The New York Philharmonic orchestra flew to North Korea this week and performed before its residents – or more accurately, before senior Communist Party officials – in a festive concert. The music and the champagne flowed, and the journalists flown to Pyongyang were overwhelmed with excitement.
It’s a historical moment, American media outlets reported – a breakthrough.
Indeed, a historical moment. America’s cultural elite has embraced the darkest, maddest, and most murderous regime on earth, North Korean communism. This is the regime that starved to death at least five million of its own citizens and eliminated as many as two million “subversive elements” in purges that continue to this very day.
I watched the live broadcasts of American networks, I read the stories published in US newspapers, and I was horrified. What happened to the journalists’ and newscasters’ natural sense of criticism? What happened to their liberal point of view? Apparently they melted in the snow that covered the empty streets and dark villages of North Korea’s police and terror state.
Here and there, a brave American journalist snuck in a hesitant word of reservation over the dear hosts’ regime. As if the North Korean tyranny is doing America a big favor by allowing the New York Orchestra to visit.
Orchestra members cooperated with the tyranny, of course. Without any pangs of conscience. Jewish conductor Lorin Maazel did not even think to take advantage of the opportunity and the fact he was aired live on local television to call for the release of political prisoners, the closure of concentration camps, the reinstatement of minimal fundamental freedoms, or similar words of heresy. Why mix music and politics?
Enjoy, friends. You deserve a moment of pleasure after everything you’ve done for the sake of the regime and against its enemies. Why
should the American elite care that your hands are drenched in blood? Why should it care that the cost of the concert and reception could have saved thousands of North Korean children who suffer from chronic malnutrition? Why should it care that the display of friendship with the Kim Jong-Il gang is a spit in the face of freedom lovers and regime opponents rotting in gulags?
Memories of Stalin eraThe orchestra’s visit in Pyongyang is similar to the visit of “progressive” western writers and artists in Stalin’s Soviet Union during the peak of the Red terror and great hunger. They were received with great honor in Moscow, a town overwhelmed by purges whose residents lived in fear of night visits by the secret police, and reported about the joie de vivre of Soviet citizens. They did not see the trucks leading political detainees to prison and did not hear the screams of the tortured; the anti-capitalist blindness paralyzed their objective sense of judgment.
The justification, or more accurately, excuse, for the orchestra’s trip to Pyongyang is the “crack in the wall” argument. The concert, said conductor Maazel, can be a small step ahead of cultural and social dialogue between the US and North Korea. This argument is fundamentally baseless: Countless times during history it was proven that dialogue between democracy and dictatorship merely serves to boost the dictatorship and grant it a moral seal of approval.
Would the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, in the name of “cultural dialogue” have been willing to travel for a festive concert in Berlin in 1938 and play the Nazi national anthem there? And perhaps also play some joyous tunes from musicals at Saddam Hussein’s palace? Or appear in Belgrade during the era of Milosevic and the ethnic cleansing undertaken by his thugs? Or pose for a photograph with the top brass of Burma’s military regime? The answer would no doubt be “no.” But playing “patriotic folk songs” in Pyongyang is apparently a different matter.
The New York Philharmonic Orchestra’s visit in Pyongyang does not attest to the softening of North Korea’s totalitarian regime; rather, it attests to the flawed sense of judgment and moral decline taking over America.