UCLA Prof: I Would Play for North Korea, But Ban Dennis Prager

North Korea symphony orchestra (David Guttenfelder / Associated Press)
David Guttenfelder / Associated Press

UCLA professor Andrew Apter, a violinist in the Santa Monica Symphony, appeared on the Dennis Prager Show Monday to defend his call for musicians and members of the community to boycott a concert where Prager will be guest conducting the orchestra.

Prager invited Apter onto the show after he and a fellow UCLA professor and violinist circulated a letter declaring: “Please urge your friends to not attend this concert, which helps normalize bigotry in our community.”

After introducing his guest, Prager asked him if he would apply his liberal principles in all circumstances, such as the controversial 2008 visit of the New York Philharmonic to North Korea.

“If you were a member of the New York Philharmonic, would you play in North Korea?” Prager asked.

“Well, that’s an interesting question,” Apter replied. “I think that that’s a decision that individual musicians should make. I would go, yes, because I see that as a diplomatic, cultural mission, much the way the opening up of China took place under the Nixon administration with orchestral exchanges.”

Prager continued: “And if a North Korean conductor shared the podium and conducted one of the pieces, along with the permanent conductor of the New York Philharmonic, you would still play?”

Apter replied: “I probably would, because this is an explicitly political mission in search of common understanding.”

Prayer answered: “So one could infer from that that you deem playing under me more morally objectionable than playing under a North Korean conductor, in North Korea, the most tyrannical regime on earth.”

“No, I’d have to object to that. I think the situations are very different,” Apter said, without further explanation.

He went onto claim that he had never called for a “shutdown” of Prager’s concert with the Santa Monica Symphony, which Prager called “not fully honest,” since Apter had called for “people not to attend, and fellow musicians not to play.”

Apter said that he objected to Prager’s guest conducting because he believed his presence was being used to entice political conservatives to donate to the symphony, whose money he did not want to earn. “We want the right to opt out if we want to.”

He also read statements that Prager had made that he considered offensive, such as describing “leftism” as a “terminal cancer in the American bloodstream and soul.” Apter said that rhetoric sent “chills” down his spine, and that it evoked calls for extermination.

He also objected to Prager’s argument that acceptance of same-sex marriage was a sign of western civilization’s decline.

Prager responded: “Did you read anything else that I wrote?” He accused Apter of cherry-picking quotes — and taking talking points from elsewhere.

“Somebody shoved a quote in front of you, and very ahistorically you have taken that as the entirety of what I have to say about homosexuality.”

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.