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Steven Brust: “A masterful storyteller of contagious glee and self-deprecating badassery” —Skyler White

Another Way We Commodify Art

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This is, in many ways, an especially difficult time to be an artist. That, by itself, makes it important not only to continue creating, but to carefully consider some of the things that make it difficult, and how to respond to them.

There are a number of issues related to the current trend of scolding, boycotting, and gathering hate against any comedian, writer, actor, or artist who has been accused of being sexually inappropriate. But there is one piece of it in particular that’s been nagging at me.

I heard it most clearly expressed in response to a comrade’s post about Ezra Pound.  The post pointed out that Pound was virulently antisemitic, essentially a fascist, and yet a brilliant poet, whose work could reach the sublime, could deeply affect lives. It is a profound contradiction, and yet, there it is.  In the comments to this observation was a remark to the effect of, “There are plenty of other poets.”

I’ve heard this same thing a number of times in a number of forms, and it keeps eating at me: In order to hold this opinion, one most consider art a commodity. “Well, heck, there’s plenty of tomato sauce out there, why should I buy from a reactionary like Hunt? There are plenty of poets out there, why should I read a reactionary like Pound?”  It disturbs me that the answer isn’t obvious: because Pound is giving us something we can’t get from anyone else.   The things I’ve taken from Patrick O’Brien are entirely different from what I’ve taken from either C. S. Forester or Jane Austen; my life has been enriched by all three, and my understanding of human personality has been enriched by at least two of them.

And here’s another thing: What would happen if it were revealed that, for example, Shakespeare had done certain things, or had certain personality traits, that were foul and disgusting? Would that mean those who understood the world better, those who understood what it means to be human more deeply through his work would have those experiences wiped away? Or, let me put it in more concrete terms related to our own field: has the recent controversy about Joss Wheton destroyed the sense of power, the feeling of, “I can do anything I chose to!” that so many girls took from “Buffy”?

This post is not attempting to argue that individuals, by virtue of being artists, ought not to be held responsible for their actions. What I am asking you to consider are the consequences of treating works of art (in the broadest sense) as interchangeable commodities. As that idea spreads, what does it do to those trying to create art, trying to find a way to express in images and in moments something lasting, powerful, revelatory? Those who profit from art (in the narrow, scientific sense of profit), will of course always judge art by its bottom line. Do creators of artistic works really want to accept that method? Do you honestly think the world will be better if we start looking at books, at film, at comedy, as simply “product?”  And yet, “Why would I read Ezra Pound?  There are plenty of other poets” does exactly that.

I understand and sympathize with those who feel, “This person is slimy and disgusting and I’m not comfortable giving him my money.” We live in a society in which wealth is accepted as the final arbiter of quality, and none of us live outside of that society, so it is impossible to be unaffected by it. It is natural to see “giving the person money” as an important aspect of how we address art and artists. But maybe it isn’t the most important aspect? Maybe in your intense desire to “punish” someone who has done, or been accused of doing, something reprehensible, you are contributing to making this a society in which art, instead of a means to uplift us all, becomes just another product, of no more significance than a can of tomato sauce? If this attitude spreads among those who read, can those who write be immune? I do not believe so.

You say you cannot separate the art from the artist.  Maybe it’s worth trying a little harder.  I agree with art critic David Walsh: “To become whole, human beings require the truth about the world, and about themselves, that art offers.”  I am asking you to consider what will happen if these things become unimportant compared to our opinion of the personality of the creator. I beg to submit that this will be, in the long run, terribly destructive to art and artists.

 

skzb

Author: skzb

I play the drum.

44 Comments

  1. For many people I have spoken to, the revelations about Whedon *did* destroy the sense of empowerment in his work. For many others it did not. I don’t think either is in any way “wrong.”

    Louis CK went from being my favorite comedian to one whose comedy I cannot stand, and it is not because his art is a commodity (an assertion which is, to me, the OPPOSITE of being unable to separate the art from the artist – if art is an interchangeable commodity, the artist is separate from it. If the artist is intrinsic to it, clearly they are not truly separable?)

