Sunday , May 26 2024

Free Speech Crushed in Nashville

This is an interesting little tale about freedom of speech. Charlie Daniels sent out “An Open Letter To The Hollywood Bunch”:

    An Open Letter To The Hollywood Bunch

    Ok let’s just say for a moment you bunch of pampered, overpaid, unrealistic children had your way and the U.S.A. didn’t go into Iraq.

    Let’s say that you really get your way and we destroy all our nuclear weapons and stick daisies in our gun barrels and sit around with some white wine and cheese and pat ourselves on the back, so proud of what we’ve done for world peace.

    Let’s say that we cut the military budget to just enough to keep the National Guard on hand to help out with floods and fires.

    Let’s say that we close down our military bases all over the world and bring the troops home, increase our foreign aid and drop all the trade sanctions against everybody.

    I suppose that in your fantasy world this would create a utopian world where everybody would live in peace. After all, the great monster, the United States of America, the cause of all the world’s trouble would have disbanded it’s horrible military and certainly all the other countries of the world would follow suit.

    After all, they only arm themselves to defend their countries from the mean old U.S.A.

    Why you bunch of pitiful, hypocritical, idiotic, spoiled mugwumps. Get your head out of the sand and smell the Trade Towers burning. Do you think that a trip to Iraq by Sean Penn did anything but encourage a wanton murderer to think that the people of the U.S.A. didn’t have the nerve or the guts to fight him?

    Barbra Streisand’s fanatical and hateful rankings about George Bush makes about as much sense as Michael Jackson hanging a baby over a railing.

    You people need to get out of Hollywood once in a while and get out into the real world. You’d be surprised at the hostility you would find out here.

    Stop in at a truck stop and tell an overworked, long distance truck driver that you don’t think Saddam Hussein is doing anything wrong.

    Tell a farmer with a couple of sons in the military that you think the United States has no right to defend itself.

    Go down to Baxley, Georgia and hold an anti-war rally and see what the folks down there think about you.

    You people are some of the most disgusting examples of a waste of protoplasm I’ve ever had the displeasure to hear about.

    Sean Penn, you’re a traitor to the United States of America. You gave aid and comfort to the enemy. How many American lives will your little, “fact finding trip” to Iraq cost? You encouraged Saddam to think that we didn’t have the stomach for war.

    You people protect one of the most evil men on the face of this earth and won’t lift a finger to save the life of an unborn baby. Freedom of choice you say?

    Well I’m going to exercise some freedom of choice of my own. If I see any of your names on a marquee, I’m going to boycott the movie. I will completely stop going to movies if I have to. In most cases it certainly wouldn’t be much of a loss.

    You scoff at our military who’s boots you’re not even worthy to shine. They go to battle and risk their lives so ingrates like you can live in luxury.

    The day of reckoning is coming when you will be faced with the undeniable truth that the war against Saddam Hussein is the war on terrorism.

    America is in imminent danger. You’re either for her or against her. There is no middle ground.

    I think we all know where you stand.

    What do you think?

    God Bless America

    Charlie Daniels

Now Charlie gets a little carried away: “traitor” is a very serious word, even when used in the context of Sean Penn, certified dumbass; and the “either for us or against us” rhetoric doesn’t fly if you mean that disagreement means you are automatically “against.” Surely we all know you can be “for” America and against specific policies, even war, a war I happen to support. But Charlie also makes some important points about perspective and a lot of people’s lack thereof.

Charlie being firmly ensconced in Nashville now, his PR rep Kirt Webster sent Charlie’s screed out to the Nashville music establishment.

Jeff Wall of Twangzine responded thusly:

    It pissed me off. So I responded:

    Open letter to Charlie Daniels,

    What happened to the loveable fat man I used to worship in my youth? The one that took Nashville’s Channel 5 anchorman Chris Clark to task for his exposé of *alleged* marijuana use at Nashville concerts? The one who campaigned for Jimmy Carter for President? The same guy who shows had just as many people soliciting donations for NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) as he did security guards for his Volunteer Jam concerts at the Municipal Auditorium?

