News and Commentary

Nashville Composer Blacklisted For Condemning Arson During Black Lives Matter Riots
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A once up-and-coming musician has been canceled because he used his social media accounts to condemn arson after Black Lives Matter rioters set fire to a historic building near his home in Nashville, Tennessee.

Reason’s Robby Soave reported on the case of Daniel Elder, a 34-year-old musician who was just beginning what looked to be a promising career, including awards and a debut commercial album. But on May 30, 2020, that all changed when protests in Nashville following the police-involved death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd turned violent. Activists broke windows and threw rocks at police cars. The courthouse was set on fire.

Elder was “spooked,” Soave wrote, since the courthouse was near where he lived.

“Dismayed, disenchanted, and unable to sleep, Elder decided to delete his Instagram account. He penned one last farewell message, which was cross-posted to his Twitter and professional Facebook page: ‘Enjoy burning it all down, you well-intentioned, blind people. I’m done,’” Soave wrote.

As Soave noted, Elder didn’t malign Black Lives Matter or black people, he simply called out the people who were setting fires. In this particular case, the person who set the fire was white.

“These sentiments are not racist; in fact, they are correct. Social science research and voter surveys show that violent and destructive protests tend to backfire, eroding support for the cause in question. While a small number of far-left agitators support these tactics, the overwhelming majority of people oppose looting, riots, and arson. That is especially true of those who live in communities of color,” Soave wrote.

The morning after Elder published the post, he saw comments on his social media pages calling him a racist and “white supremacist piece of garbage.” He also received nasty emails and notes from people who said they would never again listen to his music.

Within a single day, the backlash to Elder’s innocuous tweet caught the attention of GIA Publications, the premier publisher of religious music. GIA published Elder’s music, but on June 1 contacted him to ask he apologize for his Instagram post. The apology was written by GIA and said:

Over the weekend I made a post on my social media accounts that was insensitive and wrongly-worded. I deeply apologize for the anger, offense, and harm that this post caused. While this offense was not intended, it is what was created. For this I am truly sorry.

There is no justification that I can offer for my post. So, rather than try to offer an excuse for what was done, I offer a promise for what I will do going forward. I commit to making amends and to dialogue. I commit to continue educating myself about privilege and bias. I commit to continue seeking an understanding of the experience of others, especially the Black community. I know that working for justice requires that we each first act justly. My work begins now.

Elder, who is himself left-leaning, refused to issue the pre-written apology.

“I chose to be that guy who didn’t issue the apology,” Elder told Reason. “Things went from there and it wasn’t good.”

Because he refused to repost their apology, GIA released a statement condemning Elder.

“The views expressed in composer Daniel Elder’s incendiary social media post on Sunday evening do not reflect the values of GIA or our employees,” GIA said. “GIA opposes racism in all its forms and is committed to do what Michelle Obama called ‘the honest, uncomfortable work of rooting it out.’”

The company also said it would no longer publish Elder. Because of this, Elder has struggled to find work since the incident. He couldn’t sing in choirs due to the coronavirus pandemic, not that any local choirs would work with him.

“The toll on Elder’s mental well-being has been equally catastrophic: losing countless friends, colleagues, and fans is no small matter for an artist. He has seen a therapist and a psychiatrist, and he says he has needed to be ‘talked off the ledge’ several times. Needless to say, he has struggled to compose new music since everything fell apart,” Soave wrote.

The experience, however, has opened Elder’s eyes to outside viewpoints.

“Because I was exiled, I started listening to voices on the right and the center, especially these classical liberals who have been exiled from the leftist movement,” he says. “The strange silver lining is this shook me out of my prejudices a little bit.”

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