This little ditty on NPR this morning about the Smithsonian Exhibit, Hide and Seek, an exhibition of Gay portraiture. Seems Virginia Congressman Eric Cantor and Bill Donahue, President of the Catholic League is upset that taxpayer money is being used to showcase what they consider to be unacceptable art. Here’s the link:
Its a doubled edged sword when government underwrites the creation of art. Exhibitions can confer a type of sanction that promotes censorship in service to state sponsored propaganda. From my perspective that is not the issue at stake here; but if you listen to the audio Bill Donahue condemns museums as “liberal elite institutions”. Mr. Donahue probably considers Hide and Seek as the latest subversive initiative by Obama’s Politburo to undermine American Family Values.
Mr. Donahue, still smarting from Andreas Serrano’s Piss Christ gets off his best shot in America’s escalating culture war by asserting that “working people, like himself, (read real Americans) don’t go to museums. He says they go to WWF wrestling matches.” He sarcastically suggests that perhaps government funding of the arts would be better spent underwriting WWF ducats for the masses. Beholden to his dogma, Mr. Donahue fails to recognize the difference between pedestrian commercial camp and artistic pursuit. He confuses the spectacle of bread and violent circus with aesthetic encounter, discovery and contemplation.
Mr. Donahue’s insistence that his position should be viewed in the same light as Muslims reaction when depictions of the Prophet Muhammad appear in visual art presentations is disingenuous. Muslims prohibit all visual representations of the Prophet Muhammad. The same prohibitions of promoting visual images of Jesus Christ is not a common practice of Christian denominations. Secular democracies also do not sanction fatwas and post bounties for jihadists to take out apostates and infidels. That is a unique blessing of secular societies that fundamentalists, religious zealots and Mr. Donahue fail to perceive.
File this one under the dumbing down of America Series, Triumph of the Willfulness.
Walt Whitman: Calamus Poems
You Tube Music Video: Aaron (Gay American) Copland: Fanfare for the Common Man
Risk: culture, censorship, homophobia
Everybody knows the story about Shoeless Joe Jackson. When the infamous Chicago “Black Sox” star Joe Jackson emerged from the courtroom after admitting his guilt for taking money to throw the 1919 World Series, a boy implored his hero to uphold the integrity of the game by asking, “say it ain’t so Joe.” A newspaper account reports that a shame filled Shoeless Joe admitted his guilt to the crestfallen young fan before walking away through a raucous crowd. The next day, Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis kicked Shoeless Joe out of the game and forever banned his name from inclusion in the Hall of Fame. Such are the wages for the actions of unscrupulous cheaters.
On learning the news about Keith Olbermann’s suspension from MSNBC I feel like that young adoring fan. I refuse to believe that my favorite news commentator would violate the sacred tenant of a free press and compromise his integrity by making financial contributions to candidates running for public office.
The reported amounts of dollars Olbermann reportedly contributed to 3 democratic congressional candidates is minuscule. Citizens are limited to a contribution ceiling of $2,400 per candidate and Olbermann allegedly hit that limit in support of two candidates from Arizona and one in Kentucky.
Its hard to believe that Olbermann would compromise his integrity for such a paltry sum. If these allegations are true, the greater irony is that as a result of his ill considered action, the priceless value of Olbermann’s nightly critique of reactionary republicanism is now jeopardized. The risk of losing a vital and robust voice of progressive politics on a major cable channel is a real possibility. This one really hurts.
Some have offered a defense for Olbermann by pointing to Fox News extreme partisanship and financial support of Republican candidates. Rupert Murdock reportedly made a $1 million contribution to the Republican Governors Association and point to Glenn Beck’s Tea Party activism or the use of GOP leaders like Karl Rove and Sarah Palin as paid political commentators. This argument misses the point about Olbermann’s trespass. Like the Juan William’s dust-up after his termination from NPR, Olbermann’s transgressions falls into the same category. Olbermann violated a term of his employment that prohibits news reporters from making contributions to political candidates. In my mind that’s a fair rule if a network wants to maintain a semblance of objectivity. We expect news professionals of Mr. Olbermannn’s stature to uphold a level of integrity that protects the sacred mission of the free press in a free society. Edward R. Murrow would expect nothing less. Olbermann’s violation of the rule prohibiting contributions to political candidates goes to the heart of a compromised free press. With no transparency or disclosure, Olbermann’s actions has demeaned the MSNBC brand by compromising its ability to present the news without fear of favor. There is no equivocation or quid pro qou when it comes to upholding the standards of excellence for ethical behavior.
