On Sunday, the Lord’s Day, The Washington Post knows how to bow to its god, too: political correctness. In Sunday’s Arts section, critic Philip Kennicott announces these maxims. 1) The Western art world and art history is overwhelmingly gay; 2) The level of tolerance for any conservative dissent from this overwhelming gayness is now zero; and 3) While “homophobia” has yet to banned from society, it certainly should be forbidden in the art world. Kennicott began by announcing a “reckoning in the winds” for practitioners of “overt bigotry” in America:
There may be a reckoning in the winds. Attitudes about gays and lesbians, and about same-sex marriage in particular, are now changing so fast that American culture is suffering from cognitive dissonance: still prone to habits of homophobia while simultaneously aware that overt bigotry is no longer acceptable in much of the public square.
Naturally, Kennicott and the Post are still furious, at this late date, that a piece of art mocking Jesus was removed from the National Portrait Gallery’s “Hide/Seek” exhibition of tawdry gay (often pornographic, or at least nude) art. Kennicott championed a new book by Christopher Reed titled "Art and Homosexuality: A History of Ideas." Reed believes homosexuality captures nearly the “entirety” of art, which only underlines why museums must kowtow to gay activism:
Published last month, Reed’s book carries forward a long-overdue reckoning that began in a very public and controversial way with the exhibition “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture” at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery late last year. The power of the “Hide/Seek” exhibition, and of Reed’s comprehensive history, is the restating of the obvious: Artists with same-sex desires have played a disproportionate role in the creation of Western art, especially in the past century. As in music (Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Samuel Barber), so too in the visual arts (Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Cy Twombly): Much of what is seen as quintessentially American is the product of gay creators. “A complete account of the 20th-century artists who were or were thought to be homosexual,” Reed writes, “would come close to a chronicle of modern art in its entirety.”
While both the exhibition and Reed’s book make a positive case for the often intimately entwined histories of homosexuality and art (especially in the 20th century), they also document a litany of shameful events and grievances, many of them perpetrated by institutions and people who may be forced to confront past bigotry and make amends.
Among those who should be “forced to make amends” are conservative art critic Hilton Kramer, a founder of the journal The New Criterion, one who “trafficked in more or less virulently homophobic rhetoric throughout their careers.”
Failing to explain the omnipresent homosexual themes in art history at the gallery is now an “overt sin of omission.” See how the notion of “sin” gets turned upside down?
As cultural change continues — in the space of six months, gays have earned the right to serve openly in the military and can now marry in New York state — institutional silence on gay themes may no longer be seen as an innocuous, “family friendly” strategy. “Family” is now understood to include gay parents, married gay couples and people with gay children, and the absence of basic information about the role of same-sex desire in art history has become an overt sin of omission.
(To Kennicott, this would include explaining how paintings of that “handsome youth” Saint Sebastian are part of “the iconography of same-sex eroticism.”)
The New York gay-marriage vote and the end of “DADT” now make much plainer for Kennicott just how wrong it was for the Portrait Gallery to remove the Jesus-covered-with-ants video:
The speed of change is unbalancing even established institutions. After Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough overruled his top curators and intervened to censor the critically acclaimed “Hide/Seek” exhibition on Nov. 30, he acknowledged only one mistake: having moved too quickly and without enough input from stakeholders. Clough was responding to attacks from a militant right-wing Catholic group, as well as the fear of potential budget cuts from a newly Republican-dominated House of Representatives. The removal of a video by gay artist David Wojnarowicz that showed a cross with ants on it was presented as a small price to pay for keeping the exhibition open. Clough’s intervention was widely seen as endorsing a rigidly conservative Catholic view of sacrilege against a deeply personal, and iconoclastic, gay view of spirituality.
But in many ways, it was the culture that was moving too quickly for the Smithsonian, and the firestorm that erupted afterward, severely damaging both Clough’s and the Smithsonian’s credibility, reflected an emerging consensus: that the acceptable level of anti-gay bigotry at an institution such as the Smithsonian is now zero.
Translation: The “emerging consensus” is "Shut up, conservatives and Christians! You have no right to tell us what to do with your tax dollars!"
Kennicott, like many arts advocates and critics, believe that the art world is the educated avant-garde which forces progress on society. If the art world can’t yet banish “homophobia” to the ash heap of history, at least it ought to be drummed out of the art world.
