Bob Dylan in China

His disappointing, hypocritical concert.

Azar Nafisi

In memory of Farah Ebrahimi.

Times are indeed a-changing: Bob Dylan, who became an American icon by “speaking truth to power,” just gave a concert in China, one of the most repressive countries in the world. While there, Dylan not only failed to express solidarity with the Chinese dissidents in jail; according to The Washington Post, he also agreed to perform only “approved content.”

The scenario becomes even more ironic when you consider that, while Bob Dylan sang “Love Sick” in mainland China, outgoing U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman, a potential Republican nominee for president, spoke in his farewell address about the detention of the dissident artist Ai Weiwei, Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo, and others. He added, “The United States will never stop supporting human rights because we believe in the fundamental struggle for human dignity and justice wherever it may occur.” The problem is not that Dylan should not sing his love songs in China; rather, the problem is that Dylan was just fine morphing into Barry Manilow in Beijing, when he was his old self just three days prior in Taiwan, signing “Desolation Row” and “Blowin’ in the Wind.”

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