To Talk, Or Not
Easyrihiner asks, in the comment thread from yesterday’s Five Things post:
What’s your take on authors/artists that aren’t talking about current events right now?
I don’t attach a value judgment to it. There are any number of reasons why a creative person isn’t commenting on current events. Some reasons, and in no specific order, might be:
1. Deadlines are imminently looming and they have to focus on that if they want to eat;
2. Issues in their personal lives, positive or negative, might be taking up their attention;
3. The creator in question might decide they don’t know enough to comment usefully;
4. They don’t want to comment because they realize as soon as they do they will have to respond to/manage responses from others, and that takes a lot of time and energy they may not have;
5. Their opinion might be controversial or counter to the general trend, and they decide it’s smarter to stay quiet than have the Internet drop on their head and/or be “cancelled”;
6. They are trying to process what they want to say and how they want to say it in a way that best expresses their opinion, which sometimes is not collapsible to tweet length;
7. They may simply not give a shit.
Or some combination of any or all of the above, plus a whole bunch of other reasons, too; the list above is not meant to be exhaustive.
It’s easy for people to demand creative people, especially ones of some notability, have a public position on whatever topic those people think is important. But creative people are people too, and they only have so much time and attention to devote to… well, anything: work and family and friends and community and current events. They can’t and shouldn’t be expected to comment on everything, even if you (whomever you might be) think it’s important. I’ve commented about this fact before, in my own special way. And of course what applies to me here applies to anyone else.
I think it’s accurate to say that notable people, creatives among them, are sometimes in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation with regard to public commenting on social issues. I’ve gotten the “shut up and stick to writing” sort of comments when I have offered an opinion on a current event, and the “your silence equals complicity” sort of comments when I haven’t. In both cases the commenter can stick their opinion up their ass and twist it sideways; I’ll say what I want on any topic, including not saying anything at all. But in a world where people want creatives to comment and also not to, I don’t blame creatives who decide the best thing to do is to keep their head down and hope not be noticed.
People can and should comment on current events if they want to. People can and should not comment on current events if they choose not to. Creative folks are people. So.
One final note on the subject, which is that a choice by a creative person to be publicly silent on a matter is not necessarily indicative of their neutrality on the matter. A creative person (or any person) may actively have an opinion or support a cause, and choose to do so quietly, and again for any number of reasons (including not painting a target on those they are helping for abusers and trolls).
Which is another reason not to attach a value judgment to a public silence. All public silence means is that you don’t know what’s going on with that person. You may think you deserve to know, but no one else is obliged to agree with you, including the creative you may believe owes you an accounting or opinion.