A Tale of Two Resignation Letters

Devon Britt-Darby

Devon Britt-Darby

Devon Britt-Darby is a writer and artist. His writing has appeared in Quillette and Areo Magazine

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62 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    “You have a seat at the table, so you should be grateful”.

    Oh, jeez. This is one of those things that goes around a lot.

    “We should actually change things.”
    “Sure! Here’s something cosmetic.”
    “Can we change something for real?”
    “You have a seat at the table, so you should be grateful.”

    (As for Museums, we had a post about the 2015 Kimono Incident. So much dumb cosmetic stuff. So little real stuff.)

    Good post.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird says:

      “As for Museums, we had a post about the 2015 Kimono Incident.”

      I love the part of the thread where you quipped that Armenians weren’t Caucasian, and Kazzy took you seriously.Report

  2. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I dissent. Bari Weiss self-canceled herself at the NY Times because she was frequently called out by colleagues for mischaracterizing internal disputes for the sake of her brand of faux-liberal contrarianism that tells the conservatives what they want to hear so it comports to their most deeply held stereotypes of liberals.

    There is no first amendment right to being well-paid columnist at a prestigious publication. Being a pundit/columnist who gets paid six figures to wank off is probably as plumb and bullshit job as any can be. The whole thing about “cancel culture” is a bunch of people deeply worried that their gravy train is about to end.Report

    • I’m torn on the Weiss for many of the reasons you just raise. Not because of her in particular, opinion writers are plentiful and I would frankly take most of our folks over the rooster of the Grey Lady’s current op-ed page, but the avatars some are making this case to be are interesting. It is indeed possible to both hold a cushy, self-indulgent fluffery of a job – and as you note performatively walk out of said job for the brand boost of your next venture with Sullivan or whoever it may be – and also be in an abusive work situation. Weiss in particular drives reactions from folks, granted as you point out often purposefully and seemingly to revel in the reaction. I fall somewhere in the fact that she was undoubtably treated horribly by folks that have a well-documented track record of doing so, probably is exaggerating it a bit for her own purposes, and think just about everyone got what they wanted from this fracas. No one thought she was long for the NY Times, both parties get to be self-righteous in the parting, and here we are almost two weeks later still talking about it.

      Which brings us to Saul’s latter point: “cancel culture” sure does look like gatekeeping and rearranging of various gravy trains under new nomenclature when you zoom out a bit. Media is doing a shaking-out of what it is, and elite media like the NYT has more than a little “in club” to it. Which makes them both a target and distributor of whatever “cancel culture might be”.Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Andrew Donaldson says:

        A newspaper editor is the curator of the lens which describes our world. Both a museum curator and newspaper editor have as their job description, the mission of deciding whose story gets told, what voices are heard, and which are not.

        And they both live and swim in the waters of a culture which has taboos and sacred things and their work always reflects that.

        Turning down this work or that isn’t called “cancel culture” but it functioned to screen out things which were considered undesirable.

        In order for Bari Weiss or Kelli Morgan to have been hired in the first place, a slew of other writers and curators had to be turned away, their voices effectively silenced.

        A lot of the furor does seem to be anxiety over who is doing the screening and curating, rather than the fact that screening and curating is happening.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Andrew Donaldson says:

        The thing about Bari Weiss that makes it hard for me to sympathize with her is that she says so many things that are clearly wrong and easily corrected. During the Cotton affair she made some tweet about how it was a fight between staffers under the age of 40 who were “woke” and older staffers who understood the the values of free speech and debate. She was called out on this by a lot of NY Times employees who said plenty of older staffers thought the Cotton op-ed was dangerous too.

        I think you misinterpreted my cancel culture comment and I probably wrote it in a poor manner. I think a lot of the people who fret and tut tut about cancel culture are rather indulgent and afraid that their gravy train might end. The whole Harper’s open letter thing felt very indulgent. It was not a clamoring of free speech. It felt like a lot of established and comfortable people worried that they might not be so comfortable for much longer and might need to produce real work.

