run the country?" he said. "That's kind of been our credo. It's what this country
was built on."
Despite the heated and intense calls for punitive action after the Denver inci-
dent, very little censorship actually occurred against Pearl Jam as a result. However,
even with a reputation for fiercely defending their principles and positions, Pearl
Jam was definitely spooked by the incident. They didn't play "Bushleaguer " for
almost three weeks (the band had previously performed the song roughly every
other night) and only included it in the set lists for 6 of the tour's 60 dates. Outside
of that, the group experienced little that could objectively be considered actual
Yet, the "Bushleaguer " dispute involving Pearl Jam is significant for several
reasons. First, at the time, it was the pinnacle of on-going consternation over musi-
cians' roles after September 11
. In the nineteen months between the September
attacks in New York and Washington until the "Bushleaguer" performance in
Denver, many Americans had revisited their principles regarding national secu-
rity, personal privacy, and preemptive military action. In that time, the United
States had passed sweeping changes to law enforcement powers (through "The
Patriot Act"), and had also lead international efforts to invade the countries of
Afghanistan and Iraq. At every marker along this journey, musicians had partici-
pated directly and indirectly in the public discourse, both through word and song.
As a result of their outspoken actions, many musicians had experienced strong
resistance, sometimes resulting in censorship.
Secondly, this incident illustrates one of the most troubling aspects of post 9/11
discourse: the speed at which controversial statements are spread through media,
with little emphasis on truth or exploration of ideas, accompanied by hasty judg-
ments against those involved. By the time Eddie Vedder danced with the Bush
mask in Denver, the United States was bitterly divided about the direction of the
country and both sides were quick to invoke knee-jerk reactions to almost any
expression of political thought.
Much of the anger surrounding the Pearl Jam performance in Denver centered
around one word: "impaled." In his April 12
article, as well as in a telephone
interview for this report, Brown says that it was the fans who used the word
"impale" to describe Vedder's actions with the Bush mask. However, in the article
that sparked the entire controversy, Brown himself used the word "impale" in the
article's first sentence to describe Vedder's action. It was not contained in a quote;
it was not attributed to the observations of a third party.
The word "impale" has decidedly violent connotations. It is defined by the
Merriam Webster Dictionary as "a: to pierce with or as if with something pointed;