Can you believe it? ABC displayed a painting depicting Mohammed as a dog, and then had the temerity/stupidity to ask if Muslims would find it offensive. Actually, you can't believe it. ABC did no such thing -- nor is it conceivable it would do so.
But displaying a painting depicting Christ as a dog, and wondering whether anyone would find it offensive? Sure. Happened today on Good Morning America. The show ran a segment on a painting by someone named Ron Burns who has recreated da Vinci's Last Supper with dogs substituted for Jesus and his disciples. Even more than the image itself, some will surely find the title that the "artist" gave to his work offensive: "Dinner and Drinks with Son of Dog."
Introducing Burns, weekend co-host Bill Weir said "it's a riff on the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. A whimsicial riff, perhaps? Others, blasphemy."
GMA CO-HOST KATE SNOW: People are calling it blasphemous, anti-Christian, anti-God. One person we talked to said it crossed the line. Did you expect any of that? Did you think when you were doing this piece that maybe you'd ruffle some feathers?"
Burns actually denied that the thought had occurred to him.
View video here.
Weir then interviewed an Orlando, Florida gallery owner, Ron Hoy. Although Hoy had decided not to display the painting in his gallery, he was anything but a critic of Burns, to the contrary gushing about how "Ron's work is extraordinary, it's very bright, colorful, fun and it's enjoyed by young children, adults of all ages. But I decided not to bring this piece in because it has that propensity to be controversial."
SNOW: Are you hearing that? Have you heard from people who think it is offensive?
HOY: No. We don't have the image in the store.
SNOW: You're just worried that people would be offended if people put it on the wall.
HOY: That's true
Uttering the most vapid line from the segment, co-host Bill Weir asked "Do you think that crosses a line in terms of censorship? I mean, isn't art about expression of all sorts, Ron?"
Censorship is a government act in suppression of free expression. A private person's decision not to display a painting depicting Christ as a dog is an act of good taste. Is it an act of censorship if [which I suspect might be the case] Weir doesn't display the Mohamed cartoons over his mantle at home? A real example of attempted censorship would be that in which the French government prosecuted a magazine for publishing the Mohammed photos.
Hoy, who presumably was brought in to "balance" the artist, wound up agreeing with Weir!
HOY: Art "is about that [expression]. . . When we think about this painting of Ron's, that is controversial, I think it gives us the opportunity to think about it a little bit. And I think that gives the painting a little more credence."
If ABC were really interested for balance, why not interview a minister or theologian who could have explained what was offensive about the painting, rather than a guy who enthused over the Burns' work and agreed that it raised important questions?
In response to a question from Snow, Burns mentioned that the painting is going for $65,000 -- a value no doubt enhanced by the publicity GMA provided.
Burns went so far as to claim that: "if Jesus were alive today and came in my gallery and he saw this painting, I would like to think that Jesus has a sense of humor [and would say] 'that's great, that's an honor.'"
Back in the studio, as indicated in the screencap, Kate found the whole matter hilarious and was unable to suppress a fit of the giggles. She ended the piece by informing viewers that GMA wants to know what they think, inviting them to weigh in on the art-or-blasphemy debate at abcnews.com.
Can you imagine such a segment on ABC with Mohammed and his followers substituted for Christ? Imagine an ABC anchor musing whether the depiction of Mohammed as a dog might be a "whimsical riff?" Fretting whether a private citizen's decision not to display the painting was "censorship?" Laughing about the whole matter? Neither can I.
Contact Mark at mark@gunhill