        There are times when cancel culture may be excessive and argued too much with a sledgehammer and not enough with a ball point pen. But I also feel like there is this strange grift on op-ed and free speech where liberals/left are expected to listen to opinions that make them uncomfortable or that they disagree with but no one expects the same of conservatives. No one is asking NRO or the Wall Street Journal or NY Post to publish opinions from AOC or Elizabeth Warren. Yet would somehow be wrong if the Times did not publish reactionary fascists like Tom Cotton. This is absurd. But there is also clearly a market for someone like Weiss, a supposed liberal or at least not conservative who tells conservatives (usually middle-aged and old white guys) that every negative stereotype they had about liberals is real. Contrast this with Jennifer Rubin who seems to have undergone a real and sincere political conversion because of Trump but is still distrusted by a lot of liberals because of all the Obama bashing she did, especially in 2012.*

        *I don’t know if she ever apologized for this to be fair but she seems to have undergone a real political conversion because of Trump and is possibly a good variant of the reasons why Democrats did well in elections from 2017-2019. But one key difference between liberals and conservatives seems to be that conservatives love a good heretic/apostate story and liberals distrust johnny or jane come lately types.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      The entire debate around cancel culture just seems like a chattering class debate. If you ask the average person on the street about this, you would probably get a lot of blank stares in return.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I actually asked my non on-line wife about this a couple days ago. She’s never heard of CC. It’s an on line thing that is used for attacks and debate control. There is a small nugget of truth in the criticisms of CC. But most of it is as disingenuous that about PC.Report

        • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to greginak says:

          When I say that this is a chattering class debate, I’m aiming it at both sides. They are all behaving as this is more important and influential than it is. The assumption is that whoever vanquishes the other side through their cunning arguments will get the masses of people to follow along with them.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to greginak says:

          “have you heard of Cancel Culture?”
          “no, I haven’t.”
          “have you heard of that thing where someone tries to get people fired because they said things that were homophobic or racist?”
          “oh, isn’t that the whole Politically Correct thing from the Nineties? Are we still doing that? I thought it was mostly a joke.”Report

          • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to DensityDuck says:

            “Have you heard of Cancel Culture?”
            “No, I haven’t.”
            “Have you heard of that guy who was forced to resign from a religious group for publicly calling his female coworker a “f*cking b*tch?”
            “Yeah, but I thought that was just what my grandmother called ‘Good Manners’.”Report

    • Devon Britt-Darby Devon Britt-Darby in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Saul, I’m not entirely clear on what in my article you’re dissenting from, since I didn’t bring up either the first amendment or cancel culture. I don’t work at either NYT or the Indianapolis Museum of Art and have no direct knowledge of the truth of either Weiss’s or Morgan’s claims about what it was like working at either place. But it’s clear that only one of them (Weiss) says her fellow co-workers were calling for her to be fired, posting ax emojis by her name, etc., and that only Weiss claims her bosses were infringing on her “curatorial” freedom (meaning her freedom to write and assign pieces as she saw fit, while Morgan doesn’t claim her acquisitions or exhibitions were denied and indeed was given free reign to denounce her institution both on its website and in the press. I’m no devotee of Weiss’s work and think criticism of her stances and possible hypocrisy is fair game, but I’ll reiterate that the differences between what she says drove her to quit and what Morgan says drove her to quit are stark. I assume they’ll both be okay — Weiss probably quit just before the support-writers-on-Patreon market got oversaturated — but Morgan can probably still write her own ticket, given the overwhelming pressure on museums to diversify their staffs.Report

  3. Avatar Rufus Hickok says:

    I like this post a lot because it tells me about some things I definitely would have missed otherwise.

    I do wonder isn’t an assistant curator really different from an editorial writer at a national newspaper? I can’t imagine I’ll ever be asked to write editorials for the Times, but if I did, I’d just expect to be called a moron and a Nazi and worse, and ya know the needle of caring wouldn’t move for me because it never does anywhere else online.

