Republicans have gotten plenty of political traction accusing others of “cancel culture.” They’ve leveled the charge at academia for not scheduling conservative speakers to the degree they do others. They attack demonstrators who demand removal of statues of Americans who don’t pass muster in racial politics. So what to make of conservative pressure prompting the Bullock Texas State History Museum to cancel a book event about fact and fallacy regarding the Alamo and Texas Revolution?
Call it cancel culture. Call it hypocrisy.
It’s also an abysmal example of Texas leadership. Only weeks ago Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick rallied around a bill creating the so-called “Texas 1836 Project” to furnish “patriotic education” about Texas’ founding. This will yield pamphlets arguably indoctrinating new residents, distributed by the Texas Department of Public Safety. Supporters promised during the legislative debates we witnessed that it would not gloss over Texas’ long history of racism targeting Blacks and Hispanics. Right.
Mere weeks later, practically on the eve of the Fourth of July, Patrick and others pressured the Bullock Texas State History Museum to cancel (and at the last minute) what promised to be a lively discussion involving the newly released “Forget the Alamo: The Rise and Fall of an American Myth.” The book highlights what many of us versed in Texas history already knew: Much of Texas’ dispute with Mexico in the 1830s was based on Anglo settlers’ strong embrace of slavery and Mexico’s aversion to it.
In an interview with Trib staff writer Carl Hoover, “Forget the Alamo” co-author, former Wall Street Journal reporter and Texas-reared Bryan Burrough said he expected pushback from Texas traditionalists and arch-conservatives, though he probably didn’t foresee it from weak-kneed Bullock museum personnel. “I’ve worked all over the world for 35-plus years,” Burrough told Hoover, “and I had to return to Texas to get my first government censorship and actual death threats.”
Patrick takes credit for the cancellation, insisting the Bullock is no place for “fact-free rewriting of TX history.” Our take? We would have welcomed honest debate over historical sources and interpretation. Alas, Patrick and right-wing allies fear such debates. They reveal themselves as ready employers of cancel culture. And they have done lasting damage to the Bullock’s credibility. One patron insisted it should be “governed by historians and facts, not politicians trying to score political points.” The Alamo book’s co-author, Chris Tomlinson, has branded the museum “a propaganda outlet.”
Too many of us prostitute history to reaffirm our status, race and privilege in society. But one point of history is to contemplate the failings of those who have gone before us, and to resolve to do better in our time before we give way to other generations who will judge us. By that standard, the Bullock cancellation serves no one but politicians and insecure Anglos. Yet opportunities cry out amid our era of cancel culture. Baylor University? McLennan Community College? Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum?