The Washington Post once again promoted the cultural leftists fighting the Smithsonian's removal of an ants-on-Christ video from a gay-left exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery. In a story headlined "Video outcry flares anew," art critic Philip Kennicott covered a very one-sided panel discussion in New York with the exhibit's very political activists. The nod to conservatives came at the beginning, with William Donohue of the Catholic League telling Kennicott he wasn't going to this event -- where the mudslinging was in full swing by curators Jonathan Katz and David Ward:
Katz lamented that gays and lesbians were "once again being offered as raw meat" to political activists and the Catholic League, which he accused of being a hate group and anti-Semitic. "We have an American Taliban that we have not called as such," he said...
Katz and Ward said they now worry about the lasting effect on the Portrait Gallery and on other institutions that might think twice about shows depicting gay subject matter, as well as on the dispiriting effect of criticism from the left at a time when the museum and cultural world should be mounting a concerted resistance to the right.
"People from the left side of the aisle are enforcing ideological purity on us," said Ward, who added that he is "now concerned with the existential threat to the museum." He compared the situation to the cultural politics of Weimar Germany, when the right was radical and zealous, the left fratricidal and the center exhausted and cynical.
The Post also promoted the curators with a video, which showed Kennicott's notes were a little off. Here's what Ward said:
I'm seriously concerned with the ongoing deeper threat, and you can pull in your own historical analogy from Germany in the 1930s. And I've been a close observer of progressive politics in America for the last 40 years. And people on the left side of the aisle are always enforcing ideological purity on each other in ways that allow our enemies to run over us with a tank. And I think at some point -- [a little clapping] -- c'mon, you can do more than that [laughter, more applause] -- I think at some point, there has to be almost a kind of pragmatic assessment of how we fight back against this. And we would love for Hide/Seek to do what it attempts to do, which is to crystallize a presence which becomes the basis for an opposition against the politics that we abhor.
How can anyone have ever argued that (a) this exhibit isn't expressly political and anti-conservative (and anti-religious right) in nature, or suggest that somehow a "culture war" begins when a conservative complains? The video did not include Katz's "American Taliban" comment, but it did include his followup to Ward's very political point. After he oddly claimed the Smithsonian had "no business" telling him what he could put in his exhibit, Katz said their intention was to "break the back" of "blacklisting" conservatives:
I am, like David, very much worried about the possible chilling effect, indeed the probably chilling effect that this will have on subsequent exhibitions. An exhibition that was intended to break the back of the blacklist has had the paradoxical effect, at least at this juncture, who knows what will happen in the next couple of months -- of reinforcing that blacklist.
And other institutions now look twice at the prospect of doing an exhibition with a sexuality theme precisely because of what happened. It's our job therefore to make this exhibitions and other exhibitions like it so celebrated [that critics will lose, and be shouted down? He shifted] --
Though we criticize the removal of the video, we also credit the institution that made the first move against the blacklist, the National Portrait Gallery, with the fervor of its beliefs, the idea that it would explore the extension of civil liberties in the United States as it has for African Americans, as it has for women, and really credit the National Portrait Gallery.