Saturday, October 01, 2005

John Bull, Weenie? 

A week or two ago (scroll down) I wondered aloud if Danish artists were less stalwart in their commitment to free speech than their American counterparts. The question presented itself to me in the form of a story about the refusal of several Danish artists to illustrate a book critical Islam—not for respect of Islam, but for fear of reprisals. This struck me as inconsistent with the usual bravado we hear from western civ's free-speech warriors. I expressed my hope that American artists wouldn't buckle under quite so readily.

Now there's this from England:

The Tate Britain museum has made an unprecedented decision to pull a work of religious art from an exhibition over fears that it might offend Muslims.

Artist John Latham's "God is Great" features copies of the Koran, Bible and Judaic Talmud that have been cut apart and embedded in thick glass.

According to a spokeswoman for the museum, "the particular circumstances we find ourselves in post-7 July make it difficult for this work to be viewed as the artist had intended — as a commentary on the evolution of religious thought from an original state of nothingness — but instead as an overtly political act."

At least John Latham, the artist, is not backing down:

Tate Britain have shown cowardice over this. I think it's a daft thing to do because, if they want to help the militants, this is the way to do it. It's not even a gesture as strong as censorship. It's just a loss of nerve on the part of the administration.

Exactly. And what is the message we're sending Christians and Jews with these kinds of decisions? "We respect the sacred Koran, but (sometimes literally) piss all over your lousy testaments?"

If this kind of Weenie-ism can rear its head in staunch old England, I suppose it's only a matter of time before it shows up in America.


I just know some ballsy American artist is going to sculpt a statue of Mohammed out of elephant dung any day now—you know, to illustrate the earthy character of Mohammed and his divine connection to the natural world—and one of those ballsy American museums is going to make it the centerpiece of a show. Because American artists have made it perfectly clear for decades that they don't take no guff from no one and they will not be intimidated!

Maybe the Islamic radicals are right. Maybe western culture really has passed some kind of tipping point into gilded decadence. Maybe we really are too weak to defend ourselves. Sure, we've got missiles and tanks and the 101st Airborne and the Sixth Fleet and a great big nuclear arsenal, but if we're just going to roll over and play dead on something as central to our culture as freedom of expression... well, what's the point?

On the other hand, the evidence is very thin. The two stories I've mentioned involve a handful of Danish artists and a single British museum. Surely all this fuss is being overdone. If such artistic cowardice was the norm rather than the exception, it wouldn't be news, would it?

So probably we're still living in the best of all possible worlds. Thank goodness. I can go enjoy my weekend now.

[Thanks to everyone for their supportive words on the passing of the Moron's Almanac. If I get some time this fall I may indeed set up a static website of almanac-only material.]

Monday, September 26, 2005


The last Moron's Almanac has been posted.

This blog will remain, but I make no guarantees as to the probable frequency of posts. It could go either way.

We'll see.

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