    CK’s work became repulsive because his actions showed the convictions behind his work to be hollow and insincere; he worked to strip away the pretensions of entitlement onstage while deliberately abusing them in a horrible way backstage. The art is not only not separable from the artist, it is inseperable from the offense.

    This will not be the case from all perspectives or from all instances.

    But knowing that Joss Whedon abused his power over young women to sexually exploit them certainly undermines any sense of felt sincerity to the narrative that women are powerful or empowered in his work. It has not, for me, entirely ruined my capacity to appreciate his art, but it seems fairly clear that on a deep level, he does not believe his own theses; that they are poses meant to help him in his manipulation and exploitation.

    If art is truth, acknowledging truths cannot destroy it. If art is pretense, acknowledging truth is more important than embracing pretense. Art is some of both – and not all pieces of art are at the same point on the spectrum between them.

    I do not believe that acknowledging the impact of abuse will destroy artists who do not abuse. And I don’t care if it destroys those who do.

  2. Doylist, what are you referring to when you talk about Whedon “sexually exploiting” young women? IveI never seen him accused of this.

  3. According to his ex-wife, among the many affairs he confessed to her were actresses working for him while he was their producer, starting on Buffy.

  4. An artist is more that her art, and if the art is done well, it can be much more than the artist. Shall we stop going to buildings because the architect was a jerk? I wouldn’t, if I had a need or desire to go the building. The creation exists outside of the creator, they are separate. I think it is entirely possible to love the creation and despise the creator.

  5. Whedon was accused of, and admitted to, infidelity. That’s not remotely the same thing as sexual exploitation. Unless the actresses in question come forward and say they were pressured into sex, you’re making a leap to a false accusation.

  6. There is an ages-old question in play here… two, actually. The first is “is art separable from the artist” and the second is “does art happen when the artist creates the work or when the audience perceives the work”.

    I have strongly-held opinions on both, but the very nature of the questions are subjective and cannot graduate from “opinion” to “fact”.

    I do not believe art and artist are separable. The context of the creation of a piece of art matters; the intent matters; the connection to the artist via their work matters. Art is, by its nature, an act of emotion. I emotionally value a simple dice-box made by my friend by hand far more than I would value an elaborate exotic-wood perfectly made dice box bought on Amazon, even though both are clearly works of craft and one better-made than the other. Conversely, I can no longer listen to my Bill Cosby albums without knowing that the image of the gentle, funny wise man was false. I cannot support anything that Orson Scott Card has written without knowing that Card advocates that the full power of the State (police, incarceration, legitimization of violence, tortuous “conversion therapy”) be unleashed against me. The art is still there as it is evoking a strong emotional response, but it has much less to do with the art than the artist, and is not an experience I would seek out.

    The other question is, I believe, self-answering. People who find spiritual meaning in Tolkien, in Star Wars, in My Little Pony are certainly experiencing the effects of the artistic creation. Does it matter that in none of those cases the creators of the works in question did not intend that? Does it matter that some readers of the Narnia books might not take away spiritual awakening from them even though C.S. Lewis explicitly did intend so? Does it de-legitimize the response the audience member in question is feeling? I would say “absolutely not”, as the emotion resides in the viewer at the moment of viewing, not in the canvas/book/DVD once it has left the creators’ hands. On the other hand, does whether a painting of a group of black people laboring in plantation slavery was created by an ex- (or current slave), by an idle plantation owner, or by an artistically talented historian matter? The intent of the artist: whether the plantation economy is being starkly condemned, romantically glorified or academically depicted does make a difference. The intent, whether conscious or subconscious guides the hand, and the three paintings will indeed have differences revealing the intent even if on a “macro” level they are very similar. They will be three different pieces of art. All this said, I conclude that “art” is a continuous process, happening between creator, the work and the audience; it happens at all stages and is incomplete if the chain is itself incomplete.

    So where does this leave us? I cannot speak for others, but my own belief is this: the artist resides in the art, and therefore feelings about the artist as a person (once I have information upon which to base those feelings) cannot help but influence the perception of the work, for good or for ill. I also believe that financial support is a means of conveying “I want you to keep doing this” as much as it is a means of “I’d like you to be able to eat and have a house, too”, and as I am an imperfect person there are people whom I would be just fine seeing deservedly destitute and to whom I would deny financial support.

