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A Fan's Rebuttal to Julia Keller Review

At the end of July a fan posted to the club message board a review of "Courtesy of the Red, White & Blue", written by Julia Keller of the Chicago Tribune. The article ran July 21, 2002. Reading the review I couldn't help but shake my head. It angered me. After a couple of days of stewing I emailed Julia Keller. If you missed the review, there is a link to the article at the end of this page.



----- Original Message -----
To: jkeller@tribune.com   [this was an incorrect address]
Sent: Saturday, August 03, 2002 12:55 PM
Subject: Your Review of Toby Keith's "Courtesy"

I agree with you that Alan Jackson's "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)?" and Phil Vassar's "American Child" are poignant and well crafted responses to 9/11. I disagree, however, with your distortions, both of the song and of the artist, in your review of Toby Keith's "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)".

Like others who trivialize the song, you quote one portion, and forget to mention the line which follows: "Uncle Sam put your name at the top of his list". The refrain makes it very clear that the song's anger and disgust are directed at the ones who orchestrated 9/11. Osama Bin Laden and his cohorts deserve a lot more than a boot in the ass. "Courtesy" honors generations of Americans who have fought for our country, for our freedoms, and it calls for retribution against those who brought about the horror of 9/11. Nothing more, nothing less. And it is the American way to find justice no matter how hard it might be to accomplish, and whether or not it is tinged with revenge. We are human after all.

Toby Keith would be one of the first to acknowledge that you are entitled to your opinion. Democracies provide us that right. As a cultural critic for the Chicago Tribune, you are paid to share your opinion with your readers. However, one would expect you to bring some degree of professionalism to your critique. You attack the songwriter's person a number of times in the review, from "You're a real tough guy, aren't you Toby?" to "Keith reaped a bonanza of publicity….He got to act all dissed and outraged". Let's examine what really was behind all of the hoopla. Did you listen to any of the interviews to which you refer? Or are you basing your conclusions on second and third hand accounts?

The spokespeople for both ABC and Peter Jennings floated untruths. They said that Toby Keith had never been confirmed for the show, they said that logistical difficulties prevented him from being on the show. The truth is Toby Keith was confirmed in the middle of May, he has a fax that substantiates that fact; the truth is transportation arrangements had been arranged in advance so that he could take part in the 4th of July special and still meet his concert commitment that evening in Provo, Utah. In what has become an all too common practice the network lied to protect themselves, to make themselves look like the good guy. They did all of this at someone else's expense, namely Toby Keith. And he called them on it. The network and representatives for Jennings countered by alleging it was all a publicity stunt - still trying to paint themselves as the good guys, still trying to put the boot to Toby Keith's credibility.

Had the network been upfront, they could have admitted that some in the organization had not listened to the song before it was booked. They could have announced that Mr. Jennings and the network did not believe the content of the song would be in keeping with the sentiment of their program. They could have let the chips fall where they may, taken some flak from some corners. But that would have meant being honest, a trait that Keith credits his dad, H. K. Covel, with instilling in him.

With so much bobbing and weaving, whether it is a politician, the spokesperson of an entertainment company, or the bias of an editorial staff creeping onto the front page of a newspaper, can anyone wonder why the public is so skeptical? I wasn't going to write to you - typing difficulties have put my keyboard time at a premium and so I initially decided not to respond. After further thought I realized that some things should not be left unsaid.


Karen Zimmerman
(Hometown), California



The original email to Julia Keller was sent to an incorrect email address.   After sending a second copy to the Chicago Tribune, my message was forwarded to Keller.   She replied.   In a follow up email I asked permission to share her reply, however permission was not given.   Since our emails were private correspondence I am honoring that refusal and not reprinting either of her emails.

In my replies I told Keller that one of the main problems I have with her review was the way it was written.   Not being familiar with Keller's writing style, I didn't know whether taking cheap shots at an artist was typical of her work.   Words don't have to be snippy nor petty to be effective. It also helps if a writer does their homework.

If you missed Keller's review, you can read it here.



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