re: Can we separate the artist from their art? Should we? VIEW POST


This is a tough and important question! It looks like most people agree that Sonmez's behavior was appalling...but now what?

Art (and science, and probably everything else) is riddled with despicable actions and people. Should we be "cleansing" our parks, libraries, museums, and record collections whenever something terrible is revealed? What message are we sending to the abused if we don't?

So...uh, I don't have any answers but I think it's important that we think about it!


// , As far as Libraries, would you have to start with the worst? Deplatform all copies of anything written by Hitler, Stalin, Mao, etc.?


That's a different issue, because those were very impactful people, historically. We continue to study their works to understand their psyches and the consequences of their actions. John Sonmez is not Stalin.

// , I don't think anybody is saying John Sonmez is Stalin.

At what point does "this is offensive" / "offends me" translate into "this shouldn't be available?"

You're the one who drew a direct line from Sonmez to Stalin, not me.

I'm not arguing for censorship. I'm saying that I'm not comfortable actively amplifying, in a good light, the views and works of someone who has shown themselves to be a less-than-wholesome person in the past. Refusing to advertise != censorship.

If you buy a copy of Mein Kampf, your money isn't going into Hitler's pocket. If you buy a copy of Soft Skills, it is going directly into Sonmez's. You're implying, with your wallet, that you approve of his behaviour.

// , I might be confused, here.

Buying Sonmez's book implies that I approve of his behavior, because it funds him?

If generalized, buying ____'s book implies that I approve of ____'s behavior, because it funds him?

Am I missing something, here?

Please excuse the informal prepositional logic I'm trying to apply here, because it's the way I learned to reason about ideas.

I would say so, yes. Others may disagree with me, of course, including yourself.

Do you not think so?

// , Assuming you're asking this in good, or good enough faith, I suspect that I disagree in part with this conclusion, yes. I disagree more with the question.

More important, I think, is our disagreement on the side effect of moral hazard¹ implicit in this approach. It's a thought process I've found common in those who, out of a sense of honor and shared humanity (I hope) search for some way to advocate for the less fortunate.

I recall, in the past, some other "idea embargoes" in the Midwest. One extreme example stands out, when some family friends were surprised and dismayed that I had got myself a copy of the Quran, out of some misguided idea that this meant I supported Wahabbism or something, rather than just out of curiosity. Ask people who work for Ford what their coworkers would think of them buying a Nissan.

Purchasing does give us some power, but I smell a sulfuric whiff of narcissism in the idea that I should somehow improve society by throwing out all of my copies of stuff made by people whose behavior I find objectionable. And it gets stronger the closer I come to judging the character of others based on the character of the artists who make the work they like.

I've definitely let to whom and where my money is going inform my buying decisions. But I kind of take issue with the title of this post, the thought process that lead to asking this question, and some of the distasteful implications it has for how we relate to and share one another's tastes.

De gustibus non est disputandum.

¹Moral hazard is a situation in which one party gets involved in a risky event knowing that it is protected against the risk and the other party will incur the cost. It arises when both the parties have incomplete information about each other.


// , Ah, yes, I'm guilty as charged on that. I need to think about more relevant examples.


Thanks, Joe. That's sort of my opinion on the matter. Obviously, this guy has said some terrible things. But saying terrible things doesn't -- in and of itself -- make you a terrible person. But a pattern of behaviour, such as Sonmez has shown, suggests that this person will only continue to say and do disgusting things as long as they have the platform to do so. Deplatforming seems to be the only reasonable option in order to prevent future harm, at the very least.

I won't be promoting or reading any of Sonmez's work for the foreseeable future.

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