A Tuesday editorial, "Bullying and Censorship," spat liberal vituperation against the removal of "A Fire in my Belly," a video clip from a controversial gay art exhibit called "Hide/Seek," currently on display at the National Portrait Gallery, part of the Smithsonian Institution in D.C.
The Times explained:
The video, by David Wojnarowicz, is a moving, anguished reflection on the artist's impending death from AIDS. It shows very quick glimpses of challenging and, at times, disturbing images, including masks, a meatpacking plant, various objects on fire and the artist undressing himself.
One of those images, 11 seconds of ants crawling on a crucifix, drew an outraged denunciation from the Catholic League, a lay civil rights organization that receives no church financing. It called the video "hate speech" and said it was designed to "assault the sensibilities of Christians." A spokesman for Representative John Boehner, the incoming House speaker, called for the Smithsonian to shut down the exhibition or "be prepared to face tough scrutiny" under the new Republican majority.
The paper didn't buy the Smithsonian's explanation for removing the video:
The exhibition is supposed to deal with culturally challenging images. Indeed, some of the most important roles of art and of museums are to challenge, disturb and enlighten.
Fine words. Too bad the Times didn't follow them when the religion of Islam was being mocked.
As you may remember, several cartoons mocking the prophet Muhammad ran in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in September 2005 and were used months later as a pretext for riots by radical Muslims in several European cities.
Did the Times "challenge, disturb and enlighten" its readers by reprinting the cartoons in the name of free speech and an open society? Hardly. Instead, the Times unloaded its impressive store of self-righteousness in the other direction, blaming the Danish newspaper and the cartoonists for incitement while refusing to reprint the cartoons to show support for free speech, calling it a "gratuitous assault[s] on religious symbols."
Yet the Times didn't have trouble running a photo the very next day of a painting by Chris Ofili offensive to Catholics - the Virgin Mary clotted with elephant dung.
You can follow Times Watch on Twitter.