Bob Dylan was the voice of protest in the '60s, but now he's facing harsh criticism from human rights activists for failing to speak up for freedom during a performance in China. Dylan went ahead with the Beijing leg of his Far Eastern tour, even though Chinese authorities told him he couldn't sing his civil rights-era anthems "Blowin' in the Wind" and "The Times, They Are a-Changin'." Dylan also failed to say anything about the arrest of a dissident artist — Ai Weiwei. Was it Dylan's duty to make a stand?
Dylan's silence was a hypocritical disgrace: "Times are indeed a-changing," says Azar Nafisi in The New Republic. Dylan "became an American icon by 'speaking truth to power,'" and in Beijing he had a golden opportunity to make his life's work really count, by calling out "one of the most repressive countries in the world." Instead he seemed perfectly happy "morphing into Barry Manilow in Beijing," sparing Chinese authorities his words of protest, and singing love songs instead. What "a disappointing and hypocritical show."
"Bob Dylan in China"
He never claimed to be a populist hero: Dylan is no "charlatan," says William Langley in The Telegraph. He always said he was just "a song and dance man," which is why he has always been baffled about how his songs became "the anthem of pacifist ideology." So don't blame Dylan if he's not the hero people thought he was. "It was his followers who made him a saint."
"Let Dylan walk down the road of his choosing"
His performance was understandable, but sad: "Perhaps this switch is inevitable," says the Financial Times in an editorial. After all, Bob Dylan, now approaching 70, certainly isn't the only baby boomer to have moved on from "flower power" to a post-Woodstock life of wealth and comfort. Maybe it's unreasonable to expect him to show up in Beijing and demand change. "But there is still something forlorn in watching the grandfather of protest songs blowin' with the wind."
"Dylan to China"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- After Ferguson, we don't need another dialogue on race
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- The government is getting into the fact-checking business. Be very, very afraid.
- Why you should stop believing in evolution
- A trick for better lunch sandwiches
- The secret to handling pressure like astronauts, Navy SEALs, and samurai
- How Democrats might goad the GOP into shutting down the government
- In defense of Obama's golfing
- The world is on fire and neither Democrats or Republicans have a clue
Subscribe to the Week