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Quillette: Placido Domingo’s accusers are too unimportant to be allowed to sully the reputation of a star

By David Futrelle

Twenty women have accused opera singer Placido Domingo of sexual harassment and, in at least one case, of outright sexual assault. In Quillette, reactionary propagandist Heather MacDonald argues that, regardless of the truth or falsity of their accusations, these women are simply too unimportant to be allowed to derail the career of “an artist of Domingo’s stature.”

MacDonald, a Manhattan Institute fellow whose politics lie in the general vicinity of the so-called “Intellectual Dark Web,” devotes a good deal of her essay to glorifying the talents of the “Three Tenors” alum — praising his “warm, soaring voice” and his “remarkable pitch control” and declaring him “one of classical music’s greatest ambassadors and impresarios.”

Never mind that, according to an Associated Press investigation, Domingo’s reputation as a predator was such an open secret in the profession that staffers went through elaborate machinations to try to ensure he he was never alone with a woman. MacDonald treats Domingo’s mostly anonymous accusers with a deep disdain, dismissing these “females” as “small-time soloists” and “disgruntled bit players.”

MacDonald seems to have no trouble imagining that at least some of the accusations are true; she just can’t bring herself to care. The alleged incidents took place long ago, she repeatedly notes, and besides, it’s not like the now-elderly singer is going to keep harassing and groping women in his vicinity.

At one point, astoundingly, she posits that he might well have felt a professional obligation to act out the part of a sex-obsessed lothario.

“As the object of so much sexual attention” from fans, she writes,

Domingo could have been forgiven for thinking that his own advances were part of the mix. He clearly belongs to the “Latin Lover” prototype, a good-natured, charming seducer from the old Hollywood era. Learning to deal with such types used to be part of a woman’s skill set. 

But MacDonald’s most outrageous argument, one that makes clear her profound elitism and lack of empathy for whole classes of human beings she clearly considers disposable, is that Domingo is too important to accuse.

It is a grotesque inversion of the proper hierarchy between public accomplishment and private sexual behavior to sacrifice an artist of Domingo’s stature for the sake of 20 disgruntled bit players, laboriously harvested from thousands of professional interactions characterized by graciousness and consideration.

How dare these unimportant women sully the reputation of such a star — especially because he only (allegedly) harassed a small percentage of those he interacted with. Which is a bit like saying we should ignore a serial killer’s crimes because most days he wasn’t killing anyone at all.

Put simply, the discomfort of these belated accusers decades ago is not worth Domingo’s head.

Harassing and groping is evidently a-OK if you have perfect pitch control.

Civilization rests on the realm of public achievement in ideas, politics, and art. The private realm of Eros should be subordinate to the public realm; how someone behaves in or getting to the bedroom is irrelevant to his achievements in the public square, absent criminality.

Do I need to point out that sexual assault is a criminal offense?

If we discovered that James Madison, say, was a skirt-chaser, that fact should have no bearing on his achievements as a political theorist and statesman.

The flaws of even the most eminent of thinkers are highly relevant to our assessment of their legacies. Historians have long wrestled with the fact that many of America’s “founding fathers” were both champions of freedom (for white people) while at the same time owning and, in the case of Thomas Jefferson, raping slaves.

Yes, as MacDonald argues, “Domingo brought beauty into the world.” He also seems to have brought great ugliness into the lives of many women around him. No amount of talent can absolve a sexual predator.

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Buttercup Q. Skullpants
Buttercup Q. Skullpants
2 years ago

The artist is supposed to suffer for their art. Not other people.

I’m an opera fan too, and I think the medium would survive just fine without Placido Domingo. In fact, of all the arts, opera really needs to clean house. The classical repertoire is full of misogyny. In the tragedies, the lead female characters end up dying violently because they transgress in love. Female composers/conductors are woefully underrepresented. The big female stars aren’t household names the way Pavarotti and Domingo are. Sexist body shaming is rampant: “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings”. Talented female singers often lose out on career-making parts that have expectations of being young and slender built into them (Cherubino and Octavian, for example), where there aren’t equivalent roles for male ingenues. It’s almost expected that leading men have generous builds, the better to project with. Great voices don’t always reside inside bodies that are considered conventionally acceptable.

So yeah, opera shouldn’t be coddling missing-stair talent. Not if it wants to survive and attract new audiences.

ObSidJag
ObSidJag
2 years ago

@Moggie:
Fair point (money going to the artist) and one I thought about after I posted, unfortunately.

In a way, it’s the same reason I don’t shop at Hobby Lobby or eat at Chic Fil-A, I don’t support their business practices re marriage equality or contraception, so I damn sure aren’t going to give them my hard earned lupins.

Going back to the original point, I guess one way to approach the dilemma would be to find a way to enjoy the art without subsidizing the questionable artist, say, using the local library (assuming it’s nearby and easily gotten to) and checking out the artist’s records, CD’s or DVD’s.

An ideal solution? Probably not, but it’s the 1st one that occurs to me.

