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Monday, October 22, 2012
MRC Writer Bashes Springsteen, Doesn't Understand Poetic License
Topic: Media Research Center

Lauren Thompson usually writes for the Media Research Center's Culture and Media Institute, where we caught her being angry that certain films exist, being sad that the media no longer slurs undocumented immigrants as "illegals," and keeping a secret list of everything that offended her about the now-canceled show "GCB." Now, she has taken to MRC division to demonstrate how ignorant she is about how music lyrics work.

In her Oct. 18 CNS column (which was not posted at CMI), Thompson writes:

It must be nice to be a liberal celebrity with no accountability. Bruce Springsteen can campaign for gay marriage and use the term “fairies” in his songs without a shred of bad press, while conservatives are flattened for the same rhetoric.

Springsteen is often lauded by the media for his liberal tendencies. “The Boss” recently endorsed the pro-gay marriage campaign The Four 2012 to fight for “a civil rights issue that must be approved” in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington.


Springsteen told The New York Post he urged “those who support equal treatment for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to let their voices be heard now.” The singer was heralded by USA Today and other liberal outlets for his stance on gay marriage despite the use of gay slurs in lyrics to two of his songs – songs her has continued to perform in public.

In the songs “Incident on 57th Street” and “Lost in the Flood,” Springsteen referred to homosexuals as “fairies,” – a derogatory term toward gay men.

“Lost in the Flood’s”  lyrics read, “His countryside's burnin' with wolfman fairies dressed in drag for homicide.”

“Incident on 57th Street,” sang about “all them golden-heeled fairies in a real bitch fight.” Those lyrics come directly from the official Springsteen website.

Liberals are infamous for outlawing words or phrases that could “offend” sensitive minorities, and “fairy” is one of them.

Thompson conveniently fails to mention the fact that both songs come from very early in Springsteen's career, when casual slurring of gays was much more tolerated in the media. "Lost in the Flood" appeared on Springsteen's first studio album, which came out in early 1973, and "Incident on 57th Street" appeared on his second album, which came out in late 1973.

Nor does she explain the context in which those cherry-picked words appear. "Lost in the Flood" appears to be about a Vietnam War veteran; "Incident on 57th Street" is about the typical young and passionate Jersey characters he wrote about early in his career.

Which brings us to the concept of poetic license -- that Springsteen was not speaking for himself but in the voice of the characters he was writing about -- that Thompson largely ignores. She does quote "Springsteen expert Danny Alexander" defending the lyrics by pointing out that “Creative writers use slang, the voices of their stories, to tell those stories. They do not ever have to be politically correct," but she immediately dismissed it:

But that’s not what happens to conservative artists who get attacked even if they don’t support gay marriage. Country singer Blake Shelton was forced to apologize nationally after GLAAD politicized one of Shelton’s tweets.

Shelton can't exactly claim a tweet -- in Shelton's case, rewriting a lyric of a Shania Twain song with a homophobic tone -- is "poetic license" on par with a song lyric. Also, Thompson accusing GLAAD of having "politicized" the tweet by highlighting it is absurd; by that same standard, Thompson politicized "GCB" by keeping her secret list of offenses.

Does it say something that CMI wouldn't publish Thompson's misguided attack on Springsteen and she had to resort to putting it up at another MRC outlet? Perhaps.

UPDATE: CNS attempted this same ignorance-of-poetic-license stunt in 2008, when it rummaged through the fiction books of Democratic Virginia Senate candidate Jim Webb to find offensive statements that it dishonestly tried to portray as Webb's personal views -- a story that coincidentally came out at the same time that Webb's Republican opponent, George Allen, was publicizing the excerpts.

Posted by Terry K. at 12:15 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, October 22, 2012 2:51 PM EDT

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