    No “Ender’s Game” for me. Steak for Steven. Bottom Ramen for Card.

  7. There are no completely unproblematic artists (or people), just ones whose problematic sides you aren’t aware of yet. Civilization consists in the ongoing negotiations of what problematic qualities are acceptable and which are not. This negotiation starts at the level of the individual.

    As to the particular quote that bothers you, I propose another interpretation. It is not (necessarily) about commodity, but about abundance. I (and you) grew up during a time where Art was relatively hard to come by and one had to seek hard to find books that fed one’s tastes, and that just isn’t the case any more. For almost any given subgenre (say, really enriching poetry), there now exists more of it easily available than can be read by any one person in a lifetime, and people need to prioritize. Different people will have different prioritization schemes (which is good), and some of those are based on problematic aspects of the authors.

  8. Pursuing an affair with one’s employees is an abuse of power. It is exploitation. If the women didn’t feel pressure, I’m overjoyed – but it doesn’t absolve him of performing an action that, because of the power dynamics involved, is exploitative. I didn’t say he coerced or assaulted anyone, because I have not heard any accusation he did. But I know that the exercise of power in that situation is gross and unethical.

  9. Part of the problem is that we are in a transition period. In the recent past, many famous people had a wholly fictitious image. Politicians, business men and celebrities could be truly horrible people, who abused people sexually and in other ways, but they were held up on a pedestal to the public for adoration. Now we are getting a glimpse behind the curtain and are finding that not everyone we admired was truly a good person.

    Another part of the problem is what we are judging people for doing, and double standards. To the latter, it would appear that a democrat must by an absolute saint to be acceptable, whereas a republican can literally rape, pillage and steal multiple times, and he is acceptable. Pretty uneven playing field. So by setting the bar for social outrage too low for liberals, one plays into a game the GOP loves.

    To the OP, the artist is not the art. Take someone like Picasso for example. He did some great art (and some not so great, but that’s OK). From what I read, he was not a particularly nice person. https://www.pablopicasso.org/picasso-biography.jsp

    Does that mean Picasso’s art should be rejected completely? For me, I can understand what a person is like, but I still can appreciate their positive accomplishments. That doesn’t mean I give a pass on bad behavior. I just don’t want to give my personal outrage too much control.

  10. If Picasso turned out to have been a fascist, Guernica would not mean what it does – would not have the effect it does. It would be rendered a lie. He was at times personally awful, but he did not act in direct opposition to what his art communicated (in the main).

    A comedian is peculiar in that they are both the artist and the art – CK is the canvas against which his words are painted – he is the context in which they exist. Given recent events, his weird rant does not read as comedy. (Full disclosure: I have never been that into his brand of comedy, so have no real horse in the game here- I’m not losing a hero, I’m just rolling my eyes that he would have thought the recent material to be something he wouldn’t catch flack about.)

    I agree in regards to the power dynamics involved with Whedon’s doings. “Yes” does not always equal “yes” – which anyone who has had to do things they don’t want to do or risk losing their job knows. Such is the effect capitalism has on interpersonal relations. I still watch Buffy (up until they get the sudden sister, then I lose interest), and still think a lot of good has come from the show.

  11. I feel the Louis CK thing is more about celebrity than art. People want to deny him the right to being the former, deny his reach and his power. If he wasn’t an artist, an accountant let’s say, he would have been able to get back to doing his job without any issue. A good example would be to look at celebrities who aren’t artists, like YouTubers (most of the star ones produce “content”, not art). Given the same circumstances as Louis CK, people would act the same way, denounce them and try to strike down their platform. I mean, people act the same way with Louis CK, than with politicians. It implies, to me at least, that it’s got nothing to do with art.

  12. skzb

    Doylist: I was going to stay out of this and just let the conversation go, at least for a while. But now I’m curious: If two people are attracted to each other at the workplace, must they say, “You want me and I want you but we must not do what will make us both happy because one of us is in management?” Aside from the practical issues (company policy, &c) are you saying that would be a good thing for two human being to deny themselves this? It seems like an attitude that falls somewhere between Victorian and outright Puritanical.

