To the Editor,
Re: “Cancel Culture, George Orwell,” by Larry Penner.
The author’s point about heading toward a society as that in “1984” is if not legitimate certainly debatable. I agree with the author that mob rule (tearing down statues) can never be allowed to take the place of legitimate, peaceful change. I agree that renaming of buildings should not be done by executive fiat.
But the author looks at history through rose colored glasses. The author looks at history as a white kid from the suburbs as opposed to, say, a black from the Jim Crow south. I agree with the author’s previous opinion pieces on the impracticality of reparations. But the author also ignores the fact that even after the Civil Rights Act many atrocities were committed against blacks.
Rewriting history is not necessarily a bad thing. The legend of baseball great Ty Cobb has long been clouded with allegations of racism and dirty play. Relatively recent nuts and bolts research seems to have discredited much of this. More than one player interviewed for 1966’s classic “The Glory of Their Times,” by Lawrence Ritter, said that Cobb was a hard player who exploited every weakness possible in opponents but not a dirty player. Other legends indicate the pioneering blood research doctor Charles Drew and the jazz singer Bessie Smith died due to southern hospitals refusing to treat them; nuts and bolts research have discredited these myths. As it turned out, Drew and Smith were injured beyond repair in car accidents. Some historians seem to feel Christopher Columbus participated in genocide like atrocities and may not be worthy of statues erected in his honor.
The author has written numerous opinion which advocate “the marketplace of ideas,” freedom of speech, the open and free flow of information. He himself has provided hundreds of opinions that “go against the grain.” He has lamented the disappearing newspaper. In 2007, he had a letter published in the New York Times defending the right of the hotel Gansevoort to erect huge advertising signs; I 100% agree with his defense of free speech. What is wrong with correcting, or at least debating, history? Why should we accept romanticized but untrue versions of historical figures?