Imagine if all magicians treated their colleagues in this way.
There was a dean at my alma mater who, I think only half-kiddingly, proposed the following as a curriculum for a complete college education:
Freshman year: The Bible, with beatings
Sophomore year: Aristotle, to learn the power of reason
Junior year: Kant, to learn the limits of reason
Senior year: The Bible, without beatings
When it comes to training in the arts, there is a long tradition of something like "The Bible, with beatings" as the student's foundation. If you lived in the walls of a freshman art school dormitory, you would hear a river of tears the night following the first studio critique.
There is very good reason for the earnest upbraiding that those starting out, in these circumstances, get:
The greatest obstacle to progress in any art/craft is the difficulty untangling yourself from your work. You have to be able to observe your work -- as passionate as you are about it -- as this thing outside of you; like it is something growing in a petri dish. You are dispassionately observing it, seeing what's going to help it grow and what's keeping it from growing.
If the ego is tied up in the work, we ignore faults in the work because they threaten us: they are faults with us; and we can never move forward because we protect ourselves by hiding those faults rather than protecting the work by striving to eliminate them.
The first step towards being able to achieve that separation is to have your bell rung by someone who knows a lot more about the craft than you. Often, it can be a sign of respect. When an expert sees someone who is sharing their work just because they want to hear nice things, they often acquiesce and pat the performer on the head (having seen the work of some of those who were on the receiving end of glowing praise from Vernon -- I wonder if he was always sincere in his effusiveness). When they see someone who earnestly wants to improve and has in them the seed of doing things well -- that's when a beating, when warranted, is likely.
I have no idea who the performer in the anecdote was or what the context was, this post isn't about that anecdote. I am only saying that honesty about each others work -- and, more importantly, honesty about our own work -- may not be such an awful thing for magic. It's a question of what we value more: our feelings or our work.
We hear complaints all the time about magic not being respected as "art." I can say this much: the legitimate arts are populated with people who care more about the work than their feelings.