  13. Any two people? No. Two people at different rungs of power? No. The boss who hired you, who manages you, who decides whether you get to keep your job? *that guy* is in no position to have a healthy workplace romance. The objection has nothing to do with sex, it has to do with power dynamics, the power a boss has over a worker. Politically speaking, I’m sort of astonished it needs to be said, here of all places.

  14. As long as both people really do want each other, things are fine. As Frank Zappa said, though, all too often it is, “your career will take a thud if you don’t scarf his pud.”

    As usual, Capitalism sucks here too.

  15. I very much appreciate the point about commodifying art. I’m not sure I agree with it, but it gives me a new perspective and much to think about.

    I think the underlying issue of separating the art and the artist is always an individual one, both for the person doing the separation and the artist they’re trying to separate, and it also changes in time.

  16. “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal”

    Written by a virulent anti-miscegenist. Down the memory hole with it, Winston.

  17. Jefferson is a good example. The Declaration of Independence is a great work and clearly shouldn’t be thrown out even while Jefferson had feet, calves and upper thighs of clay.

  18. skzb

    Dennis: “much to think about” is the most I can reasonably ask. Thanks.

    Nate and Steve: Yes, good point; it also extends to our understanding of political history, which is probably even more important.

  19. I think another problem with boss-employee relationships is that while both people may *enter* a relationship willingly, the power I’m balance makes *exiting* significantly more difficult for the employee.

  20. re: separating art and artist:

    It’s worth also considering what other subtle messages are buried in an artist’s work. If their worldview pervades their art, then what influences are you picking up when you ingest their art? It then behooves the reader to be aware or at least watchful for the worldview when the artist is someone who the reader finds reprehensible.

  21. “Any two people? No. Two people at different rungs of power? No. The boss who hired you, who manages you, who decides whether you get to keep your job? *that guy* is in no position to have a healthy workplace romance. The objection has nothing to do with sex, it has to do with power dynamics, the power a boss has over a worker. Politically speaking, I’m sort of astonished it needs to be said, here of all places.”

    Any political movement that demands its followers reject love in favour of theory is doomed to fail.

  22. Any working-class movement that doesn’t believe a boss has an uneven power dynamic with his employees is too falling-down stupid to lecture about theory.

  23. A theory that seeks to protect women by limiting their freedom of association and freedom of choice, even to make bad decisions, sounds a lot like patriarchy.

  24. A theory that prioritizes “freedoms”, while not recognizing how those alleged freedoms inevitably give more power to those already in power, sounds like the standard failure mode of Libertarianism.

  25. Well said, Steven Brust!!

    I feel we *must* separate the art from the artist. Many contemporary authors/artists of various kinds – I am sure not you! Actually have – if you ask me, and if truth be told – rather *unpleasant* personalities. Or at least, very *prickly* ones. (The latter oversensitivity is surely due to a mixture of vanity and insecurity.) This is in my own quite recent experience…

    And as for artists from other cultures/time periods – well surely many of them would have done/thought/believed various things we would find repellent, or absurd, or something.. An obvious example would be Christians believing that non-Christians, or the wrong kind of Christian, would go to hell. Or burning people for heresy. Things like that.

    Steven cites the interesting example – or rather hypothesis – of William Shakespeare: and what would various people do, if something “nasty” was discovered about him. Of course, we know very little about William Shakespeare’s personal life: that’s probably why the only lasting conspiracy theory about him is that he didn’t write the plays!

    And then there were all those Italian Renaissance painters and sculptors. Weren’t lots of them involved in something criminal? Chase you down the street with a sword as soon as look at you!! ☺️

    As for the definition of the word “criminal” though – Because of monotheistic religious prejudices basically: anyone gay (and male) would have been defined as a criminal in England and Wales prior to 1967! And many US states were forced to decriminalise “sodomy” by the US Supreme Court only a few years ago…

    And of course people must realise that the sexual practices, marriage ages etc differ greatly from culture to culture and era to era… We can’t judge another’s by our own standards… Marriage practices are the thing that generally differ the most between societies. Even the Christian writer C S Lewis admits this!!

    But today we have a million #metoo wiseacres trying to say what is right for all peoples and eras…. Like with Victorian painters and so on….

