Radical Muslims Aren't Alone
So it turns out that contrary to widespread impression, the American government is just as willing to step all over people's right to free expressions as are governments in what are deemed more tyrannical countries. News has it that the Washington based Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery "is removing a video after complaints from a Catholic group that the images were sacrilegious." A video by the artist David Wojnarowicz is supposed to be "hate speech," according to Catholic League President Bill Donohue. The video depicted a swarm of ants crawling on a crucified Christ figure. He contended that it was meant to insult Christians and this warranted its being removed – that is, banned.
The museum's director argued that the video wasn't meant to be offensive but he ordered it removed. Wow! Even if it had been intended to offend or insult anyone, Christian, Jew, atheist, agnostic, what have you, there is no justification for government's banning the work except if the National Portrait Gallery is a not a private outfit. And indeed, it is federally funded and thus, logically, subject to direction that ultimately derives from the American quasi-democratic political process. So, again logically, the Gallery isn't a free institution like a privately owned establishment showing art to people wishing to see it and funded by people wishing to display it. No, it is funded by often unwilling taxpayers and, thus, it is beholden to many whose judgment may disagree with that of the Gallery's administrators.
Here is a great instance of how public funding and management of society's various institutions and activities will naturally, logically lead to censorship. Actually, is it censorship or is it simply the politicization of culture? Hate speech? Give me a break. If that sufficed to relegate the matter to public authority then innumerable programs on cable television could be banned by the government. Certainly Penn & Teller's wonderful Showtime feature "B****hit" would have to go immediately, given how often the two famous Las Vegas comics – and, incidentally(?) libertarians – ridicule prominent elements of American culture, including religion. A while back the program took on the Bible, of all things, making mincemeat of its various factual or historical claims and certainly deriding much of its theological content.
So perhaps that's next, shutting down a privately produced and funded cable TV program! (Certainly Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia would have to approve of this, given how a little bug in him desires both FOX and MSNBC cable TV shut down!) And certainly what the Gallery did, however much it had logic on its side, doesn't differ very much from what radical Muslims did when those Danish newspapers published cartoons in which the founder of Islam was ridiculed.
No, in America most people who would want to impose religions doctrines on others do not usually go about burning down churches – although there have been several who have done just that when they disagreed with what some churches preach. But it is not far fetched to fear that, with more and more people thinking that whatever is within the public realm is subject to government control and management, what transpired at the Smithsonian Portrait Gallery in Washington may soon be routine. This because even though many galleries are not public, they could be acting criminally by publishing and displaying "hate speech"! So even being private will not serve to legally protect them from attacks from zealots.
In a free country no gallery would be public and no government interference in what galleries display would be legally acceptable. Only through boycotts and ostracism could one shut down a gallery, not as public policy.
But this is not a free country! It sadly contains numerous elements of a police state. The reason is that more and more aspects of our social and economic life are coming under public supervision, even outright public ownership. Next the banks, which were recently bailed out with public funds, will be ordered to remove works of art from their lobbies if these to not meet with the approval of politicians and bureaucrats.
Posted by Acudoc on 12/07/10 02:42 AM
At the very moment of our last breath let us all think kindly of the prodigious efforts by mankind down through the ages to make heroic sense---of what just happened.
Posted by Hanna M Jones on 12/05/10 09:49 AM
No intent to offend anyone but just what is the message of a painting where Christ is covered with ants?
does it mean ...
The ants are Christians and they are everywhere?
Christ lay down for a nap in the wrong place?
Christ did not rise but instead was devoured by ants? Or, The ants of the world worship Christ and God too? Help!
Posted by Kaydell Bowles on 12/04/10 11:19 PM
I disagree with Mr. Machan viewpoint as a religion or religions wanting to impose thier view point upon the people. It is called respect of another's religion. If a National Gallery is funded by taxes from the public, then respect should be shown to all religions. America is a predominantly Christian, should not the respect be shown them as well as Muslims, Hindus, Buddists and any other religion of the world. Why should any National Gallery disrespect any religion or the diety of which they worship? Showing respect is called civility and courtliness.
Posted by Laramierancher on 12/04/10 07:03 PM
Several have already stated quite well the fallacies of this tirade. I would how found Dr. Manchan's opinion more compelling had he suggested the Smithsonian simultaneously display the offensive Danish anti-muslim cartoons, as well as some displays mocking the idiocy of non-believers, as examples of societal misfits striking out at authority.
Posted by RidingLiberty on 12/04/10 06:37 PM
I am Catholic and I can take the art. I don't need to have the Catholic League protect me...so shame on them as well as on the Smithsonian.
