The American Association of Wine Economists has published a list of the wine industry’s contributions to some of this election cycle’s presidential candidates—including the current occupant of the White House. The above graphic was taken from their twitter feed. It is disturbing to see some of the names on this list. They are active supporters of fascism and white supremacy and will not be seeing any more of my dollars.
There has been a long and inconclusive debate in the philosophy of art about whether the political beliefs and ethical shortcomings of artists damage their work. The great, early-20th century poet Ezra Pound was a fascist. The artist Paul Gaugin abandoned his family in favor of a series of early teenage wives in Tahiti whom he infected with syphilis. The great Renaissance sculptor Cellini was a murderer and rapist, not to mention the many Hollywood producers and directors who treat women like chattel. The list of good art by bad people is very long.
The question of whether we should engage with their art is a personal one. One might legitimately feel uncomfortable engaging with the work of artists whose conduct is appalling. On the other hand, one doesn’t necessarily perpetuate ideas by consuming them. I doubt I perpetuate child abuse by reading Lolita or fascism by reading Pound’s The Cantos. And if the artists are no longer with us, the money I spend on their art is not contributing to their welfare. If the art is distinctive enough or of sufficient historical importance, it may not be possible to grasp the art of a genre or period without consorting with scum.
None of those factors are in play here. No one needs any of the products on this list. We have an overabundance of great wines to drink and alternative publications to read; we can easily buy something else. And the issues at stake are both current and of the utmost importance.
I saddens me to discover that the wine industry is so indifferent to the welfare of the country and citizens they depend on for their profits. We need more lists like this to impose economic pain on those who profit off the misery of others–I would add to shame them as well except you cannot shame the shameless.