Since post-Trump is the new post-9/11, I have been thinking about what constitutes activism in post-Trump America. This line of thought was prompted by a combination of our readings for this week and the world-wide March for Science that occurred on Earth Day.
As far as I can surmise, there have always been propositions based in truth and evidence that seem activist or controversial in nature due to entrenched interests: the Earth is not in the center of the universe, for example. Furthermore, for as long as these propositions have existed, entrenched interests have sought to discredit those responsible and cast their ideas as radical and dangerous.
Two of the major examples of this phenomenon in the United States in my lifetime have been Evangelical Christianity’s rejection of the theory of evolution and the fossil fuel industry’s obfuscation of the realities of climate change. Both of these positions are pretty firmly entrenched in the GOP mindset at this point, and the distrust of scientists that both of these positions depend on has permeated the Republican base. Perhaps more worrying is that this mistrust extends to other experts and beyond Republican voters. Vaccines are a good example of something that experts (in this case doctors) view as imperative but are viewed by some people on both sides of the political spectrum as harmful.
With all of this in mind, it seems to me like our readings for today suddenly feel a bit dated (like so many other things). In Chapter 2 of Museums in a Trouble World Janes notes that “the majority of museums have attempted to remain remote from the demands and disorder of daily life of the planet.” I would, like Janes, like to see museums take a more proactive role in educating various publics about things like the existential threat of climate change, but I am currently at a loss as to how to accomplish this without preaching to the choir. In the article “Museums and the Combating of Social Inequality,” Sendall argues that one of the ways to accomplish the goal laid out in the article’s title is the inclusion of differing viewpoints and caution with regards to the authoritative voice in museum work. I see ignorance of things like climate change or the value of vaccines as an issue of social inequality, but I don’t see the value in the inclusion of viewpoints that are demonstrably wrong in such debates. I am also terribly perplexed as to how museums can best present information that is widely agreed upon by experts without alienating certain publics through perceived or actual condescension.