Smithsonian Censorship

More

Jeff wades into our latest infantile attempt to cover our eyes:


This is not an issue about process; it is about a museum director's responsibility to protect his exhibits, and his curators, from political interference. Much of what Clough had to say was pablum: "We are not here to cause controversy," he told the Washington Post. "We are here to help people understand these issues that are important to our growth as a society." One could argue whether the Smithsonian's job is provoke controversy; I would say yes, of course -- museums that don't go out of their way to challenge settled and safe ideas become, over time, deeply boring museums. But put this aside: What is most troubling in these interviews is that Clough seems to be blaming this controversy not on intolerance, or the threat of censorship, but on his curators. 

It is the job of a museum head like Clough to hire the best possible curators and then let them curate. The two curators on this exhibit, David C. Ward and Jonathan Katz, two widely-recognized and admired academics, did a superior job. But Clough goes out of his way to question their judgment: "We didn't see that particular work through the lens of how someone else would perceive it -- as religious desecration," he told Lee Rosenbaum. "We could have done a better job there. And we will learn from that." And in the Post, he is quoted as saying, "We probably have to have a little more laser-like focus when we design our exhibitions."

It does seem that Clough is falling back a bit.
Jump to comments
Presented by

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity


Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity

Video

Is Technology Making Us Better Storytellers?

The minds behind House of Cards and The Moth weigh in.

Video

A Short Film That Skewers Hollywood

A studio executive concocts an animated blockbuster. Who cares about the story?

Video

In Online Dating, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

The co-founder of OKCupid shares findings from his analysis of millions of users' data.

Video

What Is a Sandwich?

We're overthinking sandwiches, so you don't have to.

Video

Let's Talk About Not Smoking

Why does smoking maintain its allure? James Hamblin seeks the wisdom of a cool person.

Writers

Up
Down

More in Entertainment

From This Author

Just In