Secondly, and more importantly however is that if you have "public" funding (understanding that means funding through theft/taxes), then the public will and should influence what you spend the money on " this naturally, as you pointed out leads to censorship.
Lastly, I think I would have to say, that were the piece in question a Muslim "desecration" it would never have gone up in the first place because the Muslim's have the world by the "you know whats." when it comes to trying to accommodate them with political correctness. We are falling all over ourselves not to offend those "infidels" and many other "special" groups. Good gravy...perhaps we should all be relegated to silence unless we get prior approval from the "State"...oops...I shouldn't have said that...we'll probably see legislation introduced here in the U.S. soon to do that now.
I support letting the happy noise of discourse reign. Let's put "Ant Jesus" back up and if some are so offended by it, then let them create and display "Ant Muhammad," "Ant Joseph Smith," and for good measure "Ant Budah!" Then we could have a truly fair publicly funded museum.
I think the better route is to refrain from stealing from people (taxes) to support anyone or anything...although I would personally like my taxes to commission "Ant Council on Foreign Relations" and "Ant TriLateral Commission," "Ant Hitler" and "Ant..whoever wrote and voted for HomeLand Security"...but then that is just me...and I would pay to see it!
Posted by Duane Bass on 12/04/10 06:22 PM
Warning – The internet is next, unless we take action to shut down these corrupt NWO politicians that we seem to have lodged in DC. Do something to protect the sanctity of cyberspace. . .
Posted by Bill on 12/04/10 04:23 PM
Only now is this author figuring this out. I would encourage him to read: A PEOPLES HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES BY HOWARD ZINN and then respond.
Posted by Jscottv on 12/04/10 03:17 PM
The desecration of legitimate religious symbols should not be tolerated by anyone in a free society. Even Christian!
Posted by Joanna on 12/04/10 03:13 PM
Dr. Tibor, you said "Only through boycotts and ostracism could one shut down a gallery, not as public policy."
Only through public protest was this article removed. Not because of any policy. With 85% of Americans being Christian, we have the right and the freedom to protest, which we did effectively.
Posted by Rowan Smith on 12/04/10 02:12 PM
If the message of Christ is one of tolerance, then I`d be inclined to think that the ants won this round!
Posted by Robert Wheeless on 12/04/10 01:45 PM
Reading Dr. Machan's missives always make me wish I had paid more attention to my English teacher in high school.
Posted by Jeannie Queenie on 12/04/10 01:04 PM
I agree with all above who believe government should in no way support the arts. For starters, it is no secret in the US that so called artists that the gov't aids via Nat'l Endowment, et al, more often than not are political ploys meant to bolster the sagging 'artistic career' of some gay guy. I personally viewed this in Boston years ago when a new gov't building was erected and a local gay guy was hired to do the so-called art work for the lobby. One afternoon on my lunch break I went over to see both the new building and talk to the artist.
Upon entering the lobby, I was shocked to see a hugh canvas about 10' X 15' with three color blocks on it,(think Walmart crap colors). I asked the artist how much he was paid and he said, "$1,000,000.00".
Another shock set into me at the realization that, 1)you need to be a perv to get a job for the govt, and 2) you needn't have a clue as to what constitutes 'real art'. As long as you can BS your way into getting a gov't contract or can do art a 3 yr old could do--hey, you get the job. Jane and John Doe get to pay for your whacked wetdream.
And the third shock, that I as a tax paying resident of MA had to pay for this enormous piece of sheista that smelled of social socio smut and scam. This bozo faux artiste probably hired by Barney Frankfurter, he of the famed Boston Back Bay homo house of prostitution...but the asses of massa-chusetts just keep voting him in for after all, he is liberal, hence, a freak who abhors anything conservative, rational or adding class. Obviously the more freakish it is, more libs like it.
Speaking as a fine artist, and who has taught art off and on for years, I find many of the so called artists today are wanna-bes who have not a thimble of talent in their baby finger...and further, have not the discipline or dedication to turn out anything of meaning, depth, or beauty. Today the thrust is making the pubic Public, and this ant covered Christ is meant only for its shock value, the key word being shock, which is the domain of the adolescent stage. So instead of walking around with pink/purple hair and tatoos covering every square inch of their bodies while rings adorn and hang from every body orifice, they just 'make art', doesn't matter that it's meaningless, abhorent, ugly or, generally a plain old piece of crap.
