The Volokh Conspiracy

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Free Speech

"Denounce Putin, or Be Blacklisted"

"The classical music establishment demands that Russian musicians condemn their nation’s invasion of Ukraine in order to retain jobs and engagements in the West."


From Heather MacDonald (City Journal), a detailed article; here's an excerpt:

Russian musicians are being asked to condemn President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine to retain jobs and performing engagements in the West. Staying above the fray is not an option, and denouncing the war will not ward off cancellation. Russian musicians must criticize Putin by name or be blacklisted….

The most recent casualty of the compelled-speech norm is 20-year-old pianist Alexander Malofeev…. Malofeev has no known ties to Putin and has not defended Putin or the Ukrainian invasion. Nevertheless, the Vancouver Recital Society cancelled his contract for an August 2022 recital. Artistic director Leila Getz explained in a written statement that she could not "in good conscience present a concert by any Russian artist at this moment in time unless they are prepared to speak out publicly against this war."

In a subsequent interview, Getz claimed to have been looking out for Malofeev's well-being. "The first things that came to my mind were, why would I want to bring a 20-year-old Russian pianist to Vancouver and have him faced with protests and people misbehaving inside the concert hall and hooting and screaming and hollering?" she said. Such professions of paternalism have become standard among cancellers. Malofeev could have decided for himself whether he wanted to risk protest.

"Speaking out publicly against this war," as Getz put it, does not, in fact, prevent cancellation. Malofeev explicitly criticized the Ukrainian invasion after the Vancouver termination: "Every Russian will feel guilty for decades because of the terrible and bloody decision that none of us could influence and predict," he wrote on Facebook. Yet he was cancelled again. He had been scheduled to play Sergei Prokofiev's fiery Piano Concerto No. 3 with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (OSM) on March 9, 10, and 13. The day before his first performance, OSM pulled the plug. "Considering the serious impact on the civilian population of Ukraine caused by the Russian invasion, the OSM must announce the withdrawal of pianist Alexander Malofeev," the orchestra said. It wanted the public to know, however, that it was not biased against Russians: "We continue … to believe in the importance of maintaining relationships with artists of all nationalities who embrace messages of peace and hope." Why Malofeev fell outside of that category was left unexplained….