open and closed societies

The new World Trade Center will apparently contain a “Freedom Center.”

Terry Teachout is not happy about it.

“[This] is one of the self-evidently silly ideas that only an underemployed committee could have conceived, a portentous-sounding Museum of Nothing in Particular destined to present blandly institutional, scrupulously non-controversial exhibitions.”

Scrupulously non controversial?

Some people say the attack on the World Trade Center was, among other things, an attack on the Western idea of freedom, that Muslim orthodoxy is designed to contest this idea, that children wrap themselves in dynamite to resist this idea.

Extremists and terrorists would be surprised, I think, to learn they are taking issue with “nothing in particular.”

The rest of us must wonder what Terry isn’t quilty of an anthropological naivete. He assumes freedom so deeply, he lives it so implicitly, that he cannot see it. This is not an odd thing in most culture bearers. But it is a strange thing in someone who reviews plays for a living, don’t you think?

Perhaps that Freedom center is not such a bad idea.


Huntington, Samuel P. 1996. The clash of civilizations and the remaking of world order. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Teachout, Terry. 2004. In the Fray: At Ground Zero, Culture by committee. Wall Street Journal, June 14, 2004

1 thought on “open and closed societies

  1. Joe O

    The whole point of the freedom center is to show how people in the US already have more than enough freedom. Its not like the freedom center will come out for drug legalization or against the patriot act.

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