Remember that piece of “art” which depicted police officers as pigs? It was hanging in a hallway in one of the Congressional buildings until it was taken down, put back up, taken back down again and who knows what after that. Not everyone has forgotten about it. One Democratic congressman, along with the student who originally painted it, have decided to go to court to make the case that surely somebody’s rights must’ve been violated. (Washington Post)
A Capitol Hill controversy over a student painting portraying police and protesters as animals moved to the federal courts Tuesday when a Missouri congressman said its removal from the U.S. Capitol walls violated the young artist’s right to free speech.
Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) and Missouri student David Pulphus said in a 19-page lawsuit in Washington that the Architect of the Capitol violated Pulphus’s First Amendment rights in “bowing to overt political pressure” from House Republicans to remove the work Jan. 17 after it had hung for seven months.
I suppose we must have solved the rest of the nation’s problems by this point if this is what were going to be arguing about. And believe it or not, on at least one level I can kind of see the argument being made by the student. That particular collection of artwork represented the winners of a national contest held among students so both the kid and his congressman probably feel that each of the pieces selected has the same right to be displayed.
But with that said, we have to be able to draw the line somewhere. First of all, as artistic displays go it’s really not even that good of a painting. Was this really the best example they could find among all the entries to declare the winner? Far more likely is the idea that because it “struck a blow” for social justice near Ferguson this student was given the nod. Also, take a look at the Washington Post’s curious description of the painting in question.
The art depicted a horned beast similar to a wild boar in a police uniform in the foreground tangling with a protester rendered as a wolf. In the background, protesters hold signs, including one that says, “Racism kills.”
A “horned beast similar to a wild boar?” Give me a break. It’s a pig wearing a police uniform. It’s also more than a little curious why the artist decided to depict the protester having the head of a wolf. The overall theme of the painting seems to be one of police abusing or killing black protesters. But in the wild, it’s the wolf that kills the pig. It seems like a not terribly subtle message to me.
We give a tremendous amount of latitude to the arts, particularly in terms of free speech. But this is a public building on federal property. There’s nothing whatsoever subtle about the idea of putting a law enforcement uniform on a pig. And pitting the cop against a wolf doesn’t require much detective work to suss out either. That’s not controversial… it’s flatly offensive. I wouldn’t expect this to be allowed to hang in that location anymore than I would the so-called “piss Christ.”
Unfortunately, I’m sure they’ll find the right sort of judge to issue an order to hang this poorly crafted, offensive work of “art” back up where it was. Welcome to America in the 21st century.