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Commentary :: Culture

The Real Desperado

At the Aladdin Casino in Las Vegas, coarse conservative actions speak louder than empty "compassionate" words.
Now that the dust has settled and the spilled drinks have been mopped up, one gets a clearer picture of just what happened the night Linda Ronstadt broke out the 'M-word' during a performance at the bankrupt Aladdin hotel and casino in Las Vegas. It was a night of unchecked conservative lawlessness that nearly created a riot, ultimately culminating in a disturbing alienation of one woman's God-given liberties as they were outlined by the Founding Fathers in the Bill of Rights.

Of all the adjectives that could be attached to the behavior of right-wing patrons and management, the most adhesive one would have to be "typical". Just as moral platitude-writers will argue until blue that children are influenced by the violence to which they are exposed in popular culture, it is apparent that rudeness among conservatives is a natural manifestation of exposure to talk-radio.

In that coarse and amateur-driven media (what exactly is Rush Limbaugh an expert on, other than divorce, draft-dodging and doctor-shopping?), nothing revs up the audience like a good zinger thrown at some poor liberal, set up by the call screener like so many bowling pins. That's why Michael Moore's movie, Fahrenheit 9/11, so offends most Republicans - the majority of whom say they haven't seen it and don't intend to. Like so many other playground bullies in the world, loudmouth conservatives love to dish it out, but don't seem too receptive to taking it.

This was the spark for the baboonish exhibit at the Aladdin during Ms. Ronstadt's performance. The mere mention of Moore's movie (as a preamble to the popular ballad "Desperado") was enough to send many in the audience into a fit of pique that approached a level usually reserved for European soccer hooligans. The marvel of this immaturity is that it was praised across the board by fellow supporters of the GOP; not only did they lose their taste for civility that night, they are - like Dick Cheney and his fondness for obscenity - proud of their actions.

Lusty booing was obviously not going to be sufficient to vent the frustrations these people (I'm being very generous here) must feel as their messianic figurehead of a president slides down the chute into political irrelevancy. Some of the 4,500 in attendance had to go further. Concert posters were torn off the walls. Cocktails were reportedly hurled into the air. The exits were stormed. Let's see... that would amount to disturbing the peace and destruction of private property, not to mention conspiracy to incite a riot, which might be construed by one tight-lipped Attorney General as a form of domestic terrorism.

Those were the small crimes that took place at the casino. The big stuff, the stuff of which civil-rights lawsuits are made, was reserved for the management of the Aladdin. An anonymous hotel official told the press, "The Company decided to remove her from the property after she dedicated a song to Michael Moore. This angered our guests who spilled their drinks and demanded their money back."

According to the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Ms. Ronstadt had a reasonable expectation that her personal effects and papers would not be seized from the room in which she was staying. The casino's actions clearly amounted to an unlawful seizure of her property. It makes no difference what they did with her belongings, or how long they were in their possession - the law was broken. But the Aladdin had already shown a wanton disregard for the law in allowing its patrons to behave in a manner that brushed up against violence.

The casino attempted to explain without accepting a wit of responsibility. "Ms. Ronstadt was hired to entertain the guests of the Aladdin, not to espouse political views," goes the official statement. The president of the casino, a British fellow (no wonder) named Bill Timmins, promised: "As long as I'm here, she's not going to play."

Entertainers have blended politics with performance art since the days of Shakespeare. In American entertainment, we have seen this from Vaudeville to Lenny Bruce, from John Lee Hooker to Bob Dylan to Bruce Springsteen, and so the casino's position is untenable. Had Ronstadt been someone else, and had she praised Bush's war in Iraq, that might have also offended a good deal of the audience; would Timmins and his band of rights-violators have expelled, say, a Christian rocker from the hotel?

This is the mindset against which America struggles in this election cycle. No dissent can be tolerated when it comes to Republican rule, and that speaks volumes about the quality of their governance in a nation that is supposed to be based upon laws that protect our liberties. The Bush administration and its fervent supporters routinely display a paucity of knowledge in such matters. It should not go unnoticed.

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