Last Updated on February 17, 2022
A New York professor offered rioters advice on how to “faster” topple a statue of Christopher Columbus on Twitter, before claiming in an interview that American history was “hateful” unlike “tolerant” Middle Eastern history.
According to a report by Breitbart News, Erin Thompson, the Associate Professor of Art Crime at CUNY John Jay tweeted a response to a clip of rioters attempting to topple a statue of Christopher Columbus in Minnesota.
“I’m a professor who studies the deliberate destruction of cultural heritage and I just have to say… use chain instead of rope and it’ll go faster,” she said, in a clear endorsement of their criminal activity.
Thompson’s research focuses on criticizing the destruction of foreign art by terrorist groups abroad.
“As America’s only full-time professor of art crime, I study the damage done to humanity’s shared heritage through looting, theft, and the deliberate destruction of art,” she writes in her academic bio.
“Currently, I am researching the ways in which terrorist groups both sell and destroy art to support their genocidal campaigns, as well as the legalities and ethics of digital reproductions of cultural heritage,” she adds.
Evidently, she does not see the destruction of Columbus statues on U.S. soil as part of this “damage done to humanity’s shared heritage”.
She elaborated on this dissonance in an interview with the New York Times, where she suggests statue-toppling is a positive act of “rebellion”:
As an art historian I know that destruction is the norm and preservation is the rare exception. We have as humans been making monuments to glorify people and ideas since we started making art, and since we started making statues, other people have started tearing them down. There are statues from the ancient Near East of Assyrian Kings that have curses carved on them that say ‘he who knocks down my statue, let him be in pain for the rest of his life,’ that sort of thing. And so we know from those, oh, that one strategy of rebellion was knocking down a statue in 2700 B.C.
So it’s not surprising that we are seeing people rebelling against ideas that are represented by these statues today.
She then goes on to declare the statues of white people to be “money sinks”, and suggests that instead, the money used to preserve them should go to African-American and Native-American historical sites, which she feels are much more important:
I think a lot of people assume that since I’m an art historian that I would want everything preserved but I know that preservation is expensive. It’s expensive literally in that people have to pay for maintaining these statues — a couple of journalists in 2018 did an amazing investigation for Smithsonian magazine and found that in the previous ten years, taxpayers had spent at least 40 million dollars preserving Confederate monuments and sites.
And then at U.N.C., when protesters in 2018 tore down the ‘Silent Sam’ Confederate statue, U.N.C. proposed building a new museum to house it that would cost over 5 million dollars and almost a million dollar a year in ongoing maintenance and security. So I look at these statues as money sinks. And think about all of the amazing sites of African-American history or Native American history that are disintegrating from lack of funding and think those dollars could be better spent elsewhere.
She reiterated her pride at the statue toppling taking place across the country, arguing that it “feels very good”.
“We see ancient Roman statues with the eyes gouged out or the ears cut off,” she added. “It’s a very satisfying way of attacking an idea — not just by rejecting but humiliating it. So it feels very good in a way that is potentially problematic.”
As with African-American and Native-American history, Thompson also declares Middle Eastern history, which she believes reflects a “tolerant past”, to be more important than European-Americans’ “hateful past”. She uses this to explain her opposition to Islamic State destruction of monuments in Syria while supporting Antifa destruction of U.S. monuments.
“We have to think about who is doing the destruction for what purposes,” she said.
“ISIS was destroying monuments of a tolerant past in order to achieve a future of violence and hate. These protesters are attacking symbols of a hateful past as part of fighting for a peaceful future. So I think they’re exactly opposite actions.”