    Charlie, you remember that album cover you did for the Way Down Yonder record? Where y’all had a picture of a picnic table at a roadside park and the table was covered with beer cans, liquor bottles, and even a roach or two could be found? What about songs like “Land of opportunity?” with the line “In This Land of Opportunity, If You’re rich then you can buy immunity, if you’re poor you better write your eulogy, if you want one, cause it’s all you’ll ever have” Or “Searching for my Mary Jane”. Remember, at the time Mary Jane was also a euphemism for marijuana. Then there was “Uneasy Rider”, and “Long Haired Country Boy” where you taught us it was okay for us to be longhaired, reefer stanking, peace-loving kids. I ain’t reefer stanking anymore, and I haven’t had a drink in over 18 years. But when I was young, you were one of my heroes. You were a rebel who sang protest songs about the right wing excesses of the Federal Government. After reading your Soapbox article, I’m starting to feel that my teenage years were all a lie.

    I don’t know if it’s because you appeared one time too many on the Pat Robertson show, and he was finally able to convert you to the dark side. Or maybe you just got old and your juices done all dried up. I’m against a war in Iraq. There ain’t no proof that Saddam was behind the 9/11 stuff. My recommendation would be to leave him alone, and just write him a note that tells him that we’re watching his ass and that if he fucks up, even just a little bit, then we’re gonna start dropping Wal-Marts and Blockbuster Videos on him and that Lee Greenwood will be at every Grand Opening & Ribbon Cutting Ceremony singing that damned song of his. I’m a lot more scared of North Korea than I am of Iraq. And I’m even more scared of President Bush and John Ashcroft than I am of North Korea and Iraq combined.

    You used to be for the little man. How about, Instead of spending a couple million on a Tomahawk, lets spend that money to help fight rural poverty. Maybe create some manufacturing jobs in the rural south that NAFTA took away. Or we could use some of that money to figure out a way to beat AIDS, or fight crack addiction, curb teenage pregnancy, or get all the crazy homeless folks off the street and get them some mental health assistance and some job training. Shouldn’t take but a couple three Tomahawks to put a major dent in all of that.

    Before you brand me a coward, I guess I should tell you that I been to war. I helped to blow up little brown people in Beirut. I helped to blow up little brown people in Kosovo. I helped to blow up little brown people in the Red Sea. I spent 20 years of my life floating around in circles, listening to your music and blowing up little brown people. Hell, I’m surprised that there’s even any little brown people left to blow up. I did all that just so some knucklehead that used to screw Madonna and ain’t had a decent acting gig in years can get his name in the press by flying to Iraq and having a private screening of Blue’s Clues with Saddam. Let all them Hollywood folks fly over there and meet with Saddam. What are they hurting? Does anyone really think that Sean Penn is held in such a high regard that his opinion alone would cause all of America to reconsider?

    Let them protest. Let them visit Iraq. They haven’t put anyone’s lives in danger by doing so. Their visiting Iraq is not hurting the morale of our troops. Let them do their thing. That’s why we live here in America. That why a bunch of my friends died while trying to blow up little brown people. People who died in uniform, and left behind orphans and widows. Just so that we would all have the freedom to say how we feel. Whether that be you ranting about Iraq, or me saying that I wouldn’t feel comfortable letting George Bush lead a newspaper recycling drive, much less a war.

    I’m not a panty waist liberal. But I’m not a right wing whacko either. I’m just a middle of the road, old half crippled, fat guy doing his best to feed his family, love his kids and keep the lights turned on. As for your statement of “You’re either with us, or you’re against us”, well all I can say to that is fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck yoooooooooooooooooou Charlie. Here in America, I got just as much a right to say I think war with Iraq is wrong. Hell, it ain’t even a right, It’s a responsibility. And you dishonor my dead shipmates by saying otherwise. Feel free to disagree with me.

    I served 20 years to give you that right. My shipmates died for it.

    Jeff Wall – Twangzine

Ouch. I remember that old Charlie too – he was pretty cool back then; but anyway, Charlie is right that Iraq is part of the War on Terror and, I think, Jeff wrong. Jeff is right about free speech, but way mixed up thinking the danger from without will just go away if you ignore it, and his designation of people from many lands as “little brown people” – as though they wre all the same and “haven’t we blown up enough of them” is just idiocy. Better get back to toking and drinking Jeff if this is what you come up with sober.

But regardless, he had his say, as is his right.

Now it gets really weird: Tamara Saviano received a copy of the Daniels blurt in her personal email. She responded and was fired because of it:

    On Friday, I was fired by Jones Media Networks/GAC for expressing my political views regarding Charlie Daniels’ open letter to Hollywood,which was sent directly to my personal e-mail account at home from his publicist, Kirt Webster.

    I expressed my opinion via my personal e-mail address from my home. Kirt Webster called Jim Murphy at Jones Media Networks Denver office and told Jim that he believed I was expressing the views of the company. I made it very clear to Webster, and everyone at Jones, that these were my personal political views and had nothing to do with Jones business. Also, during these wild times, ALL of the employees at the Jones Nashville office have been discussing the potential war with Iraq for months. There has never been a policy or directive about discussing politics before.

