Topic: Media Research Center
Tim Graham is sticking to the company line in his Dec. 10 NewsBusters post that the 11-second "ants-on-Jesus" video the MRC succeeded in getting censored from a Smithsonian exhibition is "mocking Jesus Christ," and he misleads about other things too.
In attacking a Washington Post article on the manufactured controversy, Graham mocks the universally accepted idea advanced by article author Philip Kennicott that art should be viewed in the context of the time of its creation and the artist's intent, complaining that it "somehow excuses Jesus-bashing art." Which, of course, it doesn't. As Kennicott explained:
Even the image that has recently sparked controversy -- a crucifix covered in ants -- is a complicated amalgam of the artist's personal and religious themes.
Ants, for Wojnarowicz, were a mysterious stand-in for humanity and part of a lifelong fascination with the natural world that his friend, artist Kiki Smith, recalls was part of a charmingly boyish rapture with creepy, crawling things. When asked what he thought of God, he responded by wondering rhetorically "why ants aren't the things that destroy the world instead of people." There is a host of theological possibility in that thought: Is God as indifferent to humans as humans are to ants? Should we love the small things of the planet as we hope to be loved by God?
Graham goes on to portray Kennicott as having "railed against the cruelty of Reagan conservatives and the Catholic Church." In fact, Kennicott highlighted the dual nature of the church at the onset of the AIDS epidemic: "When AIDS was ravaging the gay population of New York, the church was officially the enemy; but some Catholic service organizations were on the front lines of relief. The church was a complicated organization, monolithic only in the minds of its leaders. Wojnarowicz's imagery was richly Catholic because Catholicism was richly multivalent."
Graham then attacks Kennicott's statement that William F. Buckley's suggestion that AIDS victims be tattooed was "entirely within the mainstream for public commentary on the disease the year before Wojnarowicz found out he was HIV-positive":
The Post utterly failed to put any copy editors on what happened with Buckley's comment. He very much resented the idea that he was implying the Nazis (obviously, the columnist proposed these humiliating tattoos as a life-saving mark, not as a death-camp image.) Buckley ended up not only recanting the tattoo idea, and having a meeting with the Gay Men's Health Crisis and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
Buckley made his tattooing suggestion in a New York Times op-ed -- the epitome of "the mainstream for public commentary." Further, Buckley didn't completely abandon the idea. in a 2005 National Review commentary, he wrote: "Someone, 20 years ago, suggested a discreet tattoo the site of which would alert the prospective partner to the danger of proceeding as had been planned. But the author of the idea was treated as though he had been schooled in Buchenwald, and the idea was not widely considered, but maybe it is up now for reconsideration." That, plus Buckley's invoking of a promiscuous gay with AIDS named "Tony Venenum" -- "venenum" is Latin for poison -- tells us he was not as apologetic about his idea as Graham would like you to believe.
For more evidence ostracising AIDS victims in society, through tattooing or quarantine, was very much in "the mainstream for public commentary" at the time, note that none other than current Republican presidential wannabe Mike Huckabee once advocated quaranting AIDS victims. And as recently as 2005, WorldNetDaily's Les Kinsolving -- who appears in the White House briefing room every day -- called for "mass hospital prison-camp quarantines" of AIDS victims.