LA MOCA – the false dichotomy between censorship and sensitivity

The familiar “he said/ she said” binary so beloved of the media has shaped the controversy over LA MOCA’s whitewashing of a political mural as an opposition between those who define it as censorship and those who define it as sensitivity. Here is the LA Times:

“Censorship,” some cry, referring to Deitch’s removal of Blu’s antiwar mural on the north wall of the Geffen. Others say it’s sensitivity, not censorship, as Deitch was concerned that the mural — which pictured coffins covered in dollar bills — would be offensive to some in the neighborhood, as there’s a Veterans Affairs hospital and a war memorial to Japanese-American soldiers in close proximity to the museum.

“Crying” censorship (really – those crybaby free speech fanatics!) and claiming sensitivity, however, are NOT polarized assertions. Censorship is the suppression of speech or ideas considered disagreeable, offensive or otherwise objectionable. People censor for various reasons – and being “sensitive” to the feelings of others is often one of those reasons.

Being a private institution LA MOCA can legally censor as mush as it wants, but, please, let’s call Jeffrey Deitch’s action what it is: censorship. Where disagreement appears is when we begin discussing Deitch’s reasons for covering the piece: We may sympathize with his motivations or we may disagree that the possibility that a political mural may offend someone should be reason to whitewash it.

If being sensitive to the values and feeling of others becomes a valid determinant of what art can be put on display, sex, nudity, as well as any comment on religion or political topics will be out. As profit making seems to be the one indisputable positive goal in this country, our public spaces will be then fully dedicated to it (as long as it doesn’t become too artsy and controversial, of course) – why think about war profiteering when you can just go and buy something cool!


About Blog of the National Coalition Against Censorship

Blogging Censorship is where National Coalition Against Censorship staff weigh in on the censorship issues on their minds.
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4 Responses to LA MOCA – the false dichotomy between censorship and sensitivity

  1. clvngodess says:

    Agreed. Please exit through the gift shop. (sigh…)

  2. Pingback: Deitch Censorship Commentary | GreenVineImage

  3. Rhobo says:

    I should point out to you that “censor” is different from “destroy”, which is what happened to this mural. Deitch could have covered the mural or even obscured it; however, destroying art violates the California Art Preservation Act of 1979 and the federal Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990.

  4. Gary Pigza says:

    There is a common theme in the various points of the article above and that is government control. The simple fact is that the federal and state governments feel the need to delve more deeply into people’s affairs than they should. Both sides, right and left, are guilty of this act and neither should feel that it is superior to the other. Although they may go about it in a different way, the final effect is the same: increased government control. Without any resistance, it seems that all governing bodies will grow until they obtain absolute power, the difference between them being the time it takes them to reach this end. Eventually, all societies will end up like that which is described in “1984”, by George Orwell. The book is an exceptional piece of literature and poses several good, but subtle, points against strong government. I agree, and I believe George Orwell also would agree, with the opinion that the author of this article presents.

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