Bozell Column: Shock Art and 'Social Dignity'

The curator elites at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery were happily abusing the trust of the American taxpayer, with radical gay activists pushing a gay agenda, replete with the religiously bigoted, sadomasochistic and homoerotic fare, all under the auspices of “art.” Then something happened. The public complained. Now these radicals are shocked – shocked! – that the “censors” are out to destroy their “artistic freedom.”

It’s like a bad rendition of “Groundhog Day.” How many times must we relive this foolishness?

The sponsors tell us that “Hide/Seek” is “the first major exhibition to examine the influence of gay and lesbian artists in creating modern American portraiture," and how these gay and lesbian artists have made “essential contributions to both the art of portraiture and to the creation of modern American culture."

But that isn’t enough. Theirs is a political message as part of a political agenda. To quote from their program, they want to strike a blow for “the struggle for justice, so that people and groups can claim their full inheritance in America’s promise of equality, inclusion, and social dignity.”

“Social dignity?” I suspect those are not the first words most Americans would use to describe a video that was part of the exhibit that featured images of ants crawling over Jesus Christ on a crucifix.  It is simply imperative that any “art” display by gays insult, in the deepest way possible, the sensibilities of Christians.

But apparently this gay and lesbian “art” needs to push more, more, evermore. So we have depictions of homoeroticism, including images of male genitalia on display; pinups of naked men, and paintings of two brothers, buck naked, making out. Still there must be more, so we have sadomasochistic themes, like imagery of mummified human remains and a portrait of a man devouring himself. Each has a “deep” meaning, see. Each is “art.”

And you, American taxpayer, you are making it possible. Your $761 million annually to the Smithsonian, and $5.8 million annually to the National Portrait Gallery makes it possible for these gay activists to pitch their tents inside, put up their displays, call it “art,” invite the world – even children on “Family and Friends Day” on November 21 – and then scream bloody murder when someone complains.

Yes, there were complaints, with the Republican leadership in the House condemning this abuse of taxpayer funds. (The Democrats continue to be silent, no surprise.) The curators conceded there were an avalanche of complaints. So many that they finally agreed to remove the offensive video with bugs on Jesus Christ.

Horrors! Censorship of the highest order! Stop the madness! Washington Post art critic Blake Gopnik protested that in America, no religious group “gets to declare what the rest of us should see and hear and think about. Aren't those kinds of declarations just what extremist imams get up to, in countries with less freedom?”

It's mind-boggling that the same people who so quickly screech at the first sign of a religion near a government building don't get the point that it should be equally wrong to have a sign of anti-religion in a government building.

And don’t they see the richest irony of them all? There is that which they find offensive – a creche with the Baby Jesus on government property, and that which they celebrate and defend as “art” – a sacrilegious defamation of Jesus Christ, crucified. If it's wrong to promote the Christian religion with tax dollars, isn’t it many times worse to trash the Christian religion with tax dollars?

Like the public broadcasters, the public gallery operators hunger to rise above the dreary, pedestrian tastes of those rubes in middle America who revere Jesus and aren’t captivated by the “creative resistance” of the gay artistic vanguard. They demand “equality” and “inclusion” for the gay lobby, but there is no inclusion for the rest of us when it comes to what art they will declare advances the cause of “justice.” Curators ought to be wise enough to know there are limits of government-funded art.

So the curator announced finally that he was pulling the video of ants walking over the crucifix. But he offered no apology. In fact, he insisted that contrary to allegations, this “art” was not “meant to offend.” That’s simply dishonest. Anyone with an IQ greater than that of a potato chip knows this was precisely what they intended. This to them is the Christmas spirit.

Brent Bozell
Brent Bozell
Brent Bozell is the Founder and President of the Media Research Center