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Smithsonian ‘exhibits’ its bigotry
by Jake Highton
Dec 19, 2010 | 864 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
That homophobic bigots score heavily again and again in America is unsurprising. But when the homophoic bigotry comes from an august institution like the Smithsonian it is not just surprising. It is outrageous.

The Smithsonian has withdrawn “A Fire in My Belly,” a four-minute video from an exhibit called “Hide/Seek” on display at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington.

The cave-in was ordered by the Smithsonian’s board of regents, a group that Frank Rich, New York Times essayist, calls “a gilded assembly of bipartisan cowards.”

The pusillanimous regents withdrew the video by David Wojnarowicz that a New York Times editorial described as “a moving, anguished reflection on the artist’s impending death from AIDS.”

Surely the video fits the  exhibit’s theme of identity, gender and homosexuality. And just as surely an artist’s vision should never be stifled no matter how offensive it is to some people.

One image showed 11 seconds of ants besieging a crucifix, evoking frantic souls scurrying in panic as an impassive God looks on.

This drew an outraged cry from the Catholic League, a lay organization not sponsored by the church. It called the video a hate speech, designed to “assault the sensibilities of Christians.”

Predictably Rep. John Boehner, incoming right-wing House speaker, demanded that the Smithsonian shut down the exhibit. He added this threat: or “be prepared to face tough scrutiny” in the next Congress.

And people have the nerve to call America a civilized country.

Long live Wikileaks

In one phase of the cyberwar over the treasure of documents released by WikiLeaks, the government blusters, threatens and investigates but it cannot prevail against America’s greatest glory: the First Amendment.

In another phase, multinational corporate foes of WikiLeaks have revoked use of computer servers and stopped processing services. These measures will also fail.

Far too many people worldwide cherish the leaked information. Moreover, the leaks are unstoppable.

Yet we still have dim-witted people like Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California urging that Julian Assange, co-founder of WikiLeaks, be “vigorously prosecuted for espionage.”

Columnist Robert Scheer rightly denounces Feinstein — supporter of the lying invasion of Iraq — for urging the imprisonment of Assange.

“Assange more than any other individual has allowed the public to learn the truth about America’s imperial adventures,” Reich writes. But Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, doesn’t want “the mere rabble” to know those truths.

Feinstein wants to keep hidden what another columnist, Michael Moore, knows: “the crimes that were concocted in secret and carried out in our name and with our tax dollars.”

Supreme Court theft

Ten years ago this month the Supreme Court committed the greatest crime of the 20th and 21st centuries: handing the presidency to G.W. Bush.

As a result of that gross Republican decision by a supposedly nonpartisan body the nation suffered for eight years under a grossly unqualified frat boy.

The consequences are still being felt: illicit wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, lessening of civil liberties for American citizens and terrorist suspects, and everlasting tax cuts for the rich.

One of the five perpetrators of the theft was a woefully unqualified justice, Clarence Thomas.

He told little lies about his own sister, falsely describing her as pathetically welfare dependent, and big lies about Anita Hill, who testified about his penchant for hitting his women employees.

As John Shapiro wrote in The Nation recently:

Hill, testifying at the confirmation of Thomas in 1991, was  “a credible witness of unquestioned probity. Thomas had a documented ethhics problem then--and, it appears, an ongoing ethics problem now. Back then, Thomas’ truth problem obscured his shameful role in undoing the very civil rights tradition that made his nomination possible.”

Shapiro concludes: “The ethically challenged Thomas is complicit in turning over American politics to corporations and anonymous far-right donors in the Citizens United decision.”

GOP failing

Boiling down what is wrong with American politics is easy: the Republican Party.

GOP obstructionism, yes. The party of no, yes. But to put a fine point on the matter: the GOP completely lacks compassion.

Just one case proves the point: mine safety reform demanded by the West Virginia tragedy in April in which 29 coal miners died.

The GOP, catering to industry as always, blocked passage of a reform bill.

The bill passed in the House but not by the two-thirds majority it needed in this lame-duck session. It was killed in the Senate by minority Republicans with a cruel and savage filibuster.

Feelings? Concern about people? No, just business. Just raw capitalism. Making money is more important than human beings.

Jake Highton teaches journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. Contact him at
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