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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 March, 2003, 22:23 GMT
Backlash over anti-war celebrities
By Steve Schifferes
BBC News Online in Washington

Morgan Gardner, 12, destroys her Dixie Chicks CD in protest

Talk show hosts and right-wing websites have been leading the protests against those celebrities who have been most outspoken against the war in Iraq.

At this year's Oscars, there were a number of protests against the war, most notably by Michael Moore, Susan Sarandon, Pedro Almodovar, and Barbra Streisand.

That has infuriated conservative political activists who are now using the internet to organise protests, and in some case boycotts, of those who have spoken out against the war.

Grassfire.net, one of the websites that has attacked celebrities for being anti-American, raised money to purchase a billboard opposite Hollywood's Kodak theatre to support the troops.

We believe that celebrities Martin Sheen, Mike Farrell, Tim Robbins, Rob Reiner, Barbara Streisand, and others with them are using their celebrity to interfere with the defence of our country
Online petition from Citizens Against Celebrity Pundits

Last month Lori Bardsley, a housewife from Summerfield, North Carolina, gained 100,000 signatures for her online petition, called Citizens Against Celebrity Pundits.

The document she circulated on the internet said that "the undersigned American citizens stand against wealthy Hollywood celebrities abusing their status to speak for us.

"We believe that celebrities Martin Sheen, Mike Farrell, Tim Robbins, Rob Reiner, Barbara Streisand, and others with them are using their celebrity to interfere with the defence of our country."

The ability of the internet to contact like-minded people quickly, and amplify protests, have strengthened both pro-war and anti-war activists.

Dixie Chicks

Websites like FreeRepublic were influential in organising a campaign against the Dixie Chicks after singer Natalie Maines said in London that the group was "ashamed" that Mr Bush was from Texas - a remark she later apologised for.

Protesters
Pro-war demonstrators at the Oscars

Radio stations reported receiving a flood of protests from listeners angered by the comment, and airplay for the group's songs dropped 29% on country stations, and 20% on general music stations around the country.

The Texas female trio's CDs have been burned and smashed - and even run over by a tractor in one event organised by a Louisiana country station.

But Simon Renshaw, the group's manager, said that the campaign was orchestrated by a small activist minority.

"The morning drive talk show guys, they get a few e-mails and phone calls, then they jump on it," he said. "They get a few people incensed and the whole thing just snowballs."

Pro-Bush radio

Talk show hosts have also been active in organising pro-war rallies across America.

We believe that America is justified in a military response on any country found to support international terrorism
Talk show host Glenn Beck

Glenn Beck's website, which features a picture of the "Ditzy Chicks" playing with Jacques Chirac, shows pictures of dozens of rallies he has helped organise across the United States, with the latest planned for Tampa on 5 April.

He describes himself as "a Mormon whose politics lean toward libertarian but also promotes traditional family values".

"We believe that America is justified in a military response on any country found to support international terrorism," he adds.

His programme, which goes out on more than 100 affiliates across America, is just one of a series of influential talk show programmes - others include Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity - that have helped shaped the conservative agenda over the last decade.

But some critics of the Bush administration, like columnist and economist Paul Krugman, charge that the radio industry itself is organising pro-war rallies because of its ties to the president.

Mr Krugman says that the management of one of the largest media groups, Clear Channel Communications, which owns 1,200 stations and is based in San Antonio, Texas, has strong Republican leanings.

Its vice-chair, Tom Hicks, bought Mr Bush's baseball team, the Texas Rangers, in 1998,

Americans have always been both fascinated and offended by the lavish life styles of the rich and famous.

Some actors, like Barbra Streisand, say that the attacks on them are designed to shut down genuine debate by using the charge of patriotism.

But others question whether celebrities are really damaged by the campaigns against them, noting that for many the publicity may have boosted their careers.

So far, at least, there has been no repeat of the notorious McCarthy era in the l950s, when Hollywood stars and writers were blacklisted by the studios after being questioned about their communist affiliations in Congress.




SEE ALSO:
Moore fires Oscar anti-war salvo
24 Mar 03  |  Entertainment
Hollywood spotlight on security
24 Mar 03  |  Entertainment
Dixie Chicks anger US fans
14 Mar 03  |  Entertainment
Dixie Chicks score record sales
07 Mar 03  |  Entertainment


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