    As an assistant curator, your job’s gotta be a lot different, although it’s not clear to me if it would be to educate the public or get the butts in the seats, so to speak.Report

    • Devon Britt-Darby Devon Britt-Darby in reply to Rufus Hickok says:

      Glad you enjoyed the post, Rufus. I’d say the jobs are broadly similar in the sense that both positions involve “curating” content for the public (Weiss, remember, was not only a writer but an editor who assigned guest op-eds), but the differences are real and, I would argue, instructive. You would expect the op-ed writer/editor to have much more freedom, since they’re theoretically insulated from pressure from advertisers, etc., whereas curators generally have to suck up to wealthy patrons/board members in order to get their acquisitions and exhibitions funded. The fact that Morgan was allowed to curse out board members and denounce her museum’s “white supremacy” online suggests she had a lot of free reign.

      Another difference is that newspapers are responding to the moment while museums, especially encyclopedic ones, move slowly — and frankly should move slowly. After George Floyd was killed, too many of them bowed to Woke Twitter — i.e., made Twitter their assigning editor, as Weiss alleges has happened at NYT — and issued all these hollow statements meant to show how down they were with Black Lives Matter, satisfying literally no one in the process, including the people they were trying to placate.Report

  4. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    Somehow, both of these incidents remind me of this week’s altercation between AOC and Ted Yoho.

    In all these cases, a woman was subjected to a hostile and belittling series of comments by male coworkers. What they have in common is that these weren’t threats, but just the creation of a hostile environment of criticism.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      Plenty of women criticize Bari Weiss too. She is all around easy to critique!Report

    • Devon Britt-Darby Devon Britt-Darby in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      The gender of the board member who belittled Morgan was not disclosed, though it wouldn’t shock me if they were male. I also don’t know the makeup of the museum’s marketing department, but at many institutions they actually tend to be pretty heavily staffed by women. Do we know that it was mostly men attacking Weiss on Twitter/Slack channels?Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Devon Britt-Darby says:

        Happy to stipulate that none of these may have been gendered.

        My point in the comparison was to frame all three in terms of a hostile environment, instead of “cancelling”.

        The term “hostile environment” comes out of the HR world, and usually requires some sort of threshold to distinguish it from merely the stress and abrasion that occurs with ordinary criticism and interpersonal conflict.

        In all the case of Weiss and Morgan, I honestly have no way of knowing if the level of stress was merely ordinary criticism, or if it crossed some sort of line into unreasonable hostility.

        In AOC’s case, the conflict was public and visible to everyone. And in this case, she had the power and willingness to respond and defend herself.

        But it also demonstrates that not everyone has such an ability; If Yoho had been a senior member of her own party and able to promote or destroy her career, the ending might have been more like Weiss and Morgan.Report

        • Devon Britt-Darby Devon Britt-Darby in reply to Chip Daniels says:

          Gotcha; thanks for clarifying (I didn’t mention cancelling in the article, though a number of commenters have). I guess I need to force myself to find and watch the offending encounter between AOC and Yoho. I’ve seen the replays of her speech denouncing him, and my thought was “who cares?” – but it’s interesting that you bring up the party dynamics. As I recall, AOC joined a protest in Pelosi’s office either just before or just after taking office and didn’t get severely punished for it beyond Pelosi making fun of her “Twitter world.” I do wonder how effective AOC will actually turn out to be as a legislator, but that’s another matter.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      The Yoho-AOC thing is a fake controversy that Ocasio-Cortez manufactured for self-aggrandizement purposes. If he had called a male colleague a “fucking asshole,” nobody would have cared. Ocasio-Cortez wasn’t concerned about decorum when one of her fellow travellers called to “Impeach the motherfucker [Trump].”

      The only reason anybody cares about this is that left-wing feminists have spent decades pushing the narrative that “bitch” is inherently misogynistic, when in reality it’s just the female equivalent of “asshole.” Women call each other bitches all the time; if you’re sufficiently motivated in your reasoning, you can tell a story about internalized misogyny, but you’ll just be adding to the mountains of evidence that modern left-wing feminism is an intellectual joke.

