‘Music’ gets its own ‘politics’

Just as Mayisyahu, the Jewish-American reggae singer was due to appear at a Spanish festival, the organisers asked him to state his “positions on Zionism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”.

When he refused, his invitation was withdrawn, an action that resulted from a hysterical campaign by the anti-Israeli organisation Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS).

Apparently Mayisyahu had said things about Israel that suggested that his values differed from those of the festival, listed as “peace, equality, human rights and social justice”.

Leaving aside the matter of how such commendable values tally with the implicit advocacy of firing rockets at Israeli villages, one must welcome this long-overdue initiative.

It’s just and proper that, before reggae lovers are allowed to bask in the mellifluous sounds of their choice, the performer must be vetted for his political views.

If these are in any way objectionable to anybody, especially professional anti-Semites and those whose politics are coloured various hues of red, the performer must be banned.

However, as a lifelong champion of equality, I have to scream foul.

What about people who are offended by performers spouting moronic drivel on every subject under the sun? What about those who dislike performers expressing Nazi sympathies? And why limit this valuable initiative to reggae? Why not extend it to classical music as well, including the recordings of artists long since dead?

Hence here’s my modest proposal, starting with another question. What do pianists Walter Gieseking and Alfred Cortot, singer Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, conductors Herbert von Karajan, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Richard Strauss and Willem Mengelberg have in common?

Yes, they were all sublime musicians, but that has nothing to do with our cosmically significant initiative, does it? The right answer is that they all collaborated with the Nazis to one extent or another.

Karajan actually went the whole hog by joining the Nazi party twice, first in his native Austria and then in Germany. Moreover, whenever der Führer graced Karajan’s performances with his august presence, the conductor arranged the audience in the shape of the swastika, thereby proving his unwavering loyalty.

Now, are you ready for this? Recordings of all these musicians, including the Nazi twice over Karajan, are widely available on CDs – this though not many music lovers approve of Nazism. There’s only one solution to this injustice: the CDs must be removed from shops, libraries, private collections and summarily burned. Fair’s fair, right?

And let’s not stop there. Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Richter, Oistrakh and all other Soviet musicians were tainted by association with the regime that murdered six times as many people as the Nazis managed to do.

What a nice bonfire their CDs would make! And let’s not forget boycotting concerts by all living Russian performers, some of whom, such as Pletnev, Spivakov, Matsuyev and Bashmet, are enthusiastic supporters of Putin’s version of fascism.

Actually there’s no need to name names. Once we’ve established the principle of political vetting, the specifics will suggest themselves.

I doubt there’s a musician anywhere in the world who doesn’t represent a political regime or philosophy many would find offensive. The conclusion is as sweeping as it’s natural: in compliance with the sacred principle of equality emblazoned on the banners of reggae fans, we must ban all music, live or recorded, altogether.

Of course another possible solution would be to ignore the musicians’ politics and instead listen misty-eyed to their artistic offerings (although the desire to listen to reggae must be investigated from the anthropological and psychiatric angles).

But that possibility is clearly not on. Neither is boycotting all musicians who are even tangentially associated with politics someone out there doesn’t like.

No one is going to boycott Karajan’s or Cortot’s records. No one will boycott Putin’s performing poodles. No one will boycott musicians from countries where Christians are murdered. It’s only those who prefer our Israeli friends to our Islamic enemies who merit such treatment – especially if they themselves are Jewish.

And it’s not just musicians. Our scientists bravely bar their Israeli colleagues from scientific conferences, or else, like Stephen Hawking, refuse to attend congresses held in Israel.

All in the name of “peace, equality, human rights and social justice” of course. What did you think?

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