Between Maureen Dowd and Pinch Sulzberger, you really get the sense that the last people on Earth who still believe in the myths of the 1960s are hold up in their redoubt at 620 Eighth Avenue. Here’s Dowd shocked that Bob Dylan would cave to Communist China’s censors in order to make a few bucks performing in Beijing:
The idea that the raspy troubadour of ’60s freedom anthems would go to a dictatorship and not sing those anthems is a whole new kind of sellout — even worse than Beyoncé, Mariah and Usher collecting millions to croon to Qaddafi’s family, or Elton John raking in a fortune to serenade gay-bashers at Rush Limbaugh’s fourth wedding.
Before Dylan was allowed to have his first concert in China on Wednesday at the Worker’s Gymnasium in Beijing, he ignored his own warning in “Subterranean Homesick Blues” — “Better stay away from those that carry around a fire hose” — and let the government pre-approve his set.
Iconic songs of revolution like “The Times They Are a-Changin,’ ” and “Blowin’ in the Wind” wouldn’t have been an appropriate soundtrack for the 2,000 Chinese apparatchiks in the audience taking a relaxing break from repression.
Spooked by the surge of democracy sweeping the Middle East, China is conducting the harshest crackdown on artists, lawyers, writers and dissidents in a decade. It is censoring (or “harmonizing,” as it euphemizes) the Internet and dispatching the secret police to arrest willy-nilly, including Ai Weiwei, the famous artist and architect of the Bird’s Nest, Beijing’s Olympic stadium.
Dylan said nothing about Weiwei’s detention, didn’t offer a reprise of “Hurricane,” his song about “the man the authorities came to blame for something that he never done.” He sang his censored set, took his pile of Communist cash and left.
“The Times They Are Not a-Changin’,” noted The Financial Times under a picture of the grizzled 69-year-old on stage in a Panama hat.
“Imagine if the Tea Party in Idaho said to him, ‘You’re not allowed to play whatever,’ you’d get a very different response,” said an outraged Sophie Richardson of Human Rights Watch.
A 22-year-old Dylan did walk off “The Ed Sullivan Show” when CBS censors told him he couldn’t sing “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues.”
But he’s the first to admit he cashes in.
But Maureen, it’s the other guy’s country.
Related: What would Sebastian Cabot do?