ObSidJag
ObSidJag
2 years ago

how someone behaves in or getting to the bedroom is irrelevant to his achievements in the public square, absent criminality.

(Trying blockquote for the 1st time so hopefully I don’t run afoul of the bq mammoth).

That “absent criminality” bit jumped out at me on 2nd reading (& I’m pretty sure another mammother commented on it)–what the heck does she think sexual assault is if not a crime.

Christ, what rarified reality does she inhabit? Because I want to put as much distance between me and it as possible–ugh.

Naglfar
Naglfar
2 years ago

@Buttercup Q. Skullpants

I’m an opera fan too, and I think the medium would survive just fine without Placido Domingo. In fact, of all the arts, opera really needs to clean house. The classical repertoire is full of misogyny.

I’d say the same goes for classical music as a whole, but I agree that opera especially has a problem. I enjoy the medium, but many of the stories are problematic. Sadly, opera is not a popular medium for contemporary composers, so not many new operas are being written that could have new, better stories.
There are also some issues with racism in opera, such that singers who aren’t white have a hard time getting in and often face backlash. That should be addressed as well.

@Moggie, ObSidJag

Unfortunately, my money goes to the artist, not the art. That’s the bit I have trouble with, when the artist is a terrible person.

My general practice with this depends on whether the artist is alive or dead. If they’re alive and reprehensible, if I already have a certain record or book or whatever I’ll keep it, but I won’t buy from them anymore (and might avoid listening, especially on streaming where each play gives them money). If they’re dead, I usually feel fine about enjoying the work because any money from the sale get isn’t going to support them.

Alan Robertshaw
Alan Robertshaw
2 years ago

@ obsidjag

or eat at Chic Fil-A

You may be pleased to know, our only chic fil-a is to close because their politics are not welcome.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/oct/21/chick-fil-a-outlet-reading-to-close-in-lgbt-rights-row

Naglfar
Naglfar
2 years ago

@Alan Robertshaw, ObSidJag
There is a Chic-Fil-A near where I live that I have to drive past occasionally. Every time I see a large number of people at the drive through or waiting in the parking lot and I get angry. I live in a liberal area so it is a bit unusual that there are so many bigots who go to Chic-Fil-A. Maybe some are just ignorant, but it’s a lot of people.

Maybe my local LGBTQIPA+ community should take a hint from those in Reading and protest the restaurant.

AcidTrial
AcidTrial
2 years ago

Placido Domingo is a pretty good singer, in my personal opinion. The song he did with Santana on the “Shaman” album will always stand out to me. That said, he can be both a good musician and a pretty lousy person. These two things are surely not mutually exclusive.

John the Drunkard
John the Drunkard
2 years ago

I am not giving Domingo ANY excuse. That’s your projection there.

‘If you’re a star, they let you do it’ seems like an entrenched norm. The reports of abuse and coercion exist in the same space as the creepy adulation.

numerobis
numerobis
2 years ago

I hadn’t heard this “argument” ever before! Well, except for literally all the other cases of prominent people caught raping.

ObSidJag
ObSidJag
2 years ago

@ Alan:
Good to know Reading seems to be more on the ball–thanks for sharing, I’ll read the linked article a little later.

@Naglfar: when I see similar lines at various Chic-Fil-A locations, I always put this down to their “true believers” supporting them (though I know that doesn’t account for all the traffic)–it’s another reason I feel no guilt in denying them my $$$–they’re not hurting for business, sadly.

I believe San Antonio, TX. tried to ban Chik-Fil-A, possibly at the airport (sadly, I don’t remember the exact details) only to have the Texas Lege put the kibosh on the city government, another reason I despise Gov. Gaggit with the heat of a thousand suns.

Hambeast
Hambeast
2 years ago

Re: Chik-Fil-A, we have one, which I don’t go to. In 2011, when there was a boycott over their support of the anti-gay marriage proposition 8 in CA, the local churches organized a very successful anti-boycott and the parking lot was impassible for all the cars in line for their drive-thru.

Of course, my town is also the one that blocked three busloads of immigrant children from coming into the local border patrol station back in 2014, too. This was at the urging of the “mayor.” (Our mayor is just a member of the city council that wears the title. It rotates thru the city council annually.)

In other news, I will research the neighborhoods we are considering if we ever move again.

Dalillama
Dalillama
2 years ago

@Fenton

Heather MacDonald is not fit for Democracy.

She has an inherent need for an aristocracy that operates under a different legal and ethical standard to lord above her and grind it’s bootheel into her face for her to feel that the natural order is preserved and the world is as it should be.

That’s conservatism for you.

Alan Robertshaw
Alan Robertshaw
2 years ago

Re: Chic Fil-A

Just to live up to my annoying vegan credentials, I should probably argue that if you eat meat at all you’re still facilitating the oppression.

