The radicalization of middle America

Pat Buchanan

5/27/2003 12:00:00 AM - Pat Buchanan

"A well-heeled audience booed the Dixie Chicks plenty during country music's biggest night of the year Wednesday -- proof that patriotism continues to run deep through America."

So writes Jennifer Harper, embedded correspondent of the culture wars for The Washington Times, about the reception given the famous girl group every time their name came up at the Country Music Awards in Las Vegas.

"They're still all riled up," writes Harper. Indeed, America is "all riled up," and something is going on out there. Call it the radicalization of Middle America.

The Chicks are, of course, still reeling from their slur on President Bush before a London audience in March, when lead singer Natalie Maines blurted, "Just so you'll know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas."

"It was a pretty negative response," said country music legend Reba McIntyre, who hosted the Vegas event. "I don't think it's over."

It was not that Maines had opposed the war but that the Chicks had insulted an American president on the eve of war on foreign soil. Antiwar Brits ate it up, but their countrymen have not forgiven them.

"Those 11 words have haunted the Chicks," writes Harper. "They have been boycotted by fans, banned from radio station playlists and included in South Carolina state legislation that called for them to apologize for the remark. One offended group ran over Dixie Chicks CDs with a tractor down in Louisiana."

There are other signs that America's patience with what it sees as anti-Americanism, from Hollywood and the Big Media, is running out.

Legendary liberal talk-show host Phil Donahue was booed and hooted at the commencement at North Carolina State. The New York Times' Chris Hedges was shouted down and had the microphone plug pulled on his antiwar tirade to the graduates and their families at the Rockford College commencement in Illinois.

Two decades ago, singer Anita Bryant lost her contract as the voice of Florida orange juice for leading an anti-gay rights campaign in Miami. Liberals said the former Miss Oklahoma had it coming. But now that actor Danny Glover has been cashiered as the public voice of MCI, after signing an ad supporting Fidel Castro, the Left is no longer laughing. It is wailing and whining about "a new McCarthyism."

After Gen. Tommy Franks' Centcom put out its deck of cards of Iraqi war criminals, Newsmax.com decided to created its own deck of cards: "The United Nations of Weasels." Featured are Jacques Chirac as ace of spades, Martin Sheen as the ace of hearts, and Dan Rather, Barbra Streisand and Peter Arnett. The deck is one of the hottest sellers on the Internet.

There are other signs Americans are no longer willing to hide their loathing of the Left. That egg on the face of editor Howell Raines of the mighty New York Times, after having been bamboozled and snookered by affirmative action poster boy Jayson Blair, has most of America laughing.

When feminist Martha Burk declared she would break the all-male tradition at Augusta National Golf Club by leading a boycott of sponsors of the Master's tournament, and The New York Times took it up as the civil rights cause du jour, Middle America rallied behind Augusta president "Hootie" Johnson. Hootie dissed Martha, ignored her boycott and protests, and carried off the Masters in style.

When a Republican governor took down the Confederate battle flag from South Carolina's state capitol and a Democratic governor cut a midnight deal to strip a replica of the battle flag from the Georgia state flag, both pols saw their careers terminated by voters. Children in the South now defy school edicts that forbid them from carrying or wearing replicas of the battle flag. In Pennsylvania, a schoolteacher has risked dismissal rather than take off the Christian cross she was wearing.

In Montgomery, Ala., a 5,600-pound granite stone, with the Ten Commandments chiseled on it, sits still in the rotunda of the state judicial building in defiance of court orders. The chief judge of the Alabama Supreme Court, who put it there, refuses to remove it.

There is a spirit of rebellion in Middle America, sustained by voices on talk radio, talk TV and the Internet, where the cultural hegemony of the American elite simply does not extend.

In the '60s, student radicals, citing Marcuse's dictum that the Right has no rights, shouted down conservatives. Now that these former students occupy the seats of cultural power in America, they seem not to like the new rebellion. What goes around comes around.