“Free Speech and the War in Ukraine,” from the National Coalition Against Censorship

An overall sound analysis. Links are taken from the NCAC emailed version.

Freedom of speech can be severely curtailed in times war. It is indisputable that right and wrong can be distinguished. Moral certainty is that God is our friend. …

The war between Russia and Ukraine is the latest test of our commitment to free speech…. [M]A number of major cultural actors in Europe and America are cancelling Russian musicians, performers, and other items from Russia.

Cultural boycotts are mainly symbolic and aimed at Western audiences. It is difficult to imagine any practical impact on Russia. Russia will not be further squeezed financially by artist cancellations. Russia is dependent on exporting oil and natural gas. Not art. The West’s disapproval message only reinforces Putin’s internal narrative about a hostile West.

The US and Europe both have cultural institutions that can blacklist Russian artists as a way to protest the war. They must also consider all implications.

The world’s most prominent cultural institutions today include performers and artists hailing from every country. Surely all of these performers should be responsible for the actions and misdeeds perpetrated by their politicians? Should all these artists be required to publically condemn their political leaders if they are at risk of being retaliated by their governments?

Banning Russian artists on political grounds or even worse because of their citizenship is a bad idea. But, welcoming Chinese artists and others from repressive regimes does not make an institution any more morally superior.

It is important to remember that the people of a nation do not share the same leadership. They should not be considered as one. In fact, they may be allies when fighting against an oppressive regime. People, who are critical of the war, were among those on the blacklist today.

The US institutions have limited their intervention to artists refusing condemnation of the regime. However, the less restrictive path is likely to haunt them for some time. This tactic is associated with McCarthy’s McCarthy era and Cold War. That era also demanded “loyalty oaths”—similar to current demands on artists to denounce the Putin regime or be canceled. Only this time artists are also asked to face risks in their home country by making such denunciations….