Professor William A. Jacobson of Cornell Law School deemed Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech today at the United Nations a “masterpiece”, and I suspect that Professor Jacobson is right: the speech was a model of clarity and directness, purpose and resoluteness. Netanyahu’s address was a hallmark of what an address by a head of state should be. The world may not have encountered such a landmark address since the days of Ronald Reagan.
In vivid contrast to today’s elevated words from Netanyahu has been the vile anti-Semitic ranting of London’s press and music establishment the last couple of weeks, all in response to a public protest against a concert in London by the Israel Philharmonic, a protest in support of which numerous persons had issued public statements calling for a British boycott of the Israeli orchestra.
Four of the persons calling for a boycott—and even an outright ban—of the Israel Philharmonic were themselves members of one of London’s major orchestras, the London Philharmonic. Alas, the four persons were stupid enough to include the name of the London Philharmonic in their diatribe calling for the Israel Philharmonic to be banned from concertizing in Britain. The four London Philharmonic players were, quite naturally, disciplined—it was perfectly acceptable for them to have uttered publicly whatever foolishness they wished, but it was not acceptable for them to have publicly invoked the name of their orchestra (a player-administered body) in espousing such foolishness.
The self-governing orchestra suspended the players for nine months, and then reduced the suspensions to six months—with the result that the virulently anti-Semitic British press is in an uproar, claiming that “a certain faction” of financial guarantors of the orchestra (i.e., persons of the Jewish faith) is behind the “retribution”.
To Americans, the rampant anti-Semitism in today’s Britain is simply incomprehensible. Even taking into account the fact that Britain is now a Third-World country with a Third-World education system, the swiftness of Britain’s descent into anti-Semitism has been chilling. The descent began in the mid-1990s, and has snowballed into widespread madness, with the Guardian newspaper—now frequently referred to as the Guardian/Der Sturmer—proudly at the forefront of Britain’s deplorable anti-Semitic wave.
Winston Churchill would be appalled at what his country has become—but Julius Streicher would be pleased.
Happily, not everyone in Britain has been susceptible to the lunacy—and intelligent words were offered this week from an unexpected source: a composer, member of a profession not often known for acuity and temperance.
Scottish composer James MacMillan, perhaps best known for “The Confession Of Isobel Gowdie” and “Veni, Veni, Emmanuel”, two works founded upon MacMillan’s devout Roman Catholicism, had the following to say:
The Israeli/Arab controversy is too complex for self-advertising dilettantes to weigh in with an unintelligent contribution. Nuance and subtlety go out the window when bullies barge in, bawling about boycotts and bans.
The "artistic community" is out of its depth and beyond its comfort zone on this one, and they have previous experience in getting it wrong, tending to follow fashionable trends that will gain them brownie points with the liberal and power elites. There is nothing challenging or brave about their herd instinct.
In the past the “artistic community", alongside many other privileged middle-class “rebels”, disgraced themselves with ready apologias for Stalinism and the evils of Soviet Communism. I would hate to see history repeat itself with artists offering succor to the Islamo-fascists of Hamas and Hezbollah.
You don't have to agree with everything Israel does, but it is a beacon and oasis of democracy in a desert of authoritarian viciousness and anti-Semitism. We need a bit of proportion in reacting to this situation.
While the week featured an all-too-rare occurrence of a composer having something intelligent to say, the week also featured an all-too-common occurrence of a weblog proprietor making an “unintelligent contribution”, trying to attract attention to himself by “bawling about boycotts and bans”.
A leading rabble-rouser fanning the flames has been Mark Berry, instructor at Royal Holloway, University Of London. For the last week or more, Berry has been leading a charge all over the internet criticizing the London Philharmonic for its “suppression of free speech”—and writing that he has heard “whispers” about the “motives” of that “certain faction” of financial guarantors of the London Philharmonic (i.e., persons of the Jewish faith).
Berry was also co-signer of a letter published this week in the Guardian/Der Sturmer, a letter that—quite naturally—portrayed the London Philharmonic as chief villain of the entire affair.
For years, I have been keeping a jaundiced eye on Berry’s relentlessly anti-Semitic weblog, Boulezian, which is rather a trial to wade through. Berry needs to take a series of remedial writing courses—his writing is appalling muck—and he needs to take a series of courses in elementary logic. Berry also needs to choose a subject for his weblog about which he has some knowledge. An avowed Marxist, Berry should probably confine himself to writing about the life of Vladimir Lenin, or the glories of Joseph Stalin, or some such. As it stands now, whoever reads Boulezian does so, like myself, not because Berry has anything intelligent or original or worthwhile to say, but because Berry’s weblog reflects the mind of a troubled, half-educated weirdo.
In his sashaying turn around the internet during the last week, one of Berry’s recurrent themes has been that “music is politics”. Such opinion may be widespread among Marxists, but such opinion is not held by intelligent persons—and I believe it may be gainsaid that today no intelligent person can possibly be a Marxist (unless that person has severe psychological problems, which very well may be the source of Berry’s misfortunes, as online photographs of Berry would tend to suggest). If music is politics, then cooking is politics, as is gardening, and walking the dog.
“Music making is by its very nature a political act”—Mark Berry
“It is difficult to think of a more inherently political act than that of music-making”—Mark Berry
“Any claim that music is apolitical should be contested, since such a claim is itself ideological through and through, a typical ploy by those in positions of power to repress those who are not.”—Mark Berry
When I play a Schubert piano sonata, am I engaged in political activity? When I listen to a disc of Beethoven string quartets, am I committing a political deed? When the Minnesota Orchestra plays music of Debussy, are the players involved in political shenanigans?
Is not voting a more inherently political act than making music? And running for public office?
If music is politics, is politics music?
May one assume, in Berry’s warped world, that when American voters go to the polls next November to throw out America’s current president, it will be deemed a musical gesture?
It will certainly be music to some ears.