To read about F's and my London trip, start here and click "newer post" to continue the story.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Thinking more about Abortion Girl. Erin O'Connor has a few posts about her and about Yale, with a couple of judicious comments from me.

I am reminded of a column that Mona Charen wrote in 1999. It apparently made an impression on me.

Banned in Boston?

Back in the '80s, the heyday of muscular conservatism, when the Cold War still offered the contrast between left-wing totalitarianism and the free world, we contrasted ourselves proudly with the left by proclaiming our dedication to freedom above all else.

But there was always a small voice in the back of our minds whispering that freedom cannot be an end in itself. Freedom is precious, worth dying for, we believe. But it is possible for freedom to become a fetish. The founders of this country were lovers of liberty, but they did not place liberty at the apex of desirables. That spot was saved for virtue.

And the founders would have been amazed, it is safe to say, to see their documents interpreted as license for the sort of degrading, conscience-killing, soul-destroying stuff with which we regularly entertain ourselves.

The founders sought to establish a virtuous republic, free of the vices, competitions and decadence of Europe. Whether they achieved it or not is a matter of debate (nothing human is ever perfect), but it does seem odd to find ourselves at the end of the millennium, so keen to protect our physical health and so fastidious about shielding our children from every imaginable physical danger, yet so unwilling even to consider measures that would protect all of us from moral degeneracy.

Shvarts's teachers are in trouble for not stopping her asinine, puerile "art" project. One wonders why they didn't: because they didn't think they could? Because they couldn't be sure it really wasn't "art"? Because they are completely, utterly lacking in taste and judgment? Because they didn't want to censor her or to appear like a bunch of fuddy-duddies?

I'll say up front that I don't get a lot of art. The fact that I don't get it doesn't mean there's nothing to get, of course. If other people get it that's enough. I don't pass judgment on things and say "that's not art" because it doesn't do anything for me. That is totally different from saying that something is so disgusting and inhuman that no one should even contemplate it, let alone pretend to do it. Call me a fuddy-duddy, I don't mind making that judgment call at all. Is that where her teachers were confused?

I had a conversation with a friend who happens to be an artist, about what photography and then programs like Photoshop have done to art. Up until 100 years ago, the ability to put pen or brush to paper or canvas and create a recognizable and perhaps flattering portrait was enough to make an artist's career. Once it became easy and commonplace for anyone to make a likeness of a person or a landscape or a close-up view of a flower, especially when it became possible to enhance it on the computer, the idea of what constitutes great art and a great artist inevitably had to change. If enough people get the idea that Shvarts's project is an example of what art had to change into, we might see the dismantling of university art programs. Even now the administration at Yale is promising closer oversight of the art department. What hath Ms. Shvarts wrought.

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