NYT Annoyed Country Music Not Aboard Gun-Control Bandwagon Like Other Entertainers

November 10th, 2018 4:41 PM

Perhaps annoyed that “jingoistic” country music is not yet as infested with left-wing promotional politics as other musical and entertainment fields, a major newspaper again used the annual Country Music Association Awards to push gun-control politics onto the industry,

Reporter Elizabeth Harris garnered the front page of the New York Times Arts section for her Saturday piece “Singing About Pain, But Not Its Source -- A country awards show may discuss its slain fans, but guns and politics are unlikely topics”:

The Country Music Association Awards are supposed to be a celebration of one of America’s enduring art forms, a night of star performances, gentle ribbing and a red carpet resplendent with formal wear and the occasional cowboy hat.

But Wednesday, when this year’s awards are presented in Nashville, there is one thing guests probably won’t be doing: having any discussion of gun laws.

For the second year in a row, the CMA Awards will closely follow a mass shooting of the industry’s own fans. Twelve people were gunned down late Wednesday night at a country and western dance hall in Thousand Oaks, Calif. In October 2017, 58 people were killed and hundreds wounded at a country music festival in Las Vegas. Some who survived Las Vegas were there Wednesday night in Thousand Oaks. One of them did not survive the second time.

While much of the entertainment world has tacked sharply and openly to the left in the last two years, with celebrities politicking from awards stages in ball gowns and black tie, country music has taken a more cautious, tight-lipped approach.


Over the last decade, the music itself has become less political, and less macho. Country music of the early to mid-2000s tended toward the jingoist and the masculinist, especially after the 2001 terrorist attacks. Stars like Toby Keith, Trace Adkins, Montgomery Gentry and others brought a bulked-up rural brawn to the genre, in an era when country music was its most publicly conservative.


Over the last couple of years, the genre has shifted again to a gentler, less brute kind of male star: the gentleman. The music has been stripped clean of much of its overt masculinity, and most performers strenuously avoid political conversation.

Harris got this news tip from the left-wing music rag Rolling Stone:

But in a notable if quiet shift in the last couple of years that has been chronicled by Rolling Stone, recording artists have begun to distance themselves from the N.R.A. For years the organization had promoted country music performers in a mutually beneficial arrangement that gave marketing exposure to both sides....

Of course, there was more unearned political martyrdom for the Dixie Chicks:

Speaking out publicly, though, remains perilous for country musicians, especially for those with liberal points of view. Even today, the words “Dixie Chicks” stand as a warning in the industry. After Natalie Maines, the group’s lead singer, told a crowd in London in 2003 that they were “ashamed” that President George W. Bush was from Texas, their home state, the Dixie Chicks became pariahs and were shunned by country radio for years.

The band also received fulsome media coverage, including magazine covers, and Grammy Awards for album and record for the year in 2006 for their troubles.

Harris even played Nashville songwriter, to complain about a song that wasn’t about what she wanted it to be about:

Carrie Underwood’s most recent album, “Cry Pretty,” includes a song called “The Bullet,” which decries the human suffering wrought by shootings while staying far away from the politics of why they happen in the first place....

Last year, it was The Washington Post that tried to make a political statement out of another mass shooting that also occurred soon before that year's Country Music Association Awards.

After dozens of country music fans were murdered by shooter Stephen Paddock in Las Vegas, music writer Emily Yahr pounced with “Country music avoided politics this year. Then Las Vegas happened. Will anything change?” Yahr posed the question: “Can country music singers still get away with not voicing an opinion?

Not if the major newspapers have anything to say about it.