    On Thursday, GAC ordered me to “cease and desist” from making any political comments to anyone who works within the music industry, I told them I would not discuss politics while at the office or with employees but away from the office it is my constitutional right to speak about political issues.

    Jones maintains that my views were expressed in a company context because people on Music Row cannot distinguish me personally from my role at GAC. I reminded them that I’ve worked in this industry for 12 years…only the last 3 at GAC…and that many of my personal friends work on Music Row.

    On Friday, they asked me for my resignation and wanted me to sign an agreement stating that I would not make any public statements regarding these events in exchange for four weeks of severance pay. I declined. They terminated me.

    This is not about Republicans vs. Democrats. This is about free speech. I respect Charlie’s right to say whatever he wants to say. He asked for a reply and I gave him one, on my own time from my own personal e-mail account.

    As for Kirt Webster, he not only forwarded my e-mail reply to Charlie’s letter, but he CALLED Jim Murphy at GAC and suggested that I was speaking on behalf of the company. This is stated very clearly in the letter from the Jones Media Networks attorney asking for my resignation. I have all the paperwork…including the e-mail trail and the letter from Jones Media Network counsel…to prove everything I’m saying.

    Anyone who knows me will tell you that the First Amendment has been a huge part of my life. I am very passionate about freedom of speech…I believe it is the cornerstone of democracy. And, it is something I will fight for no matter the personal consequences to me.

    Peace and love,
    Tamara Saviano

Now this is just crap on every level, and I’m not talking about Saviano’s anti-war stance. This shows a urge to control and a fear of dissent from the right every bit as damaging as the lock step “political correctness” of places like Hollywood that Daniels was ranting about in the first place. The woman responded to an email on her personal account as an individual. The PR flack was wrong to send it to the employer, who was wrong not to defend the private free speech of an employee, regardless of the prevailing political winds in Nashville.

This is exactly what America is NOT about, and I am ashamed to share any political view with people who behave is such a craven and spiteful manner.

More on the story from The Tennessean:

    The producer, Tamara Saviano, has now retained high-powered Nashville attorney David Raybin to battle not only the channel, but also Daniels’ publicist, Kirt Webster, as well.

    ”He’s the one who initiated this,” Raybin said of Webster, owner of public relations company Webster & Associates. ”It was his intent to have her terminated.”

    Webster yesterday said that wasn’t so.

    And GAC issued a statement saying Saviano was fired not for her views, but because she didn’t state clearly enough in her e-mails that her opinions were her own and not that of the company.

    ”Our success as a television network requires that we have access to and good relationships with, country music artists, their management and their record labels…,” the statement said. ”We believe her actions threatened to seriously damage relationships key to GAC’s success.”

    ….In an e-mail exchange with Webster, she described Daniels’ posting as ”offensive,” ”an insult” and ”bulls… propaganda.”

    The first of those e-mails, Saviano concedes, included GAC’s name, address and phone number at the bottom. But she says GAC wasn’t mentioned in subsequent e-mails.

    ….”Without consent of the company, the employee sent a communication – via an e-mail account she regularly used in her capacity as a GAC employee – calling for a boycott of Mr. Charlie Daniels’ music concerts in opposition to his ‘Open Letter to Hollywood,’ ” the GAC statement said.

    ….Saviano insists she expressed her opinion on her own time and on her own e-mail account. She also said she didn’t consider her exchange with Webster confrontational.

    ….Plus, Saviano said, Webster knew her from other Music Row jobs and should’ve known that she was responding as an individual, not as a GAC employee.

    ”I just want to send a message that this isn’t right,” she said. ”I believe that my personal convictions that I stated … have nothing to do with my job performance.”

So the crux of the matter is: did the fact that the first email Saviano sent back to Webster – her rant against the rant – contained the company letterhead – though written from her home from her own email account – identify her opinion sufficiently with the company to justify them firing her for expressing it?

I still vote “no” because Webster knew her, knew it was her personal email, and had to have known she was expressing her own opinion in the matter. No one asserts she claimed, or even implied, that she was speaking for the company other than the presence of the company letterhead at the bottom of her first reply. Obviously, she would have a stronger case if the letterhead hadn’t been there, but if it routinely appeared on emails she sent from home, then anyone who knew her would have known that fact as well.

About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: Twitter@amhaunted,, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.

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