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Rich Takes on Smithsonian Censorship

Rich Takes on Smithsonian Censorship


In a column for The New York Times called "Gay Bashing at the Smithsonian," Frank Rich criticizes the museum's recent decision to yank a video from the gay artist David Wojnarowicz and links the incident to broader homophobia that affects policymaking.

Less than two weeks ago, in response to complaints from the Catholic League and pressure from Republicans in Congress, the museum removed the Wojnarowicz video Fire in My Belly from its "Hide/Seek" exhibition of gay-themed art at the National Portrait Gallery. William Donohue of the Catholic League had decried as "hate speech" a segment of the video in which ants crawl on a crucifix. Wojnarowicz, who died of AIDS complications in 1992, made the video in 1987 in response to illness of his former lover and mentor, Peter Hujar.

"It still seems an unwritten rule in establishment Washington that homophobia is at most a misdemeanor," writes Rich. "By this code, the Smithsonian's surrender is no big deal; let the art world do its little protests. This attitude explains why the ever more absurd excuses concocted by John McCain for almost single-handedly thwarting the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' are rarely called out for what they are -- 'bigotry disguised as prudence,' in the apt phrase of Slate's military affairs columnist, Fred Kaplan. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council has been granted serious and sometimes unchallenged credence as a moral arbiter not just by Rupert Murdoch's outlets but by CNN, MSNBC and The Post's 'On Faith' Web site even as he cites junk science to declare that 'homosexuality poses a risk to children' and that being gay leads to being a child molester."

Read the full column here.

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