Jethro Tull controversy

Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull drew flak for making this statement in an interview:
“I hate to see the American flag hanging out of every bloody station wagon, out of every SUV, every little Midwestern house in some residential area. It’s easy to confuse patriotism with nationalism. Flag waving ain’t gonna do it.”
Much protest ensued. Classic rock stations started plucking Jethro Tull songs from their playlists. Some will probably lump Anderson with the Dixie Chicks, Moby, and Ted Rall, even though he didn’t insult the President, say good things about Saddam, or send encouragement to the insurgent forces in Iraq. I blogged on the original story and Ian Anderson’s official response. The text of the latter post is as follows:

On the band’s official website, Jethro Tull’s lead singer has posted a response to the controversy surrounding a recent interview (see earlier post.) Anderson apologizes (emphasis in original):
In an interview with a US newspaper, I expressed my concerns regarding the “flag-waving” mind-set – not only of some Americans – but across the world.
I now regret the tone of these statements and offer my belated apologies to those offended by any perceived slur on the Stars and Stripes. I really didn’t understand – even after 35 years of visiting the USA on a regular basis – that this symbol had such fierce resonance for so many people as is now apparent to me.

Anderson continues with a condemnation of the negative attitudes toward British and American citizens across the globe, and asks for input on changing them. Send email or post to the “Changing Views” conference in the chat room.
My first suggestion is to get past the language barrier. Near the end of his statement, Anderson threw in this, evidently aiming to clarify the concerns voiced in the controversial interview:
Patriotism is the good guy: fraternal, supportive, the paying of respects particularly in the face of adversity. Space shuttle disasters. 9/11. Commemorative anniversaries. Flags are great.
Nationalism is the bad guy: protectionist, isolationist, triumphalist, buccaneering. Flags seen in this context are, I maintain, likely to be resented.

Some of the current arguments hover around misconceptions about the definition of “patriotism.” Anderson nails that issue. But he does not fully comprehend “nationalism.” We don’t use that word a lot in everyday speech; it mainly pops up in news stories about “nationalist” factions doing this or that. Nationalism in and of itself is morally neutral; it is fierce support for a nation’s sovereignty, or for a region’s quest to secede from a country to become its own nation. What separates the different types of nationalists is what they wish to accomplish with their sovereignty. Some are patriots; others are protectionists, isolationists, triumphalists, or buccaneers.
The key problem behind grass-roots international tensions is that people from different countries don’t get to know each other. What are the barriers to this? In some countries, especially in the Muslim and Communist worlds, the greatest barrier is the absence of free press. Such countries also tend to lack tourist trade, denying locals the opportunity to have first-hand experience with foreigners other than dictator huggers like Edward Asner and Noam Chomsky. Trade in general opens up doors, as does the Internet, through its chatrooms, blogs, and such.



  1. Kalroy

    Dunno. Seems to me that the Dixie Chicks and their ilk would never have a jam sesstion onstage with a major player at Fox News.
    Ian Anderson did, recently.
    By the way, it turns out that Tony Snow is very talented on the flute.

  2. Ann On A Mouse

    Amazing to me how Europeans can’t go ten steps without waving their flag (ever seen a football match? tennis? cricket? badminton? tiddly-winks?), but Americans are invariably “jingoistic.” It’s revolting.
    And not only do they wave their nation’s flag, but their county flag, their town flag, their clan flag, their street flag, for Pete’s sake, they wave every damn flag they can.
    At a performance of Falstaff by Bryn Terfel at the Met last year, I counted no fewer than three Welsh flags in the audience, and that was in the first ten or twenty rows of the orchestra. One of them was three or four feet long! Now that I think about it, I’m only sorry I never turned to see if they were waving them from the balconies, too.
    “Americans are all jingoistic,” my rear-end. More likely Europeans are all hateful resentful and jealous. Go to hell all of them.