Friday, May 12, 2017

Censorship at Rock al Parque?

Venezuelan heavy metaler Paul Gillman, apparently booted from this year's Rock al Parque.
Paul Gillman is one of Venezuela's biggest rock stars of recent decades. But he is also an outspoken Chavista - a supporter of the leftist movement founded by the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. And those politics appear to have gotten him kicked out of this year's Rock al Parque music festival.

That political movement has fallen into severe disrepute in recent years, particularly in Colombia, as Venezuela has become more authoritarian, government forces have violated protesters' rights, and the country's economy has tailspun.

But through it all, Gillman, 57, has remained loyal to the Bolivarian Revolution (a bit reminiscent of the True Believers who kept their faith in Stalin's Soviet Union long after its horrific human rights abuses had become common knowledge), calling himself '100% revolutionary.'

Brothers in revolution: Gillman with the late Hugo Chavez.
Concert organizar Idartes' announcement that Gillman would participate spurred protests on Twitter, led by Colombian businessman Julio Correal, one of the festival's founders. 'I'm not the owner of this festival, but if I can cry out against one of (Venezuelan Pres. Nicolas) Maduro's activists, I will always do it,' Correral tweeted.

Call Gillman ignorant, naive, stupid, or whatever - but he's part of a long tradition of artists, such as Pete Seeger and Paul Robeson, whose ideals blinded them to terrible realities. Seeger's and Robeson's musical talents don't get recalibrated because of their faith in the Soviet Union, so why should Gillman's Colombian fans be deprived of his music because he supports a rotten regime like Venezuela's?

Rock al Parque 2017.
The organizers of Rock al Parque, said to be the largest free concert in South America, allege that the festival has always been apolitical - which is a bit difficult to believe. According to the cultural magazine Arcadia, the Venezuelan group Caramelos de Cianuro, which performed at last year's Rock al Parque, is 'clearly aligned with the opposition' to the Venezuelan government. And even if Gillman were to start ranting in favor of la revolucion bonita during his performance, would it make any difference? Not many rock fans are likely to be either persuaded or offended, if they can even make out the words in Gillman's heavy metal lyrics.

Some justified booting Gillman for 'security' reasons. Could Gillman's performance really trigger violence? If that's the real concern, it would mean permitting a small, violent minority to decide what the rest of us can see and hear.

In a letter posted on the Internet, Gillman, who still plans to perform in Colombia at the end of May, called the decision to cancel his performance "unprecedented."

'In Rock al Parque's 23 years...there has never been a similar situation in which an artist with 40 years of experience has been removed for reasons completely removed from music,' he wrote.

He also told the El Tiempo newspaper that Rock al Parque "allowed itself to be carried away by one person's hate."

Paradoxically, as of May 13 Gillman was still listed among the festival's international invitees.

'Without a doubt, (Gillman) is one of the foundational figures of rock (in Venezuela) and across all out continent, and one of the most eagerly awaited in the festival's history.'

His fans will have to wait longer now.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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