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PAULETTE: Defining art down

Left hides behind free expression while seeking to despoil decency

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A good share of conserva- tive commentators have avoided remarking on the Smithsonian scandal involving the gay-themed "Hide/Seek" exhibit featuring a video of ants crawling over a bloody, crucified Christ, among other lewd, sado-masochistic porn displays. There was no need to comment because it all had been said before. The cowards and hypocrites who constitute the chattering-class activists of the art world dogmatically avoid offending those corners of society deeply in need of critical reflection, such as Islam and the Middle East, or considered sacrosanct, such as feminism and racial/ethnic/sexual minorities, under the banner of tolerance and diversity. Yet these same noble paragons ruthlessly and intentionally insult Christians and everyone with a modicum of taste and decency, all the while praising their double standard as speaking truth to power.

The Smithsonian pulled the offensive piece after the Catholic Leagueraised a fuss and called for an end of public funding. Yet I can't see praising the Smithsonian for this decision, as it's rather akin to praising an acquaintance's decision to stop beating his girlfriend - he shouldn't have done it in the first place. Belatedly pulling the piece merely represented the Smithsonian's grudging adoption of the common decency obvious to any adolescent of average intelligence and morality.

However, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts - lacking an adolescent standard of intellect and morality - has protested the Smithsonian's decision:

"Such blatant censorship is unconscionable ... we cannot stand by and watch the Smithsonian bow to the demands of bigots who have attacked the exhibition out of ignorance, hatred and fear."

Where to start? Let's test their sincerity: I suggest the Smithsonian proudly present an exhibition intentionally offensive and deeply degrading toward women, gays, blacks, liberals and the like while praising the Catholic Church, conservative leaders, the military and religious morality. Let's call it a socio-psychological reflection upon modern perceptions of diversity or something meaningless like that. Then let's see the Warhol Foundation rush to its defense when the offended groups demand removal and accompanying mea culpas. Today's anti-censorship warriors would have to be roused from their slavering frenzy just to reverse their "mission to defend freedom of expression wherever and whenever it is under attack." They would claim it wasn't really art or something equally foolish, call for censorship (under a different name) and immediately begin feeling superior again.

And, just for the record, those who intentionally attempt to offend and degrade other people based on religious and ethnic traditions are bigots - not the victims who protest the treatment. Let's be clear.

Bigot: a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his own opinions and prejudices, especially one who regards or treats the members of a group with hatred and intolerance.

Is there any doubt that the Christ-with-ants artists and the art community that the Warhol Foundation represents are obstinately devoted to anti-Christian prejudices and regard religious conservatives with hatred and intolerance?

Finally, those who find artistic bigotry offensive and demand its just removal from public grounds are neither ignorant of the purpose of exhibitions nor acting out of hatred toward art, and I suspect they haven't the slightest fear of artists. These delusions of grandeur are cherished by the art community, but I know of no Christian who fears the wrath of the Warhol Foundation - or cares sufficiently to hate it, though many likely are ignorant of it. The only true ignorance, hate and fear are found in the artist-activists who viciously attack conservative religions that they do not understand in response to their insecurity about belonging to an insignificant faction of society espousing widely rejected moral and social opinions.

A Catholic Leagueblurb on the issue brought to my attention the late New York Timesart critic John Canaday, who penned in 1959 that "freaks, charlatans and the misled" had infiltrated the ranks of true artists. Half a century later, the nuts seem to have taken over the nuthouse. Self-deluding charlatans such as members of the Warhol Foundation speak with a hypocrisy, ignorance and malice that unfortunately casts shame over the entire artistic community. The art world believes itself to challenge society, but such fraudulent duplicity in its most basic standards has so sunk its credibility that it is largely regarded as a mere mouthpiece of the liberal fringe, condescendingly mocked rather than meditated upon by the public.

Just as the question should be put to the Islamic world, so, too, should we ask of the artistic world: Who speaks for you?

Justin Paulette writes for the Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs' No Left Turns blog.

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