Honestly, at this point, the only people who fail to see the disconnect between demurring on an image that offends one religion but accepting an image that offends another work for the New York Times. And while all of them have, at one time or another, answered a question about their double standards with some iteration of “the two scenarios are simply different,” the reality is that the NYT knows full well that Catholics, and members of other religions whose methods of conversion have developed beyond the 14th century, are unlikely to show up at their offices with an automatic weapon. They just don’t feel comfortable acknowledging it because it might cost them their heads and a swath of readers who still think CAIR is an active contributor to the cause of American civil rights.
This time around, though, the excuse is particularly laughable. When asked by the Examiner why the Times would happily run a several-hundred-word article on a portrait of Pope Benedict made out of condoms, currently being exhibited somewhere in Wisconsin, they explained that, unlike the Muhammed cartoons published by Charlie Hebdo and the like, Condom Pope (titled, incoherently, “Eggs Benedict”) is a piece of “significant artwork.”
The Times’ Corbett told the Examiner, “I don’t think these situations — the Milwaukee artwork and the various Muhammad caricatures — are really equivalent. For one thing, many people might disagree, but museum officials clearly consider this Johnson piece to be a significant artwork.”
“Also, there’s no indication that the primary intent of the portrait is to offend or blaspheme (the artist and the museum both say that it is not intended to offend people but to raise a social question about the fight against AIDS). And finally, the very different reactions bears this out,” he added. “Hundreds of thousands of people protested worldwide, for instance, after the Danish cartoons were published some years ago. While some people might genuinely dislike this Milwaukee work, there doesn’t seem to be any comparable level of outrage.”
Now, I’m willing to accept a lot of hedging from the Times on this issue because I’d be afraid of the repercussions that come from posting Muhammed cartoons, too. That kind of fear is absolutely legitimate. And while the NYT is unwilling to admit its true rationale for making a significantly different call in regards to 17,000 condoms in the shape of a spiritual leader, we can all probably understand the terror that lurks in the hearts of so many former graduate students whose aversion to concealed carry has less to do with their objections to the Second Amendment, and more to do with being uncomfortable with masculinity.
Anyway, there’s only so many jokes I can make about English majors. What really shocks me here is that the New York Times still thinks that artwork criticizing the Pope for a view the Catholic Church has held for centuries is still somehow relevant in today’s art world. I can think of nothing more banal and uncreative than making a picture of the Pope out of condoms. It’s not even the right Pope. Either it took this woman several more years than expected to make this piece, or she’s unfamiliar with Pope Francis’s position on the matter which is exactly the same as his predecessor’s.
There must be, quite literally, a piece almost identical to this in every senior art show in every collegiate art program in America. A portrait of the Pope made out of condoms is, at this point, practically factory produced. Who, since 1993, even thinks this way? Like, sure, I’ll cover a photo of the Pope in condoms — that will most certainly force a religion of billions to rethink its position on birth control. I bet they’ll even laud me with an ordination. This artwork will be so darn provocative, they’ll have absolutely no choice but to see the error of their ways! I am a genius!
As a Catholic, I can’t even say that I’m offended by it. As an art lover, however…
I suppose the good news is, even the New York Times must overwhelmed by the lack of veracity in its own excuse here. I can’t possibly see them responding any other way.