I am calling the idea that you can do this the Wagner Defence, after the classical music canon's favourite anti-semite, Richard Wagner.
Most journalism about him walks the line between acknowledging his greatness and acknowledging that politically speaking his beliefs are beyond the pale. So, how does he get away with it?
Granted, there's at least some historical perspective applied in the case of Wagner: there was a lot of racism in the nineteenth century, to put it mildly, and the pantheon of pre-twentieth century greats would start to look a little empty if contemporary standards were applied retroactively in full. And it's not his fault that he was sanctified posthumously by Nazi Germany.
But in Wagner's case, there's a more troubling argument: that someone's artistic contribution can outweigh any consideration of their politics - however reprehensible.
So, what do you think is the appropriate response to all of this on the part of the listener?
How does this relate to contemporary debates about, say, metal artists who make racist statements, homophobic reggae singers, church burners, left-wing revolutionaries - think of John and Yoko backing Mao?
Or, one level down, American country singers advocating violent reprisal after 9/11? British metal bands toying with cultural nationalism by way of re-appropriating our history?
I believe music appreciation has to acknowledge the latent unity of the artist's life, beliefs and work.
- Unity, because no piece of art or music can be separated from its context, as expressed by its maker and known by the recipient.
- Latent, acknowledging that this context may not be fully known to the recipient, and an musician's views may also be only to varying degrees manifest in their work
So, what's the most appropriate response in these situations? And how we do we make sure that modern-day Wagners don't get a cheaper pass than they deserve?
Over to you.