Artful Standards Of Civility
by L. Brent Bozell III
March 16, 2000
Here are two rules of civility in politics. One, conservatives are not allowed to question the motivations or crocodile-tear strategies of liberals. Two, because the true visionaries in the Manhattan media elite have a more heightened sense of society's needs, they can say anything they want about those distasteful people who stand in the way of enlightened progress.
If you doubt me, I offer a perfect example: the media's coverage of the Clinton-NRA gunfight. You can hear the anger in those scandalized media voices: doesn't Wayne LaPierre know the rules? LaPierre, the executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, drew quick and devastating media fire for suggesting on ABC that President Clinton must "accept a certain level of violence" to promote gun control legislation. For years, the NRA has been trying to tell any reporter who would ask that the Clinton administration is two-faced. As the administration campaigns for ever more federal gun laws -- soliciting the soccer moms with feel-your-pain fakery -- the actual laws on the books, even the laws they campaigned to pass in their first term, go unenforced. "Of the drug dealers and the violent felons and the gangs roaming our streets, when they're caught illegally carrying guns, the President has prosecuted only two in Washington D.C., 14 in New Jersey, 20 in Atlanta," LaPierre explained to NBC on March 14.
If that's true, certainly it shows Clinton has failed to enforce the laws of the land, and that failure ought to be a pivotal component of any discussion on crime. But reporters and anchors on the four biggest networks have brought it up only eight times in two years. So now, LaPierre inflates his rhetoric just to get his point made, and still most TV news stars remain fixated on poor Bill while continuing to avoid the inconvenient facts of lax prosecution. Of course, it was Bill Clinton who regained momentum with liberals in the media after the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress by blaming the Oklahoma City bombing on "voices of hate and division" on talk radio stations, not to mention every conservative who's suspicious of government power. Network reporters gleefully noted Timothy McVeigh's (lapsed) membership in the NRA without reservation.
This tactic isn't new, nor is it contained to gun-rights advocates. For years, the media have proclaimed that if you have been so impolite as to state publicly that abortion is murder, you are complicit in the shooting of abortionists. The press has endorsed the view that if you believe homosexuality is a sin, you encourage a climate of violence against homosexuals. These same principles carry over into the very politicized world of art. The Whitney Museum in New York City is unveiling a new exhibit entitled "Sanitation," which indelicately implies that New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is comparable to the Nazis. The exhibit also contains quotes from the alleged Nazi paragons Jesse Helms, Pat Buchanan, and Pat Robertson. But if you live outside New York, you might not have heard about this. All those media people throwing brickbats at the NRA clearly take no offense at comparing conservatives to Nazis. Giuliani, a proud champion of legal abortion and government-mandated acceptance of homosexuality, is no doubt aghast at being lumped with these captains of the Christian right. But the artist, one Hans Haacke, believes that those who believe the taxpayer should not be forced to supply his subsidy to avant-grade trash are comparable to the Nazis who mounted an exhibition entitled 'Degenerate Art' in Munich in 1937. Attached to each of the artworks, removed from German modern art museums, was a sign denouncing the works as having been "paid for with the taxes of the German working people."
To be specific, Haacke has lined up eight garbage cans against a wall. Above them is a framed copy of the First Amendment, along with six quotations from public figures, three from Giuliani, and one each from Helms, Buchanan, and Robertson. These quotes are inscribed in the Gothic Fraktur typeface, a Hitler favorite. There are also loudspeakers adding the sound of jackboots marching.
The Helms quotation reads: "No tax fund shall be used for garbage just because some self- appointed 'experts' have been foolish enough to call it 'art.' " One Giuliani quote reads: "We will do everything that we can to remove funding for the Brooklyn Museum until the director comes to his senses." This isn't Nazism. It's straight out of Thomas Jefferson: "to compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical."
This carnival act isn't about art, but politics. One artist guessed that museum boss Maxwell Anderson is trying to show he's "activist enough." At bottom, this piece is a nasty 30-second political ad masquerading as art, an in-kind contribution to the Hillary Clinton campaign. But where are those reporters who despise negative 30-second ads? As usual, their outrage over outrages is most selective.
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