    Or… Maybe we have – are encouraged to have – more “sympathy” for the cultural differences of ancient peoples – eg Romans – or for “brown people” because modern white bourgeois “expect” them to be different – ie, “more primitive”. But about any Western artist from the last 150-200 years we are supposed to get all “precious” about now I suppose…

    This post is by me, Liz!! From the UK. ☺️ @oneoflokis on Twitter and Tumblr.

    liz_imp on Disqus .. (which I use to comment on wsws.org) …it’s all the same person!! ☺️

  26. What on earth is Joss Whedon supposed to have done now, btw?? Now I shall have to Google it!!

    And of course Buffy is good!! ☺️

    But as I said to someone on Twitter nearer to when #metoo first broke… You can always find nasty things, or think you do, with enough digging!

    And as for “uncovering” things… Well… I don’t tend to turn over stones that much… Because I know before I try the sorts of nasty woodlice and creepy-crawlies that live in dark crevices… (It’s called shrewd experience.) And in many countries it might be poisonous snakes!! ☺️

  27. skzb

    Some excellent discussion here: thanks to you all.

    The issue of workplace romantic relationships is worth exploring a bit deeper. Let’s give it some context: what is most common is that a male manager or owner will pressure a female worker into unwanted sexual activity with the stated or unstated threat of loss of employment. This is so common in restaurant work that it’s become a cliche, and is also horribly common in any factory work with a predominantly female worker base, such as textiles.

    Note: while that is what is most common, it is not what receives publicity today: we hear about things at a more glamorous social level and a more salubrious personal level.

    But here’s my problem: To go from an awareness of this problem to, “human beings who feel mutual attraction must refrain from acting on their attraction so long as there is or appears to be such an imbalance” is, well, absurd. Does acting on such mutual desire mean things might get messy, complicated, difficult? Well, yeah. When there are human beings involved, things get messy, complicated, difficult. But if you are actually going to stand there and say, “You two people who have fallen in love must not act on that love,” what are you even doing in politics? Please hie thee off back to religion where you belong.

  28. Alexx, it is not obvious to me how a woman’s freedom of association and choice is comparable to, say, freedom from taxation and freedom from anti-monopoly legislation.

    Mr. Brust, if I could append something to your comment (all of which I agree with): Like so many other things, what makes waves are the bad stories. “Nurse Marries Hospital Board Member and Lives Happily Ever After” doesn’t have the same pop as “Shunned Shoer Sues Shareholder After Alleged Play-for-Pay”

    Turning back to art: Listening to Der Ring des Nibelungen, does one hear antisemitism or leitmotif? Reading Call of Cthulhu, does one feel racism or cosmic horror? Having to comb through an artist’s life to determine whether he or she is ideologically pure enough to enjoy the art sounds more puritan than progressive, and more exhausting than not.

    Liz, good point on taking historical context into account… and also on the penchant of many to romanticize other cultures, applying different standards to them.

  29. I think that if people in an employer-employee relationship *fall in love*, then perhaps one or both of them will be willing to change their professional relationship in order to freely pursue their personal relationship. If people are in an employer-employee relationship and wamt to have casual sex, then, IMO, they should just not do that, as the ethical implications are too fraught.

  30. Nathan, my comparison has to do with people who take principles of “freedom” as absolute Goods, without regard for the abuses which are likely, especiall those involving power imbalances. Certainly, I agree that freedom of association and choice are,min the typical case, Good things. But, as a for instance, I do not believe that a 10-year-old and her father who “fall in love”, should in any way act upon that. I acknowledge that different individuals (and societies) will draw the line in different places, and have arguments like this about where the lines are drawn.

  31. There are many freedoms that minors do not (and should not) have full use of. Workplaces, by and large, have adults and I think they should be treated as such. A better instance might be a doctor and patient or attorney and client perhaps, though those relationships are much easier to sever than boss/employee.

    There are those who think that casual sex in the general sense is ethically wrong, and not only for religious reasons either: an unintended consequence of the sexual revolution is that rape cases are much more difficult to prosecute. As long as those people don’t try and enforce their opinion on others, I have no problem with them.

