Toby Keith is accused of racism by a liar

Max Blumenthal recently referred to Toby Keith’s hit song Beer for my Horses as an “ode to lynching.”  Later he insulted the whole audience at the Colbert Report where Keith performed the Song by saying, “Colbert’s studio audience clapped to the beat, blithely unaware that they were swaying to a racially tinged, explicitly pro-lynching anthem that calls for the vigilante-style hanging of car thieves and other assorted evildoers.”  Later, Blumenthal added, “…during the days when Keith’s ‘Grandpappy’ stalked the Jim Crow South, lynching was an institutional method of terror employed against blacks to maintain white supremacy.”


Here are the Lyrics to the song:


Well a man come on the 6 o’clock news
Said somebody’s been shot, somebody’s been abused
Somebody blew up a building
Somebody stole a car
Somebody got away
Somebody didn’t get too far yeah
They didn’t get too farGrandpappy told my pappy, back in my day, son
A man had to answer for the wicked that he done
Take all the rope in Texas
Find a tall oak tree, round up all of them bad boys
Hang them high in the street for all the people to see that

Justice is the one thing you should always find
You got to saddle up your boys
You got to draw a hard line
When the gun smoke settles we’ll sing a victory tune
We’ll all meet back at the local saloon
We’ll raise up our glasses against evil forces
Singing whiskey for my men, beer for my horses

We got too many gangsters doing dirty deeds
We’ve got too much corruption, too much crime in the streets
It’s time the long arm of the law put a few more in the ground
Send ’em all to their maker and he’ll settle ’em down
You can bet he’ll set ’em down ’cause

(Chorus x2)


As I’ve stated before, “WORDS MEAN THINGS.”  If you are going to criticize a person for saying something, at least try and get what they said and the meaning of those words correct.  Since Blumenthal (I reserve the “Mr” in this case since I believe that it is a term that denotes respect) is a Nation Institute Fellow, and a published author, I will assume that he has a basic grasp of the English language and the words that make it up.

I read the lyrics above, and there is no actual or inherent implication of racism in them.  Keith definitely appears to be an advocate of liberal use of the death penalty, but simply being an advocate of the death penalty does not make one a racist.

In his own defense, Keith claims, “It’s about the old West and horses and sheriffs … and going and getting the bad guys. It’s not a racist thing or about lynching.”  I will criticize Keith at this point.  The song obviously makes reference to evil people being rounded up and hanged from “a tall oak tree.”  The reference harkens back to Hollywood westerns in which the criminals were captured and subjected to summary justice by being hanged from an oak tree without trial rather than by being hanged from a gallows.  By definition, this is known as lynching.  The American Heritage Dictionary defines lynching as follows:

American Heritage Dictionary

lynch  Audio Help   (lĭnch)  Pronunciation Key 
tr.v.   lynched, lynch·ing, lynch·es
To execute without due process of law, especially to hang, as by a mob.

I think this accurately describes a lynching, but while this language is inflammatory, and carries certain connotations, it is important to note that Keith does not use this term in the lyrics.  Furthermore, he sets the reference in the context of the old West.  By doing so, Keith effectively sets the connotation where he intends it to be, and it is not a racial context.  I criticize him for not honestly standing behind his own beliefs.  Get a backbone, Toby.

As far as Blumenthal goes, I am left with two possible conclusions.  He either does not know the history of the old West, which I doubt, or he intentionally distorted the meaning of Keith’s lyrics in order to make a point.  It would have been fine if he had stated anti-death penalty views when he criticized Keith, but he went (unsurprisingly) right for the race card.  This makes him a disingenuous liar (possibly repetitive, but I’ll live with it).

What is more disturbing to me is the fact that Blumenthal sees a song that promotes using the death penalty against evil criminals, and assumes that it is directed toward black people.  If anything is racist in all of this, it is Blumenthal’s offensive assumption.  I, personally, find this very offensive.

I understand that the Internet is a place where anyone can say pretty much anything they please, and to a large degree I agree with this.  In fact, I realize that I probably would not have this outlet for my own opinions if the Internet were different.  However, though everyone has the right to have an opinion, and the right to speak it, not every person’s opinion should be listened to or legitimized just because they say it or because it is sensational.  The national radio, television and print media that aired or reprinted Blumenthal’s opinions without questioning them should be ashamed.  They know what these words mean also, and they should have the editorial integrity not to present them as if they are legitimate ideas.

In the end, it would be best for the national media to simply ignore Blumenthal.  I just hope he does not go accusing Amana of insensitivity for all its oven references over the years.