Ethnographic fragments #23: erasing history in San Francisco, censorship Canadian-style, and two women of courage and conviction

Down the memory hole in San Francisco

photo: Jim Wilson/The New York Times

The San Francisco School Board unanimously decided not just to cover up or remove and archive Viktor Arnautoff’s murals “Life of Washington” but to destroy them because (in the words of the school’s vice-principal Mark Sanchez) mere concealment would “allow for the possibility of them being uncovered in the future.”

The 13-panel, 1,600-square-foot series of murals, which was painted in 1836 for the George Washington High School, “does not show the clichéd image of our first president kneeling in prayer at Valley Forge” but “Instead … depicts his slaves picking cotton in the fields of Mount Vernon and a group of colonizers walking past the corpse of a Native American,” writes Bari Weiss in the New York Times.  Arnautoff, a Russian émigré and a communist, believed that “The artist is a critic of society.”  He wanted to upset.

Weiss continues: “The notion of erasing art has an American pedigree. Arnautoff was intimately familiar with it, having been interrogated in 1956 by the House Un-American Activities Committee for drawing a caricature of Vice President Richard Nixon. But I suspect he would have been surprised to learn that more than 60 years later, progressives in charge of educating San Francisco’s children are merrily following this un-American playbook.”

It’s a very American playbook.  History as seen from Disneyland.  Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.




“This just in: History’s a fun ride. Where hip city and romantic history collide. Flights to San Francisco, California.”

Ad on my Facebook timeline for cheap flights to San Francisco from Westjet.


censorship, Canadian-style


“A publishing company in New Brunswick, Canada, has terminated its contract with cartoonist Michael de Adder after a drawing he did of President Donald Trump standing over the bodies of two drowned migrants went viral on social media,” reports NBC News.

“Brunswick News Inc. said in a statement on Sunday it is ‘entirely incorrect’ to suggest the company cancelled its freelance contract with de Adder over the cartoon.”


Brunswick News is owned by the Irving family, one of the largest landowners in both Canada and the United States.  The Irvings own nearly every newspaper in New Brunswick.


studies in courage (1) 

Guglielmo Mangiapane/Reuters

“A protracted standoff between a ship carrying rescued migrants and the Italian government ended early Saturday [June 29], when the vessel docked at the southern island of Lampedusa and the captain was arrested,” reports the New York Times.

“Mr. Salvini said on Saturday that Italy’s objective was to avoid ‘drama and death’ by stopping migrants from leaving their homeland. He said he had heard that two more rescue ships were en route to Libya, and added that the arrest of Captain Rackete should serve as a warning of the risks of coming to Italy.

‘Now you know how things work,’ he said. ‘Finally, there is a government that ensures that its borders are respected.'”


studies in courage (2)


“It is wonderful as well as inspirational to see that our country, once again, has someone of such great talent, grit, & integrity representing our country on the world stage. Congratulations & thank you…..Megan Rapinoe!!!!! You make America proud!”

John O. Brennan, CIA Director 2013-17, on Twitter, June 29, 2019 in response to Donald Trump’s tweet “After some very important meetings, including my meeting with President Xi of China, I will be leaving Japan for South Korea (with President Moon). While there, if Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the Border/DMZ just to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!”

Same Megan Rapinoe as announced to the world she would “not be going to the fucking White House” if the US Women’s soccer team won the World Cup.


The English surrealist and documentary filmmaker Humphrey Jennings explained the intellectual project of his book Pandaemonium as to “present, not describe or analyse” the “imaginative history of the Industrial Revolution … by means of what I call Images.  These are quotations from writings of the period in question … which either in the writing or in the nature of the matter itself or both have revolutionary and symbolic and illuminatory quality.  I mean that they contain in little a whole world—they are the knots in a great net of tangled time and space—the moments at which the situation of humanity is clear—even if only for the flash time of the photographer or the lighting.”  

These “snippets” are intended to function in the same way.  Click on the headings to go to the original articles, which are mostly from the mainstream aka fake news media.


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