    Now that I think about it, the whole problem of workplace relations would be relatively minor back in the day when premarital sex was a big no no. Seemingly ironic that some impetuses behind the influx of women into the workplace also opened up more possibilities for sexual exploitation.

  32. skzb

    For heaven’s sake. There are those who believe men have an inherent power advantage over women; are you now going to tell us men and women ought not to become involved? Do you object to coupling across racial lines for the same reason? If so, well, you’re not in very good company.

    Economic power used for sexual coercion is evil, and needs to be fought by the organized working class, and sometimes fought out in court when things are tangled and unclear, and, eventually eliminated altogether through common ownership of the means of production. In the meantime, wagging fingers at people who are mutually attracted, or putting yourself into the position of deciding which adults may or may not become romantically or sexually involved, is, quite simply puritanism.

  33. I see it now: “One a poor Muslim bisexual, the other a Latina paraplegic with asthma. Does Tybalt think their oppressions match well enough for a relationship, or will he fight to save his cousin from exploitation? Find out at the new-new production of Romeo and Juliet!”

  34. One could argue that women have an advantage over men. ;>) I would hope that one goal in a relationship is for both people to have equal power: to be partners and friends.

  35. Ethical codes usually include language to the effect of “one should avoid even the appearance of impropriety”. IMO, in our current state of Capitalism, employee-boss relationships cannot come close to clearing that bar. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, but to me, that’s a clear line.

    I wish to emphasize that I take this as an ethical position, not one I would argue should be legally enforced. Love and lust make people do stupid, unethical stuff quite frequently.

  36. The entire point of Marxist politics is that they are about class: the personal is NOT the political. That’s why after the October Revolution, all kinds of “inappropriate” behaviour (like homosexuality) was decriminalized. Not because those people all agreed with our modern beliefs regarding sexuality (it was still common to think of homosexuality as a disorder), but because they fundamentally opposed anyone getting involved in your shit. This non-moralistic dimension of Marxism is pretty essential.

    Marxism is about the relationship between employers and employees *on a class level*, not a personal level. To tell people they can’t have a relationship because of class isn’t Marxism, it’s identity politics.

  37. Jonas:Right (off course) and, once the power dynamic of the employer-employee relationship is removed, many of these concerns vanish away. At an intermediate stage, we remove the power of the employer to harm the essential living conditions of the employee. At the end stage, the very relationship is gone.

  38. Should be “Right (of course)”

  39. A couple of recent experiences of mine: The Salvadori Dali Theater and Museum addresses the fact that Dali supported Franco and therefore fascism and antisemitism and would not denounce him or other fascists… but in the 60s created the Aliyah series of lithographs (they’re amazing) for the 20th anniversary of the foundation of Israel. I have to look at his earlier work in a different light, but my gut feeling is that he put his country before its leaders — perhaps that is unacceptable. But I still admire his work greatly.

    On the other hand… Mario Batali (see this article in New York Magazine: http://www.grubstreet.com/2018/12/mario-batalis-empire-in-the-wake-of-mario-batali.html ). Perhaps the culinary arts aren’t quite the same, as the creation is ephemeral. A meal at Babbo in the 90s is still one of my top-10 dining experiences. But I’m through with him. Until I see that he’s been divested of his restaurants, Eataly, etc., I’m not going to frequent his establishments. I learned from Molto Mario, but that kind of behavior wasn’t part of it (although he certainly could be skeevy on The Chew). His cookbooks are going to the curb.

  40. It is fairly clear that the part of a person which is capable of extraordinary creativity is distinct from, has a different source than the mosaic personality which is formed by our upbringing and interactions with humanity, with its lessons of prejudice, mistrust and fear. Even the most alert of us are infected by some of the emotional and mental viruses in our atmosphere.
    I remember picking up our sweet child at school one afternoon and seeing a mean, dark look in her eye that had never been there before. Over the next few days she began evincing a desire to inflict pain on animals. Terrifying! Fortunately, we had a homeopathic clinic in town. After a swift diagnosis we put her on Anacardium, I think it was. The nastiness vanished in less than 3 days.
    It is painful to read a book by Dorothy Sayers or Charles Williams and come across passages of rank anti-semitism or racial stereotyping. But it is also painful and humiliating to recollect some of my own behaviors and remarks. There is a darn good reason why mercy is an essential component of creation, as Plato (his description of Justice was closer to our sense of Mercy) and the Talmud describe.

