“Offensive Art” and Double Standards at the NY Times

By Arnold Ahlert

When it comes to rank hypocrisy and leftist-inspired double-standards, there’s nothing quite like the New York Times. Despite the reality two Islamist gunmen would have undoubtedly killed as many participants attending Pamela Geller’s “Draw Mohammed” contest in Garland, TX,  as possible, the so-called paper of record chose to excoriate those exercising their freedom of speech.

“There is no question that images ridiculing religion, however offensive they may be to believers, qualify as protected free speech in the United States and most Western democracies,” theTimes editorial board condescendingly concedes. “There is also no question that however offensive the images, they do not justify murder, and that it is incumbent on leaders of all religious faiths to make this clear to their followers.”

“But it is equally clear that the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest in Garland, Tex., was not really about free speech. It was an exercise in bigotry and hatred posing as a blow for freedom,” the board concludes.

For the pseudo-moralists who run the Times, such indignation is highly selective. In 1989, Arts Section contributor Michael Brenson was highly effusive when it came to defending and praising artist Andres Serrano whose ostensible cutting-edge brilliance consisted of a photograph entitled “Piss Christ,” depicting a crucifix submerged in a jar of urine. He described the photo as a “religious emblem enveloped in a dreamy golden haze.” Moreover, Brenson was upset the about ensuing uproar over the original showing of the photograph. That unveiling took place at a group show underwritten by government grants and caused the National Endowment for the Arts to change its policy to one restricting endowments for projects the agency considered obscene. “People may agree or disagree with him, or they may question his belief in photography, but how can anyone find in his work just obscenity and disrespect?” Brenson wondered. “It is hard to believe that anyone whose faith is searching and secure would not be grateful for what Mr. Serrano has done.” (Italics mine.)

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In 1998 the paper criticized the withdrawal of playwright Terrence McNally’s “Corpus Christi” from the Manhattan Theater Club, due to threats of violence. Corpus Christi was abouta gay Jesus, with a plot line that included the Christian Son of God performing a same-sex marriage, and Judas betraying him due to romantic jealousy. “What we are witnessing, once again, is the peculiar combat between freedoms that is repeatedly staged in America,” the paper stated. “The practitioners and beneficiaries of religious freedom attack the practitioners of artistic freedom–freedom of speech–without seeing that the freedoms they enjoy cannot be defended separately.”

One year later, Arts Section contributor Michael Kimmelman wonderedhow artist Chris Ofili’s ”Holy Virgin Mary,’’ showing the mother of Christ replete with small cutouts of vaginas and buttocks from pornographic magazines, and a ball of dung representing one of her breasts, “could cause so much fuss.” “One of the casualties of political debates about art is always a complexity of interpretation, both sides needing to simplify the meaning of the work because contradictory connotations would undermine their arguments even though those contradictions make art art and not a political tract,” he explains. “People want a straight answer — is it good or bad? — which misses the point about how art functions, especially in a divisive context.”

In 2011 Theater Section reviewer Ben Brantley was especiallydelighted by “The Book of Mormon,” a musical dedicated to the mockery of the Mormon religion. It contains a song entitled Hasa Diga Eebowai sung by blighted Africans in a made up Ugandan language intended to translate into “F**k you, God, in the #, mouth, and c**t!” Brantley addresses all the “doubters and deniers out there, the ones who say that heaven on Broadway does not exist, that it’s only some myth our ancestors dreamed up,” he gushes. “I am here to report that a newborn, old-fashioned, pleasure-giving musical has arrived at the Eugene O’Neill Theater, the kind our grandparents told us left them walking on air if not on water.”

