American-born artist and writer, Molly Crabapple, shedding light on the role that artists can play against the backdrop of intolerance in today’s time, said that artists should refrain from making heroes as heroes can betray you later. She was speaking at a panel discussion titled ‘Art in the Age of Fascism’ at the Lahore Literary Festival. Molly Crabapple’s artwork is famous for its daring critique of social and political issues around the world. A few of her most recent works offer an insight into conflict-torn regions like Gaza, Iraq and Syria. Some of her renowned works amongst these include “Scenes from Daily Life Inside ISIS-Controlled Mosul”, and “Scenes From Inside Aleppo: How Life Has Been Transformed by Rebel Rule”. Crabapple’s talk majorly revolved around the role art can play amidst the rise of demagogues around the world. She laid great stress on how art can fight fascism that is currently on the rise around the world. The famed artist was of the view that the current political scenario is such that in face of existing pressures, people around the world are turning to internal strongmen who give them someone to blame. Her comments were aimed at the election of Trump and how he had given certain sections of the American society a scapegoat in the form of Mexicans and Muslims. Molly opined that Trump’s election had been a blow to artists, saying that, “To the authoritarian, artists are never people. Artists are fake, decadent and impure.” She also lamented the loss of artists and politicians to intolerance, particularly citing the deaths of Pakistani qawwal Amjad Sabri and British MP Jo Cox. Molly opined that in these dangerous times characterised by division and conflict, the role of art is integral to bringing people together as ‘art is for everyone’. She said, “Art must play a role in speaking out to all classes of people. Art cannot be ensconced in liberal enclaves. It has to go out into the world and speak to people. Art is for everyone.” Highlighting the importance of art, Molly said that art is a weapon against the cynicism and entropy plaguing the world today. “These are dangerous times and the pen is not mightier than the sword. However, art is vital in this age of fascism as demagogues themselves use art to propagate their purposes,” she said. Continuing to stress on the crucial role of art, she said that even though fighting economic injustice is the first step in the fight against fascists, the next step is “painting on the walls”. “We must sing songs, colour walls and write books in the complicated colours that we exist,” she said. The artist also warned the audience about the dangers of nostalgia and how we should be wary of it, saying that demagogues use nostalgia to convince people to go back to the past. Talking about how demagogues use memories of the past to win support, she said, “Demagogues concoct history. Demagogues, with their purity fetish, talk about a time when all men were men and the nation was one creed. Similarly, demagogues in the Islamic world portray Muslims as a monolithic entity.” Talking about her experiences in Gaza and Istanbul, she said that in Gaza you get a ‘visceral feeling of claustrophobia’, due to the suppressed environment prevalent there. She added, “In Istanbul, you feel like you are on the edge of the world. Istanbul is a city soaked in blood. It has seen refugees from the time of the Russian Revolution to the Syrian conflict.” She said that Erdogan had reduced a thriving democracy by reducing public space for opposition. Responding to a question about whether there is a clash of civilisations in the present world, she responded, “The clash is between idiots who have ideas of purity and worship authority.” In response to a question from the audience about whether the public really is fascist and was the concept of the ‘silent majority’ actually a sham as evident from the election of Donald Trump, Molly pointed out that only 24 percent of Americans voted for trump and the fact that 50 percent of the people did not vote was reflective of those voters who deemed both candidates as irrelevant. She said, “It is not true that the silent majority does not exist, but there exists a silent majority of people who cannot be bothered.” She added, “But Americans are out on the streets now to show the world that this orange donkey (Trump) does not represent us.” Molly also talked about how artists can play a counter-productive role in the fight against fascism by manufacturing heroes. “We should stop manufacturing heroes. Artists should refrain from making heroes as heroes can betray you later.” She further said that the people of Pakistan should not have made portraits of a dictator after he had carried out a coup, in a reference to the glorification of General Musharraf after the 1999 coup. Answering a question about her visit to Pakistan, Molly reminisced the time when she was a child and had been fascinated by Islamic architecture and how she had always wanted to experience it. She also expressed the awe and wonder she had felt on her recent visit to Sheesh Mahal in Lahore.