I was prepared to leave things where they were yesterday had not a brief tour of the websites and my comments box revealed a concerted effort to misrepresent the nature of my undertaking. Disinformation is disinformation, and it must be countered. For the record, the experiment was not to "prove" that people who are attacked will react, which, as others have noted, would be a "duh" conclusion.
The point was to show that even the most self-described open, reflective, and insightful members of our society -- our artists -- will react in the same way we have seen other groups react, and that artists have condemned for their reaction.
The pattern, borne out in the past few days, is as follows:
1. Personal Attack -- insult the person with the unpopular ideas on a base, personal level.
2. Circle the Wagons -- gather together those who share the idea under attack and reinforce, through reiteration and mutual congratulation, the value of the original concept
3. Attack the Outsider's Motives -- question whether there is something other than the stated idea that the outsider really wants to do
4. Intimidate -- threaten real life retaliation
5. Blame the Victim-- assert that the person being attacked and intimidated brought it on themselves through their actions
6. Silence -- cut the discussion short before cooler heads can prevail
7. Spin -- reinterpret the attack in ways that make it sound foolish
8. Act Bored-- tell the questioner that they have belabored the question and they should "move on"
We can trace these tactics through many of the major social revolutions we have seen over the past several decades: the anti-Vietnam Movement, the Black Movement, the Feminist Movement, the Gay Rights Movement, and now we are watching it unfold with the Immigrant Movement.
The point is not that my minor incursion into blog controversy has anything approaching the scale or importance of these major social movements. The point is that the reaction we have seen is 1) not in the least surprising, and 2) occurs even at the smallest level.
To those who would say that sometimes people need to be "slapped around," I would not argue -- the only way that injustices are addressed and change is undertaken is through provocation. But I would assert that, for change to actually occur, a two-part process must be undertaken.
2) Follow-up by a moderate voice offering a less-aggressive alternative
Martin Luther King Jr now has a national holiday and is seen as the leader of the Black Movement for equal rights. Very true. But without Malcolm X and the Black Panthers rioting in the background, MLK would have been shut down by the FBI and ignored by the media and general public; without MLK, Malcolm X and the Black Panthers would have alienated the media and the general public, and eventually been arrested and silenced. The relationship between the provocateur and the moderator is symbiotic.
If someone like YS at Mirror Up To Nature, or Joshua James, two members of the group who took a moderate stance throughout, had followed up behind me saying, "Wait a minute -- let's see what might be learned from the past few days," there valuable discussion might have ensued. The problem was that I, as provocateur, continued to provoke, which did not allow a moderate voice to be heard. There needs to be a cease fire before negotiations can occur.
So for those artists who feel that it is necessary for audiences to be "slapped around" occasionally, I say "Hear! Hear!" But I would also encourage you to find some way for a follow-up moderator to help create something of value from the first step you have taken. In my opinion, one of the reasons that the NEA Four was defeated is that there was nobody strong enough to manage the process I described above and provide an acceptable alternative. We almost had it when Joseph Papp declined his NEA grant in protest of the inserted clauses concerning offensiveness, but it was too late -- the spotlight had moved on, and he was not supported by enough additional respected insiders to raise the profile of his protest.