Glenn Beck called for Ambassador Capricia Penavic Marshall, the current Chief of Protocol of the United States, to be fired, citing completely manufactured controversies: the "Mao Christmas tree ornament debacle" in 2009 and Chinese pianist Lang Lang's rendition of an "anti-American song" at a White House state dinner in 2011.
Beck Calls For U.S. Chief Of Protocol To Be Fired Over "Mao Christmas Tree Ornament" And Lang Lang Performance
Beck On Chief Of Protocol: "I Think She Should Be Fired." Beck said, "I want to know who's the Chief of the Protocol office at the White House. And I know that's a rhetorical question, because really you can't answer me, and I know who it is already. It's Capricia Penavic Marshall. She seems lovely. She's not doing much protocol. No one in the White House has done much about protocol since Obama was elected." After citing incidents that Beck himself acknowledged occurred before Marshall became Chief of Protocol, Beck continued:
Now Capricia wasn't there for those. But she was there for the Mao Christmas tree ornament debacle, and now we've had this one. I love this one.
The Chinese pianist allowed to play an American - I'm sorry, an anti-American song at the lavish White House state dinner. Here he is. He's introducing it.
And by the way, this is just the song that everybody in China knows. It was written during the Korean War. Very, very popular in China. I believe they call Americans in this one "jackals."
So I don't know what is happening at the White House Protocol Office. I don't know if anybody over eight is actually running our country from the White House. But I think she should be fired.
I think everybody in the -- I'd rather have just a pencil and a dog that pees on people's legs at the protocol office, because at least we could explain those ones away. [Fox News, Glenn Beck, 01/24/11]
Mao Christmas Tree Ornament Actually Depicted A Well-Known Andy Warhol Painting
LA Times: "It Wasn't Exactly Mao. It Was Andy Warhol's 'Mao.'" A 2009 article by Christopher Knight in the Los Angeles Times ridiculed disgraced conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart's accusation that the White House inappropriately included an ornament depicting communist Chinese leader Mao on the White House Christmas tree:
On Tuesday, Andrew Breitbart's Big Government blog got its knickers in a twist over one of the Obama White House's myriad Christmas trees...The blaring "EXCLUSIVE" led with a blurry photo of a decoupage Christmas ornament adorned with the face of Chinese Communist dictator, Mao Zedong.
"Of course, Mao has his place in the White House," Big Government wailed about the [Great Christmas Ornament Scandal], taking the Obama-as-socialist meme out for a yuletide spin.
Except, it wasn't exactly Mao. It was Andy Warhol's "Mao."
The image is one of a very large series of silkscreen paintings and prints the late Pop artist made of Mao. Warhol's parody transformed the leader of the world's most populous nation into a vapid superstar -- the most famous of the famous. The portrait photo from Mao's Little Red Book is tarted up with lipstick, eye-shadow and other Marilyn Monroe-style flourishes.
The precise source of the Warhol ornament is not known. But Warhol's Maos are in art museum collections from coast to coast, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago (whose painting most resembles the ornament image) and both the County Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. Not surprisingly, Pittsburgh's Andy Warhol Museum has several.
Oh, and at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, the National Gallery of Art has 21 different versions of Warhol's "Mao." Twenty-one. Wait until Big Government bloggers find out about the Communist takeover of the National Gallery. [The Los Angeles Times, 12/24/09]
Right-Wing Media Ridiculed For "Nutty" And "Far Fetched" Reaction To Lang's Song Choice
Lang: "I Selected This Song Because It Has Been A Favorite Of Mine Since I Was A Child." From a Wall Street Journal blog post:
Chinese-born pianist Lang Lang has responded to critics of his performance at a recent White House state dinner for President Hu Jintao and President Barack Obama.
At the event, Lang played a number that he introduced as "a Chinese song called 'My Motherland.'"
"My Motherland" is the theme song for "Battle on Shangganling Mountain," a 1956 anti-U.S. movie about the Korean War. Some listeners have interpreted the song choice as a slight against the U.S.
In a statement, Lang said "I selected this song because it has been a favorite of mine since I was a child. It was selected for no other reason but for the beauty of its melody."
He also said "America and China are my two homes. I am most grateful to the United States for providing me with such wonderful opportunities, both in my musical studies and for furthering my career. I couldn't be who I am today without those two countries."
Lang said that he wants to "bridge cultures together through the beauty and inspiration of music." [The Wall Street Journal, 1/24/11]
China Expert: "[T]o View Lang Lang's Performance As A Kind Of Anti-American Scrawl On The Wall Of The White House Is Nutty." In an email to Media Matters, Richard Kraus, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Oregon and an expert on Chinese culture, wrote:
I've not seen the film, except for a clip online. I note that it was made in 1956, three years after the Korean Armistice, a year in which China was feeling pretty self-confident -- economic reforms were going well, and the country had fought the Americans to a draw in Korea. The song itself is pure patriotic sentiment, and is not critical of the United States. The return of Chinese prisoners of war was protracted and not completed until 1958, so Korea understandably remained on people's minds.
