FAHRENHEIT 451 — A WARNING FOR THE REST OF US; A HOW-TO GUIDE FOR THE LEFT:
In the current Whitney Biennial, a very big-deal art show in New York, there is a 2016 painting depicting the body of Emmett Till, the Mississippi teenager murdered by white supremacists in 1955. Artist Dana Schutz, who is white, created the highly abstract image from famous open-casket photographs of Till at his funeral. Till’s mother wanted the world to see what white supremacists had done to her son. Those photographs served as a catalyst for civil rights protest, and are now an icon of American history.
Schutz’s painting has been denounced by some black artists and others, because the painter is white. Hannah Black, a British-born black artist, has written an open letter demanding that the Whitney Museum not only take the painting down, but also destroy it. Here is the full text of her letter, which is drawing a number of signers:
— ‘Destroy That Art!’ Cried The Woke Artists, Rod Dreher, yesterday.
You see something similar at work in this little bit of silliness from io9, in which the author suggests “Ted Cruz Has Forever Tainted ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.’ ” Cruz’s desecration of this sacred text? Asking Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch the meaning of life, the universe and everything — the correct answer, of course, being 42. Cruz’s nominal crime, according to Katharine Trendacosta, was not taking the dog-and-pony show of a SCOTUS nomination hearing with the seriousness it is due. His real offense? Ruining a piece of culture for everyone who doesn’t like Cruz: “You will never be able to enjoy the fun—and easy—question ‘What’s the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything?’ again.”
When someone says “you will never be able to enjoy” a piece of art because another person with different politics also enjoys that piece of art, I’m overwhelmed with feelings of pity: How strange, how sad that one could stop liking, even a little bit, a renowned work because a person with politics different from your own also likes it. I feel pity, but little in the way of surprise. After all, there’s nothing the partisan apparatchik who has chosen to politicize everything hates more than being reminded that his or her opponents are, well, human.
—Jane Austen and Douglas Adams don’t belong to the left — or to the right, Sonny Bunch, yesterday.
“You must understand that our civilization is so vast that we can’t have our minorities upset and stirred. Ask yourself, What do we want in this country above all? People want to be happy, isn’t that right?…Colored people don’t like Little Black Sambo. Burn it. White people don’t feel good about Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Burn it. Someone’s written a book on tobacco and cancer of the lungs? The cigarette people are weeping? Burn the book. Serenity, Montag. Peace, Montag. Take your fight outside. Better yet, to the incinerator.”
—Captain Beatty, fireman Guy Montag’s boss, in Ray Bradbury’s 1953 dystopian novel, Fahrenheit 451, 1953.
As Ryan Holiday noted in a 2015 New York Observer article titled “The Real Reason We Need to Stop Trying to Protect Everyone’s Feelings,” “In the 50th anniversary edition, Bradbury includes a short afterword where he gives his thoughts on current culture. Almost as if he is speaking directly about the events above, he wrote: ‘There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running around with lit matches.’”