Speech?


A few years ago, the lead singer for The Dixie Chicks made a comment at a concert in London, England about how ashamed she was to be from the same state as George W. Bush. At the time, the United States was in a delicate state. We were still trying to emotionally recover from 9/11, and also the war in Iraq was about to begin, so when she said this, there was a HUGE negative response towards her and The Dixie Chicks. One of the biggest things that happened, as a result, was that Clear Channel Communications, a corporation that happens to own a big chunk of media outlets in the United States, decided to boycott The Dixie Chicks. They decided they would no longer play their records. Since that, the question has been asked: Can a corporation infringe on Freedom of Speech? The answer is no. Some people wonder why the answer is no. It’s actually quite simple. In this case, The Dixie Chicks exercised their right to free speech by making their statement about George W. Bush. In turn, Clear Channel Communications, although they’re extremely crooked, also exercised their right to free speech by choosing to not give support to The Dixie Chicks, so they banned their records. The Dixie Chicks had the right to make the statement. That’s a fact. We all know that. There’s no question. The only thing that’s been debated was whether or not Clear Channel had the right to ban their records from being played on any of their affiliates. The reason why some could easily think Clear Channel was infringing on their freedom of speech is because of the fact that this was just a little before illegal downloading started becoming very popular, so album sales were a necessity for survival. If a big chunk of radio stations aren’t playing The Dixie Chicks’ records, nobody’s going to hear them, and therefore, album sales will be very low. Clear Channel’s decision made this a reality. BUT, we can’t confuse the two. What Clear Channel did was use their power to prevent The Dixie Chicks from gaining any new listeners. That has no effect on The Dixie Chicks’ right to say what they said. They had just as much of a right to say it after Clear Channel banned their records as they did before. All that happened, as a result, was less people heard their records on air, and even though that did hurt The Dixie Chicks popularity, it certainly didn’t take away their right to speak their mind. We must remember, many things we do in life come with consequences, and speaking our mind is one of those things. Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young toured in 2006 behind a record of anti-war songs Neil Young had made previous to the tour, and sold out in many cities, and the record sold reasonably well. Obviously, it didn’t get a lot of airplay, but that’s not just because of the topics that the songs discussed. A lot of it is because older artists don’t really have a chance of getting newer music played on the radio. Songs like “Ohio” and “Deja Vu” were political songs, and they were huge hits that still get a lot of airplay, to this day! Now, the fact that Neil Young’s anti-war record took direct shots at George Bush and his administration, that could have very well played a part in keeping the record off the airwaves. But, the band found a way around radio by using the internet to get all the information out. Neil Young even made a “Living With War” website, which centered around the Iraq war, and the “Living With War” album and CSNY tour. Because of that, they were able to reach their audience. If The Dixie Chicks would’ve done that, there probably wouldn’t be much debate about whether or not Clear Channel infringed on their right to free speech, because their record sales might have been better. You can’t stop The Dixie Chicks from making negative comments about George W. Bush. And, you can’t stop Clear Channel Communications from banning The Dixie Chicks’ music in response. In the words of Lewis Black, “It’s the Tough S*** Rule!” Many things in life come with consequences, and no matter how big or small, we can’t use the consequences as evidence for 1st Amendment Infringement, when they don’t effect the 1st Amendment rights at all.

Here’s a video of the comment from The Dixie Chicks:

Here’s a video from the CSNY Deja Vu DVD, where Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young play a Neil Young song from the Living With War album at a concert in Georgia:


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