I'm sure there are some who enjoy the irony of this music making its way to the White House, but to view Lang Lang's performance as a kind of anti-American scrawl on the wall of the White House is nutty. Lang Lang is the emblem of Chinese artistic success with Western audiences, and would be unlikely to lend his name and talent to promote obscure anti-American jibes. I suspect that some pushing this theory most enthusiastically don't believe it for a minute, but are merely trying to insert new trouble into an always difficult Sino-American relationship.
We've had cultural incidents on both sides in the past. The US provoked China by including a portrait of Douglas MacArthur (who had proposed dropping atom bombs on China) in a proposed visiting exhibition in in the 1980s, and China provoked the US by insisting that a touring ensemble in the 1970s be allowed to sing a song about liberating Taiwan. Both of these shows were halted, but they represented the politics of a very different era. The Lang Lang "incident" is not an incident unless people with more patriotism than brains choose to make it one. [Richard Kraus, University of Oregon professor emeritus, 1/24/11, via Media Matters]
WSJ post: "The Song Lyrics Do Not Mention The War And Are Very Peaceful," "Lang Lang Himself Appears To Have Been Blissfully Unaware Of The Political Minefield He Was Stumbling Into." From a January 22 post on the Journal's China Real Time Report blog:
The song is not just any old song. As Chinese netizens have pointed out, "My Motherland" is the theme song for a famous anti-U.S. movie about the Korean War from 1956, titled "Battle on Shangganling Mountain."
The song lyrics do not mention the war and are very peaceful, speaking of memories of a hometown and how "young ladies are like flowers."
But the film depicts a particularly brutal battle between Chinese and American troops during the Korean War, or what the Chinese call "The War to Resist U.S. Aggression and Aid Korea." The movie also depicts Chinese troops enduring freezing weather with no food or water and American soldiers using flame throwers and laughing at burning Chinese soldiers. In retaliation, there's a lot of killing of American troops later in the film.
Lang Lang himself appears to have been blissfully unaware of the political minefield he was stumbling into. In a blogpost on Sina.com headlined "Sharing a Day at the White House", he describes the beauty of the song and its resonance with Chinese people. "I'm deeply honored and proud that I was able to play this song that praises the strength of China and the solidarity of the Chinese people in front of many foreign guests, especially leaders from all over the world." [The Wall Street Journal, 1/22/11]
NY Times: "If, In Retrospect, 'My Motherland' Might Seem To Be A Regrettable Choice For A State Dinner, It Clearly Was Unintentional." From a January 21 article in The New York Times:
One of the highlights of the state dinner was a performance by Lang Lang, a Chinese pianist who has been a sensation in music circles. Mr. Lang played a duet with the American jazz pianist Herbie Hancock, then a haunting traditional Chinese melody called "My Motherland."
In China, it turns out, "My Motherland" is better known as the theme from the film "Battle on Shangganling Mountain," a 1956 Chinese classic about a Korean War battle in which a vastly outnumbered band of Chinese soldiers held off American and United Nations forces for 42 days.
If, in retrospect, "My Motherland" might seem to be a regrettable choice for a state dinner, it clearly was unintentional. Mr. Lang, an American-trained pianist who divides his time between the United States and China, is an artist who melds American and Chinese cultures. [The New York Times, 1/21/11]
Fallows: "A Barbed Message, Beneath All The Happy Talk? That Seems Far Fetched." The Atlantic's James Fallows wrote in a blog post:
One other note: apparently a minor flap in the Chinese-nationalist blogosphere because the "Chinese song" that Lang Lang played after his duet with Herbie Hancock, as the only non-jazz element in the concert, is known in China from a famous Korean War-era movie about a battle between Chinese soldiers and UN/American troops. A barbed message, beneath all the happy talk? That seems far fetched. I think the New York Times explanation is more plausible: a perhaps inartful but not devious/ hostile choice of song. (As if "Over There" had been played as an American song for a visiting German dignitary -- or if "Lili Marlene" were played in Germany. Or even "Yankee Doodle Dandy" during a US visit by the Queen.) By chance, my wife and I had talked with Lang Lang for quite a long while before his performance. Trained in Philadelphia, based mainly in New York, with as devoted an audience in the U.S. as anywhere, manifestly excited about the whole event and his chance to play with Hancock, he seems an unlikely vehicle for a slyly angry nationalist message, via a movie from his grandparents' time. [James Fallows, The Atlantic, 1/23/11]