Don’t Cancel Regular Russians
Last Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a violent invasion of neighboring Ukraine.
Late that night East Coast time, the D.C. bar and restaurant Russia House—located just across the street from Reason‘s D.C. office—had its windows smashed in and its Russian flag (flown next to its American one) torn down. The following night, vandals left anti-Russian signs on the business.
The vandalism of Russia House is both condemnable (no matter who the owners are) and poorly targeted: According to its website, one of Russia House’s two owners is an American military veteran. The other is from Lithuania.
“It’s just sad is what it is, that there’s people with this mindset out there that because of the name of the restaurant that we are politically affiliated or government affiliated,” said co-owner Adam McGovern to local outlet WTOP. “Our job is to make people happy and give them an experience, not promote anything or any country’s political views.”
Unfortunately, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine wears on, the distinctions between the Russian government that ordered it, Russian institutions generally, and the Russian people writ large are starting to fade. All are congealing into one amorphous bad guy targeted with boycotts and cancellations.
That obviously includes sanctions imposed by the U.S. government and its allies. Increasingly, private actors are getting in on the action.
A Nature article published yesterday details the ways in which the academy is severing ties with Russia. Conferences that were going to be held in the country are being canceled. Academic journals are refusing to accept papers from Russian scientists. Universities are severing ties with private, Russia-based research institutions. Calls for even more sweeping academic boycotts are growing.
The explanation given for these boycotts is that the illegality and humanitarian toll of Russia’s war in Ukraine makes it impossible to work with people from the aggressing country. The targets are nevertheless Russian scientists who don’t necessarily have anything to do with their country’s government or war effort.
It’s not just the sciences. The arts are also coming up with their own creative ways to punish the Russian bear.
Conductor and Putin supporter Valery Gergiev is losing gigs across Europe and is being threatened with termination from his position with the Munich Philharmonic if he doesn’t denounce the Russian leader. The Metropolitan Opera of New York and Carnegie Hall have both also said they won’t host performers who’ve supported Putin.
Implementing that deplatforming is easier said than done, writes Tyler Cowen over at Bloomberg.
“It is simply not possible to draw fair or accurate lines of demarcation. What about performers who may have favored Putin in the more benign times of 2003 and now are skeptical, but have family membe
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