Column on Radical Muslims Aren’t Alone

Radical Muslims Aren’t Alone

Tibor R. Machan

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 institutions 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.

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