      Personally, I wouldn’t call a feminist a bitch, because I know they incorrectly perceive it as validating their ideology, but if a man calls a woman a bitch in circumstances under which he would call a man an asshole (as in this case), it’s not evidence of misogyny. It’s just evidence of having a beef with that particular woman.

      In short, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a massive wanker, though to be fair that’s in the job description.Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        It isn’t a controversy. He acted like a petulant adolescent boy, and she responded with an eloquent speech putting him in his place.

        He made himself look the fool, and she walked away with grace.Report

  5. Avatar InMD says:

    I actually don’t see a problem wirh this. Instead of trying to get someone else fired and/or ‘canceled’ she removed herself from a situation she couldn’t handle. It’s also well within her rights to criticize the place on whatever grounds she wants.

    She is better off outside of the institution and I daresay the institution may be better off without her. With the criticism of ‘Western medicine’ I can only assume she was a safety hazard in the current environment. Witch-doctor serums and bone amulets don’t protect against the ‘rona.Report

    • Avatar Aaron David in reply to InMD says:

      With Weiss, it was often blatant anti-Semitism and raw hate that caused her to flee the sinking ship. Morgan seems to have thought that her opinions were more important than the mission of the museum. But as you say, she wasn’t fired and left of her own regard. Now, maybe she can start a museum in her own vein, and showcase the things she feels are right.

      It would be ironically capitalistic.Report

      • Avatar InMD in reply to Aaron David says:

        Oh I think we’re well on our way to ‘woke’ museums to rival the caveman and dinosaur stuff evangelicals were doing 20 years ago. The only reason they might be more dangerous is that the press doesn’t know how to laugh at stuff like this anymore, not now that rejection of intellectual rigour is a goal instead of something to be ashamed of. When we’re relying on the World Socialist Website to straighten out the facts on the 1619 project it’s fair to assume we’ve got some problems.

        As for Weiss I lean towards Andrew’s comment above. Don’t take that as a defense of NYT. Just an acknowledgement that their mission has changed to one of customer satisfaction, at least as far as the editorial pages go. There’s still some journalism there I think but it becomes more incidental by the day. She seems like a smart person, my disagreements with her on (American support for) the Israelis annexation projects aside. She knew the situation there. We all do.Report

        • Avatar Aaron David in reply to InMD says:

          Indeed. And this is why I refer to the NYT as a sinking ship. Not that it won’t be visible for years to come, but we can see the wreckage of what it used to be.

          In any case, in my eyes at least, this is the downward arc of Cancel Culture as it starts to feed on itself. And when someone states that they don’t see the issues here, I can only say what seems obvious to me, that we are allowing the erasure of whole lines of thought, but only from the visible ears. These thoughts that are so, so dangerous are still out there, only they are preserved as samizdat. Hidden missives that go undetected, and thus unanswerable.

          I was talking to my wife about the 2016 election the other day (bear with me for a second) and to a certain point, she still could not wrap her head around the idea that there could be so much hate and dislike for the, for lack of a better term, left. That Trump could be elected. And this is from someone who has always worked for R1 research universities. There is a paucity of thought at this point running counter to the “accepted” culture, and it creates serious blind spots. I am fairly sure that this is the consequence of Cancel Culture. And it has been going on for a lot longer than we have realized, and now it is coming to the cultural fore.

          So, all that to say that no, the press cannot laugh at it in the way they were able too with the conservative Christian right of the previous days. Mostly because they have had all conflicting thoughts removed from their world.Report

          • Avatar InMD in reply to Aaron David says:

            I have a theory that cancel culture is more symptom than disease. Be warned, semi-Marxist screed coming and I reserve the right to disavow it any time.

            Our history is such that we have never had a strong class consciousness. To the extent we’ve ever had one it was always complicated by our racial history, approach to unionization, and now globalization.

            As a result the upper-middle class cohort that has embraced this stuff has no sense of itself. This is compounded by social atomization, social media, and all the other forces across society that make it easier and easier to live in a bubble. Not a hill I’m willing to die on but I have a weird feeling that all the PoMo intersectionality stuff is what class warfare looks like in a country where class most definitely exists but is really hard to define.

