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New York Post columnist and ethnomusicologist John Podhoretz weighs in on the music as torture debate.

Friday, February 9, 2007
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HH: I’m joined now by New York Post columnist and author of Can She Be Stopped?, John Podhoretz. John, I just finished a half hour with the president of the Society for Ethnomusicologists. I know you didn’t hear that, but I’m just wondering if you want to take a guess as to his politics?

JP: Well, Hugh, speaking as an ethnomusicologist myself…

HH: I was unaware that you were…

JP: Yes, I am an ethnomusicologist. I specialize in the ethnic music of the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

HH: (laughing) What is that?

JP: I would just like to say that I don’t understand why, Hugh, why it is that we are talking about the difficulty and problem of torture, because it has been the axiomatic principle of the music of the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the modern music of the Upper West Side of Manhattan, that torture is our business.

HH: (laughing)

JP: That is what we do, that is who we are. Have you ever heard John Cage, foremost American composer of the second half of the 20th Century? That is torture.

HH: Well, that’s what I was discussing with Mark Steyn earlier.

JP: We ethnomusicologist are pro-torture. We favor torture as an artistic experience. It strips you raw until you are…

HH: (laughing) Now be careful…if Andrew Sullivan is listening, you’re in big trouble, John Podhoretz. He’ll be all over you.

JP: Well, the interesting thing about Andrew Sullivan is that he is also an ethnomusicologist.

HH: I was unaware of that.

JP: He’s an ethnomusicologist. Amazingly enough, he is tone deaf. He’s a tone deaf ethnomusicologist.

HH: (laughing)

JP: …as evinced by his prose.

HH: John, what are these people doing? What does this tell us, if anything? You should hear this interview. It will be uploaded later. If…I’m not even going to attempt to describe him, but what do you think he’s like? He’s a professor at the University of Chicago, by the way. He is from your alma mater.

JP: There we go. Well, I would say he is precise and fussy and very self-serious and humorless, and believes that he has an important message to deliver about the subject of the belly slap.

HH: Did you have dinner with him last night, because you got him.

JP: No, I didn’t, but I did attend the University of Chicago, and that would be the default description of most of the people at the University of Chicago.

HH: Well, you’ve just captured it. But I keep coming back to A) he heard on NPR yesterday that some of the Afghanis at Gitmo were picked up for bounties, and so that’s gospel. They did not…this may shock you, that the ethical board of the Society For Ethnomusicologists actually didn’t interview anyone about interrogation before issuing their statement.

JP: Well, why would they have to interview anyone on these matters? These are ethnomusicologists, Hugh. They know more about the subject of ethnomusicology than you can ever possibly hope, and the wisdom that that imparts to them gives them the vision, the standing, I would even say the philosophical background to speak on subjects about which they have absolutely no knowledge.

HH: But he denounced the use of hot and cold temperatures in interrogation.

JP: Well, you know, I think that might suggest that he’s potentially a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, who also oppose the use of hot beverages. I’m just saying we don’t know, we don’t know what exactly it is that is going on in our interrogation procedures. But one thing we do know is that the people we should trust, the people that we turn to and look to for wisdom on these matters, is the American Society For Ethnomusicologists. That is my standard. I have to say I have been a skeptic about the criticism of the administration, and America’s conduct in the War On Terror, but no longer, because now the American Society For Ethnomusicologists has spoken, and I bow. I now see the wisdom. I’ve seen the light.

HH: Are you surprised that at the conclusion of our interview, as I attempted to determine any plumb line whatsoever, and I asked him if in fact we could agree that Castro was a dictator, he got mad at me for asking the question?

JP: Well, of course he got mad at you for asking the question, Hugh. Afro-Cuban rhythm is at the heart of the ethnomusicology business. If ethnomusicologists couldn’t talk rhapsodically about the connections between African rhythm and Cuban music, they would have very little to discuss.

HH: Well, John, I guess you’ve turned me around on this. Will you be…

JP: I think you really need to bow your head in thanks to the American Society for Ethnomusicologists.

HH: I will have to do that. Indeed, I do owe them a great debt of thanks. John Podhoretz, will you be writing about this sometime soon in a John Podhoretz column in the New York Post?

JP: I don’t believe that I will, but I will be composing a 25 minute piece using the pan flute and the zither.

HH: John, always (laughing) John Podhoretz, author of Can She Be Stopped?, great to have you on, friend.

End of interview.

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