The headline on the essay’s continuation on page E4 was “For an often-homophobic art world, a reckoning is near.” The Post pull quote on the article is bolded in this passage:
A full account, and reckoning, of the homophobia at work in the “Hide/Seek” controversy would probably embarrass (and perhaps educate) arts leaders far beyond the Smithsonian’s Castle.
It won’t be easy, but it will be exciting and productive, especially as gay people and their allies take an active hand in challenging museums to be more honest. The arts world is by no means the most homophobic institution in U.S. society. But the arts are a laboratory for cultural criticism, and they flourish when they are out in front of cultural change, not catching up to it.
Some major universities have already begun to explore their own institutionalization of homophobia, just as they came clean about anti-Semitic policies generations earlier.
Kennicott concluded that shamefully, arts institutions are now “catching up” with gay political victories, but they will soon enforce a “no nonsense” (that is “no homophobia”) policy:
Fundamentally, it’s about educating audiences and deepening the appreciation of art. As Reed explains, homosexuality in the 20th century “became the paradigmatic secret of avant-garde art.” It’s not the only thing that explains art, but without an understanding of it, there is a lot of nonsense in the history of art. As arts institutions catch up with American culture, they will only benefit from more truth, less silence and no nonsense.
The "nonsense" is attributed to New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan and his entourage at National Review:
It's clearly too early to write an obituary of homophobia. During the debate about same-sex marriage in New York, Catholic Archbishop Timothy Dolan compared advocates for equality in marriage to the North Korean regime, a government that tortures, kills and starves its citizens. It was an uncanny reminder of the virulent homophobic rhetoric used against artists in mid-20th century America, when homosexuals were often likened to the Red Menace. Yet even mainstream conservatives such as the National Review's Kathryn Jean Lopez and George Weigel leapt to Dolan's defense. Weigel even added a comparison of pro-equality groups to Bull Connor, the 1960s Birmingham, Ala., official who turned fire hoses and attack dogs on civil rights protesters and gave the Klu [sic] Klux Klan a free hand to beat, harass and intimidate African Americans and their supporters.
Kennicott isn't really interested in engaging the "homophobes," only in shaming them – and he’s obviously failing to recognize the authoritarian sound of his own demands to make the art museums into propaganda displays for the dominance of homosexuality in the Western art world.
Archbishop Dolan upset many with this blog passage:
Last time I consulted an atlas, it is clear we are living in New York, in the United States of America – not in China or North Korea. In those countries, government presumes daily to “redefine” rights, relationships, values, and natural law. There, communiqués from the government can dictate the size of families, who lives and who dies, and what the very definition of “family” and “marriage” means.
But, please, not here! Our country’s founding principles speak of rights given by God, not invented by government, and certain noble values – life, home, family, marriage, children, faith – that are protected, not re-defined, by a state presuming omnipotence.
Obviously, the politicians in New York are elected representatives, bowing to a “popular will” that’s especially strong in the news and entertainment media in New York City. Kim Jong Il they’re not. But it can be predicted they’re not going to be tolerant of dissent on this issue, and the “popular will” may very well turn toward state censorship of “homophobia.” That’s certainly obvious in Canada and in European countries where “human rights commissions” punish free speech that offends gay advocates.
Here's a fuller passage of Weigel on National Review's site:
Marriage, as both religious and secular thinkers have acknowledged for millennia, is a social institution that is older than the state and that precedes the state. The task of a just state is to recognize and support this older, prior social institution; it is not to attempt its redefinition. To do the latter involves indulging the totalitarian temptation that lurks within all modern states: the temptation to remanufacture reality. The American civil-rights movement was a call to recognize moral reality; the call for gay marriage is a call to reinvent reality to fit an agenda of personal willfulness. The gay-marriage movement is thus not the heir of the civil-rights movement; it is the heir of Bull Connor and others who tried to impose their false idea of moral reality on others by coercive state power.
A humane society will find ample room in the law for accommodating a variety of human relationships in matters of custodial care, hospital visiting rights, and inheritance. But there is nothing humane about the long march toward the dictatorship of relativism, nor will there be anything humane about the destination of that march, should it be reached. The viciousness visited upon Archbishop Dolan and other defenders of marriage rightly understood during the weeks before the vote in Albany is yet another testimony to the totalitarian impulse that lurks beneath the gay marriage movement.
Journalistic advocates like Kennicott in the "free press" should ponder the impulse to force a "reckoning" that demands museums be "cleansed" of conservative "bigotry."