And this is totally how grown-ups behave.
He’s finally noticed that in 1987 there was this award-winning photograph called Piss Christ. Don’t ask me why. I don’t understand art, and I don’t understand this.
He’s offended by it, which is not remotely surprising, but also not entirely unreasonable. It’s a symbol of Jesus on the cross submerged entirely in urine. Even if most Christians have more sense than to get particularly riled over it, it’s pretty offensive.
But Bill Donohue’s reaction to it is very confused. First of all, he wants those people who spoke out against that YouTube film which offended Muslims recently to mount a similar defense of Christians:
Where are they when Christians are being offended? We are offended over and over again, through the artistic community, on radio and television, in the movies. Where have these people been? Why don’t they ever speak out against anti-Christian fare?
I suspect the answer is partly to do with the dearth of Christian extremists bombing embassies who officials feel they should mollify, and partly because the overwhelming majority of the USA are still Christians, are in no way a persecuted minority, and are in no actual danger of suffering any serious detriment to their lives because of a few jibes about their belief system.
He then adopted a completely different set of principles, and presented a piece of art of his own creation, in which a doll of Obama is mounted in some fake shit.
It’s not a subtle or complex piece. (Or maybe I still just don’t get art.) But I suspect it honestly expresses the artist’s feelings, in a way likely to offend many people. In this way, perhaps it’s doing exactly what art should do. But the target of the work is in such a position of power or authority that their autonomy and dignity is not remotely threatened by something so weakly subversive.
Bill Donohue has, in fact, chosen to closely emulate the creator of Piss Christ.
You know what? This part kinda doesn’t bother me. Because, in his blindly petulant lashing-out, in his latest childish tantrum against some irrelevancy he’s picked on and inflated to a major injustice against the centre of his own personal universe, he’s actually managed to stumble quite by accident across the right answer.
The solution to bad speech is more speech.
If someone creates something which denigrates you or your ideas, then assuming those ideas have any merit, the only way for you to really lose that fight is to try and forcibly shut them up.
Make some art of your own. Add to the conversation. Don’t try to hush it up.
Bill Donohue’s part of the way there. He knows he ought to have the right to insult Obama and his supporters. He gets why free speech is important when it supports his cause, even if you can just hear him squawking:
“Hey, if you get to do that, I get to do this! Yeah, Obama’s covered in shit! See? Not so fun, is it? How d’ya like your precious free speech now, huh?”
We like it just fine, Bill.