There was no secret about its decision. But not one of the arts correspondents for the broadsheets or BBC covered the threat to an international exhibition featuring the work of dozens of artists. I have argued many times that censorship is at its most effective when no one admits it exists. The first step to freeing yourself from oppressive power is to find the courage to admit that you are afraid. The more people confess to being afraid, the less reason there is to fear and the easier it is to isolate repressive forces.
But the radical poses of western intellectuals make a frank discussion of fear impossible. For how can they say they are brave dissidents one minute, and confess they are scared of theocratic thugs the next? In 2007, Grayson Perry was an exception. He said he would damn Christianity in his art, but had ‘not gone all out attacking Islamism because I feel the real fear that someone will slit my throat’. By the time of his Reith lecture last week, Perry’s honesty had gone. On the subject of courage, he could only quip, ‘I think one of the most rebellious acts done by an artist recently was by Tracey Emin. She supported the Tories!’
Ha-bloody-ha. How the audience laughed. But Perry knew what he said was not true, and so in their hearts did the claque who applauded him.