            As long as we’re comparing notes on the political analysis of wives mine comes at it from a ‘wtf is happening to the Democratic party’ place. She grew up poor, raised by a single mother, etc., and in a pretty hardcore blue collar partisan-D environment. She’s nowhere near becoming a Republican but I can tell she feels burned by the perception of a bunch of spoiled rich kids telling her how she has to think about everything. The press are mostly from and definitely led by that class, and don’t even know it, including the members who aren’t white. The whole culture producing sector is to varying degrees in the same boat.Report

            • Avatar Aaron David in reply to InMD says:

              Well, Marxism, and to a certain degree, PoMo are both useful tools to look at various issues and thus no need to apologize. I did read a comments section discussion recently where someone who was familiar with the core tenants of continental philosophy and how it feeds PoMo and from there critical theory, could not understand (and thus initially rejected) the author’s claims on how this whole issue started.

              But, I do think your theory holds water and is another lens through which to look at current events. And, as we aren’t used to dealing with the current level of class mobility, along with having destroyed many of the smoothing institutions we had built up (churches, universities) following a major and quite destructive economic bust, we are at sea.

              From my vantage point, I am starting to see signs of pushback on this most destructive ideology, and both letters mentioned in the post are signs of that, Weiss much more than Morgan, but hers is telling. This may be a way of saying that we are moving into a conservative phase of culture at the moment (something I am convinced of) but it might be a bit premature to call it. I don’t say because I am a conservative, but simply that what goes up, must come down. We have seen this happen before in history, but seem shocked that it could happen to us.

              One of the things I am most fervently in the belief of is that Social Justice is the rock that the ship of academia will crash on, sadly. It is the most polarizing, anti-intellectual, and bigoted fad to come down the pipe in a long while. Couple that with structural challenges that are well known and you have a recipe for disaster in the field. Along with your astute analysis is the simple demographic fact of generations booming and busting. And while that might seem an insignificant fact, it has lead the university system to have a reach far beyond its grasp. To keep the money flowing, too many half-assed people were introduced to the academic world, both student and teacher, and now that bird is coming home to roost.

              I think our wives would find much to agree on, and much history in common.Report

        • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to InMD says:

          Why do you assume a “woke” museum would be like a Creationist museum, that is, devoted to propaganda and devoid of intellectual rigor?

          Despite all their “intellectual rigor” the museums and history books I grew up with were chock full of distortions and politically motivated omissions.

          None of them mentioned Sally Hemmings, all of them complied with the Dunning school of Confederate propaganda and I was in my 40s when I first heard about the Tulsa Massacre.

          I’m not advocating for some Soviet style political control over history and culture; But we should be willing to accept that much of what passes for objective scholarship is told from a very parochial and warped perspective.

          I’m reminded of the art museum battles of the 19th century, where the various salons maintained control over what could or couldn’t be exhibited, until eventually they were challenged by the likes of Manet.

          The criticisms of the Salon by the Impressionists were every bit as fiery and vitriolic as the dustup between Ms. Morgan and this museum, and there was as much handwringing by the art patrons of the day over the threat posed to art by the young irreverent painters like the Impressionists.

          Or the battles between the Art Nouveau and artists and architects in Europe and their establishments, where the “New Arts” were used by the burgeoning socialist movements in Belgium and elsewhere as a direct challenge to the existing aristocracy.

          Today we look at Art Nouveau and Impressionism and see nothing but pretty lamps and beautiful flower fields; But in their day they were every bit as threatening and “woke” as anything Ms. Morgan was promoting.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

            I imagine that a “woke” museum would be pretty minimalist.

            “Exhibit removed for fear of offending people.”
            “Exhibit removed in order to return statue to country of origin.”
            “Exhibit removed due to appropriation concerns.”

            “Please visit the gift shop.”

            (gift shop closed, due to issues with products being made in Taiwan.)Report

            • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to InMD says:

              Did you click through the link, or just take Byron’s snark as the stopping point?Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                I looked at the screen shot of racial stereotypes. It’s like I’m living in South Park.