We know where Fox News stands in its political deposition. We also know the space that MSNBC tries to occupy. Fox’s shameless partisianship is not the issue. Fox’s corporate rules of behavior and standards of ethics for employees is not the issue. The issue is MSNBC’s standards of ethics for its employees and how they enforce those standards when they are broken. If Mr. Olbermann violated that ethical standard he should in all good conscience resign from MSNBC.
Please, say it ain’t so Keith. Please.
You Tube Music Video: Ludwig Von Beethoven: 9th Symphony, 2nd Movement
Risk: free press, ethics, disclosure, transparency
The dismissal of Juan Williams from his correspondent position at NPR is a watershed event. Conservative pundits will be screaming about First Amendment rights and the abuses of government controlled media. Mr. Williams was fired by NPR for violating guidelines on a statement he made as a paid commentator on Fox News “The O’Reilly Factor.” When asked about the racial profiling of Muslim’s Mr. Williams stated:
“I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country,” Williams said Monday. “But when I get on a plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”
At first glance it seems to be pretty innocuous stuff. Mr. Williams citing his unease at seeing a woman of the veil on an airplane is well within his First Amendment right to do so. The fact that I consider Mr. Williams fear to be based on a prejudice that prejudges someone based on appearances is beside the point. Its synonymous with police officers stopping motorists on interstate highways because of their race. The crime of driving while black should not be sufficient to infringe a persons right to privacy or impede their safe passage. Mr. Williams has the right to express those fears and prejudices and I will defend his right to do so.
Mr. Williams employer NPR also has a right to require that employees conform to certain guidelines that support the mission of a public news organization. NPR requires that its employees refrain from making public editorial pronouncements on public media outlets. It is understood that editorializing correspondents may injure or cause harm to the NPR brand as a trusted source of objective reporting. As such NPR is well within its right to protect its franchise by removing Mr. Williams from his position as a correspondent. Professional athletes and corporate executives all have clauses in their employment contracts that stipulate unbecoming conduct that hurts the company franchise is grounds for dismissal. NPR exercised that clause.
What is interesting about this event is the contrast of journalistic standards practiced by NPR and Fox. NPR receives some government funding and was originally chartered to assure that radio broadcast services would be available to the smaller rural markets ignored by commercial radio. Recently NPR programming consists of thoughtful up market features that has less mass appeal for profit oriented radio media outlets. Its news programing, All Things Considered and Morning Edition offered in depth reportage that is thoughtful, fair and balanced. It strives to be objective and for the most part is.
The contrast with Fox News is striking. Belying its marketing handle of “fair and balanced reporting”, Fox News is anything but fair or balanced. I find Fox News to be a consistent platform for the conservative movement and as such it’s reporting is hardly objective. Its commentators routinely express an opinion on the news that is editorial in nature. Fox News has built a profitable franchise on its editorial positions and its assemblage of commentators (Rove, Hannity, Beck, O’Reilly, Palin) that eagerly express the political bias of its corporate parent News Corp. Fox News correctness has been vindicated in the marketplace of ideas as its corporate sponsors and large viewer ship endorses its editorial positions.
The complex amalgam of the commercial viability of media channels, the branding of ideas, news as objective reportage, editorialism as a media commodity and the subtle distinction of opinion versus news are issues laying at the heart of Juan Williams dismissal from NRP. Though fired from NPR for expressing an opinion that NPR thought unfair and hurtful to Muslims, Fox News awarded Mr. Williams a $3 million contract to expand his presence with the fair and balanced network. Clearly the free market of ideas confirms that Mr. Williams prejudice and intolerance toward Muslims advances the commercial interests of Fox News.
Its alarming that the value of prejudice and intolerance is rising and that major corporate brands like News Corp find it so intrinsically linked to it he price of its stock as a publicly traded company. Truly a disturbing example of bankruptcy of the free market of ideas.
You Tube Music Video: Mott the Hoople, All The Young Dudes
Risk: free speech, commercial media, objective reporting, prejudice