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Led Zeppelin doesn’t want to offend

tyrants and dictators, that is.

So in the closing ceremonies of the Olympics, Led Zeppelin toned down the lyrics to their song “Whole Lotta Love” in order to not offend the delicate sensibilities of the Chinese. Is anyone else scratching their head over that one?

What is it about murderous dictatorships that make them lean so heavily in the direction of prudishness? How does one resolve the conflict between a willingness to force millions of women to murder their babies, with the inability to countenance the bawdy lyrics of a rock & roll song? And the Chinese are not alone in that strange tendency. Hitler, Stalin, and Castro all demonstrated odd squeamishness when it came to, compared to everything else they were up to, relatively insignificant matters.

And that is what makes Led Zeppelin’s willingness to amend their lyrics so incomprehensible to me. Does anyone believe that they would so happily have capitulated had they been asked to do so by a concert promoter in, say, Utah? I think not. I think they would howl that their artistic freedoms were being trampled by evil Puritans. Why then, are they so quick to kowtow to the Chinese?

It’s a question to which I have no answer, and that frustrates me, because I think this willingness to accommodate evil regimes is at the heart of something sick that is spreading around the world. This sickness renders victims not just unable to tell right from wrong, but constrains them in almost every case to prefer the latter to the former. This is why newscasters, confronted time and time again with compelling evidence of Chinese lying and cheating during the Olympics, preferred to talk instead about something – anything – else. Those same journalists would give their right arms for a moment in their career in which they could expose evil, or “speak truth to power,” but over these last days, while the opportunity was staring them in the face they demurred.

One comes to expect that from journalists these days, but what of a group of rowdies like Led Zeppelin? How can we explain the willingness of a rock band to surrender control over its lyrics? One of very few things I found to respect about Jim Morrison was his refusal to accommodate censors who asked him to rewrite some of his lyrics. He may have been mistaken in a lot of things, but he stood by what he wanted to say, and was willing to accept the consequences. I sense that the boys of Led Zeppelin would find the same intestinal fortitude, but only if their stand was against what they saw as middle class American or British mores. When China asks them to cater to her delicate sensibilities, they are all tolerance and grace. How ironic.

This rush to sacrifice ourselves in a demonstration of tolerance for China is misguided at best. At worst, it is suicidal. A willingness to throw away ideals (artistic license, truth, adherence to rules, steadfastness in support of human freedom) points to a shallowness in our culture, a lack of appreciation of the great sacrifices and pivotal moments of history that have culminated in what we call Western Civilization. It is a cry in a frequency audible only to predators, that says, “Here we are, ripe for the taking.”

Maybe you think I make too much of this. I’ll allow the possibility. But even those who would accuse me of going to far must agree, that to tolerate the masquerade perpetuated in Peking, in which not one thing was as it was represented (The computer-generated fireworks, the lip-synched Chinese anthem, the faux ethnic minorities, the empty spectator seats, the biased judges, the cheating…) is to, at the very least, tarnish the reputation of the Olympics, and to denigrate the accomplishments of the athletes who competed.

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