                The website is of course incomprehensible gibberish. They can’t talk their way out of the fact that they are this stupid. This is a Smithsonian institution and it can’t do better than jokes that wouldn’t make the cut for stuff white people like.Report

          • Devon Britt-Darby Devon Britt-Darby in reply to Chip Daniels says:

            You’re absolutely right about the threatening nature of 19th-century art, from Manet to Art Nouveau, to the establishment of the time, but not about Morgan’s brand of wokeness. For one thing, the politics of many of these artists was quite heterogenous; e.g., they were on different sides of the Dreyfus affair, and there are plenty of them we’d be insane to take policy prescriptions from, no matter how much we admire the art they produced. Museum curators who demand that we follow the political agendas of the artists of today just because they’re artists are on shaky ground. But also, museum-related wokeness often has little and sometimes nothing to do with what art is and isn’t being shown. A lot of it is consumed with staffing issues and box-checking exercises, with demanding that museums create or expand diversity and inclusion bureaucracies, etc. As for intellectual rigor, the critical theory which Morgan uses as her central operating principle starts with its conclusions – that white supremacy, misogyny, transphobia, etc., account for everything – and works its way backwards from there.

            And the sad scramble this sends museums into often doesn’t even address serious issues right under there noses. Last time I visited the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, for example, I could read virtue-signaling signage explaining the importance of their all-gender restrooms, but the object label for Turner’s Slave Ship painting still hadn’t been updated to reflect something scholars have known for years – that a few decades before painting it, while the debate was raging in Britain over abolishing the slave trade, he had invested in a Jamaican venture that was entirely dependent on slave labor.Report

            • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Devon Britt-Darby says:

              But I notice how “wokeness” is used as a discrete term when it actually is a vague, nebulous term which can encompass nearly anything one wants.

              Critical theory, like any theory, is a collection of ideas which can be independently analyzed and attacked or defended.

              Your example of white supremacy counting for “everything” wouldn’t it be possible to analyze it and arrive at the conclusion that white supremacy counts for a lot, but not “everything”?

              And in order to arrive at that conclusion, wouldn’t it be necessary to have the diverse voices of the excluded be included?

              Which is the central idea here, that our idea of history can’t just rely on the perspectives of one gender or race because, since far from being an objective intellectually rigorous practice, it is blinkered and distorted.Report

              • Devon Britt-Darby Devon Britt-Darby in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                I’m not sure what gives you the impression that I think we should rely on the perspectives of one gender or race. It’s pretty clear to me that women and African Americans are among the most important artists of the 20th and 21st centuries, for example, and that in some cases female and black curators and art historians have brought them to our attention. But by the same token it’s hardly the case that women share the same perspective, that black people share the same perspective, etc. In the latter case, however, it has been argued by some “black art experts” that that should be the case. See Darby English’s excellent “1971: A Year in the Life of Color” for an account of just how contentious disagreements among black artists of the period were on matters both political and artistic. If you don’t want to buy his book, I’ve got an essay drawing on it coming up supposedly soon in Arc Digital, though it’s been stuck in the queue for three weeks, probably because they keep publishing articles debating whether cancel culture exists or not. 😉

                I very much support diversifying perspectives on art history, but that’s not what critical theorists and museum wokesters are calling for. They want their perspective to be the only game in town not just when it comes to art and how to interpret it, but museums’ stances on Black Lives Matter, which is calling for a whole set of policies that most people chanting the slogan aren’t even aware of.
                You can correct the blinkered, distorted perspectives of the old art history books without signing off on an even more blinkered and distorted ideology. And if critical theory were so rigorous, it wouldn’t have been so easy for Helen Pluckrose, James Lindsay and Peter Boghossian (sp?) to pull off the grievance studies hoax, in which they were able to publish academic paper after academic paper by, yes, starting from preposterous conclusions and working their way backwards. Papers which, in some cases, were cited by others and in at least one case won an award.

