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The New Culture Wars: How the Right Stifles Free Speech Through Art Censorship | The Nation

The New Culture Wars: How the Right Stifles Free Speech Through Art Censorship

In late November, the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery came under fire from some members of the newly elected Congress for hosting an exhibit that included a video by David Wojnarowicz showing ants crawling over a crucifix. Soon-to-be Speaker of the House John Boehner, and soon-to-be second-ranking member of House GOP leadership Eric Cantor, spearheaded the attack, threatening the museum to remove the video or lose federal funding. To discuss this assault on free speech, The Nation’s Katrina vanden Heuvel joined art critic Blake Gopnik; AA Bronson, one of the artists whose work was featured in the exhibit; former director of the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center during the Robert Mapplethorpe controversy Dennis Barrie and President of People For the American Way Michael Keegan.

Central to the issue of art censorship, vanden Heuvel says, is this “idea that American values were defined exclusively by the values of fundamentalist Christianity.” This extremely limiting definition leaves little room for other voices and stifles diversity, she says.

—Sara Jerving

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