The Thinking 

Why Destroying Blasphemous Art is Wrong

December 23, 2011


AT VFR, a reader argues that it was wrong for a New Zealand Catholic to destroy a billboard that portrayed Mary disrespectfully. After giving some thought to it, I am inclined to agree with him. The reader, Pentheus, writes:

This billboard is like a mousetrap into which these protesters hastened thoughtlessly. They are of their own volition completing the set-up for this propaganda exercise. This brute response is in no way helpful, and is rather in every way detrimental, to all of us who in any way share or sympathize with their views. It is also something of a confession of intellectual impotence, like Billy Budd.

The proper and non-counter-productive response must be with effective argument, activism–and their own art. Where is the learned and articulate Catholic spokesman who can turn public opinion against the blasphemers instead of stupidly enacting his scripted role in the blasphemers’ propaganda play? (“God forbid there should be no bourgeois to epater.”)

[This was initially submitted as a longer comment with more argument and examples here, but at the host’s request I have much shortened this by omitting all that part.]

Anyway, in short, I urge that no one should follow the example of these NZ Catholic traditionalists. It is “wrestling in the mud with a pig, and the pig likes it.” Worst of all, the self-damage to your/our side from such acts by those of our side is exponential. I repeat: I am on their side but disapprove strongly this action.


                                                       — Comments —


Buck writes: 

I agree with you and Pentheus, and with Lawrence Auster

That’s schizoid, I know. Most of these kinds of things should be let go and ignored, while some should be attacked and even destroyed. Or, right thinking people should “stand” between this kind of thing and the public, when possible. This temporary billboard was vandalized. It was probably put there as a temptation, for that purpose; “Pentheus’ mousetrap.” Destroying or defacing it was simply another statement on a statement; public discourse. It was most likely a dare, and an easy one to accept – consequences be damned. There was no real harm done by submitting to the temptation to vandalize it. The perps may have deemed being caught a badge of honor. 

A work of “art,” something high profile on display in a gallery, that would be something else. To destroy “art” would be an escalated reaction, to a higher level of assault on freedom. That would go against the stronger grain of our meaning of free speech. This temporary paper billboard probably assumed rock throwing and was perhaps, even subconsciously or cynically hoped to be seen as fair game. Now, many more mice have seen it and know about it. It has engendered more public discourse. 

Everything we do is a trade-off. In this one, we’ve had a good discussion and no one was harmed. Nothing of “value” has been destroyed. But, busting an actual jar of urine in an art gallery would not be taken lightly by the modern liberal machine. Someone would pay dearly with their own freedom. Serrano’s “art”, Immersion (Piss Christ), was just a photo of a plastic crucifix in a jar of his own urine. It was outrageous and attempts were made to destroy it. But, the results of the attempts were themselves then put on display as “art.” Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

Laura writes:

I am ambivalent about this too and I sympathize with the New Zealand Catholic who destroyed the billboard.


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