Behind the headlines
Intolerance is turning our museums into McDonald’s
I was sorry to hear that the Wellcome Collection is, in its own words, “racist, sexist and ableist”, says James Marriott in The Times. “I’d been vaguely meaning to go.” I now know my plans to liven up a damp afternoon by inspecting “Napoleon’s toothbrush and Florence Nightingale’s moccasins” concealed a darker subconscious motive – to, as the curators put it, “collude in the exclusion, marginalisation and exoticisation of indigenous peoples”. To anyone unfamiliar with the “censorious jargon” of modern academia, this must seem either “incomprehensible or bleakly hilarious”. But it’s a “characteristic tragedy of the modern age” – something a lot of people quite like has been killed by a small number who passionately hate it. It’s the same reason bad restaurants like McDonald’s are so successful. In any group deciding where to eat, there will be one or two with strong opinions – can’t have spicy food, won’t eat fish – so what we end up with is “bland compromise”.