What Destruction Of Public Art? What Slippery Slope?

I woke up today wondering  whether those who blindly applaud the carnage of the George Floyd Freakout are lying, frightened or ignorant. The late post last night on Commentary Magazine’s manifesto quickly attracted a comment from Rationalization #64 Land, where John Yoo’s Rationalization, “It isn’t what it is,” holds sway. Implicitly denying the editors’ substantive list of the mob’s acts, “Adam” wrote in part,  “Art must be propagandist or be chopped away? (What art? Where? Who? Propagandist? How?)”

The growing movement to “chop away” at the memorials and statues to men, women and events whose interaction with history and culture no longer conform to what most or many Americans consider admirable (or politically correct) has been growing for years, with the clash of protesters in Charlottesville over a Robert E. Lee statue being only the most publicized of incidents around the country. “What art?” If a citizen is so ignorant of current events,  he shouldn’t be registering an opinion until he educates himself.

Almost on cue (protesters have been very accommodating of late in confirming past Ethics Alarms analysis), a George Floyd mob in D.C. pulled down a perplexing piece of public art, the statue of Albert Pike (above), an obscure Confederate diplomat and general who wrote alternate, bellicose, lyrics to “Dixie.” Writing this morning about why the D.C. police stood by and permitted the vandalism, Althouse wrote,

[W]hy isn’t mainstream media delving into the details of why the police are not acting to protect city artworks and to restore order? Where’s the journalism?! My hypothesis is that the media want to help Joe Biden get elected, so they’re presenting a rosy picture of the protests and refraining from any negativity about the Democratic politicians who control the cities where the disorder rages. I’m sure the journalists realize that at some point the majority of Americans will prioritize their interest in law and order, but — I imagine — they hope to hold us back from that tipping point.

The second question I am musing on is when and whether there will be that tipping point, or if, in the alternative, a critical mass of oblivious or dishonest “Adams”  will keep the public somnolent until it’s too late to tip, with disastrous consequences.

I am also wrestling my fingers to the ground to prevent me from sending a “Nyah nyah nyah! I told you so! I’ll accept your apology now!” note to a brilliant lawyer friend (who I’m pretty sure has blocked me on Facebook…he doesn’t like me any more since I refuse to join the “resistance”) who ridiculed the Ethics Alarms post of five years ago that held that removing Bill Cosby’s bust from Disney’s TV Hall of Fame would lead directly to culturally bulldozing memorials to the Founders. Then I wrote in part,

There is no stop to this slippery slope, and the political correctness mob will never stop. Yesterday the House of  Representatives voted without dissent to ban Confederate flags from national cemeteries, as well as confirming the Park Service’s hysterical order that Confederate flags cannot be sold as souvenirs at Confederate army battlefields….

…Yes, it takes courage to oppose this tidal wave of political correctness—surely some in this country still have courage, right? I know it’s scary in an environment where the immense weight of the news media, the internet and the government [This was 2015, remember, and Obama’s government] are constantly teaming up to smear and destroy anyone who dares to take unpopular positions…or who tries to slow  one of the  unreasoning, destructive , runaway cultural freight trains that are bearing down on American society with increasing frequency. But prominent people stood up to Joe McCarthy, opposed popular wars, fought for civil rights, and have repeatedly risked reputation, employment, friendships and even their lives to insist on sanity, proportion and rationality when it was being swept aside by coalitions of the opportunistic, the Machiavellian and the ignorant. Surely there are prominent Americans who will stand up to this? 

It’s killing me that it would be childish to send him this today:


or this:

17 thoughts on “What Destruction Of Public Art? What Slippery Slope?

    • I wonder if they realize this is aiding and abetting a crime. Giving detailed instructions to unknown actors is no different than being part of a conspiracy to commit a crime. The engraver that makes the plates to print counterfeit money is just as guilty as the one that prints it.

      The guy who wrote this is a self proclamed anti fascist and is using what used to be decent publication to promote criminal behavior. The editor as well as the writer should be charged with crimes.

  1. The movement that began many years back to take down Confederate symbols and statues will not be stopped. Any argument about allowing such monuments or symbols to stand for purposes of historical memory, or because they represent ‘art’, will fail only because if they are heard they will not be believed. This has to do with a movement originating in a new demographic that rises to assume power. An old order is challenged by a new order. It is pretty simple. Capital will align with demographic power because that is their *market*. They see the writing on the wall and they know what *tune* they must dance to. And dance they will.

    This is the next step for Walmart America. But now the Walmart Shoppers are taking over management.

    The reason is because these statues and symbols have to do with an *identity* that is strictly ‘white identity’ (or white southern identity). They have nothing to do with Black identity in any positive of *affirmative* sense. African Americans, though there are a few exceptions, detest those statues and symbols. Those who defend them are seen more or less like those who marched with Tiki torches in Charlottesville.

    Though there is a reasoned position:

    It has become a political position that is nearly impossible to defend. Because to defend it one has to defend a white identity posture that only radical dissidents can defend. The argument, the essential argument, that defines and explains the Confederate secession has to do with ‘independence’. According to them, not how they are defined by northerners.

    But in essence it is this ‘independence’ that is simply not to be allowed today. Because it quickly becomes a radical social position. Those who read what I write know that I define a position as *White identitarianism*. That position, in the eyes of most, is thoughtcriminality. Why? Because it will bring one, very rapidly, into a group of positions that have been made illegal to think, to feel, to believe, and definitely to say.

    You seem to hope that after a little while things will calm down. That we will be able to get to a status quo ante. That everyone will take their place within a democracy that does not have identifications other than to the abstract and declared principles of Americanism. Many who write here seem (to me) to be shocked that the pluralistic American model that you really believe you committed to is being subverted. And this causes you to retrench in an expired hope, the expired Sixties dream. It looks as if you will cling to this till the *bitter end*. You’ll die on that hill, as the saying goes.

    This is what I find interesting: this juncture. The whole thing is fascinating, weird but fascinating. To watch people over the course of some years have their idealisms shattered and to watch them struggle to hold the tatters together through force of idealistic will! But the more that one clutches at the tatters, the more it falls apart.

    Mrs Q (on another thread) asked: “So what’s the alternative? Hide in a hole or comply?”

    Those are not the only alternatives. There is another one. Become militant. Become willing to claim and defend what is one’s own. To completely, and violently, reject the entire structure of will that is coming out today; to recognize that they will end *us* if they are given the chance.

    So don’t hide, come out of hiding. Don’t comply, become non-compliant.

    • Aliza
      While I will never say that one race is inherently better by virtue being thay race, I do believe it is possible to effectively argue that certain aspects of western civilization are preferable to others.

      I don’t and will never understand the notion of being proud to be something then turn around and say I have no choice in my race or sexuality. Claiming pride in something you had no hand in accomplishing is foolish and self deceiving.

      Nonetheless, it may be necessary to develop a racial narrative for whites as Latinos, Blacks, Asians and others have skillfully crafted over the years. I have come to the point where I am no longer willing to be the whipping boy because of my race.

      For all its warts the US and other European nations that have African ancestral slave histories I will stack up today’s quality of life in all those nations to be far superior for the descendants of those slaves who were brought here in chains than for those that remain in the African nations from which they came. Further, our slave history must include the role of African Kings who sold them into bondage in exchange for guns and goodies. Nothing has changed. Thanks to HRC the Lybian slave markets are budtling.

      • A given people, of a given race or ‘nation’ (in the Biblical sense) does not have to be either better or worse to have the right to define itself. To define is the operate word.

        Claiming pride in something you had no hand in accomplishing is foolish and self deceiving.

        Here’s how I look at that question. My parents gave me something essential: my very self in the sense of my body. Their own bodies are creatings that were *crafted*, if you will, over long periods of time. How they lived, how they valued some characteristics over others, how they bred, these are all part-and-parcel of what they *achieved*. I do not think that we can or should deny our physical self. We must also protect our physical self. We take care of the body, we do not abuse it. And in the best of circumstances we select proper mates and produce sound children.

        The entire notion of ‘breeding’ and ‘good birth’ and ‘cultivation of self’ are all bound up in this.

        Who and what a given people are, is a complex of factors. I do not think that one can place too much emphasis on physical structure or genetics, yet we do recognize that higher intelligence in a group tends to reflect in that group’s accomplishments.

        If you want to go that route — I don’t myself have much interest in it — you can investigate the studies of Shockley [William Bradford Shockley Jr. (February 13, 1910 – August 12, 1989) was an American physicist and inventor. Shockley was the manager of a research group at Bell Labs that included John Bardeen and Walter Brattain. The three scientists were jointly awarded the 1956 Nobel Prize]

        and P. Rushdon: [John Philippe Rushton (December 3, 1943 – October 2, 2012) was a Canadian psychologist and author. He taught at the University of Western Ontario and became known to the general public during the 1980s and 1990s for research on race and intelligence, race and crime, and other apparent racial variations. His book Race, Evolution, and Behavior (1995) is about the application of r/K selection theory to humans.]

