Why Activism Leads to So Much Bad Writing

From The Atlantic:

When artists turn to activism or introduce politics into a work of art, it’s usually taken as something virtuous, an act of conscience on behalf of justice. But artistic and political values are not the same; in some ways they’re opposed, and mixing them can corrupt both. Politics is almost never a choice between good and evil but rather between two evils, and anyone who engages in political action will end up with dirty hands, distorting the truth if not peddling propaganda; whereas an artist has to aspire to an intellectual and emotional honesty that will drive creative work away from any political line. Art that tries to give political satisfaction is unlikely to be very good as either politics or art.

Last month, 92NY, a Jewish cultural center in New York, canceled a long-scheduled event with the novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen after he and 750 other writers and artists signed an open letter in the London Review of Books calling for “an end to the violence and destruction of Palestine.” The organizers insist that the event was only postponed, but that’s not how it looked. The cancellation was part of a wave of suppressed speech following the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel: Pro-Palestinian student groups have been banned, speakers disinvited, and employees fired; a ceremony honoring a Palestinian writer was canceled and an Islamic art exhibit withdrawn; the only Palestinian American member of Congress was censured. All of these acts are hostile to the values of free expression in a liberal democracy.

Link to the rest at The Atlantic

3 thoughts on “Why Activism Leads to So Much Bad Writing”

  1. Funny how the Atlantic can’t seem to manage a word about free speech norms until people start getting canceled for supporting a group that embarked on an orgy of rape and murder, broadcast it to the world, then deliberately hid behind civilians in order to try and elicit sympathy via the inevitable innocentvcasualties.

  2. The “values of free expression in a liberal democracy” seem to depend
    on WHO is doing the free expression. For example, did the Atlantic say this on Jan 7 2021?

    And the O.P. slides over the reality of the Oct 7 barbaric attack on civilians.

  3. It’s perfectly reasonable to cancel a speech from someone one doesn’t want to hear from. 92NY has no obligation to listen to anyone, even if the speakers do consider themselves artists.

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