Art Rant: The Washington Post Rails Against 'Small-Minded Intolerance' of Cantor, Boehner

Liberal newspapers may claim that taxpayer-funded art galleries should take “public sensitivities” into account, but in reality, they don’t want members of Congress actually representing the insulted public by speaking out against anti-Christian exhibits.

Friday’s Washington Post led their editorial page with the headline “The censors arrive: Do Republicans really want to ride into power with a burst of small-minded intolerance?” That’s funny: Christians might find the “small-minded intolerance” coming from artists who think that modern-day Christianity is an oppressive, Jesus-betraying force – as represented by ants crawling all over Jesus on a crucifix. Here’s the key passage:

Public sensibilities must be taken into account when taxpayer funds are in play, but the use of public dollars does not give lawmakers the right to micromanage or censor displays. Nor should the occasional dust-up be justification for threatened retribution against these valuable national assets. We hope Mr. Cantor's threats prompt many additional Washingtonians to visit the exhibit and judge for themselves.

How are “public sensibilities” taken into account without Congress “micromanaging” exhibits? They don't want any "managing" in the content by Congress. Cantor vaguely promised there would be "serious questions come budget time." The public is supposed to hand over the money to an anti-religious elite that teaches "queer studies" and just shut up. In reality, all the “micromanaging” should be done by the government-funded curators, who ought to have enough sense to realize that in the Christmas season, treating Jesus Christ like a rotting carcass is not going to please the public. What the folks in D.C. obviously expected would happen is that all the clever sophisticates would enjoy it, and the Norman-Rockwell-loving masses in Fly-Over Country would never notice.

The Post editorialist cited Post art critic Blake Gopnik claiming the artist, the late gay activist David Wojnarowicz, “could be understood as an expression of ‘the hideous, heart-rending loss of a loved one’ who has been ‘defeated and cast in the dirt, without the strength even to defend himself from the tiniest of insects.’" (This ignores that Wojnarowicz painted other anti-Jesus works, like the ghoulish, green, disembodied Jesus head in "The Death of American Spirituality.") But let’s turn to what the exhibit co-curator Jonathan Katz said it meant:

"The crucifix, covered with ants, represents the lack of attention to Christian teachings in that Christian morality has been cast to the ground and the teachings of Jesus abrogated by speaking in his name. In the film this represents that the most vulnerable and the most in need are the most aggressively attacked."

It’s quite clear then, that the meaning is: Jesus is being trashed and is rotting because of the Christians who somehow refuses to treat the victims of AIDS, and their anti-gay gospel is somehow “abrogating” the true Christian religion. How this is supposed to be less offensive to Christians is more than a bit puzzling -- especially considering all the Christian health care workers who've cared for AIDS patients over the last 25 years.

Religion is also strangely plopped into a description of Lyle Ashton Harris's photograph of naked brothers kissing. The exhibit declares: “In this provocative center image, the brothers exchange a passionate kiss as Thomas presses a gun into Lyle’s chest – conjuring the original biblical story of Cain’s treachery toward his brother, Abel.” I don't remember Cain and Abel having passionate kisses in the Bible.

The Post’s idea that there is great “art” in this exhibit is easily challenged. The most ridiculous piece of “art” is titled “Untitled,” and it is simply a pile of “candies individually wrapped in multicolored cellophane” poured into a corner. How difficult is it to pour a pile of candies into a corner? Children could do that. All they couldn't do is create an elaborate radical-left rationale that makes a political spectacle out of it. But since the artist meant this to be an allegory for the loss of weight of his partner as he died of AIDS, it is somehow profound.

The dominant theme was not artistic, but political, and the Post thinks it’s just fine if our taxpayer-funded galleries use our hard-earned dollars to push a “GLBT” revolution. The National Portrait Gallery asserts on the wall of the gallery that they put on this exhibit on to illustrate “the struggle for justice so that people and groups can claim their full inheritance in America’s promise of equality, inclusion, and social dignity.”

But in contemporary art, there is no equality for traditional values, and no room for their inclusion. There is only war on “society” for bowing too long to oppressive Christian ministers and priests. The museums want to take money from the unsophisticated majority (what Mencken called the “booboisie”) to promote the “influential marginality” and “creative resistance” of gay artists and writers. Why can't they mount this immoral crusade in a private art space? The Post and the liberal elites would rather have their taxpayer-funded pile of candy and eat it, too.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis