Friday 30 November 2012, 13:41 | By Andy Malt
CMU Beef Of The Week #138: The US Government v Andrew WK
You’d think Andrew WK would have run out of ways to surprise people by now, having in the past denied conspiracy theories about his identity, unveiled a dark organ-led ode to a teenage crush, and addressed a My Little Pony convention, not to mention his regular motivational speeches on his philosophy of partying hard. But when he was appointed as a Cultural Ambassador to the Middle East by the US Department Of State… that was pretty surprising.
The news was broken with a statement on the musician’s website last Friday, announcing that “the US Department of State in partnership with the US Embassy in Manama, Bahrain, has invited Andrew to visit the Middle East to promote partying and positive power”. Just in case you hadn’t quite taken that in, it reiterated that he had “been invited by the State Department to travel to the Middle Eastern country of Bahrain and share his music and partying with the people there”.
Details, so the statement claimed, were being kept fairly vague for security reasons, but it explained: “Andrew will begin his journey sometime in December 2012 and will visit elementary schools, the University Of Bahrain, music venues, and more, all while promoting partying and world peace”.
Well, they’ve tried everything else. Let’s be honest, the US sending Andrew WK over to bring about peace in the Middle East is no less bizarre than the UK sending Tony Blair. But nonetheless, I’d imagine you’re thinking that this all sounds a bit far fetched. Luckily the US State department holds a press briefing each Monday, where this sort of outlandish rumour can be cleared up.
Asked if she knew anything about it, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland acknowledged that there had been some contact with Andrew WK, but added that the collaboration was not now going ahead. She told reporters: “We had a Bahraini entity that approached the Embassy about co-sponsoring a visit by this guy, who I take it is pretty popular there in Bahrain. That was initially approved. And then when more senior management at the Embassy took a look at this, the conclusion was that this was not an appropriate use of US government funds”.
Asked if it was song titles such as ‘Party Till You Puke’ that led to the rejection, Nuland refused to get into specifics, but added: “I think the conclusion was, when they looked at the body of his work, that we didn’t need to be part of this invitation”. She added that while “there may have been some preliminary conversations with him”, it was certainly not quite the done and dusted deal that the musician’s website had claimed.
All of which suggested that Andrew WK had got a bit ahead of himself when he announced his Bahrain trip and exaggerated the whole thing. Nevertheless, he continued, telling his Facebook-based fans on Monday that the trip had been cancelled because he was “too party”.
The accusation that the US government had only had a fleeting involvement with any plans for a motivational tour of Bahrain subsequently irked the usually jovial singer. In a second statement on his website on Tuesday, he gave a detailed breakdown of his communications with the people at the State Department, going so far as to claim that it had all been their idea.
“I’m disappointed and puzzled by their change of heart and last minute decision”, he wrote. “I was personally invited to take this trip by the US Department of State and the US Embassy in Bahrain over a year ago. They came to me. The first email they sent me is dated 13 Sep 2011 asking me to give a motivational lecture in Bahrain. I was overjoyed and accepted their invitation immediately. We moved forward and completed their extensive approval process, background check, booked all the flights and travel, and had numerous phone calls with the US Embassy Public Affairs Office in Manama, Bahrain, who were handling the details”.
He added that a plane was booked to fly him to Bahrain on 1 Dec, to begin his tour the following day, and that he and his team had “received our official itinerary from the State Dept at 5:58am, on Monday, 26 Nov 2012”.
“When I was originally invited by our contact, it seemed everyone was aware of what I stand for with my positive attitude”, he continued. “They were aware of how I look and my high-energy rock music. They were excited to bring my message of living life to the fullest to the people in the Middle East. I was thrilled at the opportunity to represent my country and the spirit of inclusive and open-minded freedom that makes our nation so special and inspiring. So, for a Department of State representative to [now] say Andrew WK ‘doesn’t meet their standards’ after they invited me and planned my trip for a year… well, that doesn’t meet my standards either”.
He concluded: “You can’t judge a book by its cover. I would’ve done a great job and represented our nation with dignity and pride. Despite all these challenges, I still would love to go and I vow to continue partying, and working every day to unite our human race through the power of positive partying”.
Presumably, if we’re to take Andrew WK’s account over that of the State Department’s, it was the rush of press coverage following the rocker’s initial announcement of his cultural ambassadoring that gave political types cold feet. Perhaps prior to that senior figures in the State Department had not looked too closely at who Andrew WK was, and when pictures of him with blood pouring from his nose appeared in front of them they got a little worried.
But will we ever know what sort of job Andrew WK would have done as a Cultural Ambassador in Bahrain? Well, yes. It seems we will. Because, as he said in that there quote about, he is still keen to go. And Bahrain is seemingly still keen to have him.
Speaking to Spinner yesterday, he said: “In the face of a lot of disappointment and confusion there has been an incredible amount of support, especially from Bahrain. They’ve now invited me personally, regardless of whether or not my own country wants me to go, and we’re actively working on that. You know, I’ve never been to the Middle East so this was such an exciting trip. I was so proud and honoured, and humbled at the same time to be able to go there formally with the State Department’s invitation. But just because they changed their minds at the last second doesn’t mean that we still can’t go, so we actually are working on that and we’re very thankful and very moved by the kindness of the Bahrainis”.
So, there you go Bahrain. And if you’re still in any doubt about WK’s credentials in relation to peaceful endeavours, take a look at what he’s already done for yoga: