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A Composer Condemned Arson. Now No One Will Hire Him.

1 200 110
15.06.2021

Cancel Culture

Robby Soave | 6.15.2021 9:00 AM

Until last year, Daniel Elder—a 34-year-old musician who lives in Nashville, Tennessee—had a promising career ahead of him. The theme of the prize-winning composer's work, truth through emotion, is evident across his catalogue of choral music, including his debut commercial album, The Heart's Reflection.

Elder isn't composing very much these days. And even if he were, no one in the industry is willing to buy his work. His publisher has blackballed him. Local choral directors refuse to program his music for fear of provoking a backlash. They won't even let him sing in the choir.

"My artistic wellspring is capped," says Elder. "I think it will come back, but things have remained in quite a rough place after all this happened."

What happened? Elder made a short statement on Instagram that went viral during the George Floyd protests in the summer of 2020.

The young composer is hardly the first person to suffer significant professional consequences after causing a social media firestorm: Virtually every day brings more examples of people saying slightly offensive things that stoke the fury of some mob. The problem is now so exhaustively covered in the media that "cancel culture" has become a top issue for many Republican voters, even though conservatives engage in cancelation as well.

But even among those cancel-culture excesses, Elder's supposed transgression stands out as particularly absurd. Though he was tarred and feathered as a racist contrarian, the Instagram post that caused all the trouble was neither racist nor contrarian. An overwhelming majority of people likely agree with the sentiment behind it, which was basically this: Arson is bad.

Elder always considered himself a man of the center-left. He was not particularly political or outspoken, but he supported liberal causes, including police reform and opposition to racism. The fact that he was on the same side as the progressive activists "made this sort of a strange betrayal," he says.

Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis police on May 25, 2020, caused widespread protests across the country. On May 30, around 1,000 peaceful protesters marched down the streets of Nashville as part of an "I Will Breathe" rally. But not everyone on the streets was peaceful: A group of activists joined the protest as it was drawing to a close and started smashing windows and spraying graffiti on the sides of buildings. They threw rocks at police cars, and eventually someone set the city's historic courthouse on fire.

"The courthouse windows were smashed, its walls were spray painted with graffiti and fires were started inside the building, damaging a portion of the mayor's office," noted the Nashville Tennessean. "A plaque commemorating the civil rights movement in Nashville was destroyed."

The destruction spooked Elder, who lived nearby and was thus under a city-wide curfew. He also found himself increasingly unnerved by the large number of emotional social media posts coming across his feeds that seemed to justify radicalism and groupthink.

"I saw a mob mentality around my own friends, and I worried that was what was happening on the outside, too," says Elder.

Dismayed, disenchanted, and unable to sleep, Elder decided to deleted his Instagram account. He penned one last farewell message, which was cross-posted to his Twitter and professional Facebook page: "Enjoy burning it all down, you well-intentioned, blind people. I'm done."

The post was unambiguous: Elder was criticizing the activists who had set the courthouse on fire. He did not malign their cause or their ethnicity (and in fact, the perpetrator was white). He did not attack the Black Lives Matter movement or criminal justice reform. He implied that the militants had good motives ("well-intentioned") but were oblivious ("blind") when it came to the self-defeating nature of their tactics.

These sentiments are not racist; in fact, they are correct. Social science research and voter surveys show that violent and destructive protests tend to backfire, eroding support for the cause in question. While a small number of far-left........

© Reason.com


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