CNN SUNDAY MORNING
Interview With Paul Farhi
Aired April 27, 2003 - 09:46 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Remember before the war, the anti- war talk coming from some celebrities, like the Dixie Chicks? Well, it seems the cost of dissent just may not be too pricey for them after all. "Washington Post" style section writer Paul Farhi joins us from our Washington bureau. He wrote an article about this topic just a few days ago.
Paul, thanks for being with us. I like your writing a lot.
PAUL FARHI, STYLE WRITER, "WASHINGTON POST": Thank you.
COOPER: Are there any celebrities who actually suffered from speaking out?
FARHI: I can't think of one. There may have been one. But if you look at the entire history of celebrities speaking out on some cause or other, it doesn't seem like it's made much difference. Go back to the Beatles in the mid-60s, when John Lennon said the Beatles were bigger than Jesus. I don't think you can find a more offensive statement to Christians around the world. Yet it certainly didn't stop the Beatles.
COOPER: There is an element of sort of this all being kind of a game, sort of this big PR game. You have Dixie Chicks who made the statement, and there was allegedly this controversy, which was fueled by talk radio stations which basically benefited from fueling the talk. And then you have the Dixie Chicks, who then get an hour special on ABC prime-time about it. Plus now the cover of "Entertainment Weekly" seems like a win-win for everybody.
FARHI: I don't think the Dixie Chicks planned it. If you take their statements at face value, they're a little bit ashamed, or at least a little bit put out by the whole controversy. But nevertheless, the fact is we're still talking about it a month after the fact, and they're on the cover of a magazine and prime-time, things that never would have happened in the absence of this whole controversy.
COOPER: Their album, as we just saw, is number three in the charts.
FARHI: It's number three on the country charts. It's fallen a bit on the pop charts, which is the more general chart. But it's been on the charts for about 34 weeks. And so you pretty much expect it to have fallen at this point. COOPER: It's interesting. You wrote about some celebrities talking about not just a backlash, but almost a counter-backlash. What does that mean?
FARHI: I think because people come to the aid of the celebrity who is being attacked. For instance, there were a number of people, such a Bruce Springsteen who came out and said I support the Dixie Chicks. Their right to speak out, their right to be played on the radio. Artists should not be diminished by the fact they have something to say you don't agree with. A lot of the fans come to the aid of the person who has been attacked by those that who disagree with what's being said.
COOPER: Janeane Garofalo, I guess, this is one of the people who cites this.
FARHI: Perfect example.
COOPER: How did it work for her?
FARHI: Well, I think it's worked fabulously for her. She was, by her own description, she was a sort of D-list celebrity. Now, because she's been on a number of news shows talking about her opposition to the war, she has gotten offers that just came out of nowhere. Speaking engagements, stand-up gigs, stage plays, things that, again, never would have happened had she kept her mouth shut.
COOPER: And Michael Moore, I think on his Web site, is sort of bragging about the fact that a lot of people are ordering his books on amazon.com, more so than ever before, and his movie, as well.
FARHI: That's an amazing one. His book, which had been on "The New York Times" best seller list for about 50 weeks, was starting to drop. He makes his statement at the Oscars, the book goes back up to number one after 50 weeks. His documentary, "Bowling for Columbine," gets more preorders on amazon.com than "Chicago," which was the best picture Oscar. So it's just been great for him.
COOPER: You know, you said you probably don't think that, in the case of the Dixie Chicks, at least, but probably, I'm guessing this, in the case of most people, that they're speaking out in order to generate this kind of publicity. But they do so, they speak out certainly knowing -- I mean, all of these people are celebrities. They've been in this game a long time, and they certainly know how the machine works, how the public relations machine works, how the fame game works. And they certainly know that they're basically not going to pay any price for saying the most outrageous things.
FARHI: Well, I think the Dixie Chicks case is a little bit special, because, one, they're women. And two, they operate in country music, which is supposedly very conservative and/or patriotic. So they took a bigger risk than most. I don't know that anybody particularly cares what Janeane Garofalo thinks about the war. But in the context of country music, the Dixie Chicks were taking a bigger risk. How has it worked? I mean, their concerts are just about 95 percent all sold out. I'm not sure country music fans really care all that much that the Dixie Chicks might have had an opinion about the war.
COOPER: All right, Paul Farhi of the "Washington Post," appreciate your joining us.
FARHI: Thank you.
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