                Art museums currently enjoy a level of public trust from people of widely varying views that universities, the news media, and other institutions don’t. They won’t for long if they keep caving to the demands of people who have been very clear about the fact that they want them torn down next–and that they won’t be placated. That SFMOMA curator who supported lots of black artists and sold a Rothko to buy $50 million worth of work by artists of color (a move I support)? He’s gone for a couple of microaggressions that could only offend people looking for any excuse to take him out. If that’s the art world you want to live in, you’re in luck.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Devon Britt-Darby says:

                I agree wholeheartedly with your contention that there is a diversity of opinion among black and female voices.

                But then why should we accept the contention that there is a single agenda among “critical theorists and museum wokesters” and further, why should we believe that BLM is “is calling for a whole set of policies that most people chanting the slogan aren’t even aware of”?

                Lets stipulate that among these groups of people there are plenty who do advocate illiberal or foolish positions.

                But that leaves plenty more whose ideas and aims are worth engaging in with good faith.Report

              • Devon Britt-Darby Devon Britt-Darby in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Black Lives Matter’s website calls for defunding the police (a wildly unpopular position, including among African Americans), dismantling “cisgender privilege” (what all does that entail?), and disrupting “the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure.” While people may in good faith support those positions are not positions museums should be knowingly or unknowingly signing off on just because they’re being pressured to start having official takes on hot-button issues.

                It is very difficult to envision a curator with dissenting views having the freedom Glenn Loury had to dissent publicly from Brown University’s “Dear Colleague” letter — https://www.city-journal.org/brown-university-letter-racism — even as other curators demonstrably have the freedom to publicly denounce their institutions as bastions of white supremacy. Curators aren’t even free to opine on their own Instagram feeds that maybe toppling every statue you can get your hands on isn’t the greatest thing since sliced bread.

                Yes, there are good people with good ideas involved with BLM, but its anarchic structure, which by its very nature leaves it wide open to illiberal, foolish, incoherent, and contradictory positions, makes it something museums should not endorse. Nor should they infringe on their curators’ freedom to speak out either in support of or against BLM or any other political entity. Nor should artists’ political views, whether left, right, or center, be disqualifying (or for that matter sanitized).Report

    • Devon Britt-Darby Devon Britt-Darby in reply to InMD says:

      I agree that she deserves a modicum of credit for not calling for Venable to be fired (while many of her fellow travelers ARE calling for museum directors to be sacked from coast to coast). But there was a scorched-earth tenor to her very public resignation that certainly won’t make it easier for Newfields to make further progress in diversifying its staff or its collection. E.g., let’s say you’re an art patron who owns lots of African American art, and you’re thinking about giving your collection to a museum for the public to enjoy. Do you give it to a museum that’s just been denounced as a white-supremacist hellhole?Report

      • Avatar InMD in reply to Devon Britt-Darby says:

        I guess it depends on how this cultural moment plays out. Maybe it’s the optimist in me but I have to think there’s a point where institutions and contributors to them stop blinking at ever wilder assertions with no evidence supporting them.Report

        • Devon Britt-Darby Devon Britt-Darby in reply to InMD says:

          Let’s hope so, and that the point at which they do so doesn’t come too late. A lot of museums are teetering on the brink of collapse, what with covid and a global recession, and activists have decided now is the perfect time to make them divert their energies and resources away from what they need to be doing to survive.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to InMD says:

          The issue is that the social-justice movement has picked an issue that you cannot argue against. Everything they do is In The Name Of Anti-Racism, In The Name Of Anti-Hate, and that means anything you say against them is Pro-Racism, Pro-Hate.

          So it’s really hard to say “hey, you’re saying that this is racist but it’s maybe not,” because now you’ve got to explain how you aren’t trying to say that Racism Isn’t Bad or that Your Hurt Feelings Aren’t Important or that We Shouldn’t Always Be Trying To Improve.Report

  6. Just a few days ago, Tucker Carlson falsely accused the New York Times, which was working on a story about Carlson’s history of sexual harassment, of planning to publish his home address. In doing so, Carlson named and challenged his viewers to discover the home address of the reporter, which, unsurprisingly, happened.

    Does endangering a reporter’s physical safety for writing a story critical of you count as cancel culture?


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