        Nonetheless, it may be necessary to develop a racial narrative for whites as Latinos, Blacks, Asians and others have skillfully crafted over the years. I have come to the point where I am no longer willing to be the whipping boy because of my race.

        This is a very very difficult area. To be able to claim or reclaim ‘white identity’ as a positive value, to be able to feel it possible, ethical and necessary to literally teach it to our children (which is the test of what we consider good and ethical) involves an internal revolution in how we think and see.

        The forces that *oppose* that (the act of claiming such definitions, and the power it involves) have ears that are finely tuned to hearing the slightest notes of any of that, and when they do they sound the alarms. Whites, generally speaking, cower away when those alarms are sounded. Why? Decades of blame & shame.

        To recover *our self* also involves turning against the enemy of our self. Or turning that enemy back from her or his dedicated efforts. Our enemy is not some other *over there* but our enemy is that one who works to undermine the valuations that support a (proper) white or European identity. It is not the other who has done this but people among us. Our own. The worst enemy we have is that person who works against the *identification* I speak of. They are right here among us. And we are them, too.

        I have no idea how the race-conflicts and the ethnic and cultural issues will be solved. History is very long and things (borders, political definitions and boundaries) constantly shift. What will America look like in 20 years? Fifty years? But nonetheless it must be admitted that the ‘glue’ that has held the Nation together is loosening.

        • Alizia;
          Your mention of William Shockley triggered a memory. I met Dr. Shockley in 1975 when he came to the jurisdiction where I was working to give a speech at a state University. I was assigned to his security detail due to death threats he had received. He was able to give his presentation without incident, but a followup Q & A session went downhill fast and we had to evacuate him from the facility. Two of us transported him to a nearby airport where he was to catch a flight to his next engagement but found his flight had been cancelled resulting in a four-hour wait until the next available flight. We were ordered to not leave his side until he boarded the plane. During the uneventful wait we accompanied him to dinner but he was not very sociable or talkative. We asked him a few questions about the presentation he had given,and he was almost dismissive of our interest. He said he accepted the fact that many people hated him for his ideas about intelligence, race and genetics, but maintained that much of his work was either misunderstood or deliberately misinterpreted in the interests of “larger agendas,” as he put it. He was obviously a person of great intelligence. We saw him safely away on his flight, but a couple of weeks later he surprised us by sending our agency a thank you letter and mentioned the other officer and me by name. I had not heard much about his work since his death (late 1980s, I think).

          • What an interesting story. I think he had sound data but something about his personality and his delivery made his message very hard to receive. And then of course the contentious era made it more difficult still. There are many YouTube videos of his talks, including one with WF Buckley (who was not very cooperative in the conversation).

  2. When the uprising is over will we refrain from removing Nancy Pelosi’s potrait from those hallowed halls. I hope not but the portraits of all the demagogues and race baiters that led up to the second civil war be prominantly displayed with an expose on how they cared only for power.

  3. Our neighborhood, north of Atlanta, abuts a national battlefield park. One of the larger monuments there is an “Illinois” monument, erected c. 1914 (You know, that period in which any monument erected by a southern sympathizer is automatically racist for not having been done immediately after the war.)

    The monument is in a wooded, secluded spot. It’s rather too “blocky” to be toppled, but it would be fairly easy for some yahoo with a cordless angle grinder to remove a few bronze heads and arms relatively quickly and undetected, at the right time.

    If someone should do this, having taken offense to the statuary as, per his “feelings”, representative of an invading and oppressive conquering force, would its destruction now be acceptable?

    (crossing fingers that the image insertion works)

    • Willem,
      I live about “four score” miles north of that battlefield park, and about twenty-five miles northeast of another large one. A friend and I have been speculating daily about how long it will be before some Northern monuments are toppled. I would really hate to see that, but it isn’t unrealistic to anticipate it happening. I expect NPS personnel are being extremely vigilant these days.

  4. Jack, I think you’re obligated to send something to said friend, not as a “see I told you so”, but to make him defend his prior post/ reaction.

    It’s unlikely he’ll accept the current events as they are, but perhaps someone’s synapses will fire, and a stop to self inflicted myopia can begin to spread.

    Perhaps and likely not, but the truth should be proffered.

    That wisdom and $3.50 will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks, though you don’t need to buy anything if you just want to hang out there.

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