Commentary Magazine


Conservatives Should Accept PSY’s Apology

PSY–the “Gangnam Style” rapper who performed a radical anti-American song in 2004–has now dragged President Obama into the controversy. The Atlantic reports that Obama is being criticized for shaking hands with the YouTube star after a charity concert last night:

After discovering on Friday that PSY had once spouted a lot of very not nice things about our troops, Americans may no no longer see him as the lovable horse-dancing star we thought we knew and loved — especially not American conservatives, and especially not after last night. Even though he’s apologized, PSY seems to have become (temporarily, at least) the kind of anti-American symbol that can only be killed with fire, and right-wing pundits especially want you to know that President Obama is still okay with him. The two met Sunday at the “Christmas in Washington” charity concert — two days after PSY had apologized for lyrics he rapped in 2004, which called for the killing of American servicemen. And according to the etiquette of the conservative chattering class, the president was not supposed to shake the pop singer’s hand. Of course, from the tone of the reaction, the right is actually kind of glad that he did, because it can accuse the president of more malicious intentions[.] 

To recap: Eight years ago, PSY performed a song that talked about killing American troops and their families. Needless to say, the lyrics were vile. While PSY did not write the song — it was written by a South Korean band he was performing on stage with — he did sing it, and seemed to agree with it. 

This extreme anti-Americanism was common sadly among young people in South Korea at the time. But it was also unjustified and abhorrent, which PSY now seems to realize. After the video of his performance became public last week, he apologized and praised the U.S. troops for their service.

“I understand the sacrifices American servicemen and women have made to protect freedom and democracy in my country and around the world,” said PSY, in his apology. “I have been honored to perform in front of American soldiers in recent month…and I hope they and all Americans can accept my apology. While it’s important we express our opinions, I deeply regret the inflammatory and inappropriate language I used to do so.”

It was a decent apology, and certainly more sensible than some of the comments we’ve heard from PSY’s defenders on the left. Take Glenn Greenwald, for example, who argued that singing about harming U.S. soldiers is not “the slightest bit surprising or irrational.”

If some people don’t want to accept PSY’s apology, or think his sin was unforgivable, that’s up to them. But it seems pointless. Knee-jerk anti-Americanism often stems from ignorance. In some cases, espousers come to see the error of their ways. That’s apparently what happened here. It’s not like PSY is running for national office, or has a political opinion that carries any weight in the U.S. whatsoever. Why brand him for his misguided anti-American past forever? Why not just say good for him for seeing the light, and move on?