Big Dunce of 2011 #1: Bill Donohue

Bill Donohue, the bully from the Catholic League, seems to be pretty clueless when it comes to art. And the truth. Donohue got his hysteria machine going not too long ago over the case of David Wojnarowicz's video "A Fire in My Belly" at the National Portrait Gallery. The video has a brief scene showing some ants crawling over a crucifix. Unfortunately, the museum caved in to the pressure and censored itself, removing the video from the exhibit. Even worse, they apologized for the "offense". The story is summarized here. The video can be seen here. What would Donahue think about this 17th century painting by Juan de Valdés Leal? Although not easily visible in this reproduction, the decomposing body of the bishop is being merrily eaten by ants, maggots and other little creatures. Is this painting anti-Catholic? Of course not! (In fact, it graces the entrance to the church at the Hospital de la Caridad in Seville, Spain.) Western art has a rich vanitas tradition, and Wojnarowicz's work participates in it. The ants may also call to mind the work of Salvador Dalí, another catholic artist Donohue would unlikely approve of.

Wojnarowicz's video could be offensive to some sensitive souls, but there is a very simple solution: don't watch it. What a shame they gave in like that. Donohue ranted that taxpayers shouldn't have to fund "hate speech." First, it's patently absurd to consider "A Fire in My Belly" hate speech. Second, Donohue lies: the exhibit is privately funded. It's not costing taxpayers anything.

p.d. If you want further evidence of what a thoroughly repulsive character Donohue is, listen here to Donohue poo poo the report releasd last year on sexual abuse by Irish clergy. Truly beyond the pale.

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