Censorship at the U.N.

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When those notorious names began to echo in the hall during the rehearsal of the lighting cues, “they reacted strongly,” the piece’s director, Anne Karin Sundal-Ask, told NRK, the Norwegian national broadcasting company.  The “they” in question were apparently the event’s arrangers, who at once requested a list of all the names mentioned in the piece.  The Norwegians were totally cooperative, making it clear that they were prepared to hand over a list and to remove any names that might cause discomfort.  “But even before the list was handed over,” said Sundal-Ask, “we were informed that we would not be permitted to perform this piece.”  She was puzzled and disappointed, because the festival is, after all, about peace, and “that’s why it was so important to perform this particular work.”  They came up with a replacement piece, and the show went fine, “but it wasn’t as important as the piece we wanted to perform.”

According to NRK, the choir members were told that the U.N. simply couldn’t allow them to perform “Ro-Uro” under its auspices.  Some people, they were informed, might consider it offensive.

To her credit, Ratkje, the composer, was angry.  “This is a totally innocent work.  It is about war and peace, but it is anything but scandalous.  What’s scandalous here is that it’s being censored.”  She added: “I don’t understand it.  I think it’s a very strange decision.”

Of course, no one with the slightest understanding of how things work at the U.N. could possibly be puzzled by the decision to pull the plug on “Ro-Uro.”  I am not privy to the full list of names included in the current version of the piece, and watching the 2007 video linked above I can’t make out all the names that the girls reeled off at that performance.  (Maybe you can make them out better than I can: the girls start shouting them out exactly eight minutes into the video.)  But the inclusion of the names Castro and Mugabe alone is enough to explain everything.  Yes, both of these men fully deserve to be included in a litany of the great despots of modern history.  But Mugabe is also the current head of state of a member country of the U.N., and Castro is the still-living former head of state of another member country, and for this reason it simply cannot be permitted for a group of Norwegian girls to insult them from the stage of the General Assembly.

Then there’s Stalin.  Russia may no longer be Communist, but he continues to be officially honored in that country as the hero – indeed, the savior – of the Great Patriotic War.  It would be a mark of disrespect to that sovereign nation for the U.N. to allow a girls’ choir take his sacred name in vain.

Personally, I’m delighted by this story.  No country worships at the altar of the U.N. more ardently than Norway does.  Most Norwegians are nominally Lutheran, but it’s no exaggeration to say that the closest thing the country has to a real religion may be the United Nations.  Seen through many Norwegian eyes, the U.N.  is the ultimate Teflon organization: no matter how many scandals may have damaged its reputation elsewhere in the world, in Norway it continues, thanks to a constant flow of almost exclusively positive media coverage, to be looked upon as the holiest of holies, the Ground Zero of goodness, the organization that can do no wrong.  Rest assured that every last one of the girls in that choir has, since infancy, been fed an image of the U.N. as the very embodiment of peace, love, virtue, and the milk of human kindness; they’ve been brought up to regard anybody with any position at the U.N. with the same kind of unquestioning admiration and trust – even reverence – with which the most naïve of Irish grandmothers, in more credulous times, used to regard the parish priest.

It’s no surprise, then, that the Norwegian composer and director of “Ro-Uro” should find it incomprehensible that the U.N. put the kibosh on their performance.  I can only pray that this cancellation, which (yippee!) has actually made headlines in Norway, will open at least some Norwegians’ eyes to the reality of the U.N.  The foolish, puerile fantasy has gone on long enough.

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  • Ken

    The double-standard on "free" speech strikes again at the UN!! What a group of hypocrites!!

  • int'l_aid_worker

    This is politics, not denying free speech. How can an organization be effective in its work of uniting nations, especially in helping people if they risk offending the leaders of countries they are trying to work with! The UN is the chiefest in "political correctness".

    • Ted G

      Regardless of wether they deserved it or not? That is not politics that is cowardice and appeasement.

      You have just reinforced my opinion of politicians and their ilk of being liar's and deceivers.
      If this is what we get from the UN please tell me why it deserves to exist.

      BTW we should not be trying to work with leaders that are bereft of any honor at all!

    • poppakap

      Are you serious? As if politics doesn't deny free speech? How naive are you? Politics is at the very root of denying people free speech worldwide.

  • WilliamJamesWard

    Truth spoken at the UN is not to be tollerated, not even that of innocents, espescially by innocent
    young girls from Norway. Probably just as well that it was changed, UN troops and fighter jets
    will not help tourism in Norway, it would ruin their Summer. The UN should be burned to the ground
    and the ashes sent into outer space, what a sinkhole of human waste…………………….William

  • mrbean

    Did you know that in China, that you can be accused oof eing an enemy of the state, tried and convicted, sentenced to death, taken out at dawn and shot in the back of the head, and your family billed for the bullet. Your body is the property of the state and your organs are harvested for sale as available organ transplants, and the carcass that is left may or may not be sent to your family for burial.

  • Looking4Sanity

    "Who's to judge, when the Judge himself is dragged before the bar?"

    Captain Ahab, Moby Dick

    • poppakap

      Sanity, perhaps you'd be kind enough to elaborate on your quote. I am somewhat confident my assumption on your meaning is correct, but please explain yourself if for no reason other than potentially giving cover to anarchists.

      • Looking4Sanity

        Certainly. The point of the quote was that when those who are in power are corrupt, there can be no Justice. Furthermore, when those in power are corrupt, who can call them to task? As in the case of these UN goons, they really aren't accountable to anyone…much like the judges in Ahab's day.

    • guest

      Are you referring to Eric Holder and Obamagate?

      • Looking4Sanity

        That quote works very well in that scenario, don't you think?

  • Ghostwriter

    In many ways,I agree with the song. Castro,Mugabe,and Stalin deserve to be labeled tyrants. The fact that someone at the U.N. thought differently should give the people of Norway some pause. I hope they perform this song in America,with a translation of the original song in English but with the list of dictators included. The composer would find that,at least here,her song would find a sympathetic audience.

  • Dead space

    If someone insulted USA at the United Nations, would a U.S. representative get so angry that he’d knock his chair down from jumping up so fast?