March 14, 2022

Canceling Russians

Soprano Anna Netrebko withdrew from her future engagements at the Metropolitan Opera rather than repudiate her support for Russian President Vladimir Putin… [Met General Manager Peter] Gelb had said [earlier] that the Met would not engage artists who support Putin.” AP News

“The Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra has removed Tchaikovsky from its programme of its upcoming concert ‘in light of the recent Russian invasion’… The 1812 Overture was written to commemorate the successful Russian defence against Napoleon’s invasion in 1812, featuring cannon fire, chimes and a brass fanfare. The piece was due to be performed alongside another militaristic work by Tchaikovsky: his 1876 Marche slave, written to celebrate Russia’s involvement in the Serbian-Ottoman War. The composer’s Second Symphony was the final piece in the programme…

“This is just the latest in a series of concert and festival cancellations due to the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.” Classical Music

Many on all sides argue that the cancelation of Russians has gone too far:

“I denounce the Putin government, and I despise its vicious war on Ukraine. But I love Russian art and culture (especially Russian religion), some of which are among the greatest treasures of humanity. What kind of animals convinces himself to hate the works of Dostoevsky, Rachmaninoff, Tolstoy, Stravinsky, and so many other works of staggering depth and beauty, because of politics? I’ll tell you what kind: the kind of animals who ran the Soviet Union, and who persecuted artists who did not follow the approved political line…

“Don’t you see what’s happening here? We start out by dehumanizing others for their nationality or ethnicity, and we end up dehumanizing ourselves. We may not be able to stop Putin from destroying Ukrainian cities, but surely we can prevent him from destroying our minds and our hearts.”
Rod Dreher, American Conservative

“It’s stupid to balk at playing the 1812 Overture — a tribute to heroic resistance against an army of conquest — in the name of showing solidarity with Ukraine. But it’s worse than stupid to decline to play it for fear that the philharmonic might be accused of sympathies with Russian warmongering… At least they weren’t canceling Tchaikovsky altogether, just one of his compositions. Far more obnoxious is what the Montreal Symphony Orchestra did to a Russian piano prodigy named Alexander Malofeev — who’s spoken out against Russia’s war…

“When do we reach the phase of this moral panic in which people post ‘No Russians allowed’ signs in their store windows?… ‘People have kicked in our door at night,’ said one of the owners of Russian Samovar, a restaurant in midtown Manhattan. ‘We have people on the telephone calling us Nazis.’ She’s Russian — but her husband, also a co-owner, is Ukrainian. What is the point of all this? Do the cancelers and vandals think they’re ‘doing their part’ in the great global effort against Putinist fascism by harassing random people of Russian ancestry?”
Allahpundit, Hot Air

“Stop boycotting random Russian things. It’s not helping. You could even argue it is making things worse. Let’s start with a familiar target: Russian vodka. What should we do about it? Well, less than 1 percent of vodka drunk in the U.S. comes from Russia. Stoli is made in Latvia. (Poor Stoli, desperately rebranding this week from ‘Stolichnaya’!) Smirnoff is made in Plainfield, Illinois! I can maybe see an argument for steering clear of Russian Standard vodka, which is owned by Roustan Tariko, an honest-to-God oligarch. But even decisions like that have unintended consequences…

“There’s a place for individual and collective boycotts, including cultural ones. The cultural boycott of South Africa from the 1960s through the 1980s helped to delegitimize the apartheid government of the era. But even that boycott shifted, over time, from an outright ban on all cultural exchange with South Africa in order to allow South African artists to perform abroad, where they could spread the word about the evils of apartheid. And as time goes on, there will be plenty of opportunities to stop giving money to the oligarchs on whose support Vladimir Putin depends. But right now? Randomly boycotting any old business with a Russian-sounding name is not going to end the war in Ukraine.”
Dan Kois, Slate

Putin’s regime stands out for its willingness to hunt down and brazenly kill those who oppose him. Russian intelligence agencies are widely believed to be responsible for the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian spy who died of radiation poisoning in 2006 after being dosed with polonium-210 in London, and the poisoning of former agents Sergei and Yulia Skripal with a Novichok nerve agent in Salisbury. It’s worth noting that both attacks took place on British soil, demonstrating Moscow’s willingness to strike at dissidents and political opponents outside its borders…

“Bad things often happen to critics of the Russian government, even if their deaths can’t be conclusively traced back to the Kremlin… If Russians freely want to denounce Putin and his war, their courage for doing so should be praised and celebrated. But I’m uncomfortable with demanding that citizens of an authoritarian country must denounce a regime that is more than willing to kill those who criticize it, even if they live overseas. And I worry that treating all Russians like the enemy will do more to shore up Putin’s regime than it will to undermine it.”
Matt Ford, New Republic

A libertarian writes, “During the Cold War, American athletes proudly competed against the best of the Soviet Union, in the Olympics and elsewhere. These competitions were widely known to be formal propaganda vehicles for the Soviet empire, and everyone realized that many of the athletes supported the regime. But America didn’t try to cancel them — instead, it proudly competed against them, hoping to show the superiority of American values…

“The U.S. also welcomed Soviet musicians and other performers, hoping they would see and learn from the American way of life. The problem, at the time, was that not enough Soviet stars were allowed to come. You might think that Putin’s Russia is worse than the Soviet state. But the Soviet Union invaded Hungary and Czechoslovakia, fomented civil wars, terrorized much of the world and, let it not be forgotten, killed and imprisoned millions of Ukrainians.”
Tyler Cowen, Bloomberg

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

“[The Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra’s director explained that they] weighed several factors in deciding to cancel the concert. One was that ‘a member of the orchestra has family directly involved in the Ukraine situation.’ A second was whether it felt right to play ‘Marche Slave’ and the ‘1812 Overture’ — both celebrations of Russian military prowess — as Russia ravages Ukraine. And the musicians didn’t want to offend Ukrainians by playing Tchaikovsky’s ‘Little Russian’ symphony, given that the term has come to be associated with efforts to deny Ukraine a distinct national identity…

“The Cardiff Philharmonic is doing exactly what cultural institutions everywhere should: making hard decisions about global events with nuance and grace… It’s not giving up on Russian music. ‘We have no plans to change our summer and autumn programmes,’ May wrote, ‘which contain pieces by Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev and Rimsky-Korsakof.’”
Alyssa Rosenberg, Washington Post

From the Right

“‘It is a great artistic loss for the Met and for opera.’ Those words from the Metropolitan Opera manager Peter Gelb makes it sound like soprano Anna Netrebko has died or lost her voice in some accident. In reality, Netrebko was canceled for failing to denounce Vladimir Putin…

“According to media reports, Met officials ‘made several attempts to convince Netrebko, who has made statements critical of the war, to rebuke Putin but failed to persuade the singer.’ That sounds a lot like coerced speech: say these words or you can no longer sing at the Met. That sounds a lot like something Putin is doing in Russia as we speak. Saying, ‘Well, we are not Putin’ is not enough when you are acting in the same way by punishing political viewpoints

“Years ago, I wrote that there was a dangerous trend toward compelled speech: ‘The line between punishing speech and compelling speech is easily crossed when free speech itself is viewed as a threat.’ We appear to have crossed that line.”
Jonathan Turley, Fox News

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