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In short, the New York Times is very much in favor, if not downright ecstatic about, overt Christian-bashing. But not just Christians. Last year the paper was equally determined to defend the “principle of artistic freedom in a world rife with political pressures” regarding the Metropolitan Opera’s presentation of “The Death of Klinghoffer,” depicting the 1985 murder of Leon Klinghoffer by Palestinian terrorists — terrorists who shot the wheelchair-bound Jewish American and tossed him overboard. The Times insisted Met general manager Peter Gelb “should not have yielded to its critics” even as Gelb himself canceled live broadcast of the opera due to what he perceived as rising tide of anti-Semitism. The Times remained resolute about the importance of freedom. “Viewers may have different reactions and responses to such an ambitious and painfully contemporary work, but the arts can only be harmed by retreating from controversy,” the editorial board asserted.

Nonetheless, the same board contends that Geller’s exercise of a far more benign expression of freedom in comparison to any of the aforementioned examples is “inflicting deliberate anguish on millions of devout Muslims who have nothing to do with terrorism. As for the Garland event, to pretend that it was motivated by anything other than hate is simply hogwash.”

Sadly, the contemptible notion that Geller is engaged in what the Timesand others define as hate speech resonates with a number of Americans. An Economist/YouGov Poll reveals only a small plurality of Americans would be against a law criminalizing hate speech. Only 38 percent of Americans would oppose enacting such a law, while 36 percent would support it, with 26 percent of Americans undecided. When political affiliation enters the picture, the results are as follows: Independents, 53 percent opposed, 27 percent in favor and 20 percent are not sure. For Republicans its 49 percent opposed, 25 percent in favor and 26 percent unsure. Democrats are a different story. A 51 percent majority of Democrats favor criminalizing “hate” speech, while 21 percent oppose it, and 28 percent are unsure.

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Perhaps the Times is playing to its core support group. Regardless, the editorial board remains oblivious to the reality they favor the very same “right” not to be offended that ostensibly animates not just Islamists, but supposedly all “offended” Muslims. The paper may differ with Islamists on how to respond to such offenses, choosing to excoriate Geller and company rather than kill them, but their insistence that some sort of anti-Constitutional line be drawn between “freedom” and “hate” is to share the same totalitarian ambitions that form the heart of Sharia Law.

And while that alignment may constitute an alliance of convenience, it is no accident. The Times would like nothing more than to crack down on America’s “bitter clingers.” Thus progressives will temporarily embrace Islamists in an “enemy of my enemy is my friend” strategy. That is why the Times and other equally feckless mainstream media outlets are now wondering aloud where the nonexistent  “fine line” between free speech ends and hate speech begins. And it is occurring even as these leftist provocateurs devote far more time to undercutting the First Amendment than they do chronicling the wholesale extermination of Christians or the oppression of gays and women in the Islamic world.

How softly do they trod? “If Americans are to respect and obey the laws of Islam that prohibit the drawing of pictures of Mohammed, then why wouldn’t Americans have to respect and obey Islam’s laws and punishments regarding gays and women?” wonders radio host Rush Limbaugh. When it comes to aiding the agenda of the jihadists, there is no one the Left wouldn’t throw under the bus.

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One Comment

  1. Christians and Jews are fair targets for satire and mockery. But I fear that I shall wait in vain for the musical “Hadith”. America is at war, only it is a strange kind of war, where only one side is willing to fight. A nation at war must use all the resources at its disposal. And, make no mistake about it, ridicule is a relevant modality. Walt Disney’s 1942 cartoon, “Der Fuehrer’s Face” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8AmlhLl8lQ won the Oscar for best animated film. Had the cultural ethos of 2015 existed during the war years, we would have seen headlines to the effect: “German-American Bund Demands Destruction of Disney Hate Film”. “University Students Picket Theatres”. “Wall Street Journal: RKO Studios Face Divestment, Boycott, Sanctions”.”Der Sturmer: Himmler Says Clarence Nash and Spike Jones Will Die”. “American President Says That Nazism is an Ideology of Peace”. “Fanatic Jews Inciting Violence”. And Niemoller’s caveat woud have begun: “First they came for the cartoonists…”

    The sharia lesson to be learned regarding religious disapprobation: Don’t lose your head over it. (Klinghoffer corollary: Don’t go overboard.)

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