  41. HHmmmm. Interesting conversation making me consider some of my ideas.

    First, I am guilty of this but don’t necessarily see it as wrong. I appreciate the Bill Cosby example above. I grew up listening to his albums and they are delightful. Now when I listen, it is always tainted by the fact that he was/is a bad guy. Drugging women to have sex is wrong, and not from a puritanical belief system. I won’t FURTHER invest my time or money in this person’s art. With Brett Kavanaugh, I did feel that a replacement would have been better. There are a bunch of conservative justices that would have served just as well and did not have the taint of sexual abuse. Why couldn’t they have just chosen another? Trump – same thing. It’s not like either of them would end up destitute if they were passed over. But we acted like it would destroy his life! For me, there are very few hard lines about judging someone else but the ones that are there are very important to who I am as a human being. For example, if I thought Mark Twain was actually being racist in Huck Finn, I would not teach it. If I thought Card was trying to proselytize for Mormonism in the Ender’s series, I would have stopped reading them. However, that is different than banning them. I believe in the idea of inoculation even in ideas. If we remove all signs of differing points of view, when some nut job – like Trump – comes along spouting nonsense I don’t have enough information to fight him off. We have to be exposed to bad ideas in order to fight them effectively. An easy example for me is the artist Mapplethorpe. He has been accused of child pornography and it is a pretty easy argument to make. However, as I understand it, this was investigated many times and they found nothing but suggestive photos. Will I ever give him money or time? Nope.But as long as he’s not hurting children, he can express himself.

    Second, I do think people need to chill a bit. I am 50 years old, average looks and build and I have been “sexually harassed” at every job I have ever had.I could go back and make accusations and try to hurt some of the worst offenders. But what’s the point? Our standards have substantially evolved in this area, thankfully, and these guys will take themselves out of the game all on their own. In fact, the worst offender in my history just got fired finally. (Note: none of this was sexual assault, that’s different.) And yet, if people were to go back to the 80s when I was in high school, they could probably make some accusations about my ignorance born out of being a middle class white girl. Should I be held accountable for using the word fag? Should i lose all credibility because I just didn’t get that there were words that were hateful in and of themselves? Should Kevin Hart STILL be punished for homophobic comments in the 90s? Which he has apologized for on multiple occasions. I mean holy shit, our president is openly racist, misogynistic and homophobic EVERY DAY and we do nothing about it! Hunting in people’s backgrounds for stuff can be ridiculous, especially when it is just words. But uncovering a pattern of behavior that still exists? We should challenge that. We should shame them for their hate and willful ignorance.We should do everything in our power to make sure they have none.

    Finally, I can see both sides on this work issue. The problem is that with a top down relationship, you never know if the less powerful is protecting the other because they want to or because they have to. If someone comes back years later and says, you did nothing after you knew, they will win that lawsuit every time. Think of the gymnastics scandal. Abuse victims protect their abusers both passively and aggressively. So I do agree that love is love and it shouldn’t matter what the dynamic is. Sex too. However, in taking that position we will fail to help some victims. That trade off seems pretty high.

    As usual, my rambling thoughts….

  42. Like a lot of social media things these days, I am late to this particular party.

    I have been watching – I have not finished it, but gotten to the tipping point – a document on Stanislaw Szukalski,

    It is, I think, a very good examination of this question. It is the art and the quality (both physical and experiential) that lead off the documentary.

    As things progress, the understanding of Szukalski as a person deepens and moves towards what many people would consider extremely problematic. In fact, this question of “can we separate the art from the artist” starts to at least loom. As I said, I haven’t finished this documentary, so I don’t know where it ends or if it ends with an answer in the context, or merely another variation on the question.

    I guess what I’m saying is – how much of a difference on the question does moving from “sexual predator” to “nazi” change the question?

  43. skzb

    Interesting question. For me, it shouldn’t change it at all. Shouldn’t.

  44. skzb

    Sandy: Good comment, thanks.

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