By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – There’s a famous story from the Vietnam War era about the legendary CBS News anchorman Walter Cronkite, known back then as “the most respected man in America,” as hard as that might be for today’s news consumers to imagine. When President Lyndon Johnson watched Cronkite deliver a scathing report about the progress of the war, he reportedly turned to an aide and said: “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost middle America.”

Could something like that be happening now within the formerly conservative-to-apolitical world of country music?

Kelly Clarkson, a Texan and a licensed gun owner, is not the only prominent figure in the country community to put the NRA on notice of a cultural backlash, after her comments at the Billboard Music Awards Sunday night, two days after the school shooting at Santa Fe, Texas.

kellyclarkson Keller @ Large: Kelly Clarksons Bold Activism A Sign Of A New Generation

Kelly Clarkson at the Billboard Music Awards on May 20, 2018. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

“Why don’t we not do a moment of silence, why don’t we do a moment of action, why don’t we do a moment of change, why don’t we change what’s happening because it’s horrible,” Clarkson said.

Garth Brooks and other country stars went out of their way to praise Emma Gonzalez and the other Parkland High School activists pushing for tougher gun laws.
After Parkland, singer Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland tweeted: “I wonder how long it will take our government to do anything at all.”

But the fact is that within weeks of that horrific event, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, proud holder of a 100-percent approval rating from the NRA, signed major new gun restrictions into law in that traditionally pro-gun state.

Celebrity political clout is usually way overstated. But the increasingly bold activism of Clarkson and her peers is a sign of a new generation, appalled by mass shootings, ignoring the conventional wisdom that country stars have to worship at the altar of the gun if they want to remain stars.

Want to comment on this? Do so via email at keller@wbztv.com, or use Twitter, @kelleratlarge.

Comments (2)
  1. Oh, my…With this “revolution” in country music, could a similar “revolution” happen in the allegedly apolitical Fourth Estate…

    Oh, sorry…It’s been going on for decades…with little or no success.

    It would be interesting if all of these entertainers…an you in the press, too, Jon…as part of your moral outrage…come up with actual proposals that would:

    1. Be able to get passed by the legislature and signed by the executive at whatever level of governance you are addressing.

    2. Pass constitutional muster in the courts. And,

    3. Actually have some effect on the problem as it exists…not as the problem is alleged to be for the political and emotional blackmail the proposer is using to sell the program.

    So far, I have heard little from any of you that would come even close to getting over any one of these hurdles.

    Please don’t try to trot out the fact that the NRA opposes restrictive legislation; that is a given. But when you continually rail that he NRA is so powerful as to control the votes of Congress, you both grossly overstate the NRA’s capabilities and admit cede defeat before the game is even started. If you do that, of course you are going to lose at the very first jump.

    And remember, there are more than a few states and cities that have highly restrictive gun laws, and our Congress in the past have passed laws themselves. Few of those laws have passed the requirement to be Constitutional, and none of them have been successful in actually reducing the amount of gun violence on the streets. The areas of gratuitous gunnings down are often in the hearts of our inner cities…bastions of liberal/Democratic hegemony for more than half a century…and, almost universally, the weapons used in those crimes were illegally obtained in spite of the laws written to prevent guns in the wrong hand.

    Isn’t it time to put the shooters at the top of the list for the focus for getting gun violence under control?

    The firearm is just the messenger for the anger and incivility of the one pulling the trigger, is it not?

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