In Monday's New York Times, Bob Herbert wrote that a "malicious joke" led Swiss police to temporarily confiscate the passport and train ticket of 75-year-old French composer and conductor Pierre Boulez. What was the joke, and who played it?
Zurich police added Boulez's name to their list of terrorism suspects six years ago "after a critic who had written a scathing review of one of his performances claimed to have received a threatening phone call alluding to a possible bomb attack," London's Guardian reported last week. Boulez's spokeswoman later told the New York Times: "The person who called may have said he was Mr. Boulez. It was evidently a joke in extremely bad taste, but the critic reported it to the police, and Mr. Boulez's name was entered into their files."
As a result, Boulez's name came up as a potential threat during a routine police check of hotel guest lists in November. Three policemen woke Boulez from his five-star hotel in Basle, Switzerland, during a pre-dawn raid. They confiscated his passport for three hours. The chief of police has written Boulez an apology, and a police spokesman told the Guardian: "I hope it won't stop him coming back here again. I understand a lot of Swiss people like his music."
For the record, the BBC reported the story slightly differently, saying that "it was not a case of mistaken identity. In the revolutionary 1960s, it seems that Boulez said that opera houses should be blown up, comments which the Swiss felt made him a potential security threat." The Times says Boulez "was not being literal, and that was not what prompted" the investigation.