Obviously the government censors everywhere have realized that Bob Dylan is an easy touch. We’ve been told by so many media outlets, from the New York Times on down, that the Chinese government ordered Dylan not to sing The Times They Are A-Changin’, Blowin’ in the Wind and other nameless “protest songs,” and that he just rolled over and complied. Since then, he has played Hong Kong (where the Ministry of Culture of mainland China does not hold sway), Singapore, and now Fremantle, Australia, and none of those songs have been performed at any of the gigs. He has continued a pattern of opening with Gonna Change My Way of Thinking, closing with Forever Young, and offering a varying mix of tunes from throughout his career in between.
What a sellout! Doesn’t he realize how the seething masses Down Under could be inspired by his anthems of protest to defy the authoritarian regime of Julia Gillard? A little Chimes of Freedom, a dash of Masters of War, and pretty soon Australia might be a free country!
All irony aside, the likes of Maureen Dowd might argue, “Well, because we called him out on it in China, he’s trying to pretend that these are just the songs he feels like singing anyway.” That, I believe, would vastly overestimate the level of attention Dylan has ever given to critics.
I’ll say it again: I hope someday Dylan goes on the record about what restrictions (if any) the Chinese government asked him to follow in Beijing and Shanghai (not to mention the Vietnamese government when it came to Ho Chi Minh City). However, at this point no one has cited a single authoritative source to prove that any specific restrictions were imposed.
It sure has been a wonderful case lesson in illustrating how many words can be written on a subject without anyone knowing the most elementary fact about it, and how so many in the mainstream media are happy to keep repeating speculation until it is taken as fact. And then that “fact” is used as the premise for really rather vicious attack articles. Just the normal way of doing business for the New York Times et al.
The truth is, Bob Dylan is extremely fortunate, because it’s hard to see any of this having any tangible negative impact on him whatsoever. (His fans know the score, after all, and the strength of his music has always trumped critical attacks on him personally.) However, many others who get slimed by the daily inaccuracies and hypocrisies in the media are not nearly so lucky.