February 06, 2006

Come on, Chris Ofili!

Remember a few years ago, when progressives were all aghast over Rudy Giuliani’s scorn for an artistic representation of the Virgin Mary replete with pornographic cut-outs and elephant dung? It seems like an awful long time ago, doesn’t it? Still, it was artist Chris Ofili’s shining moment in the mainstream media.

We, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” distinctly recall all the sanctimonious finger-wagging of the smart set in regard to the mayor’s ire. How dare he attempt to cut off the funding for such art! That simpleton! That barbarian! Doesn’t he recognize the value of free expression?

Now, dear reader, we have mentioned all of this for a specific reason—and it isn’t to compel you to relive the heady days of the late 1990s culture war. Rather, an interesting story related to this issue has crossed our desks (and everyone else's), and it made us ponder the Chris Ofili Affair anew.

In the January 31 number of The New York Times, one can find Hassan M. Fattah’s piece “Caricature of Muhammad Leads to Boycott of Danish Goods.” (Anyone who doesn't know about this story already is likely deceased.) It commences as follows:

A long-running controversy over the publication of caricatures of the Muslim prophet Muhammad by a Danish newspaper boiled over in the past few days as a boycott brought sales of some Danish products to a halt in Arab countries across the Middle East, while Danish interests came under attack.

In addition to an almost total boycott of Danish goods in a number of Muslim countries, the Paper of Record (and 8-Tracks) informs us that two employees of the Danish Arla Foods manufacturer “were beaten by angry customers” in Saudi Arabia. Not very pleasant, is it?

And this leads us to a question: Where has all the progressive support for the cardinal import of free expression gone? Granted, caricatures are a rather lowly form of art, but we figured that the avant-garde would consider that attractive. Even so, we haven’t seen much in the way of outrage from the formerly outraged chattering classes. What gives?

If you ask us, people have the right to boycott if they so choose, even if we (rightly) consider their boycott ridiculous. All the same, people have a right to question the products of artists who are recipients of public funding. But our progressive pals argued neither of these things. For some reason, however, they bray loudly when the object of artists’ scorn is Christianity, but are strangely silent when the object is Islam.

This leads us to put even more stock in a theory we have developed long ago about our progressive friends. Insult Catholic sensibilities and the lefties cheer; insult Islam, and they head for the hills. Is this merely a coincidence, or is our theory correct? Namely: Are progressives a bunch of wimps?

Admittedly, it’s not a very sophisticated theory, but it has the benefit of potentially being true.

Posted at February 6, 2006 12:01 AM | TrackBack