NY Philharmonic: Can you end the conflict in Darfur too?

Monday, February 25, 2008

I'm a supporter of the arts on all fronts and know the power that music and theater can have, but let's be honest about this - the NY Philharmonic going to North Korea isn't a historical cultural event - it's just a publicity campaign for everyone involved.

North Korea - who took down its Anti-American posters and rhetoric before the Philharmonic dropped in to Pyongyang - gets to use this "event" as propaganda to show the world that even with their abysmal human rights record, stalled nuclear disarmament talks, and "Military First" policy, that they're open to cultural diplomacy - and really - maybe they aren't that bad after all.

I can see it now. There's Kim Jong Il relaxing with some poor girls he keeps skinny with a healthy does of poverty, the NY Philharmonic playing in the background, and Il touting the new "softer side of North Korea".

Just the thought makes me want to wet myself.

Then there's the NY Philharmonic. Musicians who hope that they can help build connections with North Koreans to bring the countries closer together - and while I don't doubt the real feelings some of the musicians have in going there - they've really just been bamboozled and hoodwinked by people like Lorin Maazel and others for the sake of publicity and the thought of being mentioned alongside with ping pong balls.

Do they realize that according to a UN report there's only 55 TV sets for every 1,000 people in North Korea and that only a fraction of people they hope to reach will even see it?

Who knows though, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the NY Philharmonic, by playing one glorious night to be shown, edited, cut, and then re-edited, really can help bring the U.S. and North Korea together.

At least it won't hurt ticket sales.

Next stop for the NY Philharmonic: Curing AIDS and ending the conflict in Darfur.