No cancel culture or censorship to see here! Just a state official bragging about having a book event cancelled because the work in question challenged his beliefs about history.
Well, okay, maybe a little censorship: Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) on Friday openly bragged about ordering the cancellation of a book talk at a state history museum.
The co-authors of the book “Forget the Alamo: The Rise and Fall of an American Myth,” were set to discuss their work in an event hosted by the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin on Thursday, but just hours before the event was set to take place, they were told that the museum had backed out under pressure from its board, The Houston Chronicle reported Thursday.
The Chronicle noted that the board of directors of The State Preservation Board, which oversees the Bullock Museum as well as the Texas State Capitol and other sites, includes the state’s governor, lieutenant governor, speaker of the House, and other Republicans.
Sure enough, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) claimed credit for the cancellation on Friday.
As a member of the Preservation Board, I told staff to cancel this event as soon as I found out about it. Like efforts to move the Cenotaph, which I also stopped, this fact-free rewriting of TX history has no place @BullockMuseum. #txlege https://t.co/ua1aSFxHCk
— Dan Patrick (@DanPatrick) July 2, 2021
Patrick wasn’t alone in his grudge against the book, which reexamines the Alamo story: A senior fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, an influential right-wing think tank in the state, wrote that “Forget the Alamo” constituted a “radical reinterpretation of history.”
The book paints a more complicated picture of the conflict surrounding the Alamo, including the role of slavery in driving it. “Just as the site of the Alamo was left in ruins for decades, its story was forgotten and twisted over time, with the contributions of Tejanos — Texans of Mexican origin, who fought alongside the Anglo rebels — scrubbed from the record, and the origin of the conflict over Mexico’s push to abolish slavery papered over,” reads a description from the book’s publisher.
In a statement to TPM, Museum Director Margaret Koch “The Bullock Museum’s role in the Craft of Writing virtual event, originally planned with the Writers’ League of Texas around the book, Forget the Alamo was primarily that of co-host.”
“Although the Bullock withdrew from the event and notified the 198 pre-registered participants, the Writers’ League of Texas was prepared to continue the event on their own platform and gave the book’s authors the opportunity to do so,” Koch added. “The authors declined to continue, and because they did so, the Writers’ League of Texas cancelled the event.”
The book’s three co-authors slammed the event’s cancellation.
— Bryan Burrough (@BryanBurrough) July 2, 2021
Why do I think the Bullock cancelled our Forget the Alamo book event? We broke Memory Laws. Let me explain. https://t.co/lDvTR8GGv8
— Jason Stanford (@JasStanford) July 2, 2021
Lt. Gov, Dan Patrick takes credit for oppressing free speech and policing thought in Texas. @BullockMuseum proves it is a propaganda outlet. As for his fact-free comment, well, a dozen people professional historians disagree. #ForgettheAlamo #txlege https://t.co/SrKwpzb2HT https://t.co/jlIfZ6NSt5
— ChrisTomlinson (@cltomlinson) July 2, 2021
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is crowing about ordering @BullockMuseum to cancel our program last night. @DanPatrick thinks he has the right to force his myths on others and can't handle the truth. Historians have been teaching these facts for a decade. #txlege https://t.co/AjIFCjBcXC https://t.co/Ib6oUSmMy4
— ChrisTomlinson (@cltomlinson) July 2, 2021
And others pointed out that Patrick and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) have exploited the Republican hysteria over critical race theory — and more broadly over the historical recognition of slavery’s central role in American history — as a potent talking point.
Abbott last month signed a bill allowing the state government to prescribe additional restrictions on how Texas teachers address current events and the history of racism.
“This is exactly what I’ve been talking about in the Critical Race Theory debate,” State Rep. Gene Wu (D) wrote of Patrick’s Twitter brag Friday. “Republicans are quietly trying to find backdoor ways to prevent people from discussing ideas and teaching kids things that don’t fit their insane narrative.”
PEN America, the freedom of expression group, said in a statement that “Any museum shutting down a book talk is worrisome; for a government-affiliated museum where the governor sits on the board to do so should set off alarm bells for anyone who believes in free speech.”
“If this was indeed an attempt to silence the speakers because they wrote a book that challenges the governor’s preferred historical narrative; it’s censorship, plain and simple,” the statement added.
“As a public institution, the Bullock Museum owes the people of Texas an immediate explanation for the decision to cancel the talk, and a guarantee that it remains committed to presenting a wide range of views and speakers—without subjecting them to an ideological litmus test.”
This post has been updated.