Kristof Does Kafka: Times Columnist’s Very Own Trial in Beijing

Is Nicholas Kristof the new Michael Moore? This week, The New York Times columnist wrote about his attempt to obtain a permit to protest at the Olympics in Beijing and, at times, his stunt feels like a remake of Roger & Me, minus Mr. Moore’s trucker hat and blue collar crusading.

Here’s how Mr. Kristoff sets the scene:

Following government instructions, I showed up at an office of the Beijing Public Security Bureau, found Window 12 and declared to the officer, ‘I’m here to apply to hold a protest.’
What I didn’t realize is that Public Security has arrested at least a half-dozen people who have shown up to apply for protest permits.

Writing his own Kafka-esque version of "Who’s On First," Mr. Kristof offers a sample of his conversation with the Chinese government representatives he encountered:

‘If I go through all this, then will my application at least be granted?’ I asked.
‘How can we tell?’ a policeman responded. ‘That would prejudge the process.’
‘Well, has any application ever been granted?’ I asked.
‘We can’t answer that, for that matter has no connection to this case.’

If that weren’t funny enough, there’s an accompanying video that includes a healthy dose of slapstick. Watch as Mr. Kristof pretends to fall asleep with a newspaper on his face and passes time doing jumping jacks. In the end, Mr. Kristof doesn’t get his protest permit, but he concludes that "China is changing: it is no democracy, but it’s also no longer a totalitarian state."


Kristof Does Kafka: Times Columnist’s Very Own Trial in Beijing