Regarding the Christ/ant 'art'(?)..one can only wonder what the muslims would do if Muhammed were portrayed as an old lech surrounded by nine year old girls with his Roman hands and Russian fingers under their burkas...wow, talk about an outcry. I think that these faux artists should be eliminated from the shallow end of the gene pool for adding to the degradation around us. Surely, they add no value to life, nor do they generate quality art, nor enhance quality of life.
Posted by Mary Boud on 12/04/10 11:57 AM
@ Zenbillionaire at 2:02:47 AM
"There is no reason the public should be expected to pay for one (a National Gallery). Get rid of it,...."
Exactly right! We should also get rid of the National Endowment for the Arts -- and I use the term 'art' loosely. There are actually many departments and bureaus in the U.S. government which should be disbanded altogether.
Readers may recall that early in the Obama Administration, some bureaucrats were recorded recruiting 'artists' to disseminate 'artistic' propaganda for the purpose of bolstering the administration's messages. Thankfully, there was an artist among them who shared this effort with the public.
I wonder if Dr. Machan thinks citizens, at least if they are Catholic, should remain silent in the face of such an affront. Are only the so-called artists, no matter how uncivil, permitted to express themselves?
Posted by JM on 12/04/10 11:23 AM
Posted by Bud Wood on 12/04/10 11:04 AM
Yes, most anyone who is not totally caught up in (pseudo) patriotism can see that "this sadly contains numerous elements of a police state".
Posted by Myron Goodrum on 12/04/10 10:03 AM
Thank you Mr. Danforth and Mr. Chapman, your comments reflect my feelings on the subject as well. M
Posted by Mpresley on 12/04/10 09:57 AM
I agree that public funding or support of arts should be stopped, as it now serves no good purpose. However, the libertarian argument necessarily leads to the notion that one's particular view, or one's choice is arbitrary, as good as any other other, and that the value assigned to an idea (or good), far from being intrinsic, is simply reducible to an economic choice based on whatever value the autonomous actor posits at any given time.
In fine, there are no transcendent standards that can be rationally applied. Religion, of course, supplies standards, but religion is grounded in revelation, not reason (in spite of traditional arguments supporting a natural theology grounded upon natural law).
A nation, using the traditional sense of the term, must be actively preserved in order for its continued growth and survival. The traditional spiritual groundwork of any extant civilization must be considered sacred, or there is nothing left on which to ground social cohesion; a purely philosophical groundwork is untenable and too abstract for most of the citizenry to embrace.
The Christian foundation of our civilization has mostly been abandoned, and mostly by Christians themselves. Christianity is now, in the main, an agent for its own demise as the various sects embrace multi-culturalism along with the importation of those who will be the first to subjugate their hosts.
The question we should ask: what could the museum art director have been thinking? Obviously traditional religious iconography had no value for him vis-a-vis the social order, otherwise he would not have allowed the exhibit in the first place. This begs the question, if anything is as good as anything else, why even bother to employ a director?
The "artist," a man named Wojnarowicz, submitted the film as a tribute to his homosexual partner that died (HIV) most likely because of poor judgment and an inability to control his desires. Is this celebration of self-absorbed narcissism proper fare for a national museum? Only if no traditional standards exist.
One critic indicated the crucifix image was "inconsequential" and, in any case, social standards don't exist within a "pluralistic" society. Ergo, the exhibit was important. It is hard to understand how, given a lack of standards, importance can be attributed to anything other than solipsism.
One thing is clear, once the sacred foundations of civilization are deemed inconsequential, we know that libertarian anarchy has prevailed.
Posted by Bluebird on 12/04/10 09:48 AM
I don't mind you telling me you want to piss on Christ, as long as I am able to tell you that you will go to Hell if you do. Christians should recognize this for what it is: the continuing of OUR censorship to spread God's Word. Do not be deceived and help it along.
Posted by Bluebird on 12/04/10 09:38 AM
Sure, it can stay there, as long as our cross can be displayed once again in the courthouse square along side Old Glory. If something AGAINST it is allowed in a taxpayer funded institute, then something FOR it should be also. To believe or reject religion has always been our choice, it should not be ordered by, nor blocked by those who represent WE THE PEOPLE of all beliefs. That is freedom and our promise of old, guaranteed by our Constitution.
Posted by Gilbert W. Chapman on 12/04/10 09:25 AM
Thank you, Mr. Danforth . . . You summarized the entire 'debate' quite well. And . . . Thank you, Mr. Machan, for bringing up the topic.
Art galleries are no different than PBS . . . Not an appropriate application of tax payers money in a Free Society!