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AT&T censors Pearl Jam's anti-Bush sing-along

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Analysis AT&T has apologized for the censorship of lyrics that were critical of US President George W. Bush during a webcast of a performance by rock band Pearl Jam at a recent Lollapalooza festival.

During a performance of the song "Daughter" on Sunday in Chicago, the band segued into an improvised version of Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" - and frontman Eddie Vedder uttered the words "George Bush, leave this world alone" and "George Bush, find yourself another home."

Not that the poor saps viewing the grainy footage on AT&T's Blue Room Web site would know. Those passages were cut from the webcast, the result, AT&T told Reuters, of "a mistake by a webcast vendor" that was "contrary to our policy." The company said it was working with the band to post the song in its entirety.

The blooper is yet another reminder of how prudish we've gotten in the US, a nation that, ironically, likes to think of itself as open-minded and a bastion of free speech.

By now, most people are familiar with the plight of the Dixie Chicks, who were banished from country radio stations after publicly confessing they were ashamed to come from the same state as Bush. And no one will soon forget the grilling Congress gave CBS executives after their network broadcast Janet Jackson's breast for one second during the 2004 Super Bowl.

AT&T never did say what rationale the unidentified webcast vendor used in excising the political dissent, but we suspect it has something to do with watching its peers pay for their outspoken or risqué sins and saying, "But for the grace of God go I."

An artifact of the grunge scene whose anti-authoritarian posturing is more attractive than the vast majority of its music, Pearl Jam has made a career out of sticking it to the man. In the mid 1990s, it boycotted Ticketmaster on the principle that the company was driving up the cost of concert tickets.

So it's of no surprise that the band took to its website this week to pillory the censorship.

"AT&T's actions strike at the heart of the public's concerns over the power that corporations have when it comes to determining what the public sees and hears through communications media," the blog said.

In an age when rock and roll has become synonymous with selling cars and marketing political candidates, such concerns indeed resonate. But after viewing footage on YouTube of the cheesy sing-along-with-Eddie, we won't be checking back into the Blue Room anytime soon for an unexpurgated version. ®

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