Flaming Lips flame war

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There's been a lot of discussion about the vote in the Oklahoma House of Representatives on whether to ratify "Do You Realize??" as the official rock song of Oklahoma. The resolution received only 48 votes in favor, three short of the required majority. Gov. Brad Henry signed an executive order making the choice of the Flaming Lips tune official.

An online poll last fall picked "Do You Realize??" over nine other finalists, getting about 51% of 22,000 cast. I can't find a reference, but I seem to recall some suggestion at the time that Flaming Lips fans were stuffing the virtual ballot box. As an active band with a devoted, tech-savvy following, they're more likely to generate that kind of support than a musician prominent in an earlier era, like Hoyt Axton, Leon Russell, Wanda Jackson, or The Ventures. In my opinion, the Lips tune rocks least of the 10 songs. (The full list of finalists is here, along with a player that lets you listen to all of them.)

In March, the Flaming Lips were invited to appear at a legislative session. On that occasion, bassist Michael Ivins (any relation to Molly?) wore a red T-shirt emblazoned with a large yellow hammer and sickle, the symbol of international communism, a source of offense to many of the legislators who voted no on Thursday's resolution. It should have been a source of offense to every legislator.

Lead singer Wayne Coyne seems to think that only "small-minded" people should be offended by a hammer-and-sickle T-shirt:

"Me, I just say look, it's a little minority of some small-minded religious wackos who think they can tell people what kind of T-shirts and what kind of music they can listen to, and the smart, rational, reasonable people of Oklahoma are never going to buy into that," frontman Wayne Coyne told Tulsa World in an interview Friday.

State Rep. Corey Holland, R-Marlow, voted against the resolution. His reply to Coyne:

The great thing about this country is he has the right to make whatever statement he wants to make.... I have the right to be offended by that.

Gabriel Malor, a former Oklahoman who blogs regularly at Ace of Spades HQ, headlined his post on the controversy, "I'm Not Entirely Convinced We Shouldn't Just Lock Them In and Set the Building on Fire," referring to the legislators who voted against the resolution.

Steve Lackmeyer, writer and blogger for the Oklahoman, likens the State House vote to county government corruption. (UPDATE: Steve's comment has prompted me to look again at how I summarized his entry, and I think I oversimplified in my haste. It would be more accurate to say, "For Steve Lackmeyer, the State House vote brought to mind legislative resistance to county government reform after the corruption scandals of the 1980s." But just read his entry for yourself.)

Oklahoman editor Ed Kelley slams the legislature in a catchall video condemnation that is ignorant in multiple dimensions, and I don't say that lightly. He claims that the legislature wants to punish hardworking immigrants, implying the word illegal by his reference to "their children who are American citizens," but not using the word. (The legislature, and an overwhelming majority of Oklahoma citizens, welcome legal immigrants, but support sanctions against employers who use illegal labor and support cooperation between local law enforcement and Federal immigration authorities.) He refers to Ivins's T-shirt as bearing a "symbol of the old Communist Party, which went out of business with the old Soviet Union almost two decades ago." Hey, Ed, tell the oppressed people of China, Cuba, North Korea, and Vietnam that the Communist Party "went out of business." Tell that to Chinese civil rights attorney Gao Zhisheng, still missing after being taken from his home by Chinese security forces on Feb. 4.

For that matter, Ed, does the fact that the Nazi Party has been "out of business" for over 60 years mean that no one should be offended by it any more? Had Ivins shown up in a red T-shirt with a white circle and a foot-wide black swastika, we wouldn't be talking about the legislature's vote. We'd be reading about venues canceling Flaming Lips tour dates, about their record sales plummeting, about denunciations by civil rights groups. It would have been a career-ending move, and rightly so.

Hey, Ed: Timothy McVeigh has been permanently out of business for about eight years now. Would it have been OK by you for Ivins to show up at the State Capitol with a McVeigh T-shirt? God help us if there's ever a day when that would be considered the latest in ironic hipster wear.

Tens of millions have been killed and billions have been enslaved in the name of Communism over the last century. Billions still suffer under its yoke.

The most disturbing aspect of this fuss is the realization of how little Americans realize the inherent inhumanity of Communism. It can be summed up in a single image, from George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four: "a boot, stamping on a human face -- forever."

With May Day coming up -- the traditional holiday for the international Communist movement -- it's as good a time as any to refresh our memories and educate the younger folks about those who suffered and died as a result of Communist policies -- not torture and imprisonment simply employed in the name of Communism but inherent to the Communist worldview. Look for several posts on the topic here at BatesLine this week. I hope other bloggers will join me in raising awareness of how deeply evil Communism was and still is.

