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Who Gets To Decide If It's Art Or Just Crude And Offensive?

Reported by Donna - February 6, 2006

Where does it stop? Today on Studio B with Shepard Smith he spoke with frequent guest, Michael O'Hanlon from the Brookings Institute. They spoke regarding the riots at Denmark's Embassy in Iran and a U.S. Military compound in Afghanistan because of a caricature of Muhammed.

But in the ensuing conversation O'Hanlon seemed to be willing to sacrifice freedom of speech or art in favor of what he called "crude and offensive artwork.'

From AP:

The drawings — including one depicting the prophet wearing a turban shaped as a bomb — have touched a raw nerve in part because Islamic law forbids any illustrations of the Prophet Muhammad for fear they could lead to idolatry.

The segment that Smith spent with O'Hanlon had O'Hanlon saying that he, personally found it to be in very poor taste.

Smith started the segment saying that the cartoons were fueling anti-western sentiment and asked O'Hanlon if he could help. O'Hanlon started off by explaining what Muhammed meant to Muslims. He compared Muhammed as how Catholics feel about the Virgin Mary. (Comment: I'm not sure but that might set off more anti-western sentiment) He said Muhammed wasn't God but he was the greatest below God. He said the Muslims considered these cartoons to be blasphemy in Muslim's eyes. He said the people who made the cartoons were depicting Muslims as condoning violence too much in the name of faith.

But, he thought that Muslims felt that blaming Mohammed was going too far and found it extremely offensive, and, he added, he understood their point. Smith asked him if not enough constraint was used. O'Hanlon said he didn't like it himself. He asked how much public speakers should be speaking out against this versus speaking out against free speech. He added that he personally found it in very poor taste. He said a commission should be set up to promote greater respect for each others traditions which was awfully tough.

Smith broke in and used the example of the artwork of the Virgin Mary made out of dung and whether it was art. He said that art had won out. He added that he's had many viewers write that there's a double standard and we're always on the wrong side of it.

O'Hanlon said that the 1st amendment was mostly about protecting political speech. He gave the example of not being free to run into a movie theater and yell 'fire.'

His solution? O'Hanlon said that we need to make a distinction between speech that's in good taste and speech that's trying to make a political or religious point which is just fundementally offensive, which, he said, is not very creative. He added that it was pretty crude and said he would put the category of crude and offensive in the kind of artwork that Smith was talking about and these cartoons.

Comments: What is the definition of crude and offensive to each individual person? I agree that we need a better understanding of our different cultures, but I object to putting a definition on free speech as to what is fundementally offensive. Who makes this determination? This is not distinguishd in our Constitution and I certainly don't trust this government to decide what I might or might not find to be art.

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