The Trumpification of Intellectuals and Artists
Gearóid Ó Loingsigh
07 April 2022
Food brands and restaurants are rebranding chicken Kievs, chicken Kyivs in solidarity with the Ukrainian people.
I once asked by an ageing Marxist from the US whether he ever thought about throwing in the towel and giving up. He was as old as the century itself when I met him in the mid 1980s and had lived through quite a lot. He said no, he hadn’t because capitalism never gave him an alternative to struggle. I thought about all the dark times he had lived through and wondered what it must be like. Now, unfortunately, I know.
We have come through Covid (or are still in it), we now have a war in Ukraine and we have the current expression of misogyny that says women don’t exist and male rapists are housed in the women’s estate in prisons in various parts of the world, from California to Ireland. Not even the Russian gulag system came up with that one. In the midst of it all we see the intellectual and cultural decay and just straightforward stupidity of modern “activists”, even in academic circles.
The reactions to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have not just been in the economic, political and military spheres. Our woke cultural warriors have entered the fray to display their solidarity and ignorance only a keyboard warrior who is never off Facebook could show. Not for them debates on NATO, sanctions, Putin or No Fly Zones, no. They started off with Tchaikovsky. For those who do not know and clearly our Wokerati do not, he was a gay Russian composer and one of the first such composers from there to have an international audience. He was born in Ukraine though and Ukrainians claim him as one of their own.(1) But let’s not bother the Wokerati with facts. Facts are dangerous in the wrong hands, apparently. The Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra has decided in its infinite wisdom to pull poor Tchaikovsky from its repertoire.(2) I feel the need to footnote references as this stuff is so unbelievable, a reader could be forgiven for thinking I was making it up, but alas, ‘tis all true, oh so true.
Poor Tchaikovsky the composer of Ukrainian descent, whose family were Cossacks does not get a look in. A more important question is not whether Ukrainians claim him, and they do, but how do you make the jump from a composer who died more than almost 130 years ago to the current conflict. One has no bearing on the other. Putin didn’t invade to impose Tchaikovsky on the world, or any other cultural icon either. The Orchestra doubled down on its decision, saying it was not because he was Russian but that there was a military aspect to the 1812 Overture and that “the orchestra was made aware that the title, “Little Russian” of Symphony No 2, could be deemed offensive to Ukrainians.”(3) Yes, to the Wokerati it is all about offence. Were we to take this seriously there is not a classical composer who would be left standing. All of them are products of their times, society and social class, and their politics, personal lives and ideas would not survive the scrutiny of the modern woke inquisition. Despite their denials, it smacks of simple anti-Russian chauvinism and like most examples of prejudice it is entirely misplaced and based on ignorance. The Welsh were not the only ones to ban him though. Japan’s Chubu Philharmonic Orchestra also did the same.(4) Apparently, Cardiff will replace the 1812 Overture with John Williams The Cowboys Overture used in the John Wayne film, as there is nothing problematic with that, nothing comes to mind, not to the dullest of dull Wokerati. You really couldn’t make this up. Tchaikovsky is replaced with a tune celebrating the Wild West with one of the most right-wing actors ever, all in the name of not offending anyone. Obviously, the native Americans don’t count, they are not white. Though I am not arguing for banning Wayne or Williams for that matter, but it says a lot about what the Wokerati consider offensive and when they get offended.
Music was not the only field to become a cropper in the current environment. Russian authors have also been the target of the Wokerati’s fire. An Italian university axed a course on Dostoyevsky and then backtracked after it was “pointed out that the author was sentenced to a Siberian prison labor camp for discussing banned books under Russia’s Tsarist regime, and that he has been dead for 141 years.”(5) That these types of decisions are being taken in universities is flabbergasting. Where is their intellectual rigour? Oh, yeah, they sacrificed it to students who moan about being offended and think the fact the university doesn’t coddle them as much mammy and daddy is an actual argument. Again, you might think I am making it up but no, this argument has actually been made in US universities. In one row at Yale, a student who was criticising a lecturer screamed ““Who the fuck hired you? You should step down! It is not about creating an intellectual space! It is not! It’s about creating a home here. . . You should not sleep at night! You are disgusting!”(6)
In the same spirit a university in Florida tried to show its displeasure at Putin’s invasion of Ukraine by renaming the Kark Marx Reading Room.(7) Once again, this is not satire. Someone in the university either though Marx was Russian and not German and also bizarrely thought that Russia was a communist country, little realising that Putin was one of those apparatchiks who helped collapse the Stalinist regime. Now, given that the US is a country that has elected presidents who are as intellectually challenged as Reagan, Bush and Trump, we might be tempted to snigger at such ignorance and pander to our own prejudices about the US. Well, hold that thought for just one moment.
Green members and Conservatives of Berlin’s City Council have proposed demolishing a giant statue of Ernst Thälmann, the Communist Party leader who was imprisoned and murdered by the Nazis.(8) Now we can be reasonably sure that unlike the intellectual colossus at Florida University they do know that Thälmann is not Russian, but that he is German. We would have thought that given that they know the Berlin wall is no more, they are also aware of the collapse of Stalinism in eastern Europe and yet their response to capitalist Russia’s invasion of capitalist Ukraine is to demolish a statue of a German Communist! This is intellectual cretinism. There is no other way to describe it.
Some have come to the defence of such moves and are at pains to point out that this is not another “Freedom Fries” moment. But actually, that is exactly what it is. The academic greats at Cardiff, Florida and Milan also find their expression in culinary protests. It has led to bans on Stolichnaya Vodka which is made in Latvia and owned by a Putin critic. But if the cretins are lashing out they don’t need to be very precise in their targets. Stupidly hitting the wrong target is the same as stupidly hitting the right target: it is all stupid. Smirnoff meanwhile is made in the US, but is having a hard time too.
Rick Anderson, a North Carolina deli owner, made headlines last week when he renamed Russian dressing “Ukrainian dressing”, which he said “tastes just like our old dressing, without the notable hints of genocide’.(9)
I wasn’t aware that dressings had that flavour. It turns out that Russian dressing was invented in the US, not in Russia. Rick is obviously an idiot, but a lot less so than our woke friends at the universities. In his favour, he makes no claims to intellectual prowess, unlike our academics. Rick is not any more a thicko than leading academics at the University of London SOAS, such as Gilbert Achcar who is able to say that he doesn’t support NATO but thinks we should cheer NATO on in Ukraine. It is all part of the same intellectual decay.
Meanwhile leading supermarkets are changing the name of Chicken Kiev to Chicken Kyiv in solidarity it would seem as Kiev is the Russian spelling that found its way into English prior to Kyiv. So far no one has promoted kurka kyyivs'ka. Apparently, some Russian canteens renamed it Chicken Crimea as far back as 2017, just to prove that stupidity knows no borders. The dish’s origins are much disputed in any case, but just wait till our operatic fans find out the Seville is not called that in Spanish, the Barber of Sevilla awaits us all and Shakespeare will have to change his references as well so the Merchant of Venezia shall be the new name for that play, though given that Shylock is Jewish maybe it should be in Hebrew or Yiddish, but I am not sure how you would say Venice in either of those languages. I am just trying to be as awake as the Wokerati, once you go down this particular rabbit hole there is no stopping
It is ludicrous and dangerous. It has given rise to anti-Russian racism around the world with a rise in attacks. The message from the Wokerati is that they are not anti-racist, just that they pick and choose their victims more carefully than the average thug at a National Front rally. If you are a racist, give it time, the Wokerati will get around to making your racism respectable at some stage, for a short period at least.
The intellectual decay of western society is evident, universities know nothing of arts, music and literature. They engage in symbolic politics that is meaningless, except that it pushes the discourse of society even further to the right and closes down debate on this and other issues, where personal offence trumps everything. Putin cares little about which music you listen to or what you call Chicken Kiev. That academics cannot rise above a Chicken Kiev style debate on music and culture, says everything you need to know about the intellectual decay of western intellectuals and the left. An honoury Ph.D awaits Trump in Cardiff, if he doesn’t like it maybe Milan will give him one, or given how lazy the man is, he can wait till Florida gives him one. He is as deserving of the title Dr. before his name as all of those involved in these decisions at the aforementioned institutions.
(1) The Day (14/04/2009) Pyotr Tchaikovsky, a Ukrainian by creative spirit https://day.kyiv.ua/en/article/culture/pyotr-tchaikovsky-ukrainian-creative-spirit
(2) The Guardian (09/03/2022) Cardiff Philharmonic removes Tchaikovsky performance over Ukraine conflict https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/mar/09/cardiff-philharmonic-orchestra-removes-tchaikovsky-over-ukraine-conflict
(3) The Guardian (12/03/2022) Cardiff orchestra defends move to Cut Tchaikovsky from concert https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/mar/12/cardiff-orchestra-defends-cut-tchaikovsky-concert-russia
(5) The Guardian (12/03/2022) Dumping vodka, banning Dostoevsky: some anti-Russian protests are empty gestures https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2022/mar/23/russia-protests-vodka-mustard-poutine
(6) Haidt, J. & Lukianoff, G. (2018) The Coddling of the American Mind. New York. Penguin Press. para 12.16
(7) The Orlando Weekly (22/03/2022) University of Florida renames Karl Marx study room following Russian invasion of Ukraine https://www.orlandoweekly.com/news/university-of-florida-renames-karl-marx-study-room-following-russian-invasion-of-ukraine-31222068
(8) DETV (22/02/2022) CDU wants to melt down Thälmann monument and donate proceeds to Ukrainian aid projects https://detv.us/2022/03/22/cdu-wants-to-melt-down-thalmann-monument-and-donate-proceeds-to-ukrainian-aid-projects-rt-de/
(9) The Guardian (12/03/2022)