By Lucy Komisar
I was going to ignore what follows, but then, on top of so many stories about the “cancel culture” (person disagrees with you, banish them!) and today’s article in the NYTimes about the issue of masking or not masking at theater, I thought it worth adding this story to the conversation. [link correct, ignore strike through]
I agree with a recent poll that says that people in the country, in general, don’t feel safe expressing some views. Because you never know who will take offense and lodge a complaint about some comment, especially on a hot button issue like anything to do with Covid.
I’m an investigative journalist and also a theater critic (voting member of the Drama Desk for more than two decades.) My first stories are based on fact, the second on opinions. I’m not at a university, so I thought I’d be safe from the Cancel Culture.
Who knew that I would be a victim! Turns out you don’t have to express fact-based opinions in print, you just have to tell them to an individual in a public place who passes them on to someone who will cancel you. I was cancelled as the result of a conversation with a staffer at 59E59 Theaters where I went to review “The Panic of ’29,” a satirical look at the stock market crash.
My theater companion discovered on the subway he had left his phone and therefore had no vax proof. So, he had to go back to get it. I explained to a staffer to whom I gave his ticket why he might arrive after the curtain. I commented that though masks should be required, because they stop transmission, vaccination has no such effect. Viz Biden, Pelosi, Harris and other vaxxed people who got Covid.
And then, I also discussed the efficacy of various masks, ie that N95 was the gold standard, KN95 almost as good, but that the blue surgical and colorful fabric masks many people in the lobby were wearing were poor protection.
The next day I got an email from Matt Ross, the play’s press agent, banning me from future plays he represents. Because he said I had “chastised” one of his team about vaccine policy.
He: “You interrogated and chastised one of my team members over a a vaccine policy.”
That of course was untrue. I didn’t “chastise” her. She had nothing to do with the theater’s policy. I chatted about widely available information about vaccinations, masks and Covid transmission.
I don’t really blame the young lady who was directing theater goers to the right floor (there are several plays going on). Obviously not a policy-maker. Was she just protecting her bosses from calumny? Or how dare I challenge the received wisdom about vax protection?
After his email, I sent him links, including this to Scientific American: “The Risk of Vaccinated Covid Transmissions is not low.” No effect.
Meanwhile, several hundred plays open in New York every year, and I – with a focus on plays with political themes — see many. Not seeing plays Matt Ross represents, such as “The Panic of ’29,” will not hurt me, but may hurt some of his clients because I as a Drama Desk voter will not be able to review them or vote for their productions. So, he is cancelling them more than me. And cancelling the free conversation that people in the cultural world ought to defend.
Ross produced Tina Satter’s Is This A Room, a ghastly glorification of a foolish women who leaked to The Intercept (which refuses to run a story about the Browder hoax) an unvetted Russophobic intelligence document that turned out to be false. Just what was heroic about that? (File under fake news.) My review in 2019.
And he is on the the 20|30 Leadership Council for the Clinton Foundation. Why am I not surprised?!
He is also the founder of the COVID Theatre Think-Tank. Which is why, I suppose, he got so riled up about me going off message. (BTW, what is the message this week?)