The meat industry funds the GOP so as to get environmental protection removed for cattle ranchers and big-ag generally.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/21/the-us-lawyers-rolling-back-wildlife-protection-one-species-at-a-time

And of course it’s a global thing. We can shake our heads at the genocide of indigenous tribes in the Amazon; but if you then go out and buy a burger, those people are being exterminated on your orders; literally.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/amazon-forest-fire-brazil-beef-meat-vegan-vegetarian-brazil-a9076236.html

On a less gloomy note though; people may enjoy this book. It’s a bit of a classic, and examines the link between conspicuous carnivorism and patriarchy.

https://caroljadams.com/spom-the-book

Katamount
Katamount
2 years ago

This is all the same shit that was deployed against Jian Ghomeshi’s accusers, excepting that Ghomeshi wasn’t elderly. Internet dipshits also deployed the “they just want a piece of his fame” canard against Lucy Decoutere despite the fact that Decoutere was a cast member on a well-known Canadian television show (Trailer Park Boys).

Dalillama
Dalillama
2 years ago

@Alan
Along woth every other moneyed interest. If your vegan activism isn’t anti-capitalist, it’s not worth taking seriously.

ObSidJag
ObSidJag
2 years ago

@Hambeast:
I remember something similar happening in TX, in say, the last 3-5 years (could be +/-, as I’m another one of the Olds, as Bina so accurately describes it).

Yeah, the true believers’ cars were pretty much wrapped around the store & out in the streets. Our local news outlets broadcast coverage on it.

Pretty much just hardened my resolve to deny them my business. Sometimes voting with my wallet is the only form of protest left to me, but I’ll take what I can get.

Alan Robertshaw
Alan Robertshaw
2 years ago

@ dali

You may find this interesting. Policy Exchange getting all concerned eco activism is back door anti-cap.

https://policyexchange.org.uk/publication/extremism-rebellion/

Of course, ostensibly both XR and AR don’t mention the broader politics; (and Greta batted off a question from David Lammy on that beautifully).

It is about appealing to the mainstream; so no words that would scare people off. Certain things might be implicit; but at this stage it’s about achieving the goals; and that does seem to be working.

Betrayer
Betrayer
2 years ago

besides, it’s not like the now-elderly singer is going to keep harassing and groping women in his vicinity.

Remember how Bush Sr would grope women, even when he was elderly and in a wheelchair? Men are never too old to be sexist creeps.

Betrayer
Betrayer
2 years ago

XR not being anti-cap is exactly why it will fail to do meaningful change. We can’t address global warming without addressing the failures of capitalism, as those are the root causes of global warming.

Cat Mara
Cat Mara
2 years ago

This is somewhat related: there’s a minor blow-up on software developer Twitter ATM over some guy who calls himself “simpleprogrammr”. He’s positioned himself as a trainer/ mentor type but turns out he’s a misogynist PoS with PUA tendencies. Also, like Mac Donald over on Quillette, his advice (sic) for women who have toxic experiences in IT is (surprise, surprise) “suck it up”, “grow a thicker skin”, “stay quiet, you don’t want to be labelled ‘difficult'” etc. etc. etc..

Details here.

Cat Mara
Cat Mara
2 years ago

@KindaSortaHarmless:

According to the Rationalwiki page gijoel cited, Mac Donald has a space between the two parts of her last name.

Of course, if she were a proper conservative, she would adhere to the traditional Gaelic naming convention and style herself “Heather Nic Donald” (or “Heather Mhic Donald” if she were married). Heather, honey, calling yourself a “son” of Donald is a little presumptuous for a mere lady, dontcha think? /s

kupo
kupo
2 years ago

I am not giving Domingo ANY excuse. That’s your projection there.

‘If you’re a star, they let you do it’ seems like an entrenched norm. The reports of abuse and coercion exist in the same space as the creepy adulation.

You’re the one implying that predation is born from fame, my dude. Adulation isn’t necessarily creepy, btw. But predatory behavior is.

Buttercup Q. Skullpants
Buttercup Q. Skullpants
2 years ago

OT: Did anyone see this HuffPo article on advice female executives were given at a recent Ernst & Yoing training seminar?

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/women-ernst-young-how-to-dress-act-around-men_n_5da721eee4b002e33e78606a

“Women’s brains absorb information like pancakes soak up syrup so it’s hard for them to focus, the attendees were told. Men’s brains are more like waffles. They’re better able to focus because the information collects in each little waffle square.”

Naglfar
Naglfar
2 years ago

@Buttercup Q. Skullpants
I saw that article earlier when David RT’ed it. Most professional development seminars are useless at best, but this one is purely awful. My hope is that it is retired ASAP, as it makes the 1960s look downright progressive.

O/T: Someone who I’ve been friends with for a very long time seems to have become a Skidmarxist. He listens to Chapo Trap House, agrees with Amber A’Lee Frost and Aimee Therese, and says that feminism is pointless because “class is the real issue.” Any suggestions of how to get him back, or is it too late?

Cyborgette
Cyborgette
2 years ago

@Naglfar

Maybe show him some data on income disparities for women vs. men working the same jobs. (And for Black/Brown/Latinx people vs. white people.) These are large, well-documented disparities.

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