MORE: Brandon Dutcher weighs in:

Now, I know nothing about Mr. Ivins. It appears that at the very least he needs some education on the matter, and indeed I suspect it goes deeper than that. My guess is that (to borrow from another band) he still hasn't found what he's looking for. In any case, for now I think it would be useful simply to juxtapose Mr. Ivins' silliness with the seriousness of the great man himself:

Click through to hear Ronald Reagan calling on the Communists to stop treating their citizens as prisoners.

Brandon also links to The Black Book of Communism, the definitive catalog of the devastation wrought by this evil philosophy:

The authors, all distinguished scholars based in Europe, document Communist crimes against humanity, but also crimes against national and universal culture, from Stalin's destruction of hundreds of churches in Moscow to Ceausescu's leveling of the historic heart of Bucharest to the widescale devastation visited on Chinese culture by Mao's Red Guards.

As the death toll mounts--as many as 25 million in the former Soviet Union, 65 million in China, 1.7 million in Cambodia, and on and on--the authors systematically show how and why, wherever the millenarian ideology of Communism was established, it quickly led to crime, terror, and repression. An extraordinary accounting, this book amply documents the unparalleled position and significance of Communism in the hierarchy of violence that is the history of the twentieth century.

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"Me, I just say look, it's a little minority of some small-minded religious wackos who think they can tell people what kind of T-shirts and what kind of music they can listen to, and the smart, rational, reasonable people of Oklahoma are never going to... Read More


Jeff Shaw Author Profile Page said:

Ha! This makes the State Quarter debate look like tiddly winks!

What a waste of legislative time. This is what happens when governments get into the marketing business. What a silly, silly, silly manufactured problem.

This is goverment inefficiency at its finest, and speaks volumes of our junk TVLand values.

They can't even handle a state song without screwing it up. Did the legislators get to claim mileage the day this thing was being ratified?

I thought the State song was Rogers and Hammerstein's "Oklahoma". That's the one I'm going with, unless its against the law not to recognize the Flaming Lips song. BTW, are they getting royalties on that song?

Someone ask Governor Henry if they'll blast "Do you Realize?" from the state capitol on the 4th of July.

P-X Author Profile Page said:

A complete waste of time and money.They should be working on more important things such as a mega-refinery complex in Cushing or disaster relief in Enid.

mpeps said:

What a joke! This is a complete waste of time and money. Get to work!

"Steve Lackmeyer, writer and blogger for the Oklahoman, likens the State House vote to county government corruption."
I did that? Wow. That's quite a stretch to make a comparison like that. Now, I've got to at least look at whether the vote on the state bird could be compared to the indictment of David Walters.
I'll have to read that post again and figure out how all this happened.
I remain a daily reader of your blog, Michael. Keep up the interesting posts.
- Steve

Steve, this is what I read that led to what I wrote:

I wasn’t even thinking about the legislature’s vote today on making the Flaming Lips’ “Do You Realize” the state rock song when I took this photo. I, like many people, assumed the legislature would simply follow the will of the people who voted for this honor.

Yeah, I should have known better. Back when I covered politics, the big topic of the day was the creation of home rule in county government. Bryan Dean and I had exposed numerous examples of fraud, corruption, nepotism, cronyism and waste in just Oklahoma County alone. Similar situations were poping up across the state. Home rule would have simply allowed voters to overhaul county government and make it more professional, ala city manager form of municipal government.

Legislators held hearings, county officials wore buttons saying “county government works” and before you know it, the issue was buried never to be heard from again.

Here’s the big secret, friends - you can’t trust Republicans or Democrats. Corruption, abuse of power and ignorance knows no bounds.

I wanted readers to know about your post on the topic, and I was trying to create a short, descriptive phrase for the link to your post that conveyed the strength of your objection to the House vote. In retrospect, it might have been more accurate to write something like "For Steve Lackmeyer, the State House vote brought to mind legislative resistance to county government reform after the corruption scandals of the 1980s." It wasn't my intention to mischaracterize what you wrote.

Thanks for being a regular reader, Steve. I'm grateful to have your smart commentary on urban design and downtown revitalization available on a daily basis.

Jan said:

"it's a little minority of some small-minded religious wackos who think they can tell people what kind of T-shirts and what kind of music they can listen to"

Wow. Seems to me it is a majority of justice-minded legislators who know they can speak for their constituents about what kind of behavior is acceptable in our state Capitol.

And really, if I buy into the idea that communism is destructive and wrong and should not be supported, how does that make me a small-minded religious wacko?

Either way, if I had a vote, I would vote against having a state rock song of any kind. What a waste of time and resources.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on April 26, 2009 6:25 PM.

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