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Bay Area Book Festival Joins NYT Efforts to Cancel Alice Walker

Elizabeth P

May 1, 2022

Recently, there has been an upsurge in coordinated attacks against any individual or organization who supports Palestine and opposes Israeli apartheid. British rapper “Lowkey” has been the target of a smear campaign intended to deplatform and defame him for his pro-Palestine activism. Campaign Against Antisemitism described it as a “Success for Jewish students” when pro-Israeli occupation groups forced the National Union of Students (NUS) to remove Lowkey from the NUS centenary conference, while the Israel lobby continues to try to get his music removed from Spotify. On March 18th, the National Political Committee of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) voted to de-charter the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) and Palestine Solidarity Working Group - disbanding DSA’s only working group dedicated to Palestine and the nonviolent BDS movement.

Author and revolutionary Black feminist Alice Walker has been yet another target of these attacks. She has stood with Palestine and Cuba against imperialist aggression, defended political prisoners including Mumia Abu-Jamal and Julian Assange, protested against South African apartheid and the Iraq war, and she has never let the mainstream media intimidate her into silence. Unfortunately, it appears that the Bay Area Book Festival does not share Alice Walker’s support for our First Amendment rights. The festival revoked its invitation to Walker this year and while their statement claims the decision “had nothing to do with her position on Palestine, her voice as a Black woman writer, or her right to speak her mind freely,” the rest of the statement contradicts this claim.

Guilt By Association

According to its statement, the Festival Board’s decision to disinvite Alice Walker was based on her “inexplicable, ongoing endorsement of David Icke, a conspiracy theorist who dangerously promulgates such beliefs as that Jewish people bankrolled Hitler, caused the 2008 global financial crisis, staged the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and more.” They specifically point out Walker’s blog post sharing Icke’s interview with “conspiracy theorist Alex Jones of Infowars” and link a 2018 CNBC article about some of the “disturbing and ridiculous conspiracy theories” which Jones has promoted.

Notice how the statement repeatedly uses the loaded term “conspiracy theorist.” This phrase’s usage attempts to lead the reader into rejecting what the alleged “conspiracy theorist” has to say and form an assumption that anyone who promotes them is crazy. Of course, much of what Alex Jones and David Icke say is untrue. However, this does not mean that we should unconditionally refuse to hear what they have to say. Books claiming the world is controlled by descendants of extraterrestrial reptilians will not magically override your critical thinking skills and force you to believe that lizard people are running the world.

Many in power want you to fear exposing yourself to “disinformation” or “conspiracy theories”, despite the fact that there is nothing dangerous about hearing viewpoints that don’t perfectly align with your existing beliefs. In fact, investigate issues by looking at multiple sources with various biases should be encouraged. While it is true that Alice Walker has featured Icke’s work multiple times on her blog, it is not a crime to share information that isn’t 100% ideologically pure.

The Board also claims that Alice Walker’s work might have been influenced by some of David Icke’s antisemitic beliefs, citing her 2017 poem “It is our (Frightful) Duty to Study the Talmud” and quoting a few lines out of context. After reading the full poem, however, it becomes obvious that Walker opposes the Israeli military’s use of the Zionist idea of Jewish supremacy to justify its own atrocities against Palestinian civilians. She also encourages the reader to investigate what she has written. Maybe the pro-censorship mob believe the most dangerous part of her poem is this stanza: “Study hard, with an open / If deeply offended mind, / Until you can sift the false / From the true.”

As if the Board is doing its best to make sure the reader has a negative perception of Alice Walker, its statement then links to a review published in the “bad poetry” category of New York Magazine, written by someone who “identifies as Black and Jewish.” The review accuses Walker of “indulging in virulent anti-Semitism” and “[using] her writing to promote the oppression of another group.” If that wasn’t enough, the review goes on to analyze Walker’s relationships with both her ex-husband and their daughter, claiming that her complicated marriage contributed to a “hatred of Judaism” and that her love for Palestinian children is “a deflection from the one child she has, who is surely bothered by her mother’s hatred of Jews like herself.” At least that review’s writer demonstrates more integrity than the Festival Board by refusing to cancel Alice Walker or her work.

Jumping on the Cancellation Bandwagon

The Bay Area Book Festival’s statement parrots most of what the New York Times has already said about Alice Walker on April 23rd, including the performative wokeness necessary to shield themselves from accusations of racism and sexism. Projecting that most people would read only the headline as opposed to the entire article, especially when said article is hidden behind a paywall, The Times chose the headline, “Alice Walker Has ‘No Regrets’.” How horrible of her to not regret her own cancellable offenses, especially when the Israel lobby has decided that she is antisemitic!

Upon reading the whole article, one sees an enormous amount of text describing the poverty, racism, and sexism that Alice Walker contended with throughout her life. These illustrations of her suffering are interspersed with accusations of not only antisemitism, but also “imposing values on cultures not her own” by opposing female genital mutilation and negatively portraying Black men in her book “The Color Purple”. Rather than explicitly telling us to cancel Alice Walker, this article calls for us to “hold one another to account,” i.e. publicly shame Walker, as well as other unruly peers, for their thought crimes, making sure they never again step out of line.

In the New York Times’ defense, this article also highlights some of Walker’s activism, such as breaking the embargo against Cuba to meet with Fidel Castro and coining the term “womanist”. As quoted in the article, Walker’s definition of womanist is “A black feminist or feminist of color. From the black folk expression of mothers to female children, ‘You acting womanish,’ i.e., like a woman. Usually referring to outrageous, audacious, courageous or willful behavior.” Ironically, the mainstream media has been attacking Walker for her willfully courageous actions – from being arrested for protesting against the Iraq war, to reading books that we’re told are dangerous to read. No matter how much The Times attempts to hide it, they are perpetuating a smear campaign against Walker for the crime of “acting womanish.”

CPI Stands With Alice Walker

The Center for Political Innovation opposes the corporate media’s attempts to defame and discredit anti-imperialists through cancellation. Now that even major NGOs such as Amnesty International are officially recognizing Israel presence in Palestine as an occupation and brutal apartheid regime, the Israel lobby is terrified of losing its power. In order to maintain it, they are doing anything and everything they can to crush dissent. That is part of why Alice Walker continues to be an inspiration to people all around the world who fight against injustice. Her refusal to back down in the face of deplatforming and character assassination proves that we do not have to submit to overgrown hall monitors attempting to tattle on us for failing to stick to whichever unquestionable dogma is being peddled by the corporate media at any given moment.

Sign this petition to stand with Alice Walker and send a message to the ruling class that We Will Not Be Canceled!

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