A Conversation for Ask h2g2

Antisemitism, xenophobia, racism, etc. of artists and their work. Should it matter?

Post 1

Anna Banana

Hello, folks, recently I was reading a biography of my favourite author (Mihail Bulgakov - A868278) and found out that he was quite antisemitic. Now I am rethinking my attitude towards his work. Do such 'phobias' change the quality of the works? I mean, Dostoyevskiy and Gogol┬┤ were also antisemitic, however this is attenuated if one considers the historic context. Is Leni Riefenstahl┬┤s filmmaking less artistic because she was tightly involved with nazis? Do you know more examples of morally dubious artists?

Thank you in advance smiley - winkeye

Anna Banana


Antisemitism, xenophobia, racism, etc. of artists and their work. Should it matter?

Post 2

Mark the Strange

Can I just chuck a couple names in here.

When Riefenstahl went to the US in the 1930's just about the only person would gave her a hearing was Walt Disney.
Do we think less of the Disney company now?
Bur also work can be misapproriated, Wagner would be a prime example and the use the Nazi's made of his music.
He was also very keen on eugenics as well but that is another story.

Also does Elgar represent British imperialism at its height?
I for one love Elgar's music.


Antisemitism, xenophobia, racism, etc. of artists and their work. Should it matter?

Post 3

Saturnine

In my opinion, you always have to take into consideration the context of the time period in which the person was alive, and influences and the suchlike. There is a difference between ignorance and stupidity. These days for example, there is no excuse for such behaviour, because we know better. However, 100 years ago, society was a different place. I think you'll be hard pressed to find anything before the 1970's that wasn't made by a person who had some kind of social prejudice/discriminative attitude.

I certainly don't limit myself by cutting out everything because the creator had a prejudice. It was hardly their fault...t'was just how their society was. If they were alive *now*...as in, if they were born within the same generation as you; would they necessarily have the same prejudices? Are their prejudices personal, or socially influenced?

And being Anti-Nazi, is just as much of a prejudice as being Anti-Black, or Anti-Gay. If you think about it...


Antisemitism, xenophobia, racism, etc. of artists and their work. Should it matter?

Post 4

Mark the Strange

And being Anti-Nazi, is just as much of a prejudice as being Anti-Black, or Anti-Gay. If you think about it...

Ooh you do like to sail close to the wind!

I would have thought that the values of the Nazi's was about as prejudice as you could get at any period in history.


Antisemitism, xenophobia, racism, etc. of artists and their work. Should it matter?

Post 5

Saturnine

What, demonising a collection of people? It's hardly any more than any other government does! It's a rather admirable psychological device. Not that it is ethical or right in my book, but clever all the same. Bush and Blair are using the same technique right now. The very essence of people being Anti-Nazi is the technique in use...

Ah, sweet irony.


Antisemitism, xenophobia, racism, etc. of artists and their work. Should it matter?

Post 6

Mark the Strange

Ah you poor deluded sweet child.

Tony and George have all of our interests at heart, and that of Iraq, Palestine, Korea, etc etc

They've told us so and it's not for us to question that wise and sensible judjement.


Antisemitism, xenophobia, racism, etc. of artists and their work. Should it matter?

Post 7

Saturnine

smiley - mouse

Don't ruin the thread. Answer properly dammit!

smiley - laughsmiley - tomato


Antisemitism, xenophobia, racism, etc. of artists and their work. Should it matter?

Post 8

Mark the Strange

Yes, historical context is everything.
You cannot judge anyone or anything with out considering the setting.
But this doesn't stop the Irish demonising Cromwell, who acted perfectly well by the standards of the time or come to that the Bloody Sunday Killings.
That enquiry is costing millons and to what end.
Will there be investigations into every terrorist murder?

Also, the political climate must be recognised, when we look back on the history of Isreal I dont think we can be that can, but they have demonised a group of peopl with the help of the US.

We are about to go the a futile and wastefulwas for exactly the reasons you state.
But I do think that nazism does fall into a different catorgary, as do neo nazi as well, particularly with the benefit of history.


Antisemitism, xenophobia, racism, etc. of artists and their work. Should it matter?

Post 9

Mark the Strange

Isreal I dont think we can be that kind, but they

Sorry brain not on gear, as usual


Antisemitism, xenophobia, racism, etc. of artists and their work. Should it matter?

Post 10

Saturnine

But why? You have to define why something is different! In my eyes, it's just as bad as anything else. There was worse before, and there is worse after. People are vile creatures.

In fact, the massacre of 20-odd million people somewhat pales in comparison to the fact that the Allied forces and the media knew about it, and covered it all up...

smiley - tongueout


Antisemitism, xenophobia, racism, etc. of artists and their work. Should it matter?

Post 11

Saturnine

Ooh. 10 posts in and I've already pushed it off topic. smiley - sorry

Um...

Ok. In this climate of political correctness, isn't *more* stuff prejudiced than it should be anyway? God knows, people read all sorts of things into art these days...


Antisemitism, xenophobia, racism, etc. of artists and their work. Should it matter?

Post 12

Mark the Strange

Again you make good and valid points here.

