Quotas in the arts failed in the 1980s. But now is the time to champion their reintroduction, across workforce and artistic programming, argues Christy Romer in the fifth in a series of articles.The thing to remember is that these people never give up. No matter how wrong-headed their policies and principles are, they just keep pushing them until they win. It's a bit like the referenda on joining the European Union: if a nation votes no, they will just keep holding new referenda until they vote yes.
Part of the methodology is to assume the conclusion: diversity must be good because diversity must be good. This is the logical error that used to be known as "begging the question." Let's read how this is presented:
The BBC has quotas on gender, disability, ethnicity and sexuality. Ofcom has quotas for regional output and subtitling. Should arts organisations implement all of the above, including an older person quota and a class quota? Should they be allowed to choose a number of quotas which are most relevant to their region and output? How should they overhaul a workforce to fulfil a quota within a certain timeframe?I searched the article for an argument stating exactly why quotas were necessary, but all I found was, over and over, statements that quotas are necessary because the "workforce" is not diverse enough. In none of these kinds of articles are attempts made to examine the priorities and goals in any more depth than simply to state the principle that people working in the arts have to reflect the same kind of diversity found in the population as a whole--and they won't even state that principle clearly. The hilarious irony is that the constant cry is for "color-blind casting" but that is precisely what they don't want: what they do want is ethnic quotas!
The thing is that the progressive political wing has an agenda that they never argue for with much clarity, but instead simply assume. Why? Because it is pragmatically useful. Everything they do has the ultimate end of giving more and more power to political actors to control society down to the microscopic level:
In the Theatre Royal’s production of Sherlock Holmes, Cruden said that 36% of the women met and offered jobs were BME, and 18% were disabled. For the men, this was 41% BME and 6% disabled. He added that the final cast included 17% BME and disabled actors, and that the theatre had “quite comfortably” achieved a target of gender-balancing the team on and off stage."BME" stands for "black and minority ethnic." This prompts a whole series of questions: do these percentages reflect the actual makeup of society in the nation as a whole? In the urban region? Why should the cast of a theater production of Sherlock Holmes mirror the ethnic makeup of society? Was this ever democratically decided? And speaking of the ethnic makeup of society, was it not the case that the Tony Blair government embarked on a years-long strategy of upping the intake of "BME" immigration to the UK with the specific purpose of making a permanent change in the ethnic makeup of UK society--and did so secretly with no attempt to discern the preferences of the citizens?
Why is it that these kinds of quotas are only applied in areas that are perceived to be desirable, prestige jobs like the arts? If the proportion of BME members in a geographic area receiving social assistance is very high, why are there no attempts made to ensure that a proportionate number of white citizens are included?
It is deeply ironic that the failure of previous attempts at setting quotas in the arts are attributed to "unconscious bias." Viz:
Given the constant drumbeat of articles like this one, how could anyone with a pulse possibly retain any unconscious bias?The worry for many is that letting arts organisations set their own diversity targets will simply lead to pledges and good intentions which fail to grapple with unconscious bias. In short, it’ll lead to the failures witnessed in the 1980s.
Let us be clear about what is going on here: the agenda of all left-wing organizations is the same: to achieve the maximum possible political control of society. An extremely effective means of doing so is the manipulation of public opinion through identity politics. The argument is always that we are fighting for justice on your behalf. But the "you" is never the nation as a whole, but always some identity group: women, visible minorities (but rarely Chinese or Jewish), people of varying sexual orientation and so on. The categories get smaller and smaller. The crucial lever to achieve acquiescence is the notion of oppression: your group is being oppressed. The oppressors always seem to be middle-aged white males, preferably Christian!
Now, to any objective observer, are middle-aged white Christian males actually and actively oppressing minority groups? They are really not, though this is the perennial bogey man.
"TV is still not very diverse. There might be more noise than in the arts, but I don’t think it’s any more diverse – especially not off screen. The gatekeepers are still overwhelmingly white and male. There have been schemes to place more diverse commissioners in the industry, but they’re normally in assistant positions on short term contracts. There’s a limit to what can be achieved.”Identity politics assumes a number of logically absurd and fundamentally insulting ideas: members of any sub-group in society always act in the interests of their sub-group, never from higher motives, any member of a sub-group who does not act in the interests exclusively of that group or holds ideas that are not the (assumed) norm for that group is a traitor to his sub-group, and so on. This is why the narrative in the mass media always covers up any divergence from these notions. A black Supreme Court justice who is conservative is simply an anomaly and must be ignored. A black policeman who shoots a white suspect is another anomaly.
You ARE your group identity, nothing more nothing less. This is why so-called "cultural appropriation" is the new bad: a white man cannot play a black role, nor a non-Asian an Asian and so on. The fact that all the female roles in Shakespeare were, in his time, played by boys, is just one of those weird historical things that are best ignored. For the Greater Good.
What is wrong with all this was stated by a US justice a long time ago: if you want to stop discriminating on the basis of race, then stop discriminating on the basis of race. All of these plans for quotas are simply another form of racism. One final example from another article at the site:
Tired of seeing classical music magazines filled with middle-aged white faces, James Fleury proposes four ‘mental makeovers’ that could help increase diversity in the sector.Could the racism be any clearer?
It is hard to find a suitable envoi for this post, so I will simply choose a piece of music based solely on aesthetic quality. From the 2000 Salzburg Festival this is Stravinsky's The Firebird with the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Valery Gergiev:
UPDATE: Because this is such a polarizing topic, I just wanted to add some practical reasons why I oppose the whole "quota/diversity" approach. For a few decades now it has been the standard practice with a lot of orchestras to hold auditions with the candidates playing behind a screen. This is to prevent any kind of favoritism whatsoever. In the past, a candidate might have been favored because they were the cousin or brother-in-law of the conductor, or someone's friend, but auditioning behind the screen means that the ONLY criteria available to the auditors to judge the candidate was the playing. This also prevents candidates being favored because they are of a particular gender or visible minority. The guiding principle of orchestral auditions is the technical proficiency and aesthetic quality of the playing AND NOTHING ELSE. This is as it should be. All policies advocating quotas go directly against this, which is why I am against them.