Though likely buried by the news that Joe Biden’s executive orders turned V for Vendetta into a documentary last Thursday, Nashville’s arts community held a pandemic pity party so asinine it should make anyone with a Humanities degree wish their university had Nordstom’s return policy. As recently as Monday, Humanities Tennessee had planned to return The Southern Festival of Books to Legislative Plaza on October 9-10, but it ultimately announced the shift of its 33rd edition online due to rising delta variant concerns. In a year when every surrounding county held full-scare fairs, the Nashville Film Festival is returning to a live format, and concerts at Ascend Amphitheater have resumed with a vaxx-card free grace period until October, the decision seems quite scientifically unsound.
However, before Humanities Tennessee had a chance to elaborate, The Scene’s culture editor, Erica Ciccarone, published a half-baked tantrum not out of place on a mid-aughts Goth’s LiveJournal. In “Thanks to the Unvaccinated, the Southern Festival of Books Will Go Virtual After All,” she laments the festival’s retreat to an online format for the greater good, spending more time telling her audience that she always buys her fest books locally than engaging with any scientific evidence that her accusatory clickbait headline suggests. She does, however, mention her friend’s inability to get an elective surgery on her windpipe that will allow her to walk her dog again, an anecdote that apparently passes for reportage these days at Nashville’s weekly freebie.
Both Humanities Tennessee and Ciccarone could have checked their STEM bias before grandstanding, but even a cursory Google search seems too triggering for the defenders of arts and culture against death merchant Bill Lee. As peer-reviewed work published in Nature last month indicates, the vaccinated can still catch and transmit COVID; they just tend to have more mild cases. Even countries with high vaccination rates like Israel have seen the same spike as everywhere else in the world, findings that make Ciccarone’s diatribe even more off base. More germane to the decision to hold an event in Legislative Plaza is the consensus that the threat of transmission at outdoor events has remained low the entire pandemic, especially true in the case of an author meet and greet with a line half as long as the one for funnel cakes at the Putnam County Fair on a Tuesday. But who needs evidence when you can remix a tired The Simpsons line with Ciccarone’s panache?
In the end, Humanities Tennessee’s adherence to pseudoscience has more to do with the festival’s target demographic remaining too paralyzed by COVID fear to do anything more taxing than take photos of maskless folks at Target. At The Pamphleteer, we back our snideness with data. Which leads us to the burning question Ciccarone’s piece evokes: How many of those SFOB signed copies that she’s accumulated over the years and spends the article endlessly crowing about has she actually read?