Opinion | The Climate Protesters and the Museums

When protesters attack art in museums. Also: Justice Clarence Thomas and friends; the Ukraine war; A.I. and doctors; cheering for losing teams.
Opinion | The Climate Protesters and the Museums

To the Editor:

Re “When Protesters Take Aim at Art” (Arts, July 12):

Nobody wants art museums to become fortresses; they are a precious public good.

As such, to remain relevant and credible, museums must engage with the concerns of their constituencies — as they generally seek to do. The climate crisis, however, has been slow to receive curatorial attention, even though it is a front and center concern in most U.S. communities.

For example, a bipartisan supermajority of American adults, like museum protesters, want to see transformational government action on climate change, away from burning fossil fuels.

Museums’ popularity and great public trust mean that they can move the needle significantly on climate engagement in our culture. More museums should follow the lead of institutions like the Hirshhorn in Washington and the Brooklyn Museum in New York in presenting programming that addresses the emergency most of us are so worried about.

Further, presenting such programming would make any museum a far less compelling target for future protests, because it would now be seen as an ally in the fight of and for our lives.

Miranda Massie
New York
The writer is the founder and director of the Climate Museum.

To the Editor:

I served as a security guard at the Georgia Museum of Art for 17 years, from 2000 until I retired in 2017, and I have attended protests since 1968 concerning peace, racial justice, women’s rights and, yes, the environment.

As both a former museum security guard and a longtime protester, I think that the trend of targeting works of art to publicize environmental issues is both execrable and counterproductive.

During my years in museum security I often joked that my job involved protecting art from art lovers. Today it is no joke when works of art are threatened by those who would use them as mere props for their protests.

The climate crisis is very real, but so is the crisis of museums being underfunded and short-staffed. Protesters may claim that their actions do no harm to the art, but in reality they can indeed damage the art and they certainly damage the credibility of the cause that the protesters claim to support.

Ed Tant
Athens, Ga.

To the Editor:

Instead of making mischief and wasting resources, these misguided protesters should be helping draft and pass laws to stop the destruction of our planet. Their efforts are causing further harm by forcing museums to use more petroleum-based plexiglass.

Laura Cahn
New Haven, Conn.

To the Editor:

Re “Thomas Joined Elite Club, and Court’s Door Opened” (front page, July 9):

As I read this story about Justice Clarence Thomas, I kept looking for anything that could not have been said about some other members of the court. I kept looking for anything about Justice Thomas that constituted, or even smacked of, illegal or immoral behavior by the standards we have been told to accept of that distinguished body.

So, what was the purpose of the story? To prove that Justice Thomas enjoys advantages far above and beyond those available to other citizens, that he is befriended by people who seek his influence? If so, he differs not a whit from his mates on the court. So, again, why do the story only on that one justice?

Should we now expect similar investigative pieces on the other eight justices? If not, it appears that here The Times has engaged in gotcha reporting devoid of substance.

Michael C. Weston

To the Editor:

There are two Horatio Alger societies, the V.I.P. group to which Justice Clarence Thomas belongs and the less pretentious group, the Horatio Alger Society, consisting of collectors, students, scholars and cherishers of the Alger stories that is much more modest in its claims.

The meetings are at bargain motels, awards are not presented in pretentious circumstances, and the meals are not five-star, but Horatio Alger would probably be more at home. Justice Thomas would be welcome.

Paul Rich
The writer is a life member of the Horatio Alger Society.

To the Editor:

As a former Hungarian freedom fighter — whose country was abandoned by the West in 1956 — I know what Ukrainians would ask today, if they heard about proposals to negotiate with the Russians:

“Would you negotiate with criminals who took part of your homeland? Should the homeowner negotiate with the robber about his possibly returning some of the loot? Are freedom and democracy also negotiable?”

Béla Lipták
Stamford, Conn.

To the Editor:

Re “There’s One Hard Question My Fellow Doctors and I Will Need to Answer Soon,” by Daniela J. Lamas (Opinion guest essay, nytimes.com, July 6):

The vast majority of physicians I see these days walk in with a laptop and start typing, occasionally making eye contact (and grunting affirmatively), but it’s not very meaningful. When I depart five minutes later(!), I feel more as if I saw a stenographer rather than a physician.

Maybe the use of A.I. to do this will make for a more personal interaction between patient and physician. Only one way to find out.

Richard LaChance
Fort Worth
The writer is a paramedic.

To the Editor:

Speaking as a programmer with 40 years of experience, I feel that the real danger of doctors’ use of A.I. is that all programs have bugs.

All of them. No exceptions.

The problem with A.I. programs is that they are exceptionally complicated programs and are very, very difficult to debug.

If doctors start to rely on them reflexively, as we tend to do with direction apps like Waze and Google Maps, there will be severe consequences.

Stephen Hirsch
Teaneck, N.J.

To the Editor:

Re “Why I Still Love the New York Mets,” by David Brooks (column, July 7):

Despite years of crushed dreams, I’m back at it; my 6-year-old has gotten me watching Mets games religiously again. And, much like my father must have felt, I find it heart-wrenching to watch my kid hope and cheer night after night only to find out that his beloved team has come up short once again.

It’s no wonder that Mr. Brooks asks the most obvious of questions: Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we keep tuning in and emotionally investing when we have years of heartbreak and disappointment to inform us otherwise?

I look at my kid when he’s unconditionally cheering his team on, and I know why. Win or lose, the Mets allow us to dream big, believe in miracles and share some of the most precious moments of life a father can ever spend with his child.

David Y. Harari
Burlington, Vt.