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Arizonans Shouldn't Worry About Bands Threatening to Boycott Our State; We Should Worry About Bands That Will Quietly Do So

Recently, a certain state that shall remain nameless enacted a crazy-ass immigration law that made it the laughing stock of progressives all over the country and the target of fierce opposition by pro-immigration activists.

That law mandates, in part, that when law enforcement agents suspect a person who has been arrested is in violation of immigration laws, they must investigate the detainee's immigration status, and if they find evidence of illegality they must report it.

Okay, what the hell, I'll name the state: California. The law, Proposition 187, was passed in 1994 ("recently," by some metrics) and was both more comprehensive and a little less odious than Arizona's SB 1070. Still, Arizona's new immigration law has been called "eerily similar" to California's old law by the Center for American Progress. Luckily for the Golden State, courts struck it down as unconstitutional before it could go into effect.

Did anyone in the entertainment industry boycott California over Proposition 187, as some musicians are now doing to Arizona? No. Did anyone even seriously consider it? Not that I can find. That law was actually approved by voters — winning 58 percent of overall votes and a majority in every California county outside the Bay Area — not signed into law by an unelected governor.

Why was there no boycott of California? Well, first of all, it'd be impossible for anyone in the entertainment industry to boycott California — California is the entertainment industry.

So, no, Cypress Hill, the Latino rap group (formed in 1988), which just canceled a show in Tucson to protest SB 1070, was not threatening to boycott their home state. Likewise, I can find no quotes about Proposition 187 from Hollywood native Belinda Carlisle, lead singer of The Go-Go's, who wrote on her Facebook wall last week that she wanted the Phoenix date of Lilith Fair canceled because of SB 1070.

Beyond all that, though, there's this: People actually like California. They associate it with all of their favorite movies, some of their favorite music, and much of what we hold dear in American popular culture. What do they think of Arizona? I'm not going to go there. Honestly, I don't want to hear for years to come about whatever I'd end up writing. Suffice it to say, we have a huge image problem. The fact that Arizona State University just axed its popular mariachi club after 25 years won't help — if that story breaks nationally.

So, in a ham-fisted way, Arizona has taken on a national issue it's ill-equipped to handle. Our Legislature passed a law written by the same East Coast ideologue who penned the disastrous Prince William County, Virginia law examined in the fantastic documentary 9500 Liberty. You should probably read The Bird to get the real scoop on this stuff (Stephen Lemons, May 13).

Now for the reason this column is on the music page: Despite what national polls show as support for SB 1070, the international taste-making class — musicians, artists, and the like — is deeply and uniformly opposed. And they are going to make us pay. Phoenix already has trouble drawing the type of concerts you'd expect to see in the nation's 12th-largest metropolitan area, and now it's going to get worse. A lot worse.

Hate to break it to you, Arizona, but the dudes in your favorite band don't like this law. Furthermore, it makes them think we are the kind of closed-minded people they don't want to perform for. Maybe not the guitarist, but the bassist. Or maybe the beloved longtime roadie. Who knows? Fact is, it only takes one headstrong member of any band to tell management they'd rather have an off day between Vegas and L.A. We're not the sort of destination they have to play, regardless of principle, like California is. Actually, we're an easy mark for the righteous indignation that comes from the sort of budding social consciousness developed sophomore year of college. That's exactly what you can expect from average professional rock musicians. They're not going to think through whether a boycott is actually the best way to promote their message — they're just going to make us pay whatever way they can.

These bands aren't always going to put out a press release announcing their boycott — though I'm sure there will be plenty of those, too — they're just going to tell their management they'd rather skip Phoenix and Tucson. It's not the fiery testimony of the loud-and-proud protesters that scares me; it's the stony silence and quiet resentment of millions upon millions of progressive Americans who are happy to do their small part to make life in Arizona miserable. Even if the courts save our bacon by striking down this law before it further neutron bombs our real estate market, a bitter residue will remain. This debacle will tar Arizona for a generation, just as the MLK Day fiasco did.

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Martin Cizmar
Contact: Martin Cizmar