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E-Pluribus | October 23, 2023
The silence of the arts; diversity, equity, inclusion and … belonging? An insidious effect on Israel's opponents from the Hamas massacre.
A round-up of the latest and best musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Katya Kazakina: Artists, Where Are You?
Getting artists to weigh in on political, social and cultural issues is rarely a challenge. At Tablet Magazine, Katya Kazakina writes that this has not been the case with the current crisis in Israel - she says the silence is deafening.
The art world’s silence speaks volumes. As a Jewish woman, who’s been writing about art, artists, galleries, museums, auction houses, foundations, fairs, lawsuits for more than 17 years, I feel a mix of pain, disappointment, rage, and fear. Why are the Jews being slaughtered and the art world turns a blind eye—and goes on shopping at Frieze London as if nothing happened? Where is the solidarity? Where is the empathy? Where is the moral compass?
I have reached out to museums including the Met, the MoMA, the Guggenheim, and the Whitney; galleries including Gagosian, Pace, Hauser & Wirth, and David Zwirner; auction houses Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips.
It’s been radio silence for the first week, with only a few lonely voices, including the Jewish museums around the country and an art industry newsletter, The Canvas, speaking up in solidarity with Israel after the attack.
This week, as the humanitarian crisis developed in Gaza following Israel’s retaliation, critical voices quickly drowned out those voices of support. Just yesterday, 8,000 artists signed an open letter, declaring their solidarity with the Palestinians, but conspicuously not saying a word about the largest Jewish massacre since the Holocaust. Published in Art Forum magazine, the letter called on institutions to break their silence. The signatories included prominent artists such as Nan Goldin, Martha Rosler, Barbara Kruger, Kara Walker, and Peter Doig.
Those who remain silent are the same businesses and institutions that issued almost instant (and correct) support for Ukraine after Russia’s invasion last year, for Black Lives Matter after George Floyd’s murder; that telegraph their support for LGBT rights and minority rights through exhibitions, policies, and statements.
Read it all.
Adam Ellwanger: From “Inclusion” to “Belonging”
Diversity, equity, inclusion and … belonging? Adam Ellwanger of the James G. Martin Center writes about the “B” working its way into the DEI movement.
But an important question remains: Why did we need to add belonging to the litany of other therapeutic aspirations? Isn’t belonging implied by the terms diversity, access, and inclusion? Yes and no. Another Forbes article warns that belonging is “key” to the success of DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) initiatives. That insight is correct, but not for the reasons mentioned by Forbes.
There are psychological and institutional incentives for individuals to say they don’t belong. FacebookTwitterEmailPrintShareFor a long time, belonging was the unstated aim of DEI initiatives. But recently, “belonging” had to be separated and emphasized for political reasons. This happened because leftist ideologues slowly realized that diversity, inclusion, and access—conceptually vague as they are—are all things that can be measured. When “diversity” is merely taken to mean the satisfaction of arbitrary numerical standards for the representation of certain identity groups (e.g., blacks, Hispanics, gays, women, etc.), it is easy to show when it has been achieved. “Inclusion” is similarly measurable, as is “access.” The demonstrability of these qualities created a problem when it became clear that even a diverse, inclusive, and accessible institution might not result in perfect equity (in the narrow, dogmatic sense that is embraced by true believers in wokeism).
“Belonging” serves as an elegant, ingenious solution to this problem. How can one measure belonging? You can ask individuals to assign a numerical value to how much they feel like they belong, but those numbers won’t tell us anything. What one person means by reporting his sense of belonging as a “7” may not be what another means by the same number. As illustrated above, there are psychological and institutional incentives for individuals to say they don’t feel as if they belong.
[. . .]
In the very recent past, it was enough for an institution to be accessible, diverse, and inclusive. Belonging represents an even higher standard. Students might not feel as if they belong—even in a diverse, inclusive setting. By taking an immeasurable mental feeling and setting it up as the measure of institutional justice and effectiveness, and by placing the responsibility for securing a sense of belonging with the community rather than the individual, the Left establishes a political ideal that can never be met: total belonging felt by every member of the community. As long as that impossible goal remains unmet (and undemonstrated), our cultural revolutionaries have a readymade justification for fundamentally transforming the campus, the workplace, the family, the church, and national identity writ large, forever.
Read the whole thing.
Shany Mor: Why Hamas Atrocities Lead the Left to Hate Israel More
Rather than generate sympathy and support for Israel, the horrific Hamas terror attack has only made the country’s opponents even more hateful, Shany Mor observes in the The Wall Street Journal. Blame-the-victim is now the name of the game.
[This month,] Jews experienced the deadliest attack since the Holocaust. In response, many in the West have accused Israel of being a genocidal nation. The Washington Post’s Karen Attiah wrote on Oct. 13 that the U.S. “cannot stand by as Israeli officials engage in genocidal language and describe genocidal intent against Palestinians for the actions of Hamas.” England’s Guardian published at least three opinion pieces this week warning the same. Hundreds of international-law scholars from around the world signed a statement reporting that they’d found signs in Israel that “warn of a potential genocide in Gaza.”
One such “sign” is the Oct. 9 statement by Israel’s Defense Minister, Yoav Gallant, that Israel is “fighting human animals” Mr. Gallant was speaking about Hamas, not the Palestinian people, and the Israel Defense Forces have deliberately attempted to minimize damage to civilians in Gaza.
In one respect, this response is transparent projection. Hamas’s charter explicitly calls for the destruction of Jews and Israel. By kidnapping, raping and slaughtering innocent civilians, the terrorist group gives every indication that it believes what it says. Yet its sympathizers in the West aren’t merely projecting. Their behavior is an example of cognitive-dissonance reduction, the process by which people reconcile new information that contradicts their firmly held priors. The result is an ostensibly coherent system of thought.
Western activists for Palestinians are dedicated to two nearly theological precepts: that Israel is evil, and that no Palestinian action is ever connected to any Palestinian outcome. Each precept is grounded in longstanding—and borderline racist—conceptions of Jews and Arabs.
Read it all here.
Around Twitter (X)
Here’s a thread from the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) on the police charging a Vermont woman with “Disturbing the peace by electronic communication” for a social media post:
And finally, “stop viewing your identity primarily in terms of race” - it just might work!