I think we will have to define at what point something becomes a prejudice, and merely intolerance.

To me nazism is the embodiment of all that is bad in human nature.It seeks to exploit peoples weaknesses and use their baser feelings to foward an idea.

Now I would also argue that there are plenty of things that are prejudiced ( J the P ) for instance but I dont think they do any real harm whilst they are a very small minority. It only becomes a problem if you can con the masses as well.

You can read all sorts into anything you want ( the bible for instance ) as long as you keep it to yourself then thats fine.


Antisemitism, xenophobia, racism, etc. of artists and their work. Should it matter?

Post 13

Saturnine

But then, religion uses the same technique. So does the media. And advertising. Aaaaand, pretty much everything about human life. That's psychology for you...can't really avoid it. Life is all about manipulation of the mind!

I'm not allowed to talk about J the P anymore (personal decision) - his actions *do* affect other people in a damaging manner. Just because you are a minority (and he really isn't, when you start to look for people like that), doesn't mean to say you don't have power.


Antisemitism, xenophobia, racism, etc. of artists and their work. Should it matter?

Post 14

Sol

Should it matter? I dunno. It does to me, a bit, to the point that I obsessively refuse to encounter biographical material/ 'in theeir own words' stuff out of their actual sphere of anyone I have any respect for in any of the creative feilds owing to the unfortunate habit of objects of my hero worship to have spectaular feet of clay. Even if it is just having a bit of a panchant for Britany Spears.

Nobody is perfect.

But then some are less perfect than others. I think in terms of reaction to their output, doesn't it make a difference that the woman you mention (if it is the person I'm thinking of) used her filmaking skills to actively promote Narzism? You can't enjoy those films, I'd imagine, without approving of their subject matter. I am assuming Bulgakov's books were not written to support the wiping out of the objects of his prejudice...


Antisemitism, xenophobia, racism, etc. of artists and their work. Should it matter?

Post 15

Sol

... although now I think about it I guess he did use his art to be somewhat pointed on the subject of communism, which just be cause I happen to agree with him... oh dear. I'll have to think about this.


Antisemitism, xenophobia, racism, etc. of artists and their work. Should it matter?

Post 16

Teasswill

The original question here is similar to one asked about Pete Townshend - since the recent news interest, would one still wish to listen to the Who's music.
If the art in question is not itself racialist or whatever, then surely it can still be enjoyed. However, if you become aware of the artist's nature, you are bound to view their output in a new light & may see something in it that changes your opinion of it.
But just as you can like someone but dislike their work, I think you can disapprove of someone but like their work.


Antisemitism, xenophobia, racism, etc. of artists and their work. Should it matter?

Post 17

Sol

I think the worry then, is that you start to feel that perhaps your enjoyment may point to something nasty lurking in your own psyche. Though I think that that is more reserved for writers, who are after all dealing with words and ideas not pretty tunes.


Antisemitism, xenophobia, racism, etc. of artists and their work. Should it matter?

Post 18

Teasswill

Don't forget song lyrics. Also paintings.
I was thinking of e.g. a story that you enjoyed reading, then dsicover that the writer has Nazi sympathies, and you start looking for a hidden meaning in the story which spoils your enjoyment, rather than wondering why you enjoyed it.


Antisemitism, xenophobia, racism, etc. of artists and their work. Should it matter?

Post 19

Clive the flying ostrich: Amateur Polymath | Chief Heretic.

The Philosopher Martin Heidegger was closely linked to the nationalist socialist party in Germany on the eve of WWII.

He took over the Professors chair from Edmund Husserl at the University of Freiburg after their working relationship turned sour and they came to disagree professionally. Husserl retired in 1928 and died ten years later in 1938. A good job too as he was a jew he might well have lived to be incarcerated in the concentration camps. smiley - erm

It's debated whether or not Heidegger was a nazi in practise so to speak though it is generally undisputed that he was a member of the nazi party - he later claimed that this was a move to not only retain his teaching licence (something readily withdrawn from others) but to offer some measure of political insurance to arrest any moves against the university where he worked.

Although claims of anti-semitism are variously contested. Still incidents acumlate; things like removing a dedication from his seminal work "Being and Time" (the source of Husserl and Heideggers philosophical divergence but in which Heidegger owes an intellectual debt to Husserl even if they ended up diagreeing in the end.)
The excorsising of the deidcation to Husserl has been put down to coersion by nazi officials. It's a contraversial topic.


Found a web page on this topic here:
http://www.clal.org/e85.html


Antisemitism, xenophobia, racism, etc. of artists and their work. Should it matter?

Post 20

Saturnine

If the woman you are referring to is the woman I am thinking of...I saw a programme on the excellent work she did.

She never joined the Nazi party, and she expressed how she could not spend her whole life feeling guilty - that sorry would never be enough.

Therefore her work was in context of the time...not a personal belief.
I don't believe people should be blamed for conforming to a trend...especially if they recognise that they were wrong. One the biggest reasons that the Nazi crimes are perceived as so huge, is because of the mass scale of blind obediance to a leader...not necessarily because of the death count. When people cannot understand something...it becomes far huger, far more evil that if you could understand it. One fears what one does not understand.


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