- By FP Staff
Tattooed pop star Justin Bieber is a Canadian, but you’d be forgiven for assuming that he’s a millennial version of the stereotypical "ugly American."
In Brazil, he raised eyebrows by allegedly visiting a brothel and leaving with two prostitutes in tow. In Australia, he riled a local mayor by vandalizing a hotel with some less than inspired graffiti.
And now, Bieber’s at it again, courting controversy by visiting Japan’s infamous Yasukuni Shrine, a controversial monument that commemorates the country’s war dead, including more than 1,000 soldiers later accused of war crimes. On Instagram, he posted photos of himself at the shrine, affecting reverence, but was soon lambasted by Chinese and South Korean fans who pointed out that Yasukuni is regarded by Japan’s neighbors as a symbol of the country’s wartime aggression. Oops.
Soon after realizing his mistake, he posted an apology, saying he was "misled" to believe that the shrine was simply a place of prayer. Lesson learned? We hope not. Bieber has far too many people left to offend to stop now.
Here’s FP’s guide to the geopolitically and historically fraught destinations Bieber might consider for future expeditions:
On the heels of a deadly avalanche that killed at least 13 guides and provoked a Sherpa boycott, Everest is a prime setting for Bieber’s inadvertently offensive antics. Last year, when Bieber visited the Great Wall of China, he had his hired help carry him up the steps. Who needs Sherpas when you already have a couple sets of broad shoulders to carry your precious tuchis up the world’s highest peak?
Kumsusan Palace of the Sun
After hitting the peak, Bieber might head to Pyongyang — in particular, to the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, the stately mausoleum of Kim Il-sung, the eternal president of North Korea, whose body is encased there in a glass sarcophagus. Kim’s son and successor, Kim Jong-Il is also interred within the massive monument, an extravagant building that stands in stark contrast to the extreme poverty of most of North Korea’s citizens. In other words: a place for Bieber to really elevate his selfie game.
The West Bank
The genius of Bieber’s ability to offend seems to lie in his complete lack of knowledge that he’s engaging in behavior that isn’t quite appropriate. So we can only hope he heads for the West Bank as soon as humanly possible. A frequent flashpoint of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the West Bank would obviously provide Instagram fodder for the Biebs. But who knows what will ensue? Someone seems sure to be offended. Perhaps he can innocently tour a SodaStream factory that happens to be controversially located near an Israeli settlement, a la Scarlett Johansson.
Finally, Bieber’s got to make a stop in Crimea, if only to see what all the fuss is about. Officially part of Ukraine but recently annexed by Russia, Crimea has a lot going on: There are Russian paramilitaries, combat dolphins, and lots of crowds wearing these really cool orange and black ribbons. Here at FP we can only dream of Bieber unknowingly performing before a crowd of Russian Spetsnaz.
Isaac Stone Fish is associate editor at Foreign Policy. Previously a Beijing correspondent for Newsweek, he wrote stories on such subjects as the Dalai Lama’s effect on international trade, China’s love affair with rogue states, and crystal meth in North Korea. His articles have also appeared in the International Herald Tribune, the Economist, and the Los Angeles Times.| Argument |
Isaac Stone Fish is associate editor at Foreign Policy. Previously a Beijing correspondent for Newsweek, he wrote stories on such subjects as the Dalai Lama’s effect on international trade, China’s love affair with rogue states, and crystal meth in North Korea. His articles have also appeared in the International Herald Tribune, the Economist, and the Los Angeles Times.| Passport |